Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public policy priorities.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the usual channels for making this debate possible. I should also like to thank noble Lords who have made the time and taken the trouble to attend today in considerable numbers, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and those who look after us so well in this House. In case noble Lords are wondering what the Motion is, I decided to change it at the last minute. It reads:
“The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury to move that this House takes note of the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public policy priorities”.
It will be an especial pleasure to hear maiden speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning. The noble Baroness brings her knowledge of communications, issues of disability among children and education. The noble Lord will enable us to have a wider view of issues in Scotland.
The UK, especially perhaps England, is a pragmatic country with a bias towards the empirical over the theoretical. Not for us the cries of “liberty, equality and fraternity”, to be followed by years of bloodshed to ensure true fraternity was established. Rather, ours is an untidiness of cumulative reforms and changes, worked out in practice through the highways and byways of our constitution. We relish the irony of a constitution that works in practice but never could in theory. Great times of change in mood and culture demand from us a reimagining of what we are about as a nation. As we move into a post-Brexit world, alongside the other events that buffet and deflect us, unless we ground ourselves in a clear course and widely accepted practices, loyalties and values—what I will call values in this speech—we will just go with the wind.
The catalyst for attempting to codify our shared national values—what the Government have called “fundamental British values”—is the threat of violent extremism in our country and, to a lesser extent, questions about immigration and integration, inequality and our role in the world. But values built on feelings of threat and fear can lead us down a dangerous path. Practices and loyalties that are not grounded in values of hospitality, generosity and welcome lead to a turning inward that strangles the hope of the common good. There is no better example of the expression of good values than in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, a story deeply embedded in our collective understanding of what it means to be a good citizen and which reminds us that our values have emerged not from a vacuum but from the resilient and eternal structures of our religious, theological, philosophical and ethical heritage. It reinforces a Christian hope of our values: those of a generous and hospitable society rooted in history, committed to the common good and solidarity in the present, creative, entrepreneurial, courageous, sustainable in our internal and external relations, and values that are a resilient steward of the hopes and joys of future generations in our country and around the world—hopes that are not exclusive, but for all. That is what our values have been when at their best.
Burke famously wrote that society is a,
“partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”.
He articulates an idea of loyalty—loyalty to those who have sacrificed much in the past for us to be where we are, to our fellow citizens and to those whose lives will stem from our lives. Speaking of loyalty transforms the abstract idea of values, shared or otherwise, into relationships and practices. In our schools, children are taught that fundamental British values are democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. These values and our present situation seem increasingly disconnected from our historical narratives, whatever the values of these fundamental British values are—and they are considerable—and they are not properly embedded in the heritage of our country.
Historians such as Diarmaid MacCulloch speak of religion being,
“a force that shaped the English soul”.
To apply a revisionist secularism to our notions of identity inhibits the ability to reassert the deep values reflected in a common history: those that show what makes for virtue and of what is good in absolute and permanent terms. It is what Aslan in CS Lewis’ Narnia called the “deep magic” of the system. It is in these deep values and loyalties that we find who we are, and by their change we see what we should be. Fundamental British values have certainly developed out of these deep values, but if they are not grounded in an understanding of how we came to be who we are, they will remain an insubstantial vision with which to carry the weight of the challenges of the 21st century.
That is because the right to life, liberty, the rule of law and robust democratic government does not come cheaply, nor is it held lightly. The roots of our freedom in this country are deeply embedded within our British constitutional and civic life because their foundation lies within the shared scriptural inheritance of all our faith traditions. Democracy is not in and of itself the final answer to things, nor is the rule of law. Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu did not accept the final authority of the rule of law when the law was unjust. Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not accept the final authority of the rule of law, democratically passed in a democratically elected assembly, over issues of German-Jewish citizens when the law was manifestly evil.
We live in easier and happier times, but there is still debate over freedom of speech and an increasingly anxious approach to tolerance. Alongside the nation’s seasonal debate about the true meaning of Christmas, we have seen the return of questions about the boundaries of free speech for Christians and those of other or no faith. Unsurprisingly, I am very much in favour of speaking openly but sensitively, as the Prime Minister has both supported and done recently in her own workplace. Our values are very deeply rooted, but are also necessarily continually reinterpreted, especially in times of change, such as now. That, by itself, is a huge challenge in the context of ever-increasing diversity and of how we demonstrate the essential human dignity and equality of all human beings, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion or ability. We know that we lack integration of newer communities, especially around issues of women’s rights and of tolerance and respect for different views. Our failures in that area by themselves call on us to be clearer about our shared values.
Values are developed and refined above all in intermediate institutions, which is where democracy is founded and our diversity preserved and nurtured for the common good. This morning the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, in his “Thought for the Day” expanded this particularly powerfully and clearly. My illustrious predecessor, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, made this point in a lecture in 2012, and Archbishop William Temple made it in Christianity and Social Order in 1942. Both spoke of the decline of intermediate institutions in the face of an over-mighty state and of rampant individualism. Intermediate groups are where we build social capital, integrate, learn loyalties, practices and values, learn to disagree well and learn to build hope and resilience. The most fundamental intermediate institution is the family, the base community of society. Companies are becoming intermediate communities; so are clubs, charities, Near Neighbours groups and so on. Schools are key intermediate institutions, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely will describe. Intermediate institutions are repositories of practices and loyalties fundamental to who we are, even with their idiosyncrasies and untidiness.
The renewal of the values that will enable us to flourish in the post-Brexit world is not simply about us as individuals or the state as the arbiter of what is considered virtuous. It also requires a renewal of intermediate institutions because otherwise nothing stands between the lonely individual and the overmighty state. As the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government recently said, government,
“can build … homes … but alone can’t build communities … a sense of belonging or force people to love thy neighbour as thyself”.
Our response to those who seek to threaten and undermine our values cannot simply be grounded in a defensive or preventive mindset, drawing back into ourselves to look after our own. As part of our counter-radicalisation policy, the Prevent strategy may be important, but if we spend all our energy on preventing bad ideologies, whether religious or political, I fear we will neglect the far more transformative response required to build a convincing vision for our national life. In short, we need a more beautiful and better common narrative that shapes and inspires us with a common purpose, a vaulting national ambition, not a sense of division and antagonism both domestically and internationally. We need a narrative that speaks to the world of bright hope and not mere optimism, let alone simple self-interest. That will enable us to play a powerful, hopeful and confident role around the world, resisting the turn inward that will leave us alone in the darkness, despairing and vulnerable.
We have seen this hope in our best developments as a nation, historically through advances in housing, public health and education. They were carried out by Governments both national and local, but they usually began with intermediate institutions, whether housing associations, local efforts to tackle poor hygiene and sewers or church schools. At their heart they bring true integration based on the God-given dignity of all human beings whatever their ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability or economic worth. A vision of this kind will promote cohesion around the common good, it will encourage courage and creativity, it will lead us to train young people in new skills, and it will give us the strength to open new markets, to share our wealth and wisdom fairly and not only to our advantage, and to welcome the alien and the stranger. It will challenge us to be consistent and to have an eye to our relationship with future generations, notwithstanding the events that intervene. Such a vision has a deep magic that has, at our best, enabled us to be a country of hope and purpose and will do so again. We must now renew that hope and purpose at every level of government and in our common life, and demonstrate it not only in our words but by embodying the values that make for a good society. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.
My Lords, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate, which is particularly timely given that a number of our assumed values are currently being called into doubt. We need to be clear about what those shared values are. I have to admit that I am instinctively wary of politicians who quote religious texts in support of their views because I often find that I then strongly disagree with the conclusions they draw. However, I am going to start with what to me is the key statement of principle for a civilised society. It is St Paul’s ringing declaration in his letter to the Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one”. At the time this was a revolutionary statement and over the centuries humankind, and not least the Church, has grappled to translate it into reality. But the concept of respect for the individual has formed the basis of what we think of as western civilisation, and coupled with resistance to unchecked power, the embracing of progress and the acceptance that conflict is inherent in human society and needs to be moderated through democratic institutions, it has formed the bedrock of what we describe as liberal values. These values—tolerant, inclusive and open-minded—are those which we like to think we share.
But this has not been a good year for these values—at least until this morning. For many of us, all of this has come as something of a shock. During my lifetime society has moved in a strongly liberal direction. We have lived through a social revolution which has removed many of the impediments to women and minority groups of all types living the lives they choose, and has been achieved by a broad coalition of small “l” liberals across the political parties. This progress has been matched by unprecedented rises in personal incomes. In my lifetime, the average income per head in the UK has increased approximately threefold. This is unprecedented in our history. It has transformed how people live.
So what has changed? There are, of course, several contributory reasons, but for me the most important is that the 2008 crash brought to an end year-on-year real wage increases for millions of people. Indeed, for many their incomes fell, while costs, particularly housing costs, continued to rise. For many people, economic change has meant a move from long-term, secure employment to often short-term, insecure jobs. It has shattered many people’s plans for their future pattern of work and lifestyle. It has been accompanied by historically high levels of migration, which, though often exaggerated, have led in some communities to big changes in the composition of the population and knock-on effects on public services and housing. It has led to anger, frustration and a search for scapegoats.
This generalised discontent fuelled much of the UKIP and Brexit vote. It has had disturbing consequences. Language used during the referendum, for example, legitimised in many people’s eyes the expression of anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic views, which have resulted in insults in the street and classroom, murder on the streets of Essex and an almost 50% increase in hate crime. An example of what is now commonplace was sent to me by a German woman, resident in the UK, who described going into a supermarket with her daughter and asking her in German if they had everything they needed. A couple at the next till looked round and said, “Well, they’ll have to go home too”. She continued, “Driving home I had to stop, because we couldn’t keep back our tears. We now have one to two incidents like this per week”. This kind of activity is new and deeply worrying.
How, then, should we respond? We need to address the concerns of the frustrated and angry left behind. We must ensure that public services grow in line with changes in population and improve the education system to equip people with the skills they need to fill the jobs where labour is in short supply. We must do much more to tackle the chronic housing shortage. We have to cherish those national institutions that bind us together. These include the BBC, which continues to produce programmes that appeal to all ages and backgrounds. It includes the judiciary, which should be supported and not vilified. It certainly includes the NHS and social care system, which is even more important because it seeks to treat everybody equally when they are at their most vulnerable. It is creaking at present and urgently needs extra support. It certainly involves the intermediate institutions described by the most reverend Primate.
We must respond to the challenge of Brexit by discussing the issues it raises on the basis of evidence, not prejudice. We must not allow a period of uncertainty to become a period of fear for Europeans living in the UK and for others of a different racial or religious background from our own. We in this House can use the bully pulpit of politics, if not the literal pulpit of the most reverend Primate and his colleagues, to confidently and energetically promote a more tolerant, open and united Britain, then persuade people that this is the kind of society in which they want to live.
My Lords, I join the most reverend Primate in welcoming my noble friends Lady Bertin and Lord McInnes of Kilwinning. I have had the pleasure of working with both of them over many years. I look forward to their maiden speeches.
Post-truth, along with Brexit, has been the big buzzword of 2016. The climate of political and media discourse in 2016, here and across the water both east and west, has left a lot to be desired. We have seen a Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, murdered on our streets by a man whose idea of being a patriot was based on beliefs rooted in neo-Nazi ideology and white-supremacist propaganda. He was no patriot, as the judge said on sentencing him. Jo was.
We have seen hate crime rise, with the NPCC reporting a surge in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the second half of July this year. We remain on severe alert in relation to terrorism, namely that a terrorist attack is highly likely. We see the steady march of the far right across Europe, with Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and Poland now having such representation in Parliament. In the United States we see xenophobia rebranding itself as the alternative right.
This debate is timely and important. I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for offering your Lordships’ House the opportunity to debate what are our values and how committed we are to them when shaping public policy. British values, even in recent times, are not a new debate. Britishness, and a definition of what underpins it, is something that Labour, the coalition and Conservative Governments have struggled with, but we seem to have now achieved a formal definition, which is this: our British values are democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. It is what we teach our children in school and what Ofsted measures our schools against.
However, the debate has caused much debate. Politicians have claimed that these values are British, but are they uniquely so? David Cameron and other Prime Ministers have claimed these as Christian, but are they uniquely so? That is a conversation I have often had with the most reverend Primate. I would argue not. Sadly, the time limit we have been advised of does not allow me to argue each point in detail, but I simply say this. No one religion, race or nation has a monopoly over good, nor a responsibility for all that is bad.
My focus is therefore on the term “British values” as an effective term to do what it sets out to do: to create a shared sense of belonging around an agreed set of norms. The term suggests not only who we think we are now, but who we have always been. Yet, if we take each separate value, this statement is neither historically correct nor factually accurate. Each generation defines its own values, which are based on the norms of that particular time. Many in politics in the 1980s were adamant that heterosexual relations were the definition of family, according to our British values—not so today. Britain in the 1950s had a very different notion of equality relating to women. Tolerance during the heady days of overt racism in bygone decades was not necessarily an easily recognised feature of our public life—not an obvious British value.
The point I make is that we are not a reductive list; we are a complex set of aspirations which change and change often. So I suggest the term “British ideals”, a forward-looking, inclusively created hope of what we would like to be, is a much better way forward. It would be a raising of our eyes to the horizon even in dark times, to the place we want to get to; a pull factor that ensures that we carry on walking the path towards liberal values—a path, in light of the politics of the last 12 months, that can no longer be guaranteed to be a one-way street. That would ensure that we remain a nation of values and leave future generations a public discourse, a climate more open and welcoming than the one that some of us grew up in. A fantastic cross-party initiative launched in Parliament yesterday by Sir Eric Pickles has as its slogan, remembering those times, Britain is “BetterThanThat”.
My Lords, the most reverend Primate, in introducing this debate, helped me to clarify a distinction I wish to share humbly, and the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, now gives me the courage to say what I am going to say.
In the Middle East for 40 years now I have been working with people who live with vastly differing values: Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Copts, Bedouins and Nubians. My own British values are different from many of them and despite this we find ways in which we might live together in harmony. I learned this many years ago when I was fortunate enough to befriend the late Sir Isaiah Berlin. He took time to teach me that one can never persuade people from different cultures, histories and belief systems to agree on one truth or one set of values. He impressed upon me that rather than trying to persuade people to come together with our values, we should find ways of behaving to enable us to live peacefully together and share the planet.
In applying his wisdom I have found that, while we may not share entirely common values, better progress can be made when people choose to act with common virtues. What I wish to share here is a call for us to consider, within this debate on values, how we might deal with others with virtue. We in Britain have distinct national shared values and they must have a role to play in shaping public policy. So, yes, we should clarify, as a nation, what these values are and ensure that they are enshrined within our system of government. However, values are national, cultural, tribal, time-specific and exclusive; they change as each individual society evolves. We are right to discuss British values now, where they stand in underpinning national life and their role in shaping public policy, but whatever we conclude about British values and how our nation and society preserve them, we should remember that virtues are different.
Virtues are universal, for all humans, for all time and are inclusive. My thoughts on this are clarified by a series of conversations organised by my noble friend Lord Leitch. We have been meeting the best academics and leaders from the Abrahamic religions, eastern philosophies and secular wisdoms and have been asking how individuals—and thereby, collectively, society—might rise above our habitual selves, connect with something more universal and, in so doing, realise that we are all one. This may engender compassion within us.
I realise that virtue is a big word for me to use in the presence of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am not claiming, personally, to be virtuous, but when the most reverend Primate puts the question about values, he of course naturally and professionally embodies virtues in his daily life. Perhaps he assumes that virtues will be ever-present, but no. We need to embrace them ourselves and teach our children what virtues are. The Willow School, founded by Gretchen Biedron, does this well. David Geffen has written a book, Loving Classroom, which helps teachers to teach these things to children in school.
Noble Lords may feel that this is not the stuff of politics but I remind us all that every year before opening Parliament, our monarch sits in the Robing Room down the corridor where, depicted in the wall-paintings by William Dyce of the Royal Academy, represented through scenes from the legends of King Arthur and his court, are five of the virtues that the knights strove to live by: hospitality, generosity, mercy, caring religion and courtesy. What is more, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness has arranged, so far, in three years, for 150 Lords and MPs and 250 staff to complete an eight-week course on mindfulness. This group presented to the Government a report, Mindful Nation, that contained the proof and methods to show that mindfulness can be effective in changing minds in education, for pupils and teachers; in health, both mental and physical, for patients and nurses; in the criminal justice system, for criminals and police; and in the workplace, for management and staff.
I am merely asking the Minister to ensure that when discussing how we defend the values we hold dear—democracy; freedom; respect for the law; dignity of the person, independent of skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political views or origin—we welcome others into our fold and do our work around the world with hospitality, generosity, mercy, courtesy and compassion. So, my friends, compassionately, since I have only spoken for four minutes I am going to offer the other two minutes to the House.
My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating this important and timely debate. It is just what our fragmented and disorientated society needs at the moment. It also resonates very strongly with the recommendations of Living with Difference, the report by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life—of which I was a member—chaired by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. This reads:
“At a time when so much is dominated by the sole value of individual choice, faith leaders and other opinion leaders need to initiate discussions on the values, political and personal, they have in common with each other and with the humanist values of the Enlightenment. A national conversation should be launched across the UK by leaders of faith communities and opinion leaders in other ethical traditions to create a shared understanding of the fundamental values underlying public life”.
Some take the view that there are no shared values, or at least that it is impossible to identify them. A strand running through Dostoyevsky’s great novel The Brothers Karamazov is the line:
“If God does not exist, everything is permitted”.
This was, of course, the starting point for John-Paul Sartre and the post-war existentialists. It is not a view I share. Everyone, whatever they believe or do not believe, has some inkling of the good, some capacity for moral discernment, some ability to take others into account. It is part of what is meant by being made in the image of God, from the Christian point of view. The Jewish tradition has its own equivalent in the concept of the Noachide laws, according to the Talmud, the seven imperatives given to all humanity. So does Islam. As for humanism, the very name indicates the possibility of values and virtues simply by reason of our shared humanity, as does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The most reverend Primate’s Motion is in two parts. The first concerns the values underpinning our national life. Some of these are very basic but, however basic, I suggest that they are now being seriously eroded. The front page of one newspaper not long ago was taken up with two stories. One was that the Oxford Dictionaries’ international word of the year is “post-truth”, a word whose use increased 2,000% in 2016 compared with last year. It seems we live in a post-truth society, but an absolute requirement for any society is the assumption that most people most of the time mean more or less what they say. Without that, there could be no trust and no possibility of human relationships. Of course, people select facts to suit their case and put their own spin on things, are “economical with the actualité” as was once famously said, but have we now really given up the idea that truthfulness, as such, matters?
The other story concerned a man who ran a very aggressive tax avoidance business costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds. When confronted with this he simply said that,
“everyone’s moral compass is different, isn’t it?”.
Well, no. The outer casing may be different, but what makes a compass a compass is that the pointer is always drawn towards magnetic north. There is a magnetic north, there is such a thing as truth and there is that in us which is drawn towards it, however glazed-over the glass on our personal compass might be. There seems to be a desperate need in our society to recover and reaffirm the most basic moral values, without which there can be no human community at all.
These values, of which I have selected only one—truth-telling—are both personal and political. Sadly, the untruths told recently in both the referendum and in the American election can only further erode people’s confidence in political statements. At its most basic, we need to recover confidence in what a political party might say in its manifesto. Does it actually mean what it says?
These values take political shape in discussion about British values. Here I have a concern, expressed by the commission—and, indeed, much more widely—about the way that teaching on British values has been introduced into the school curriculum. I am a passionate believer in those values and I want them to be taught in our schools and to underpin our national life. According to Ofsted, these are,
“democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith”.
The worry is that these values have been championed with a very heavy emphasis on the qualifying word “British” and as part of the counterterrorism strategy. Because of this, some communities have felt “othered” by their introduction into the syllabus—alienated rather than included. I strongly agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said about this. They are indeed British values and I am deeply grateful that they are, but they are not only British. We should emphasise that these are shared values and they can be nurtured by the insights of all religions, as well as by those who do not belong to any.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, and the noble Lord, Lord Stone, suggested that each society and each age must find its own values. Rather, I suggest that certain values are actually fundamental but their implications have to be worked out in every generation. Taking the obvious example of equality, that is fundamental to the Christian faith. We are made in the image of God. We are equal. But the implications of that in relation to race or women or people of different sexual orientation have to be worked out in different generations, and we gain some insights—at least we hope we do—into those implications.
The first part of the Motion concerns the values that underpin our national life, the second part their role in shaping public policy priorities. Here we are on more controversial ground. If we take the most fundamental values of liberty, equality and human community, here I differ slightly from the most reverend Primate—my most esteemed and revered Archbishop—who suggested that these were ideologies with which we need not bother. Rather, I suggest that those three values of the French Revolution are actually deeply rooted in the Christian faith and the historic legacy of this country. Liberty, equality and human community have been crucial in shaping our society. I further believe that they can be widely affirmed by people of all faiths and none.
We have always been divided on the public policy implications of these values in a way that the French revolutionaries of 1789 did not perceive but which is obvious now to us. I see no way of obtaining an easy agreement on the political implications but we have to work at it. The simple point I want to make is that we can at least be united on the values from which these policies come.
My Lords, when leaving office, President George HW Bush wrote to President-elect Clinton saying that he felt the same sense of respect and wonder whenever he entered the Oval Office as he had on the very first occasion. That is how I feel whenever I enter your Lordships’ House. That respect and wonder have only been augmented by the welcome that has greeted me in your Lordships’ House. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness shown to me by Members of this House since my introduction on 15 September. I am also extremely grateful for all the support and help offered by the doorkeepers and the staff. The staff here have an uncanny talent of being able to identify when I am lost even before I realise I am.
I was very fortunate to have been introduced to your Lordships’ House by my two exceptional supporters and noble friends, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, and the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, of Helensburgh. I have known the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, since the very darkest days of Scottish Conservatism after the 1997 general election. The noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, meanwhile, had the dubious pleasure of having to speak to me on a daily basis before the independence referendum in 2014—I think more often than he spoke to his wife. Both have been trusty friends to me since I entered this House. My path into your Lordships’ House has been greatly eased by my mentors, the noble Baronesses, Lady Eaton and Lady Fookes. I am very grateful to both of them. The noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, has guided me in the traditions and practices of this Chamber but, as all good authors say in their foreword, any errors or mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Like any new Member of your Lordships’ House, I have been scanning the speakers lists on a daily basis for a suitable subject for my maiden speech. I am therefore very grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for bringing this Motion before the House, which I feel is so important and gives me an opportunity to speak before your Lordships for the first time. I come from a background in political campaigning for the Conservative Party and in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, as well as 13 years as a councillor on Edinburgh City Council. These roles have required me to be responsive to changes in perception of national identity, as well as a world where values are far less certain and far less easily assumed than they were 50 years ago.
In today’s debate, we have already heard, and are going to hear, many articulations of what noble Lords believe to be our national values. There is no definitive list and it would be incorrect if there was. In a free society, we must all enjoy the ability to identify a variety of values that the nation holds dear. As a Scot and a unionist, I believe that the key values of democracy, opportunity, tolerance, free speech and justice run through the fabric of our United Kingdom. Importantly, our national values are not the exclusive values of any particular component nation. They are values that underpin our national life but, as the most reverend Primate suggests, we also have to be clear about how they shape our public policy priorities.
It is my view that these fundamental values must affect public policy priorities by ensuring that everyone in our United Kingdom, irrespective of background, race or religion, feels that they have an equal chance in our nation and that they and their family can benefit from these national values. We cannot talk about tolerance, fairness and justice and not offer everyone as expansive an opportunity in life as public policy can effect. Too many in our country feel that they do not have a stake in society and therefore feel alienated from the very values that many of us hold so dear.
I take my title from the small town of Kilwinning in Ayrshire, where I was brought up and educated before leaving for university. Like many small towns built in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution and reliant on mining, iron and railways, that town has seen some tough times in the past 60 years. However, thanks to a supportive family, wonderful teachers and a community made up of people from all walks of life, I was enriched by that town and made to feel that I was capable of succeeding as much as I could. Unfortunately, not all are so lucky. Too many would look at the statistics and judge that if they are from a black minority ethnic or working-class background, our national values offer nothing to them. They may question how meritocratic, tolerant or just our country is. Ensuring public policy priorities that focus on education and bridging attainment gaps and health inequalities is the very best way that our national values can be properly entrenched.
Since 1997, child poverty has halved but there is still a poverty of opportunity for too many families. Our public policy priorities should be to end the loss of hope and aspiration that affects so many of our communities. I hope that the Minister will be able to reflect on means by which the Government can do more to ensure that there is opportunity for all Britons. Only with opportunity for every child to do as well as they are able to can we be confident that the national values that underpin our national life can engender true affinity from those who may feel little connection with the values that we all hold so dear.
My Lords, it is an honour and a privilege to follow the excellent maiden speech of my noble friend Lord McInnes of Kilwinning. In the finest traditions of this House, he was modest, decent and non-controversial. I also congratulate my noble friend on the work he did during the Scottish referendum and on his great environmental success: together with Ruth Davidson, he has saved an almost extinct species—the Scottish Tories. They have given the Scottish electorate a chance once again to have a political choice, and that is no mean feat.
I hope that my praise for my noble friend today does not damage his reputation in Scotland, where I have been persona non grata ever since the day in about 1996 when I made what I thought was the innocent comment that half of the beggars whom I met in London happened to be Scottish. Prime Minister Major ordered me to apologise to the whole Scottish nation. About the same time, he sent me to apologise to the then Archbishop of Canterbury. I hope that I will not have to repeat that experience after today. It seems impertinent for a junior sprog like me to congratulate the most reverend Primate on his speech today and on his excellent speech to the Catholic Institute of Paris two weeks ago, to which I will return later.
There are two great institutions in this country which excessive, trendy modern-ness pandering to the lowest common denominator for the sake of it have not touched. One is the Royal Family and the other is our military. Yes, they have modernised but they still uphold the everlasting values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour, integrity and personal courage. We have seen that every day in every conflict where our military take part, from the cold mud of the Somme to the hot sands of Afghanistan and Iraq. These are the finest values underpinning our national life and I, for one, would wish to have a tiny fraction of them.
Why then do we permit some of the lowest of the low—crooked and deskbound cowardly lawyers—to drag these brave men and women through the courts in the pursuit of not the truth but more legal aid money? The only law which should apply to our soldiers is the respected Geneva Convention and I urge the Government not just to exempt our military from future human rights law suits but to drop these disgraceful IHAT inquiries now. Will criminal charges ever be brought against that crook Phil Shiner and his fellow conspirators from Public Interest Lawyers for fraud and perverting the course of justice? Probably not—just a rap on the knuckles from the Solicitors Regulation Authority and a reminder not to get caught in future.
In cases seeking compensation for so-called negligence, we also have to stop the appalling suing culture now rampant in the NHS. That has some of the worst values, which I do not think the British people share. The annual report of the NHS Litigation Authority makes frightening reading. Over one-third of the billions paid out goes to the lawyers, not the patients. I urge the Government to bring in proposals to stop no-win no-fee, purge the ambulance chasers and their grubby leaflets from accident and emergency departments and limit the concept of medical negligence. An NHS free at the point of delivery is one thing; free for lawyers to rip it off is quite another.
Another value underpinning our national life is the concept of fairness. Many of those who voted for leave or for President-elect Trump did so because they saw the bankers getting away with appalling criminal behaviour and that globalisation advocates were earning big bucks while ordinary workers were left behind. It is quite despicable that chief executive pay has risen inexorably over the years and is now 180 times the pay of their lowest-paid employees. I wish my right honourable friend the Prime Minister all strength to her elbow in tackling that injustice.
I will conclude with comments on one part of the excellent and wide-ranging speech made by the most reverend Primate in Paris on 17 November. I have obtained a full copy for greater accuracy. He pointed out that as Europe has integrated economically, it has ignored the need to integrate our values, culture, dreams and ideals. He said, among other things:
“If we allow our national and international political contexts to define our values and virtues, then we will be disappointed. Values emerge from histories of interaction and are rooted in stories of virtue, above all in Europe the stories of the Judaeo Christian tradition”.
He also said:
“A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that. This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism. Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution”.
How refreshing to hear that from our most reverend Primate.
After some Islamic terrorist attacks, I have sat in this House and heard comments that they were nothing to do with proper Islam. But the terrorists were doing it in the name of Islam and their religious leaders are not driving them out. Eight hundred years ago, our Christian ancestors massacred Muslims during the Crusades, and we have to admit that it was something to do with Christianity—not the Christianity we try to follow now but an Old Testament version of it. Yes, the Koran contains texts on not killing the innocent and treating women well and the Christian Bible has verses on an eye for an eye and stoning people to death, but that is the Old Testament. We have left that barbarity behind as we practise turning the other cheek and loving one’s neighbour as oneself—both New Testament exhortations.
If a right reverend Prelate or any clergyman were to suggest that we should adopt the Old Testament as our behavioural guide now, he, or she, would be locked up as insane or for inciting hatred, or both. Why then is there not total denunciation by the real Islamic leaders of the barbarities as currently practised by professed Islamists, if they are not following real Islam? The whole culture of western Europe is now under threat by those who will not integrate and accept the values of our European Judaeo-Christian heritage. I am not suggesting for one second that they must accept the Christian religion—of course not—but they should accept our western values of tolerance, respect, equality, democracy and the rule of secular law, and cease trying to make Islam the dominant religion by force. I believe that no other religion in the world insists on the destruction of all other religions. Christianity did so 800 years ago, but we have become more civilised since, in the main. If those values are not shared by all in this country, or those who wish to make this their country, the Government must step up action to ensure that these values become the norm. We must not in the name of discredited multiculturalism sacrifice our western liberal democracy, which is still a value shared by the vast majority in this country.
My Lords, when I came to this country as a 19 year-old from India for my higher education in the early 1980s, Britain was referred to as the sick man of Europe—a country that had had an empire but was then a has-been. The City of London, where I qualified as a chartered accountant at what is today Ernst & Young was a closed shop and prejudice was rife. In fact, I was told by my family and friends in India, “If you decide to work in Britain after your studies you will not get to the top, as you will not be allowed to. There will be a glass ceiling for you as a foreigner”. Three decades ago, I am ashamed to say that my family was absolutely right.
I have seen Britain transformed in front of my eyes over the past three decades, from the sick man of Europe into the envy of Europe. I have seen that glass ceiling well and truly shattered, with a country that is aspirational and meritocratic—where anyone can get as far as their aspirations, talent and hard work will get them regardless of race, religion or background, as the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, said in his excellent maiden speech. London today is the most cosmopolitan city in the world.
In 2012, I led a debate on the 150th anniversary of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe, of which I am proud to be patron. The ZTFE is the oldest of the Asian voluntary faith-based organisations in Britain, founded in 1861. Dadabhai Naoroji, who became in 1892 the first Indian Member of Parliament at Westminster, was one of the founding members. The topic of my debate was the contribution made by minority ethnic and religious communities to the cultural life and economy of the UK. If your Lordships read the Hansard report of that debate you will see that without the contribution of these communities and immigrants over the decades, Britain would not be where it is today. My tiny community the Zoroastrian Parsees number less than 57,000 out of a population of 1.25 billion in India and less than 6,000 out of 65 million over here in the UK. I am proud to say that it has achieved so much and put back into the community wherever we have been. They say that our per capita rate of achievement is the highest in the world. The Tatas who own Jaguar Land Rover, Freddie Mercury from Queen and the conductor Zubin Mehta are or were all Zoroastrian Parsees.
I thank the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate at this crucial time and for his excellent speech. In more than three decades of being in this country, I have never faced racial discrimination or hate crime of any sort here in London or at Cambridge, where I studied. However this year, 2016, I have before and since the referendum been the recipient of numerous tweets, e-mails and letters. People can hide behind tweets and e-mails can be sent anonymously, but I have received letters, some of them five pages long—and with full names, signatures and addresses—filled with hatred. I cannot quote the tweets and e-mails—that would not be appropriate in this Chamber—but let me quote from one or two of the letters: “If you are unhappy, why don’t you go back to your country of origin? We don’t want you here mithering all the time. Go man go, I say good riddance”. Another one said: “This country did okay before you and your like came over here in your multitudes”.
This is what this wretched referendum has unleased. It appears we are undoing three decades of all the good we have done where Britain moved on from tolerating diversity to celebrating diversity, benefiting from diversity and thriving from diversity, be it in business, where the most successful business people in this country are Indians, or in sports where, with 1% of population, we came second in the world in the Olympics and Paralympics—and look at the amazing diversity of our athletes. I am the proud chancellor of the University of Birmingham and chairman of the advisory board of Cambridge Judge Business School, and 30% of our academics at Birmingham and Cambridge are foreign. We have international students, whom the Government still insist on categorising as immigrants when the public categorically say they do not look upon them as immigrants.
In the referendum, one of the major issues was immigration. Migrants were seen as the problem, putting strain on our public services. Where is the logic in this? We have the lowest level of unemployment—less than 5%—and the highest level of employment in living memory in spite of having more than 3 million people from the EU and people from outside the EU living and working here. How on earth would we have managed to make this economy the sixth largest in the world without these migrants? As I highlighted in my recent speech on the effect of the EU referendum on the NHS and the care sector, there are 130,000 people from the EU working in the NHS and the care sector and more than 30% of our doctors are foreign. Far from being a burden on our public services, our public services would collapse without our migrant workforce. Far from being a burden, EU migrants put five times more into this economy than they take. I admire individuals from the EU, including those from eastern Europe, who come here, leaving their families thousands of miles away, not knowing the language or the culture, and work hard, contribute to our economy and pay taxes that we benefit from. Far from us being grateful for this, they are vilified, seen as a problem and discriminated against.
What is happening to our wonderful nation? Britain as a country has been renowned for being fair and just, a country that evolved over the past decades from prejudice, from being a closed, inward-looking, insular country to an open, welcoming, vibrant country and economy. My friend Ed Smith, the pro-chancellor of the University of Birmingham and former chairman of the UK board of trustees of the World Wide Fund for Nature told me that its money does not come from people donating millions of pounds. The vast majority of the millions raised by the WWF comes from individuals donating £5 or £10 each for causes in countries that they may never visit. That is the spirit and generosity of this wonderful country.
Perhaps in encouraging multiculturalism, we did not encourage integration enough, as the most reverend Primate said. After all, there is a difference between assimilation and integration. My father, the late Lieutenant-General Bilimoria, told me when I left India, “Son, wherever you live in the world, integrate to the best of your abilities but never forget your roots”. I am so proud to be a Zoroastrian Parsee, I am so proud to be an Indian, I am so proud to be an Asian in Britain and I am really proud to be British. We have to nip this in the bud and get back on the path that has made this tiny country, with 1% of the world’s population and no empire—not a super power but a global power—respected around the world. This country is now breaking away from the EU; it is looking not outwards but inwards; it is not open but protectionist and is, as the most reverend Primate said, resisting inwards. This is the result of that wretched referendum. In a country that has been celebrated for its cosmopolitanism and diversity, the referendum has unleashed hate crime, prejudice against immigrants and racism. This is not the Britain that I know and love.
Britain has always been a country with integrity. The best definition of integrity that I have ever heard was when the most reverend Primate’s predecessor, the noble and right reverend Lord Williams, visited the Zoroastrian centre in Harrow, of which I am patron. I made the welcoming speech and the noble and right reverend Lord said, “Lord Bilimoria has mentioned the word ‘integrity’ twice. The Zoroastrian community is renowned for its integrity”. He said that the word integrity comes from the Latin word “integritas”, which means wholeness. You cannot practice integrity if you are fragmented in front of the light. You can practice integrity only if you are whole and complete. Britain needs to retain its wholeness and completeness so that we can always practice integrity.
I will conclude with my favourite poem. It is relevant to the current time. It is by the Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”.
My Lords, I thank my friend the most reverend Primate for securing this timely and essential debate. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, on his excellent speech, not least on drawing together our concern for values with opportunity for our children and young people. When we talk about British values, we should be aiming not at the lowest common denominator but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said, at the highest ideals that we want to promote for and with our children.
Character education is all set to be the foundation for the kind of person we want each child to become: a member of society who not only understands the world, but cares about it, is equipped to continue in the good and recognise and challenge the bad and is courageous enough to bridge divides and extend the hand of friendship. The Church of England vision for education actively seeks to provide an education that fosters this. Character education is about educating children not only to become efficient economic units, but to flourish in all areas of their lives, and enjoy life in all its fullness, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John. Fundamental to this is the nurturing of virtues as the intrinsic building blocks of a rounded human life with concrete outcomes in behaviour and service. St Paul takes the life of virtue beyond what had previously been categorised when he wrote in the Letter to the Galatians about the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
All of us learn from the example set by others, and this is particularly true in the relationship between children and their teachers. As we all know, children can spot inauthenticity straight away. They carefully watch and learn from the behaviour of those around them. They learn from the rhythms of the rituals of their daily lives in school and at home. No number of laminated vision statements displayed in the school hall can come close to the modelling of learning and co-operation exhibited by all the adults involved in the life of that community. It is the commitment to living out our vision for education that led the Church of England to found its Foundation for Educational Leadership, which is training and supporting school leaders to lead from the front in character education.
Across the country, there are examples of schools living out this vision for education very effectively, schools such as St Luke’s Church of England Primary School in Bury. It has a Jewish headteacher and an overwhelming majority of Muslim pupils and is committed to their British and Christian values of tolerance, love, hope, democracy, respect, honour, compassion, faith and forgiveness. Like many other schools, it recognises the importance of teaching its pupils about faith and difference, and its pupils recently visited Manchester Cathedral and the Jewish museum.
Tolerance is not enough. We need to learn how to build the relationships that enable us to honour one another even after engagement with hard questions. The Church’s Living Well Together project is a tangible incarnation of this vision for education. It aims to provide inspiration and resources to enable schools across the country to put this idea into practice. The emphasis for the project is starting conversations to enable better understanding. Often challenging discussions take place in which there is a close examination and interrogation of each other’s points of view. It has shown the great value of giving children the opportunity to take responsibility and to come up with their own ideas of how they should interact responsibly with each other.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the test of values comes in disagreement and in dissent. We must equip young people to have genuine engagement about differences of faith and belief so that they can understand one another’s perspectives. It is essential therefore that all children be taught religious literacy. At the very time that this is most needed, not including RE in the EBacc will have a detrimental impact on the ability of schools to teach it. The importance of disagreeing well is also paramount in higher education. It denies the attempt to silence the public airing of opinions so that those we disagree with continue in their belief unopposed. Freedom of speech is essential, and so too is the opportunity for young people to learn to argue well against what they believe to be wrong.
It is more important than ever that we prepare children for the world they live in and to handle the challenges that may await them. Talk of values must not just be superficial. A life of virtue and developed character, like a stick of Blackpool rock, has the message running all the way through the middle.
My Lords, I offer my appreciation for both the office and the person of the most reverend Primate, although I must say that when I say those words “the most reverend Primate” it does sound a bit like an evolutionary category, and I cannot quite get that out of my mind. I also express my appreciation of the recent book that I have just read, Dethroning Mammon, which offers up the real space for what I wish to say today. I really agreed with the general direction of what the most reverend Primate said about moving away from this concept of values always as a list. The curse of the list is a philosophical curse—you have different things on the list that contradict each other, and then you write another list before you laminate it and stick it up in primary school classrooms as a way of directing attention. The most reverend Primate has moved in completely the right way in moving into this idea of practices and then virtues.
Very occasionally, I am criticised by people on my own side for working so closely with the Church, as I have done throughout my life on issues such as the living wage and limiting usury. I always reply in the same way: at least Christians and people of faith do not believe that the free market created the world and that it is something inherited and anterior. Of course, it must also be said that neither did the administrative state create the world, and I really appreciated the balance the most reverend Primate gave on that. I would also say that I love liberty much too much ever to be a liberal, and the reason for that is because of the emphasis put, which he did quite correctly, on institutions and practices. The thing when we are talking about British values is how we care for our covenantal inheritance. These institutions are inherited: the law is one crucial part and the Church is another, along with autonomous self-governing universities. We used to call these intermediate institutions that nurture virtue the body politic.
I would call virtue good-doing rather than do-gooding. It is a way of excellence of practice. When the most reverend Primate talks of hospitality and generosity, these are not values but a way of relating to other people. These are practices that can be done well. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely said, the notion of character embedded in institutions is the most precious part of our inheritance, through which we protect liberty and democracy. That is why we should really concentrate now.
I had a very funny conversation with a Member of the other House, Michael Gove, who said to me, “What we need with Brexit is a quickie divorce”. I asked him, “A quickie divorce like Henry VIII wanted a quickie divorce?”. There is a certain lack of historical understanding of where quickie divorces can lead—that one obviously led to the Reformation. This is what we have to think about: what is the covenantal inheritance that needs to be embedded in a self-governing nation, which is what we are to be?
One of the ways of doing that is definitely, as the most reverend Primate said, through the notion of the common good. A certain precondition of the common good is not to despise or dehumanise people who voted for Brexit as racists and nationalists but to try genuinely to engage in renewing the institutions that assert this fundamental point that the Church has always been faithful to, which is that human beings are not commodities. The madness of neo-liberalism is—as I said, I love liberty much too much to be a liberal, and I am much too conservative ever to be associated with the party opposite—the idea that human beings and nature are commodities to be bought and sold and find their price, which is an idea that is as wicked and pernicious as the idea that the state should control and administer the very nature of the person. It is precisely the intermediate institutions —the schools, the universities, the Church, the unions, the law—that protect the nature of the person from their domination by these two external forces. That is essentially the path.
The really crucial virtue that I wish to concentrate on is one that has been protected by the Church and neglected by us, which is that of vocation—the idea of good-doing and having a calling. A very terrible thing about our country is that in 1832 we protected the notion of vocation for lawyers, doctors, dentists and accountants but abolished it for plumbers, carpenters and engineers. There was a free market in those manual crafts, and we made the distinction between a profession and a vocation, and we degraded the concept of vocation essentially to mean unskilled or semi-skilled labour. I share with your Lordships the fact that we never hear in football the notion of a “vocational foul”, but we certainly hear of the “professional foul”. We saw the degradation of our professions in the crash, where accountants paid by companies were writing things off and concealing massive deceit, exaggeration and vice. If we can extend this concept of vocation institutionally through the idea of the building of character through an inheritance of a skill and a trade, then we can talk about internal regulation, rather than external regulation, and the pursuit of a common good embodied in the covenantal institutions of our inheritance.
Among those, this Parliament is supreme, where we have the representation of workers, of capital and—one of the glories of our House—of the common good between the religious and the secular. The common good derives from the very strong stress on vocation and virtue in our institutions, without which we are always prey to incoherent lists and the domination of both the market and the administrative state.
My Lords, I very much welcome this timely and important opportunity to debate our shared values and discuss how they shape policy priorities. I wanted to speak in this debate but I also wanted to listen, and indeed have already been richly rewarded. These values that we are talking about may or may not be eternal, but they certainly change in how they are expressed and in how circumstances influence them. It really is very important that that they are debated and not just stated—and not just in this House.
When I looked at this proposition of shared values, my first question was, “Shared by whom?”. These values that we have talked about may look very different from different places in our society, and there may be differences as to how they are experienced and expressed by, for example, people who are alienated or disadvantaged in our current society. I think I am following the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, in his excellent maiden speech just now by pointing out the importance here of inclusion in this national debate about what these values should be. I am also reminded of an excellent speech by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth on an earlier occasion when he talked about the engagement of different cultures and religions and a continuing conversation with stakeholders. I think that is extremely relevant here. When the right reverend Primate talks about the need for a new shared narrative, this needs to be built on that wider debate, and of course built on understanding why there are people today who are alienated and disadvantaged, and what we can do about it. My first point here is about inclusion in the development of this new great narrative, based on what may well be, and perhaps are, eternal values.
I follow the last two speakers in your Lordships’ House by turning to implementation and the vastly important role that institutions play in this. They are how values are expressed in our national life; they embody them. What are institutions there for and whom are they there for? Does our health system genuinely treat everyone as equal? Does our education system treat everyone as equal? How do their leaders behave? How are our institutions expressing both these values and the policies on which they are based? This point, about institutions expressing our aspirations and our values about who we are, is well understood globally. Clearly, in the UK, the important point has been about how the welfare states in Europe have developed after the last war as we recreated our societies. After their Carnation Revolution in 1974, the Portuguese immediately set up a national health service as an expression of who they were. Only 22 years ago, Rwanda was just trying to recover from a genocide, and one of its first steps was to set up a national health system that included and engaged everyone, and which is still one of the best in Africa, as an explicit expression of who they were as a people. So institutions are fantastically important in expressing our values.
I wonder whether our policies at the moment always reinforce this vital role that institutions have. I am reminded again that the most reverend Primate talked in his earlier remarks about the dangers of centralisation and the overpowering state, and therefore the important role of intermediate institutions. Certainly I suspect that in public policy in recent years—I had better declare my guilt as a former Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health—we have issued instructions and diktats from the centre that to some extent have taken away power and autonomy locally. As a result, you have sometimes seen people running local areas of our national institutions as branch offices rather than as substantial leaders of their local communities. It is very important that hospital managers, school heads and others are leaders in the local communities and taking on their wider role in society.
There are of course many excellent examples of this. Yesterday, I was with the new NHS Alliance and I saw people in Fleetwood, led by the GPs there, who were doing much more than their job description as a GP, looking at how they could enhance the health of their society and bringing in all local partnerships. I was also with people from Plymouth, and the Beacon programme in Plymouth does the same thing of bringing together different organisations to create the sort of society that they want locally, based on shared values and making use of national policies but locally driven and locally led.
In October, I and a group of others, including four other Cross-Bench Peers and a number of the great clinical leaders in this country, set out in the Lancet a “Manifesto for a healthy and health-creating society”. We think there needs to be a new shared narrative around health, to use the language that we are talking about here, and that it has to be about a healthy and health-creating society. There are four points in the manifesto, and I think I have time to mention the two that are really relevant here. First, while the NHS can be wonderful and politicians can do remarkable things, they cannot do everything that is needed in health. We need to engage employers, educators, designers and everyone who has an impact on health in creating a new health-creating society. This is about expressing our values through public policy and using the institutions that we have locally. Secondly, the final point in the manifesto was simply put. It said that our great institutions of science and health are built on values of integrity—to pick up the point from my noble friend Lord Bilimoria—evidence, openness, sharing and equality of opportunity. These institutions, which benefit from society, should also be playing their role in society in promoting those values in many different ways; they can do so, and there are good examples of their doing it.
While I very much accept, applaud and welcome this debate on shared values and how they need to shape and reinforce good policies, they also need to be accompanied by what one might describe as effective implementation and effective institutions that embody those policies and values.
My Lords, it is a privilege to speak after my noble friend. He, like me, has spent a lot of time working with one of those intermediate institutions, the National Health Service—the closest, they say, to a national religion in the UK, but one whose values are written throughout it, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill.
I warmly and appreciatively congratulate the most reverend Primate on bringing to the House today a debate so much at the heart of our complex, paradoxical and really quite frightening situation. His huge ability to understand the high life and the low life, and to communicate with wit and wisdom, was first impressed on me shortly after his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury. The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, had a question time for those Peers who did not know the most reverend Primate too well. One of our colleagues said, wonderfully, “Well, Archbishop, what are you going to do about bankers’ pay and what about the Second Coming?”. Without flinching, he masterfully responded in the most eloquent and elegant manner. There is not a cleric in the country that I meet to whom I do not pass on this account.
Many of us are deeply disturbed by the world in which we live and the recent election results. Like the noble Lord who spoke earlier, I regard myself as a long-term liberal—in its civilised sense—who was deeply distressed about the Brixton riots and was very involved in the Scarman report. It is interesting to look back at what was said then, 31 years ago: the disorder was a spontaneous outburst of built-up resentment caused by,
“complex political, social and economic factors … racial disadvantage”,
and inner-city decline. I think those complex, political, social and economic factors are very much, though maybe unknown to all of us, what we are addressing at the current time.
Those of us in this House, which is another glorious intermediate institution, have had the benefit of globalisation and of living in a world of connectivity. I have always been proud that one-third of the chairmen and chief executives of British companies are not British. I come from a family where my generation all married people just like ourselves, while our children and cousins married people who were Indian, Spanish, Irish—anyone from anywhere around the world. This has seemed exhilarating and exciting. However, maybe we have underestimated what it feels like for those who feel not only poverty but impoverished by that environment. For 11 years, as many know, I have been chancellor of the University of Hull and Sheriff of Hull, a community for whom globalisation has not been so exciting. There has been massive investment there by Siemens; nevertheless the sense of globalisation —of jobs going elsewhere and of the world being out of your individual control—is alarming, and we know that when people are fearful they react in a negative way. I am afraid that fear is not a good motivator; people are generous when they feel confident and secure.
That is all the more reason for us to look again at how the virtues we value are promoted and shared. We have talked about the development of schools. Would that it were so easy and everyone had a day’s religious ceremony; we could all sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and march in line. In a complex multicultural society, though, that is not sufficient and will not work in the same way. We have to think about that.
An additional complicating factor, which has not been sufficiently addressed so far in this debate, is the effect of social media, because social media do not have editorial control. Of course, they are post-truth. You can say whatever you like without any rebuke or fear. You can intimidate people. Worse than that, if you cannot explain it in 140 characters, it is not worth saying. It is the simplicity of social media that is so dangerous. The complex arguments with which we have to grapple are never 10:0, 9:1 or 8:2; most decisions are 6:4 or 5.5:4.5, if you are lucky. Whether it is globalisation or multiculturalism, there is always a down side as well as an up side, and we need space and time for debate to communicate sufficiently.
Nothing is new, of course. I am a social scientist. I fear to quote from 19th-century French sociology, but Émile Durkheim was the founder of sociology. His whole issue was: how can societies maintain their integrity and coherence in modernity when traditional social and religious ties can no longer be assumed? That was the history of sociology: the concepts of alienation and anomie. What we are suffering from is alienation and anomie, and the cult of the individual, all of which were described by Émile Durkheim more than 100 years ago.
I believe our Prime Minister understands this. She spoke very swiftly about the importance of social mobility and equal access to opportunity. If you are black, you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system. If you are a white working-class boy, you are less likely than anyone to reach the top professions. If you suffer from mental health problems, there is not enough help to hand. That is very similar to the Prime Minister for whom I worked 25 years ago, who said he was looking for
“a nation at ease with itself”.
My concern is that every generation has to re-evaluate, share and promulgate the values that we care so much about.
Finally, I hope that the Minister will pass on to his Secretary of State an invitation to visit Hull during the Year of Culture next year, because a sense of place and community is one way in which we can help people to share values and develop a sense of responsibility. Even more important, the most reverend Primate is definitely expected in Hull next year to visit the nation’s largest parish church, Holy Trinity, Hull, which is 700 years old. When he comes, I hope we will hear even more about how, in the words of our prayer when we start, we can work together, uniting and knitting the nation together.
My Lords, I am glad we are today discussing shared values, not British values, because these are values we share with other countries; indeed, that we hope are universal values. One of the things that has led to a deterioration in our national debate has been the claim by some on the right that English values—or, more precisely, Anglo-Saxon values—are different from and superior to the values of other nations. I read Daniel Hannan’s book How We Invented Freedom—a sort of simplified, child’s version of Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples—which dismisses the French Revolution and all other contributions and assumes that continental countries are naturally authoritarian. That is not my world, although I remember when I first went to the United States going out briefly with a young Italian-American woman who said to me, “Do you know, you are the first white Anglo-Saxon Protestant I have ever gone out with?”, so I knew where I was coming from.
I also have some hesitation about calling them Christian values, even though I grew up absolutely at the heart of the Church of England, because I am conscious that the history of liberalism, tolerance and dissent is, on the European continent, the history of liberals fighting against the authoritarianism and orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church and in Britain has a great deal to do with the Quakers, the Congregationalists and the other nonconformists dissenting from what was then a rather complacent establishment which supported the powers that be. I remember that in my Church of England primary school, we occasionally sang “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, with that dreadful verse:
“The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate”.
We have come some way, even within the Church of England, in our understanding of values.
That is also true, of course, of other faiths, such as Judaism and Islam. Some very interesting and enthusiastic young Muslims came to talk to me the other week about developing a liberal approach to Islam. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, has just written a book on aspects of that, which I very much look forward to reading. Of course, these are also humanist values. I strongly agree with the noble Baroness that these are aspirations and ideals as much as settled values, let alone anything one can take for granted. Each generation has to fight to maintain these values, as well as to redefine them. We all recognise that fear, prejudice and setbacks all damage acceptance of these values—that they do not survive unless we go out to defend them, as we have seen in what happened immediately after the referendum.
There are obvious threats to these values: rapid social and economic change most evidently. I do most of my politics in west Yorkshire, and I see the extent to which knocking down the old communities and the establishment of nice, new semi-detached houses, which lack the core of the community and break up the old extended families, has weakened some of the intermediate social institutions. The disappearance of the mills and factories where you worked together and their replacement by insecure, lonely work has also weakened them. The disappearance of nonconformist churches has, sadly, weakened them further. Then immigration, and the expectation of further immigration as a result of the world’s rising population, is another unsettling dimension.
In the middle of the referendum campaign, I spoke in Ripon Cathedral on the issues that we had to consider, and ended a discussion on the question of immigration and population growth by saying that you have to decide, “Who is your neighbour?”. One of the discussion groups came back to me after a brief interval and said, “We have been discussing on our table: who is not my neighbour?”. That will be a very difficult question for us all to consider over the next generation, as the poor of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia try to get to a more secure world. Globalisation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, said, has swept over those areas, and those who are left behind by the transformation of work and will be further left behind by its future transformation, have real grievances which we have to address. That is also part of the lesson of the referendum that we all need to learn.
How do we address that? Who should be contributing? Clearly, faith leaders; all of us as public figures and politicians; and local community leaders, in so far as we have them, because globalisation means that local employers and banks—I declare an interest as the son of a local bank manager—have disappeared, which is part of the loosening of local institutions. Local democracy is much weaker than it used to be. In Bradford and Leeds, each ward has 15,000 voters. That is not terribly local democracy. We all need to do our part, but we also need corporate leadership. I commend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for talking to corporate leaders and saying that they have failed to speak out about the responsibility of the corporate sector to the wider community within which it operates. That is something we need to hear from the banking community and leaders of multinational companies working in Britain and elsewhere. We need to make sure that they pay their taxes and contributions to the wider community. Then there are the media, old and new. With our traditional media, we have the odd phenomenon of what one has to call offshore nationalism—foreigners who own papers that talk against them. The Sun did it the other week, attacking foreign elites. It seems to me that Rupert Murdoch is a classic example of a foreign elite interfering in British politics, but the idea of self-parody does not, apparently, occur to the Sun or the Mail, from time to time. Social media are, of course, an additional problem.
We face huge problems in maintaining the liberal values this country has attained. We have to go out to fight for, defend and promote them.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating this important debate. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and to build on some of the things he has just said. In the last few years of the 20th century, I was part of the Lambeth group, representatives of different religions who met at Lambeth Palace to plan celebrations for the new millennium and the layout of the Faith Zone in the Millennium Dome. We were conscious of the fact that in the 20th century more people had died in war and conflict than in the rest of recorded history, and we reflected on hopes for a better future.
I was asked to head a small group to draw up a list of values for peace and justice in the 21st century. As a start, I put forward a list based on the teachings of the Sikh gurus, and the commonalities between different faiths became evident as the list was virtually agreed as it was. It was prominently displayed in the Faith Zone of the Millennium Dome and talked about in various conferences; then it was filed away in the archives of Lambeth Palace and the repositories of other faiths. Let us fast-forward a few years to another meeting at Lambeth Palace—in the very same room where we used to meet—and a charismatic preacher from America saying that what we needed were values.
There are plenty of values about and plenty of guidance in our different religious books. For most of our faiths, it can be put on one sheet of A4. The problem is that although stating those teachings and values is relatively easy, it is extremely difficult to live by them. So we humans find surrogates and alternatives for true and difficult commitments, such as rituals, penances and pilgrimages; such actions give a sense of satisfaction and spirituality. But as Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, observed, in themselves they are,
“not worth a grain of sesame seed”.
The guru taught that living true to such values is what really counts. The task then given to the nine succeeding gurus was to live true to those teachings in very challenging social and political times—and it was not easy.
One value that we call a British value is tolerance and respect for others. Guru Arjan, the fifth guru, showed that respect by inviting a Muslim saint, Mian Mir, to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple, which was constructed with a door at each of its four sides to denote a welcome to all coming from any geographic or spiritual direction. Inside the temple or gurdwara and in all gurdwaras, a vegetarian meal called langar is served to all, without any distinction of caste or creed. When the Mughal emperor Akbar visited the guru, he, too, was asked to sit and eat with people of different social backgrounds. The guru also added verses of Hindu and Muslim saints to our holy scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, to show that no one faith had the monopoly of truth. However, living true to such basic values is not easy: the guru was arrested and tortured to death in the searing heat of an Indian June, for daring to suggest that there was more than one way to God. Sikhs commemorate that martyrdom not by showing any sign of bitterness but by serving cool, refreshing drinks to all near their homes or gurdwaras. Some years back, I decided to organise the serving of free cooling drinks in Hyde Park, and the initial reaction of the Hyde Park authorities was not very encouraging. They said, “You can’t do that sort of thing in a royal park—everyone will start doing it”.
Guru Arjan’s successor, Hargobind, was imprisoned in Gwalior Fort for his belief, along with 52 other princes. On the festival of Diwali, the Mughal emperor said, as a gesture of good will, that Guru Hargobind was free to leave, but he stunned the emperor by saying, “I’m not going unless all the other 52 are also released”. He emphasised the importance of individual liberty for all—another British value.
In living true to exacting values, the ninth guru gave his life defending the right of another religion to worship in the manner of its choice. Voltaire said, “I may not believe in what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It was Guru Tegh Bahadur who years earlier gave that noble sentiment practical utterance. The 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh, emphasised the importance of democracy, another British value.
The Sikh turban that we wear is supposed—and perhaps I should emphasise “supposed”—to remind us of the ideals by which we should live. The values that I have spoken of and those taught in Britain today are in fact universal values, taught by different faiths, and should be referred to as universal values. We urgently need to go beyond simply making lists or paying lip service to universal human values; we need to incorporate them, as the founders of our different faiths intended, into how we live, move and have our being. It is hypocritical to talk of the commitment to democracy and pally up to tyrants such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, or to say, as our Trade Secretary said a couple of years ago, that we should not mention human rights when we talk trade with China. It is wrong that the weak and vulnerable in society should depend on charitable appeals for basic necessities when their needs should be a first charge on all of us. It is wrong to talk of respect for all, and then use families settled here for generations as bargaining chips for Brexit.
Britain has led the world in many ways. My hope is that we will now lead in closing the gap in our long-suffering world between values that we all accept and the lure of self-interest in both personal dealings and the way we view the world.
My Lords, I do not come from noble stock; indeed, I am rather proud of the fact that I have no political pedigree. I was born in Croydon to a Geordie mother and a French father. My journey to Westminster happened by complete chance, but I learned from a young age that if you get a spot of luck you hold on to its coat-tails and do not let go.
I cut my teeth on a trading floor in the City but spent the majority of my career at the coal face of Westminster politics. My most recent role was the Prime Minister’s director of external relations. Prior to that, I spent seven years as his press secretary and praetorian guard with the media. Unusually, I emerged from this role still committed to a free and unbending press—although I have to admit that there were times when I looked to China with a certain degree of envy. What is more, I am grateful to those journalists—many of whom are now friends—for giving me the best training ahead of motherhood. Interrupted nights; tantrums; unreasonable behaviour: being a mother is a breeze in comparison.
I will always be fiercely loyal to my old boss. He was not a self-serving politician; he always did what he thought was best for the country and he was brave and honourable. I thank the doorkeepers and the parliamentary staff who have been so patient and kind with me. I also owe a great deal to my supporting Peers, my noble friends Lord Strathclyde and Lord Grade. To have these two impressive powerhouses introducing me was an honour I shall never forget. To stand and serve alongside greats on both sides of this House is sobering and a responsibility I do not take lightly, particularly as the baby of the House. Indeed, I must have looked so serious as I walked down the corridor to the Chamber on my first day that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde whispered in my ear and said, “My dear, you are being introduced to the House of Lords, not being led to the scaffold. Do try and smile”.
I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for calling such an important and timely debate. We live in turbulent times, when so many things that we thought were certain are not necessarily so. It has, therefore, never been more important to ensure that shared values are properly sewn into the fabric of our public policy. Politics and values should go hand in hand. One without the other is like a body without a soul. These values must be relevant and tangible, rather than abstract and outdated, demonstrating that we politicians understand the challenges faced by people in their day-to-day lives. Without this, there is a danger that the weakening connection between the perceived political elite and the electorate may become even more frayed.
I will focus briefly on some of the values that will be dear to all in this House: compassion, kindness and a desire to look after the most vulnerable in society. To lose our compassion would be to lose our guiding light. A benchmark of a civilised society is how we care for the most vulnerable and, equally, how cared for they themselves feel. It should give us all pause for serious thought that such high numbers of teenagers are committing suicide and our elderly are feeling lonelier than ever.
In the context of this debate on values and public policy, I will touch on the subject of young people with learning disabilities and their sometimes precarious journey into adult life. My own little brother suffered from severe cerebral palsy and I sit on the board of a wonderful charity called KIDS which does so much work in this area. So I know a little about the challenges and difficulties disability can pose—but also the joy and goodness such adversity can bring out in people. Sadly, my brother died one month after his 12th birthday, but I remember being riven with worry, alongside my parents, about what a good adult life would look like for Marc.
Thankfully, we have come a long way since then, but we are only in the foothills of where we might like to be. For example, just under 6% of adults with a learning disability are in work. I recently visited Rosa Monckton’s brilliant social enterprise that offers training for some of these young people. This kind of scheme, rolled out further and wider, is what success might look like, and I will follow the Government’s consultation in this area closely. If we are really serious about closing the disability employment gap, we need to continue thinking creatively, so we can bring all of society with us.
I will give a simple example. If a coffee shop employs a young man with cerebral palsy there is a chance that the coffee may take a little longer to prepare. I would like to think that we could get to a place as a society where most people would not see this as being an unacceptable wait. Instead, we would be more understanding and tolerant. Indeed, we might even see it as an opportunity to slow down for a moment and reflect. Of course, employers must play their part, but if we are ever to really reduce the stigma and the gap we all must take responsibility to think and act differently.
I am genuinely excited to be able to make a contribution to the deliberations of this great institution. But I am also alive to the fact that you cannot change society by simply changing laws. Getting people with learning disabilities into the workforce does not need to be patronising or engineered. It can be productive and hugely beneficial to society as a whole—the very embodiment of shared values shaping public policy for the common good. We are beginning to move in the right direction but the cultural shift cannot happen fast enough.
My Lords, it is an honour to thank my noble friend Lady Bertin for her wonderful maiden speech. I have known her since 2005 and the moment when my noble friend Lord Strathclyde observed that she was not smiling was rare. I first remember her bristling around CCHQ and, having just moved down from the north-west, I welcomed seeing her smiling—and I know that that is what she has done in the corridors since she has joined us. Although she is the youngest Member of the House, she brings great experience with her. I will briefly say what we can expect from her.
I expect that we will receive a number of emails from my noble friend about fundraising activities. She ran the 2006 London marathon for the charity she spoke about. As to the media, I am reliably told by PR Weekly’s power list that she was loved by the lobby. This will bring a great deal to your Lordships’ House, as we need to understand the messaging that goes out to the general public. She brings with her the experience and skill of distilling apparently complex concepts into simple messages, which is invaluable when you have only 140 characters.
Perhaps the most important thing that my noble friend will bring to your Lordships’ House is that she has stood the test of time. Loyalty is a value we do not often hear about. The fact that she remained with the former Prime Minister’s team from beginning to end is noteworthy. It is also known—this will be of great value to your Lordships’ House—that she speaks truth to power. Apparently she told the former Prime Minister what she felt he needed to hear, not necessarily what he wanted to hear—and he did listen. We are most grateful to my noble friend and look forward to her contribution. We are particularly grateful that she held on tightly to the coat-tails of the opportunity that was given to her.
The most reverend Primate has given us a huge topic. I noticed, as I read his speeches, that he often weeps: I do not but I thought I would choose the two issues that make me want to. These shared values will be inculcated in institutions that operationalise policy, so I will comment briefly on the two I feel I am part of: the Church and this House.
Migration to the United Kingdom has changed aspects of our population over the last 70 years, so it is important to consider by whom values are shared or understood. Some 64 million people reside in the UK, but that includes 5.3 million who are not British citizens; 3.3 million who are British citizens but were born outside the UK; and perhaps we ought now to include the approximately 1 million British citizens living abroad who will soon be able to vote in our general elections. As far as I can trace, millions now self-define as British black, British Indian, British Muslim, as well as English. Our policies have to be formulated for everyone, so everyone needs a role in creating these shared values.
For years I have mused on the right analogy for how I see Britain’s values. Analogies are never perfect but the best model I have seen is the families who have children and then adopt others as well. The robust framework of who you are as a family is essential for everyone, so natural children still identify with the values but adopted children have a framework to join. But a decade or so later the values will have altered—perhaps even the framework—as new people have a role in forming it. It is not unrecognisable, of course, but it is different. The institutions of the United Kingdom have to keep their role but be elastic enough to change to allow the input of others, not just their inclusion.
The first of the two issues that make me want to weep is the Prime Minister’s welcome announcement of the systematic collection of data on racial inequalities across health, education and employment. This is not just data: it is people’s lives—friends who tell me that when they look for work as black women they just accept that they will be paid less than their white counterparts. For 10 years I have had the pleasure of working with many of Britain’s ethnic minority communities and there has been progress—for example, we have the first ever black British-born Lord-Lieutenant of London, Ken Olisa—but still many of the issues are similar. A report this week from Elevation Networks outlined that charity boards and trustees are less diverse than the FTSE 100.
This institution will change—perhaps reduce in size—but as regards a proposal that each group of us just votes to retain a certain number, what if no group votes to select any BME representation to remain? Justifiably we will be reformed as we will have pressed the self-destruct button. As a Baptist by original church attendance, I observe that this denomination seems to have taken racial diversity in its stride. About half the London leaders I spoke to recently were not white, and the president of the Baptist Union a few years ago was Pastor Kingsley Appiagyei, a British Ghanaian. I applaud the efforts and the heart of the Archbishop to reshape the Anglican Church, which has not appointed a non-white bishop since 2005—and, so far as I am aware, they have always been non-British born. While we welcome people from link dioceses abroad, the “Windrush” in 1948 did bring Anglicans—they were not all Pentecostal. How will the non-churchgoing generation react to national occasions with only white leadership on display, or to a Bishops’ Bench that will soon unfortunately potentially be racially undiverse? The shared value of racial diversity has to quickly become a shared reality for institutions.
The second issue that troubled me deeply arose when I served on the recent Select Committee on Social Mobility. Although I am a product of it, I became uncomfortable with the term. What did it say about the role of ordinary working people—generations of miners, shop workers and cleaners? Are they non-socially mobile? Where is the notion that your contribution and effort to the national vision is not determined by whether you are the highest or the lowest paid or do voluntary work? The APPG I co-chair has the London living wage charter mark, so I am not saying that we accept low pay. But as we stand here speaking today, that is possible only because police are on the gates, doorkeepers are at the entrance and caterers are cooking. These people have different roles but all together we make this institution perform its role. I fear that we have lost the love and respect for ordinary working people. Why do we not offer work experience here that gives young people an insight into all our roles—not just that of being a parliamentarian but all the roles behind the scenes? It might help inculcate here the respect that I often feel is lacking for ordinary working people.
I believe that on many levels Brexit was those people saying, “See me, I am here”. They are missing from our institutions. The Church of England’s recent survey showed that 44% of English people and 81% of English practising Christians have a university-level qualification or equivalent. The people to whom I referred are missing from our institutions because, quite frankly, a lot of them are just too busy working. The abbreviation of the moment in the Westminster bubble is JAMs—the “just about managing”. But I think that GPs have the correct acronym, TATTs—“tired all the time”.
It is especially acute at this time of year with the run from 31 August right through to 25 December without a bank holiday. While annual leave can be taken, there is something different when we have a national day off. It is a collective public statement of the value of rest, especially if, like Christmas Day or Easter Sunday, the shops are closed. Shop workers often lose out on that shared time off as a bank holiday means shopping for leisure. Three days a year when the shops are closed might be good—and, if it is a Remembrance Day bank holiday, perhaps even the websites might close down and just put a poppy on their pages. We did shut down the television for an hour for I Am Team GB on a bank holiday, but perhaps we could all use a day where everyone can think and reflect on the shared values that we need going forward.
My Lords, I congratulate and thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for securing and leading this important and timely debate.
In thinking about the Motion before the House, it seems to me that there is an implied assumption in the phrase “shared values” that perhaps needs some examination before the remainder of the Motion can itself be considered. Do we, in fact, have shared values, and, if so, what are they? Other noble Lords have already touched on aspects of these questions. I am aware that I am asking something of a rhetorical question because, for a society to be cohesive and functional, there do, indeed, need to be shared values, which takes the question on to ask what those values should be.
Here is another question: should those values be at the level of our collective national life, or should they be at the level of the individual? Indeed, the most reverend Primate touched on this matter of level in his opening speech. I submit that, for values indeed to underpin national life and play a role in shaping policy priorities, then those values, first and foremost, should be relevant at the personal, individual level, as it is individuals who come together to create communities, and those communities come together to make a nation—if not an homogenous nation, then a state.
If it is therefore reasonable to argue that, if the values under discussion are most relevant at the individual level, then the next question is what those values should be. As all noble Lords taking part in this debate are experiencing, addressing questions of that magnitude in seven minutes is a near impossible challenge. I therefore fall back on past experience.
In the mid-1990s, the British Army came to the conclusion that it needed a set of core values. Like the United Kingdom, the British Army is most definitely not a homogenous organisation. When I was Chief of the General Staff between 2006 and 2009, the soldiers under my command came from 42 different nationalities and embraced all the main religions. Therefore, the six core values that were derived were values that a diverse community could embrace at the individual level and therefore form the basis of a common identity and purpose, and indeed underpin what the Army set out to be and to do. Noble Lords will be unsurprised by some of those six core values. You would expect an army to focus on courage, discipline and loyalty, but perhaps the other three are worthy of a moment’s reflection.
Selfless commitment, as a core value, puts the interests of others ahead of the interest of oneself, even to the point of being prepared to risk, or potentially to lose, one’s life in the greater interest of the cause in hand. Respect for others, as a core value, gets at the daily relationship of one with another. If respect for others is properly understood, then there is no place for bullying or sexual harassment in barracks and, on deployed operations, there is no place for abusing the local people, whose peace and security the Army has deployed to restore. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, referred to the historic allegations inquiries, which I personally find obscene. If respect for others has been a formal Army core value for at least 15 years, is it really likely that 2,000 soldiers would have abused Iraqi citizens? Frankly, I find that suggestion obscene.
These core values, when fully understood and applied, can provide a moral framework around which a diverse community such as the Army can unite and move forward with purpose. But moving forward with purpose implies a leadership function, which is an essential element—perhaps the essential element—in the shaping of public policy priorities, which is the ultimate focus of this debate.
I further suggest that effective leadership needs more than just a moral framework; it needs a spiritual dimension, too. We often talk about inspirational leadership, and, of course, buried in the middle of that word “inspirational” is the root of that word, “spirit”. I submit that a truly effective leader, when the pressure is on, whether on the battlefield, in the boardroom or around the Cabinet table, needs to reach out for something bigger and stronger than themselves—to reach out into the spiritual dimension to find the inspiration in order to answer the question: “What do we do now?”. It is not for me to suggest to others where they should find their own spiritual dimension—it is an utterly personal thing—but find it and believe in it they, and we, must.
The sixth Army core value speaks to leadership as well. The leaders, those who shape policy priorities, will be looked at by the followers, the electorate, the people, and one key question is always asked: “Can I trust this person, the leader?”. What is the level of their integrity? Integrity is that sixth Army core value that so far I have not yet mentioned. It is the perceived level of personal integrity in a leader that will determine their success or failure as a participant in our national life and in playing a role in shaping policy priorities.
My Lords, a month or so ago I addressed this House for the first time. I spoke of my childhood years spent in Moscow as the daughter of a diplomat during the Cold War. Every year, families would gather for the traditional Christmas Eve service at the British Embassy, singing the well-loved carols as we stared across the river at the Kremlin’s bright red star. Never was there a prouder and more patriotic group, knowing in our hearts that we stood for the values we hold dear—for freedom and democracy in a world struggling against totalitarianism and war.
My father’s generation were the “Cold War warriors”, many of whom sit on these Benches today. They battled hard to defend our values and way of life, and it falls to each and every generation to take their lead. For we are foolish if we think these freedoms can ever be taken for granted. That is why I congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on calling for this important debate today. It must surely be in the best tradition of this House to safeguard and promote values in our nation’s life.
I am proud to call myself a patriot and a liberal Conservative, and I see no conflict in these things. I know that we liberal Conservatives are a little out of fashion at the moment, but as I tell my teenage daughter, the fashionable thing can be overpriced and suit you less. I count myself extremely lucky to live in a democracy —not just any democracy but one of the oldest and most robust in the world. Whatever you think of the EU referendum—and I fought on the losing side—it proved how alive and well our democracy is today. I am proud too to live in a country where there is respect for the rule of law, freedom of speech and, dare I say it, freedom of the press, and where people’s right to ownership is respected and not frowned on. I am proudest of all to be part of a society where tolerance and kindness have always underlined our national values. All these things are precious, and should be protected and cultivated by each and every one of us.
It was my privilege to serve David Cameron for the six years he was Prime Minister and I am proud of what he achieved for our country, especially creating so many new jobs and reducing the number of workless families, introducing a fairer wage for all, giving more children the chance to go to a good school, and not turning our back on the world’s poor. Those are examples of how good values can be brought to bear on public policy. I urge us to be guided by these values as we step forward into what feels like an uncertain future.
Today I will touch very briefly on two contrasting areas of policy. First, on the economy, it is important for everyone that we have a strong economy and that the benefits of it are felt by all. I worry that too often the creation of wealth is seen as a bad thing which only benefits the few. The way we speak about it does not always help. It is hardly reassuring to be told that wealth “trickles down”. We should remember that a healthy economy is not just a statistic but a reality for people’s lives and their families. It provides us with jobs and helps us pay for things we want collectively as a society, such as our health service and schools for our children, our welfare system and our Armed Forces. We should work with business as part of the solution, but equally, we must get them to play their part, behaving responsibly as good employers, offering fair wages, decent contracts—and paying their taxes and being modest in their own pay.
Nothing reflects more truly on the values of a society than how we treat our most vulnerable. As my noble friend Lady Bertin said so eloquently in her brilliant maiden speech, it falls to us to protect those who cannot look after themselves. I count myself extremely fortunate to have worked alongside her for over a decade. Her intelligence, compassion and determination bring so much to all she does, as I know it will to her work in this House. However, it also falls to us to protect those in our care—and here I mean children and young people, who are on the cusp of adulthood. Of course there have always been pressures on young people, and there always will be, but today we bring our children into a complex world, where you can be judged every second of the day on Instagram or Facebook. It is our duty to do our best to support them, because our country’s future is in their hands. That brings me on to my second point.
I am deeply worried about the rise in serious mental health issues among children and adolescents in Britain today and the inadequate support they receive. These children seek help for serious conditions, and many of them are turned away or have to wait long periods for treatment. A lightning review by the Children’s Commissioner in May of this year stated that as many as one in 250 children were referred to what is known as CAMHS by professionals. Of these, 28% were not allocated a service at all and 58% went on a waiting list. There is a lack of early intervention, meaning that patients are likely to be more severely affected when they finally get treatment and often have to be admitted to hospital, sometimes miles from their families and friends. This sense of isolation only makes matters worse.
We have a real problem here. We need to help more children, and earlier. We need to support teachers and schools, who are often the first to deal with a sick child, and work with some of the best practice in the voluntary sector. I urge the Government to review the situation as a matter of extreme urgency. I fear that we are letting a generation of young people down. We owe it to them and to our society as a whole to do better than this.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Prelate for introducing this debate. It falls to me, as the first speaker from these Benches since the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, to congratulate her on her maiden speech. Many years ago, I too was the youngest Member of the House. The noble Baroness is infinitely better qualified to be here than I ever was, and I have survived a good few years, despite one or two attempts to get rid of me. I welcome what she and the other maiden speaker said, and welcome that much of what she and other noble Lords said today was about things that can be embraced around the House. There has been a degree of commonality of purpose, even if there has also been a difference in approach.
The heavy intellectual lifting in this debate has been done by others, particularly by those on my own Benches, whom I thank. I will draw attention to some of the things which help to shape the values we have in our society. That is those myriad voluntary groups, which share two things. They need to have a treasurer and a secretary. I started with sports clubs. We are told that exercise is the great wonder drug of the National Health Service. It gets people out there, gets them involved, leads to social interaction, stops loneliness, makes sure that people get together, supports societies, and supports education. Then I remembered certain things: we discovered that these clubs do not interact with each other terribly well; they become competitive; they do not talk to each other properly; and they do not realise that they have the same problems across the board. Now, the overarching body is going to try to bring them together, but there will always be that tension.
Exactly the same applies to other groups. Let us take amateur dramatics. What do amateur dramatics groups and rugby clubs have in common? Well, you might come across dramatic interaction with the referee every now and again. Other sports clubs come into this category as well, and they have exactly the same virtues—the one difference perhaps being that your heart rate does not go up quite as much during a questionable performance of “Macbeth”. However, they still have to gather people together and interact with each other.
Then there are the charities. We all deal with charities and they lobby us persistently. Dozens of charities campaign for virtually the same thing but compete with each other. Which of us here has not come across a charity that basically tries to outsuffer its neighbour? One will say, “The problems I am dealing with are absolutely world-turning”, to which another will reply, “No, mine are”. You discover that they are dealing with the same pieces of legislation and the same failures within the system, often in enacting laws that we have passed.
This House and another place have a key role in encouraging these groups to talk to each other and become coherent. If they do not, they will become incredibly easy to ignore. I do not know how much time I have spent in the years I have been here encouraging them to talk to each other so that a Minister can give a coherent answer without having to fend off several competing positions. In the field of education I have on numerous occasions said, “Speak to the other people, even those with hidden disabilities”. As president of the British Dyslexia Association I have got into rows when people have said, “Dyslexia is the big problem”. My response has been, “No, it is one of the problems”. Those working in the field of autism, dyspraxia and dyscalculia do not talk to each other, despite the fact that they all come together under one spectrum.
I have been waiting for the opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Nash— although as yet I have been unable to do so—for the work he did in changing teacher training to make sure that all these strings were brought together in the national curriculum. That is an example of an area where we have worked together. Unless we do that across the board and get a more coherent strategy, we will lose many opportunities to obtain shared values. If we do not come together in one big cause, we will find ourselves fighting little battles that ultimately will be doomed to failure.
We should look back at the voluntary groups which have a common purpose, or similar purposes, and which have succeeded at being fellow travellers for at least part of the time. If we do not do that, we will miss many opportunities to get a coherent answer to problems—one where you look to your allies. Indeed, looking to your allies can create some of the answers if you bring yourselves together as a whole. If groups need treasurers and secretaries and are working in a similar field, they have a common cause. I hope that those in this House and all the political class will go out and talk to these groups. If we do, we will probably start to find out the perceived problems, the true ways of reaching them and the true ways of enjoying ourselves that are common to this society.
My Lords, I suggest that a longing for social justice is a shared British value. I say this as a landowner who has been moved by his own faith to start a local rural housing association, farming co-operatives and a residential centre for renewal, reconciliation and interfaith dialogue. Such initiatives, however, do not cover the whole country or reach all of society.
After the poverty brought on by the Industrial Revolution, Disraeli noticed the huge gap between rich and poor. He saw the country divided into two nations. His concern, and that of Peel, gave birth to one-nation Tories, some of whom, I am glad to say, continue to this day. Dickens and GK Chesterton shared the same longing. The Prime Minister herself, on entering office, said that,
“we believe in a union … between all of our citizens”.
She referred to,
“the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone”.
Those were words that we needed to hear and I will try to explain why.
In our lifetimes, the Beveridge plan and the welfare state were believed to have ended harsh poverty in Britain. Since then, the privatisation of state assets and the rapid rise in salaries for managers and rewards for owners have reopened the gap. Two factors made the income gap more severe for low earners, the unemployed and disabled. The first was the need to reduce personal debt following the bank crisis of 2008. This pushed some into payday loans and other high-interest forms of credit. Secondly, welfare reform has put new burdens on those less able to bear them. At the same time, local authority services have been squeezed, causing a loss of staff and closing some children’s centres and libraries.
The combination just mentioned has caused acute local need, leaving many people unable to afford enough heating or food. That is indeed harsh poverty. The wider public have responded magnificently, setting up well over 400 food banks and better debt advice. Politically, disillusion with the traditional parties has produced a huge protest vote, as seen in UKIP and the referendum. I trust that this debate will spur the Churches and all the faiths to campaign for social justice throughout society. Charity is important but it will not solve all problems. Greater redistribution of national income is necessary, since VAT and other flat-rate taxes bear more heavily on the least well off.
There are many lessons for public policy. A wealthy country should be ashamed to have so many people queuing for free food. In response to that, the level of volunteering is most encouraging. By itself, however, it will not bring about the common good of all. Therefore, government departments should consider how they can promote self-help—for example, through co-operatives of all kinds, including credit unions, and credit guarantees for small but growing businesses. Public and private investment should be mobilised to produce far more affordable homes than are currently planned. That would do more for family life than any amount of lament and exhortation. Less frequent changes of structures and systems in statutory education, health and welfare would also be a great help. The Government should try to divert the best brains away from financial services and the defence industry into sustainable development.
To put the British value of social justice into practice, we can certainly start with volunteering and the National Citizen Service. More is needed by way of corporate social responsibility, as has been mentioned, and collective self-help. Both should be backed up by better-quality government, with legislation for wealth sharing and income redistribution through well-designed public services.
I conclude that a new direction of this kind is indeed inspired by the Abrahamic values mentioned by the most reverend Primate, but they are ones that can be shared by people of good will everywhere.