Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the Report from the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century (HL Paper 118).
My Lords, I was lucky in at least three ways when I was selected to chair the one-year Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. First, I was lucky because, although the topic may not appear glamorous compared to the AI debate that we have just been listening to, this issue is none the less of critical importance, because civic engagement is at root the glue that binds us together. An analysis and examination of that glue and its effectiveness will always be important, but never more so than when the country is going through such a rapid rate of socioeconomic change as it is experiencing at present.
Secondly, I was lucky to have a very talented committee, and not only talented but diverse in view and approach—there was no groupthink on our committee, I think we would all agree. We produced a unanimous set of recommendations, whose varying light, shade and emphasis will be reflected in the contributions that your Lordships’ House will hear over the next couple of hours, I am sure.
Finally, I was lucky in the quality of our support staff, ably led by Michael Collon. I hope that Michael will take it as a compliment—and it really is meant as a sincere compliment—that I used to regard him like a mother hen clucking over the chicks to make sure that they were okay. Members of the committee may not be aware that Michael had a hip replacement operation a couple of weeks ago, so he cannot be here to watch over the chicks this evening. He may be watching on the parliamentary channel but, whether or not he is, I am sure that I speak for the whole committee and indeed the whole House when I send him best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to work. Michael was ably backed up by his excellent assistant, Tim Stacey, and our specialist adviser, Professor Matt Flinders, was redoubtable, irrepressible and innovative—essential ingredients for a really high-quality special adviser. Nor should I fail to mention the others who helped us on our way, notably the House’s press team, led by Katy Durrans.
In my contribution I will focus on three topics: values, the role of citizenship education, and the importance of being able to speak, read and write the English language fluently. First, as our report makes it clear, it is not for a committee of your Lordships’ House to set down a definitive list of the values that citizens and residents of this country must and should adhere to—although at paragraph 58 we offered as a straw man,
“democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect for the inherent worth and autonomy of every person”.
In this context, individual words can take on a particular significance—specifically the Government’s continued focus on the word “fundamental” as part of the phrase “fundamental British values”. In our view this has, rightly or wrongly, led to a situation where one section of our community feels singled out. “Fundamental” as a word has become pregnant with meaning because of its close association with “fundamentalism”. I regret that the Government in their response to our report were not able to take this point on board.
That aside, there is an urgent need for us as a country to get behind, promulgate and defend those values that are agreed to be central to our society. As Dame Louise Casey said in evidence to our committee, at paragraph 56,
“you do not pick and choose the laws of this country. The laws that protect religious minorities are the same laws that say I am equal to a man. You do not pick which ones you want. It is not a chocolate box of choice; it is something you have to embrace. If you are uncomfortable with that, I now say that is tough”.
There are red lines that need to be defended. As our report went on to say:
“The epithet ‘racist’ has rightly acquired particular force and opprobrium in modern day Britain. Those who seek to continue to promulgate approaches that are not in line with our values, such as the value of equality, have been known to make use of this phrase to rebut criticism of their approach. Where necessary society must be sufficiently strong and confident not to be cowed into silence and must be prepared to speak up. Fear of being labelled ‘racist’ is never a reason for those in authority not to uphold the law, or for citizens not to raise their concerns”.
What is particularly strange is that the Government, who have proved quite obdurate in sticking with the use of “fundamental”, do not appear to be prepared to follow through with identifying and addressing the challenges posed to the agreed red lines as part of their Integrated Communities Strategy. This appears to suggest an approach based on nudging. From the evidence we received, there are some unacceptable views and practices in all parts of our society which I fear are unlikely to be changed merely by nudging.
On citizenship education, our fellow citizens, of any age, do not learn about how our society works—the role of central and local government, as well as of the courts, together with the complex fabric of our civil society—by magic. It has to be taught, and taught well. Further, citizenship education is not part of what is known as PSHE—personal, social, health and economic education—or vice versa. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, who I look forward to hearing from later, will forgive me if I steal a moment of her thunder. She beautifully outlined the difference between the two. Citizenship education is about looking out into our wider society; PSHE is about looking in at the way each of us behaves. Good citizenship education is not just book and classroom-based; real-life practical activities such as debating clubs are an equally important part.
While our committee heard evidence of some inspiring work going on in schools, too often it appears that schools regard citizenship education as a “nice to have”, not a “must have”. Surely that needs to be reversed. In this connection, one can only regard the Government’s response to our recommendation 16 as disappointing. First, the Government have used a commitment not to make any changes to the curriculum during the current Parliament as a reason for not pushing forward on this issue, and secondly, they pointed out that the Department for Education,
“does not specify how schools teach citizenship as a subject”.
This approach has resulted in the uneven and unsatisfactory approach to this critical subject, about which our committee was very unhappy.
My third and final issue is on being able to speak, read and write English fluently. This is often an issue seen through the prism of the first-generation immigrant communities. In fact, as our committee found out, the challenge is far more widespread than that. It is hard to think of a job, beyond that of manual labour, where fluency in the English language is not critical—and that is just about employment. The possibility of an individual with limited linguistic skills being able to make a significant contribution to our civic life must be vanishingly small. The Government are to be congratulated on having recognised the importance of this issue in their Integrated Communities Strategy. The challenge for the Government will be whether, from savings elsewhere or from new resources, there will be the capability to drive home these well-intentioned expressions and turn them into practical results.
Of course, it is not just the responsibility of the Government. As in so many areas which are committee-considered, rights have to be balanced with responsibilities. It is therefore really important that all sections of society understand that, as residents of the United Kingdom, they have a duty to make every effort to learn the English language—and not just the head of the household but every member of the family. For example, the statistics on the percentage of women in the UK born in Pakistan or Bangladesh who cannot speak English well or at all are shocking. To remedy this is a critical step in empowering these women and enabling them to live fulfilled and participative lives.
Finally, I turn to what I felt should be called “initiativitis”. New Ministers eager to show zeal and activity begin a programme but too often, before the programme can show whether it is valuable, the Minister has departed and his or her successor starts up yet another initiative. Successful civic engagement is not made up of a series of one-shot deals; it is the result of the sustained application of policies over the long term.
Does my noble friend share my surprise that the Government have not shown more enthusiasm for the recommendations of his committee regarding the National Citizen Service, when the NCS has been one of their creatures for which they deserve great credit?
I certainly agree with my noble friend. We discussed that issue; I know that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has taken an interest in it, and I dare say that it will form part of his comments in a few minutes. We regard it as a success and we hope that it can be developed—with some changes that we suggested should be made.
The Government would be well advised—not least in the interests of the taxpayer—to make some efforts to gather in examples of those practices that work and those that do not, so that the reinventing the wheel approach, of which our committee found far too much evidence, becomes a thing of the past.
Of course, successful civic engagement will not result from the activities of a single government department; it is a classic cross-departmental activity. It therefore needs to have a champion who, without fear or favour, has the power and seniority to move forcefully across the whole spectrum of the Government’s activities.
I will end as I began, with values. Sarah Lyall, a former London correspondent of the New York Times, once wrote that the British are an undecipherable mixture of,
“politeness, awkwardness, embarrassment, irony, self-deprecation, arrogance, defensiveness and deflective humour”.
Our committee has sought to decipher this rich mixture. I beg to move.
My Lords, first I must declare a non-pecuniary—although I can never say the word—interest in a number of areas relating to this debate and to the Select Committee report. One is the National Citizen Service which I shall be leaving in a matter of weeks as it becomes a royal chartered body.
I will spend a little of my short time paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, whose excellent chairmanship managed to coalesce the committee—on occasion overcoming conflict with a little judicious bullying—and who showed great tolerance in seeing through what I believe to be a cross-party and no-party report. If it had a wider audience, I believe it would be seen as a way of conducting ourselves in politics and public life that might at the moment be measured elsewhere. In other words, we came together, and that in no small measure is down to the noble Lord’s leadership.
I pay tribute as he did to Michael Collon and his team, to Dr Tim Stacey and to Professor Matt Flinders—who was almost equalled by members of the committee in sparkiness and controversy. We dealt with a diverse area of debate under the title of citizenship and civic engagement, but it encompassed the very essence of our democracy. I say to the Minister—for whom I have a great deal of time and who I believe agrees with the vast majority of the recommendations—that it is important that when committees of this sort make recommendations cross-party, they are taken extremely seriously. His boss and others in Cabinet must realise that our democracy is in deep distress. We are in a very bad place. Many of these recommendations would aid in the long term the glue, as the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, referred to it, that pulls and ties society together.
When a Government are in difficulty, or are dysfunctional or diverted—I leave noble Lords to decide which applies at the moment—it is even more important that civil society fills the vacuum; that in our situation at the moment we engage people at every level in being part of the solution. I want tonight, briefly, and not from a social-democratic standpoint of mutuality and reciprocity but from what I believe are the historic views and values of the Conservative Party, to question why the Government have not wholeheartedly, across departmental boundaries, been prepared to accept and then implement the bulk of the recommendations. It is beyond me why a party that surely believes civil society is an antidote to the overbearing, oppressive state, would not agree that civil society should encouraged.
This is about encouraging young people to understand and engage with democracy; it is about encouraging those who enter our country and want to be our citizens to be able to understand our language and participate fully in our society; and—in even the very small recommendations—it is about those who have major challenges being able to enter public life. Why should we not fully restore funding to those seeking to enter public life and to be elected, who have severe challenges such as disability? And would it not be sensible to exclude funding of that kind, both public and from the parties, from the ceilings laid down by the Electoral Commission? On little things, such as implementing the promises that have been made since this report was published in April, for example to specialist leaders of education, why not just do it? Why not mention citizenship education on the website? What is the blockage?
I understand why the Government have a particular view about character and resilience. I too am in favour of character and resilience being a subset of the wider citizenship curriculum and report. In recent weeks there have been three round tables on character and resilience by the Department for Education. Maybe someone was calling in the Prime Minister. After all, she has shown the most incredible character and resilience herself over the last few weeks. But that is no substitute for a wider understanding of how citizenship education at its best, with the right curriculum materials, can do the job that is essential to young people engaging. Surely the Conservative Party wants young people to be an engaging and well-educated group as they grow; after all, there is real concern in the party about the number of young people who are likely to vote for it in the coming years.
There are loads of reasons why, right across party, instead of kicking things into the long grass—paying lip service and then doing nothing—the Government should engage with this report centrally. I hope the Minister replying tonight, with the support of his Cabinet colleagues, can get a grip on and co-ordinate what happens across this area. One overriding message came through in the nine months that we sat, from both verbal and written evidence—and those who contributed it deserve to be thanked profusely. The message was that the Government had no collaboration or co-ordination across departments, which is why this important area was so often kicked into touch and seen as the soft underbelly.
I will say a word on things that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, was not able to discuss. From recommendation 75 onwards: please get to grips with this; it is really important. On citizenship education and on National Citizen Service, let us collaborate between citizenship in the classroom and citizenship in terms of active work outside. Why is NCS not seen as a citizenship programme? Why will the Government not use the word “citizenship” in relation to NCS? NCS has its problems, but I have been proud to be a member of the board and to see it change, improve and expand. I hope, under the new guise, it will go forward with greater strength, crucially by collaborating with schools, other voluntary organisations and those working in civil society to make our democracy and our country function better. We do this best when our citizenry is engaged with us and our citizenry are part of the solutions for the future.
My Lords, as one of the several Members of this House who recommended the establishment of a committee on citizenship, I would like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and all members of the committee for producing an excellent report that deserves to spark off further discussion. I hope they will all, with us, continue to make the argument that citizenship as a concept is fundamental to a healthy democracy.
We are talking about citizenship, civic engagement and self-government. The difference between a democracy and other forms of government is that every adult member of the country is entitled to take part in the self-government of that country and to support a vibrant civil society. This is part of the implicit contract that holds a national community together: the state provides protection, support and education for its citizens in return for their loyalty and contributions to society and the state. That implicit contract has weakened. It is partly that the concepts of citizenship and the welfare state grew up at a time when the state wanted its citizens to provide national service in the military sense before the First World War and, of course, during and after the Second World War. Now that that is no longer the case, many people in what is called the elite or the establishment are no longer sure that we need the poor or the dispossessed quite as much as we did when we fought the two world wars. Efforts to shrink the state and the services it provides have left many outside alienated and embittered, with results that we saw in the anti-politics that supported UKIP and Vote Leave.
Government has been retreating from the provision of social welfare, which began in the years before the First World War. The libertarian view, current within the present Government, that the state should no longer provide services from general taxation and should retreat from fiscal redistribution from rich to poor and from wealthy regions to deprived ones weakens the whole concept of citizenship. Citizens’ responsibilities and rights are much less clear than they were 50 to 70 years ago.
We face a very divided country, and social segregation is worse than in many comparable countries. The report talks about social mobility cold spots, and I found the reports of the visits to Clacton and Sheffield interesting in that regard. The problem of the “left behind”—the white working class that those of us who live in former industrial cities are painfully aware of—is not just one of social integration of recent immigrants; it is a matter of social inclusion of people who feel that they are entitled to be regarded as having rights as citizens of our country but feel that they no longer receive them.
The report talks in its first paragraph of an environment,
“in which everyone feels a sense of belonging to the country of which they are a citizen, with a stake in it and a responsibility towards it”.
It then goes on to note that:
“Active citizenship is too often defined purely in terms of volunteering ... and too rarely in terms of ... practising democracy”—
that is, that democratic rights and democratic participation are a very important part of the concept. That too is weak and is a real problem that we face in this country. Communication between citizens and government and between government and citizens is poor. As the report says at paragraph 7,
“top-down … interventions are, on their own, unable to build a flourishing democracy”.
Therefore, we face widespread popular disillusion, with a sense that government is distant and remote. Party membership has declined, most of all in the Conservative Party, which I remember as being well over 1 million when I first went into politics. England now has the most centralised system of government of any large democratic country.
However, it is the shrinking of local government that should concern us most. In most other large industrial democracies, the smallest unit of government is a community of 5,000 to 10,000. In Bradford, where I live when I am not attending this place, the smallest ward has a population of between 10,000 and 15,000. The ward of the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, which I know well, has four or five distinct communities, which she has done her utmost to represent well but in which it is impossible for every voter to know their councillor and for every councillor to know their voters. That is not very local democracy. Add to that the slashing of funding for local authorities and the difficulties they have in raising taxes and, again, we face a further level of disillusionment.
In Saltaire, we are currently struggling to find a way of funding public toilets, which Bradford’s local authority has said it can no longer afford. As a tourist destination, we have busloads of people of a certain age arriving to look round the village and one can guess what their first question is as they get off the bus. We simply do not have the funds, although we are trying to create a town council. Incidentally, we do not have the funds because the local companies to which we could have gone have been taken over and are now part of multinational companies that do not have the same sense of local engagement. Therefore, part of the problem of citizenship and democracy is that the local is far too weak. As we know, all politics is local, and the revival of local democracy is essential to recreating the sense of belonging which is part of shared citizenship.
There is some excellent stuff on citizenship education. I well remember Bernard Crick and the Crick report of 20 years ago but successive Governments have failed to take it up. The Government’s response is disappointing. The evidence we have received for this debate from Young Citizens says that almost the entire support structure for citizenship education has been dismantled. The government response here is complacent. We have to go on insisting that citizenship education is a vital part of education for life. The report refers to the “civic journey”. One reason that I have become converted to the introduction of votes from the age of 16 is that that would form part of a civic journey in which, while you are still at school, you become a citizen voter, and with luck you then have the sense that you share responsibilities.
The National Citizen Service has shown us what is possible but it is really a pebble in the pond. We have to grasp the question of what new forms of national service we want to promote and whether there are ways of linking national service to, for example, writing down the loans that people have received for education. That would begin to mix our well-to-do people and our less well-to-do people, encouraging those from the south to go to work in public services in the north and vice versa, and so strengthen our national communities. After all, citizenship should promote a sense of a shared national community, and we need to think about how well we do that.
Lastly, I want to flag the section on the costs of citizenship, which raises wider questions. With another hat on, I have been much concerned at reports from the academic sector about the extent to which the costs of establishing residence—and even more so of establishing citizenship—deter academics and researchers from other countries from coming to Britain, let alone staying in Britain. I am puzzled that the Government’s response compares what they and other countries charge. Some time ago the Wellcome Trust gave me some evidence which suggested that the cost for a researcher and his family of establishing and maintaining residence in Britain over 10 years is nearly 10 times the cost of doing so in France. This is another question to which we need to return and on which we need to pursue the Government, because there seems to be no strong reason why the Home Office should profit from charges on those who contribute to this country and come to work and pay taxes here.
Having said that, and having been more critical of the Government’s response than of this excellent report, I end by saying that I very much hope that the many worthwhile recommendations in the report will be taken further and pursued by all Members of this House.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to contribute to this debate. I refer noble Lords to my entry in the register and my position as chair of the Charity Commission, but I emphasise that I am speaking in a personal capacity. Indeed, many of the themes and topics that this committee looked into are ones in which I have long had an interest.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and the committee on producing a valuable and insightful report on what I consider as this most important of topics: how citizens are made, how strong communities are forged and maintained, and how we ensure a stable and flourishing society. The issues that the report examines are not quaint, polite or fringe matters whose importance pales in comparison to “harder” and more urgent political challenges—quite the reverse. It is my firm belief that questions of citizenship, community, how we relate to one another and how we see ourselves fitting into wider society are not secondary at all; they are at the heart of many of the serious challenges that we face.
I am pleased that the report acknowledges that healing divides that “threaten our social cohesion”, and indeed arguably present a risk to our democracy, cannot be achieved by state action alone. We must look also to the individual—to our rights and responsibilities as citizens; to the community—the question of what we as individuals can expect from and owe to the place where we live; and to society and the question of power—who holds it, and what responsibilities they have towards those affected by that power. I welcome that the report makes clear that civic engagement is also about,
“setting down and being very clear about … what is expected of everyone in terms of shared British values and standards of behaviour”.
A common understanding and shared set of values and standards of behaviour are crucial to social cohesion and a flourishing society in which all feel protected and are able to succeed.
We sometimes hear the argument that talking in terms of national values or standards is divisive or in some way alienating, but it is quite the reverse. In a diverse, multi-ethnic society such as ours, it is all the more important for all of us that there are benchmarks of behaviour and attitude that we can expect from one another and on which we can hold ourselves and others to account—benchmarks, standards and values that go beyond anything that can or should be enshrined in law. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, said that the committee did not seek to prescribe anything in this area, but I think that we all know what we are talking about. They are things such as demonstrating consideration and respect for each other; taking responsibility for the immediate environment in which we live and work; and helping and assisting others when they are in need—selflessly and without expecting anything in return.
Agreeing and maintaining such values is as much about empowerment as it is about enforcement. Power does not, of course, rest only with those of us who enjoy great privileges. Anyone who holds a position of authority has some power at their disposal. The problem is that enough people are not recognising their power and the potential to show leadership and make a positive difference if they use it. I think that we have to accept responsibility for that. Too often, we have allowed the status of the position that these people hold to be diminished. If we are to help people from all walks of life to recognise and understand their power and their responsibility as leaders and role models for the shared standards of behaviour that we recognise are essential to our society then we need to be explicit in making them leaders and showing them respect for what they do, whether they are a bus driver, shopkeeper or postman. For example, a local shopkeeper may not have a formal position of power in his or her community but they have immense influence and can show important leadership in the expectations they set for how customers behave towards one another, in the way they maintain their shopfront and in the courage they show in challenging poor conduct. Anyone who shows that kind of leadership needs to know that they have the backing of those responsible for even more powerful structures around which society is built. We need to start building a coalition between leaders at every level.
Over the summer, the Charity Commission conducted research into people’s expectations of charities. Noble Lords will not be surprised to hear me say that people care deeply about charities and believe they are incredibly important to our society, both for the beneficiaries and in terms of their impact on local communities and society at large. What struck us at the commission was that despite the huge range of attitudes to and relationships with charities which people from all types of background shared with us, everyone agreed on the basics, such as that a charity should demonstrate higher standards of conduct and behaviour because it is a charity. People may support one charity and not another, based on the causes they care about, but the public rightly expect to be able to trust and respect all charities for the way in which they pursue that cause and in the behaviours they show along the way.
That research is very specific to charities—which have to live up to the special status they hold, because if they do not embody what charity means in the eyes of the public, who will? But the research also reinforced for me personally the public yearning for a common set of standards that can be shared by people from all walks of life and at every “level” of society—for want of a better expression. I agree that we all have a responsibility for behaving as we expect others to behave and for showing some courage in challenging others when they do not meet those standards. But when we are out there on our own, whoever we are, that is hard. Whether it involves litter, feet on seats, queuing or loud music at inappropriate times or places, those in charge of buses, trains, banks, restaurants, supermarkets and so on need to help uphold our common expectations.
Alongside the need for big business bosses, bankers, the clergy and we politicians and parliamentarians to show leadership through our personal conduct, we need those in charge of organisations where people gather to help people demonstrate and protect their shared values and standards. We all have a part to play, but those responsible for the places where we gather need to step up to the plate. If we can respect one another for the way in which we conduct ourselves, we are much less likely to be worried about agreeing with one another on politics or matters of faith. Those responsible for coming up with solutions to our most complex problems are more likely to be trusted if they show similar respect. Cultural norms, standards and values are not an imposition for individuals, they are a protection and they have the potential to build bridges. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Hodgson and his committee on a very important report.
My Lords, as someone who had the privilege of serving on the committee, I join others in thanking our advisers and everyone who supported the work of the committee and I join my noble friend Lord Blunkett in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for his chairmanship. It is customary to do that at the start of a debate, but I think that all members of the committee said that with more than the customary nature. It is truly meant. He was an exceptional chair and, partly because of that, the report is strong and bold and deserving of everyone’s consideration.
One of the strange things about this issue of citizenship and civic education is that no one is against it. Nobody in the 21st century will stand up and say, “I am against citizenship and against civic engagement”. Because of that, there is a real danger that we occupy the land of complacency. We can all point to something that has worked. We all know some communities that have got it right. We all know somebody who was not part of something who is now part of something. We can all see some immigrants who have made good and done well in this country. We can all point to some classrooms that are teaching civic education. But that is not enough as far as this is concerned.
One of the most powerful parts of our report is the opening paragraph in the introduction. It has to be for everyone. It really is the policy area, to coin a phrase, that has to work for everyone. The Government’s response to this report has been complacent and they have sought refuge in pointing to some things that will not work. There are no half measures with this. Unless every citizen feels part of our society and unless they can all reach their potential and have the skills and confidence to be outward-looking and active members of society, we have got it wrong and we need to do more.
Because of that, our notion of the civic journey made it possible for us to evaluate the nation’s progress in ways that we have not been able to do hitherto. Looking at those key points helps us to make a judgment about what we are getting right, what we are getting wrong, and where we need to do more work. When we compare the Government’s response about those key points in the civic journey, I think that it is found wanting. I shall pick up on two or three issues to illustrate that.
The first section covers fundamental British values and reflects our wish to adjust the way those values are described, from respect for and tolerance of the different faiths and beliefs to respect for the inherent worth and autonomy of every person. I think we spent most of our time on this part of the report and we discussed it in depth. The evidence given to us put the ideas in our minds; it was not something we invented ourselves. It was a core part of what the report was about. However, the Government’s response reads as saying, “We have fundamental British values and it would be too difficult to change them. We know that they are not quite right so we will try to do a bit better at explaining what we really meant”. That is not good enough for something as important as this. I think that it is creating quite a bit of unhappiness in society. We cannot gather together around words like these. Words do not deliver a lot but they give you the framework for thought and action. If we cannot gather together around them, that does not bode well for how we will do in this area. I was very disappointed, not that the Government would not change their mind but that they would not engage with the argument. Had they made a cogent case in their response for not adopting our proposals, I would have felt a bit better, but they did not.
The same trend could be seen in citizenship education. It is not working and it is not good enough. Our children are not getting the sort of citizenship education in school today that they need and deserve and which we as a society need and deserve. Yes, some schools are getting it right and we can point to some examples, but the statistics are telling. Over the past eight years, where once we had 10,000 citizenship teachers, we now have fewer than 5,000. Eight years ago, some 243 teachers were in initial teacher training for this, but today the figure is only 40. Eight years ago, 96,000 pupils were due to take the examination, but today only 17,000 will do so. I am not saying that the figures in themselves tell the whole story, but the level of complacency in the Government’s response to this section was very worrying. There was no willingness, energy, passion or interest in changing things. The excuse given is the traditional one, “It is up to the schools what they do. We do not tell people how to teach”.
We have not had a Government who have been more prescriptive about what schools can teach and how they should teach it. They spend millions of pounds on explaining to schools exactly how they should teach English. They have done the same to bring Chinese maths into schools to show them how to teach maths. They prescribe what books children should read in English literature. They set out which parts of history should be taught. They should not say that they want to step aside and leave it to the schools. The truth is that in the areas that are important to the Government, they take action. None of that applies to citizenship and we cannot get away from that. What is there is an enthusiasm for character education. I agree with my noble friend Lord Blunkett on this point: I am not against character education, but it is not citizenship education, which has been squeezed out over the past few years. That needs to be remedied.
My final point is the cost of applying for citizenship. This is not philosophically difficult and it would not be hard to change. The Government have a missed a chance by not acknowledging that. I was lucky enough to be part of the Committee which witnessed a citizenship ceremony held at Westminster City Hall. It was a wonderful experience to watch people take on their citizenship, but when we spoke to them afterwards, it was the cost that they wanted to talk about. The cost to the family purse of taking on citizenship almost spoilt the day for them. They had to spend thousands of pounds. The Government’s response puzzled me. To justify not reducing the cost of acquiring citizenship, the Government talk about what they do with the profits they make. The response states:
“A significant proportion of this contributes towards the cost of wider immigration functions; helping to protect and maintain effective core services”.
We should all be paying for those services, not just those who are seeking to become citizenships or acquiring visas. There is no justification for the core costs of our immigration services to be put on the backs of these people.
This is a good, bold and strong report. I do not think that the response has been as strong as it needed to be, but it will stay there. Those of us who served on the committee will return to what the Government say they want to do in the hope that we can indeed make progress in the months and years to come.
My Lords, it is good to follow such an excellent speech from a member of the committee and to congratulate her and all the other members under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, on a report that is a very interesting read. It is a big report that makes a juicy meal and it deserves to be chewed over for a long time yet. The government response, by comparison, is a shrivelled morsel and extremely disappointing. When I first read it I asked my wife, Heather, who before she retired was a lifelong ESOL teacher, to have a look at the section on ESOL. She laughed every so often, and I asked her why. She said, “Oh, that is something we invented 30 years ago”, and, “We did that 20 years ago”. We know what works with ESOL and we know what works with the hard-to-reach groups, particularly ladies who come over from the south Asian countries. The real problem is that over the past 10 years the Government have cut funding for ESOL by more than 50%. A lot of people have been pushed into the arms of private providers who set up little so-called schools. Frankly, quite a few of them are just ripping people off.
I turn to the particular phrase “fundamental British values”. I have to say that the government response is very disappointing. That phrase is divisive for a lot of people. I wonder if it is separatist, which might be appropriate or not, given what is going on with Brexit at the moment; I do not know. We should remember that for a lot of the people who have come to live in this country over the past two or three generations, the Empire is very much a part of their family life. The phrase is supremacist and in any case it is condescending. It suggests to everyone else that, “Our values are better than yours”. That is wrong. The phrase “shared values of British citizenship” is good because it sets out what the values are but does not say that they are intrinsically or specifically British.
A section in the report I want to refer to concerns active citizenship and civic engagement. I shall talk about my own experience in a small town in Lancashire called Colne. It is where I live and I declare an interest as a local councillor there. Paragraph 12 of the report quotes Dr Henry Tam, who,
“emphasised to us the important distinction between the two”—
active citizenship and civic engagement. Dr Tam went on to say:
“One is volunteering and helping strangers. The other sense, quite different, is about democratic participation. You can do one without the other”.
That is true, but I think that it is much more complicated than that. Where local democracy, involvement and engagement really work—and they still do really work in many smaller communities and some others in this country—the two are closely interrelated. It may be a continuum but it is just a very complicated mixture of people who are local politicians, local volunteers, those getting involved because they are traders, local residents or those working in schools, who then overlap. Colne is a town with a lot of volunteers and lots—too many, some people think—of elected local politicians. They work together and many people are in both roles. We have a series of local organisations and structures where local politicians across all parties work together—at least we do outside election periods—and with other people to get things done locally in an old Lancashire cotton town. Fifty or 60 years ago, two-thirds of the people there worked in weaving mills; now, there are no mills left. It is that sort of place.
Ten years ago, an organisation called Colne in Bloom was set up by a councillor colleague of mine in my ward. It brings together a series of people from across the town, including all sorts of groups and organisations from community centres and schools, and residents who do things in their street alongside the main activities in the town centre. I do not know for how many years we have won a gold award, but it is at least five or six, perhaps more. This is a good example of leadership, which comes partly from councillors, partly from people who are not councillors and partly from people who have been or will be councillors.
Neighbourhood plans are one good thing to have come out of the coalition through the Localism Act. They form a statutory part of the local plan once they are adopted. In areas such as ours, which is entirely parished nowadays—we did that deliberately to involve more people—they are the responsibility of the parish council and town council. In Colne, the initiative has been taken by current town councillors who originally got involved with major residents’ campaigns objecting to inappropriate planning applications. There is a huge overlap there. In the parish where I live, Trawden Forest, we had a referendum last week or the week before that approved our neighbourhood plan. I declare an interest as a largely corresponding member of the little group that put it together. In that collection of people, some people had never been involved in such things before but got involved because they were interested in the plan, some were parish councillors and some were both.
Colne Town Council now runs all the events in Colne, of which the most important each year is the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival, which happens every August bank holiday. In every month throughout the year, a series of events brings people into the town and gives it a sense of well-being. It involves people; they can enjoy themselves. The council runs it but does not have lots of staff to do that, as a big council would. The town councillors, of which I am not one, roll their sleeves up and do a large amount of the work. The overlap between local politicians elected to the town council on political labels and volunteers is not clear-cut—and neither should it be. We have lots of community centres that we thought we should set up as community hubs 20 or 30 years ago. They are now run by local volunteers and local committees, and so it goes on.
My final point is that Colne is a town. Fortunately, in all the time that I have been involved in it, along with a lot of other people, we have managed to maintain civic culture, civic involvement and “civic society”, if that is what you call it—that is, the involvement of local people in the town, keeping it going in very difficult circumstances. After the local government reorganisation in 1974, a lot of towns lost their councils, civic culture and institutions, suffering very badly as a result. Every change in local government and local democracy nowadays seems to involve making things bigger, amalgamating things and reducing the number of councillors, the number of elections and the amount of local democracy and accountability. It is wrong. We have to go back and look at towns. Big cities are all right—they can cope—but towns need a lot of time, attention and care to rebuild their civic culture if they are to be successful in future.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and the committee for their report. I declare an interest as a governor of Coram, which gave evidence to the committee.
The preamble to the report states that,
“the primary objective of a nation state is the creation of a country in which every one of its citizens feels secure, engaged and fulfilled”.
The report was conducted in 2017, post referendum and pre today’s chaos. As a nation state, having had a 1,000-year start on most other nation states, you would think that we might have got the hang of it by now—but it would appear to be still a work in progress.
The report’s first key conclusion is the need for respect for the law. A particular incident that concerned me somewhat preceded this. On 4 November 2016, a Daily Mail headline described several Justices of the Supreme Court as “enemies of the people”. In Henrik Ibsen’s play of almost the same name, “An Enemy of the People”, Dr Stockmann tries to expose an environmental pollution scandal but is shouted down. Ibsen was trying to illustrate his distrust of politicians and of the blindly held prejudices of the majority—a trait sometimes referred to today as “the will of the people”.
Most shocking at the time was the apparent unwillingness of the leaders of Her Majesty’s Government to condemn the headline. Demonstrating citizenship and civic engagement starts at the top. As the report said,
“the rule of law, together with a commitment to democracy, individual liberty and respect for the inherent worth and autonomy of all people, are the shared values of British citizenship from which everything else proceeds. These are ‘red lines’ which have to be defended”.
Where have I heard that before? We need red lines to stop us devaluing such terms as “red lines” and to stop the growing tendency to play to the gallery.
Civic engagement, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was brought to my mind in a discussion a few days ago with one of his noble friends, the noble Lord, Lord German. He is one of your Lordships who visits schools around the country—mainly in Wales, in his case—to talk about our Parliament and our democracy. He ends his discussions by putting up a slide of a huge and seemingly never-ending queue of South African citizens waiting to vote in the first free and open general election in South Africa in 1994. He asks the young people he is talking to, “Do you realise how precious is the ability—nay, the right—to vote in free and fair elections? Never take it for granted”.
I want to focus on the report’s last two recommendations. Recommendation 78 suggests reducing naturalisation costs to their real level without adding a substantial profit; recommendation 79 suggests waiving the registration fee for children in care and for children who have spent all their lives in the UK. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, mentioned citizenship fees in her speech. The Minister will be aware of the 12 June regret Motion on the 2018 Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. That was an obviously uncomfortable experience for the Minister responding—the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, who is fortunately on the Front Bench today—and that has been the case subsequently every time this subject has been raised in your Lordships’ House. I feel genuine sympathy for her valiant attempts to try to defend what is frankly indefensible.
At the moment, fee waivers are available only for applications for limited leave to remain. There is no fee waiver for settlement, otherwise known as indefinite leave to remain, or citizenship. Many children have a legal right to apply for citizenship immediately without having to make any kind of immigration application, but if they are unable to afford the enormous fees required to achieve citizenship they have the unenviable choice of either staying undocumented or pursuing a 10-year route to settlement, since the only way they can qualify for a fee waiver is if they apply for limited leave to remain. Since each of those is typically limited to two and half years they must do this several times over the course of those 10 years. This assumes that they will be so fortunate as to qualify for a fee waiver in the first place. What a truly daunting prospect this process must be for a child, against a backdrop of there being no legal aid available at all for immigration cases since 2013.
Children in care have their local authority as their corporate parent. The latter has the responsibility to ensure that any looked-after child can apply for the most secure status possible. It seems like the world turned upside down for that local authority to have to pay an exorbitant fee to local government to discharge its duty to the children in its care. It is rather like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Does the Minister agree that it is not in the best interests of children entitled to British citizenship to face sustained and ongoing uncertainty about their future in this country, and that there is little sense in increasing the cost to local government to care for these children if the present situation continues? Please could he explain the rationale for not having a fee waiver for children in care?
My Lords, that was an excellent speech; many important points were raised. I look forward to the Minister’s answers, because it is absolutely clear that poverty should not and must not be a barrier to citizenship.
I have been passionate about citizenship and civic engagement for many years, so I was delighted when this Select Committee, for which I was one of the catalysts, was set up. I congratulate the committee on its excellent work and thank the countless organisations, NGOs, academics and citizens that gave evidence on this crucial topic.
This report has excellent recommendations that will support the very fabric of our democracy, ensuring that young people are entrusted and encouraged to be active citizens, and that Parliament recognises the role it must play to provide the environment for them to do so, especially as we approach a post-Brexit Britain. My noble friend Lord Blunkett is right: our democracy is in crisis. The importance of democracy must be understood. This means that there must be education and that democracy must be nurtured through representation and voting.
I will raise just a few points that I believe are most vital to address the challenge laid out by the committee of ensuring that all citizens have government support to embark on their “civic journey”, in which social action, democratic participation and social belonging are available to all. Of course, people must take responsibility to play an active role in our democracy, but if the opportunities, education and initial engagement are not adequate and meaningful, then it is down to Parliament and its Members—from all parties and none—to address the root causes of poor civic and community engagement.
This must start with education. I am proud of what the Labour Government did with citizenship education. Since then it has got poorer and poorer. The statistics that my noble friend Lady Morris gave are deeply alarming. Citizenship education in schools must be prioritised as a policy commitment and resourced effectively, including formal programmes of assessment, Ofsted inspections of school delivery and expanded teaching training initiatives.
I welcome the initiatives from the Government’s democratic engagement plan, such as the introduction of a National Democracy Week, but it does not do enough to address the gaps left by meaningful citizenship education. The very date of National Democracy Week alienates many schools and colleges because it falls in a holiday period. I could not see, via the government portal, a significant increase in young people joining the electoral roll.
I welcome extra-curricular efforts to engage young people in civic and community life, but this must also be addressed within the curriculum, across every school and within a framework so that Ofsted demonstrates effectiveness. This is why I urge the Government to take forward recommendation 9,
“to create a statutory entitlement to citizenship education from primary to the end of secondary education. This should be inspected by Ofsted to ensure the quantity and quality of provision”.
As an avid supporter of Bite The Ballot and its work to ensure young people are registered to vote and engaged in our democracy, I also urge that a citizenship curriculum invite our young people to register to vote from the age of 16, while understanding the benefits and responsibilities of doing so. Indeed, I fervently support votes at 16.
We must address these issues where and when we know we have a captive audience—that is, from ages four to 18 within schools. For it to be done well, I strongly support recommendation 11:
“The Government should establish citizenship education as a priority subject for teacher training, and provide bursaries for applicants”.
The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots, was right: the Government’s response on this was very disappointing. The Government committed to introducing specialist leaders of education for citizenship, but they have done nothing to set this in train or to tell teachers and schools to apply.
The report points to a whole host of evidence that citizenship education in the UK and globally can increase the likelihood of voting and expressive political participation in adulthood, mitigate the social, economic and cultural inequalities in political participation, and reduce rates of gang membership and violent crime among vulnerable groups. We cannot go a week without seeing in the media another young life taken by knife crime, so let us use citizenship education as one of the means of tackling the root causes of alienation, disfranchisement and apathy.
Once the foundations are laid within education, we can ensure that young people are socially active and supported through the work of the NCS and other volunteer organisations, such as the fantastic charity City Year. I agree with recommendation 22:
“The National Citizen Service cannot be seen as a short one-off programme and must be designed to create a lifelong habit of social action”.
While I support the NCS, it is still a short, one-off programme. That is not good enough. I dare to believe that if citizenship education kick-started young people’s knowledge of and participation in civic society, the NCS is the place that they would go to develop it further. It is where they can learn how to become socially active, with a variety of skills and tools to ensure that they do so for life, not just for one summer. But the NCS still acts too much in isolation, not taking its responsibilities and using its huge funds to be part of a pipeline. The partnerships between the NCS, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the Scout Association are welcome, but are not enough. Too many local youth initiatives have been starved to death to feed the NCS.
I am chair of the People’s History Museum, the national museum of democracy. I am proud that it is diverse in every way and that it not only focuses on the history of our struggle for democracy, but informs the present. It has community curators and works with schools, diverse communities and hard-to-reach groups to nurture understanding of our democratic rights. Its current exhibition “Represent!” includes videos of the maiden speeches of my honourable friends, Rushanara Ali and Shabana Mahmood. When a young Muslim woman saw these speeches recently she literally cried, saying, “I did not know that there was a place in Parliament for people like me”.
I end with a stark demonstration of the need for civic engagement and understanding of the system in which we live. A young friend was harassed as a consequence of being a councillor. She phoned 101 to report this and was asked, “What is a councillor?” She was advised to go to the police. She went along to the police station and was asked by the person sitting at the front desk, “What is a councillor?” That says it all.
My Lords, I welcome this report and congratulate the committee on producing it. I, too, wish to focus on that part of the report that deals with citizenship education. As the report makes clear, the case for citizenship education is compelling. The Government’s response, which promises nothing and is appalling in its complacency, fails completely to recognise its significance.
There are two reasons why we in this House should strongly support citizenship education. First, it is a public good. Citizenship education can fulfil an invaluable, indeed necessary, role in ensuring that we have a citizenry that understands our political system—not simply its structure but why it matters to everyone. As James Weinberg of Sheffield University told the committee:
“We have evidence … that citizenship education, where it is done effectively and consistently, can predict political efficacy, participation and levels of knowledge”.
It is thus central to the health of our political system.
Secondly, citizenship education is in our self-interest. At the moment, Parliament is neither loved nor respected. In the 2016 Hansard Society Audit of Political Engagement, only 32% of those questioned were satisfied with how Parliament does its job. Eurobarometer data over a 10-year period from 2004 to 2014 show that only one-third of those surveyed in the United Kingdom “tend to trust” Parliament. The problem is that the public judge each House not on what it does collectively but rather on the behaviour of Members. A scandal affecting Members of either House impacts more on public attitudes towards Parliament than any increase in the effective scrutiny of legislation. The answer rests with Members making more of an effort to promote and defend the institution of Parliament and with citizenship education in ensuring that citizens have a better awareness of Parliament and the knowledge and incentive to engage with it.
Citizenship education is thus essential; that is my starting point. Despite being introduced to the national curriculum in 2002 by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, it has not become embedded in schools in a way that is necessary for it to be taught effectively. Indeed, the report provides a damning critique, concluding:
“The Government has allowed citizenship education in England to degrade to a parlous state. The decline of the subject must be addressed in its totality as a matter of urgency”.
If citizenship education is to be taught effectively, three conditions have to be met. First, it has to be taught by qualified teachers. The nature of the subject is such that being taught by people not qualified to teach it may be worse than it not being taught at all. The committee recommends that the Government establish a target of having enough trained citizenship teachers to have a citizenship specialist in every secondary school. The problem is that the subject is not being taught by qualified teachers.
In May, I tabled a Question about the number of qualified teachers. My noble friend Lord Agnew of Oulton replied. It was a detailed Answer, for which I give him much credit. I quote, in some detail, from it:
“In November 2016 there were 4,800 teachers in state funded secondary schools teaching citizenship. Of these we estimate that 8.7% had a relevant post A level qualification in the subject. A relevant post A level qualification is defined as a first degree or higher, BEd degree, PGCE, Certificate of Education or any other qualification at National Qualifications Framework level 4 or above in either citizenship, international relations, international, EU or UK politics or political theory. There are also 10.6% of citizenship teachers with post A level qualification in history that prepare teachers well for teaching British citizenship”.
Even if one includes those with post A-level qualifications in history, approximately eight out of every 10 citizenship teachers are still not deemed to have a relevant post A-level qualification. These data show that we are nowhere near achieving the target recommended by the committee. They reinforce the committee’s conclusion as to the parlous state that now exists. Can my noble friend Lord Bourne tell us what steps the Government are taking to bolster the number of trained citizenship teachers? By what date does he think it will be possible to meet the committee’s recommendation of having a citizenship specialist in every secondary school?
Secondly, citizenship education needs to be distinctive. Citizenship needs to be taught as a discrete subject and not be allied with or swept up in other subjects. To combine it with PSHE or other subjects is to dilute and miss its importance. The committee notes:
“PSHE is not citizenship education”.
It later states:
“The increasing need for more specialist citizenship teachers will not be solved by support for teacher training alone. It must be accompanied by a restoration of the status of citizenship as a subject worth teaching”.
There needs to be a recognition of its importance and, intrinsic to that, it must figure as a distinct and protected part of the curriculum. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that it is taught as a discrete subject?
Thirdly, it needs to be taken seriously by schools. The committee’s goals for citizenship education are not likely to be achieved if schools have no incentive to deliver and protect the teaching of citizenship. There may be a moral imperative to teach it, but moral imperatives do nothing to enrich the school budget or help the school’s place in the league tables. Schools need something more concrete to ensure that they take citizenship seriously and teach it effectively. If citizenship education fed into performance in the league tables, schools would very quickly take it seriously. Without such incentives, we shall remain in a position where schools are reluctant to take on a trained citizenship teacher and the task of teaching citizenship will fall to a member of staff who is free on a Wednesday afternoon. It is therefore imperative that the Government have a radical rethink about the place of citizenship and how the teaching of it is to be delivered.
Can my noble friend tell us what incentives the Government plan to introduce to ensure that schools take seriously their responsibility for delivering citizenship education? Pious observations about the value of citizenship education will not change the current totally unacceptable situation. There must be concrete steps taken by the Government, and taken quickly, to reverse the situation in which we now find ourselves. Of course, there will be a cost to ensuring that the resources are there, but it is essential to a healthy polity. At a time when politics is increasingly marked by tribalism, and with soundbites substituting for debate, the greater and more compelling is the need for a politically literate population.
My Lords, I too thank the clerks, our policy analyst, Professor Matt Flinders, our special adviser, and all those who gave evidence or met the committee for their respective contributions to our report. Special thanks go to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for his skilful chairing of a highly opinionated committee.
While I welcome the generally positive tone of the Government’s response, I am disappointed at how few of our recommendations have been accepted. All too often the response sidesteps our recommendations with a description of what the Government are already doing. There is no acknowledgement of the seriousness of the concerns we raise in relation to the citizenship challenge we identify. While the challenge is not just for central government but also for local government, civil society, business and individual citizens, it is for central government to take the lead. At present, they are failing to do so. We found that,
“what is missing is any clear, coherent or ambitious vision of why citizenship should matter in the UK in the 21st century”.
I looked in vain for such a vision in the Government’s response.
The response summarised the overarching aim of our recommendations as,
“simplifying the individual’s civic journey, and enabling people to be active citizens”.
Certainly, the civic journey and active citizenship were important threads in our argument, but our recommendations were aimed not at simplification but at removing what many witnesses identified as “barriers, blockages or obstacles”, particularly those faced by marginalised groups. As noble Lords have already heard, we saw citizenship education as a key building block. We were thus dismayed that the Government’s Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper said nothing about it, thereby exemplifying the Government’s
“clear lack of citizenship vision”.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, for meeting us to discuss our recommendations, but the Government’s complacent response—how many noble Lords have already used that adjective?—failed to match the urgency of our concern about the state of citizenship education, which we had been told was,
“withering on the vine at the moment at a time when it is needed more than ever”.
Only one of our recommendations in this area was accepted, although as we have already heard, even this has not yet been actioned. Will the Minister tell us, or write to us, about when we can expect it to be so? Otherwise, it was warm words and Pollyanna-like claims, which are at odds with the alarming evidence we received of its “parlous state”.
The barriers to citizenship and to social integration through participation that we identified were various, including some rooted in socioeconomic disadvantage and other inequalities, such as gender. One specific barrier we have already heard about, to which we devoted a chapter, is poor English language skills. A common message was that the ability to communicate in English is vital to British citizenship. While we noted that this is as true of those of the indigenous population, for whom functional illiteracy is a barrier as it is of migrants, our recommendations focused mainly on ESOL, which is of especial importance to refugees and to women, who face particular access problems because of their childcare responsibilities. We referred to the bleak picture painted by Refugee Action’s research: a worsening situation of long waiting lists due primarily to lack of funding. We contrasted this with the exemplary ESOL support provided under the Syrian resettlement programme. We pointed to the danger of a two-tier standard and concluded:
“However one construes the numbers, they cannot disguise the fact that, over the last seven years, a cut in funding of about one half has led to a fall in numbers of at least one quarter”.
We noted that the Green Paper proposed,
“a new fund, but no new funding”,
and stressed that the Government must restore ESOL funding to its 2009-10 levels by 2019-20. The response was more warm words but no commitment to the funding essential for effective action. Can the Minister offer us anything more than further warm words today?
I return like a broken record to an issue that has been exercising me and many others in recent months—the obstacles put in the way of children who, because of their parents’ immigration status, need to register their statutory entitlement to citizenship. These are children either born in this country or who have spent most of their life here. One barrier identified in our report is the “good character” requirement for children from the age of only 10, which originally applied only to applications for naturalisation, in recognition of the important distinction between registration of citizenship and naturalisation. We recommended that the Government,
“review the use and description of the ‘good character’ requirements”,
and, in effect, they accepted that recommendation. However, they refused to reconsider the age from which the test applies on the grounds that,
“this is the age of criminal responsibility”,
and sentencing guidelines take into account the particular circumstances of minors. Whatever one thinks of such a low age of criminal responsibility, it surely cannot be right that according to a coalition of voluntary organisations—I declare an interest as recently becoming a patron of one of them—the requirement is used to prevent children registering rights to British citizenship, even where they have had only minimal contact with the criminal justice system, such as receiving a caution or a fine.
The Government also referred to their statutory obligation,
“to have due regard to the best interests of the child”,
but how can it be in the best interests of the child for their entitlement to citizenship to be denied on the basis of behaviour at such a young age? Why has the Home Office not acted on its acceptance last year of the chief inspector’s recommendation that the requirement should not be applied to children in the same way as to adults? May we have an explanation, if necessary, in writing?
The other obstacle is the level of the fee—over £1,000, of which only £372 is attributable to administrative costs—about which considerable concern has already been raised around your Lordships’ House, as we have heard, and which even the Home Secretary has described as “huge”. The committee questioned the “excessive profits” made on these and naturalisation fees, and in relation to children could see,
“no ground for the Home Office charging more than the costs they incur”.
As we have heard, we made the case for waiving the citizenship registration fee altogether in the case of children in care and children who have spent their entire lives in the UK.
The Government’s response was—as always on this matter—totally unsatisfactory. Their justification that the exorbitant fees,
“help fund and maintain effective wider immigration system functions”,
in effect puts the best interests of the immigration system above the best interests of children—who in any case are not immigrants. Moreover, their oft-repeated argument:
“Setting fees at above cost also enables the Home Office to exempt some people from having to pay a fee”,
“to waive fees in certain individual circumstances”,
is potentially misleading because it implies that such waivers can apply to the citizenship registration fee in question, which they cannot, as underlined by the noble Lord, Lord Russell.
One of the Government’s arguments in response to pressure on the level of the fee has been that citizenship is not really that important. But the underlying premise of our report is that citizenship is important—it matters. It is important to participation in society and to a sense of identity and belonging. It is indeed a tie that binds. I hope that the Government will rethink their response to this and many of our other recommendations and come forward with a clear vision and strategy for citizenship to help unite our country at a time when it has perhaps never been more divided.
My Lords, it was a great pleasure to work on this committee with so many experienced colleagues and under the able chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. I thank all those who supported us in any way.
First, I draw your Lordships’ attention to recommendation 35 in our report, which concerns Part 2 of the lobbying Act. This was a concern of our committee because one expression of civic engagement is involvement in the charitable sector, and one expression of citizenship is the freedom of charities and other campaigning groups to campaign on the causes they care about at election time. Part 2 of the lobbying Act was an ill-thought-out and hurried piece of legislation and, in light of its operation at the last election, it was reviewed by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson. He made a number of recommendations which went a long way to meet the concerns of the third sector. Our committee recommended:
“The Government should implement the recommendations of the Hodgson Review … as soon as Parliamentary time permits”.
Unfortunately, the present Government are unwilling to do this but I cannot believe that such unsatisfactory legislation can stay on the statute book indefinitely.
On the second point—citizenship education—again, I will not take long because other members of the committee have spoken about this very powerfully, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley. All I will say is that I was deeply shocked by the state of citizenship education in the country, as revealed by the evidence put to us. It appears not to be taught at all in a lot of schools and in many others is simply swallowed up in PSHE. If we are to remain a healthy democracy and a vibrant society, with citizens aware of their responsibilities and engaged so far as they can, then citizenship education is a vital element in our education system. At the moment it is, along with religious education, a Cinderella subject.
People need to leave school with some sense of why democracy matters: the long, hard journey to achieve what we have now and some inkling of how they might engage in the political process, even if it is just contacting the local council about the state of the pavements. They need to have a sense that to be a citizen carries certain responsibilities as well as bringing certain fundamental rights. The evidence we collected shows that this is simply not happening and, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, again put it so powerfully, in their response the Government have shown the most appalling complacency.
I want to spend a little more time on my third area, “Values”. These are covered by paragraphs 2 to 8 in the “Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations”. I know that we will totally agree, both in our House and more widely in the country, that values are essential to any civilised country and need to be taught in schools. There is an agreed objective—to teach the fundamental values which underline and hold together our life in the UK—but to achieve this, we have to face up honestly to the fact that there is a problem in the way this is presently done. The problem has to do with the wording of what has to be taught now and the way it was introduced.
Schools now have a duty to “promote fundamental British values” actively. These are defined as,
“democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.
When originally introduced, this duty was met with considerable hostility by significant sectors of the Muslim community and sharp criticism from other quarters. This was because, first, it was introduced as part of the Government’s counterextremist proposals; secondly, it focused on tolerance of other faiths to the exclusion of all other forms of respect and tolerance; and, thirdly, it had a heavy emphasis on “British” rather than “shared” values. As a result of this wording the Muslim community felt particularly singled out and “othered”, and the Government did not get the wholehearted support they needed for their important objective. All this may be regrettable but to achieve their objective, which we all share, the Government simply have to face up to this.
The way in which the agreed objective of teaching values can be achieved is set out in the recommendations of our report. We would need amendments to the next education Bill or other appropriate Bill. This would change the original clause in a way that would safeguard the objective, while disarming the hostility of those who felt targeted by its original wording. The Select Committee report recommends, first, that:
“The Government should stop using the term Fundamental British Values and instead use the term Shared Values of British Citizenship”.
Many values might be said to characterise British life, such as good neighbourliness, a sense of humour and patience; but what the Government are concerned with, rightly, are the values which belong specifically with being a British citizen. This should be made clear by use of this term. These values will be shared and ought to be shared by all who claim British citizenship. The present phrase “fundamental British values” has, whether people like it or not, alienated many and stopped them being fully supportive of the values that we all agree ought to be taught. The suggested phrase,
“Shared Values of British Citizenship”,
can, I believe, unite all communities in what are trying to achieve.
Secondly, our report recommends a change in the wording of what is taught. It says:
“The Government should initially change the existing list of values from ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’ to ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect for the inherent worth’”,
and dignity “of every person”. The two fundamental values of British citizenship are in fact democracy and the rule of law; the other values are a logical consequence of these two. For example, individual liberty is simply freedom under the law, and respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person is simply equality before the law. This of course includes the different faiths and beliefs which people hold, but does not single them out to the exclusion of equally important forms of respect, such as for disabled people or people of different ethnicity or sexuality.
Although we can understand why the Government introduced the phrase,
“mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs,”
it is philosophically incoherent to have it here and misleading in what it says, rather than what it intended to say. What we should all have is respect for people and their right to express their beliefs, whether we respect those beliefs or not. There are a number of beliefs it would be quite wrong to respect: the most extreme beliefs that advocate the murder of those who disagree with them, for example. Provided a belief does not contravene the law, we should continue to respect the person and their right to hold such a belief, even if we do not respect the belief itself.
Our wording refers to,
“the inherent worth and dignity of every person”.
Surely this is what should be taught. This is what matters. It includes people whose religion or belief we may not share, but also people who may have many other differences from ourselves in terms of gender, sexuality or colour, for example.
Finally, we recommend that the teaching of these values be uncoupled from the counterterrorism strategy. They are so important, so fundamental to our life together that they need to be taught in themselves for themselves. In their response, the Government argued that the present wording is now so embedded in the system that it would be unsettling to change it now, but it can easily be recognised that the intention is the same and the wording only slightly different. The great advantage is that the revised wording would make a presently alienated group more fully supported and would be widely welcomed as being more philosophically coherent and consistent with the definition of the values of British citizenship.
My Lords, I join those who pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, his colleagues and their staff for a very interesting and good report. It seems to be a mine of insight and common sense. It is a report we should all take seriously. Overarching everything we have been discussing tonight is the urgency, the imperative, for effective action. Why is that? It is because it is becoming manifestly clear that we can no longer take the effectiveness or acceptability of existing institutions and methods of conducting our democracy for granted. They are being challenged. The huge debate that rages about whether we should have another referendum on Brexit is a very good example of this because it is clear to anyone who knows the first thing about the British constitution that you cannot have a system in which referenda and representative parliamentary democracy or representative local government sit side by side. That is the road to authoritarianism.
What I found disappointing in the Government’s response to the report was that it did not seem to grasp the implications and depth of the analysis that lay behind it. Nowhere was this clearer than on the issue of the use of the term, “shared values of the British people,” instead of “fundamental British rights”. It really disturbs me that the Government do not see that the present situation is provocative. It is also ill informed because many of those values are shared right across the world, and part of interdependence with the world involves recognising that the values that we hold dear as central to our system are also the values of other people and that is why we have to learn to work together in making sure that those values are applied. It is also there in the failure to take really seriously or meaningfully the issue of English for speakers of foreign languages. How on earth can we make a successful and integrated multicultural society unless a priority in public expenditure is ensuring that people not only have access to such facilities but are actually being positively encouraged to take advantage of them? Those facilities are not there, though, and that is the problem.
My third point, which underlines the failure of the Government to respond, is the issue of the cost of becoming a British citizen or securing registration in this country, which is a disgrace in a country that says it wants to make a success of its multicultural society. How on earth can it not be seen that there should be positive incentives and encouragement for people to become full citizens, rather than disincentives?
We have been talking about citizenship education. I thought the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, about the qualifications for so-called citizenship teaching and the reality that they are just seen as a formality that must be fulfilled rather than a meaningful and purposeful enterprise, was a powerful contribution to the debate. However, I believe we have to take the issue of our education system as a whole as highly relevant to our anxieties. We are deliberately pursuing a road that is leading to the acceleration of a quantitative approach to education as distinct from a qualitative one. There is a confusion between education and training; we need lots of good training in particular spheres, of course we do, but training is not education. Education is about encouraging people to think, analyse and become self-confident, critical members of society. If we are not getting that right in our education system as a whole, there is very little hope of being able to do it by patchwork in this particular area. We have to get back to the concept of education being about education.
We need citizens who ask questions. I am told quite often by my friends in management consultancy and that sort of business that I am out of date because people have never been asked more frequently to express their views on questions that are put to them. However, I think that is an indication of how far we have drifted because it is not a question of how people respond to questions that, for whatever motivation, people are putting to them; it is a question of people themselves asking questions and deciding what those questions should be. It is therefore not just a matter of integrating new citizens who have come from elsewhere: it is about how we encourage our own traditional citizens to see the meaning of life. In this, of course, the relative neglect of the humanities in our education system now is a disaster. We are getting better and better at science, technology and mathematics—and of course all these things matter; I take second place to no one on that—but for what? What is the society that we are trying to create? What is the dream of the society that we are trying to establish? That is where the humanities are indispensable.
Before I came to this debate, I was talking to a great friend and colleague of mine, my noble friend Lady Corston, because we share an office, about some of the things that were troubling me in this context. We began to talk about the English football team and Southgate. He seems to be a superb role model for those we should be appointing to motivate society as a whole. My noble friend made the very interesting remark—I said, “May I pinch it for my speech tonight?”; she said, “Of course you can”—“He has emotional intelligence”. That is what we are lacking. It is not just a task. It is not just how we fix it, how we manage things to get them right; it is how we have empathy, how we can relate, inspire people and support them.
My Lords, in welcoming the report I will begin by mentioning that for 20 years I held a chair in citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and created its Foundation for Citizenship, along with the Roscoe lectures, which have attracted audiences of about 1,000 people and which are subsequently made available online.
Many of the more than 140 public lectures which I chaired addressed the issues which have been considered by the Select Committee in its well-judged report. The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who gave one of those important lectures, spoke earlier in our debate, and many things he said today are things that he said in that lecture.
In the aftermath of the London bombings, we held a miniseries of Roscoe lectures entitled “Learning to Live Together”. At Liverpool Cathedral, the trustee of the local mosque, the secretary of the Hindu cultural organisation, a local rabbi, the Bishop of Liverpool and the Archbishop of Liverpool stood together and simply said, “But not here”. In a city that describes itself as “the whole world in one city”, Liverpool can teach the rest of the country a thing or two about how people of many diverse backgrounds and traditions can learn to respectfully coexist. It is a central challenge for our country, and central to the question of values alluded to my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries and the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson.
Universities are uniquely positioned to provide a place where difference can be moderated, celebrated and understood. That some universities, including the University of Oxford, have allowed speakers to be no-platformed, is deplorable. Whether you agree with speakers such as Germaine Greer, Jenni Murray, Tim Stanley or Peter Hitchens is irrelevant. They should be heard respectfully. That is the essence of free speech: a fundamental principle of civic engagement and good citizenship.
Even worse is the upsurge of anti-Semitism on campuses and within political circles. Respecting minorities and respecting difference is a central part of who we are. It brings higher education into disrepute when alternative views are suppressed.
Next month will be the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1948, that declaration emerged from the ashes of Auschwitz and proclaimed 30 defining articles, from the right to life to the right to free speech and to believe or not believe—and, in Article 21, the right to take part in the government of one’s country directly or through freely chosen representatives.
As the Government consider their response to the Green Paper and the civil society strategy, as well as putting flesh on the committee’s 79 recommendations, they should perhaps see the 70th anniversary as an opportunity to celebrate universal principles for citizenship that resonate with so many of the values which our country embraces and must constantly renew.
They might particularly consider Article 15 in the context of registration of children born in the United Kingdom to be registered as British citizens—an issue on which I and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, have previously divided your Lordships’ House and which tonight was spoken about eloquently by my noble friend Lord Russell of Liverpool. Article 15 states categorically:
“Everyone has the right to a nationality”,
“No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.
In 1983, when the British Nationality Act came into force, the fee for children’s registration was £35, which means that the current fee is way in excess of inflation. Today the fee stands at £1,012, which is some £640 in excess of the administrative cost. When that Bill was being debated in 1981, I was in another place. As a Member of the House of Commons, I participated in proceedings on the British Nationality Act. The Act recognised that some children would be born here and grow up here without parents who were themselves British. The law states that they,
“shall be entitled to be registered as a British citizen”,
and the intention was that they would be able to so register by a straightforward and accessible process.
Ultimately, however, the current fee means that there is a bar to many children being able to register as British and to access their consequent rights. It is difficult to see how the imposition of a fee designed to generate income for the Home Office far in excess of the cost of registering a child could possibly have been within the contemplation of Parliament. Certainly, to my knowledge, no discussion of such a purpose formed part of Parliament’s deliberations in 1981. This is not surprising: Parliament did not provide for an express power to set a fee for nationality and immigration applications in excess of the administrative cost until 2007.
It was always Parliament’s intention to focus on and promote the concept and reality of citizenship. It was never the intention that the Home Office should be empowered to prevent the full integration of children into their community by raising fees to the extent that children are denied that legal entitlement. What does it say to young people, who we should want to be proud to be British, when we deny them the opportunity to come into citizenship in this way?
I return to another issue which I have raised previously, and which led me to seek a meeting with two government Ministers, Brandon Lewis MP and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford. It concerns an issue touched on earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves: the central importance of the English language, without which no one can engage in civic or even social life. Refugee Action continues to campaign for a restoration of ESOL funding to its 2009-10 levels. Will the Minister tell the House when this may happen? ESOL has been cut in real terms by 60% over that period and, as I discovered when I spent time with a group of Syrian refugees in Liverpool, it particularly hits women, some of whom have been waiting for three years to start English lessons.
The Government should act on Refugee Action’s five recommendations, ensure equal access for women and publish an ESOL strategy for England, As someone who, as a student longer ago than I care to admit—probably 50 years—volunteered over two summer vacations to teach English to children from overseas, I know that this is a two-way street. Those who volunteer and take part get as much as those who receive English language teaching. I know how those children, and their children, have grown up. One is a godchild of mine and I know the contribution they now make to our country. Language is crucial.
In 1999, in a book called Citizen Virtues, I quoted some words which my immigrant, Irish-speaking mother had pinned up on the wall of our kitchen:
“It is in the shelter of each other’s lives that the people live”.
A snapshot of contemporary Britain shows what happens when we stop sheltering and looking out for one another; where toxic loneliness replaces family and community cohesion; when too many feel like losers even when thought to be winners in purely material terms; where without shared values and rules, stable relationships, a sense of duty and a willingness to serve others, we too easily shrink into merely atomised individuals, invariably unhappy, unfulfilled and often alone.
Whether we like it or not, we come from a community, with all its faults and failings, and each of us—with all our own faults and failings—has some gift to return to that community. Aristotle said that we are not solitary pieces in a game of checkers. Each of us has a duty to play our part. Instead of the flaccid language of rights and entitlements, we must emphasise again the duties that we owe to one another. That is why I welcome the Select Committee’s report and hope that the Government will act on many of its excellent recommendations.
My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests as chairman of the charity Near Neighbours and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I would like to say what a privilege it was to be part of the Select Committee, and I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Hodgson, the clerks and the witnesses for the very stimulating information that we received. Working with such a delightful and interesting collection of your Lordships as committee members was a bonus into the bargain.
I am very fortunate, I think, in being a member of a generation who in school were taught the subject “Civics”. In our lessons, we learned about democracy, how government works and the powers and role of local government. We even had to learn the names of Ministers and the names of all the chairmen of the different council committees. I think that this subject, which in my case was very well taught, created an interest in public life which I still have today, and I think that it is a great pity that this focus disappeared from our classrooms so long ago and that citizenship education has reached such a parlous state at the moment.
I grew up in Bradford, which is an exceptional place where people for centuries have been welcomed and where they have made their home. In my senior school, there were many girls with names that I found very exotic. They were mostly from countries in eastern Europe known then as the “captive nations”. They spoke a number of different languages, but they had in common a determination to learn English well—not just for conversational purposes but fluently—and to be able to read and write well. This, they knew, would enhance their career opportunities and help them to integrate into British society.
It was alarming, in the work undertaken by the committee, to find that England now has the largest population of young people in the OECD with low levels of literacy. My noble friend Lord Hodgson has already mentioned the failure to have functioning English being noticeable in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities. In these communities, women are twice as likely as men to be unable to speak English well and six times more likely to be unable to speak it at all. Consequently, this is one of the reasons that Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are economically inactive. How difficult it must be for these mothers to be actively involved in the school lives of their children.
The committee made a number of important recommendations that would address this issue of communities with poor English skills. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has already talked about ESOL provision. ESOL should be a useful route to learning functional English. The Government should assess the effectiveness of different forms of ESOL and also, where possible, make courses available where there is childcare available. It would also be a wise use of resources to combine ESOL with citizenship learning.
Resources are always scarce, and money should always be wisely spent. I agree with my noble friend Lord Pickles who, when Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, expressed concern at the level of translation of documents and materials into other languages. This is often unnecessary and in some cases inappropriate. If translation was limited to where it is essential or required by law, the savings would enable more investment in English teaching. We need as a nation to make it clearly understood that a requirement to speak, read and write functional English is the norm, and not an optional extra, for British citizens.
In 2011, the National Citizen Service programme began. There has been criticism that the NCS does not attract enough participants from excluded communities. However, we received evidence that the NCS is working hard to prioritise inclusion as it expands. It is also becoming more embedded within the youth social action sector. We should not, however, lose sight of other charitable organisations that work in this field. The Catalyst programme, which is part of the work done by Near Neighbours, provides a transformational leadership programme for young people aimed at developing creative leaders to act as positive role models in their neighbourhoods and communities. Participants are always from diverse backgrounds.
In a perfectly ordered world, all citizens would be comfortable in who they are and about their place in society and would feel confident that they can contribute to society. For this to be the norm, however, there needs to be an understanding of the values that underpin our society. These values are not self-evident and, as the report states:
“Individuals do not learn about governmental and judicial institutions of the United Kingdom through osmosis”.
The purpose of citizenship is the well-being of all. We need to address the barriers which prevent people feeling part of society and contributing to it. The respect of law is fundamental to society, and this must always come first. Equality before the law is fundamental for our society; it is the shared value from which everything proceeds.
The committee understandably spent a great deal of time taking evidence and discussing the civic journey in the education system, and many speakers this evening have spoken convincingly about that. Citizenship education should specifically provide people with the skills to enable them to be good citizens. From the evidence we received, we became aware that there has been a serious decline in the teaching of the subject, to the point that Tom Franklin, from the Citizenship Foundation, said:
“Our current view is that citizenship education is withering on the vine at the moment at a time when it is needed more than ever”.
The committee visited Byron Wood Academy in Sheffield and saw how citizenship in primary schools can, through a cross-curriculum focus, help bring together children from a wide range of communities. This citizenship experience helped the children to recognise what they have in common and provided a narrative that binds the school together.
It is disappointing that the Government, in their response, do not appear to have fully grasped the importance of the recommendations that the committee made; and as many noble Lords have said, they appear to be complacent about the need for action. As the report says,
“‘integration’ carries with it important, but very different, implications for the various sections of British society”.
Nazir Afzal, the former Chief Crown Prosecutor for north-west England, felt that the word was often confused with “assimilation”. In the context of citizenship, the word “segregation” is a worrying concept. In Bradford, we had riots in 2001. The world and its experts were looking and giving reasons for what they thought were the causes of the event. Two people spoke very sensibly: Professor Ted Cantle and the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, highlighted the problems that arise when minority communities lead segregated lives. We need to create opportunities for interaction between people so that they can meet freely and positively in their communities. The committee recognised that there are many ways in which government can help by funding community development workers and community organisers to enable people to meet freely, enter into dialogue and become more aware of each other.
The committee covered many areas, many of which have been spoken about this evening by colleagues. As my time is up, I will make just one more comment. The Government do not seem to have been terribly responsive in their comments. We all observed one thing—that there are so many strands to the issue of citizenship that, if we could have a single department responsible for co-ordinating all the matters relating to it, that would be a major step forward.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in tonight’s debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and the Select Committee for securing this debate on the committee’s report on citizenship and civic engagement.
This is an important report with numerous recommendations and it is very timely. I first declare a non-pecuniary interest. I have just been appointed by DCMS as a trustee and board member of National Citizen Service. I have always believed in the power of citizenship and community engagement and involvement. This does not sit with any specific age group but should be part of our DNA throughout our lives. However, if a mindset can be encouraged or generated at a young age, this encourages citizenship and develops community engagement with which we can change the future.
The challenge for politicians at all levels of governance, from town councillors to MPs and Peers, is how to develop policies and projects that work—practical programmes that engage and involve people, and, importantly, win hearts and minds. This report builds on current citizenship work and civic engagement programmes as a good starting point. Citizenship programmes that are seen as interfering, nanny state, busybody nonsense will only fail. As was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, in his introduction, long-term, sustained, proven programmes will be the only ones that succeed.
I grew up in a small community on the west coast of Scotland; if something needed to be done people would often come together and sort it, or at least try. I spent a bit of time recently thinking about why that was and the conclusion I came to is that they—and I —had a feeling of belonging and of place. Many people were already involved in the local community through different organisations and interests, from the primary school and the sports clubs, Boys Brigade and Girl Guides, to the local churches, bowling club, gardeners and ramblers. This I feel is often lost in today’s society, so how do we help recreate it? As has been touched on earlier, the benefits are huge, not just to individuals, communities or the local environment, but to society at large. More people working and campaigning together help with community cohesion, and we so need that just now.
The House of Lords Select Committee report offers 79 recommendations. As stated in the summary, the committee has tried to identify the barriers which prevent people from feeling part of or contributing to society. The recommendations aim to remove as many of those barriers as possible and offer up practical solutions to deliver on their aim; that is to be applauded. I ask the Minister whether any analysis has been done on the 79 recommendations and how many have yet to be delivered on and are still outstanding.
I want to focus my remaining time on NCS. My initial response when David Cameron announced the big society was, “It sounds a good idea and I like it but I don’t believe the Government will ever deliver on it”. I thought it would be another of their gimmicks, like “hug a hoodie” and being photographed with a husky. The big society as a slogan has now faded to dust but the NCS, as one of the few practical programmes, has gone from a small trial in 2009 to having nearly 100,000 participants in 2018 alone. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said this was a pebble in the pond; 100,000 pebbles can make some big ripples.
Of course, there are issues around resources and funding, as my noble friends Lord Blunkett and Lady Royall said earlier, especially when one scheme is chosen and there are so many deserving projects. This was further compounded when the policy of austerity and cuts was doubled down on. However, I believe that the benefits of the NCS both to young people and to our society outweigh the concerns that have recently been raised. I declare a further interest in that both my kids, one this summer and the other two summers ago, went through the NCS programme. For me, the benefits of NCS were there in front of me when they finished their programmes, and that would have been enough, but I want to take a little time to talk about some of the facts and figures around the NCS.
The NCS was highlighted by the NCVO as a key driver behind a 52% rise in youth volunteering between 2010 and 2015. As a result, 16 to 24 year-olds moved from the least to the most likely to spend time volunteering, and 76% of graduates affirm that they are more likely to help out in their local area having done NCS. The Government’s response to the Lords Select Committee report in June this year touched on the hard-to-reach individuals. Twenty-nine per cent of NCS participants were from non-white backgrounds compared with 18% of the population; 4.8% had special educational needs compared with 1.7% of the population; and 16% were on free school meals compared with 12% of the population.
There is still more to do, and the committee makes many recommendations that point towards that. However, there is a line at the end of the summary that is telling and true, and it should be taken note of in this debate. It states that,
“consultation cannot be a substitute for action”,
so let us please act. I will act in my role in your Lordships’ House, as well as a board member of the NCS. I will work to ensure the taxpayers get value for money and that the NCS continues to build bridges across social divides, helps social cohesion and, finally, helps to create opportunity for social mobility—a phrase that I do not like but an ideal that I do.
My Lords, it is a privilege to join in this debate. I agree with many of the Select Committee’s recommendations but I wish to speak about volunteers and social action. These people may work through the National Citizen Service, directly with voluntary groups or indeed with understaffed statutory services. Volunteers involved with poverty, ill health, remedial education and so on in Britain should have status and esteem equal to that rightly given to those who go overseas.
In their response, the Government appear to be sympathetic to recommendations 27 to 29 about honours for outstanding volunteers. I wonder whether they will go further and recognise those who devote significant time and effort—say, at least six months full time or the equivalent—by giving them credits which can be spent only on further education or training. I trust that this is a worthwhile proposal.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, both on the way in which he introduced this debate and on the way he steered his committee to produce such a perceptive, thorough and very topical report. Of course, he has form, because he previously produced and published a very good report on campaigning, to which the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, referred earlier.
I was struck by the reference to the power of words. Indeed, much of this report is concerned with words, which is not surprising because after all, Parliament is all about words. Words are extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, referred in a particular context to the word “fundamental”, and that point has been echoed by others. It is an extremely important part of this report that we should look again at the way in which we express these ideas. Of course, these ideas have been expressed not just in this debate but previously on many occasions. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire. As a Minister, and before and after his service, he was very interested in the whole concept of citizenship. This afternoon he again referred to citizens’ rights and a social contract in our democracy. We also had two remarkable speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Russell and Lord Alton. There must be something special in the water in Liverpool that has produced such eloquence and analysis, which I very much appreciated.
The debate also reminds us that citizenship is a two-way, mutual relationship. It is important to re-emphasise that the state and the body politic have a crucial responsibility to the citizen as well as nurturing the citizen’s role in the community and the nation. There was a vivid reminder of that in an article by Kamila Shamsie in the Guardian on Saturday entitled “Exiled: the disturbing story of a citizen made unBritish”. I confess that I had forgotten that the Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 made it possible for any Briton to be deprived of their citizenship and status as a UK citizen, even making them stateless if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person has done anything,
“seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom … or any British overseas territory”.
That article quotes circumstances in which there has been no effective right to challenge or appeal. Given what we now know about the incompetence of the Home Office, let alone the evidence of UK complicity in extraordinary rendition, there is clearly room for review and reform of the way the Government respect citizens’ rights. Respect goes in both directions.
Similarly, both the committee’s report itself and the various other documents to which the excellent Library briefing has drawn our attention, emphasise the vital importance of fully involving what they describe as “hard-to-reach” groups. I detect some recognition from the committee that that has salience in the current debate about those who have been left behind in terms of household income and lifestyle in recent decades, and the growing sense of inequality in Britain. There is a widespread perception, with hard data to support it, that some citizens are much more equal than others. In that connection, the conclusion of last week’s UN report regarding Brexit is hard to argue against. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society will be least able to cope and will take the biggest hit. Our not-too-distant ancestors—I am thinking particularly of the great liberal, William Beveridge—would be horrified to learn that we are still looking at such issues in those terms.
That is what makes so very timely the common theme, which permeates all these documents, of enhancing the efforts to engage everyone in our democratic systems. My own involvement in charities, from working for Shelter in the 1970s—a national campaign for the homeless—to working with the food banks movement currently, reinforces my own experience that ensuring a voice for the voiceless is very challenging. I know that other Members of your Lordships’ House—notably some of those here today—have had that experience and continue to have that involvement. I accept that the voluntary sector may well be more successful in achieving greater levels of participation than government agencies, national and local. That does not mean that the latter can be let off the hook.
There are so many recommendations in this report that I enthusiastically agree with, and time is so limited, that I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I concentrate on the contentious issues that have arisen during the debate and especially where the Government’s responses have been judged to be inadequate or complacent. That word has been repeated by a large number of your Lordships in the debate. For example:
“The Committee is very firm that the promotion of Shared British Values should be separated from counter-extremism policy”.
That is self-evidently so important if we are to achieve a greater positive commitment to the responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship. Frankly, the Government response is very wordy—possibly also rather worthy—but it is scarcely conclusive, persuasive or a model of clarity.
The section on education in the Select Committee’s report is very valuable and many references have been made to it by those who have much more expertise in and experience of this issue than I do. I draw particular attention to the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, both of whom as Secretaries of State had a major role in that respect. I pay tribute also to the work done by others over the years, notably by the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall of Blaisdon and Lady Eaton, and of course by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth. Despite the extensive government response, most of us would say that the current state of citizenship teaching is at best patchy and at worst simply lamentable. The problem is not the quality of those who teach, but the totally inadequate quantity of professionally trained teachers of the subject. There is also a lack of official emphasis on its importance for new citizens.
The Association of Citizenship Teaching has briefed us that we have less than one trained specialist teacher per 10 schools, which is roughly the same analysis as that given by the noble Lord, Lord Norton. The free schools and academies seem to be especially weak in this respect. Of course, the fact that it is not covered to the same extent in their curriculum requirements does not help. There was unanimous agreement in the committee that:
“The Government has allowed citizenship education in England to degrade to a parlous state. The decline of the subject must be addressed in its totality as a matter of urgency”.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Greaves on the twin issues of volunteering and democratic engagement, and the relationship between them. Turning to the latter, I am aware that some of the initiatives the Electoral Commission and the Cabinet Office have undertaken have been valuable. I am very committed to the efforts that have already proved successful for attainers, notably the in-house registration programmes in Northern Ireland. They have been so successful that I simply do not understand why they have not been extended to other parts of the United Kingdom. We do not need more pilot schemes; these programmes already work very well and they should be replicated over here.
I have also been involved in attempts to increase successful registration programmes for UK citizens abroad. This is hampered by the now totally anachronistic insistence on linking to a UK constituency that the individual might have left up to 15 years ago; clearly, this will become even more absurd when and if that limit is removed.
Finally, on the issue of naturalisation, I am glad to see that the Government agree with the committee on “good character” requirements for applicants, and that:
“Honest mistakes made during the application process should not by themselves be treated as evidence of bad character”.
I should have thought that that was pretty obvious, and I very much support what the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said on the tests for children. It is really quite ridiculous that we are still being forced to adopt that attitude. However, what I really do regret is the parsimonious objection by Ministers to the recommendation that states:
“It is inequitable that the Government should seek to make excessive profits out of those seeking naturalisation”.
I should declare an interest, in that my son-in-law, previously an American citizen, saw the sense not only in marrying my daughter but in becoming a British citizen. He has recently been through this exercise. The total costs that can be incurred are well over £1,000. By the time someone has finished the process, it is a great deal more than the £370 that is the actual cost of the administrative burden. I know of several cases where the many hundreds of pounds in fees and other costs have been a real source of aggravation and discouragement. I warmly support the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lords, Lord Russell and Lord Judd.
The Minister will, I am sure, do his very best to respond both to the debate and to the exceptionally thoughtful committee report on which it has been based, as he always does. I do not envy him his task today: not only does the scope of the debate and the report attract the generalities that Ministers trot out—although we do not expect them from him—but the current government obsession inevitably leads to an impression of complacency on the hugely important issues involved here. I wish him success.
My Lords, I begin by joining other noble Lords in congratulating the Select Committee on publishing its timely and wide-ranging report on issues going to the heart of our society and its democracy. Of course, I also join them in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for both his chairmanship of the committee and his presentation tonight.
At a time when there is growing concern about the political process—an essential component of our democracy—stemming in particular from the use, or rather misuse, of social media, it is imperative to promote an understanding of how our system works and how people can engage with it at all levels. This is especially important for young people. The report makes several recommendations to which the Government’s response is frankly disappointing.
The key recommendation that citizenship education should be a requirement across the age range of pupils is effectively dismissed. Academies, which are increasingly taking over the management of schools, are required only to,
“teach a broad and balanced curriculum and promote fundamental British values”.
Those values are not defined, although this vague assertion is made:
“Academies may therefore choose to teach Citizenship to fulfil these duties”.
Clearly, many may not.
The idea of embodying a requirement to provide citizenship education is dismissed, partly on the almost laughable basis that:
“The national curriculum was comprehensively reviewed … in 2013 and, in April 2018, the Secretary of State … committed to making no further reforms to the national curriculum in this parliament”.
The Government’s complacency is reflected in their observation that,
“there is a statutory requirement on”,
“to consider how schools support pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. This includes consideration of a number of factors which are relevant to citizenship”.
They dismiss the recommendation that there should be,
“enough trained citizenship teachers to have a … specialist in every secondary school”,
with the curious assertion that:
“We do not impose a limit on the number of trainee teachers in citizenship that are recruited for initial teacher training and it is for head teachers to decide how to best deliver their curriculum”.
The fact that in so many schools head teachers struggle to recruit and retain staff, especially in areas where they are most needed, is completely ignored.
The same complacency is embodied in the reaction to the recommendation:
“The Government should establish citizenship education as a priority subject for teacher training, and provide bursaries for applicants”.
Priority is given instead to questionable EBacc subjects and citizenship trainees are left to secure tuition fee loans and maintenance loans to “support their living costs”. What estimate, if any, has the department made of the impact of this approach on the relative numbers of recruits to each category?
A rare tribute should be paid to the decision to adopt,
“a new Specialist Leader of Education specialism”—
a curious tautological expression—but it is deeply disappointing that the department dismissed the recommendation:
“Ofsted should … review … the current provision and quality of citizenship education”.
It is also disappointing that the Government dismiss out of hand the critical, in every sense, recommendation 16, which asserts:
“The Government has allowed citizenship education in England to degrade to a parlous state. The decline of the subject must be addressed in its totality as a matter of urgency”.
It is crucial that our young people in particular are encouraged to participate in our politics at both a local and national level. I speak as someone who started canvassing in a council by-election at the age of 15. I recall finding a keen Labour supporter and, when talking to her on the doorstep, saying that it was great to meet a keen socialist—which drew the response, “Ee no, pet, I’m Labour”. A slightly different experience occurred three or four years later while canvassing in Oxford when the householder said that he was not voting for the Conservative, Labour or Liberal candidate and, when asked why, replied that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and would vote only for a heavenly candidate. I could not persuade him that our candidate qualified.
For those who are not compelled by their religious beliefs, it is time that the voting age was reduced to 16, as it has been in Scotland and as was advocated by Labour in the 2015 general election. Citizenship education would have an important role in preparing the younger generation actively to participate in the democratic process, especially at local government level, where decisions about local issues and services impinge so largely on their lives and futures. I differ from the report on this, on which the recommendation is to consider lowering the voting age only when the,
“recommendations on citizenship education are accepted and implemented”.
Accepting the change would, in my submission, incentivise progress in citizenship education.
In this context, the report’s recommendations relating to the promotion of electoral registration would also have a bearing. I support the proposed piloting of assisted registration in a number of schools and FE colleges, which, if successful, could lead to a requirement for schools, FE colleges and providers of apprenticeships to assist the election registration service.
There are some other interesting proposals relating to democratic engagement, not least the call for local authorities, health bodies and other public agencies to bring the public and, significantly, especially marginalised groups into the decision-making process, with a specific recommendation to restore the access to elected office fund, which gave grants to disabled candidates. Perhaps the Minister could comment on the Government’s attitude on that.
The All-Party Group on Democratic Participation quotes academic research which found that National Citizen Service graduates,
“often equate citizenship solely with volunteering”—
that is, responsibilities rather than rights—and pointed to the significant scope for the NCS to foster more meaningful engagement with politics in general. We are all aware of the disappointing level of turnout in elections, national and local. In council elections it is rare for turnout to exceed 40%—often, alas, it is significantly less. Yet the decisions made by local councils, ranging as they do from strategic policies on major local issues affecting the local economy to key services such as housing, public health, social care, children’s services and much more besides, impact on the whole community, including of course the young. They should be encouraged to take an interest from an early age so that, as they mature, they can influence and, hopefully, participate in local government.
The future health of our democracy depends on the engagement of the young, but we must not neglect the necessity to engage with other sections of society. These range from the elderly—I declare an interest, having reached my 74th birthday on Saturday—to other groups, for example people with health issues and, in a multi-ethnic society, as we have heard, those belonging to different faith groups. Such an approach needs to be promoted in relation not just to civil rights and access to the services and support provided by government, national and local, but to access to justice.
For people for whom English is not their first language, the Government’s response to the committee’s recommendations on ESOL—English for speakers of other languages—will be disappointing, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned. The Government decline to restore ESOL courses combined with citizenship courses as recommended, merely stating that materials continue to be available. Critically, they fail to adopt the committee’s crucial recommendation that ESOL’s funding should be restored to 2009-10 levels by 2019-20.
The last recommendation to which I wish to refer is that which applies to the charges for naturalisation. The report quotes the evidence of the Deputy Mayor of London, who averred that half of the £1,200 fee was profit. Astonishingly, even bigger profits are engendered from the fees levied on children registering their entitlement to naturalisation, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Russell. The committee criticises the making of excessive profits out of the naturalisation process and avers that the fee should be much closer to the actual cost of the process and the ensuing citizenship ceremony. While the Government’s response indicates that the fees enable some applicants not to be charged, this seems to be another example of charging in general more for a government service than the actual cost—something we are apparently to see again with the revived proposals for substantial increases in probate fees.
Finally, will the Government enter into discussions with the Local Government Association and the devolved Administrations on the report and the response to it? The issues raised in it and reflected in today’s debate affect communities across the country. National, devolved and local government need to work together in the interests of society as a whole to engage with the important issues it identifies.
My Lords, I thank everybody who has participated in a debate of exceptional quality, touching on some very important issues. I echo what has been said about the excellent work of what is clearly a turbocharged committee, so well led by my noble friend Lord Hodgson. I thank others for their thanks around the House: it was clearly an exemplary committee in the work that has been done. I also offer my thanks, in opening, for the massive amount of work that has been done by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, on the National Citizen Service: he is coming to the end of a very distinguished tenure there. I also offer congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, on taking up work at the National Citizen Service Trust, the successor body.
It struck me, listening to the debate, that one of the problems—for the large part understated—that we have in this area, a problem that has bedevilled successive Governments, is the silo thinking that we have in government departments. This contributes to a sense that there is no obvious responsibility for the conglomeration of policy areas that this involves. I note the recommendation made by the committee, a recommendation that has been picked up and is being acted on by the safe and integrated communities committee, which will take up responsibility in this area—indeed, it has just done so at its most recent meeting. I hope that that will help with some of the very serious issues that have been touched upon in this debate.
In preparing for this debate, because of what I just said about silo areas, I prepared a lot of varied areas and I will set out four or five of them that I think dominated the debate. They are values, citizenship education, citizenship itself and the fees that attach to it, and English language teaching. Other points were made along the way but I think that those were the dominant ones and I will try to deal with them. In so far as I miss any points relating to those four areas, or anything else that was brought up—for example, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised the issue of honours, and I will try to cover that as I go along—I will pick them up later, if I may.
The issue of values is obviously fundamental to the matter of citizenship of our country. Let me say, in parenthesis, that there was perhaps a misconception on the part of some noble Lords: we have not yet issued our response to the Green Paper on integration. The integration action plan will come out before Christmas. Obviously, some matters that were raised in the course of this debate will be dealt with there, not least on the subject of values. I remember when the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a debate that he led some two years ago, used the term “British values”—I do not think he necessarily used the word “fundamental”, I cannot remember that. Those British values could be classified as core values or international values and they encompass a whole range of different aspects, I readily accept.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, in talking about Gareth Southgate, mentioned an emotional intelligence that is relevant here. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, talked about international values. The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, in what I thought was an extremely helpful contribution, talked about the independence of the judiciary. I could not agree with him more about how fundamental that is as part of the separation of powers in this country. A country that does not have a free judiciary—we can all think of some—ceases to operate as an effective democracy in the way that Britain does. In those haunting words:
“The whisper wakes, the shudder plays/Across the reeds at Runnymede”
whenever the independence of that judiciary is challenged.
Other people raised other aspects. My noble friend Lady Stowell talked about the importance of individuals, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, who said that it was not just about setting public policy. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, talked about civic duty and the neighbourhood planning policy as an example of that. I agree. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, talked about the outward-looking importance of this area. My noble friend Lady Eaton talked about integration rather than assimilation. All these things are relevant and I wholly accept that the use of language is key. That will be reflected in our action plan when it comes out before Christmas.
The second aspect of the debate was the importance of citizenship education and the citizen service—the two melding together to some extent. I wholly agree. I think a country that neglects the importance of citizenship is in grave danger. I particularly appreciated the points made by two very distinguished former Education Secretaries—the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris—which went to the core of this. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, talked about the National Citizen Service as a backdrop to how important it is that everybody has that sense of belonging. I forget who it was—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord McNicol—who mentioned that important sense of belonging as a nation. I think it goes to the heart of that.
Much is happening in the National Citizen Service to illustrate the importance of this. On Armistice Day—the commemoration of 100 years since the end of the First World War, just a week ago—it was great to see the 100 National Citizen Service graduates who were there as volunteers. There is no better example of how effective this is as part of our cohesion as a society. Last year, a significant number of volunteers went overseas to mark the centenary of the Third Battle of Ypres.
My noble friend Lord Norton asked some specific, detailed—and fair—questions about citizenship education, which I will write to him about. It was perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Alton—it might not have been—who said that no man is an island, in his very moving speech, and how important that is. My noble friend Lady Eaton talked about civics being taught at school. I do not think I was actually taught civics but it was much the same thing. I remember as a nerdy teenager memorising all the Labour Ministers—in and out of the Cabinet—and the Conservative shadows, which enabled me to be part of the winning team at the Braintree Carnival quiz. It is funny how these things stick. I seem to remember that Tom Urwin was one of those Ministers—that has been corroborated by my noble friend Lord Young. That is a small example but it illustrates how cohesive communities are around this shared interest in citizenship.
Much is happening. Just recently the King’s Leadership Academy in Warrington has done significant things on citizenship education. But I accept that it all needs to be pulled together. That is what we need to look at and perhaps what this committee should turn its attention to now that it has this responsibility.
The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, talked about the importance of moving this forward. In two days’ time, my honourable friend Victoria Atkins, the Equalities Minister, will launch a resource pack in relation to citizenship on the suffrage movement as part of national curriculum key stages 3 and 4. As I say, things are happening, but perhaps they need to be pulled together.
The issue of citizenship fees was brought up. I will have to write to people about the specifics on where there are exemptions. There certainly are some; I know that some exemptions arose recently in relation to the Windrush issues, to see where payments have to be made and where they do not. I merely say that a balance has to be struck. I think it is reasonable enough to cover costs, and it may be that these could be calculated in different ways, but I take seriously some of the points raised in the debate. If people could bear with me, I will follow those up because it seems that there is an issue to be addressed there.
Perhaps I may move to the fourth substantive area: English language tuition. I am visiting an ESOL class tomorrow in Tower Hamlets. It is a coincidence, believe me; this has been long in the diary. Those I have seen elsewhere—in Bradford, Peterborough, Whitechapel and Westminster, at least—have been uniformly excellent. There was some criticism of them, perhaps a blanket criticism from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, who was uncharacteristically somewhat unfair. We are at pains to make sure that we are getting the best value for money. It is done without fear or favour between public and private providers. Those that we use, and we use many from both areas, are extremely good. I am sure that the noble Lord would agree that getting the best value for money is the right way. I have worked on this with, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, who has some expertise in this area. Points were raised about the importance of this by my noble friend Lady Eaton and the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson and Lord Alton. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, again made a powerful contribution on that matter.
A number of noble Lords made the point that one of our key recommendations was that the Government should restore the level of funding for ESOL to its original level, otherwise it is just warm words. Can the Minister perhaps address that recommendation?
That is not the only pot used in relation to English-language funding. In my own department, for example, as part of the integration policy we are putting in substantial sums in relation to the teaching of the English language and working with the Department for Education. If I may, I will write to the noble Baroness with more detail but I simply say that it is not just about the one pot. It is about working together to ensure that we get the best value for money.
I turn to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, about honours for volunteering. I think he was tying that to some reduction in the fee for further or higher education. His essential point was that volunteers would get credits which they could then use for some abatement of fees, or something of that nature. On the surface, it seems a very constructive suggestion which I would like to look at. At the moment, as he would know, we reward—if reward is the right word—or honour people through the “Points of Light” programme for outstanding volunteering, which has an award every day. However, I appreciate his point in tying that to education and I will come back to him on that, if I may.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised a point about the voting age. He will perhaps know from the nature of the committee’s recommendation that the view he holds is not universal. But certainly some people hold it and, regardless of where the voting age should be, I think we would all agree that it is desirable to encourage democratic participation even before people are voting. A fair point was made there.
I think those were the main points. I fully accept that there are some issues to be looked at. As I say, this is work in progress so I would not want people to think that the Government regard it as a done deal. I am certainly not complacent. I fully accept that there is much work to be done—a substantial amount.
Before my noble friend finishes, I may have missed something but could he tell us what the Government are going to do as a result of this committee’s report that is different from what they did before?
The first thing we are doing is pulling it together to have ultimate responsibility resting with a designated committee. As a result, my noble friend can expect more to happen. I pointed out that I regarded silo thinking as one of the very serious issues that we seek to address along with the fact that each government department may be left to get on with it on its own, rather than coming together in a concerted way. I hope that that will make a substantial difference. I am not claiming that it will happen overnight or that my noble friend will see a change by the end of the year, for example, but it is only just now that the committee has taken over responsibility for this area. Now that that is happening and it is jointly chaired by the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, which will give it some heft, I hope that it will make a difference. I urge noble Lords to be a little patient but to come back on the basis of the undertaking that I have given today at the Dispatch Box. I once again thank noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lord Hodgson, for an outstanding report.
My Lords, the hour is late, so if I skitter over the subject, I hope the House will forgive me. I thank the Minister for his thorough reply and for his commitment and hard work. I am not flattering him when I say that his appearance before our committee—his evidence session— was a master of its kind and compared exceptionally favourably with his colleagues from the House of Commons who were altogether different and did not really read the mood of the committee.
In my opening remarks I anticipated differences of light and shade and emphasis in the contributions and, indeed, I was not disappointed. After all, civic engagement is nothing if not multifaceted. I was going to say “one size fits all” but I thought the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, would accuse me of using another hackneyed phrase, so I will stick to “multifaceted” this evening.
There are four issues around which things revolve. The first is a wish to belong. Where do I fit in? We need to address this, as the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Wallace, said. In so far as language is a barrier, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, covered it. The second is a wish to participate. People wish to get more involved in the way our society operates. That can be formally through the National Citizen Service, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, or informally as the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, pointed out. Quite ordinary people, such as shopkeepers and so on, can help set the tone and create an environment in which things happen. The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, referred to his experience and how it does not take many people. Indeed the committee found this. When we went on our trip to Clacton, we saw quite small groups of people who had made a real difference.
\The third issue is learning about our rights and responsibilities, not forgetting the moral dimension to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, referred in his important remarks. Here my noble friend took a good deal of incoming from almost every corner of the House—from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, my noble friends Lord Norton and Lady Eaton, and the noble Lord, Lord Beecham—so I hope we will see some progress on that front. I do not forget the important distinction drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, between education and training, which one can tend to overlook.
Finally, but by no means least, there is the need to measure progress and effectiveness. This was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. That is probably a good point on which to close by thanking everyone who participated and warning the Minister that we shall be watching him.
House adjourned at 9.53 pm.