The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I regret that I have to inform the House of the death yesterday of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry. On behalf of the whole House, I extend our condolences to the noble and learned Lord's family and friends.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): My Lords, hate crime, including that targeting a person's perceived disability, is an issue that the Government take very seriously. That is why the coalition's programme for government included a commitment to improve the recording of such crimes. We are also working with the police and others to increase the reporting of hate crimes against disabled people and on ways of identifying repeat victims more quickly.
Lord Rix: I thank the Minister for that response, which follows what Paul Burstow, the Minister for Care Services, told us last week at the launch of the Mencap initiative with regard to hate crime. But is she aware that, ever since the Welfare Reform Bill was tabled, certain inflammatory reports have appeared in a number of media alleging that people on disability benefits are scroungers and layabouts? Does she agree that such inflammatory language can lead only to more disability hate crime? What can the Government do to ameliorate this matter?
Baroness Browning: My Lords, the noble Lord, whose record in this area, particularly his long and distinguished association with Mencap, is respected throughout the House, raises an important point. Grouping people with disabilities together in a generic way is of itself a problem. Beyond that, it is important that as a society we start to recognise disabilities right across the spectrum, particularly those that the noble Lord has been such a good advocate for-those relating to learning difficulties and communication disorders where often the disability itself is not evident on first sight or first meeting. The noble Lord will know that I have taken a close interest in autism for the past 40 years and I have often described the disability as an
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1510
Lord Peston: My Lords, I agree very much with what the noble Baroness has just said. One of the overwhelming problems among people who ought to know a great deal better, including many members of the medical profession, is that they accept that someone like me who has a damaged leg is not faking it, but think that someone who has a disability of a psychological origin is making it up. That is something that the Government must take a lead on. I am delighted to hear that that is precisely the noble Baroness's position.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. One of the difficulties that we often face is with professionals who have only a passing interest. He particularly mentioned the medical profession. I do not want to generalise, because some very good work is done by the medical profession, but you cannot expect the medical profession to be experts in everything. There are important factors to remember when they come into contact with people, particularly those in the group mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, whom the Mencap report focused on. Learning disability is defined as people who have an IQ of under 70. Some of those on the autistic spectrum have very high IQs and yet their disability is still there. It is important that when people are referred to so-called professionals, whether in the medical profession or elsewhere, for some sort of assessment, the person seeing them either has the expertise to make a proper assessment or has the good grace to refer them to someone who has.
Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, vis-à-vis the reference to the medical profession, does my noble friend agree that politicians are not exactly paragons of virtue in this field? In another place an MP with cerebral palsy was ridiculed for his speech.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, my noble friend hits on something very important and we should make hate crime against people who are disabled a priority. What is sometimes euphemistically referred to as anti-social behaviour or low-level crime has a cumulative effect, as we saw particularly in the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington. Also, when people commit hate actions, whether they are verbal or physical, that is criminal; it is not low level, it is not just an anti-social euphemism, it is criminal and should be treated as such.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, in October last year three men who tortured a young man with Asperger's syndrome were prosecuted for actual bodily harm. Over a three-day period they kicked and stamped on his head, repeatedly beat his chest, smacked him with a tennis racquet, threw him down an embankment, pelted him with dog faeces, rubbed his limbs with sandpaper and then forced him to drink so much vodka and gin that he passed out. Their sentence was 80 hours of community service. The National Autistic Society thinks that was an extremely lenient sentence. I agree. Would the Minister therefore be prepared to facilitate a meeting between the Justice Secretary, the National Autistic Society, myself and others so we can go into this matter?
Baroness Hollins: My Lords, my son was a victim of hate crime 10 years ago and with my advocacy and support he was able to give evidence in court and the people who mugged him received significant jail sentences. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that court staff are being adequately trained in disability matters so that people with disabilities subject to disability hate crime get a proper hearing and that people with learning difficulties are involved in that training?
Baroness Browning: My Lords, the noble Baroness, whose case I am aware of, raises a very important point. Training across the police, the Courts Service and others was an integral part of the Mencap report. I asked to see the latest document, which I have here, which allows people with learning disabilities to record, with the help of others, the facts of the case. One of the difficulties in bringing cases to court and getting a conviction is that, by definition, these people are not very good witnesses and they need support and help to be able to explain what has happened to them and to bring forward sufficient evidence to bring the case to court. I can assure the noble Baroness that we are doing all we can to ensure that training takes place and that victims and their carers-very often they are the key persons to help support them through this-are given the support that they deserve and that the police and all those involved in the Courts Service recognise the way that they have to treat people to bring a case to court and to take it through the court. I am happy to say that there are many police forces now which are taking that forward and doing some very good work.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, first, I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Craftsman Andrew Found of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, serving with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys), and Corporal Lloyd Newell of the Parachute Regiment, who were both killed on operations in Afghanistan on Thursday 16 June. My thoughts are also with the wounded, and I pay tribute to the courage and fortitude with which they face their rehabilitation.
The Government are fully committed to providing our Armed Forces with the resources needed to carry out operations, as has been demonstrated in Afghanistan and more recently in Libya. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear, the additional costs of operations in Libya will be fully met from the Government's special reserve.
Lord Empey: I thank the Minister for his reply and, once again, the sobering reality of what our forces are facing. However, while fully understanding the difficult financial legacy which this Government have inherited, I believe there is a growing unease in this House, in the forces and in the country that the armed services are being asked to undertake more difficult and dangerous missions at the same time as their resources are being cut. How do the Government propose to reconcile these conflicting realities?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, dealing with the economic legacy that we inherited has required us to reduce the size of the Armed Forces and cut or gap a number of low-priority capabilities. However, the SDSR states explicitly the need for an adaptable posture to defend our interests in the world. As a result, we have structured and resourced our forces to give us flexibility to conduct operations.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, we on this side also wish to extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of Craftsman Andrew Found and Corporal Lloyd Newell, who have both been killed recently in operations in Afghanistan. We also join the Minister in paying tribute to the courage and fortitude of the wounded.
The Foreign Secretary has said that the Arab spring is a more important event than 9/11. The national security strategy, published last year, does not mention Libya or, indeed, Egypt and Tunisia. Should the Government not be looking again at the strategic defence and security review in the light of that to make sure that we have a review that has been updated to reflect what is now happening and the impact this has on our resources and capabilities to enable us to sustain our current commitments, including over Libya?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the SDSR was a thorough assessment of the threats we face. Its conclusion, that we need an adaptable posture with flexible forces, has been validated by recent events, and it will ensure we can continue to conduct operations today while preparing our future force. Those who argue for a fundamental reassessment of the SDSR are really arguing for increased defence spending, but they fail to spell out the inevitable result: more borrowing, more tax rises or more cuts elsewhere.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, from these Benches I join the Minister in his tributes to those who have fallen. Perhaps I could also draw his attention to the fact that this month, the Prime Minister said that the military covenant will be made law. The covenant, as your Lordships know, is the state's duty of care to its Armed Forces and will have legal force in the Armed Forces Bill. Will my noble friend the Minister
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1513
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, as reluctant as all Ministers are to make reductions, we are tackling the issues that the Labour Party refused to face up to and getting the defence budget on to a stable footing. Without healthy finances we can create neither the public services nor the national security that we desire. We must recognise that our options are constrained by the need to reduce public expenditure across the board.
Lord Reid of Cardowan: My Lords, I join the Minister in his tributes to the fallen and the wounded. Some three months ago, in the first week of the no-fly zone over Libya, I asked the noble Lord the Leader of the House whether the Government had both the resolve and the resources to maintain the zone as long as was necessary, especially in light of the fact that in Iraq the no-fly zones had lasted some 12 years. Obviously it is important that Gaddafi understands that we have such resolve and resource but, in view of some of the comments that have been attributed recently to some people in the military, would the Minister like to take the opportunity today to assure the House once again that not only the resolve but the resources to maintain that no-fly zone as long as possible are and will be made available?
Lord Boyce: My Lords, further to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Reid, I am sure that the Ministry of Defence can sustain the task in Libya as long as possible. Will the Minister say what other, higher-priority tasks will have to be given up in order for that to be sustained?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the Government will continue to provide sufficient resources to achieve operational success in Afghanistan and elsewhere as long as we are in Libya. We are quite clear that we can manage what we are being asked to do in Afghanistan and what we are doing in Libya at the same time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, the 2011 round for clinical excellence awards is currently proceeding, with the rules unchanged. No decisions have been taken about the 2012 round. The Doctors'
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1514
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that there has been some ill informed comment in the public press suggesting that these awards are bonuses? They are not. They are a fundamental part of the salary structure of senior clinical academics and consultants. They were introduced as distinction awards by Aneurin Bevan at the inception of the National Health Service in order to persuade distinguished consultants and academics to give their services to it. If it were to be suggested that these awards would be abandoned, as has been thought in certain quarters, would the Minister agree that that would sound the death-knell for clinical academic medicine and high-quality clinical practice teaching and research in the NHS?
Earl Howe: My Lords, in building the NHS that we all want for the future, we need to continue to recognise and reward those individuals who give outstanding patient care and who contribute in a notable way to clinical academic excellence. At the same time, we need to ensure that the system in place to do that is effective, affordable and in line with other public sector reform. It is those questions that the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body is considering at the moment.
Lord Ribeiro: Does the Minister agree with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences and others that clinical excellence awards make an important contribution to the quality and excellence of care in the National Health Service? How will the replacement of these awards by one-off non-pensionable awards, like the proposed surgeon of the year prize, improve standards?
Earl Howe: My Lords, as I have just said, we believe that financial rewards, in the form of clinical excellence awards, should remain. It is just a question of how that system is designed. We have not said that non-financial recognition should take the place of financial awards. They would operate alongside financial awards; they would not in any way supplant them. However, we think that there is a role for perhaps more imaginative thinking in areas like speciality-based awards or departmental or division-based awards, for example, or indeed ad hoc recognition for outstanding clinical leadership. The DDRB is looking at these questions too.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I commend the noble Lords, Lord Walton and Lord Ribeiro, on doing a really admirable job as the shop stewards for distinguished clinicians-and quite right, too-but I would point out that innovation and excellence cuts across all NHS staff, including nurses, midwives and therapists, who often introduce wonderful innovation at their level. Could the Minister tell us what incentives are in place in the system that recognises that excellence as well?
Earl Howe: The noble Baroness is absolutely right. We do need to incentivise all staff, both clinical and non-clinical in the NHS, to innovate. We can do that
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1515
Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, can I encourage my noble friend, when he considers the 2012 awards, to talk to his colleagues about introducing some more transparency into the awards? Part of the difficulty referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Walton, is that no one knows who, or why, or how much. Transparency would be a strengthening as well as a salutary experience for many in the health service.
Earl Howe: I agree with my noble friend. We have identified a number of anomalous features in the current scheme which need to be looked at. He is absolutely right to point out that the current scheme is far from transparent. It enables rewards to continue that are based on historic performance rather than anything more up to date.
Baroness Jolly: My Lords, clinical excellence is important at community level as well. Would the Minister tell the House whether any restrictions will be placed on the commissioning groups concerning the payment of rewards to their members?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the pay structure for clinical commissioning groups is a separate issue from clinical excellence awards, which apply only to those holding a consultant's contract in the NHS. To the extent that anyone holds a consultant's contract in any of the clinical commissioning groups, they will be subject to whatever new scheme the DDRB recommends and the Government accept.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: Would my noble friend accept that one of the real challenges is to make sure that people who are working in clinical practice have the opportunity to engage in research? Research salaries are significantly lower than clinicians' salaries. What is the Minister doing to try to ensure that there is a seamless progression between research and clinical practice and between clinical practice and research?
Earl Howe: My Lords, those who hold honorary contracts, who are in general clinical academics, are well represented among those who are awarded clinical excellence awards. We are absolutely clear that that should continue as long as possible. We must incentivise those who do not spend the bulk of their day engaged in treating patients so that we ensure that we have a bank of academic excellence driving forward innovation in the NHS.
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, what role do Her Majesty's Government see for the academic health science centres in promoting clinical excellence? In asking the question I remind the House of my interest as a director of the UCL Partners academic health science centre at University College London.
Earl Howe: I believe that, on current showing, the academic health science centres have pointed the way to how clinical academic leadership can promote excellence both in patient care and in translational research. We are encouraged by everything that the AHSCs are doing. We will formally review them in due course, but I am absolutely onside with the noble Lord in wishing to see the progress that they have made rolled out more generally in the NHS.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, the Government take the well-being of young people seriously. Personal, social, health and economic education encompasses personal well-being, covering such matters as physical and mental health, parenting and developing positive relationships; and economic well-being, which includes the world of work, enterprise and personal finance. Good schools take care of their pupils' well-being because they understand its importance for educational attainment as well as for preparing them for life after school. A review of PSHE is due to start shortly.
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. However, given increasing evidence that a broad education in well-being and life skills plays an important part in helping children to thrive and in improving their academic performance, will he take steps to encourage an expanded PSHE curriculum, with more time allotted to it, including skills in community involvement, citizenship and financial responsibility, and will he reinstate and promote the inspection by Ofsted of schools' performance in this area?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, as I said in my initial Answer, we are carrying out a review of PSHE alongside the national curriculum review. That review will look at how we can identify the knowledge and awareness that all young people should acquire, and consider what is needed to support schools in providing high-quality teaching. The current PSHE curriculum includes financial literacy. As my noble friend will know, the important subject of citizenship is separate and part of the national curriculum; therefore, it is being looked at as part of the national curriculum review. PSHE is examined through Ofsted's programme of subject surveys, with a detailed report published every three years. The planned changes to routine school inspection, where we are concentrating on a smaller number of core subjects for Ofsted to look at, will provide opportunities to pick up aspects of pupils' well-being in those core areas, as well as to consider their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: What are the precise criteria for inspecting well-being in schools? It cannot be just a catch-all phrase; it must be more specific. Will communities, including parents, be involved in any feedback to the inspectors on the success of the plans?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I think that in an Ofsted inspection it would be a matter of course for parents to have an opportunity to make their views known. However, I will check the point and, if I am wrong, come back to the noble Baroness. I shall also look specifically at her point on the terms of reference. By asking Ofsted to concentrate on four key areas, quite broadly drawn, we are providing it with an opportunity to look into these important matters. I very much agree with the noble Baroness on the importance of PSHE, and how it can help prepare children in a whole range of different ways.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, does the Minister accept that although it is not a matter of either/or, in the matter of curriculum design, the fundamental contribution that a school can make to the well-being of pupils is numeracy and literacy?
Lord Hill of Oareford: As the noble Lord might expect, I share that view very strongly. He put it extremely well by saying that it is not an either/or. There are clearly important lessons that children can learn from PSHE but, as we know from all the evidence, if they do not have the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, they will have little chance of well-being. Failure to master those skills, sadly, leads disproportionately to economic failure, to prison and to a whole range of other forms of disengagement. I therefore agree very strongly with the noble Lord.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with me that well-being ought to be a matter for the schools curriculum, not the national curriculum? Does he also agree, in that case, that it is very important that Ofsted tells parents what is being taught, and how well?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I agree with my noble friend's underlying point that, in looking at all these issues, it is extremely important that we leave scope for individual schools to exercise their judgment on the best way of teaching the children in their care. There are elements of PSHE that are part of the national curriculum, but more generally I agree with my noble friend's point that we do not want to prescribe everything from the centre and do want to leave as much discretion to individual schools as possible.
Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, although the House will welcome any steps to raise the standard of education in our schools, can the Department for Education be reminded that it is educating tomorrow's multiracial society-common standards, common values, but different history?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I consider myself reminded, and I very much agree with the point that underlies that. We want to have an education system that caters for all children. To go back to the earlier point, one of
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1518
(2) how best to strike the balance between privacy and freedom of expression, in particular how best to determine whether there is a public interest in material concerning people's private and family life;
(3) issues relating to the enforcement of anonymity injunctions and super-injunctions, including the internet, cross-border jurisdiction within the United Kingdom, parliamentary privilege and the rule of law; and
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, under the terms of reference which the Leader of the House has suggested in the paper before us, will the committee take into consideration the matters of entrapment and false representation?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, perhaps I may also ask my noble friend how this committee is to be chosen and, particularly in view of this afternoon's debate, what opportunities will be made available for Back-Benchers who wish to be members of this committee to put themselves forward?
Lord Strathclyde:My Lords, on the questionfrom the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, the terms of reference are wide and varied. I suggest that the best way for him to make his views known is to write to the chairman with his submission once the committee has been set up. As for my noble friend's question, the members of the Joint Committee will be chosen in the normal way. The matter will then, of course, be brought to the House, where every name will have to be agreed.
Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 and 3, Schedule 2, Clause 4, Schedule 3, Clause 5, Schedule 4, Clauses 6 to 27, Schedule 5, Clauses 28 and 29, Schedule 6, Clauses 30 to 32, Schedule 7, Clauses 33 to 40, Schedule 8, Clauses 41 to 58, Schedule 9, Clauses 59 to 77, Schedule 10, Clauses 78 to 90, Schedule 11, Clause 91, Schedule 12, Clause 92, Schedule 13, Clauses 93 to 97, Schedule 14, Clauses 98 to 100, Schedule 15, Clause 101, Schedule 16, Clauses 102 to 153, Schedule 17, Clauses 154 to 160.
As noble Lords will be aware, this report arises out of the report of the Leader's Group on Members leaving the House, which was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral. The group's report was published in January, an interim report having previously been debated on 16 November 2010. I am delighted to see the noble Lord in his place, and I understand that he may speak later and respond to any points of substance that are made by noble Lords. I shall not comment on the substance of the report, although I will of course do my best to answer any outstanding questions at the end of the debate. On the same day as the group's report appeared, 13 January, the noble Lord the Leader of the House published a Written Statement indicating that he would ask the Procedure Committee to bring forward proposals to implement the Leader's Group recommendations. This is what we have done.
The most important parts of our report are Appendices 1 and 3. Appendix 1 proposes text for inclusion in the next edition of the Companion to the Standing Orders describing a revised leave of absence scheme and the new voluntary retirement scheme. Appendix 3 proposes amendments to Standing Order 22, which governs the leave of absence scheme.
Before concluding, I draw the House's attention to one aspect of the committee's report that is not found in the Leader's Group report. It is our recommendation that the Procedure Committee should appoint a leave of absence sub-committee to advise the Clerk of the Parliaments on the operation of the leave of absence scheme. The sub-committee, chaired by the Chairman of Committees, will be made up of the Chief Whips and the Convenor of the Cross Benches. It will help to ensure that the new strengthened rules on leave of absence are applied sensibly and fairly. It could, for instance, recommend in particular cases that the three months' notice period for terminating leave of absence be abridged in accordance with what will become Standing Order 22.7.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, the report by the Procedure Committee simply demands that leave of absence be pursued more rigorously, which I am sure will be welcomed in the House but is unlikely to make a noticeable contribution to reducing our numbers. However, the committee under the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, set up by the Leader of the House, recommended that,
The committee further argued that a reduction in numbers would result in an overall saving to the taxpayer and that part of that saving should be used to offer a modest pension. It called for this to be investigated in detail, but this has not yet been followed through. Perhaps in reply we could hear whether the House authorities intend to take actuarial advice on this matter, as recommended by that report. Because we are unpaid, it cannot be a pure pension and therefore requires a new statutory provision. The Chairman of Committees may be aware that a Private Member's Bill awaiting Committee provides such statutory authority.
Of course, if he is talking about extra money from the Treasury, he is absolutely right, but I suggest that if it is money from savings of expenditure within the House of Lords budget, contrary to that view redundancy pay is well understood in the country at large and accepted as saving money. The current redundancy lump sum permitted tax free is £30,000, which is less than the annual attendance payments for those who come to this House, say, 75 per cent of the time.
Therefore, I hope that in due course, the Government may come forward with a modest payment proposal of a lump sum of, say, £30,000 to those choosing to retire after, say, 10 years' service or having reached the age of 75, provided that they have had an attendance record of at least 50 per cent in the previous two Sessions. Those in the business world tell me that a modest lump sum of that kind is much more attractive than the financial sum appears. One can imagine Members of your Lordships' House discussing with their spouses
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1521
In any event, that a scheme is needed to get the numbers down is not in doubt. Of course, the Hunt committee was right to suggest that if that were pursued, Members who chose to retire should enjoy the same use of House facilities as former hereditary Peers do. I hope that this matter will be pursued as recommended by the Hunt committee and not simply neglected and brushed aside by this report, which we nevertheless welcome.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I was a member of the Leader's Group, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, to whom I pay tribute for his leadership of the group. He led it with great distinction and I very much support the conclusions of the group and the recommendations of the Chairman of Committees' Procedure Committee report before the House today. I also welcome the initial and positive response of the Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when the report was first published. We on this side certainly support the Motion before the House.
I shall follow the noble Lord, Lord Steel, but in rather a different vein. The note in the report to the House says that the Procedure Committee has not considered those elements of the Leader's Group recommendations, such as the provision to override entitlement to a Writ of Summons, the scheme of associate membership and extension of legislation. Nor has the committee considered the financial aspects of any scheme for voluntary retirement, which, if the House agreed to the report, would be a matter for the House Committee. I do not know if the House Committee will consider this report, but I imagine it will need to consider the implications very carefully.
I return to the issue of the potential for primary legislation. I hesitate to return to last week's enjoyable debate on reform of your Lordships' House. I realise that the Chairman of Committees cannot speak for the Government; perhaps we can tempt the noble Lord the Leader of the House to intervene helpfully in this debate. However, I wonder whether the Government have given thought to the potential for primary legislation on the issues to which I have just referred. The Government may take the view that they took last week on the Private Member's Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel: since they have published a draft Bill on substantive reform, they cannot contemplate the noble Lord's Bill. That, in essence, would accept that the Government do not think they will get very far with their own substantive Bill. Having been there myself, I understand the line that the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord McNally, used last week.
However, it is just possible that, at the end of the work of the Joint Committee chaired by my noble friend, the Government might decide to pause on reform. We might not see a substantive Bill before your Lordship's House in the next Session of Parliament. In that case, there must surely come a point where the matters in this report and the items covered by the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, ought to be considered.
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1522
All I should like to do is to invite the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to give some consideration to these matters. It may, in his eyes, be extremely unlikely that the Government will not proceed with a substantive Bill in the next year. However, there will come a point when such sensible interim reforms need to be considered.
Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, we can wring our hands about the House being too large. We may, unintentionally but unfairly, have made newly appointed Peers feel less than welcome, but until now there has been no serious consideration of what might be done. This is, therefore, a much needed report and a step forward. The real difficulties with which the group has had to grapple are very clear, but at least the issue is now being addressed.
The only feasible option is that of voluntary retirement. However, in common with the noble Lords, Lord Steel and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I feel this cannot be achieved in significant numbers in the absence of some form of payment. I recognise that there is a public perception issue here about additional costs. However, we may be looking at a saving. My maths may be somewhat different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, but the outcome is the same. By my reckoning, if a Peer attends even irregularly-on, say, 100 out of 150 days-at the lower daily rate of £150, the cost over a year would amount to something like £15,000, plus travel costs of around £2,000. We are looking at something like £85,000 over five years.
Why would it not be possible to make the saving and offer something between £20,000 and £30,000 in order to promote and encourage Peers to take voluntary retirement-voluntary is a word that might not always be entirely appropriate here? It would be a major incentive for many Peers who have given years of service, some at the expense perhaps of a full professional salary, and would most probably achieve what this excellent report aims to do. However, for this to be effective there must also be a moratorium on appointing new Members and possibly a cap on numbers for the future.
The House is too large. It will be pointed out that many turn up only irregularly, but perception is important. As long as the media continue to talk about a House of well over 800 we will continue to appear ridiculously overstaffed. For this reason those who rarely attend should be asked in no uncertain terms to avail themselves of the retirement option. As I said before in this Chamber, there are a few among the Cross-Benchers who have not shown their faces for something like 10 years, which is ridiculous. I also feel that those who, through infirmity, are unable to attend might welcome the option of a dignified retreat from this House with the offer of some dining rights plus a lump sum. I think that the Cross-Benchers could be reduced by something like 30 Members, which would be very welcome news to those who think that there are too many of us. The truth is that over the past 10 years
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1523
We will have to bite the bullet, grasp the nettle, acknowledge that one cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs. Leaders of each of the groups will have to approach those who attend very rarely, or make no contribution to the work of the House, with a firm proposal to take up the option of retirement, but this can be done only, in fairness, if there is to be some monetary compensation.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, in our response to the draft Bill on House of Lords reform, we on these Benches identified the increasing size of the House as one issue demanding particular attention. I therefore welcome this report and hope that many of its recommendations, especially those on voluntary retirement, will be given swift and serious attention. The proposal for some kind of financial remuneration, which has already been mentioned by noble Lords, especially for those who have given much of their working life in service to this Chamber but have gained no pension provision in return is, I think, a just solution and one that is likely to speed the implementation of what would be a voluntary process. Of course, the details of that, as we have already heard, have many ramifications.
Unlike roughly 96.5 per cent of this House I am already able to retire, although under the present arrangements I have no intention of doing so until 14 April 2022. Retired Lords spiritual have access to the House and its facilities and I hope that, in respect of the provisions, that might provide a model for others. I notice also that the report ventures into areas other than the remit of retirement. I would be grateful if at some stage the Chairman of Committees or the Leader of the House would be able to confirm whether the recommendations of paragraphs 64 and 67, which call for limited-term appointments and restraint to be exercised by parties in creating new appointments, will also be given careful consideration alongside the retirement provisions.
Lord Elton: My Lords, if I may join in at this stage, I want to make the simple observation, which needs to be kept in mind, that if one of those invaluable people who come to the House four times a year contributes words of absolute wisdom and infinite knowledge that others do not have and is given £30,000 not to do so in the future, we would be losing in both directions.
Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just explained why this is actually quite a complicated set of circumstances. However, my question is: whose task would it be were a business case drawn up? Would it be that of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt? His committee, whose report we are debating this afternoon, has discharged its responsibilities well-I have no objections; it is an excellent set of suggestions and we should approve it-but it does not answer the question about a House that might, after 2015, consist of 1,000-plus Members. We cannot ignore that, because it has reputational issues for the House.
It is much easier to do nothing. Some of the suggestions might be unpopular; they might be very difficult to sell to the great British public in a period of austerity. My noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood is absolutely right; if serious and sensitive consideration can be given to it, I am certain that a profoundly robust business case can be made for offering a voluntary redundancy package-with severance pay, emeritus status, visiting rights and all the rest of it-in a way that would be attractive to Members. I am very pleased to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, that there might be as many as 30 such colleagues on the Cross Benches; I am sure that that proportion will be reflected across the whole House.
That would at least demonstrate that we understand the consequences of a House that is overmanned-and it is overmanned, not overpeopled. If we do nothing, we will find that people will start looking at the costs. We have had some very interesting Answers. I do not know whether colleagues have followed the Written Answers that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, obtained on 22 November 2010 about costs incurred on average by a new Member. I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, that the report is not antipathetic to new Members at all, but the cost on average of a new Member is £30,000. That has a certain symmetry with the sum that my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood mentioned as a potential severance package.
We were also told in a Written Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, on the same date that the overall cost of the House of Lords per Member who is not disqualified or on leave of absence is £156,000. All sorts of assumptions, averages and difficulties lie behind those figures, and they are not absolutely robust as they are presented. However, my point is: who is looking into this? Who is doing the arithmetic, the calculus and the sensitive consideration of all the different options that would need to be taken into account before we have a saleable package for the public?
Finally, I have one more figure. The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, did the House a service in our consideration of reform of the House when he did some arithmetic himself, which suggested that a Lords election would cost £433 million over the course of the next Parliament. Without getting into the politics of reform or party politics, I am concerned about the reputation of the House. I know, as chairman of the Information Committee, that the pressure on the services is becoming inexorably higher. Standards will be diluted unless we grasp that nettle.
It is not easy, it will be a hard sell, but I do not see anyone anywhere in the precincts who is doing any of the work that is essential before we can start thinking about it in a constructive way. My question to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the Leader of the House or the Chairman of Committees is: who is being tasked with that work, because it is urgent and we need to start it right now?
Lord Parekh: My Lords, I welcome the report. It is absolutely right to say that there is an anomaly in our membership of your Lordships' House. I cannot think of any institution to which one can belong
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1525
My worry is about the way in which people can be persuaded to take voluntary retirement. I may be being puritanical here, but to talk of payment does not accord with the public mood or with the spirit in which your Lordships' House is run. It has been a privilege for many of us to belong to this place. It has been a privilege over the years to propose amendments, to participate in debates and, we hope, to contribute something to the well-being of this great country. Then to be told that in order to leave you must be paid a certain amount of money is like asking: "What is your price to get out of this place?" I, for one, have no price, because I am not for sale.
I should have thought that if, on leaving, Members of your Lordships' House were to be given access to dining facilities, the Library and research-a great privilege for which people would pay hundreds of thousands of pounds-that privilege would be enough to persuade a person to say, "I am happy to take voluntary retirement". One can also put it in a more public spirited manner. We are 700 plus. It is necessary to reduce the number. There is no other way of reducing the number than either persuading people to take voluntary retirement or bringing in retrospective primary legislation which says that anyone over 75 or anyone who had been here for 10 years should go.
If people were told it is a matter of public service-the same spirit of public service which brought us here and kept us going-that one should take voluntary retirement after having served in your Lordships' House for 10 or 15 years, that should be enough to persuade people. I would rather appeal to moral and public spirit than financial incentives. However, if we decide at some point to bring in financial incentives, I very much hope that we will not call it either a pension or a resettlement payment. Neither of these terms applies to the role that we have played. We have not been paid. We have only been given allowances-and only those who wanted to take allowances did so. To be told that when we leave we will get a pension is not only incoherent with the spirit in which we have been here but would also look very bad indeed outside this great House.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I briefly point out to the Chairman of Committees and the Leader of the House that the root of this problem lies in the coalition agreement, which says that members will be appointed to this place in order to reflect the balance of votes obtained at the general election. If that policy is continued the membership of this House will increase to well over 1,000 and if, at a subsequent election, there is another change of government and they apply the same policy, it would grow exponentially.
I make this point because of something I read in the Times today. My noble friend Lord Ashdown, writing about reform of this place repeated something which he has said in our debates-that the political parties have appointed Members to the House in order to obtain a majority to get their legislation through. That is simply not true. This House has
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1526
To those who argue for some kind of financial incentive to leave this House, I respectfully point out that it is a funny way of trying to get and restore trust in Parliament: to inflate the size of Parliament and then ask the taxpayers to find the money to deal with the consequences.
Lord Tebbit: My noble friend Lord Forsyth is exactly right. If we were to appoint people to the House in proportion to the votes cast at the last general election, on my calculations we should have about 24 UKIP Members and also, interestingly, about 14 Members of the BNP and a few Greens. I am not sure that that would be greeted with universal acclaim. However, it is clear that something has to be done.
I am beginning to think that we need a market solution. Perhaps whoever is working out these matters-somebody must be working them out, after all-should arrive at a conclusion as to how many Members they would like to leave this House. Let us say that the number is 100 in the first tranche. They could the issue a notice to tender for redundancy; the tenders would be issued in reverse order so the lowest tender would be able to achieve redundancy with some small amount of money. It would have the added attraction that we could look at each other's estimates of how much we valued ourselves. I think this would add greatly to the mirth and hilarity not only of this House, but of the nation.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I welcome the report and its limited recommendation. I see it as a positive step forward. I understand the decision to make only changes that do not require primary legislation at this time, but I hope that, as part of the scrutiny of House of Lords reform, or via some other mechanism, further and more far-reaching changes can be made.
I am concerned, especially if we are to remain an unelected Chamber that we respond adequately to the modern expectations people have of us as public servants. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, about redundancy payments and that access to the Library and other facilities is a huge privilege. Because of that, I am disappointed that all Members granted leave of absence and permanent retirement will be treated equally and will continue to benefit from access rights. Attendance and participation in the legislative process is a privilege but it is what we as Peers are appointed to do. To people outside the Chamber, that is our job. Where else can someone decide not to do their job any more but retain the perks associated with it? On access to the Palace and its facilities, it seems wrong to me that those who have not bothered to fulfil their responsibilities to the House will be treated in the same way as those who have served the House well for a long time and have decided to retire for honourable reasons. Will the matter be reviewed again in another forum?
I wholeheartedly support that recommendation, believing that if we are to remain unelected, there must be a clear set of expectations for Peers both in terms of attendance and active engagement, with penalties if a Peer fails to meet those expectations. Will my noble friend say whether the Joint Committee on reform of the House of Lords will consider options such as this?
Lord Cormack: My Lords, I was not going to say anything but I have been slightly provoked into doing so by my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston. It is very dangerous to talk of membership of this House as being a job. It is not a job; it is a calling to public service. It is also very dangerous to talk in terms of attendance as measuring the effectiveness or otherwise of a Member of your Lordships' House. There are so many Members in this place-it was a sub-theme of our debate last week that this was the case-who are here because of what they have achieved outside and because of the knowledge, experience and expertise that they can bring to our proceedings. That is the essence of your Lordships' House.
Noble Lords will know that I do not wish to see significant change in the manner of composition of this House. I, of course, accept that the number of Members is an issue and I welcome the thoughtful and constructive comments of my noble friend Lord Hunt and his committee. Clearly these things have to be examined by all of us. It has to be recognised that at some time each one of us should seek leave of absence. It is not retirement, nor should it be provided with a consolation prize of dining rights and Library access, even though it might, as a courtesy, be good to have that. We have to face up to these issues. We certainly should not be dictated to by arbitrary retirement ages. There are those in the House, far, far, older than I, who make a magnificent contribution to our proceedings, sometimes regularly and sometimes less so, but when they speak the House listens. One has only to cite the example of the remarkable speech last week of the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, to illustrate that fact. This is an issue that must be dealt with extremely carefully and sensitively. Please let none of us be seduced into talking of our presence here as holding a job.
Lord Empey: A few years ago, it was decided in Northern Ireland to reduce the number of councils and to reduce the number of councillors. At that stage, it was advanced that, in order to encourage older members to retire, a financial reward would be worked out on the basis of £1,000 per year of service, or something to that effect. Local government reform was very slow to come about and eventually, about a year ago, it stalled, and that coincided with the financial restraints that we are all facing. The effect of that was that the old councils were re-elected last month, and those councillors who were being encouraged to leave hung on like grim death in the hope that the financial rewards would be forthcoming. My concern is that while the idea that there may be a reward in respect of retirement is out there, who in their right mind, except the most public spirited, is going to come forward?
I have to say to the Chairman of Committees that that issue needs to be resolved immediately because as long as it is possible for people to believe that they will receive a financial reward, there is a high prospect that they will not put their names in the hat. That issue needs resolving immediately otherwise the effect of this discussion will be that nobody will come forward.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, no one will be surprised if I say how important I believe this debate is and how warmly I pay tribute to the Chairman of Committees and to the Procedure Committee for bringing forward the subject on which there has always been extensive debate, but very little decision. I say to my noble friend Lord Elton that I have been enjoying myself reading through back copies of Hansard from the 1950s and found some significant contributions on this very subject from his late father Lord Elton. I commend them because they demonstrate exactly why it is so difficult for us to reach a decision.
First, I must pay tribute to the other members of the group that I had the honour of chairing, in particular to my namesake the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. We have a wonderful life together because he is constantly being upbraided for comments I have made and, if I may say so, so am I for comments that he has made. On this occasion, we came to a unanimous view.
Much of some of the last few speeches was about the financial implications, but all of us on the Leader's Group were united that there must be a rule: not a penny more. The public would not accept it if we were to spend a great deal of taxpayer's money in making sure that people had an incentive to retire. If I may answer some of the questions asked in the debate, the Procedure Committee's report states:
What we have come forward with for the first time ever is a scheme to allow Members of this House to retire with honour and dignity. I want to say a few words about that, but I also want to pay tribute to the other members of the Leader's Group and to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Leader of the House my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, who initiated this whole debate, to the nearly 100 Members of this House who have spent a great deal of time and effort putting forward their views in debate or in correspondence with the Leader's Group and to Mary Ollard who did so much fine work in bringing together all that we decided.
The extensive consultations we undertook demonstrated that there is a broad consensus in this House in support of a provision to enable Members voluntarily to leave on a permanent basis. That was the starting point of the group in seeking a way forward. I say to my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood that we did indeed recommend that the House Committee
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1529
We determined that for a conscientious Member who has played a full part in the proceedings of this House, and indeed in the other place, and who takes his or her commitment to this House seriously, but for whom the practicalities of continued participation might be burdensome, there should surely be an honourable and dignified means of retirement. One noble Lord has given me authority to quote him in this debate. This is not an isolated case but it is one I am able to recite. The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, says, "Please mention me as an example: first elected to the other place in 1951; 36 years in the Lords; now 87 years of age, uncertain health. I wish to retire".
Until now membership of this House has always been a "life sentence", to quote one of those who gave evidence to our group. We have the opportunity today to introduce a much fairer system. Why? A number of Members who are not motivated by financial reasons might well want, because they find it very difficult to continue to attend, to slowly and gracefully-not retreat, as the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza put it-but resign, retire from this House. We have set out various ways in which we believe that tribute could be paid to the individual Member who so wishes by referring to their distinguished service. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, many of those here will know the noble Lord and the tremendous charitable work he has done. It would be marvellous if I were able to e-mail him tomorrow to say that this Motion had been passed and that he will be able to retire in the way that he wishes.
There is very little else to add, except to say that there are some Members who wonder what is the point of doing this, because you need legislation to override the entitlement to a Writ of Summons and there is nothing in the scheme to prevent a Member returning after retirement. If legislation should be possible at some further date-undoubtedly there will be opportunities but experience has shown that not all attempts at legislation reach the statute book-surely we could underpin the scheme by legislation if that makes people feel better. I do not think that is necessary at this stage. To consider this subject worthless because there is no legislation, to say legislation is a prerequisite to action, is a recipe for inaction. The Leader's Group, which I chaired, was of the view that it was not an appropriate response to the desire of the House for a reduction in numbers. The thought of someone coming back after retiring permanently is the product of a fertile imagination. We have built in a two-week consultation period for the Lord Speaker and the leadership of the appropriate
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1530
I say to my noble friend Lord Tebbit, whose contribution extended humour and mirth to new areas that we had not thought of in our Leader's Group-I can well understand what he said-and to my noble friend Lord Forsyth that the magic words "in the interim" appear before the section quoted from the coalition agreement. What we are discussing today is not in the interim; we are introducing for the first time ever a retirement scheme.
It is not necessary for us to say that it will not reduce the House by many because that is not the sole purpose. It may have been one of the considerations that we felt it would add to the numbers who would then retire- and, indeed, would add to the numbers taking leave of absence-but that is not the purpose of today's debate. I say to those who have raised the point that, as with the hereditary Peers-I had the honour to sit on the Offices' Committee that extended this right to hereditary Peers-we want people to continue to have the facilities of the House and a parliamentary pass. This privilege did not result in a flood of people if we go back to the time when the House had more than 1,000 Members prior to 1997-of course it did not-because people treat this place with respect.
I commend these proposals to your Lordships and remind the House that it is being invited to agree changes to the leave of absence scheme, the proposed scheme for voluntary retirement and the amendments to Standing Order 22 set out in Appendices 1 to 3 of the report and for all of them to come into effect. If the House agrees, the scheme for voluntary retirement and the notice period for terminating leave of absence will take effect immediately and, for the first time ever, noble Lords will be able to consider retiring with honour and dignity.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral deserves the gratitude of the whole House for the report that he provided as chairman of the Leader's Group, which has now been turned into a report of the Procedure Committee and has been introduced by the Chairman of Committees.
My noble friend Lord Hunt is entirely correct that, up until now, the only way of leaving the House permanently, if I can put it as indelicately as this, is through death. In recent years, more and more noble Lords have indicated an interest in being able to retire from the House before death. In the course of the past two or three years, my noble friend Lord Steel has championed his Bill, a part of which provides for permanent retirement from this House. My noble friend Lord Hunt has found a way of doing so with honour and dignity and I commend the report to the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, quite rightly raised the question of a legal underpinning for what I hope we will agree today. While it is unlikely in the extreme that any Peer who applied for permanent voluntary retirement from the House would ever wish to come back, given the performance that we will go into, there is at least that possibility. Therefore, if a
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1531
There are one or two other outstanding matters, such as the power to suspend Members of this House, for which we also wish to find a legal underpinning. We are very aware of these issues. They may not have the highest priority, but we should look at them.
The second issue that has been raised is that of a financial contribution for Peers leaving this House. I was entertained by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Empey, who raised the spectacle of numerous Peers waiting for some sort of handout from the taxpayer. He asked for some clarity on this. Let me be utterly clear: there is no prospect of any public money being made available for Peers wishing to retire from the House. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke with great sense when he said that it is a great privilege to be a Member of this House. It is voluntary to attend. A generous but hardly excessive allowance is made available for Peers who come. If you do not come you do not get anything. If you wish to retire, you do not get anything either. That is the way it is going to be. Whatever business cases are made to me or to the Treasury, they will be greeted with a thumbs down. I urge noble Lords who think that their time has come and they are ready to retire to do so quickly and take advantage of this scheme.
My noble friend Lord Elton also raised an important point about Members who attend the House rarely but when they come make an important contribution. They should be much valued Members of this House and should be encouraged not discouraged. I am nervous of the line taken by the noble Baroness the Convenor, although I understand why she took it. She said that some Members of the Cross Benches had not appeared for 10 years. If they have not appeared for 10 years, they should be encouraged perhaps to take up permanent retirement, but they should not be encouraged to stay away by being given a handout from the taxpayer.
A number of other issues were raised that are more properly to do with long-term reform of the House, which we discussed at length last week. The House of Commons is discussing that today. We have another debate to carry on so I will not add any more save to say that I lend my full support to the report and I thank on behalf of the House my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral and his committee for their work.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I think that everything that can be said about this report and a lot not within this report has been said. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, gave a very good summary of it including an example of someone who might well wish to avail themselves of the opportunity for voluntary retirement. The Leader of the House has made the position clear so far as the financial aspects are concerned. Therefore, there is little left for me to say other than that I beg to move.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, this may be a convenient moment to repeat the Statement that has been made in another place by the Prime Minister on the meeting of the European Council, which took place this weekend. The Statement is as follows.
"With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on last week's European Council. The main focus of the Council was rightly on Europe's economy. In advancing Britain's national interest I had two objectives. The first was to ensure that Britain did not have to contribute to any new Greek bailout through the European financial stability mechanism. The second was to support efforts to bring stability to the eurozone and growth to Europe as a whole, while fully protecting Britain's position. Let me take each in turn.
First, on the situation in Greece, as I have always said, Britain is not in the euro, and while I am Prime Minister it never will be, so we should not be involved in the euro area's internal arrangements. Only eurozone countries were involved, alongside the IMF, in the first Greek bailout; only eurozone countries have been involved in discussions about potential further bailouts; so it is absolutely right not to use the EU-wide European financial stability mechanism for future support to Greece. That is what I asked for an assurance about at this Council and that is what I got.
This was not a simple matter. Article 122 of the European treaty is being used to provide aid for eurozone countries that have mismanaged their economies. That was not our choice. It was agreed before this Government took office. We have dealt with it for the future because when the new permanent arrangements-replacing the European financial stability mechanism-come in from 2013, we will not be part of them and Article 122 will no longer be used for eurozone bailouts. That was the deal I secured last December but we still had to deal with the prospect of a bailout under the existing arrangements. Under qualified majority voting this required real negotiating effort. This Government have consistently stood up for the interests of British taxpayers and, as a result, the British taxpayer will avoid a potential liability of billions of pounds.
My second objective was to support efforts to bring stability to the eurozone and to promote growth across Europe. While we are not in the eurozone, we would be badly affected by a disorderly outcome to this crisis. Why? First, banks across the world, including the UK, hold government debt of all eurozone countries, including Greece. Secondly, the effect on other countries far more exposed to these debts would have a knock-on effect on us. As Sir Mervyn King made clear when unveiling last week's financial stability report, the present difficulties in the eurozone are,
It has always been a long-standing principle that the British Government do not comment publicly on market-sensitive issues, and I am not going to depart from that very wise approach. What is important is
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1533
One element of that solution must, in my view, be using the time we now have to ensure banks and banks' balance sheets are strong enough to withstand any problems and difficulties and that there is full transparency across the financial system. In the UK we are stepping up efforts to ensure our own banking system is resilient to risks originating from the eurozone. This needs to be done right across Europe, it needs to be done now and it needs to be done properly. I argued for this very strongly at the Council and that is reflected in the language in the communiqué. As a first step that means the current stress tests being conducted in the banking sector must be conducted properly and transparently, unlike last time, and that Europe must implement in full, rather than water down, the new detailed Basel capital and liquidity standards.
A key way in which we can help all economies in Europe-including the eurozone-is to promote sustainable economic growth. The best stimulus available for European economies is to make sure we are promoting competition, deregulation, supply-side reform, innovation, structural changes and also using the EU to advance the cause of free trade, both via Doha and, where appropriate, through bilateral deals.
Following the proposals that Britain set out at the last Council and which many member states now support, I pressed in particular for concrete steps to reduce the burdens on small businesses and micro-enterprises, vital to promoting innovation, jobs and growth. The Council agreed that,
and that the European Commission would now assess the impact of new regulations on micro-enterprises and identify existing regulations from which micro-businesses should be excluded. This mirrors what we are already doing in Britain and it is absolutely the right thing to do. For too long, Council conclusions have focused only on what member states should do, rather than on what the European Commission needs to do itself.
Let me briefly turn to other issues raised at the Council. There were three of significance: migration; the Arab spring; and the accession of Croatia. First, regarding migration, Britain does not participate in the Schengen border area and we are not going to weaken our border controls. As an island, Britain has an important geographical advantage in preventing uncontrolled immigration. At the same time, practical measures to strengthen the external borders of Europe are in Britain's interests too. However, there was a proposal ahead of the Council to suspend the measures in the Dublin regulation that allow us to return asylum seekers to the first safe country they arrive in. Together with Chancellor Merkel, I made sure that these proposals were rejected and they are not referred to in any way in the Council conclusions. We will not have our border controls compromised in this way.
Regarding the Arab Spring, on Libya the Council agreed a declaration confirming its full support for UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 and the efforts our brave service men and women are
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1534
On Syria, the Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the ongoing repression and the unacceptable and shocking violence of the Syrian regime against its own people. At my instigation, we expressed particular, grave concern about what Syrian troops are doing close to the Turkish border. On the Middle East more generally, the Council called on all parties to engage urgently in negotiations and, on the fifth anniversary of his capture, demanded the immediate release of Gilad Shalit.
Finally, let me turn to Croatia. Earlier this month I met Prime Minister Kosor and welcomed her country's progress towards completing European membership negotiations. At the European Council, we agreed that these negotiations would be concluded at the end of the month. Croatia's success points the way for the rest of the western Balkans, whose aspirations to join the European Union we have always strongly supported.
At this Council, Britain achieved some important objectives. We have protected the interests of the British taxpayer, we have secured agreements to promote and safeguard economic growth and we have protected Britain's borders from uncontrolled migration. I commend this Statement to the House".
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made today in another place by the Prime Minister on the EU Council. I am also grateful for the opportunity of an early sight of the Statement.
On immigration, we support the position set out in the Statement, including on the continuance of the Dublin regulation negotiated by the previous Government. We also support the Government's position on Croatian entry and accession to the EU. However, let me ask the Leader of the House some questions about Libya, Syria, the eurozone and the wider European economic situation.
On Libya, the noble Lord will know that we on this side of the House welcome the Council's continuing commitment to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. We are clear that we must keep up the pressure on Colonel Gaddafi and the Libyan regime, and we of course welcome the issuing of an arrest warrant. Those expressing doubts over the mission should remember that, if we had not taken action, this European Council would have been discussing not the conduct of our campaign but, in all likelihood, our failure to prevent a slaughter in Benghazi.
Yet beyond immediate military and diplomatic developments, experience of past conflicts demonstrates that post-conflict planning is crucial to a successful long-term outcome. Can the Leader take this opportunity to clarify the position on this? The Foreign Secretary told the other place on 7 June that Britain was in the lead on post-conflict planning. Will the Government now explain why it is Britain, not the United Nations, that is fulfilling this role and what progress is being made? Why has the Foreign Secretary said that such planning is only "embryonic" when we are 100 days into the conflict? Further, why have the Government said that they have no Foreign Office or Ministry of Defence civil servants working full time on post-conflict planning in Libya?
In the context of the Arab spring, will the Government now publish the review of the strategic defence and security review that the Prime Minister told the other place at Prime Minister's Question Time last week had been conducted?
How can we continue to step up the pressure on Syria, including at the United Nations? We have consistently said that Britain, as a supporter of Turkish membership of the EU, should be saying to the Turks that the potential refugee crisis on their borders will only grow unless they put more pressure on the Syrian Government. Will the Government update this House on conversations between themselves and the Turkish Government on this issue?
Turning to Greece, we agree that it is right that the primary responsibility for addressing the situation lies within the eurozone. As the noble Lord the Leader will know, the UK made no direct contribution to the previous Greek bailout, agreed on 2 May 2010 under the previous Government. I congratulate this Government for sticking to our approach. Indeed, the Economic Secretary issued her famous 15 July 2010 memorandum on the European bailout mechanism, admitting that the measure in Article 122 had been agreed by cross-party consensus-something that the noble Lord did not mention in repeating the Prime Minister's Statement today. However, the truth is that we have an interest that is far more than the level of our direct contribution, because of the potential exposure of our banks, because we are contributing indirectly through the IMF and because of wider interests in growth and jobs here in Europe. While I understand issues of market sensitivity, will the noble Lord confirm that a full analysis is being done of the impact of any restructuring of Greek debt on UK taxpayer-owned banks?
and that this will never be the answer to a problem. Does the noble Lord the Leader have confidence that the right balance is being struck in demanding a further round of austerity against the need for growth? We must not forget the impact of any restructuring on the people of Greece.
After the European Union Council and the noble Lord's Statement, it remains unclear what that Council and the UK Government regard as the long-term sustainable solution to the Greek crisis. Instead of
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1536
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am grateful for what I think was the broad welcome by the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition for the Statement and for what she said about the Dublin protocol migration, which she rightly understood as being extremely important to the United Kingdom. It remains fully intact and in place and it is right that it should not be meddled with.
The noble Baroness then asked a series of questions on overseas countries, particularly in connection with the Arab spring and the Middle East. I shall try to deal with them but, if I do not tackle them all, I shall write to the noble Baroness and make that letter available in the Library.
Post-conflict planning is extremely important and it is important to get it right, as the Foreign Secretary said to another place on 7 June. The United Nations will no doubt take the lead when we are ready, post-Gaddafi, but we are very much involved in the planning and will continue to be, along with many other countries. We very much hope that there will be no gap between the fall of Colonel Gaddafi and the new regime taking over.
On Syria, the noble Baroness is correct in seeing just how difficult a situation this is. We will continue to work with our international partners in Europe and beyond. We will increase pressure until there is, we hope, an end to the violence. All political prisoners should be released and the Syrian population should be allowed to protest peacefully. We have called on the Syrian Government to engage substantively with the legitimate demands of the protesters. It must be right for the Syrian Government to meet their people's legitimate demands and the violence must stop. The Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the ongoing repression and violence by the Syrian regime against its own citizens and expressed its determination to hold those responsible to account. The EU is applying targeted sanctions to an additional seven individuals and four entities that finance the Syrian regime. The sanctions include three Iranians, in response to clear evidence that Iran is involved in providing equipment and support to help to suppress protests.
The noble Baroness was right to raise the question of the eurozone, which is an extraordinary unfolding story. As I repeated in the Prime Minister's Statement, it would not be right for us to comment on market-sensitive matters. I understand why the noble Baroness argues that the agreement struck on Article 122 was done with cross-party agreement. Equally, she will know why we must agree to differ on that explanation. If we had been the Government at the time and my right honourable friend had been the Chancellor, I am sure that he would not have signed up to it.
There are clear difficulties in the eurozone and it is in our interest that these should be resolved. We are all committed to a growth agenda to help to stimulate our
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1537
Lord Newby: My Lords, with regard to the Prime Minister's objective of supporting efforts to bring stability to the eurozone, the noble Lord the Leader of the House will be aware that over the weekend the Chinese Government made it clear that they are prepared to play a bigger part in supporting the euro and the eurozone. Do the Government support this initiative and did the Prime Minister raise the matter in his discussions with Premier Wen earlier today?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I cannot help my noble friend in his extremely up-to-date question about what the Chinese premier said today to the Prime Minister. The Chinese Government have indicated that they would be willing to support the eurozone, which is very much to be welcomed. The Chinese population has as much of an interest in long-term financial stability in Europe as we have. We very much welcome their interest. I do not wish to overspeculate but I am sure that their help will be extremely useful in stabilising the eurozone.
Lord McFall of Alcluith: My Lords, is there not a need for more honesty in public utterances? Through our membership of the IMF, we are already contributing to the Greece plan. If we are to have the financial stability and growth that the Prime Minister wants, we need to engage positively so that we stabilise Greece and ensure that contagion does not spread to Spain in particular. Is there not a case for us engaging with Germany and other countries that are designated as rich to ensure that the rich countries help the poor to restabilise the euro? We could all then look forward to increased growth and prosperity.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, of course we are engaging in stability and growth. One of the conclusions of the Council was to do many of the things that the United Kingdom has been practising for some time. They include the encouragement of free markets in goods and the single market in services-particularly the digital economy-and new rules and regulations for micro-enterprises, which I know the noble Lord will be most interested in. It is very difficult to see how countries of the eurozone will get themselves out of the state that they are in by continuing to borrow in ever increasing amounts and not tackling the fundamental problem that underlies their economies, which is that they are spending considerably more than they can afford and that the international markets are growing nervous and are increasingly unwilling to lend to them.
Lord Tugendhat: My Lords, while it is clear that we do not have the same obligations as members of the eurozone-nor should we-and while it is also clear that the interests of the British taxpayer need to be defended, does the noble Lord not agree that, since the consequences of things going wrong in the eurozone could be very grave for us, as the Governor of the Bank of England reminded us last week, it would be a great help if we could hear rather more about what the Prime Minister is doing to assist in finding a solution and to safeguard this country's interests in terms of the contingency arrangements being put in place? It is difficult to believe that British interests are maximised by standing on the touchline, which seems to be the principal thrust of the Prime Minister's Statement as repeated in the House by the Leader today.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, my noble friend is entirely right in saying that we are standing on the touchline so far as the problems within the euro are concerned and that we see the countries of the eurozone needing to deal with that internally. However, my noble friend would be wrong if he thought that we had an entirely neutral view on the future of the eurozone as an entity, which we do not. He is quite right in saying that our economic interests and those of the eurozone are extremely closely tied. Something like 40 per cent of our exports go to eurozone countries. We wish to see stability and growth, which is why a large part of the Council was given over to a discussion about growth right across Europe and not uniquely in the eurozone countries.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I cannot help but be struck by the number of negatives in the Statement: the word "not" is in almost every sentence, certainly on the front page. Following up the general assessment made by my noble friend Lady Royall, could the Leader of the House not go so far as to say that we have to be engaged in quite a significant way? The alternative of a collapse of the Greek negotiation is difficult to contemplate with any equanimity. Will the noble Lord go one inch further and say something that is not in the Statement, even though Greece has its own sub-heading, which is that we wish the Greek Prime Minister well and hope very much that he wins his vote tomorrow in Athens?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, if that was the tiny inch that the noble Lord wanted, I can easily give it to him. Of course we wish the Greek Prime Minister well in winning his vote and, indeed, in succeeding in the policy of trying to reduce the budget deficit, bringing long-term benefits to the Greek economy and stabilising the eurozone. These things are in all our interests. I do not wish to give the impression that the British Prime Minister was standoffish in this Council-quite the contrary. That is why key conclusions on fiscal policy, on job creation and burdens on business, on Doha, on the European stability mechanism treaty and on development were all issues that were profoundly debated and, quite rightly, very much supported by the British Prime Minister.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, perhaps I may press the Leader of the House to try to summarise what I think is the ambivalence that Members of the
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1539
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, that really is not an issue for the British Government; it must be an issue for the Greeks, for the European Central Bank and for anybody else who is involved. We want to see a successful and stable eurozone. The European currency union is very substantial and, as I said a few moments ago, it is very important to the British economy, given the amount of our exports that go into the eurozone. While it is in our interest for the eurozone to be a successful monetary union, it is not necessarily in the interest of the British taxpayer to be seen as a lender of last resort. That is the difference that we have made in this Council, which is why we are very glad that Article 122 will no longer be used if there is a bailout.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has said that Article 122 will no longer be used in future for bailing out other countries. Is it not true, however, that Article 122 was used illegally? Indeed, Article 125 of the Lisbon treaty precludes Article 122 or any other article from being used to bail out other countries within the European Union. In that case, the Commission broke the law. Should not the Government in fact be referring that breach of the law to the European Court of Justice to see exactly what went wrong?
Lord Strathclyde: The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, is always first to pick holes in an argument of this kind and, rightly, to see when illegality is going on. We take no particular view on this. We know that some controversial decisions have been taken on the basis of these articles, but we are very glad with the results of this Council and the communiqué, which we believe has come up with the right solution.
Baroness Ford: May I press the noble Lord just one more time on this question of standing on the sidelines? I draw his attention to a report in the Financial Times this morning showing the massive exposure of Lloyds bank to Greek sovereign debt. Is it not the case that we simply do not have the luxury of standing on the sidelines where international capital markets are concerned?
Lord Strathclyde: We have independent regulatory regimes that look into these matters. The exposure of British banks to Greek sovereign bonds is substantial, but it is considerably smaller than the exposure to other European countries.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, it is always my deepest pleasure to defer to the kindness and remarkable wisdom of the independent UKIP former
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1540
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy is obviously a much valued organisation with a tremendous reputation and a long lineage over the past 20 years of explaining democracy to many countries that have come to it in a new way. It is also true about the Arab spring. My noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford has kindly reminded me that it is his view that the Westminster Foundation for Democracy got an increase in its budget this year. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, is vigorously shaking his head, which means that there is a disagreement between them. I admire them both greatly in their respective ways, so I shall make it my business to find out the answer. Whatever the truth, we all know that bodies of this kind have had a bit of a squeeze put on them as an inevitable consequence of the economic considerations that we have. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy is a highly valued body and I shall write to the noble Lord about its funding.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence.
"Last August I asked the noble Lord, Lord Levene, to undertake a fundamental review of the way in which the MoD is structured and managed. Today, I am publishing the independent report led by him. Copies of the report will be placed in the Library of the House. I would like to thank him and all members of his steering group both for this excellent report and for setting us all an example by delivering it early. The group chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Levene, has recommended a radical new approach to the management of defence and I am pleased to say that I agree with it, as do my ministerial colleagues, all the Chiefs of Staff and my Permanent Secretary. We have already taken some of these forward.
No one in this Government was under any illusions about the scale of the challenge we inherited in defence. The report by the noble Lord, Lord Levene, confirms this. We have already introduced changes to budgetary control, reform of procurement, export promotion, SME development and change to our Armed Forces. The SDSR sets a clear direction for policy and will deliver coherent, efficient and cutting-edge Armed Forces fit for the challenges of the future. As a result, Britain will remain in the premier league of military powers. But the vision of SDSR cannot be achieved without tackling the drivers of structural financial instability and the institutional lack of accountability in the way that defence is managed. The report by the noble Lord, Lord Levene, provides the blueprint for the necessary transformation.
Before setting out his recommendations in more detail let me first acknowledge the great strength that resides within our people. They are professional, committed and often frustrated by a system that all too frequently lets them down. Among other things, the report describes a department bedevilled by weak decision-making and poor accountability, where there is insufficient focus on affordability and proper financial management.
The steering group of the noble Lord, Lord Levene, proposes a new, simpler and more cost-effective model for departmental management-with clear allocation of responsibility, authority and accountability-that builds on the strengths of the individual services, and does so within a single defence framework that ensures the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is underpinned by a number of core themes.
First, to date, individuals in defence have been asked to deliver defence outputs, but not given the means with which to do so effectively and efficiently. Authority must be aligned with responsibility. Budget holders should have the levers they need to deliver. They should then be held robustly to account. In the past, the decisions that should have been made centrally have been ducked, and head office and Ministers have delved into tactical. The Defence Reform Unit recommends a strengthened decision-making framework for defence, centred on a new, leaner defence board, based around the Defence Secretary, who chairs and makes the decisions, supported by the Permanent Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff, who will bring to the meeting the views of the single service chiefs. I have already established this new board and chaired the first meeting last week. This new group will offer the kind of decisive and focused strategic direction that has been so lacking in recent years.
Secondly, financial management must be tightened, and a risk-aware and cost-conscious mentality must permeate every level of the MoD. The review recommends a new planning and financial model. Within that framework, we will empower the chiefs to run their individual service. Our single service chiefs are the custodians of their services-the fundamental building blocks of defence. Sadly, they are currently forced to devote far too much of their time trying to influence policy and haggle over funding in London. This is a pointless waste of time and talent.
In the new model, the service chiefs will get clearer direction from the defence board, will do the detailed military capability planning across equipment, manpower and training, and propose how best to deliver that strategic direction. Once that is agreed, they will then be given greater freedom to veer and haul between priorities within their own service to deliver what is needed by defence, and they will be held robustly to account for doing so. Allowing the chiefs to spend more time with their service reduces the requirement for commander-in-chief appointments and these will be phased out as part of a general reduction in senior posts. We will work closely with the Treasury on how to deliver this major change, but I am confident that when properly supported, trained and directed, it is our people at the point of delivery who are best placed to run their business, and not those at the centre.
The report has recommended that we create a new joint forces command. It will also manage and deliver specific joint enabling capabilities and set the framework for other joint enablers within the single services. It would include the Permanent Joint Headquarters and be led by a new 4-star commander. Joint forces command will therefore be an important organisation in its own right, but it is also has symbolic purpose reflecting our view of how conflict will develop and providing a natural home for some of the capabilities of the future, such as cyber, as well as reinforcing joint thinking, joint behaviours and the new joint generation of officers within defence. It offers a new opportunity for career progression right to the top and a challenging and intellectual career for those who otherwise may not have been attracted to defence. It may also be a way for service personnel who are injured on operations and unable to serve on the front line but are still determined to serve their country.
Fourthly, the report rightly challenges us to consider whether we maximise that talent across defence. Be it in promotion, the development of key skills or helping our people choose the right career path, more can and should be done. The report has concluded that we must pursue more vigorously the principle that posts be filled by the right person with the right skills for the right length of time. Buggins's turn must not interfere with the promotion of the right person for the job, nor can we have the musical chairs of the past. The noble Lord, Lord Levene, has therefore recommended that we move to a system where most senior civilian and military individuals stay in post for longer than at present; as a rule for up to five years. This will allow our people to establish themselves in their roles and invest the time they need to make a real difference to defence and be held to account for their performance.
To ensure that we maximise delivery at the front line, the noble Lord, Lord Levene, has recommended that we review all non-front-line posts across defence, beginning at senior and management levels, including an assessment of the most cost-effective balance of regular military, reservists, civil servants and contractors. We are top-heavy and that must end. Most significantly, he recommends that we adopt a new, more joint model
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1543
The report by the noble Lord, Lord Levene, covers far more than I have been able to address here. It is a thorough and compelling analysis that repays close examination. I am confident that when the people within defence review the recommendations they will recognise this work not as a criticism, but as a constructive critique of a department in need of reform and that they will relish the challenges that it presents".
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place by the Secretary of State. I have not yet had time to read as carefully as I would wish the report that has been presented on the structure and management of the Ministry of Defence, but we add our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Levene, and his colleagues for the work they have undertaken. Support for our Armed Forces is vital and acknowledged by us all. They protect our national security and the security of others, and are prepared to put their lives on the line to do so. An effective and efficient Ministry of Defence is a key element of that support.
The Statement addresses reform. Based on the details in the Statement, we welcome the widening of the pool of promotion, making service chiefs more accountable for spending and, in principle, some of the changes in Ministry of Defence structure. We agree with measures to streamline the higher levels of the military.
Clearly, we will need to examine the detail but, from what we know so far, we support the introduction of a joint forces command. There are arguments in favour of the new Defence Board in minimising interservice rivalry. Are the Government of the view that the strategic defence and security review was adversely affected by interservice rivalry and differing interservice objectives?
Some will note that this proposed change involving just the Chief of Defence Staff being on the board, not the three service chiefs, comes just after the Prime Minister was quoted as saying last week, "I'll do the talking, you do the fighting", and wonder whether the Prime Minister's view is now being confirmed in the future structure of the Ministry of Defence.
The report, as we understand it, is not primarily about finding ways to save money or an exercise in how to improve the procurement function; it is a report about the management and structure of the Ministry of Defence. Bearing that in mind, it would be helpful if the Minister could give examples of what recent decision-making processes or activities would have been improved or been more effective had the new structure now proposed been in place, and why. Would it, for example, have led to a better strategic defence and security review, devoid of rushed decisions? Would the new structure have avoided what appears to be a considerable black hole between the declared intent of the strategic defence and security
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1544
How long is it anticipated that it will take to implement the new structure and management arrangements in full? Bearing in mind that we are currently fighting two wars, how will the Government ensure that the attention of those senior personnel involved is not deflected, to the detriment of the actions in which we are engaged, by having to implement a reorganisation?
The change in structure would appear to have an impact on the workload of the Chief of the Defence Staff, as the occupant of that post will be required in future to keep closely in touch with the service chiefs, who will not, as we understand it, be based at the Ministry of Defence. The Chief of the Defence Staff will be responsible for co-ordinating, determining and putting across the views and position of the Armed Forces at the new Defence Board. Is the Minister satisfied that one person can effectively undertake that role, and what level of support staff will the occupant of the post require?
The change in structure indicates a more hands-on role for the Secretary of State for Defence and other Defence Ministers, as the Secretary of State will be chairing the new Defence Board, which will presumably be meeting not infrequently. Does that mean that as a result, any functions currently undertaken by defence Ministers-in particular, the Secretary of State-will no longer be undertaken by them?
The report indicates that increased length of time in office by the most senior personnel would help. It would presumably assist in ensuring consistency of decision-making, as well as greater depth of knowledge of at least recent past events and the reasons for the approaches and decisions adopted and commitments made. It would also mean that some of those responsible for decisions were more likely to have to see them through to fruition and completion. Do the Government intend to act to ensure greater length of tenure in office for senior personnel, including defence Ministers?
The new Defence Board, chaired by the Secretary of State, will apparently be responsible for strategy. Will it also be responsible for ensuring that resources, including financial resources, will be provided over the whole timeframe for the strategy that has been determined? Does that mean that if the money is not there to deliver the agreed strategy, the responsibility rests with politicians, and the Secretary of State in particular, who will be chairing the board?
Do the Government see the changes set out to the structure and management of the Ministry of Defence as increasing or decreasing the involvement of Ministers in defence decisions and strategy? Do they see the changes as increasing or decreasing the involvement of service chiefs in those decisions? Could the Minister also say who, under the new structure, will assess future threats and scenarios? Will it be the Ministry of Defence at, say, the Defence Board, or will it be the National Security Council? We should bear it in mind that last week the Prime Minister referred to the current role of the National Security Council's weekly
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1545
The Minister will accept that no change in structure, roles or responsibilities can achieve anything in itself. At the end of the day, any structure is dependent on the people who have to make it function. Only time will tell if the changes being made in the Ministry of Defence will deliver the objectives the Government have set in the light of the Levene report.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am conscious that the noble Lord fired lots of questions at me. I was not able to keep up with all of them-I do not write quickly enough-but I will write to him about the questions that I am unable to answer here, and I will put a letter in the Library.
The noble Lord started by pointing out he had not had a chance to read this document properly, and I am conscious there is a lot to absorb. If there is interest from noble Lords, I am happy to organise a briefing in two or three weeks' time. The noble Lord, Lord Levene, has undertaken to answer any questions from noble Lords, which I think would be helpful.
The noble Lord pointed out that historically there has been inter-service rivalry. In any large organisation, there will be some friction between different parts of the business, not least over resources. This is exacerbated in difficult financial times, which we are going through at the moment. However, the services have a long and successful record of operation alongside each other on operations and elsewhere-a number of the noble and gallant Lords in the House are witness to that. The proposed model seeks to harness their respective strengths even more effectively.
The noble Lord then asked when the recommendations will be implemented. Work will begin immediately and will proceed at pace. Implementation will be overseen through the defence transformation programme. Some of the recommendations are already being implemented, in particular the introduction of the new infrastructure and corporate services models and the creation of the new smaller Defence Board. However, some of the proposals, such as the introduction of the new model for capability planning and financial management, clearly need to be planned in detail and have key enablers in place.
The noble Lord-I hope I heard him rightly-said that the chiefs will be leaving London. That is not the case; we are not taking the chiefs out of London. We see their primary focus as leading and running their service. The focus of their time and effort will therefore be on their command. However, the report is clear that they have a continuing role within the head office, in particular through the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and will need to maintain office space and a smaller support staff in London. Following the fundamental principle of delegation of responsibility, the chiefs will have to decide for themselves how best to manage their time and location.
The noble Lord asked me whether they are getting less power. They are not being sidelined or downgraded; they remain custodians of and advocates for their service. They are being given increased delegation and empowerment to develop and generate their services to provide the forces' defence needs within the agreed budget. Under the new model they will continue to play an important role in advising on the employment of their service and on the wider management of defence, but their focus will be on the delivery of their service.
The noble Lord asked whether the responsibilities of Ministers are increasing. The answer is definitely yes. The Secretary of State will chair the Defence Board, and there will always be another Minister on it, which was not the case in the past. It has not been decided who that Minister will be-whether it will be the MinAF or a rotation of Ministers-but he will get more responsibility. The National Security Council clearly has overall responsibility, as the noble Lord pointed out, and I confirm that the Secretary of State and the Chief of Defence Staff attend. When the Secretary of State is unable to do so, the duty Minister goes to the National Security Council meetings.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I very much welcome this report, which has been a long time coming. Parallel to the restructuring that is talked about in the report, should we not also look at the financial aspects, particularly the relationship between the Treasury and the MoD? When one is talking about programmes of the length that run in the MoD, there should be some certainty of finance. Should we not move towards a situation in which ideally there is some cross-party agreement on the percentage of GDP spent on defence? Should not the Treasury give some sort of 10-year commitment to funding so that this report can be sensibly implemented parallel to the procurement process?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, my noble friend raises an interesting point about the Treasury agreeing to 10-year funding and cross-party agreement on it. This question is very much above my pay grade and I will let my noble friend know. Clearly a lot of the financing of defence was looked at in the SDSR, and it is vital that the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Levene, and the reforms that we bring in are properly funded.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. Can I focus on the responsibilities that a single service Chief of Staff will have for the funds allocated to him? The Statement talks about his ability to "veer and haul" within that funding. Will all that veering and hauling have to be put to the Treasury bit by bit, or will the Chief of Staff have freedom of manoeuvre, without which he will have no advantage whatever?
Lord Astor of Hever: The noble and gallant Lord makes a very important point. I am very much in listening mode today, but it is my understanding that initially the Treasury is sympathetic and that the chiefs will have a great deal of power on their budget.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, I certainly welcome the Statement, and anything that improves the operational efficiency of the department is to be most welcomed. I well remember when I was a Minister in the department discovering by chance that I had not seen a report meant for my attention. When I asked my officials about it, they were surprised that I knew of it and I subsequently discovered that the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Civil Service were all looking at the report separately rather than collectively, and were going to make separate submissions to me. I thought that that was somewhat inefficient but it was the norm rather than the exception.
What precise steps will the Government put in hand to ensure that the implementation and outcomes of the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Levene, are closely monitored? Without monitoring implementation outcomes, the efficiencies that are being sought will simply not be achieved.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point about the monitoring of implementation. I have quite a lot of briefing on that with which I will not tire the House, but I assure him that we will take that very seriously. We want it to succeed; we will monitor it and watch it very closely.
Lord Bramall: The report on defence reform by the noble Lord, Lord Levene, is yet another chapter in the steady evolutionary process of the higher organisation of defence going back some 47 years to the Mountbatten reorganisation, in which I had some direct involvement. I even recognise some of the same cries and aspirations.
I want to ask two questions, but before I do, having had a chance to read the report and based on consideration experience I must say that I consider it to be a well considered, logical, sensible and helpful report that will give very good guidance for the future, although whether it will achieve the aim, to which I heartily subscribe, of making the Ministry of Defence a smaller action headquarters capable of delivering effectively, economically and on time what is required to support and sustain the national strategy that has been agreed by the National Security Council will, as has already been said, depend on the attitudes and actions, to say nothing of the calibre, of those who have to implement the reform.
My first question is: does the Minister agree that if the CDS alone is to represent the overall military view at the Defence Board with sufficient strength, substance, urgency and authority to ensure that operational policy and what is practicable and realistic in combat do not get out of step, he requires the manifest support and ready advice of the heads of those services who have the responsibility of carrying out that policy? The Chiefs of Staff in committee with, where necessary, direct access to the Secretary of State and, indeed, to the Prime Minister during operations still have an important part to play. Otherwise, the operational and
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1548
Secondly, although the head of each service is still called a chief of staff, because he is responsible to the Secretary of State and has now gratifyingly been given more power and flexibility to run his own service, will we not be asking too much of one man if he is to be expected to combine his overall policy functions in that respect with the day-to-day geographically extensive command and administrative responsibilities of a commander-in-chief?
Lord Shutt of Greetland: I think the Minister has got the message and has the answers for the noble and gallant Lord. We have to give other noble Lords the opportunity to come in in the remaining 14 minutes. It is only fair to other noble Lords.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for his support. I agree with him that it is an excellent report, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Levene, my noble friend Lady Noakes and the rest of the team who did this excellent work.
The noble and gallant Lord asked whether I agree that the CDS alone represents the overall military view at the board. While the CDS will be the sole military representative on the new Defence Board, the advice of the single service chiefs will continue to inform the successful decision-making of the department. Their prime role will be running their services, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee will sit in a new Armed Forces mode to allow the CDS to draw on the environmental advice of the chiefs in formulating his advice to the Defence Board. The CDS should not be constrained by that advice, but this forum will ensure that there is a clear mechanism for the views and advice of the chiefs to be articulated. The Chiefs of Staff operations committee will continue as now so that the single service chiefs' advice is still heard on operation issues.
The noble and gallant Lord asked whether the CDS having more power would be too much to ask of one man. In the new model, the role of the CDS will be clarified and strengthened. However, in making the recommendations, the steering group has been mindful of the need for a balanced model in which the CDS and the PUS would continue to jointly lead defence
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1549
Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I also thank my noble friend the Minister very much for repeating the Statement. I will not delay the House as long as I intended because the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, put the points that I was going to put far more eloquently and with far more experience than I-although it is a pity that the House was prevented from hearing the conclusion of his remarks.
I have one or two further questions for my noble friend the Minister. First, I am not quite sure about the joint forces command. Is this an additional command similar to land, air and fleet? Where will it be located and what kind of operations will it undertake? Secondly, I entirely agree with the noble and gallant Lord about the Defence Board. At present, the balance on the Defence Board is seven civil servants to five military personnel-the chiefs and the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff-and it will be seven to one. That is an extraordinary change in balance. Like the noble and gallant Lords and other noble Lords who have spoken, I wonder whether the Chief of the Defence Staff really can represent the interests of all three services, let alone the interests of the three services in relation to the civil servants.
Thirdly, on the role of the Defence Council, I understand that in law it is not the Defence Board but the Defence Council in which the statutory authority to control defence is vested. I understand that there is no intention to remove the Chiefs of Staff from their place on that.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. He is trying to remind us that there is a House full of people wishing to start the next debate. I know that the noble and gallant Lord and others see this change in organisation at the Ministry of Defence as also highly important, but I remind the House that during Statements,
Viscount Trenchard: Briefly, my final question is whether the Minister thinks that the fact that the chiefs will spend more time with their services, and presumably in cars going to visit each other, and less time in offices next door to each other will lead to more "jointery" rather than less.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his questions. On the first, the joint forces command is an additional command and will have a new four-star commander. We have not yet decided, but it will probably be located at PJHQ, which is relatively accessible to the head office. However, we are still working on that. As to how the JFC will fit into the defence structure, PJHQ will sit within the JFC but the Chief of Joint Operations will continue to report direct to the Chief of the Defence Staff on the conduct of current operations.
As to whether chiefs driving around will lose of control of their services, I do not think they will. We believe that it will strengthen their position if they spend more time with their services. They will obviously be able to come to London from time to time, but we feel that they will probably want to spend much more time with their own services.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: The Minister will be aware that there are 19 grace and favour residences and that lavish expenses are provided to senior officers in all three services, which sits ill in the budget when people in the front line are being asked to make cutbacks. Has the noble Lord, Lord Levene, made any recommendations in relation to this and, if so, what is the Government's response?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am not aware that the noble Lord, Lord Levene, has made any comment about, as the noble Lord says, lavish residences. I have been to some of the lavish residences the noble Lord mentions and I can confirm that the chiefs use them in an important way for defence, particularly for defence diplomacy, which is a very important part of our objective at the moment.
Lord Stirrup: My Lords, within the single service boards and the Defence Council, the single service chiefs are currently responsible directly to the Secretary of State for the efficiency, morale and fighting effectiveness of their services. Can the Minister confirm that this constitutional arrangement will be unaltered by what is proposed?
Baroness Fookes: My Lords, will the restructuring of the MoD deal with what I regard as a very serious problem-namely, that when major contracts are let for equipment, ships or whatever, invariably there are changes as they go along, and it seems that the contractors can then charge whatever they like for the alterations?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. We now have a CDM who I confidently expect to get on top of all our procurement issues and, in doing so, save the defence budget a great deal of money.
Lord Boyce: My Lords, much has been made about the greater flexibility that the Chiefs of Staff will have as a result of having more money and resources to play with. As things stand at the moment, most of that
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1551
Lord Astor of Hever: I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for that question. It is too early to give a specific figure. We received the report of the noble Lord, Lord Levene, today and we are considering it. We have not come up with any figures on that issue.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, is the Minister implying that the three single service headquarters-land, air and naval-are being removed and replaced by this joint forces command, or are they going to stay? If so, what will be the relationship between them?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the joint forces command is a new command with a four-star commander. We are not forcing the chiefs out of London; they can still have a base there. We expect them to continue to keep a base in London, with a smaller staff, but to spend more of their time with their own services.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, 43 speakers are signed up for the debate today. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to five minutes, the House should be able to rise at around the target rising time of 10 pm. As ever, that is an advisory speaking time. The House, of course, decided some while ago that it wished as a normal matter of course to rise at 10 pm, but the rising time is as ever in the hands of the House.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, last July, I appointed a Leader's Group to consider the working practices of the House and the operation of self-regulation, and to make recommendations.
Under the distinguished chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Goodlad, the group prepared the report that was delivered to me at the end of April and is the subject of this debate today. On behalf of the whole House, I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Goodlad and the other members of the group, as well as the staff who supported them, for their contribution to this review of the working practices of the House. My intention in leading this debate
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1552
I am conscious that 68 Members of the House took advantage of the opportunity to make a written submission to the group. But as was observed in the report, an average of 452 Members have attended the House each day since last year's general election. By implication, fewer than one in five of those Members have made their views known so far. I am conscious that there are Members around the House, including many of those participating in today's debate, who wish to make swift progress on the majority of the group's recommendations. I assure them that I am fully seized of your Lordships' appetite for urgent, incremental reforms-in this area as in others-and I believe that the report from the Leader's Group offers ample scope for such progress. It contains many straightforward ideas that could be implemented immediately should they find favour with the House. I therefore intend to ensure that a large number of the group's recommendations are considered promptly by the relevant committees of the House so that the House may take a view on them at the earliest opportunity.
However, it is my responsibility as Leader of the House to take account of the views of the whole House, including the large number of Members who do not take a close interest in our working practices but whose contributions are no less valuable for their lack of frequency. That is why today's debate is an important milestone and why I should like to take this opportunity to encourage noble Lords who did not make a written submission and have not put down their names to speak today to consider making their views known to me.
The Leader's Group has structured its recommendations around what it concluded were the House's three core functions: holding the Executive to account, scrutinising legislation and providing a forum for public debate and inquiry. In respect of each of these functions, there are specific challenges and dilemmas that I hope that noble Lords will address in their contributions today.
Conduct in the Chamber, particularly at Question Time, has for some time now been a matter of concern to Members all around the House. The Leader's Group confirmed that successive Leaders of the House had acted with complete impartiality in their role of advising the House on matters of procedure and order, including at Question Time. I am nonetheless conscious that some Members wish to see a greater role for the Chair at Question Time and that the Leader's Group has made recommendations in this area which I hope will attract comment from noble Lords over the course of the afternoon.
There is also the wider question of whether we can make better use of time in the Chamber-for example, by making it a presumption that the Committee stages of Bills will take place in Grand Committee, or by taking second and subsequent Statements off the Floor of the House. A good example of the time spent on Statements could be seen this afternoon. Although there are trade-offs involved-for example, the ability to divide in Committee-these are recommendations that may commend themselves to your Lordships.
I am also interested in views from around the House on whether items of business, and particularly those items of business that are led by Back-Bench Members of the House, are sufficiently topical, varied and of general interest. The Leader's Group has suggested that a sifting mechanism for Back-Bench business might serve the House better than the ballot and first-come, first-served systems through which topical Questions, balloted debates, and Questions for Short Debate are selected at present. A sifting mechanism might of course erode individual Members' current ability to bring attention on the Floor to subjects that they alone have chosen, but your Lordships may take the view that that trade-off is warranted.
There has long been much hand wringing around the House over the volume of legislation that the House is asked to consider and the level of preparation and consultation that have preceded the introduction of specific Bills-in the past I have myself been known to indulge in that well-known lament. I regret that, when presenting figures on the number of Bills published in draft-which is paragraph 79 of the report-the Leader's Group did not include the record of the current coalition Government since May 2010: five Bills have already been published in draft, and four Joint Committees have now either been set up or are in the process of being set up to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny on: the draft detention of terrorist suspects Bills, the draft defamation Bill, the draft House of Lords reform Bill and the draft financial services Bill. Our record thus far should demonstrate that this Government do take pre-legislative scrutiny seriously and are matching words with deeds.
As regards post-legislative scrutiny, I am well aware of concerns that once legislation is passed, insufficient attention is devoted to its implementation and effects. It is of course already open to committees in both Houses to examine and report on the post-legislative memoranda published by the Government, but the Leader's Group has suggested that this House may wish to approach post-legislative scrutiny more systematically. Whether that should extend to a standing post-legislative scrutiny committee is a matter on which noble Lords will no doubt comment today. My own instinct is that our Liaison Committee is well placed to perform that strategic function and that we might make more targeted and flexible use of the expertise and experience of Members of the House by setting up ad-hoc committees whose membership is tailored to the Act under scrutiny.
The Leader's Group has also considered whether there might be scope to take evidence on Bills introduced in this House and make recommendations in that respect. We already have procedures that allow the House to send Bills for evidence-taking-to Special Public Bill Committees or to Select Committees-but we have thus far used them sparingly, not least because wider use of these procedures would detract from the principle, which I value, that every Peer can contribute to scrutiny and amendment at every part of every stage of a Bill. Although I believe the Leader's Group was right to explore ways in which the House might enhance the way it conducts scrutiny of legislation, I doubt it will come as a surprise to noble Lords if I
27 Jun 2011 : Column 1554
It should be clear by now that there is a theme underpinning many of the recommendations in the Leader's Group report; namely, the extent to which Members of the House are prepared to trade off certain aspects of self-regulation in pursuit of other objectives. I hope that as many noble Lords as possible will address that question in their contributions today.
Before opening the Floor to those contributions, there is one consideration that I should like to draw to the attention of the House. The Leader's Group has quite rightly attempted to cost the implications of its recommendations. Noble Lords will be aware that, under instruction from the House Committee, we are attempting to keep our resource costs constant in real terms. It is my strong preference that overall the recommendations that we take forward should allow us to adhere to that principle. That does not mean that we cannot take forward recommendations that have resource implications, rather that where we do so, we should examine whether those additional resources can be freed up elsewhere.
As I made clear at the outset, I intend to arrange for the relevant committees of the House to consider specific recommendations in the report. I envisage that in due course the House will have the opportunity to approve or reject more detailed proposals for implementing individual recommendations based on reports from those committees. I thank again my noble friend Lord Goodlad and his group. I very much look forward to this debate and I shall give answers to as many contributions as possible at the end of it. I beg to move.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, it is a rare pleasure to follow the Leader of the House and particularly to welcome his commitment to a swift response to the report from the group of which I had the privilege to be a member. It was an harmonious committee and we benefited hugely from the inclusive and incisive leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad. Very distinguished members of it from all across the House are flanking me at this very moment. I see this report, informed as it is by the views of your Lordships, as a timely contribution to the current debate on the future of this House as an effective, indispensable revising Chamber.
Before I turn to the few key elements of the report, I want to focus on myself. I have to declare a second interest, which is now as a member of the Joint Select Committee which will look at the reform of your Lordships' House. This is a very great honour and responsibility. I should also say that, after the many good wishes that were offered in the debate last week, it is beginning to feel like winning a place on Sir John Franklin's expedition to the Arctic. Without wishing to recall the rollicking style of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, as he wound up, our great helmsman, my noble friend Lord Richard, who I think is in his place, will bring us safely into harbour. Our little craft will also benefit enormously from the clarity, historical reference, political wisdom and objectivity of the views of your Lordships in the debate last week.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|