To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the conclusions in paragraph 18 of the recent report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which criticise the decision by the Home Office to remove the national requirement of the police to record "stop and account" activity.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, the Government do not agree with the committee's conclusions. Since 7 March 2011, police forces and authorities have been free to decide, in consultation with their local communities, whether to continue monitoring these encounters. These local decisions will ensure the right balance between the necessary paperwork that allows for appropriate public accountability and irrelevant bureaucracy.
Lord Morris of Handsworth: While I thank the Minister for his reply, he will be aware that the decision to record the ethnic composition of people subject to stop and search powers was a key recommendation of the Macpherson report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence. As reported, the requirements for recording these incidents have changed and each police service will now decide whether or not to record stop and account activities. Is the Minister aware that this decision will damage race and community relations and do nothing for police accountability? Further, can the Minister tell the House how the Government will meet the requirements of the UN committee for accurate information when the figures are no longer uniformly collected?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I recognise, as does the noble Lord, that we originally had recording of stop and account following the tragic circumstances relating to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, but I believe that we have moved on and it is necessary to balance accountability and bureaucracy. It is also necessary to emphasise that there are real potential savings of some 800,000 police hours in not having to record these matters. This should be a matter for each local force and community and that is why, as the noble Lord will be aware, the Met is still recording these after consultation with local communities and the local police authority, whereas other areas do not feel this is necessary. The savings made are very real, and it is a question of getting the balance right.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, is the Minister aware that all research carried out since 1981 has demonstrated the adverse impact of stop and search on the black community, particularly young blacks? They are the largest group of people stopped and searched, and only about one in 10 searches ever results in some sort of criminal justice process. What system of monitoring will be established to ensure that the law-abiding black community has confidence in the police?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the first point to make is that both stop and search and stop and account are vital tools for the police in deterring crime and combating anti-social behaviour. It is also vital that they must be used as sensitively as possible, as the noble Lord implies in his question. With regards to monitoring, it is vital to get this right. That is why I am very keen to stress the balance between accountability and bureaucracy, given the potential savings to the police in not having to record stop and account and in allowing them to carry on their activities properly without excessive bureaucracy. The police will still record stop and search, but recording stop and account is a matter for local decision-making, and that is why the Met, for example, will continue to record stop and account.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, if the Minister looks at his notes, he will see that stop and search and the issue of ethnic monitoring goes back to at least 1981 following the Brixton riots. Does the Minister have any figures to show the proportion of young black people stopped and searched compared to white people, and if he has not got the figures, will he look them up? I suggest the ratio is between 6:1 and 8:1.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that this goes back to 1981, but the recording of stop and account came after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. This Question is directly related to the fact that we will no longer make it compulsory to record stop and account, which I have explained. I do not have at my fingertips the figures that the noble Lord seeks, but I shall write to the noble Lord and make sure that he has them.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Minister has not answered my noble friend's original Question, which is how the Government intend to meet the requirement for information from the UN committee. The Minister says that this is about reducing bureaucracy, but does he not agree that this is another signal of the Government seeking to abdicate from responsibility for policing? Since the number of police officers is going down and crime is going up, it is easy to see why the Government want to abdicate their responsibilities.
Lord Henley: The noble Lord is wrong and the UN committee is wrong. There is no need to record this activity, but we have left it open to local police forces to make the decision. There is a correct balance to be struck between accountability and bureaucracy. We do not want to overburden the police, as did the party opposite when it was in power, with excessive bureaucracy that prevents them doing the job that they are supposed to be doing.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the fleet off Cadiz some 206 years ago was completely blind to race, creed or anything like that. With the anniversary of Trafalgar coming up tomorrow, would the Minister be willing to pass the good wishes of our House to our rather battered fleet around the world and perhaps ask his colleague the Secretary of State for Defence to pass a signal to it by recognising that day?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I think that that matter is slightly beyond the Question on the Order Paper. The noble Lord mentioned that the fleet was blind to matters of race at that time; I think that the same was true of the fleet at the time of Trafalgar. We have only to look at the pictures by Daniel Maclise next door in the Royal Gallery to see that very fact. I thank the noble Lord for his intervention, even though it is not strictly relevant to the Question on the Order Paper.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, is it not important that the Government look again at this? I was standing in Oxford Street when the police were stopping and searching young people, and every single one searched was a young black man. This is totally to be deprecated. We must keep tabs on searches of this kind and who is being searched in this way.
Lord Henley: My Lords, as I have made clear, stop and search will continue to be recorded. We are talking about stop and account, which we think is a matter for each individual police force to decide in consultation with their local community.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there is no specific Treasury risk register, although I know that the phrase has been used in a number of newspaper articles. The Treasury works closely with colleagues in the Cabinet Office's Major Projects Authority to monitor the progress of major projects. The universal credit programme is on the Government's major projects portfolio, which is a compilation of the Government's high-risk and high-value projects. It covers approximately 200 major projects with a total value in excess of £300 billion. The Major Projects Authority has been engaged with the universal credit programme since 2010. As well as providing challenge through regular assurance reviews, it is involved at various levels of monitoring progress. The Major Projects Review Group, a body established by the previous Government in 2007, recently also considered progress with the universal credit programme.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer but I am a little surprised by it. To make universal credit work, the Government say that 80 per cent of all claims will need to be made online. At the
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: There were several questions underneath what the noble Lord has just said. Twenty per cent of those who will come under the universal credit system are currently estimated to have access to computers. It is planned that 50 per cent should have access by 2013 and 80 per cent by 2017. I myself queried those figures when I was being briefed but I am told that of those currently claiming unemployment benefit, some 80 per cent have access to online facilities and of those claiming jobseeker's allowance, some 60 per cent have access. I did not ask what the gender breakdown was; I suspect the answer is that more men than women have it but I remind everyone that the Government's current digital champion, Martha Lane Fox, is working on this.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government are also developing telephonic and face-to-face access. It is recognised that, even under the estimate that 80 per cent will have online access by 2017, there will remain 20 per cent who will require such telephone or face-to-face help-quite possibly, some of the older generation.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, it is important that the universal credit is a success. It is an important reform but there is a very high risk attached to it in delivering the IT infrastructure, because not only do you have to deliver three separate IT projects-one within DWP and two within HMRC-but they then have to integrate. It is a very high-risk timeline. Will the Minister reassure us that the high value that the Treasury places on this does not mean that it is blind to the risk in the timescale and that, if it needs to slow it down in order to make it a success, it will do so?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the careful mechanisms currently being put in place and operating recognise precisely that this is an extremely important programme, which is to be rolled out starting two years from now and running until 2017. I should add, as I was also asked about the novelty of some of these IT programmes, that the DWP is working to integrate roughly 60 per cent of existing IT infrastructure, which will be transferred to this programme. It is not an entirely novel programme: only 40 per cent of its IT will be novel.
Lord German: My Lords, following on from that answer, will my noble friend reassure the House that the DWP's programme is being introduced in a gradualist way over a number of years? That will give some comfort, but what matters is getting the data into the
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am not entirely sure what an open tube looks like but the DWP is of course working closely with HMRC. As noble Lords are well aware, the integration of HMRC systems with those of the DWP is an important part of this programme. We are all conscious that previous programmes, particularly on tax credits, have run into a very considerable number of problems about both underpayment and overpayment, and about underclaiming. It is intended that one of the great benefits of the universal credit system will be that a much higher percentage of claimants will claim and receive their entitlements.
Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top: Will the Minister tell us whether the Government have published the consultants' report on the feasibility of the IT project in the DWP and, if not, will they do so while the Committee is sitting in this House on the Bill?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, many noble Lords will be aware that the MPA starting gate report was passed to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons and placed in the House of Commons Library. It was not specifically intended to be open for full publication, but one of the Members of the PAC passed it on to the Telegraph, which, I suspect, is part of the origin of this Question.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, will my noble friend remind our noble friend the Minister in charge of the Bill, who is sitting next to him, that at Second Reading he promised four of us, two of whom have already asked questions, that he would give a presentation on the computer arrangements at some time in the reasonably near future?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Minister did not really answer the question from my noble friend Lady Armstrong of Hill Top. My noble friend asked whether the Committee would have access to the very important report from KPMG but the noble Lord did not answer that point.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My Lords, the Government continue to invest heavily in research and development in these areas through the research councils, the Technology Strategy Board, Defra and its network and other Government departments. Much of the investment is co-ordinated through large national and international partnerships and is currently supporting world-class basic and applied research to meet the challenge of increasing sustainable food production.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, in thanking the Minister for his response, I remind the House of my family's farming interests. Given the excellent basic research to which the Minister referred, what are the Government doing to get this into practical use on farms?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, my noble friend will know that the Government have taken on board the findings of the Taylor review, which is a commitment of Defra's business plan. As the Minister responsible for science and research in the department, I can assure her that the issue is high on the department's agenda.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the most vital aspects of effective food production is the success of the honey-bee in this country? Does he agree that the honey-bee is currently under threat in a variety of ways, including from the Varroa mites, which may or may not cause colony collapse disorder, and, now we learn, from the probable arrival of the Asian hornet? Will he reassure the House that research funding into the survival of honey-bee colonies will be maintained and will he also stress, wherever possible, the importance of domestic bee-keeping-I speak as the mother and the daughter of domestic bee-keepers-particularly in cities and towns?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I assure the noble Baroness that this is high on the agenda. Indeed, as she probably knows, the Government are funding a pollinator programme-not just bees but other pollinating insects are vital for the biodiversity that we are seeking to maintain. I have seen for myself the work being done at FERA in York, where not only are the problems affecting bees being looked at, but we are very alert to the Asian hornet and the threat that that poses. I have personal acquaintance with such insects from when I occasionally visit France, so I know that they are a real threat to bee-keepers and honey production.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, my interests are already fully declared in your Lordships' Register. Does the Minister agree that the number of farmers has declined sharply in recent years, particularly dairy producers? Is there not, therefore, a need for research on higher value crops to be made known to farmers? Perhaps some of these could replace some imports.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the noble Lord for that question. I come from a horticultural background so am very much acquainted with the enormous potential for import substitution in these markets. I would like to think that the progress that is being made in yield
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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, Defra has to make some policy decisions shortly about grass-fed dairy herds as opposed to the environmental and welfare benefits of having intensive indoor dairies. It called for tender bids for research in this area, which resulted in,
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: It is certainly not my intention to make policy in a vacuum. All policy decisions in Defra on the science front are based on evidence. That, indeed, is a principle which we apply to decision-making in general. I would like to reassure my noble friend on that point.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, given the Minister's personal commitment and expertise in this area, I want to be helpful to him in pressing him on the issue. The Secretary of State Caroline Spelman signed up to the G20 communiqué on food security in Paris last June, which calls on countries to invest more in innovation in food science. On the one hand it appears that her department has plans to encourage more research and development, but at the same time she is cutting the overall research and development budget by 27 per cent. Why does Defra sign up to international commitments calling on action from other Governments which it has no intention of meeting in this country? Why is it saying one thing and doing another?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I think the noble Lord is making the mistake of taking a particular aspect of Defra's activity and not realising that, strategically, the Government have a great focus on the whole need to raise the game. We will need to double world food production by 2050. We shall be able to do that only with science as an ally. The thrust across government, and the whole thrust of the Taylor review, was about leveraging the Government's investment as a whole in this area. We will be spending £1 billion on R&D in the Living with Environmental Change Partnership and £440 million on global food security.
Lord Cameron of Dillington: My Lords, given the desperate need for better agricultural extension in the UK, does the Minister agree that this is as much about learning the lessons of environmental best practice-I refer particularly to soil degradation in this context-as it is about agricultural invention? If we wish the growth in the nation's agricultural productivity to continue, we must better align environmental research with technical research and not treat them as two separate entities, as is currently the case.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, in the promised development of agricultural research, especially in the field of livestock health, will the Minister pay attention to some of the more chronic diseases that are less spectacular than the ones we generally know about-such as foot rot in sheep, mastitis in dairy cattle and parasitism in all production animals?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing to the attention of the House the whole issue of animal health. My right honourable friend David Willetts is going down to Pirbright, where there has been considerable investment. These issues are indeed on the agenda.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, the Government have no current plans to change the laws of succession with regard to hereditary peerages. Changes to the law on succession to the throne can be affected without any change to the legitimate expectations of those in the line of succession. Changes to the rules governing succession to hereditary titles would be far more complicated to implement.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. I am anxious that he should dispel any uncertainty in this matter, which is unsettling for those who will be affected. I am grateful to him for what he has said.
Lord Strathclyde: I am not sure that I detected a question. The Government believe that it is time to deal with the issue of succession to the Crown, and there is no simple read-across to succession to the hereditary peerage, which is infinitely more complicated and affects many more families.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord said that it would be difficult to implement, but will he suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that he perhaps should seek to amend the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel? On that matter, can he tell me whether tomorrow the Government intend to support the noble Lord, Lord Steel?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, we will continue what successive Governments have done in the many debates on my noble friend's Bill. There is one very good reason for being consistent, because there is before Parliament a draft Bill that is being examined by a Joint Committee of this House.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, does the Leader of the House agree that while undoubtedly Parliament has the authority to legislate in respect of succession to the throne, according to the learned editor of the fourth edition of volume 8 of Halsbury's Laws of England-which I checked an hour ago-at paragraph 35 and the footnotes thereto, two other powers are germane to the issue? One is the power of Parliament to elect a monarch-a power that has never been withdrawn. Secondly, of course, there are the common law principles of hereditary succession. When the Prime Minister wrote, under the Statute of Westminster 1931, to Commonwealth countries, consulting them on changes in relation to succession to the throne, did he point out this fascinating constitutional conundrum?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I rather wish I had checked, because if I had done so I would have had a far clearer answer to the noble Lord's question. The noble Lord is of course entirely correct about the Statute of Westminster. As to the other parts of his research, perhaps I might have the opportunity of examining that outside the House.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, odd as it may sound, I congratulate the Government on their proposals to alter the arrangements for the succession to the Crown. The Leader of the House said there was no urgency in the matter, yet if a member of the Royal Family, such as Prince William, were to have a child in the near future, the issue would be affected by this. Will the noble Lord comment on this and accept that there is an urgency to get on with it?
Lord Strathclyde: No, My Lords, I did not say there was no urgency in this particular matter; but in the matter of hereditary Peers, which is entirely different. We accept that there is an opportunity here and, as the previous question demonstrated, any amendment to the line of succession involves consulting those member states of the Commonwealth in which the Queen is head of state under the Statute of Westminster. There would also need to be legislation. Next week, there is a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government and in the margins of that we hope to make progress on this issue.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, in following up the question of the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, and while undertaking further research, would my noble friend examine whether, if we elect the Monarch, we do so under a proportional system?
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I revert to the question of the succession of peerages. Will the Government please keep it in mind that, where there is already a male heir who has older sisters, a change in the law of succession to the eldest daughter could be damaging to relationships in the family?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, is of course the only example in this House of a hereditary Peer who has inherited as a female. Many of us regard it as a good thing that the noble Lady is here. She is right in saying that if there were a more general change to the peerage, this would affect very many families and other people. The Monarchy is the highest office in the land in which we all have a major interest.
Lord Blencathra: My Lords, in introducing this debate I am conscious that there are many deeply held views on these subjects and a great deal of misinformation in the media but nevertheless I believe that the balance of our laws is wrong because the law is, in my opinion, built on a nonsense. It is built on the concept that a person awoken from sleep at 3 o'clock in the morning and fearing for his or her life will be able to exercise a judgment on using reasonable force in a moment of sheer panic, when lawyers in a cosy courtroom many months later have difficulty in ascertaining, with all the time in the world, what is "reasonable". To expect a householder at that moment to be awake and lucid enough and in complete command of his or her faculties, in my opinion, is wrong and unjust.
"Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgments over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment".
This year the CPS in Manchester, in the north-west, decided not to prosecute three householders who killed burglars while struggling with them and fighting to protect their homes and family. That was the right decision, but it was taken a month after the householders had been arrested. People who thought that they were going to be murdered in their own homes and fought back should not then be put in fear of being prosecuted, and left hanging for such a long time.
We should not have to decide whether the force was reasonable, but assume as a starting point, in my judgment, that any force used by a householder against an intruder is legal and appropriate. The message must go out to the police and public that householders have an absolute right to protect themselves, their family and home from intruders and that intruders leave all their rights behind the moment they climb through the window.
If the concept of "reasonable" cannot be removed, we must have a completely different understanding of what "reasonable" is at three o'clock in the morning. Envisage the situation where a person, believing that he or she is safe and secure at home, wakes up to find an intruder in the room. It must be one of the most terrifying things imaginable. I suggest that their reactions in all cases will be instinctive. It will be Pavlovian. It will not be reasoned. It may be to lie quivering in terror, to scream the place down or to retaliate and attack. I suggest that one of those reactions will come automatically; not as a process of reasoned thought. The innocent householder who instinctively lashes out at the intruder will be judged on the amount of force he used and whether it was reasonable in the circumstances. That puts an unfair burden on the innocent householder.
A few weeks ago, 140 service men and women received awards, among them 16 Military Crosses. When you read the citations you see that we still produce young men and women of mind-boggling selflessness and courage, but in all cases, what they did was illogical, irrational, and clearly not what a reasonable person would do if they thought about it. They did not think about it, they just reacted instantly, spontaneously, to save the lives of their comrades. That sheer selfless courage has been rightly recognised. Nor were they doing what they were trained to do. The infantry manual does not state that when you come under heavy machine-gun fire, you single-handedly charge the enemy, firing your weapon, lobbing every hand grenade you can get your hand on and take out the enemy position while receiving wounds in your legs and gut, but that is what those lads who won the Military Cross a few weeks ago did-instinctively, when surprised and taken by shock by the enemy.
I therefore suggest that a householder similarly suddenly confronted by a potentially life-threatening situation should be permitted to use all the force he is capable of to deal with that situation and should not be at risk of prosecution afterwards. I would also like assurances from my noble friend that a householder will have a complete defence even if he could have locked himself in a safe part of the building. The fact that one could theoretically retreat to a safe room must not be used as an excuse by the CPS to prosecute the householder who decides to stand and fight. I appeal to my noble friend to demand of the CPS that it comes to decisions in these matters much more speedily. Where there is a clear-cut case of genuine defence in one's home, the householder must be cleared with all possible speed. It is unjust to leave them waiting.
The most fraught area is when to stop defending oneself and one's property, especially if one chases the intruders from the home. I say "property" because the defence of oneself and one's home should extend to the defence of one's property in one's home. On when to stop defending oneself, the CPS guidelines state:
The trouble is that the CPS often does not follow its own guidelines. The scandalous treatment last year of Omari Roberts is a case in point. He was a young apprentice builder with a perfectly clean record who came to his mother's house for lunch and found it being ransacked by two teenage thugs. In the struggle which followed, one burglar was stabbed and died. Omari was charged with murder based on a pack of lies told by the other burglar, who survived, who claimed that Omari chased him down the street. However, on the day that the case came to trial, the CPS dropped the charges as its key witness had by now forgotten his original pack of lies and had invented a completely new set. The CPS dropped the case not because it realised that it was acting entirely contrary to its own guidelines, not because it realised that Omari acted lawfully, but because it thought that it just might not win and that a jury would be 12 times more sensible than it was.
The surviving burglar's original statement said that Omari chased him down the street, and this is the bit that the CPS used to bring a charge of murder against
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The biggest problem with this case is that the CPS's entire argument revolved round a teenage burglar's testimony, a teenage burglar with an ASBO and a number of previous convictions. Why is a burglar's testimony given more consideration by the CPS than the victim's statement? So although the guidelines are okay as they stand, it is sometimes, and often, the wrong-headed, misguided prosecution by the CPS of people like Omari which does tremendous damage not just to this innocent victim, but it sends a signal that the law is on the side of the thug and the burglar. That is where the damage rests.
This idea that there is a fine cut-off point when there is a threat and force is permissible, and then the second the threat is over force is not permissible, is also wrong. For some householders who instinctively fight back that adrenaline rush may last 30 seconds, for some it may last two minutes, for others it may last 20 minutes. It will be different for everybody and reason just does not come into it. If a householder continues his retaliation on the intruder even after the threat is theoretically over, he should not be prosecuted provided it was all part of that same psyched-up adrenaline rush that gave him the courage to fight back in the first place. I suggest that that is entirely different from a scenario where the householder has calmed down and half an hour later or the next day he decides to get revenge and go and beat up the burglar. That is not acceptable.
Let me quote one very sensitive example. Six years ago a highly trained, armed police officer was told that a person was wired up with a bomb and that innocent civilians were at risk and he could use lethal force. Leaving aside the incompetence of the command and control procedures of that operation, I have every sympathy for the officer who had to execute that order. Time was critical. He had to act fast. If the bomb was detonated, dozens would die. That officer psyched himself up to neutralise the problem and when he pounced on Mr de Menezes, he shot him in the head and again and again and again and again and again and again. Rightly he was not charged with any offence or disciplined because there was recognition that at times of severe stress a person taking action, even a highly trained officer, will go on taking that action long after the threat may be over because there is no rational or reasoned cut-off point when one is acting under extreme stress. I believe that the law must recognise that householders should not be expected to make rational judgments about when they should stop defending themselves by attacking the intruder when they are caught up in what is an entirely irrational situation in the first place.
I turn now to the protection of one's home from theft. The time is long overdue when this should be made a criminal offence enforced by vigorous police action. Why is this most serious of thefts still a civil matter? If I steal the smallest item from a shop, it is a
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It should apply to council housing and business property, too. If a council is failing to rent property quickly enough, the solution is for the Government to penalise the council. Occupation by squatters inevitably delays the day when that home is available for someone to legitimately rent. Of course, the police must not go around looking for people to evict. They should act only on a complaint from a property owner or tenant. If a person goes to the police and says that their property has been taken over, and produces prima facie evidence of their ownership-their name on the electoral roll or on a council tax demand-the police must be under an obligation to take recovery action immediately. That means evicting and arresting the squatters that day, with no right of appeal or judicial review at that time to delay the process.
If the Government go down this route-I hope that they do-and make this a criminal offence, I hope that the message will be clearly understood by chief constables that the main remedy Parliament wants is the immediate return of property to the lawful owner. In order to safeguard against suggestions that an unscrupulous landlord would lie to the police to get them to evict a tenant he did not like, we could build in a safeguard procedure: for example, that everyone calling for police assistance should sign a declaration stating that they are the legal owner or occupier. The penalty for a wrongful claim could be a £10,000 fine and two years' imprisonment; or, for a landlord trying to get rid of a tenant, a £50,000 fine and five years' imprisonment. That would stop any abuse of the system and reassure the civil liberties lobby.
The law should apply also to all commercial property, where legitimate owners at the moment are losing millions to illegal squatting. However, if noble Lords think that this is a bridge too far today, let us change the law as soon as possible on domestic premises being squatted and review the situation after a year. If we find that there is no abuse of the system, I suggest that the Government should push on with extending the criminal law to commercial property. The principle is the same: illegal occupiers of commercial property are no more moral than those who steal domestic property.
In both these situations, I have described how we need to change the law not just to correct injustices but to send a clear signal that it is instantly on the side of the law-abiding, the innocent, the decent, the righteous
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In this, as in many things, perception is everything. There are lawyers who will say, understandably, that the law of self-defence is reasonable when applied by an intelligent court; but that is not the perception in the minds of innocent householders. That perception can be radically changed by small changes in the law, and I look forward to my noble friend telling me that he will bring in some of those changes instantly, and others in due course.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the House will be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for introducing this important subject. It was considered by the Law Commission in 2005, which stated in paragraph 4.19 of its report, headed "The threatened householder", that,
"The defence of one's self, or the mutual and reciprocal defence of such as stand in the relations of husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant. In these cases, if the party himself, or any of these his relations, be forcibly attacked in his person or property, it is lawful for him to repel force by force; and the breach of the peace which happens, is chargeable upon him only who began the affray. For the law, in this case, respects the passions of the human mind; and, when external violence is offered to a man himself, or those to whom he bears a near connection, makes it lawful in him to do himself that immediate justice, to which he is prompted by nature, and which no prudential motives are strong enough to restrain. It considers that the future process of law is by no means an adequate remedy for injuries accompanied with force"-
Of course, the matter has not been left there. It was considered again in 1879 under the chairmanship of Lord Blackburn. I will not weary your Lordships with a quote from that but it was to the same effect. Most recently, in the Court of Appeal in October last year,
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"If there is a dispute about what happened to cause the defendant to use the violence that he did, and there usually is such a dispute, then the jury must decide it, attending of course to the onus and standard of proof".
"If the defendant claims that he thought that something was happening which the jury may find was not happening, then the second question which arises is what did the defendant genuinely believe was happening to cause him to use the violence that he did? That question does not arise in every case".
"Once it has thus been decided on what factual basis the defendant's actions are to be judged, either because they are the things that actually happened and he knew them or because he genuinely believed in them even if they did not occur, then the remaining and critical question for the jury is: was his response reasonable, or proportionate?".
Let me give your Lordships some examples from my own experience to indicate how the law has operated. I can go back to the 1970s, to a case where the defendant was a former military man in his 40s, who had retired from the Army-he was a warrant officer-to look after his sick father. In those days people wore their hair long-perhaps some of your Lordships wore your hair long in those days-but he of course had a short back and sides and he became a butt of the community. One day when he was looking after his father in the bedroom of a council house, a youth came up the path and threw a brick through the fanlight above the door, whereupon the defendant took a .22 rifle and from the bedroom window shot him through the head and killed him. The defence was defence of property-he was in no personal danger in the bedroom with his sick father. The jury considered all the circumstances, as the jury is bound to do, and acquitted him. He was not guilty of murder, he was not guilty of manslaughter; he walked free.
Another case I recall from the Midlands was when a person, again in his home, heard a noise outside and discovered that some drunken passing youths had turned his car upside down on the drive. He went outside and remonstrated with them. They started to shout and hurl abuse at him. He went back inside and picked up a knife. When he came out, the youths were picking fence staves up in order to attack him. They attacked him and he stabbed one of them with the knife. The jury heard all the circumstances. He was defending himself and his home. Again, the jury acquitted him. All together he was found not guilty of murder.
These cases are from my own experience but they are happening all the time. A third, more recent, case is from Trinidad. A police officer, surrounded by a crowd of youths at a music festival, felt that he was being attacked. It was his defence that one of the people attacking him had produced a knife. He produced his revolver and shot two people, one of whom he killed. In that case, a trained officer used a gun against someone whom he believed to have a knife in those
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My point is that the facts can be completely different and the surrounding circumstances are completely different in every case. If, for example, a burglar is in the bedroom and my wife is on her own, and she uses excessive force by, let us say, shooting-not that she has a revolver, I have to say-and kills the person concerned, that is a very different situation than if I were there and in a position to deal with someone of a reasonable size in order to defend myself and my property in that way. The circumstances cannot be categorised in any particular way.
In 2005, there was an attempt to introduce a Bill-the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Household Protection) Bill-to amend the law. It was introduced by Mr Patrick Mercer, supported by Mr David Davis and various others, in the House of Commons. It wished to replace the term "reasonable force", whether the jury were considering the force used in defence was reasonable, with the term "grossly disproportionate". The Bill did not get very far and one only has to stop and think: a jury is considering a whole series of facts around a killing; it considers that the defendant has acted unreasonably, but has he acted "grossly disproportionately"? You can imagine a debate taking place in a jury room to decide on the difference between being unreasonable, acting beyond reason, and acting with gross disproportionality. That sort of debate should not be left to juries, which approach these matters in a completely common-sense way, having regard to all the facts and circumstances put before them. While I sympathise to a certain extent with those concerned with some cases that come before the courts which seem to be grossly unfair, the law covers the situation and has done so since 1761 and before that time.
What concerns me is the concept that the decision as to what was reasonable should be taken by the police-that a householder should never be arrested and questioned if he has killed someone who has been an intruder. That cannot be right. The death of a person is extremely important and, whatever he may or may not have done, it is right that he should be arrested and that he should be questioned. If he has genuinely been acting in fear and in self-defence, undoubtedly he will give his view and his account of what happened at that point, a circumstance which the jury will no doubt take into account.
A person who has killed somebody, whatever the circumstances, is liable to arrest and questioning and, if necessary, detention until the whole matter can be sorted out. It is right that the decision should not be taken by the police and not even by the Director of Public Prosecutions, to whom the file is sent. It is for 12 people drawn from all parts of the community who should have put before them on the evidence all the circumstances and who should decide, using their
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The problem is that Parliament has sometimes, and certainly over the past 13 years, failed to recognise the absolute value of having people from the community decide issues like this and has tried in various ways to put boundaries around the thinking of a jury, which is entirely inappropriate. Self-defence, that firm principle embedded in our common law going back centuries, is a matter for the jury to determine. Do not let us ever get away from that.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, one of the great privileges of being in your Lordships' House is the free advice you get from time to time. I am most grateful to my noble friends Lord Blencathra and-I can now call him my noble friend-Lord Thomas of Gresford, because it makes me feel as if I am some form of pacifist. I suffer from a temper which very seldom rises but, if anyone did come into my house and threaten me, being in the agricultural sector I naturally have a pickaxe handle and a very large knife for pruning the vines; I can throw it into a dart board and get a double top. I also did a bit of unarmed combat; I spent time sharpening the back of my hand so that I could slash it across someone's throat.
My intervention today, however, is entirely one of pacifism. I am going to concentrate on intrusion-"an Englishman's home is his castle", or matters of that sort. I will refer to a Private Member's Bill that I got through the House some years ago. To begin with, I would like to take as my text the words of Patricia Hewitt when she was head of Liberty. She pointed out that people should not be allowed to go into a person's home without permission.
When I was in the banking world we became very concerned about fraud. I was in the Midland Bank, which was the largest bank in the world-and the world's largest bureaucracy. It was the same size as the British Navy. We had a rule of duty of care to our customers-although I was on the merchant banking side and we called them clients. We had a duty of care to look after their money. We were therefore concerned when it became apparent that officials could go into people's homes without permission and without a court order and search and seize papers, including financial papers. I am not just speaking about the dreaded Revenue or the receiver of rates or the bee inspector.
This was a fear, so we set out to ask Government, as any good bureaucracy would, whether they could do something about it. We did a lot of research and found out in those days that there were innumerable Acts of Parliament and secondary legislation that enabled people to invade someone's property without permission or without a court order. The answer was to turn to Parliament. I was a relatively young Peer-I came here in 1963-and in 1976 we started to ask the Government questions. Which department had what authority to do what, when and where? The answers did not come back. We asked again and again. Finally, many years later, I asked a Parliamentary Question about which
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As noble Lords know, in your Lordships' House a Question is deemed too expensive to answer if doing so would cost more than £800. However, into the breach came the noble Lord, Lord Bach. As he will remember well, on 9 December 2005 I asked him a Question about what powers Defra had to go on to land to search and seize. He wrote back an extremely nice letter, which said that the main source of information was very difficult to find but that there was a book in the Library called The Law of Entry, Search and Seizure by a professor from Lincoln University. What the noble Lord did not know was that I had arranged for that book to be placed in the Library; we told his officials that this was the answer that should be given.
Over several years I introduced a Bill to say that people should not be allowed to go into people's houses or search their property without permission or a court order. I got the support of the officials. The noble Lord, Lord West-I call him the noble and gallant Lord but Hansard strikes that out because "gallant" is not strictly correct-went slightly against the grain so we agreed to co-operate with his officials and formed a joint public-private sector Bill team. After a period of considerable research with the Home Office, which was very helpful, we found 1,200 powers of entry, which are now drawn up into the freedoms Bill.
At first, I managed to get my Bill half way through the House. It went through on the second attempt. It should have done a lot of work for the Government but, of course, the Government are never grateful in these areas of activity. Some of the stories that we heard were fascinating. Stuck in the back of my mind is who is allowed to do what, when and where. The important thing about the Bill was that it said that you cannot go into property or a house without permission or a court order. That was exactly what Patricia Hewitt had originally said in her paper in the 1970s. The question is: how do we proceed from here? I hope that the Government will be prepared to introduce these rules and regulations and make them clear to people.
There are other areas in this matter. What is reasonable force and what is intrusion? The noble Lord, Lord Bach, pointed out in his reply to me that you could use reasonable force to enter or search a property. To me, intrusion-if I may take the word from the title of my noble friend's debate-is the invasion of privacy, but it can be all sorts of things. It can be surveillance. Therefore, I added questions about television cameras. We got the answer that there were 42,000 CCTV cameras in the United Kingdom. I wanted to know whether it was an invasion of privacy if people had a private camera, maybe for security purposes, that could survey someone else's property. It was pointed out that a gentleman could be seen leaving a property where there was a lady to whom he was not married. In that case, could the pictures suitably be used if there were to be some form of divorce case or matters of that sort?
We all know that there are many such cameras. I asked the noble and learned Baroness who authorised the private cameras. She said that they must be registered with the Information Commissioner. Therefore, we asked the Information Commissioner a private question about how many privately-owned CCTV cameras there were. He said that there were none at that time. In replying to this debate, could the Minister tell us how many surveillance mechanisms there are? That is one form of intrusion.
Another form of intrusion takes me back to my youth. As a small boy I always went to welcome the postman and undo the catch on the gate, and on the gate was written, "No Hawkers or Circulars". To me, a circular which is shoved through one's letterbox is an invasion of privacy or is intrusive. Direct selling is similar. If you have an ex-directory telephone line to protect yourself, before you know it you will be receiving phone calls from call centres that dial one number after another. Or, if you wish to make a transfer of money from a bank account, before you know it someone will ring you and say, "Who are you? We wish to test you". The transfer might be for small amounts, and you say, "Why should I tell you who I am? Who are you?". You then find that the call centre is located in Calcutta-where I have been on many occasions-so you ask the young girl at the end of the line, "Could you please tell me the name of the club that plays rugby and cricket?". She replies, "Oh, the Ballygunge Cricket Club". You then ask, "What is the name of the Writers' Building, where the head man lives?", and then you ask for her name. You find that the name she gives is not her real name; it is Elspeth, or whatever. In order that girls should not be courted on the telephone, I suppose, they have odd names. To me, it is an intrusive matter when your financial details are raised and mentioned overseas. I am concerned about the term "intrusion."
When one comes to other issues, people can become violent. We now have 120,000 Acts of Parliament, published and available on the net. We need, perhaps with various local advice bodies, to provide some advice for people as to who they can stop coming into their houses. When certain clever fraudsters pretend they are from a particular ministry or department, people may open the door. Once the foot is in the door and where a woman is on her own, the quick ransacking of odd equipment, often televisions, is possible. I have a certain anxiety about this and would like to know what the Government plan to do with the freedoms Bill. All this brings with it other international things under EU law.
In our peasant farm in France where we were for the fin des vendanges two weeks ago we experienced a real invasion of privacy. It was very frightening and extraordinarily aggressive, but at two o'clock in the morning, with two shots, it was put down. It was a 136-kilogram wild boar. That is twice the weight of my noble friend who introduced this debate. So in some rural areas it is apparent that people may often defend themselves against certain predators with weapons. To me, an intruder is also a predator.
In my deliverance today I am saying that it would be extremely helpful if citizens knew who could enter their property without either permission or a court order. That
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Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, on initiating this debate. He was much admired as a Member of another place for many years and is likewise already much admired in this House; not least, his speech is good evidence as to why. He spoke with great passion and clarity. I look forward very much to the Minister's reply and will listen carefully to see what he will reveal about the Government's intentions in this area. Those intentions have been, if I may say so, skilfully kept under wraps since the speech of his right honourable and learned friend the Lord Chancellor at the Second Reading of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill last June in another place. So we look forward to hearing what the Government propose when the Bill is considered on Report in another place in the next few days.
I want to thank the other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, gave us a masterly overview of the state of the law as it has been and still is today, and the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, reminded us of the hard work he has done in order to gain information about entry into property. Both noble Lords are among the finest storytellers in the House. We enjoyed the stories of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, about his earlier cases, and the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, as always, about his experiences.
Our position as the Opposition remains very much what our position was in government, and I shall refer, if I may, to an Oral Question in this House on 25 February 2010. I was sitting in exactly the position that the Minister is sitting in today and I was asked by my noble friend Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate whether we planned to change the law following recent cases. We said then that we,
Of course the answer to that is: yes, it is. I would argue that prosecutorial discretion is widely and sensibly used in these cases. In our view, the CPS guidelines referred to by the noble Lord who introduced the debate are clear, straightforward and, following the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, full of common sense.
"An informal trawl by the CPS suggested that between 1990 and 2005 there were only 11 prosecutions of people who had used force against intruders into houses, commercial premises or private land. Only seven of those ... resulted from domestic burglaries".
It is not claimed that that is the exact figure, but that is what the trawl found, and indeed I suspect that the figure is actually a bit larger because I do not think it includes a case in which I appeared for the defence, which I promise noble Lords I am not going to tell them about now-I saw the Minister worrying about that. But I do not think it is included because it was not a homicide case-it concerned causing grievous bodily harm. Surely this proves how seriously the Crown Prosecution has taken its responsibility over the years in not prosecuting when it would be wrong to do so. There is a second safeguard-the double lock that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, pressed on us-that the juries who hear these cases use their common sense, which is at the very heart of the reasonableness test, and invariably get their decisions right in these cases.
There is a very strong consensus-and noble Lords will have their own opinion whether it is a right consensus or a wrong one-that all those concerned with the administration of justice, be they judges, advocates, barristers or solicitors, or those who study these matters in detail, believe in essence that the law as it stands works and should not be tampered with. The Judicial Studies Board document of March 2010 sets out the law in order to assist judges in self-defence cases, both generally and in burglar-type cases in particular.
This seemed to fit in and imply that a grossly disproportionate test would replace the reasonableness test. The right honourable Chris Grayling, when he was shadow Home Secretary, said in December 2009:
"At the moment the law allows a defendant to use 'reasonable force' to protect him or herself, their family or their property. Conservatives argue that the defence that the law offers a householder should be much clearer and that prosecutions and convictions should only happen in cases where courts judge the actions involved to be 'grossly disproportionate'".
I remind the House of some of the comments that have been made in regard to the "grossly disproportionate" test. Peter Mendelle QC, who was chair of the Criminal Bar Association in January 2010, argued that those who proposed that test should:
Quite tellingly, Michael Wolkind QC, who represented the defence in the both the Martin and the Munir Hussain case-I think that he did so in the Martin case at appeal only-gave telling expression to why "grossly disproportionate" is the wrong test. He said that permitting householders to use any force which was not grossly disproportionate would amount to "state-sponsored revenge". He said that there was no need for the law to be changed. He went on:
"The law already recognises that people react in a certain way in the heat of the moment ... If I manage to tackle a criminal and get him to the ground, I kick him once and that's reasonable, I kick him twice and that's understandable, three times, forgivable; four times, debatable; five times, disproportionate; six times, it's very disproportionate; seven times, extremely disproportionate - in comes the Tory test"-
"Eight times, and it's grossly disproportionate. It is a horrible test. It sounds like state-sponsored revenge. I don't understand why sentencing should take place in the home. Why can't it go through the courts? Why can't the jury, as they always do, decide what is reasonable?"
We on this side think that the "grossly disproportionate" test is the wrong test. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government intend to bring in such a test and, if they do not, what they intend to change in the existing law, which we argue works very well?
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. Although it has been a short debate, it has been extremely informative and worth while. I pay particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, in introducing it. I have told him before that one of my very dear friends, now no longer with us, was Lord Gray of Contin. I remember Hamish telling me that he had found a bright, new young star for the Conservative Party for whom he predicted great things. I am sure that it would have given Hamish great pleasure to have been here today to hear the noble Lord introduce these matters with such authority and passion.
The noble Lord, Lord Bach, ended with some interesting quotes, including "state-sponsored revenge" and "sentencing ... in the home". It is worth while stating
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I am not a lawyer, so, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, or the noble Lord, Lord Bach, I cannot unfortunately call on experience from various cases. My only experience is that I once chased a burglar down the street in my pyjamas in my bare feet. I was 21 at the time but I could not catch him even then, so I cannot tell what I would have done if I had caught up with him.
However, I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. Someone breaking into your own home is a terrifying experience. A noble Baroness in this House-I will not name her because I did not get her permission-told me about a burglary and what a trauma it was for her. Interestingly enough, the healing for her came when the burglar was arrested later and she was asked whether she would like to meet him. Her reason for telling me the story was to advocate the benefits of restorative justice. She said that whereas what she had confronted in her flat was a terrifying situation and someone she was very frightened of, when she met a rather pathetic drug addict who had broken in in the hope of getting something to feed his drug addiction the terror somehow drained away. Her story was a little bit of anecdotal evidence of restorative justice in action and benefiting the victim.
Lord McNally: My point on that is that, as with any legislation, the Minister in the sponsoring department would have to give the assurances on compatibility. I am absolutely convinced that when it comes to my turn to put these matters at the Dispatch Box my noble friend Lord Lester will show the same unswerving support to me as the Minister as he showed to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, those couple of years ago, but we will see.
There is no intention to sweep away the reasonable force test, but we think that there is a case for clarification. The current law on self-defence was last reviewed, as the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said, during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. That Act clarified the operation of these defences. The court must consider whether the degree of force used by the defendant acting in defence of themselves or others, or to prevent crime, was reasonable in the circumstances.
It is on that basis that we have started this process, as the previous Government did in 2008. As my noble friend Lord Thomas pointed out, this is a piece of law that has developed over 250 years. He went back to quoting Blackstone, and it is amazing listening to Blackstone just how contemporary it is in the issues that it addresses.
There is one thing that worries me about "reasonable and proportionate" and about the vigour of my noble friend's approach. My noble friend Lord Thomas referred to a man who shot a trespasser and even the pacific noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, extolled the virtues of a shotgun-in that case it was for a 136-kilo boar-but there is a worry that we have to get the balance right on this. We do not want a vigilante society or one where people, in the pursuit of protection, start thinking that the gun in the bedside table is the best protection that they could get. It just so happened that my copy of New Scientist fell through the door as I was about to leave this morning. I had better come clean; it does not come for me but for my two sons, who are regular readers. However, I was looking at it today and my eyes fell on an article which shows that in the United States around 20,000 children are injured by firearms each year; a further 900 incidents are fatal; and some 30 million American children live in homes where there is at least one firearm. I know that the United States has very much more of a gun culture but I worry that unless we get the messages clear on this, we could slip towards the idea that firearms are a legitimate way of protecting your home. That is certainly not the way that we want to go.
Incidentally, the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, pointed out that he was a former baseball player, hence the fact that he has a baseball bat, but I saw again in one of those statistics that there are far more baseball bats sold in this country than people who play baseball. It is probably worth a PhD being done somewhere to find what other uses there are for them. One of the things that came through in the contributions is that the facts are different in every case. Like my noble friend Lord Thomas, I put great faith and trust in a jury and a judge who hear all the facts and can balance the arguments. Again, we must therefore not retreat too far from those principles.
The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, produced an interesting speech, as he always does. The early theme of it was, "I am a pacifist but I will knock the block off anyone who says that I'm not", but he also got on to the issue of an Englishman's home being his castle and where we have got to on things such as search and seize powers. He pointed out that the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which will be coming before this House, will address some of the issues that he has been campaigning on, including the scale of coverage by CCTV cameras. There is always an interesting kind of clash with CCTV; anybody who has been canvassing on the
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I share some of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, about intrusive telephone calling and the way in which these bodies now seem to be able to ring through for sales purposes. You can get them blocked but the noble Lord identifies a very real problem. There was also his concern about officialdom calling. One can say time and time again never let anybody into your house unless you are absolutely sure who they are and sure about the validity of the person calling. Yet I know from reading my local newspaper that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to calls from bogus officials, who use that opportunity to commit crime. So some of the issues raised by the noble Lord about intrusion and related matters are very pertinent.
I should like to respond to the challenge from the mover, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, by stating exactly where we as the Government are. The two main issues that were raised were self-defence and squatting. I can assure noble Lords that both issues are high on the Government's priority list. They form part of a range of policies to fight crime and to give people greater confidence that the law will protect them when they go about their business in a reasonable and law-abiding way. I will outline the Government's plans for clarifying and, where necessary, strengthening the law in both areas in the order that the noble Lord raised them.
First, let us be clear that there are a number of simple precautions that homeowners can take to reduce the risk of burglary such as installing alarms, planting prickly shrubs or other things along the perimeter fence, not leaving valuable items on display and leaving lights on when the property is empty at night. But even if every precaution is taken, there will be instances where an intruder is not deterred from breaking into somebody's home. As I have said, it can be a very frightening prospect indeed to be confronted by an intruder in your own home. The Government believe that the law should be as clear as possible about what a homeowner can do to defend themselves, other people or property.
As noble Lords have heard, the current law on self-defence allows a person to use reasonable force to protect him or herself or other people, and to prevent crime. The current law makes clear that a person in this situation may use all force that is reasonable in the circumstances as he or she perceived them to be at the time. That last bit is important: the law rightly recognises-my noble friend emphasised this-that a person acting in the heat of the moment cannot be expected to weigh to a nicety precisely what level of force was required in the circumstances. Having said that, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, that the public may still be doubtful about what
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Noble Lords may recall that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced recently that he wanted to put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will have the law on their side. We have been working on new legislative measures to achieve that and are still finalising the details of the policy. The provisions will be designed to give people greater certainty about what it means to use reasonable force in self-defence. We are not planning to sweep away the principle altogether, or to give householders the right to use all the force that they are capable of mustering, which appears in some ways to be what the noble Lord is suggesting. Giving householders carte blanche to do whatever they like to an intruder would be a very dangerous strategy. A press release by the CPS in January 2005 provides some examples of where householders have and have not been prosecuted. In one extreme case, a defendant caught an intruder, tied him up, beat him up, threw him into a pit and set fire to him. I do not think that anybody would agree that that sort of behaviour should be condoned, even if the defendant was extremely frightened. If we abolish the concept of reasonable force and say that householders can do whatever they want to an intruder, we could effectively end up sanctioning this type of conduct, or other forms of vigilantism.
The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, referred to recent cases in Manchester where homeowners had been arrested for killing intruders, only for the CPS to decide to take no action. In my view, these cases show that the law is broadly in the right place and that the majority of homeowners who act honestly and instinctively in self-defence will not be prosecuted, but I accept the noble Lord's point that defendants in these cases may be on tenterhooks following such an intrusion and I think it is important that in these cases the CPS tries to act with some speed. I will draw his remarks to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who I am sure is aware of the need to be as expeditious as possible in deciding whether or not a charge should be brought, but I do not think it is right to say that householders should never be arrested for killing an intruder.
The police have a difficult job when they are called to an address where someone is dead. They have to work out what has happened and an arrest may well be necessary in order to allow for a prompt and thorough investigation of the case. The Government are working with ACPO on new guidance for the police in order to ensure that consideration is given to whether somebody may have been acting in self-defence, but there will always be cases that are not clear-cut, where it is important that the police investigate the allegation. I saw an example in an earlier briefing in which the apparent cause of death was an attempted burglary, but further police investigation showed that there were gang and drug aspects to the case that made the death not necessarily a result purely of self-defence. One has to realise that there are cases that are not as clear-cut as some of the Manchester examples that the noble Lord drew attention to.
Let me turn now to the points that the noble Lord raised about squatting. The Government share his concern about the harm that squatters cause. Residential and non-residential property owners have contacted Ministers and Members of Parliament time and again about the appalling impact that squatting can have on their homes and businesses. It is not only the cost and length of time it takes to evict squatters that irks property owners; it is also the cost of cleaning and repair bills which follow eviction. While the property owner is literally left picking up the pieces, the squatters have gone on their way, possibly to squat in somebody else's property. Again, the noble Lord gave some very good examples of where even the smallest, most trivial of crimes bring down the full weight of the law, yet people can find themselves being told to take the civil law when their property has been squatted.
The current law already provides a degree of protection for both commercial and residential property owners, as offences such as criminal damage and burglary would apply. There is also an offence under Section 7 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 that applies where a trespasser fails to leave residential premises on being required to do so by, or on behalf of, a "displaced residential occupier" or a "protected intending occupier". This offence means that people who have effectively been made homeless as a result of occupation of their properties by squatters can call the police to report an offence. However, there are many residential property owners, including landlords, local authorities and second home owners, who cannot be classified as "displaced residential occupiers" or "protected intending occupiers". Given the level of public concern about the issue, the Government decided to consult publicly on options for dealing with it. There is a consultation paper out which sets out a range of legislative options. The consultation process ended on 5 October and generated more than 2,200 responses, which officials at the Ministry of Justice are now analysing.
While most property owners would evidently support tougher measures to tackle squatting, a number of bodies such as Shelter and other charities have pointed out that people would not squat if they had somewhere else to go. Of course, one of the Government's priorities is to try to address the shortage of affordable housing. The Government are taking both sides of the argument into account as they develop proposals in the area. I cannot pre-empt the Government's formal response to the consultation, but I hope that we will be able to announce our plans in more detail very soon. As I said, this has been a relatively short debate-although I have been told that I have over-run my time-but I hope that I have met a number of the points. I have certainly found it extremely useful, not least to have had a useful prod from both my noble friends.
Lord Blencathra: My Lords, I am very grateful to noble Lords who participated in this short debate and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for his masterful exposition of English law over the past 250 years and to the noble Lord, Lord Bach. There is only one question I have for him: did he win his defence case?
Lord Blencathra: I feel in a similar position today: I feel I have half won on something. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his statement of what the Government intend to do, I look forward with interest to the proposals on squatting and I urge on him my halfway-house solution: let us tackle the problem of domestic premises being taken over first. If the Government's changes to the law there work, then one can look at commercial premises afterwards.
On self-defence, yes, I was trying to push my noble friend further than I know the House wants to go, or the Government want to go. I have no real objection to the concept of reasonable force, if the CPS guidelines are followed. Like the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and other noble Lords, I am entirely supportive of the jury system; we must keep that. I am merely suggesting that there are some cases I have read about where the CPS should not have taken someone to the jury stage, but should have exercised the judgment to drop the case-Omari is a case in point. I also note the point that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, made that, in a trawl, there were only about 11 cases, maybe slightly more, which the CPS did advance.
I conclude by saying that I hope my noble friend will urge the CPS to make a rapid decision in such circumstances. Those of us who are addicted to "CSI: Miami" are used to Horatio confronting a highly complex, horrific crime scene, with 20 different suspects, reaching clarity within 24 hours and deciding who the bad guy is and who is innocent. I rather want the CPS to do the same in all these cases. I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate and look forward to hearing the Government's proposals in due course. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Lord Luke: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords in advance for their contributions to today's debate. I have believed for some time that some vital improvements are overdue in the teaching of, and the importance placed on, history in the United Kingdom. The knowledge afforded to us from learning history forces us to think about who we are; to consider our national identity and responsibilities; to decide whether we live in isolation and selfishness and therefore choose to be passive or whether we go forth and make a difference to the world around us-to learn, to be aware and to be considerate of others' beliefs and traditions and to ensure that previous mistakes are not repeated.
There is a common saying that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It is obvious that we must learn from our past, but to do so we must know our past. Through learning about remarkable individuals and how they shaped our historical
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If taught well, history introduces all kinds of transferable and highly valuable skills, such as an appreciation of the significance of cause and effect and the ability to understand and analyse complex arrangements. Learning about past human relations, and about human nature itself, enhances one's social awareness and, of course, our sense of national identity. In addition, good general historical knowledge produces a good grounding and jolly good common sense, which is perhaps the most important skill of all.
Knowledge of this subject is seen by many as a valuable currency. For example, the Russell group of universities openly admits that those who possess history qualifications have always been, and still are, immensely attractive candidates when deciding who to take on at degree level. That is why it worries me that the same importance is often not placed on the teaching of history at the earlier stages of the schooling process. England is now the only European country that does not require that history be taught to the age of 15 or 16, and growing numbers of pupils are being allowed to drop the subject at 13. Ofsted reported that 102 maintained secondary schools entered no students to sit GCSE history in 2010. Some 30 per cent of pupils in state schools took history at GCSE last year, and only 20 per cent in academies, compared with 50 per cent in the independent sector. I am afraid that this is affecting the most disadvantaged young people in our society-the very ones for whom a good, well-rounded education is one of their only hopes of improving the quality of their lives.
There are concerns that some young people are being steered into more restrictive pathways, and that these are the most likely to be eligible for free school meals and to live in areas of greater social deprivation. What is being done to target these young people specifically, to ensure that they get the help and encouragement they need? Of all the pupils entered for GCSE history in 2010, roughly 67 per cent passed with grades A to C. Of all those who took GCSE history and were eligible for free school meals, 46 per cent achieved grades A to C. Similar trends can be seen at A-level, and this has a knock-on effect for universities. According to the schools White Paper, of the approximately 600,000 children who enter state education every year, some 80,000 are eligible for free school meals. Only 45 of those students made it to Oxbridge. That figure is up by 12.5 per cent on the year before, when only 40 made it. That increase is welcome, and I commend the Department for Education for it, but the figure is still very low. I would be interested to know what proportion of children eligible for free school meals made it to any university.
I have always believed that our primary goal in politics is to make opportunities equally available for all and to narrow the gap between rich and poor-the advantaged and the disadvantaged. As Michael Gove said recently:
I completely agree. Everybody deserves this equal opportunity. Sadly, it seems that it is the most disadvantaged children who are missing out. We must not continue to fail them. Put simply, if one does not know enough, one is at serious risk of not achieving one's full potential. We must ensure that all our children, particularly the most disadvantaged, fulfil their potential. I know that the Government are acutely aware of this issue and are committed to correcting it. Can the Minister update the House on the progress of the plans in this respect?
Last month the Historical Association published a report in which it noted that the only access to specialist history teaching for two-thirds of young people is during key stage 3. From then on specialist expertise fast disappears in many schools. We in the UK are lucky to have so many fantastic teachers, but what is being done to entice more talent into the profession and to ensure that history teachers are always properly trained and possess the expertise and enthusiasm that is necessary to do the subject real justice? I mention enthusiasm specifically because that is the reason why I studied history when I was lucky enough to go to university. I was taught by some extremely able and enthusiastic teachers.
In their report, the Ofsted inspectors cited that a particular problem with the teaching of history was an unbalanced curriculum that paid too much attention to particular topics at the expense of others. Some of our children are missing out on learning about some of the most important individuals and events of our heritage. The Prime Minister once remarked that the composition of the history curriculum was tapas-like, whereby children are given bite-sized and disconnected instruction on isolated events, and no narrative. I have to say that I agree. I am astounded when I read stories about one set of children thinking that Winston Churchill is the nodding dog character in the television adverts for insurance. I read only the other day that our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord West, was spotted on the Central line wearing his full military attire. When an eight year-old asked him why he was dressed in that way, the noble Lord replied, "Because I am in the Navy". The boy then asked him, "What is the Navy?". This is incredibly alarming and surely must not continue.
What is being done to ensure that the history curriculum is properly composed in a chronological manner so that children can place what they learn in a logical way in their minds? Can the Minister also tell us what is being done to make the subject more accessible to children and more exciting to study?
The only thing that we have learnt from history is that we never learn from history. That is a very bleak forecast, but it has been promulgated on many occasions. I just hope that it does not always happen. I dearly
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Baroness Bakewell: My Lords, I support everything that the noble Lord has said about the teaching of history and commend his appalling account of the record of history teaching as it now stands in our schools. I deplore that situation and I call on the Minister to see that it is rectified as soon as possible.
It is a legendary phrase that he wrote in his poem on 1 September 1939. The phrase "all school children learn" was one that he could use then and everyone accepted it. That is no longer the case. All schoolchildren do not learn. A consensus has gone.
The consensus has gone because over the recent generation there have been what you could call curriculum wars. They arose because a generation of postmodern writers analysed history and came to the conclusion that it was merely entirely subjective and a narrative that was the propaganda of one particular segment, and that being subjective no-one could decide whose history to teach. Those wars went on in academic circles to the detriment of young people. You could imagine that, for example, over the teaching of the history of Ireland. Do we teach the Catholic or the Protestant version? Whose version? One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. Whose version do we teach? The chaos of these arguments over the teaching of what truth is-when can you call a fact a fact and not propaganda?-created a crisis in the teaching of history itself.
Bernard Williams, a philosopher, in his book Truth and Truthfulness, drew on what has been an ongoing debate since the time of the Greeks-the postmodernists did not invent it, although they aggravated it. Bernard Williams quoted Clemenceau who, when asked what future historians would say about the First World War, said:
We can also be confident that Archbishop Ussher, the Primate of All Ireland, was wrong to claim in the 17th century that the world began on 23 October 4004 BC-that that was the day of creation. He believed it, he spoke it as truth, and he was wrong. Knowledge changes over time.
We know that the victors write the history. We have in this building a painting that demonstrates that Wellington defeated Napoleon and that the British were the victors at Waterloo. The Prussians beg to disagree; but the overriding fact was that Napoleon was defeated. These curriculum wars have brought us to this sad state of affairs and it is important that we reinstate history for the three benefits that I shall name. I am sure that noble Lords will mention many
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Secondly, history teaches cause and effect, as the noble Lord, Lord Luke, said. Have we ever resolved what the causes of the French Revolution were? Have we always gone on writing essays about them? How fruitful it is to revisit such a subject-the causes of the Industrial Revolution or the Russian Revolution? Revolution figures quite a lot in these causation debates. Only this morning, Andreas Whittam-Smith, writing in the Independent, asks, "Is the world heading for a new revolution?". In his article, he cites the circumstances of 1848 when, as noble Lords will know, Europe was swept by revolution. He cites the causes of the 1848 revolution and suggests that they are available today, and that we should think about that. Understanding cause and effect will make us think about our present society.
History teaches judgment. Over the years, history has taught us to judge the slave trade. It has taught us to judge Victorian society-its virtues as well as child labour and squalid industrial circumstances. It has taught us to celebrate the emancipation of women. Recently, the Tricycle Theatre in London put on a series of 12 short plays in groups of four, running over three nights. Called "The Great Game", it is about British involvement in Afghanistan since 1940. It sold out. Sir David Richard, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said that it was as historically accurate as you would get in any lesson. The audience was full of people from the Ministry of Defence, soldiers, civil servants, Sandhurst cadets, and people who wanted to know the history of British involvement in Afghanistan. The British were not the only ones. The plays then went to Washington and were played at the Pentagon.
There is a greed for history. There is a greed to know how we got here. How did this situation arise? It is directly significant in all our lives today. There is a yearning for history in people's hearts. People may miss out at school, but when the new archive building opened at Kew, it was inundated with people seeking their genealogy-those who wanted to know about their ancestry and to feed their identity.
The television programme "Who Do You Think You Are?" has a big following. It teaches people how to go to church not for the religion necessarily but to seek out records of births, marriages and deaths and of their families. History is also expressed in the civic pride we find when cities are full of plaques on the walls, indicating to us where important people lived and what they contributed. With my background, I am particularly fond of one on a rather posh Manchester hotel that records Peterloo and what that massacre stood for in the movement towards democratic reform.
History gives us our identity and a perspective. It allows us to understand the issues of the past about which we might feel some guilt-a wish to apologise even-but it teaches us who we are. It gives us local, civic pride and national pride. We must not deprive our children of that.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Luke on calling for this important debate. When thinking about it, three things occurred to me: my grandson's pet hen, the Secretary of State for Education's speech to the Conservative Party conference in 2010 and the EBacc. Let me explain. Recently my grandson got a pet chicken. When he was asked what he wanted to call it, he said, "Boudicca". We were all a little taken aback because we thought he was going to say "Henrietta", or "Hyacinth" or something like that.
It made me ask him some questions about what he was learning in his history lessons at school and he knew as much as most of us know about that mysterious and warlike queen. Then I looked in some detail at the national curriculum document for key stage 1 for 5 to 7 year-olds. It states that during key stage 1,
It goes on to indicate that they are expected to acquire a chronological understanding of events and objects, develop an understanding of events, people and changes in the past, find out about the past from different sources, select from that knowledge and communicate it in a variety of ways.
That struck me as quite challenging and interesting and absolutely fine for a young child. Then I read what the Secretary of State for Education, Mr Michael Gove, said in his speech to the Conservative Party conference in 2010, which was:
"Children are growing up ignorant of one of the most inspiring stories I know-the history of our United Kingdom ... The current approach we have to history denies children the opportunity to hear our island story. Children are given a mix of topics at primary, a cursory run through Henry VIII and Hitler at secondary and many give up the subject at 14, without knowing how the vivid episodes of our past become a connected narrative".
If that really were the state of affairs, it would be extremely sad. However, I had difficulty in connecting the two things: the curriculum that I had read and my right honourable friend's speech. Even for such young children, the curriculum talks about the history of Britain and chronological understanding. It also seems to me to have a balance between acquiring knowledge and skills. So I looked further to see what Mr Gove's problem was and I discovered that all children have to study history up to the age of 14-that is, during their first nine years of schooling.
Perhaps there is a problem with the curriculum for older children. I found that at key stage 2, 7 to 11 year-olds do more of everything that is in key stage 1 and they also learn about changes and continuity in their own area. They are expected to look at history in a number of ways, such as political, economic, technological and scientific, social, religious, cultural
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I was still puzzled about where the problem was. I then looked at key stage 3 for 11 to 14 year-olds. They study people and events in Britain from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, build on chronological understanding and are expected to develop further awareness of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, changes across different historical periods, causes and consequences-the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said that was important-the significance of historical events and assess the validity of different historians' interpretations. They are being asked to develop critical thinking. It occurred to me that this should really help to develop their critical skills and we do, of course, want to develop critical thinkers in this country.
When I was at school, history was a very passive subject for me and I was bored stiff. I repeated the Middle Ages for three years running, but still know far too little about it. It was better in primary school where we were able to do some project work which was much more engaging. So, looking at what the curriculum requires, it is hard to know what the problem is. Yes, I accept that the number studying history at GCSE and A-level are going down, but all children have already had nine years of history and that should be enough for many of them if it is well taught.
I will return to that. However, I do not believe that interest in history ends when you leave school. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, you have only to look at the popularity of history programmes on the television and the enormous membership figures of the National Trust and the National Trust for Scotland. History, personal in relation to family trees and national, has become one of the major activities for older people. Programmes such as "Who Do You Think You Are?" of which I am a keen fan, and the many heritage programmes on television, have very high viewing figures and schools television programmes are also excellent. This started decades ago with the famous "Civilisation" series.
However, I listened recently to a Radio 4 programme about the teaching of history and they did a lot of vox pops. Here I heard a clue to the problem identified by the Secretary of State. Those contributors who enjoyed history and really learnt something had specialist teachers who were passionate about their subject and communicated that to their pupils. Here I think we have a problem. The Historical Association-as the noble Lord, Lord Luke, said-conducted a survey of history teachers this year and they, and Ofsted too, concluded that there is much to celebrate. They said:
That is not my opinion, but that of the expert historians. Having looked at the curriculum, I am afraid I agree with them. However, we should also take note of something else they found: that 67 per cent of the teachers surveyed did not have a history adviser in
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That makes history advisers and CPD really important if we are going to have confident teachers who can communicate a passion for the subject. Only then are we going to get enough young people taking GCSE and going on to A-level and history degrees. Only then will we produce enough history graduates to provide more specialist history teachers, as well as enough people to fill all the other posts that require professional historians.
History is important. It helps to develop in young people many of the same skills and critical attitudes and understanding of methodology as science does. If you want to know why history is important, you need only look at what happens to someone who completely loses their personal history by losing their memory. They are adrift. They lose the ability to understand themselves through the prism of their own past. Nations are the same. They understand themselves and are better equipped to face their future if they know about and understand their past.
What are the Government doing about this? That brings me to my third point: the EBacc. I understand from the statement to me of the Minister for Schools, Mr Nick Gibb, that the reason for the EBacc is,
I presume he means that more 14 to 16 year-olds study history, as all five to 14 year-olds do so anyway. The Government have been at pains to say that the EBacc is only one of many ways in which schools will be judged and that they only want to ensure that all children have the opportunity to study history at GCSE level. That may well be, but the best way to ensure that young people study hard, make an effort and come out of school with some confidence-building success behind them is to ensure that they can study those subjects which are most appropriate for them. It is also a fact that not all schools see it that way. They think that they will be judged on the EBacc, and we find that they are staffing up to deliver it at the expense of other subjects such as RE, music and vocational subjects. That is a problem.
I certainly do not agree with Simon Schama's conclusion that we are creating two nations of young Britons: those who grow up with a sense of our shared memory and those who have been encouraged to treat it as little more than an ornamental polishing for the elite. Having read his article in the London Review of Books of March this year, I am much more inclined to agree with Richard Evans, who says about the national curriculum:
"There seems to be plenty of factual content in all this, plenty of kings and queens too. The examples the curriculum provides for teaching history to children from 7 to 11 make mention of 36 significant individuals, ranging from Boudicea and Caractacus to Livingstone and Brunel. From 11 to 14, children study the whole sweep of British history from 1066 to 1900".
He points out that assessment concentrates 70 per cent on knowledge and 30 per cent on skills, so why Mr Gove
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Finally, I express the hope that those carrying out the curriculum review will not feel the need to throw the current curriculum up in the air as a kneejerk reaction to one or two critical and opinionated historians but instead to seek the views of a wide and balanced range of them. The only lesson of history may be that we do not learn the lessons of history, but we should try.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, I should perhaps declare an interest to begin with, because one of my books was a set book for Eton on the Spanish civil war. Therefore, what the Etonians had to study was something about which I had thought a good deal. Although I am not a teacher of history, I have taught in universities; although I am not a schoolboy, I have an interest in the debate.
The aim should be to give to everyone who goes to school in this country a broad knowledge of the history of the country. I do not think that foreign countries are as important in the teaching of history as is the teaching of history in Britain. That teaching should concentrate on five things: first, the growth of political liberty; secondly, the industrial revolution; thirdly, the expansion of Britain overseas to the Empire; fourthly, some feeling of the importance of English literature and art throughout the ages, which is one of the reasons why we are admired outside this country; and, fifthly, some view of our relations with the continent of Europe, which has been such a continuous part of our political and intellectual development from the Middle Ages onwards-and, indeed, before. Do not forget that, had things gone differently at Orléans in 1430, this country would have achieved that union with France which Winston Churchill wanted to achieve in 1940.
Speaking of those five separate undertakings, I believe that the winning of political liberty in this country is something on which we should dwell. It was not as easy as it must seem. Some of those who challenge it now seem to think that it is not worth talking about. The effort to achieve habeas corpus, constant elections and the rule of law was not an easy undertaking. It took many generations to perfect it. It would be good if in most schools students-pupils-were brought up to understand the golden age of British politics. One might say that that was the 1790s, the age of Pitt, Charles James Fox, Burke, Sheridan and so on; unless one thinks that it would be better to concentrate on the 19th century, the age of Disraeli and Gladstone or of Gladstone and Salisbury.
The history of the industrial revolution should also be discussed. The industrial revolution is sometimes vilified as if it has brought ugliness, unhappiness and misery. That is not the case. It has vastly increased
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The Empire, the expansion of Britain, should also be discussed. There are several sections to that: the North American empire, the African empire, the Middle East empire, the empire in the Far East, concentrated on the Malay States and Singapore, and Australasia. Those are five separate undertakings by which we as a nation are judged. I belong to a family which served continuously in both India and Africa. I am aware that one can criticise my ancestors or my uncles, but I know that they thought that they were doing the right thing not only for this country but for the peoples of the countries concerned, to whom they were bringing culture, Christianity and civilisation-three major "C"s which they never forgot.
The fourth British achievement-in the arts-should also not be forgotten. We are admired as the nation of Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Shelley, Dickens and Scott just as much as we are as the nation of Pitt, Fox, and so on. There is no question but that such writers as Sir Walter Scott and Dickens are still in the mind of all educated Europeans- indeed, of all citizens of the world.
Finally, there is the relation with Europe. This is a permanently quarrelsome topic but the fact is that British history has been continuously a part of Europe. We have always been in Europe. The mere fact that our main square is called Trafalgar Square and our main station is called Waterloo is a reminder of that. Our monarchs have been alternately French and German, as well as Welsh and Scottish, but our relation with Europe characterises all our military activity throughout recorded history.
I think these five sections should play a part in national education in a major way and the subject should be approached as if they were the essential underpinnings of the historical memory which we are trying to stimulate, develop and achieve.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, who is a most distinguished historian. He referred very modestly to his work on the Spanish civil war but no more seminal work has been produced in this country in the past 50 years. He did not refer, modestly or otherwise, to his history of the slave trade. I wish he had because it is a book that would commend itself to all those Members of your Lordships' House who have not yet read it.
This is a very important debate and I am most grateful, as we all are, to my noble friend Lord Luke not only for introducing it but for the manner in which he did so. Over the nearly 42 years now that I have been associated with this place I have on many occasions taken parties of school children round this building, which I love and will love to my dying day. I have always taken them to the Royal Gallery and I have gone through the kings and queens whose portraits hang there from the first of the Hanoverians onwards. I have talked of the two great paintings by Daniel Maclise, which are being looked at for restoration. There is a great difference between the parties that I
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As a young man before I entered the House of Commons I was for 10 years a schoolmaster. I taught history. I had charge of the history curriculum in two schools. I made sure that the boys-I am afraid they were all boys in those days in the schools in which I taught-when they reached the age of 16 all had a reasonable, chronological knowledge of the history of their country. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, is right to say that it is the history of our country that we should be primarily concerned with. I made sure that all those boys knew about the great events in English history and the great people who had moulded those events, be it Wycliffe and the Lollards and the first attempt at an English Bible, Hampden and Pym in the 17th century, those great orators of the 18th century to whom the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, referred, or Gladstone and Disraeli. One liked to try and enliven one's lessons by telling amusing stories. I always loved the one about Disraeli and Gladstone when Disraeli said that if Mr Gladstone fell into the Thames it would be a great misfortune but if somebody pulled him out it would be a calamity. By means of anecdotes one could bring alive the history of the country in a way to which young people responded.
In more recent years when I have shown people round there has often been a look of blank incredulity and ignorance when I have talked of some of the great names of our past. Why is that the case? I am afraid I do not share the sanguine view of the history curriculum held by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. What may be said in the curriculum papers is not necessarily brought forth in the classroom. I think that Mr Gove was entirely justified in making the remarks that he made in 2010 and I hope that my noble friend, when he comes to respond to this debate, will be able to give your Lordships some encouragement. The knowledge of our history is the birthright of every child in this country. To deprive a child of his or her birthright is an act of wanton intellectual and academic vandalism. It is essential that all our children have a knowledge of our history so that when they leave school they can fit into the framework of national events the things about which they read in the contemporary press.
We were recalled to this House in August to discuss those dreadful, disfiguring riots. There was unanimous consternation here at what had happened. I put forward a suggestion, which I want to repeat. I said that every young man or woman leaving school, be it at the age of 16 or 18, should go through the same sort of ceremony that those who now aspire to British citizenship must go through and that in order to do so they must be able to demonstrate a certain knowledge of the history of their country. We have a golden opportunity coming up to do something about this.
Lord Lea of Crondall: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way but this point is pertinent to what he has just said about those rioters. Is he talking about teaching history, as he and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, have described it, or should we not have more about the people's history of Britain? There is another dimension to history teaching on which a number of very commendable books have been written which turn the world upside down. Would he reflect on that as well?
The point I am seeking to make is that I believe that those who leave school to go into the wider world should be proud of their British birthright, which means that they must have a knowledge of the history of this country. I was going on to say that I believe there is a golden opportunity coming up because in 2015 we will be commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Only yesterday I was talking in my capacity as chairman of the History of Parliament Trust to Sir Robert Worcester who is chairing the committee on Magna Carta. I asked him whether it would not be a marvellous idea if in that year every school leaver in the country was given a facsimile of Magna Carta and an account of what it meant for the foundation of our liberties. That would be a good thing and would help concentrate the mind.
Anniversaries are good. This morning at Question Time-rather mischievously, because it was not relevant to the Question-the noble Lord, Lord West, talked about Trafalgar Day, which is tomorrow. How many people out there know that Trafalgar Day is tomorrow? Should it not be incumbent on those who teach history in our schools to ensure that every child knows that Trafalgar Day is tomorrow, just as they should know the significance of 11 November? Of course, in three years' time we will have an opportunity to reflect on the beginning of the First World War.
The problem today is that there is a pick and mix attitude to history teaching in schools. Very often there is a constant emphasis on the Second World War. I was born just before the beginning of that terrible war and of course I yield to no one in acknowledging how tremendously important and life-changing for everyone around the world it was. However, that is not the sum total of history. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, talked about cause and effect, as did my noble friend Lord Luke. If people are going to understand the Second World War, they have to understand the First World War; and if they are going to understand the First World War, they have to understand the French Revolution, to which the noble Baroness referred. If they are going to understand that, they have to understand our revolutions of the 17th century: the bloody one, which resulted in the death of the king, and the glorious one, as we often call it, through which the true foundations of parliamentary democracy were laid and the absolute power of the monarch came to an end without bloodshed. All these things they have to know.
It is important that we should discuss these matters in the House. This evening I will have the honour of presiding at a small dinner for a group of fellow members of the Royal Historical Society. We shall meet David Willetts, the Minister in charge of universities, to discuss the teaching of history in universities. This is a follow-up to a similar dinner that I arranged last year for Royal Society members to meet Michael Gove to discuss the teaching of history in schools. A golden thread links the two: we want more young people in our schools to read history at university. We hope that when they do, it will give them a comprehensive knowledge of history such as is not always the case at the moment. I have a son of whom I am extremely proud. He read history at a great university. He knows nothing at all about the Middle Ages, although he has a very good degree. That cannot be right.
We have an opportunity today to point to and underline the fundamental importance of the study of our past. My noble friend introduced the debate very eloquently on that score. We also have a duty to ask the Minister to do all that he can with the Secretary of State to ensure that the centrality of history in the curriculum of our schools is underlined. History must be chronological and as all-embracing as possible. Young people must study it to the age of 16 at least, and when they leave school they should not only have knowledge, but knowledge of which they are truly proud.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, we are all in debt to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, for the debate. It is a pleasure to take part and to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who has done so much in his career to promote history and heritage. I declare an interest as chair of English Heritage and also, in another life, as a makeshift historian. Sadly, I was never taught either by my charismatic noble friend Lord Morgan or by any of the other historians in the Chamber-sadly, not even by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack.
The debate is extremely timely because it is timeless. At its heart are questions that surround the whole purpose of teaching history and how we find the right way to teach it. Dictatorships have never had a problem with the importance and purpose of teaching history, and they have come up with similar solutions. Democracies, too, wrestle with this, and many questions raised in the House are fundamental to a democratic appreciation of the importance of history. Even in a country such as ours, with a very placid trajectory, we have wrestled with these questions for decades if not centuries.
The teaching of a subject that raises the issue of what constitutes the national past and what should be taught in schools is a study in history itself. It is a brave debate to embark on, and it is a brave Minister who, in summing up, will have to try to reconcile all the different views. I have been helped to find my own way through this thicket by the work of David Cannadine. I was very happy that he gave me access to a book he is about to publish called The Teaching of History. I am very grateful to him for the brief glimpse he gave me of a very powerful thesis in which he charts the disagreements
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Until the 1980s and the coming of the national curriculum, the power to influence through the Secretary of State was very limited. Now, with the national curriculum and its relationships with examinations, almost as many issues are being raised. Many of them were raised in this debate, with controversies around them. The fundamental question is whether history matters. If it does not, it is hard to explain the fascination demonstrated already across the Chamber, for example with "The Tudors" on television or with the great blockbusting historical novels or, indeed, the great popularity of anniversaries. If one wants an example of how government interferes with the presentation of history, the account of Prince Albert chairing the Fine Arts Commission, and the commissioning of the Maclise portraits in the new German technology, on which he insisted, is fascinating. I commend Malcolm Hay, our curator, for that knowledge.
If history does not matter, why is there so much evident concern with the fact that fewer than one-third of students take history beyond 14? Why is there anxiety among teachers themselves about the lack of specialist knowledge in primary schools? Why is there an agonised debate about narrative versus bore-hole theories of history? I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that many of these issues will be raised in the curriculum review. History does matter, and must be seen to matter. That is crucial. In a complex, liberal and individualistic society such as ours, consciousness of the past is even more important. The more sophisticated that our society becomes and the more that we move away from linear, simplistic interpretations, the more we need history. Of course it is about identity and it is central to our sense of place, significance, perspective and proportion. I was fascinated by the account of the dramatic interpretations of British relations with Iraq. For the past 10 years I have yearned for our Governments to know more about the history of British relations with the Middle East in general.
History offers at least two particular, related motivations for learning. One is that it is full of ripping yarns and feeds our appetite for more stories. One of my GCSE heroes was Jethro Tull and the seed drill, although I cannot imagine that he is a very popular figure these days. The Elizabethan spymasters, too, captured my imagination. Having talked to a few leading historians this week, including some from the better history forum, which involves both academics and teachers, it seems that a key issue is time itself-time in the school day. Evidence suggests that since 2007 the curriculum has been eaten away in terms of time and focus. Head teachers are under pressure to get results. One result is that in many schools the time available for history is heavily restricted. In some, the discipline survives as a discrete subject; in others, it is treated principally as serving other disciplines. The picture is very patchy, especially in primary schools.
In secondary schools there is a growing tendency to cram key stage 3 into two years. This can mean that, in effect, many pupils get only two years of specialist history teaching before they give the subject up. The rest of Europe might be shocked to know that we have students giving up history completely at 13. I have to ask the Minister why he thinks so many schools are losing the battle. How can we incentivise head teachers? What impact is the EBacc going to have in this respect? Crucially, does he agree with the case made by many historians these days that history should be compulsory to 16? Does he agree that this would drive a more coherent and integrated syllabus across key stages 3 and 4?
This is a salient question because, no matter how we read history, whether we are on the side of the great sweeping narrative or we see the virtues of the in-detail study of Henry VIII or Hitler, there is a tension here. We do not go in for the great historical panorama set pieces any more. I do not want to use another food analogy, but it has been described as the YO! Sushi approach to history, where one just tastes little bits of history and studies short blocks of time intensively. Whether or not this approach allows a better understanding of historical debates and engagement with original materials-and I think possibly it does-it certainly leaves students, as Ofsted put it, with,
The question of what is taught, and how, raises questions around the need for transparency of the assessment and examination system. Again, I hope the curriculum review might address this. I do not want to put the Minister on the spot but there is a big question about whether the Government should have a greater role in determining detailed content of the curriculum to avoid, for example, eccentric programmes of study. Another subset of this tension between narrative and episodic teaching is between what could be parodied as the Gradgrind approach to history-"Facts, my boy!"-and the approach that determines that history is a splendid way of developing other analytical skills and competences. Again, this is an active debate in our schools today.
I too have read the Historical Association reports about the absence of specialist teaching and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, was quite right to point to that as absolutely central to how we read and develop this debate into better learning and teaching. By the sound of it, it is possible that some students can go through their entire school career without ever being taught by specialist teachers. Ofsted talks about teachers failing to establish,
Finally, one point of particular relevance to bodies such as English Heritage is the proposition from the better history forum that the Government should work from the outset with professional bodies and resource providers to ensure that the curriculum is fully resourced.
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There is a problem with time and resources in schools-it is a crowded curriculum. I hope the Minister agrees that time and resources are well spent when schools commit to out-of-school learning. English Heritage is fully engaged with this, as noble Lords will understand. We have wonderful resources that we download into classrooms and then we upload students into our sites and monuments. Anyone who has seen the legions of 10 year-old Roman soldiers at Birdoswald on Hadrian's Wall-making Roman lamps no less-or encountered a group of tiny children acting out the life of the Victorian servant class in Apsley House, will know that these children will always want more history and that heritage for them is not actually the past, it is something that enriches and explains their future.
One of my ambitions is to make those occasional encounters a substantial and systematic part of the relationship between local schools and local history and the national story. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, that he would like to see his five themes; I would actually like to see more attention in the curriculum to the local history of our country and, of course, the four countries in our nation. I would also make a plea for more study of the impact of science and technology.
For noble Lords who have not been there, I should say that Dover Castle is a brilliant example of how history reinvents itself. Dover Castle was not only an Iron Age hill fort at the beginning of our story; it concludes with the wartime tunnels-opening this summer-from which Admiral Ramsay, a rather neglected figure, saved the soldiers from Dunkirk, when 300,000 men were taken off the beaches. We have the whole story of England in one site. How much better can it get?
Finally, I do not entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I actually share Simon Schama's concerns that if less history is taught in some schools-those schools might be the academy schools, and I would like the Minister to comment on whether that is possibly the case-there can be a schizophrenia, which is to say a sense of shared memory and shared appreciation of history among one group of people and a lack of interest and appreciation among another. That has huge implications, not just for culture but for a diverse nation which has to come to terms with a number of different stories and histories. I believe that this is an issue. As Simon Schama said,
Lord Addington: My Lords, when it comes to a debate on history I am afraid I bring a little history of my own into this. The first time I got into a really
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The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, spoke about the 18th and 19th centuries. I did the 18th and 19th centuries because I was at school in the 1970s. I did the O-level system where you actually learned lots of facts-we had O-level memory and we did not have any history, to be perfectly honest. Yes, we could run off all the Prime Ministers and the Acts they passed, but it did not tell you anything. It did not tell you how they related to each other or how anything went on from that. The noble Lord referred to the Glorious Revolution, so called because of course in England there was not any fighting; it was all in Ireland and Scotland-not quite so glorious there, possibly. Every time you take a little bit of history you have to look at it.
Probably the most profound historical exercise I undertook was to do with being best man at a wedding in France, believe it or not. I was best man to a university flatmate who also read history. The families were arguing over who should sit where. Over the second bottle of wine at a dinner party it was suggested that I might want to put all the French people on tables named after famous English victories over them, with the most embarrassing paragraph about that victory on the table, and the English the other way round. This was an extremely fun project. The best one I found was Yorktown for the English. You could say it was a French victory-and we had a few Americans there so they got annoyed as well; it was great-because the army of America was of course paid for by the French and there were nearly as many French soldiers outside and a French fleet besieging it, which is an interesting little fact to take back and annoy people with. You then get the idea: "But that's not really fair. No, that's not it". But that is what happened. Unless you look at and embrace your failures and the things that went wrong in history, you will ultimately get it wrong. In looking at history, we tend to look at what makes us great. We should look at what made us bad as well and remember the fact that any nation which has been out there could almost drown in its own sins of failure or perhaps straightforward misunderstanding at any point.
Earlier, we heard that when people were in colonial service they thought that they were bringing culture and superiority to the societies which we were imperially controlling. I suggest that India might argue with us that it had a valid culture and a valid history. Its civilised and recorded history is rather better than
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This comes down to the question of how one takes this information and puts it into a classroom. My noble friend Lady Walmsley got it right when she read out what is prescribed in the history curriculum. It is a huge task, which, if anything, is too big. It is possible only with specialist support. Perhaps we are too ambitious and ask everyone to do rather more than they are capable of. A limit on what you are trying to do might be important. How can we possibly bring this together?
We come back to the fashions in history. People of my age were taught about the 18th and 19th centuries. Now it seems to be World War II and the Tudors-possibly not, but they seem to be the fashionable subjects that come up most often. What is more valid? One could spend a lifetime discussing that question and still not come to a conclusion that means anything. As has been pointed out, they are part of the same continuous street.
I have met professional historians-indeed, the much missed Lord Russell, who I remember would say when you got slightly outside his spectrum, "Oh, not my period". He might have had a rough idea of what was going on but it was not his period. Most professional historians are like that. The arguments about fashion come back to the idea of the marxist versus the revisionist or the post-modernists. All of them basically play with ideas. Then we all have an opinion on the ideas. We have all done a little history or have all done some education, in that most of us have been to school. The idea of fashion comes in and out and always different pressures will be put on people as regards fashion.
We should not read too much into this. The one thing that we can be sure about is that fashion changes. People now attacking the system and the status quo will be attacked because that is what academics and politicians do. They feed off ideas. If history gives us an idea of place and of our place within our country, it will depend on how we teach that and how we connect it.
I shudder to say this with my noble friend Lady Benjamin at my left elbow: the fact is that if you come from an ethnic minority you may have a different sense of what is important in history from, for example, a white hereditary Peer. I am sure that different family connections go back through the system here. I know that my family provided people for the colonial service for quite a long time. There were different perceptions of what you did and what you should not do. Once again, people can drown in a sort of self-loathing for things that were done in days gone by which they would never do today. That is fashion or perception.
I say to my noble friend who will answer this debate that when we talk about history, we should try to remember that there is not a right answer. There are merely answers that will give some help and understanding. Is it a narrative guide to what happened in the past or is it an academic discipline? On using history to discover other things, I had a moment from my nine year-old daughter, who asked, "What is rape?". I said, "Why do
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Once you use history for various parts of education, you will always have to make sacrifices. The sacrifice that you will ultimately have to make if you teach more history is whether we should teach more English and maths. We all know that English and maths is appalling and has never been as good as it was-as it always was in my youth and, indeed, my mother's youth, apparently.
English is a very difficult language to learn because of its two origins-French and German, thanks to the fact that the English were ruled over by French kings for several hundred years-which is probably one of the reasons. Perhaps history can help us with that. There is always a problem somewhere in the curriculum. Ever since we have had a national curriculum, there has been a constant cry to spend more time on the pet subject of the person speaking at the time. Recently, we have heard about nutrition, parenting, English is always coming up and now history. We must make a limit on this. History must be fit in as a coherent part of that whole. We will never get it right. A degree of flexibility may be important in the approach but if we say that there is one right way and one wrong way, all we will do is set up another row, which, after all, may be what the professional historians want.
Baroness Berridge: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Luke for securing today's important debate. As previously outlined by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell and Lady Walmsley, history is thankfully back in fashion. People are spending time researching their family history on the internet, and "A History of Ancient Britain" and "Mixed Britannia" are just some of the 36 episodes of historical programming available today on BBC iPlayer. I do not approach this debate as a TV producer, professional educationalist or historian but merely as the recipient of inspired history teaching at GCSE and A-level.
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