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Grand Committee

Tuesday, 13 May 2014.

Arrangement of Business


3.30 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen): My Lords, good afternoon. I am sure that there will not be a Division in the House, but if there is the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.

Scientific Infrastructure (S&T Report)

Motion to Take Note

3.30 pm

Moved by Lord Krebs

To move that this House takes note of the report of the Science and Technology Committee on scientific infrastructure (2nd Report, HL Paper 76).

Lord Krebs (CB): My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of Oxford University, as a career scientific researcher and as a former chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council.

I thank the members of the Science and Technology Committee for their excellent contributions in producing this report. I particularly thank our specialist adviser, Professor Brian Collins, who was formerly the Chief Scientific Adviser in the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and who is currently at UCL. We certainly benefited very much from his wise guidance and advice. I also thank the Minister for the Government’s response to our report. I will say at the outset that the Government’s response and the associated announcements have been very encouraging. I congratulate the Minister on that, and I will return to the good news story later on.

I will start by setting the scene by defining what the report, entitled Scientific Infrastructure, is concerned with. If asked what the ingredients are that you need to carry out scientific research successfully, clearly, you need the right people, the costs of conducting research—whether experiments or theoretical work—and the appropriate equipment and facilities in which to carry out research. Our report is concerned with the last of those three elements: the infrastructure that is essential for scientific research.

To look at how we define infrastructure, we include three things. First, we include the very large facilities of which there may be perhaps only one in the UK, one in Europe or even one in the world. An example is the Diamond Light Source based near Oxford; there is one of those synchrotron sources in the United Kingdom. Another is the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, which I am about to visit later this week and which is the only one in Europe. Secondly, in our definition of infrastructure, there are medium-sized pieces of equipment that are shared between several institutions, such as the London Centre for Nanotechnology, in which specialist equipment is accessed by researchers from

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leading London universities such as UCL and Imperial College. Thirdly, and importantly, we included in our definition the national laboratories—the public sector research establishments—that are repositories of data, expertise and national capabilities, and that serve the public good of the whole country; for example, the British Geological Survey and the former Institute for Animal Health.

We undertook this inquiry because of our concern about the consequences of a swingeing 46% cut in the capital spend for science that was announced in the 2010 comprehensive spending review. At that time the flat cash settlement for capital for science for the five-year CSR period would have been £3.295 billion, whereas the sum announced in 2010 was £1.896 billion. In the subsequent years there have been a number of ad hoc announcements by Ministers of new investment in capital for science, including for areas such as graphene research, space science and the “eight great technologies”—big data, space, robotics, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, agri-science, advanced materials and energy. Between them, those later ad hoc announcements have brought the capital spend up to 94% of where it would have been with flat cash in 2010. However, the problem with those one-off announcements is that they do not add up to a coherent strategy for investment in the future of our scientific infrastructure.

As an aside, in contrast to the cut in 2010 to capital spend for science, the Government have since maintained the flat cash ring-fence around the science budget for programmes and projects. That has been welcomed by the scientific community as relatively good news in times of austerity. I will refer to that again later, but we wanted to ask whether the future potential of that investment in programmes and projects might be threatened by the lack of a coherent plan and sufficient investment in scientific infrastructure. The importance attached to that question is illustrated by the fact that we received around 100 submissions of evidence not just from academia but from industry, charities, learned societies, public sector laboratories and so on—and not just from the UK; they were from overseas as well.

Before I summarise what this plethora of evidence told us, let me just provide a bit of background context about UK science. As noble Lords will know, the United Kingdom punches well above its weight in science; it is one of our great success stories. In its 2013 report, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills states that we have 4.1% of the world’s scientists, 11.6% of the world’s citations of scientific papers and 15.9% of the most highly cited papers in the scientific literature—the papers that really make a difference. Furthermore, that astounding achievement is delivered on an investment well below the OECD average. In 2012, our investment was 1.72% of GDP, the lowest of the G8 countries and well below the EU average of 2.08%. Our main competitors such as the USA, Germany and Japan spend around 3% of GDP on research and development. According to the Campaign for Science and Engineering, in 2011-12—the last year for which figures are available—government spend on science was at its lowest level for 10 years. Therefore, as I have said, although the scientific community has

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welcomed the protection of the ring-fence for programmes and projects and other commitments to science, we as a nation are still investing far less than our competitors.

That was a bit of context, but now let me summarise the key results of our inquiry, and I am sure that other noble Lords will wish to speak in more detail on particular points. First and foremost, we concluded that at the moment the UK has globally competitive scientific infrastructure in many areas, but there is no room for complacency. As I said, other countries invest more than we do in science and we cannot take our position at the top table for granted. We identified two shortcomings in our investment in scientific infrastructure: the lack of a long-term strategy; and the failure to provide adequate running costs for facilities, so that we have sometimes ended up with expensive kit and not enough money to run it to full capacity.

As I mentioned, the series of one-off announcements since 2010 of investment in scientific infrastructure have not added up to a coherent strategy. As was made clear to us in our evidence, investment in very large facilities such as the Diamond Light Source requires decades of planning rather than the approach—it looked like pulling rabbits out of hats—that we have seen in recent years. The lack of running costs for large infrastructure was brought home to us by the fact that the ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source, used for the study of the atomic structure of materials, is operated for only 120 days a year, well below its capacity of 180 days a year, because of a lack of an operational budget. That was just one of many examples. As one witness put it to us:

“When we are not running very expensive machines with capital costs in the hundreds of millions or even billions of pounds, and we are saving a few million in electricity bills every year, that is not a reasonable economic strategy”.

In addition to those two key findings—the lack of a strategy and the lack of operational costs—we draw attention in our report to three other key points. First, and of really high importance, we note our concern that the future of some public sector research establishments as custodians of data and national capability may be eroded by the urge to turn them into quasi-private money-making ventures. We are concerned that this may be a very short-sighted policy in relation to national need.

Secondly, there is great benefit to the UK in engaging proactively in international infrastructure projects. Many of the very large pieces of kit cannot be supported by one country and are built on an international basis. The host country can gain significant benefit, such as substantial leverage of funding and jobs. However, we hear that the Government sometimes have appeared reluctant to take the lead in hosting major international facilities. For instance, the UK currently hosts the Joint European Torus, or JET, project at Culham near Oxford for research on nuclear fusion. This facility, for which we pay 12.5% of the costs, has brought great benefit to the local community and the opportunity for training and development of technical skills. Yet, for reasons that were not explained to us, the UK did not bid to host the successor to JET, which will instead be hosted by France.

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Thirdly, we heard from industry witnesses that the charging regime for industrial users for access to UK scientific infrastructure is more punitive than in some other countries. Rolls-Royce, for instance, told us that its US competitors have free or low-cost access to high-performance computing. It goes on to say:

“It is important that UK companies have the playing-field levelled”.

Those are our key conclusions and recommendations.

As I said earlier, the Government’s response was extremely positive. First, the Government have since our report announced a new commitment to invest in scientific infrastructure starting at £1.1 billion per year in 2015-16 and rising with inflation each year up to 2020-21. That is a welcome commitment to reverse the decline that took place in 2010. At the same time, at the end of April, the Government launched a consultation on how best to invest this money for the future of UK science. We had recommended that the director-general for knowledge and innovation in BIS, Sir John O’Reilly, should lead an advisory group to develop a long-term strategy for investment in infrastructure. This has been accepted, and the group will be a ministerial group chaired by the DGKI with representatives from the key funders, as we suggested, and from industry. The Government in their response also state that our other recommendations, including those related to operational costs and international collaboration, will be considered by this advisory group. This response, as I have said already, is very encouraging, and we look forward to the report of Sir John O’Reilly’s group.

In previous debates on my Select Committee’s reports, the Government have usually been pressed to take further action or make further commitments. In this case, however, I have to take the unusual step of congratulating them on their positive response and commitments.

More generally, the Government’s commitment to investing in science, including scientific infrastructure, is, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his recent speech in Cambridge, based in part on the notion of building on success—science is something that we are extraordinarily good at—and in part on the notion that investment in science will bring economic gains to the country. I quote from the Chancellor’s speech:

“I’m here to talk about British science because it is something that I am personally passionate about. I get that this is something Britain is brilliant at—and that it is vitally important to our economic future”.

In this vein, we must not forget, as I have already said, that although the Government’s commitment to science is welcome, we are nevertheless as a nation underinvesting when we compare ourselves with our global competitors. We cannot expect to stay in the very top group of scientific nations on brain power and imagination alone; we need sustained and increased investment from both public and private sectors. We must also not forget that many, if not most, of the scientific advances—from lasers to liquid crystal, from DNA to monoclonal antibodies—that have yielded commercial or other benefit to the nation have arisen not as a result of applied research but as a result of pure blue-skies,

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curiosity-driven research. It is vital that we protect the ability and capacity of scientists to follow their own intuition and curiosity.

I will close by asking the Minister two questions. First, does he agree that, following the very welcome commitment to a sustained investment in infrastructure, we cannot be complacent? This should not be taken as “job done, box ticked” but rather as a start in the UK’s long-term commitment not just to maintain but to increase its investment in science R&D.

Secondly, this is perhaps slightly tangential to today’s debate but I cannot resist the opportunity of raising the question of the future of AstraZeneca. Biomedical science is an area in which we are absolutely at the top of the world league. The translation of that science into benefits to society in terms of health and to the economy in terms of jobs and prosperity depends on the close relationships between the UK academic base and UK industry. I very much hope that the Minister can confirm that the Government are acutely aware of this in considering their response to Pfizer’s approach to AstraZeneca. I beg to move.

3.46 pm

The Earl of Selborne (Con): My Lords, I start by thanking most sincerely the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for having introduced this debate and for having chaired the inquiry—and, indeed, for having chaired the Select Committee for the past four years with great distinction. He chaired his final meeting this morning. He will be very greatly missed by members of the committee. His introduction to today’s debate reminds us of his great expertise in so many of these areas, where his own background complements so well the subject under discussion. I, too, declare an interest as chair of the advisory committee of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, which is a Natural Environment Research Council research centre. I also thank our very distinguished specialist adviser, Professor Brian Collins, for his help with our inquiry.

I think we all recognise that it is one of the consequences of a successful research programme in most areas of science and technology—perhaps not all but almost all—that as you achieve international renown, so the stakes get ever higher. That is certainly true of many of the areas that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, referred to. Whole new research areas open up on the back of dramatic advances, which in turn require new infrastructure facilities, sometimes extremely expensive ones, for those who wish to remain relevant and internationally competitive. As box 1 at the beginning of our report says,

“the Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron facility”,

which is a very good example of a major investment in scientific infrastructure and one which has the prospect of leading to applications of great economic and cultural importance in engineering, pharmaceuticals and the environment.

However, I want to concentrate on box 2 on page 10, which is the area that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, described as the third category of infrastructure. Box 2 refers to the continuing need for scientific infrastructure,

“for monitoring and understanding the natural environment”.

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I reiterate my interest at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Box 2 lists seven research centres funded by the NERC, which have for many years required very considerable scientific infrastructure expenditure in terms of research ships, aircraft, laboratories, the maintenance of vast data sets and, in the case of the British Antarctic Survey, research stations in a highly hostile environment and all the costs involved therein.

As a maritime nation, we are rightly proud of our contribution to oceanography but, again, the price of membership as a world-leading research centre is high. The cost of maintaining and servicing ships and the cost of fuel—let alone the cost of building ships in the first place—increases faster than research budgets. Research in polar regions—the Arctic as well as Antarctica—is, again, a field in which we have always played a very significant role. Some would say that we started the discipline in the time of Scott. If we want to continue to be a major contributor to polar research—we clearly cannot be the largest any more—as I hope we will be, we simply must understand the infrastructure implications. You cannot be half in and half out. You have either got to have a commitment or have none at all.

Again, in the area of big data, as the report points out, the computing advisory panel at the Science and Technology Facilities Council reminds us that for the effective handling and analysis of increasingly large data sets, and for the purposes of curating these data and making them available for further exploitation, we simply have to put the appropriate infrastructure in place. The sort of environmental research to which I have been referring is very much about accumulating, curating and exploiting data of sometimes mammoth proportions.

These NERC research centres—and this will be true of other research council centres—will over the next generation need access to large infrastructure funds if they are to retain their status as world-leading research organisations. There is simply no way that you can carry out world-class research with outdated facilities. I remember vividly that in the 1990s, when I chaired the Agricultural and Food Research Council, now subsumed into the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Government of the day decided—perfectly reasonably, perhaps, some would have thought—that much of the funding for food production was no longer a priority and that, because research funding was, as always, tight, we had to close down and amalgamate a considerable number of institutes. It was a painful exercise, as I remember to my cost; I still bear the scars. Quite frankly, 20 years later, many now regret that quite such draconian measures were taken as food security comes up the political agenda.

If we look forward to the present situation, I hope that we will not allow our environmental research centres to wither through a failure to recognise the inevitable need to update infrastructure facilities. As we address the need for both mediation of and adaptation to climate change, the loss of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity, ocean acidification and the need for new energy sources, for all of these we will have to rely on national capability and independent scientific

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advice for managing this environmental change and building national resilience to environmental hazards. We will need world-leading research organisations that advance knowledge across land, freshwater, oceans and the atmosphere. We will need to advance our understanding of the structure, properties and processes of the solid earth system.

We will also need to maintain the extremely important—indeed, unique—data networks which we have amassed. I shall list one or two to give noble Lords a flavour of the range, all of which require continuing upkeep to be serviceable: the Biological Records Centre; the National River Flow Archive; the Environmental Change Network; the national geological datasets; the National Geological Repository; the deep-sea core sediment repository; and other national oceanographic assets. These are assets of which we are custodians for future generations. With this comes a responsibility which cannot be abandoned. Yet this is where I do not envy the role of those, now, who have to make these difficult decisions in research councils—nor, indeed, the role of Ministers. When new areas of science open up, such as nanotechnology, genomics, graphene research and many others, these inevitably require commitments also. It will inevitably be an extremely difficult decision as to how you prioritise.

That is why I strongly support the main thrust of the report set out in the recommendations in paragraphs 27 to 29. The BIS director-general of knowledge and innovation is to be charged with the responsibility of producing a long-term strategy and investment plan for scientific infrastructure. This would go well beyond the research councils and the universities and must include the facilities required by industry and, indeed, those which complement industry and the private sector. These are not just the structures that need to inform our investment priorities for the next 10 to 15 years, but should give a pointer for the next generation or even more. That is not an unreasonable timescale when considering the lifetime of many of the facilities we are talking about.

Again, I join the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, in congratulating the Government on their response; they have taken up the challenge. I accept that what we are asking for is indeed a challenge. We need an assessment of our investment priorities for infrastructure for effectively the next generation. I shall read from the Government’s response, which states that,

“the Minister for Universities and Science will be leading a consultation on long term science and research capital … This consultation will inform the roadmap on long term science capital, which will be central to the Science and Innovation Strategy HMG are publishing at Autumn Statement 2014”.

If the report by Professor Sir John O’Reilly achieves what we hope it will, it could be a document of absolutely seminal importance. I do not think that anyone underrates how difficult it will be to produce and how many hard decisions will no doubt have to be taken, but as a member of the committee which put forward these proposals, I am enormously heartened that the challenge has been taken up.

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3.56 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford (LD): My Lords, I am delighted to speak in this debate and to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who not only chaired this inquiry but, as the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has just said, has been the chairman of the committee for the past four years. I have been a member for three years now, and I have greatly enjoyed working under his chairmanship. I am sorry that he is standing down, but as we all know, there is a House rule that after four years one must do so. I should also declare an interest as a former fellow of and researcher at the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex and currently as an honorary fellow of Birkbeck college.

This was an interesting inquiry for the committee to undertake. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, indicated, it was stimulated by what has happened to the science budget over the past three or four years. In the 2010 austerity Autumn Statement, although science funding itself was ring-fenced, it was done only in money terms and not in real terms, and only for current expenditure, thus not for capital expenditure. In relation to capital expenditure, the 2010-11 funding had originally been set at £872 million. Had that been carried through for the five years of this Government, it would have amounted to a total expenditure of £3.49 billion, whereas actually the Budget cut it to £1.896 billion, representing a cut in funding for science capital of 40%. This in turn led to substantial changes in plans that had been under way, with many projects being put on hold. But, in practice, the cuts were largely offset by a series of ad hoc announcements in Autumn Statements and March Budgets which restored the capital sum of funding to the original 2010 target level of around £3.5 billion. Some of these announcements were in addition to general funding, but quite a lot were committed to very specific projects, a point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, such as the Open Data Institute, or associated with the announcement of the “eight great technologies”.

However, what we generally heard from our witnesses was that this sort of blowing hot and cold is highly disruptive to the long-term planning of science infrastructure, and it has happened several times over the past three decades. One looks back over time. In the 1980s, capital funding suffered severe cuts, but was restored to some extent in the early 1990s with cutbacks again at the end of the 1990s, and made good by the joint infrastructure programmes and science research infrastructure programmes of the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, in the 2000s. Then again in 2010 there were sharp cutbacks, summed up well by the Oxford University submission, which said that:

“The irregular appearance of capital to be allocated at short notice tends to militate against sustainable strategic investments in research infrastructure”.

That sums up the essence of our inquiry: we were worried that the erratic funding of capital projects was damaging Britain’s ability to hold its own within world science, and that what we needed was a longer-term sustainable planning framework that allowed, sometimes, for the 15, 20, 25 or even 30-year horizon necessary for some of these very major projects.

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One of our main recommendations was that we needed to build some form of strategic framework with which to plan the investment, developed over time and adhered to by Governments. As has already been mentioned, there was the idea that the BIS director-general for knowledge and innovation should have responsibility for developing a long-term strategy and investment plan for scientific infrastructure, setting investment priorities over the next 10 to 15 years, and that for that purpose he should have an ad hoc committee of some sort to back him up. Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, mentioned, we were particularly concerned at the disconnect between capital and operational budgets—at the fact that the ISIS facility at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory was able to operate for only 120 days a year because of the need to save on electricity costs.

We were also anxious to see proper links between research council and higher education funding council expenditures at universities and big infrastructure projects—what we called the mid-range issues. As the University of Nottingham pointed out, it is important that samples are tested at the home laboratory before being taken to the Diamond Light Source. That optimises use of the very expensive national facility there, but requires the university itself to have access to appropriate up-to-date equipment. We put much emphasis here on the participation of universities in collaborations—not necessarily having the mid-size equipment themselves but being able to access it within their regional framework.

We also noted the benefits that stemmed from participating in and hosting major international scientific projects such as CERN or JET. Some quite interesting evidence was given about the development of CERN within the Swiss and French environment, and it was felt that the UK was not always as ready as it might be either to participate or to think about hosting such facilities. We wanted to see an evaluation of the costs and benefits of hosting such activities. In particular, we thought that successive Governments had perhaps underestimated the knock-on benefits from having both the highly trained scientific workforce that they created and the spillover benefits for start-up SMEs and small companies.

Finally, while welcoming the Government’s initiative to encourage collaboration with universities through the UK research partnership investment fund, we felt that rather more could be done to encourage industry to participate and contribute to the long-term planning of facilities.

Like others, one can only be very pleased with the Government’s response, and not only the response that we received in January; I was particularly impressed by the announcements in the Minister’s speech at Cambridge two or three weeks ago, and the publication at the end of April of the big consultation document on proposals for long-term capital investment in science and research, because essentially it picks up and does what we asked for. In the Autumn Statement, there was a commitment to a capital budget for 2015-16 of £1.1 billion a year, higher than up till now, which the Government now pledge to maintain in real terms through to 2021, over a five-year period, leading to a total spend of £5.9 billion—almost £6 billion.

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As their response in January promised, the Government have now set up a major consultation exercise to discuss how best this money is to be spent. Some £1 billion of it is already committed to projects such as the European Space Agency, the Met Office, the Higgs institute and the new polar flagship. However, decisions about how best to allocate the approximately £5 billion that is left are to be made after consultation to assess the views of the scientific community and where its priorities lie. This consultation is to be led not by the director-general of knowledge and innovation, as we had suggested, but by the Science Minister himself. In some ways that is an extremely good thing; it gives real credibility to the fact that the Government are giving this priority and ministerial time. There will be an advisory group chaired by the director-general of knowledge and innovation, which will include representatives from the learned societies, the research councils, the higher education funding councils, industry and the charities. Essentially, the idea of this group, as of the consultation exercise itself, is to advise the Minister on the development of a strategic road map for science and research infrastructure.

There is great deal to be pleased about in terms of what we have achieved. I have a number of questions to put to the Minister, and perhaps he can answer either now or later. First, on technical skills, the response from the Government rightly put a good deal of emphasis on the development of digital skills and what the Government are doing to promote them. Our report, however, placed emphasis on the importance of infrastructure and providing a wider, technically trained workforce. The Government have been putting much emphasis on developing the technician-level apprenticeships in the STEM area. While we celebrate the very substantial increase in the number of apprentices under the Government, the figures in detail show that the majority of these apprenticeships are in fact only at level 2 and are in such areas as business administration and the retail trade. Do the Government have any up-to-date figures on how their attempts to get specialist apprentices working up to technician level—the sort of HND level—in the STEM area are doing? Do they have any more recent figures than are available?

Secondly, in terms of hosting international facilities, in their response the Government mentioned two studies under way, looking at the costs and benefits of hosting such centres, one led by BIS and the other by the OECD. This was in January. Has either of these studies been published and, if so, what were their main conclusions?

Thirdly, both we and the Government have put emphasis on the need for collaboration between institutions and with industry. In particular, both of us praised the achievements of the UK research partnership investment fund. However one of the very depressing features, probably the most depressing, of the scientific R&D scene in Britain is the degree to which industrial R&D fails to increase. Indeed, in real terms it has been falling. As we know, if we look at it as a proportion of GDP it has recently fallen even lower than it has been before. We are well below our international competitors on this issue.

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A feature of this is that statistics on R&D usually lag two or three years behind the present. One would hope very much that the pick-up in economic growth over the past year has perhaps led industry to begin to move forward on this. Do the Minister or the department have any indication that we are seeing a turn in industrial R&D? What was encouraging was that the response to the partnership fund was a positive one, and we managed to lever a great deal of extra resource from industry as a result of it. However, it would be good to know that industry really is backing up what is happening more generally.

My final question, which is in a sense a plea, is this. One of the features of the evidence we received was that the timescales are extremely long. We are talking about going through to 2021, which is a seven-year horizon, and in budgetary terms about a five-year horizon. But one really needs a horizon of 15 or 20 years, and sometimes even 30 years. There was some discussion of whether there is a need for some sort of cross-party agreement. I raised this at a lecture a couple of weeks ago at University College, London, at which the Minister talked about the consultation exercise. I asked him whether there might be cross-party agreement to develop a long-term, forward-looking strategy for science infrastructure. He said, I think rightly, that there is no real disagreement between the Labour Party and the coalition in terms of the general targets for scientific research. However, general agreement is one thing—the Minister praised the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, for what he had achieved—but it would be good to see some kind of formal cross-party agreement in this area. That is a question as much for the Labour Party as it is for the Minister. I think that the public would be pleased to see the parties working together in an area where there is no real party-political disagreement.

4.11 pm

Lord Jenkin of Roding (Con): My Lords, I join my noble friend Lord Selborne in congratulating the chairman of the committee, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on his four years. I believe that it is the last occasion on which he will introduce a report of the Select Committee in the House. We thank him very much for his service. It has been apparent that those who have spoken so far, and who all took part in the inquiry, are very familiar with the evidence. I must confess that although I have tried to look at it all, I should say that there are 500 pages of it on the internet and, quite frankly, I have not read more than a small part. If anything I say has been covered, I can only apologise for that.

I have two responses to make to the debate. One is a worry that has been touched on but which I would like to take a little further, while the other is a question for my noble friend the Minister. I turn first to the worry. There has been general praise for the Government’s response, and I should say at once that it is mostly encouraging. The committee raised the issue of the operational costs involved in making the best use of scientific infrastructure expenditure and considered the question put by my noble friend Lady Sharp, which is the provision of a suitably skilled

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workforce. That was included in the part of the report headed “Not just machines”, and of course that is hugely important.

I do not need to spell out the detailed evidence on which the committee made its fourth recommendation because it is set out in the report. The recommendation, which has been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and others, describes,

“a damaging disconnect between capital investment and the funding for operational costs”.

The committee recommended that a way should be found in which two funding sources could be,

“tied together in one sustainable package”.

That sounds very sensible, but it is the Government’s response to this that worries me. After talking about recognising,

“the importance of greater alignment between capital and resource funding”,

and arguing that the commitment to rising capital spending is “matched” by the stability of ring-fenced resource funding, the response ends by referring to the recently published consultation paper, to which reference has been made. It is entitled Creating the Future: A 2020 Vision for Science and Research—A Consultation on Proposals for Long-term Capital Investment in Science and Research.

Over the weekend, I had a very good look at that consultation paper and perhaps I might be forgiven if I refer to it in rather greater detail than other speakers. Section 2 is headed “Science Strategy for Major New Projects”. Annexe A lists the projects on which consultees are invited to give their views. While a few of them are able to spell out the operational costs and to give estimates, most of them—indeed the majority—on the question of operational costs say:

“Subject to detailed business case”,

or that this depends on “international negotiations”.

How on earth are the scientists invited to look at this consultation paper, to express their views on the various exciting projects spelt out, to be able to do anything if they are given no guidance whatever as to what the operational costs may be? Even more, how could they do so if they do not have any confidence that their share of the allocated resources would enable them to play their part in operating the proposed infrastructure?

Paragraph 14 of the consultation paper is remarkably frank on that. It states:

“While capital budgets have been set to 2021, resource budgets beyond 2016 will be considered as part of the 2015 Spending Review (as with other areas of Government resource spending). Consequently, this consultation does not in itself represent a commitment to funding; rather, responses will inform the Science Capital Roadmap and decisions will be subject to the development of satisfactory business cases”.

How far does that take us?

The Science Minister is constrained by the Haldane principle in his ability to tell the research council what its priorities should be, but that does not apply to the capital budget so that he and his colleagues can prioritise the capital projects. Here we come to the point, which the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and my noble friend Lady Sharp have mentioned, about ad hoc announcements. The noble Lord mentioned graphene

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and a number of others have also been mentioned. They are decided outside the prioritisation process led by the research councils and the Technology Strategy Board. As we have been reminded, research councils are held to a flat cash budget in the current CSR and are not able in theory to commit resources beyond the CSR period. Therefore, they are reluctant to commit to new research budgets to make use of capital investment. I understand the point made by my noble friend Lord Selborne and, as has been pointed out, it often is extremely painful to have to cut back something in order to fund something new.

This is an issue of joined-up government. I do not see in the Government’s response to the committee’s recommendation anything other than that it is wholly inadequate. Having been a Minister and having dealt with responses of this kind, I detect that officials have drafted a form of words to sound sympathetic but to make sure that nothing changes. Therefore, I do not share the universal praise made for Government’s response. I hope that my noble friend may have something to say about that in his reply.

I am talking as someone who did not take part in the inquiry but who has taken part in other work of the Select Committee and I now turn to nuclear research and development. I looked through the evidence—as much as I could get on my screen—to see whether anybody had raised the issues the Select Committee explored a couple of years ago about the inadequacy of nuclear energy research and development in this country. As many of the noble Lords who took part in that inquiry will remember, we were frankly horrified by what we were told by our witnesses on that occasion. Energy research and innovation had virtually collapsed; it had dwindled to a very low level indeed over the preceding years. Although we heard that there had been substantial infrastructure expenditure—notably on the very splendid central laboratory of the National Nuclear Laboratory at Sellafield—almost none of it had been properly commissioned, because there was no money for it. That totally illustrates the points made in the committee’s fourth recommendation, but it does not look to me as though nuclear energy has figured in the committee’s report at all. I am deeply puzzled as to why.

I question why nuclear research and development are not part of this study. On the previous occasion, our report was a wake-up call to Ministers, and it is much to their credit that they responded very positively. The Beddington committee was set up and produced its recommendations. Not all of them have been implemented yet. We are already trying to follow them up. The only reference to the previous inquiry during the evidence was a question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow, but it did not touch on why nuclear research and development was not included in the proposed strategy.

What seems to have happened is that research spending, including scientific infrastructure, which is entirely in the control of individual departments—that is certainly true of nuclear energy R&D, which is run by DECC—has been regarded as outside the scope of the present inquiry. That is reinforced when one looks at the consultation paper, which seeks views on which projects

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should be given priority. It lists a wide range of fascinating projects, but it is not until one reaches annexe A5, on page 84, under the general heading “Energy Security and Resilience”, that one finds anything at all about nuclear energy. Even then, it does not say anything about the major research areas we touched on in the former inquiry, such as the nuclear fuel cycle, advanced reactor designs, collaboration with other countries, nuclear waste treatment and disposal, or any of the other matters that fall within DECC’s remit. Yes, a few research projects are being undertaken by the EPSRC—it was asked directly to take those on—but this is only a small proportion of the nuclear research that the Select Committee two years ago urged on the Government. Why was this inquiry not extended to departmental spending? Why has it been confined to the areas of infrastructure spending that lie in the research councils and—as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs—the main public sector research establishments that BIS is responsible for?

The committee’s second recommendation, to which reference has been made and which I fully support, is for the establishment of,

“a long-term strategy and underpinning investment plan for scientific infrastructure”.

It then goes on to add the important words:

“This should take a comprehensive view of scientific infrastructure needs across the UK, extending beyond the jurisdiction of the Research Councils”.

This simply has not happened. Nothing in the consultation document indicates that that is going to change. When John O’Reilly gets to work on this he may well pick up that point, and say that there are a whole lot of other things. A lot of Defra’s expenditure is totally outside the scope of this, but it can be hugely important as well.

My question to my noble friend the Minister is therefore: do the Government believe that the infrastructure needs of nuclear energy research and innovation should continue to remain in a separate silo outside the recommended strategic plan, and therefore have no access to funding from the national scientific infrastructure spending pool? DECC’s ability to provide funds for this is, we know, severely constrained because its nuclear expenditure is entirely concentrated on decommissioning and, as it will be, dealing with waste.

I am of course aware that NIRAB—the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board—exists to advise the Government on nuclear R&D, and I hope that the Select Committee will find an early opportunity to question its chairman, Dame Sue Ion, about how it is getting on. However, there seems little doubt but that the resources available to DECC, which NIRAB may well call on for research, will fall well short of what is needed if this vital low-carbon technology of nuclear energy is to fulfil its potential over the next 30 or 40 years. I look forward to my noble friend’s reply to that question.

I end on a happier note. I, too, share the huge admiration for the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few weeks ago at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. It left me in no doubt whatever of the Chancellor’s deep personal commitment to the advancement of science and innovation in this country. While lauding the achievements

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which enable this country, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, put it, to punch above its weight—which is certainly justified; he gave the figures—the Chancellor did not shirk the areas where we simply have to do better. Notably, these included the turning of British invention and discovery into British industrial and commercial success.

Yes, much has to be done. This Select Committee report shows how, in one major area of public spending, we could do better with the resources the Chancellor has been able to provide. I congratulate the committee very much and I hope that the Government will see their way to implement the recommendations, including recommendation 4.

4.27 pm

Lord Hunt of Chesterton (Lab): My Lords, I shall speak in the gap; I pressed the wrong button on my computer and did not get permission to be on the list.

The long-term investment emphasised by the Government is obviously a good decision and a good plan. However, as Professor Cowley mentioned, over the past 30 years, for the applications of science, UK government laboratories in the public sector are now fewer in number. A number of the privatised labs have rather a poor international reputation. One or two, of course, are excellent. The Met Office has a worldwide reputation, which is indeed partly based upon world-leading collaboration.

To keep this emphasis on British science is surely outdated. So many of our major activities are European and international. Comments have been made that we are not as effective as we should be in that respect. I emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that government laboratories and all this funded work needs to be more open and collaborative with the UK private sector. I speak as somebody who has been on both sides of the camp; I am a chairman of a small company and an advisory committee. The fact is that some government labs see themselves as being in competition with the UK private sector, which is surely not what we want. This is utterly unlike the collaboration between government agencies and the private sector seen in the United Sates and Germany.

Data exchange is still very restrictive to the private sector. These excellent data centres to which the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, referred have more or less open access to academics. They are almost closed to the private sector, which has to go to the United States to get much of these environmental data that go in a curious loop. Senior officials to whom I have spoken in BIS seem to be very uninterested in pushing forward the idea of having better data connection with the private sector. The Treasury, I learnt from discussions between the Treasury and a large government agency, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays believe in an open data policy, and on Thursdays and Fridays believe in charging for it. It is an extremely muddled situation, despite the famous Gordon Brown and Tim Berners-Lee report about open data during the previous Government.

Finally, I should ask how we are to move forward. One of the points made by this—if I may say so—nationalistic, inward-looking report is that we

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should have more international reviews of government laboratories. When I was at the Met Office, we had the ridiculous circus of the Public Accounts Committee, ending up with rounding errors and so on, whereas many of us have been on committees in other countries of the world where you look at the whole sector and the international status and so on; you do not make nit-picking points. The other feature in other countries is that they import technology; in this country, we have no system in depth for importing foreign technology. That is absolutely standard in other countries. It is ridiculous to think, “We’re going to do it all ourselves” when we are only 8%. Surely we should meet the financial and other challenges by taking a more effective international and European view. We should get advice about that, and this report might well move its objectives. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has just emphasised some of these problems. One hopes that, as the committee looks at this report again, it might take this broader view.

4.31 pm

Lord Broers (CB): My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the board of the Diamond Light Source for the past six years. I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the committee on this report, which is very important. I agree with what he and others said about the inadequacy of our overall R&D expenditure in the UK; I have mentioned it several times in this House.

I am speaking in the gap because I want to make a detailed point about the flexibility of capital spending. At present, recently imposed rules—coming from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills perhaps and set by the Treasury—prevent the carrying over of any capital funds from one financial year to the next. This is not sensible; it is even detrimental in the funding of state-of-the-art, large, complex scientific systems. Many components of such systems are themselves under development, and delivery times, even from the best suppliers, are not reliable. These components can also be very expensive; for example, quite easily 10% or more of an annual capital budget. Should a delivery slip across the end of a financial year, the money is presently lost, leading to overly conservative purchasing decisions. There are also cases where suppliers offer special time-limited deals on equipment, and it pays to have reserve to take advantage of this. The lack of flexibility in carrying funds from one year to another also encourages the bad practice at the end of a financial year of just buying back-up equipment and putting it in cupboards. I have seen this inefficient practice in industry, when the mistake was made of imposing on research organisations a zero carryover policy. I recommend that exceptions be made and flexibility allowed in the funding of large, state-of-the-art scientific systems. This was certainly enjoyed by Diamond in its early years and was quite important in meeting budgets and schedules et cetera—perhaps 10% should be allowed in the carryover.

4.33 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, I should declare a very ancient interest in the sense that I was an undergraduate and studied chemistry, so

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I have some background in this—I am afraid that it has not been an active pursuit, although one tries to keep up as much as one can. However, it has been a useful background for reading this report and some of the evidence referred to in earlier speeches, which certainly taxes some of the skills that I acquired in that earlier period.

I thank the chair and all members of the committee for their excellent report. I also thank him for his valedictory appearance as chair. He introduced his report very well and made it very easy for us to get into this debate. I am on record as always complaining when asked to debate committee reports. We have this wonderful system in the House of organising committees on specialist topics, with the time and the resources to inquire in depth into areas. As a result, their reports are often mines of information and fantastically useful for all interested in public policy if not necessarily in the particular area concerned. Therefore, for example, I think this committee reported in November 2013, and the government response came in January 2014, but we are only now able to debate it. That is a pity. It is not that the recommendations or the quality of the report will go off with time, and neither will it improve like a wine. Nevertheless, it would be better if we could somehow get a message back to the powers that be that we should somehow align better our discussions and debates on the results of the work that is done. No doubt I will get myself into trouble with that comment as I did the last time I raised this with the Chief Whip, who got very cross because of what I said, and said that it was not her fault. I am sure that in this case it is not her fault—I emphasise that. However, I just make a general point that it would be in the interest of this House if we could do a bit better as regards getting to discuss those issues.

As the report recognises, our scientific infrastructure plays a key role in maintaining our reputation for research excellence. We have high-quality facilities, which attract world-class researchers and investment from around the world, therefore allowing us to carry on research projects which in turn support the wealth and welfare of the nation. As the committee rightly points out, it is important that this country maintains and builds upon this reputation if we are to keep up in the global race. I do not think that there is any party-political disagreement on that, as was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. We welcome the Government’s announcement of a long-term commitment to increase the science and research capital investment in real terms to £1.1 billion in 2015-16, then grow it in line with inflation each year to 2021. I say that not just because it follows the recommendations or the practice of the previous Government, although we had a 10-year plan and not just a five or six-year plan as is now the arrangement. However, this is the right way to approach this area, and I welcome not only the announcement but also that the consultation will take place to make sure that the strategic UK priorities we are building up or continuing in our world-class science can be carried out. However, I will come back to both those points later on.

Lord Howe of Aberavon (Con): I wonder how far I can afford to be profoundly discourteous. I did not know that this debate was taking place; I have only

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just seen its identity and its nature. One of my overwhelmingly important hobby horses is our total failure and neglect of our units of measurement—

Lord Popat (Con): I apologise to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe. Noble Lords were listed to speak in this debate.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: May I intervene? Is there a speakers list?

Lord Popat: We already have two speakers in the gap.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: Am I allowed to ask a question?

Lord Popat: Yes, the noble and learned Lord may carry on.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: I wanted to ask only the following question. Magna Carta declared profoundly that the most important thing for the country was a coherent and effective system of units and measures, and that has been repeatedly reviewed. I will not go through the details to a great extent, but once in the 19th century—in 1862—the House of Commons unanimously recommended the adoption of the metric system. In 1904 the House of Commons did the same thing. In 1939 it was adopted. Certainly, in my time as Minister for Consumer Affairs in 1984 it was there, and we dealt with it entirely.

This is why it is important for me to make the following confession: the folly which created our present chaos came about when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1983 I think it was. The Metrication Board had been in existence for many years. I dissolved the board, whose work was completed, but as a result we are now almost unique in that almost everyone—schools, scholars, scientists—has to grapple with a dual system of measurements. Happily, Ireland has given that up and it has metrication, as has most of the Commonwealth—Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We are alone in this shambolic state. I plead, deeply seriously, to take this opportunity to draw attention to it. I hope that noble Lords have been taking close interest in this important set of problems, because I cannot think of any other aspect of it that deserves more importance than the one that I have had the impertinence to identify.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I ask the Minister to respond to that point, if he can.

I was struck by the assertions made at the beginning of the report not only on the need to preserve the Haldane principle, which I agree is a very important part of what needs to happen within the scientific community, but about the need to ensure that the allocation of funds for science that are to be used within a long-term planning framework should be done by an independent committee. I am a little confused by the Government’s response to the second and third recommendations, which both mention committees. When the Minister comes to respond, perhaps he could be clear about how this is going to be taken forward. Is the committee that is going to be

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advising on the long-term strategy, and which is to be led by the director-general of knowledge and information at BIS, to be a ministerial committee, or will it be outside the ambit of ministerial control? The third recommendation appears to refer to a ministerial group that would be led by the BIS DGKI but, in response to the second recommendation, the Government say that the Minister will be leading a group to look at the strategy. It would be helpful if the Minister could give us some clarification on this point, and in so doing perhaps he could say how many committees will be set up, what work they are actually going to do, and how those arrangements fit best with the committee’s recommendations.

Much of the debate today has focused on the need for a better match, or to remove the disconnect, between the capital investment coming forward and the operational and running costs. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, drew attention to the problems around long-term capital operations and whether the funding is going to be in place for the long term, although perhaps not as long as it could be, and the shorter-term funding that will be available to meet running costs and the possibility that that will be considered within the overall departmental spend. Is it not important to try to reconnect these issues because, without proper consideration being given to operational running costs, investment will have to be mothballed or, worse, closed down without it ever making the contribution it should? If there is genuinely to be a long-term science commitment, surely it must apply to both running costs and capital costs.

A related point was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. There is a need to align the training of those who are to operate in these centres with the capital and running costs funding. This raises the high-level apprenticeship problem, which has come up in a number of debates and discussions. There are more and more apprenticeships, which is a good thing, but the quality of the training they are receiving seems to stop at the lower end of the spectrum and does not reach the higher technician level, which is what will be desperately needed if the science agenda is to be continued.

The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, along with several other noble Lords, raised the question of the PSREs, which come out well in the report. The intention is for them to be privatised, which may result in a loss of the data which have been built up over the years; there is an issue around the lack of control we will have over that. Another problem is that of the inability of these bodies, once they are privatised or semi-privatised, to contribute to international research. I hope that the Minister will refer to this when he responds. As a result of the problems with JET, which have been alluded to, we were unable to get international projects that would have been of benefit because we had failed to identify the contribution that could be made within the PSRE circuit.

We have talked a bit about co-operation, particularly with industry but also with other aspects of industrial life, including the NHS and other areas. Obviously, the contribution made by the RPIF as signalled in the report has been good, but the question to be asked here is this: what more could be done? Does BIS have

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any plans to try to stimulate industrial spending on R&D and is there a way in which it could be identified in order to harness the work effort better within the science community?

The final question I want to put reflects the request by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for a little more support than is outlined in the Government’s response. I would like to know whether the Minister can commit to that. I am sure he will say that it is a matter for the Treasury at the appropriate time, but it would be interesting to know whether he can in some sense respond to the interest that has been expressed in more money—not just because that would be good in itself, but of course because of the problem, which I will come back to, of the gap in funding that has grown between 2010 and 2015.

The question of AstraZeneca and Pfizer was also raised. Again, it would be interesting to get a response on that, not just because it is topical but because it reflects an overall ambition that government must have to ensure that there is a broader context in which the science happens. Without the industrial contributions from AstraZeneca, based in Britain and with resources all round the country, the work that is done in science will be diminished if those facilities are curtailed because of that result.

At the heart of this is a question about the money—the gap that exists because of the way in which the original plan from 2004 still hangs in the air. Obviously, if the Government’s ambition is to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and research, it echoes what was said when the 10-year investment framework for science and innovation was produced at the time of the 2004 spending review. That framework, which was produced by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury—he did a great deal of work on that, for which we should pay tribute to him—had a slightly higher ambition in the sense that it was not just science and innovation for its own sake; it was also trying to link it to the contribution it would make to economic growth and public services.

I did not see much of that wider contribution referenced in the Government’s response to the Scientific Infrastructure report. That may be because the report itself did not specifically cover those areas, but it would be helpful if the Minister could confirm that that remains part of the contribution. This is a much bigger picture. As the Mayor of London said in his contribution to the debate, we have to think very hard across all the organisations that are working in this area—the NHS, the centres that are being built up, particularly in universities, and the industrial centres—because they all need to contribute if we are going to get the best out of this.

I come back to the problem with the money. By my calculations, the cut that was made in 2010 comes to about £500 million. That is not being replaced, even though the new baseline figure will be moved forward with inflation as we move to 2021. Simply having a ring-fence in place, which was the situation when Labour left office, did not protect the science budget from austerity measures. We are not going to get back the frozen cash terms in 2010 and capital spending that has been cut.

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As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said, we have seen ad hoc announcements. But the problem with that, as he said very clearly, is that you get one-off grants; they are welcome but they are not what was meant to happen because they do not fit with any plans that might have been there. They therefore in turn have a sort of stifling effect on the planning that would be going on ordinarily because those who might plan it will not be certain that they are going to get the funds. They also seem to introduce an alien element, which is that the decisions to fund come from somewhere else. They do not come from the community or from BIS; they are imported. They are not wrong in themselves; it is just that they are not necessarily fitting in. We cannot be against money for a graphene centre. I am sure that is the future. But if it could be developed within an overall policy that allowed for it to come on stream at the appropriate time, that would be so much better.

My second point is that although the government response of 2014 talks very clearly about the funding that is going to be available up to 2020, things have changed since January 2014 and it is now common knowledge that the department for business, which after all is responsible for science policy and provides the funds for the UK-wide research councils, is going to have to make further cuts of about £100 million a year, possibly from the science spending, as a result of its strategy to deal with a big hole in its finances. Surely we should have learnt by now that the existence of even more uncertainty around the future of science spending will be as damaging as before, because universities, research groups and others will not be able to do proper forward planning.

The irony of all this is that the black hole in the BIS finances stems from a greater than planned growth in student loans as a result of the failure to plan for and to control student numbers on programmes, particularly HNDs and HNCs, offered by private providers. I would be grateful if, when the Minister comes to speak, he would shed light on whether there are to be further cuts to the previously announced figures. That will be an important factor.

I would like to end on a further point. Are not the cuts, if they are made, going to be to the science budget, which applies on the basis of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England? The devolved territories of course fund their students on a different basis. Therefore, the irony we have is that problems in English student financing are going to affect the UK science budget as a whole. The idea of robbing a UK-wide science budget to pay for English mistakes would seem particularly odd at a time when we approach the devolution settlement.

4.50 pm

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, perhaps I may first thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate, and indeed those who have supported the inquiry both here today and through their work in committee. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for its report and for raising this important issue. In doing so, I agree with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, in introducing and initiating the debate. I thank him

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for his chairmanship of the committee and align myself totally with the comments he made in thanking others who contributed, as I also do with the comments made by noble friend Lord Selborne.

As the committee has recognised, scientific infrastructure plays a key role in maintaining the UK’s reputation for research excellence. Our high-quality facilities attract world-class researchers, attract investment from around the world, and enable research projects that support the wealth and welfare of the nation. That is a point which most noble Lords acknowledged, and indeed most have also welcomed the Government’s positive response. Until my noble friend Lord Jenkin got to his feet I thought I would be in the welcome but rare position of a Government Minister responding at the Dispatch Box having heard nothing but praise for the Government’s position. One is fully aware that sometimes some of the most robust questioning one gets is from one’s own side, and that has been true today.

It is right that we recognise, as all noble Lords have done, that UK research has a strong international reputation for the quality and range of its research facilities. However, as the committee has rightly pointed out, keeping up in the global race means maintaining that lead into the 2020s and beyond—a point that was well made by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. That is why, despite tight controls over public spending, we have continued to protect the science ring-fence in cash terms for 2015-16. That is why my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced last summer an investment of £1.1 billion a year in science and research infrastructure, thus protecting and not cutting funding in real terms to 2020-21. That means that overall BIS investment in science and research will reach £5.8 billion in cash terms for 2015-16, an increase in the overall allocation compared with recent years. I can therefore reassure noble Lords that we are fully committed to our world-class UK research base and the scientific infrastructure that supports it.

I shall now explain the steps being taken to implement some of the key recommendations and address some of the concerns and questions that have been raised about the strategy. The ball was set rolling on that by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I turn to the long-term strategy for capital investment by taking a strategic approach to science and research capital investment, a point made by several noble Lords. The report recommends that the Government should produce,

“a long-term strategy and underpinning investment plan for scientific infrastructure”.

Our unprecedented long-term capital investment provides an ideal opportunity to take a strategic view of our science and research infrastructure and consider where we should prioritise investment over the coming years. That is why, as has been acknowledged by my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on 25 April the Chancellor and the Minister for science launched a consultation to identify the strategic priorities for long-term science and research capital investment. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked me a question about budgets. There can be no better illustration of the Government’s intent in terms of joined-up thinking than the fact that the announcement was made jointly by my right honourable friend the

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Chancellor and the Minister for science. That demonstrates the long-term commitment and support of the Treasury.

The consultation will feed into a science capital road map that will set out the Government’s long-term vision for world-leading science and research infrastructure. The road map will be central to the science and innovation strategy, which will be published at the around the same time as the Autumn Statement. The consultation seeks evidence on two key questions to inform the development of the road map. First, what balance should we strike between meeting capital requirements at the individual research project and institution level relative to the need for large-scale investments at national and international levels? Secondly, what should be the UK’s priorities for large-scale capital investments in the national interest, including collaborating on international projects? That point was made by several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.

The strength and breadth of excellent research in the UK generates a huge range of potential investment opportunities. Despite the Government’s unprecedented investment in science capital, demand will inevitably outstrip funding. Priorities identified through the consultation will therefore be used to inform strategic judgments made in the science capital road map. The committee report also recommends that the scientific infrastructure strategy should take into account local and regional benefits, the importance of national and regional connectivity, and the wider facilitation of access for users. I shall return to the point about access and connectivity in a moment, but for now I would stress that the capital consultation is a UK-wide consultation which informs a UK-wide investment programme. Our strategy will recognise the important regional benefits of science capital investment, but investment will remain on the basis of scientific excellence and national need.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked a specific question on the ministerial advisory group. The answer is that, yes, it is as per the committee report; the structure has been set up and the group will be chaired accordingly, so the Minister will not chair it. The group will report to him. The Government have accepted the committee recommendation of a time-limited ad hoc advisory group to advise specifically on the development of the long-term strategy on scientific infrastructure. The group, whose terms of reference have been broadened to look across the entire science and innovation landscape, will advise Ministers on how the Government respond to the capital consultation and help to inform the science capital road map. The group met for the first time in April and is chaired, as recommended by the committee, by the BIS director-general of knowledge and innovation. Membership of the group, as several noble Lords acknowledged, includes representatives from the research councils, national academies, higher education funding bodies, industry and charities.

I now turn to the issue of sustainability and operational cost, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and by my noble friend Lord Jenkin, and the issue of greater alignment between capital investment and operational costs. The Government recognise that

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sustainability is a critical criterion in identifying capital investment priorities. Full consideration needs to taken of both operational costs and the research costs of using the infrastructure to its maximum potential, while of course being mindful of the need to balance capital intensive research with other potential calls on resource funding.

That is why the capital consultation is seeking advice on the sustainability of capital investments, including the underpinning operational costs. To address some of the concerns flagged by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, we hope to end the regime of, as she put it, blowing hot and cold on funding decisions. The consultation sets out long-term sustainability on that basis. While capital budgets have been set to 2021, science and research resource budgets, as with all other areas of government resource spending, will be considered as part of the 2015 spending review. The consultation will inform the science capital road map and identify priorities for future funding.

The committee is also right to highlight the benefits of equipment sharing. Equipment sharing can be instrumental in creating concentrations of research activity between universities and within industry; it can increase efficiency by reducing the number of items that need to be purchased and obtaining higher load factors on existing items; and it enables capital items that are too large for an individual institution to be purchased. Many universities and those in the research community are already actively engaged in facilitating equipment sharing, and a number of regional alliances of universities benefit from shared registers of research equipment. The challenge is to build on this strong position by facilitating even more collaboration and equipment sharing.

I turn to some of the specific questions asked by noble Lords that I have not yet had a chance to answer. The noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Hunt of Chesterton, raised issues about infrastructure building, international collaboration and service provision, and spoke of how local economies can benefit from international positioning. This is fully acknowledged by the Government. Science is an increasingly global endeavour, which means identifying UK priorities for capital investment in science and research. Two major international projects have recently been identified for investment: the Square Kilometre Array and the International Space Station exploitation programme. I agree with the sentiments expressed by various noble Lords in that regard.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked specific questions about apprenticeships and the skill levels being reached. The apprenticeship and trailblazer schemes announced by the Government work in partnership with employers to ensure that the apprenticeships being made available are in line with what is being demanded by employers. On the specific figures which the noble Baroness asked for, perhaps I could write to her and copy in all noble Lords who have participated today. The noble Baroness also asked about consultation on international projects. Again, I shall write to her on her specific questions.

My noble friend Lord Selborne and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned the Natural Environment Research Council. The NERC is considering how to

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secure the long-term future of its research centres and the national interest they serve. No decision has been made to privatise these centres. The NERC is committed to maintaining and curating environmental data records and ensuring their widest possible use for research and wider societal benefit. This is an important consideration in evaluating potential options for the centres.

I reassure my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding that capital investment in nuclear research and development is not excluded from the Government’s strategic approach to scientific infrastructure. As recommended by the committee, our science capital road map will take a comprehensive look at the scientific infrastructure needs of the UK. Strategic priorities for investment will be informed by our consultation on long-term science and research capital investment. It includes as a potential project a proposed £60 million investment to extend the capabilities of the National Nuclear User Facility. As part of the consultation process, the Government would welcome views on any further opportunities for capital investment in nuclear R&D which were not identified in the consultation document.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, spoke about the need for international working and the role of the private sector. We need to encourage further projects like MedCity, an initiative of the London mayor which is modelled on the Tech City Investment Organisation. MedCity is a strategic promotional agency for life sciences in the London, Oxford and Cambridge triangle. It will seek investment in the sector from around the world, provide a coherent voice to Governments and the EU, and identify gaps in the triangle’s offer and fill them by bringing together key players from across all sectors.

I believe that I have answered most of the questions asked by noble Lords—I have not ignored Pfizer, which I will come to at the end. Perhaps I may mention a few of the ad hoc and capital projects that have been announced: the M3 space mission, PLATO, and the polar research ship. The UK’s intention to invest in the former was announced in March 2014 and its intention to invest in the latter was announced on 25 April 2014. These projects, two of which I have cited, are where we are working alongside other partners—international partners and delivery partners. The UK Space Agency is working with the European Space Agency and our delivery partners for the new polar research vessel are also of an international scope. If you look at the European Spallation Source, the delivery partners include Sweden, Denmark and other European partners. These announcements were made to honour the international commitments that were required in ensuring that we could also play our part in these projects. The UK Government are fully aware of the importance of playing a partnership role not just in Europe but globally.

Finally, the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Stevenson, raised the issue of Pfizer and AstraZeneca. When I was preparing for this debate, I said to my wife, “I think this one may come up”. Indeed, she had to endure part of the proceedings, as did my two year-old son, as the Pfizer chief executive was scrutinised by the committee in the other place today. I am not

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sure what my son made of it. I will outline the Government’s position. I can assure all noble Lords that the Government’s absolute priority in this matter is to secure great British science, research, innovation and manufacturing jobs in the life sciences sector. We are focused on what is best for the UK and that is clear in the consistent message we have sent to both Pfizer and AstraZeneca. As noble Lords will be aware, there has been no formal bid by Pfizer for AstraZeneca. Clearly, responding to any bid would be a matter for the respective boards and shareholders of the two companies. However, the Government’s position is clear that in any proposal that is put forward, UK interests must be consistent and prioritised.

This debate has been reflective of the tremendous work that the committee has carried out in this most important area, which is about securing the long-term future of science and research in this country. We have challenged the research community to match our greater investment with greater collaboration, better equipment sharing and improved access for industry, making the nation’s science even more accessible and efficient. We have also commissioned Sir Ian Diamond to work with universities, research councils, HEFCE and others to look further at how, working together, we can make the most of science capital funding by ensuring that researchers have access to state-of-the-art research equipment.

Finally, it remains for me to thank all those who have participated today and to thank once again the members of the committee for their valuable work. I hope that noble Lords are assured that the recommendations of this report have been taken very seriously by Her Majesty’s Government; indeed, many recommendations have been acted upon already. The Government’s long-term commitment to invest in science and research capital is evidence of our belief that scientific infrastructure is vital to the success of our world-class UK research base.

On a personal note, I was involved with one of the international visits a couple of weeks ago by a delegation from Pakistan. I spoke on behalf of David Willetts at the launch of the Lahore Knowledge Park, which is a way of enabling a developing country to look forward in terms of developing its research capabilities. One of the key things the Pakistanis are keen to do is to work with our research base, which again demonstrates its reputation on the global stage. As recommended by the committee, we will ensure that the UK makes the most of this unprecedented opportunity by identifying strategic priorities for long-term capital investment.

5.08 pm

Lord Krebs: I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has been extraordinarily well informed and at a very high level of sophistication. I also thank the Minister for his very detailed response, covering, I think, all the points that were raised in the debate. I do not wish to dwell on the conclusions. I think we all recognise the importance of scientific infrastructure for the long-term health of the country, both economically and in terms of well-being. We recognise that the Government have made a commitment. The key words for me, which have recurred several

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times—and I was delighted to hear the Minister reiterate them on several occasions—are “long term”. This is not just about the next five years; this is about thinking beyond 2020 into the distant future so that we can ensure that we have the right facilities to support our scientists to deliver world-class research, as they have done in the past and I am sure they will do in the future.

Motion agreed.

Crime: Domestic Violence

Question for Short Debate

5.10 pm

Asked by Baroness Thornton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to criminalise a pattern of behaviour, psychological abuse and coercive control in domestic violence cases.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, I am pleased to be able to bring forward this debate for the Grand Committee. The essence of the Question is whether here in the UK we have a legal framework that fully and adequately captures the nature and harm that is domestic violence, and I am genuinely asking whether a more comprehensive criminal law is required to close the gap between the current response and the long-term oppression and suffering of victimised women and children. I thank all those who have put down their names to speak in the debate.

Too many women have already lost their lives and more will continue to do so if we fail to understand coercive control as the dangerous behaviour that it is and to recognise the serious emotional harm that is caused to the victims of domestic violence. I would like to start by asking the Minister some questions about the current state of affairs. Since coercive control and psychological abuse were included in the March 2013 domestic violence definition, which of course I welcome, how many prosecutions have made use of this definition? How many convictions have there been for coercive control and psychological abuse since coercive control was included in the definition? How many prosecutions have there been under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 for causing alarm and distress in domestic violence cases where the victim and perpetrator are still in an ongoing relationship? The important question that needs to be answered here is whether the Minister thinks that the law is working as well as it should. That is because we need to know if the existing framework, and indeed the support that needs to be wrapped around it, is working effectively, and thus whether the law on domestic abuse needs to be further strengthened.

We know that domestic abuse is very complex and involves many forms of behaviour. Some victims say that the psychological abuse and control they suffer at the hands of their partner is “the worst part”. What are the Minister’s thoughts on this and the possibility that the current legislative framework fails to recognise

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it? The experts in this field, Women’s Aid and the Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service, both say that there is a criminalisation gap which ensures that the pattern of domestic violence and control remains outside the reach of the existing criminal law, which prohibits only discrete incidents of physical injury. This is an appropriate debate because the office of the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner is today hosting a conference with criminal justice partners to discuss what is and what is not working in this area. There have been workshops with victims of domestic violence and the discussion of issues such as early intervention.

In March 2013, the Government changed the definition of domestic violence to include coercively controlling behaviour, which is very welcome. However, non-physical abuse, although integral to the ongoing exercise of violent control, seems to be disregarded and thus tacitly condoned. Put simply, the law does not conceive of many women in abusive intimate relationships as being the victims of ongoing abuse. By criminalising this form of violence and having specialist legislation, similar to the stalking law introduced in 2012, would this send a message that abusive and coercively controlling behaviour within a relationship is as unacceptable as physical violence and that it will not be tolerated?

Paladin has formed a partnership with Women’s Aid and the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation. They have carried out research, which has brought them to the conclusion that this criminalisation gap should be closed. They feel that the laws used to prosecute domestic violence—which include assault, burglary, property, breach of a restraining order, rape, kidnapping and murder—do not describe its essence. Patterns of power and control are missed. It misses the fact that domestic violence is about fear, coercive control and continuing acts. The totality of the behaviour and the non-physical manifestations of power and control that define an abusive relationship do real harm to victims and are not recognised in criminal law.

Interestingly, it is only after separation that the very same behaviour which was exerted in the relationship—control—is then criminalised: we call it stalking. Therefore the moment after a break-up becomes legally meaningful, separation, can be the most dangerous time for women. Of course, this is also very expensive. As far as I can tell, the figures from 2009 suggest that domestic violence costs the Government over £16 billion per year.

The question this debate raises is whether the law needs to be modernised. If we are to challenge the behaviour of perpetrators appropriately, do we need an offence that reflects the reality of domestic abuse in all its guises? According to Home Office statistics, domestic violence is more likely to result in repeat victimisation and injury than any other type of crime. However, the Crown Prosecution Service only prosecutes for a single incident and tends to focus on the injury level, while failing to take into account the course of conduct, the pattern of coercive controlling behaviour, and fear as a measure of harm. As a direct result, the seriousness of the pattern of abuse is not identified or understood, women become entrapped, abuse and rape become normalised, and no one goes to prison without injuries being present.

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As we know, many women do not report until behaviour has escalated and there may be injuries, and for many that comes too late. Research by Women’s Aid indicates that the majority of women only report violence to the police after it has been going on for between six months and five years. When they do report it, each episode is treated as an isolated incident and, therefore, often as a low-level misdemeanour. That results in very few perpetrators being held to account for the totality of their behaviour. Therefore, is it surprising that victims struggle to understand why the full impact of their experiences cannot be taken into account by police and prosecutors? We have to ask: does the absence of such a crime undermine the victims of abuse and collude with perpetrators, as many of their acts go unseen and unchallenged?

The research I mentioned already, the Victim’s Voice survey, which was published in March, showed that 98% of victims were subjected to controlling, domineering or demeaning behaviours in their relationship. I will mention just a few of those behaviours: isolation from friends, family and colleagues; removal of all communications devices; food being withheld as well as use of the toilet; control of what the victim should wear, how they should style their hair and where they can work; stalking by means of tracking and following; deliberate sleep deprivation; threats of sexual abuse or rape; and threats to harm or kill children and/or pets. I could go on.

When asked if those behaviours had been taken into account by the police, 88% said that they had not. Clearly, we have an issue here. One of the issues is of course whether the police are dealing with the framework that already exists, and how that works. Certainly on this side of the Room, Labour would establish an independent commissioner for domestic and sexual violence to champion victims’ voices and drive improvements, starting with national standards for the delivery of services and training as recommended by ACPO.

However, is it true that the police are often big on words and developing policy which is then not delivered as regards either action or a true understanding of the issue? Do we think that there is a problem there? Too many times the woman who is murdered or badly hurt has been begging the police to provide protection and deal with her abuser. Too often the same victims are calling for protection from the same perpetrators, and time and again opportunities to intervene and protect families are missed.

5.20 pm

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for securing this debate. I will speak briefly from two perspectives: first, as people might expect, as a former police officer; and secondly, as people might not expect, as a victim of domestic violence in the past.

Despite the negative media attention surrounding the recent Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary report Everyone’s Business: Improving the Police Response to Domestic Abuse, it did highlight some good work carried out by, for example, the Metropolitan Police, an organisation of which I have 30 years’ experience—some of it not good. When I was a constable in the

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1970s, we were told that domestic violence was the last thing that we should get involved with, as victims of domestic violence, once they had been patched up in casualty, invariably wanted to go back to their abusive partners and declined to assist the police with any prosecution.

I could not fully understand the mentality of these victims until I became a victim of domestic violence myself. My relationship started normally and lovingly but, imperceptibly, the coercive control and emotional abuse gradually took over. Sometimes something told you that things were not right: my partner’s tearing up of a birthday card from a friend which he thought was from a secret lover, for example; overly and unreasonably jealous behaviour, such as searching the contacts on my mobile phone and refusing to believe that “Bruno” was actually my boss’s official driver and not someone I was having an affair with; allowing me to go out for the night only for me to find that he was following me; and, almost inevitably, eventually a violent attack in the street. Even then, it was only when I was on a residential training course and began to talk to a female colleague that I realised that, however much I loved this individual, it was an abusive and dysfunctional relationship. Luckily for me, the violence was not serious. For too many others, mainly women, it can be fatal.

A decade or so ago, work was done in the Metropolitan Police to identify patterns of behaviour that led to domestic murder. It showed that a pattern of behaviour was established, starting with verbal abuse and coercive control, emotional abuse and then physical violence, tragically culminating in such murders. Officers were then instructed that, when attending domestic violence incidents, they should look out for such patterns in order to identify where victims were particularly vulnerable. This work was developed into a risk assessment tool by Laura Richards, initially in the Metropolitan Police, and then by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and is now widely used and known as DASH. I say “widely used”, but Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that it was inconsistently applied and that the police had to be consistent in their approach to domestic violence.

Interestingly, similar patterns of escalating behaviour were identified by the probation service in its report on working with racist offenders published in 1998, where the title of the report encapsulates this sort of progression: From Murmur to Murder. The report highlighted what could happen if racist behaviour was left unchallenged. There are direct parallels here, where unacceptable behaviour in a domestic setting can and tragically does escalate to violence and, all too frequently, to murder. Despite the research, the experience and the good work by some police forces, because such non-physical abuse, coercive control and emotional abuse are not considered by most police forces to be criminal offences, there is little the police or other agencies actually do until, tragically, in many cases, it is too late to prevent serious assaults or even deaths.

My understanding of the law as it stands is that if a stranger carried out the sort of non-physical abuse I suffered, he could be guilty of the criminal offences of harassment and stalking; but if I was in a relationship with that individual, he would be not be considered

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guilty of any criminal offence. That cannot be right. If my former partner had known that such behaviour did amount to a criminal offence, he might have thought twice about it. If I had known that such behaviour was a criminal offence, that might have helped me to redress the power imbalance in that relationship and helped me prevent the behaviour escalating into violence.

Although I have talked today about my own experience of same-sex domestic violence, the biggest issue is violence against women by men. I believe that the Government may be bringing forward legislation in the Queen’s Speech to extend the definition of child abuse to include psychological as well as physical harm. Legislation to criminalise patterns of behaviour that amount to psychological abuse and coercive control in domestic violence cases would not only help prevent further violent attacks but help save the lives of some of the more than 100 women a year in this country who die at the hands of men who they are or have been in a relationship with.

5.25 pm

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, I valued the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. Her comments about the present situation were clear and detailed, and I strongly support her case that there should be a detailed consideration of criminalising this issue.

My reason for speaking is that I was involved with these issues quite a long time ago when I was the UK representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. At that time, when I had to make a speech for the UK, of course I had to seek permission but I said, “I would like to admit that we have domestic violence in the UK”. It was agreed that I could make that statement, and it had a dramatic effect because we were the first nation ever to make a statement in the UN admitting to having domestic violence. All the tiny countries that had suffered from similar things for years and years suddenly felt unafraid to speak out on the issue. That was really quite important and brought it out into the open.

Things have moved on a long way but everything takes a long time to move on, whatever field you are in. What the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said was very interesting. The one category that neither he nor the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, mentioned was the men who are attacked by women. That is the one missing group, and they do exist. Over tea in your Lordships’ House, someone said to me, “Be sure not to forget the number of men who are attacked by women”. This should not be overlooked. This same criminal law should apply to anyone. There should not be violence.

I was asked to go to Brazil, where they were rewriting the constitution and were writing a section on women. Bella Abzug, the very famous American Congresswoman—the first woman to stand up and demand that Nixon be impeached—was there. She is famous for that; she is also famous for creating the Ms title instead of Miss or Mrs. She said, “Why do I have to define what I am when the other side does not have to?”. She told me that the American constitution

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had just two lines that covered everything for women, making life and opportunities equal and everything else, whereas as the meeting went on the Brazilians became more and more determined to make it wider and wider. Lots of people were there representing Brazil, rather than the one or two who represented other countries. I made my speech and said, “Listening to this, I get the impression we want to abolish men entirely. That is not what I believe”. Over lunch, the interpreter said to me, “We thanked heaven when you made that statement”, because it was getting to the point where it had become quite unrealistic.

Turning to the more realistic side in Brazil, we were taken to see the São Paulo police facilities; we did not see the prison but just heard about it. They told us that they had special care and special treatment for women who had suffered domestic violence. This was in the early 1980s, long before any such thing was thought of here. Indeed, people came from all over the world to see how effective the Brazilian system was. Fortunately, we have seen a lot of this change now and people are treated better. Particularly after rape cases they were very helpful, and it is a terrible time for anyone.

Those were the days when Erin Pizzey was running a refuge and Sandra Horley was very involved in helping women. Of course, domestic violence did not affect just the women themselves because they often had children who needed refuge as well. The women had to face the problem of finding new school places for their children and it could be very difficult. However, at least there were people to help them.

I turn now to coercive behaviour, which is much better known about today. I think that it is every bit as bad as physical abuse. People live in fear of what will happen. They do not feel that they possess the right to do what they want to do in life because they are controlled by others. That is not good because fear can destroy people’s lives. We have to deal with this issue. I know that in March 2013 the Home Office changed the definition of coercive behaviour, but the law has not been changed to match it. That is what is being asked for in this Question, and I am very much in favour of it.

In many ways these issues have been in the public domain for longer than I had realised. Dickens wrote about how abusive Bill Sikes was to Nancy in Oliver Twist, so these things are on the record, even though they were not really topics for public discussion. I have heard that a major Home Office conference is to be held on 22 July that will cover female genital mutilation, forced early marriage and domestic violence. It is to the credit of Theresa May that she is bringing forward such a conference, which I think will be welcomed by everyone.

I end by saying that there is a time lag between awareness and action. We are all aware of these things, and now it is time to take action.

5.31 pm

Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD): My Lords, as is so often the case, I share the aims of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, but I do not agree with her means. The problem I have with the Question she has raised for debate is that it presupposes that the important way of tackling what is referred to as,

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“a pattern of behaviour, psychological abuse and coercive control in domestic violence cases”

is through the introduction of more criminal law. Apart from minor exceptions, I do not agree with that. We have plenty of criminal law to cover these issues, and we have plenty of civil law, including the Protection From Harassment Act 1997, covering both civil and criminal litigation, and what we put into the Equality Act 2010 in the form of civil law on sexual harassment. There is a great mass of law.

The problem with relying on the criminal law is illustrated by what has happened with FGM. The practice was criminalised many years ago, but until very recently no prosecutions had been brought. Why is that? It is because, first, the victims are inhibited from coming forward. There is the whole business of not dishonouring the family. Secondly, the police are hardly the best people to rely upon to take up these extremely complicated and difficult family issues. Thirdly, the burden of proof is criminal. Fourthly, the mode of trial is criminal and it is normally held in public. There are all kinds of reasons why the use of criminal law can be ineffective.

I learnt all this when I was dealing with forced marriage. The Labour Government had quite rightly rejected the notion of criminalising forced marriage, so I decided to plug the gap by inventing a civil protection that would use the family courts to deal with the victims. It has worked extremely well. Many cases have been brought in which alleged forced marriages or attempted forced marriages have been prevented by the family courts. Article 37 of the Istanbul convention, which I hope the Minister will indicate the Government intend promptly to ratify, says of forced marriage that:

“Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the intentional conduct of forcing an adult or a child to enter into a marriage is criminalised”.

I was hesitant when I saw that. It is one thing to use the criminal law when there is a breach of a court order—a forced marriage protection order, for example—but it is quite another matter to create a free-standing crime. That is problematic because it may deter very young children—boys and girls—women and men from coming forward with their complaints of gross malpractice, for fear of dishonouring their families. Although this is not really for this debate, I hope that, after the Government have ratified the Istanbul convention, and after we have thought about the legislation to do that, we will ensure that the criminal process is only used when the civil process cannot give an effective remedy.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, has heard a great deal of evidence from the fundamental rights agency about its massive survey of all the EU member states. It has produced a huge report, and it looked in particular at the UK. In no part of that report has the agency suggested there is any need for more criminal law. I agree with that. Instead, the evidence I have heard so far indicates the importance of a wide range of other measures. If she will forgive me, I wish the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, had said “tackle” instead of using the word “criminalise”. If she had asked what plans the Government have to tackle this pattern, one could have looked beyond the criminal law—for example, at the role of the health

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service in identifying and supporting victims of violence against women and children. One could have looked at training doctors and healthcare providers to look for physical and psychological signs of domestic violence, such as signs of controlling behaviour. That is important, because women come into contact with doctors and other healthcare providers more regularly than they would with the police or specialised services.

So far as the UK is concerned, the fundamental rights agency has recommended the need in this country to increase awareness of violence against women and children, to provide training for perpetrators, and the importance of focusing on bullying and harassment in schools. We need workable legislation; we broadly have that. We need to ratify the Istanbul convention. We need a comprehensive action programme, because one in three women is affected by domestic violence. That is a comprehensive problem, needing a comprehensive solution. We need to deal with new technologies that enable cyberstalking and harassment, misogynistic hate mail and so on. However, we should not focus just on reporting to the police, but on reporting to doctors and healthcare workers, on dealing with violence in childhood and on the impact experienced in adulthood resulting from that.

I agree with the aim, but as I say, I do not agree with the means. I hope the Minister, in his reply, will be able to say that the Government have no plans to further criminalise in this field, except in very exceptional areas where a real gap can be found. To do so would hamper the means of dealing with domestic violence, rather than promoting them.

5.38 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for raising this important issue. I thank the Home Secretary for prioritising it, for commissioning the HMIC review that looked into the police response to domestic violence, and indeed for acting on it by chairing the new national oversight group.

Domestic violence is a real concern. It affects so many of us. On average, the police are contacted every 30 seconds for assistance with related incidents. In my home county of Essex, for example, I am proud that our PCC, Nick Alston, has identified domestic abuse as a top priority in the Essex police and crime plan, after figures showed that more than 3,600 offences were recorded between April and September last year, including three women killed in their own homes. This equates to 20 such crimes reported in Essex each and every day.

As Mr Alston has said:

“Too often the front line is the front room. We surely can’t accept this level of harm. I want to work across communities to create an environment where domestic abuse is not tolerated and where our children and young people grow up to recognise the value of healthy relationships”.

Essex residents have welcomed the newly constituted Essex Domestic Abuse Strategy Board, chaired by the PCC, which has representation from across all the agencies that have a role to play in tackling domestic abuse, including the police, councils, probation, prosecution authorities and health. This new board is

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overseeing an ambitious programme of work in supporting victims, tackling perpetrators and, most importantly, working to prevent domestic abuse happening in the first place. I congratulate Mr Alston on this initiative and urge other PCCs to follow the example.

The reality is that the crime is embedded within the perpetrator’s need to exert power and control over their victim. As such, the abuser will often use a combination of psychological abuse, coercive control as well as physical abuse to create real fear in order to contain their victims—as we have heard already in this debate. However, as we have also heard, psychological abuse, coercive control and a pattern of abuse are not criminalised, sometimes allowing perpetrators to evade the law. This puts real pressure on the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and other agencies when tackling the issue, as they do not always appear to have the right tools to do so.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, pointed out, in March last year the Home Office changed the definition of domestic violence to include,

“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive … behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”.

I thank the Home Secretary and welcome the change as it depicts the fundamental nature of the crime. Currently, the state cannot effectively intervene, nor translate and consequently penalise the crime before the abuse has escalated, leading to current or former partners killing two women every week.

Statistics show that women experience between 30 and 40 incidents before they have the courage to pick up the phone and dial 999. I do not know whether it is declaring an interest, but as corroboration of this statistic, I can tell your Lordships that I have a close relation who was physically and psychologically abused by her husband for nearly 30 years, without any of us being aware, before it was finally brought to the attention of the police and he was prosecuted. According to research, 53% of men whose cases are reported to police in the UK have been reported for at least three other assaults against their partner. However, even if a victim does report, unless there is physical evidence of assault there is little that can be done. As a victim of abuse explained in a Victim’s Voice survey conducted by the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation:

“Currently it’s too easy for abusers to get away with it because they know that if there is insufficient physical evidence of assault they will not be convicted. In my case, my abuser didn’t feel the need to physically hurt me very often because the emotional and psychological abuse kept me ‘under control’. It transpired that the police knew exactly what he was like, (I was by no means his first victim), but there was mostly no official crime he could be charged with. Consequently, he was pretty much free to behave exactly as he pleased, safe in the knowledge that unless he left visible marks on any of his victims, there was nothing anyone could do”.

We—or should I say the taxpayer?—currently spend £15.7 billion a year on the symptoms of domestic violence, but we should also focus further on its eradication. We need to be able to target perpetrators effectively through our legal system, ensuring that

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government spending is focused on where it is lacking and creating an effective cross-agency response to this epidemic.

The courts are bound by current laws, which can prosecute only for single incidents of violence. Without being able to see the true pattern of violence and without an offence that is fit for purpose, the courts are unable to ascertain the real threat that the perpetrator’s course of conduct poses to a victim and consequently are unable to impose the appropriate sentences. As another victim in the Victim’s Voice survey wrote:

“Why should we have to suffer in silence? The only way I could finally get away was to arrange everything in secret and be absolutely petrified that he was going to find out before I had everything in place to be able to leave safely. I then had to go into hiding for a while so that there was no risk of backlash. If the law had been there to protect me I would have felt a lot safer and stronger to have been able to leave sooner”.

Thanks to the welcome stalking law reform brought in by the Government, a course of conduct that constitutes psychological abuse and control has been criminalised. However, the law protects those who experience these behaviours only once they have left the relationship. Should this protection now be extended to those who suffer such abuse within the relationship?

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, I am grateful to the domestic violence law reform campaign team, the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation, Women’s Aid and Paladin for their briefing for this debate and for their continued campaigning for this change. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments and hope that he and the Home Secretary will consider the points made in today’s debate.

5.45 pm

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, Refuge has been mentioned, so perhaps I should declare an interest as a past chair. I learnt a great deal from Sandra Horley.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will for ever haunt me, perhaps break my spirit and even my mind. The impact of non-physical behaviour is often less evident to other people. “How did you get that bruise?” “Oh, silly me, I walked into a door that I didn’t see was open”—not “I didn’t understand and escape the dynamics of a dysfunctional relationship”. Both are manifestations of controlling behaviour, as other noble Lords have said, and have a great deal in common, including the ever present fear of when it will break out, reducing the victim’s capacity to cope with it, being demeaned and diminished.

It is not just words, though. The briefing which we have received from the organisations just mentioned by my noble friend Lady Jenkin of Kennington listed relevant behaviours. Reading that list, I thought, “Where have I seen some of these before?”, such as sleep deprivation and the use of extreme stressors such as rape. There are a number of behaviours in this list which, if they were undertaken by someone in an official capacity, could well be regarded as torture under international law.

Domestic violence has risen up the public consciousness but, as the HMIC report said, the overall police response is not good enough. It talked about it being a priority on paper but, in the majority of forces, not in practice.

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One of the factors identified was officers lacking skills and knowledge. It is easy to understand how much more straightforward it is to identify a single act of physical brutality than insidious and brutal courses of conduct, still less when this is not immediately evident with a physical outcome. I do not underestimate the problems of evidence, and I agree with quite a lot—not everything—that my noble friend Lord Lester said, particularly about the use of the existing law. Let us use what we have got unless it is clearly inadequate. The work on stalking the year before last indicated that there was an inadequacy, and led to a change in law. However, if it is not inadequate then I for one am not enthusiastic about some sort of duplication. However, having conduct identified and tagged as criminal is very important, as my noble friend Lord Paddick has said.

One of the recommendations of the HMIC report was about the views of victims as an essential element in monitoring police effectiveness. The report said that the Home Office should ensure that the views of victims of domestic abuse are incorporated routinely and consistently into national monitoring arrangements. I ask my noble friend the Minister—if he cannot answer it today perhaps he could write; one has picked this up in thinking about it and he may well not have a briefing on it—how are the views of victims to be included in the monitoring process if they do not report? How do you find the victims? How do you get at their views?

One of the things that have helped raise awareness over a period of perhaps 20 years is when victims’ experiences are made real in fiction through popular culture. Those of us whose soap of choice is “The Archers” are witnessing one character’s charm turning into control at the moment. I congratulate those who work in the media and who bravely—because this is not always welcome—include such storylines. However, all this is important, not just for raising general public awareness but because it gives victims the confidence to identify, recognise and articulate that what they are suffering is not normal; it is abuse, and it is a crime.

5.50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, I conclude this very useful debate by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for the clarity with which she has presented the debate to us today, and for giving us the chance to consider a matter in which all of us here are interested. I think we all agree that domestic abuse is an unacceptable crime that shatters lives, and one that the Government are committed to tackling. That has been widely shared by all speakers. I am determined to see a society where violence against women and girls is not tolerated, and where domestic violence generally is not tolerated. As my noble friend Lord Paddick very courageously pointed out, this is not confined to conventional heterosexual relationships but can occur within any relationship, and it is wrong wherever it happens.

I want to be absolutely clear: abusive behaviour in the home is the worst violation of the trust that those in close relationships place in one another. Such behaviour is already criminal. The fact that it takes place behind

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closed doors does not make it any less serious—quite the reverse. This Government have expanded the non-statutory definition of “domestic abuse” to include coercive and controlling behaviour. The definition complements a wide range of statutory offences that encompass domestic violence and abuse. The Government have also introduced stalking legislation, which, alongside harassment offences, can apply equally to those in relationships by criminalising a course of conduct. Therefore, a course of conduct can reinforce particular cases presented. Behaviours captured by this framework include the type of subversive abuse that has been highlighted today, such as deploying threats, damaging property, controlling someone’s manner of dress or preventing them seeking medical assistance. In a way, I agree with my noble friends Lord Lester and Lady Hamwee that the legal framework is sufficient. However, I will go on to explain how there are deficiencies in the way that it is used.

The framework is enhanced by sentencing guidelines that make it clear that an offence committed in a domestic setting should be seen as more serious. Among the aggravating factors highlighted by the guidelines are abuse of trust, abuse of power and a proven history of violence or threats in a domestic setting by the perpetrator. The cumulative impact of these guidelines is that courts are entitled to impose stiffer penalties on perpetrators of domestic abuse than on others who commit equivalent crimes where a domestic relationship is not involved. It is critical that the police and prosecutors build cases that incorporate those factors to ensure that sentences are commensurate with the offending behaviour. That is what Parliament has willed, through its legislation in this area and through the debates we have had. I will return to that point when we talk about Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the existing legal tools are used to provide access to justice for victims of domestic abuse. This is demonstrated by our announcements that we will roll out two new legal remedies for the police: domestic violence protection orders and the domestic violence disclosure scheme, which is commonly known as Clare’s law. That is why we have continued the specialist domestic violence courts—SDVC—programme, which is an essential combined-agency approach. All noble Lords would understand that this is frequently a combined-agency area, and a combined-agency approach to tackling domestic violence is important.

On my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes’s point, it is absolutely right that we also consider male victims of domestic abuse. All our policy initiatives are gender-neutral in recognising what domestic abuse means. We have also listened to those campaigners who have been clear that new laws and processes are not sufficient in themselves and that the way in which the police respond to abuse more widely needs to be addressed. The Government agree that it is critical that front-line agencies respond to domestic abuse using the full extent of the law. In September last year, the Home Secretary commissioned HMIC to review the police response to domestic abuse because she was concerned that it was not as good as it should be. HMIC reported its findings on 27 March, and I am sure that the Grand Committee will agree with me that

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the report made for very worrying reading. We agree that transparency is important, and that is why the Home Secretary commissioned HMIC to review the police response, and is now chairing a national oversight group which will issue quarterly reports, so we can expect progress reports on a regular basis.

Every 30 seconds, a victim of domestic abuse summons up the courage to call the police. What was the figure—that it takes 40 incidents before somebody reaches that point? This is the measure of what we are dealing with. When a victim reaches out for help it is vital that the police are equipped to respond effectively and end a cycle of abuse that in many cases will have been going on for years. Quite simply, the police response to domestic abuse at the moment is not good enough.

On the day that HMIC published its report, the Home Secretary wrote to chief constables and police force leads on domestic abuse, making clear her expectation that, in line with HMIC’s recommendations, each force will have a plan in place by September to improve its response to domestic violence and abuse. The Home Secretary has also committed to chairing the national oversight group I have mentioned to lead immediate improvement. The group has a clear and specific mandate to monitor delivery against each of the HMIC recommendations. The Home Secretary will issue quarterly reports, as I have said. The Government will ensure that these important recommendations do not become yesterday’s news. This is a live issue.

In considering the case for new laws to criminalise patterns of abuse and control, it is critical that we look closely at HMIC’s findings. I would like to take this opportunity to draw out a few key points from the report. HMIC have found that the following factors are contributing to the poor police response: a lack of visible leadership and clear direction set by senior officers; alarming and unacceptable weaknesses in some core policing activity, in particular the collection of evidence by officers at the scene of domestic abuse incidents; poor management and supervision that fails to reinforce the right behaviours, attitudes and actions of officers; failure to prioritise action that will tackle domestic abuse when setting the priorities for the day-to-day activity of front-line officers and assigning their work; officers lacking the skills and knowledge necessary to engage confidently and competently with victims of domestic abuse; and extremely limited systematic feedback from victims about their experience of the police response.

I respect my noble friend Lord Paddick’s experience as a police officer and I fully understand the demands that all of us are placing on the police at this time, but his speech was a graphic illustration of the sort of abuse that leads to violence. We need to encourage the police to take those early signs seriously before violence occurs.

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These failings are not about shortcomings in the law, nor is the finding that in a review of 600 actual bodily harm police files, photographs of injuries were taken in only half the cases. We do not rule out the possibility that in developing a better police response to domestic abuse, we will expose evidence that supports the need for a change in the law. But our immediate focus must be on delivering the operational change that will have an immediate impact on victims’ experience and their confidence in reporting what is happening to them.

I will deal with a few of the points that have been raised—there have been a lot of very good points, I have to say. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that the Protection from Harassment Act does allow for patterns of behaviour to be taken into account. She asked me about the statistics. I cannot give her up-to-date statistics. I will write to her—in fact, I will write to all noble Lords and cover points that I would have liked to have been able to address. I am being passed notes but I am running out of time. In 2012, 58.9% of acts of harassment without violence—4,270—were flagged as domestic violence; with violence, 55.4% were flagged as domestic violence. I will give these figures in a letter because that is easier than reading them out here today.

I was asked about the Istanbul convention. The Istanbul convention goes a little bit further. We have indeed signed it. It needs ratifying. We are looking to the Joint Committee on Human Rights to provide that for us. I am grateful for the way in which my noble friends Lady Jenkin and Lady Gardner of Parkes congratulated the Home Secretary on her determination in this matter. I also thank my noble friend Lady Jenkin for her comments on Nick Alston, who I happen to know and who I think is doing a great job in Essex with Be Safer Essex and Essex Change—all these groups in which the police are playing a role. Having the PCCs’ confidence could be very important to this.

What faces us is no small challenge. It is a challenge for us in politics; it is a challenge for the police themselves. I am determined that we will encourage more victims to come forward, meaning that more perpetrators will be brought to justice and more cycles of abuse will be disrupted, as we take a step closer to a society in which domestic abuse is a thing of the past.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked me the impossible question—she often does. I do not have the answer to how we get victims to report things to the police but she raised a very important question and I hope that I will be able to address it in my letter. With that, I must sit down.

Committee adjourned 6.04 pm.