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House of Lords

Thursday, 10 July 2014.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Truro.

European Commission: UK Member

Question

11.06 am

Asked by Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect to announce the name of the next United Kingdom member of the European Commission.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, as set out in the treaties, Commission portfolios will be allocated by the Commission President Designate to those nominated by member states and agreed by common accord in the Council. We expect the European Parliament to confirm Mr Juncker’s appointment as President Designate on 15 July. The Commission as a whole will then be confirmed by the European Parliament in the autumn.

Lord Dykes (LD): With the wise reminder last week of the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, should not HMG deliberately and carefully make sure that they choose an ideal candidate on this occasion, because of the urgent matters in hand for the European Commissioner? The candidate should be an articulate, international, sagacious, knowledgeable person—maybe female again, like her predecessor—someone who actually likes the European Union and working with people and who likes foreigners and speaks foreign languages. As that would of course narrow down the field if it is a Conservative nominee, what about a Liberal Democrat one? We are the only party that stood up for Europe at the last election.

Baroness Warsi: Possibly even from Yorkshire, my Lords. As to the serious part of my noble friend’s question, we need to make sure that our Commissioner candidate understands the changing role of the European Union, the need for reform and the fact that the Commissioner has to act in a way that benefits member states and the European Union as a whole. I can assure my noble friend, and indeed the House, that the Prime Minister has a line-up of very strong candidates.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, are the Government aware that our new Commissioner will have to swear sole allegiance to the European Union, ignoring our national interest?

Lord Richard (Lab): Not true.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Actually it is true; it is in the treaties. Does that not rule out privy counsellors, who have taken an oath of sole allegiance to the Queen?

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Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord will be aware that a number of privy counsellors have served as Commissioners and they have managed to serve incredibly well.

Lord Tomlinson (Lab): Does the noble Baroness agree that one of the qualities that our Commissioner will need is a capacity to ignore the personal vendetta that has been run by the Prime Minister against Mr Jean-Claude Juncker and to learn how to get on with him as the distribution of portfolios, which is of major importance to this country, will partly be the responsibility of Mr Juncker?

Baroness Warsi: I take real issue with what the noble Lord has said. I try not to bring party politics to this Dispatch Box but it is important that, when the Prime Minister of this country takes a principled stance on an important matter—a matter on which his party agreed—we should stop the sniping and get behind him.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, would there not be much relief all round if Mr Clegg were asked to go to Brussels?

Baroness Warsi: Mr Clegg is an incredibly effective Deputy Prime Minister and a Cabinet colleague for whom I have great respect. If he were to take on that role, I know that he would be deeply missed at Cabinet.

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, if I were Prime Minister, I would want to avoid a by-election. Does the noble Baroness agree?

Baroness Warsi: The important thing is that we make sure that we appoint a good Commissioner who does a good job in Europe. All the other factors are secondary.

Lord Deben (Con): Does my noble friend accept that there are some serious matters at stake here? At the heart of the Question—which has a lot of persiflage round it, if I may say so to my noble friend—is the fact that we need somebody who will go to Brussels and do the job properly, which means doing their best for the whole of the European Community, and who will have the confidence of people throughout the country. It should not be somebody who goes to Brussels with predetermined views and an unwillingness to work with our colleagues in the European Union.

Baroness Warsi: My noble friend makes an important point. However, I think he would accept that at the recent European elections, not just in the United Kingdom but across the European Union, the citizens of the member states sent out a very clear signal about the kind of Europe they want, and it is important that Commissioners reflect that in their work.

Lord Kinnock (Lab): I have listened to the noble Baroness over recent weeks on this issue. May I say to her—

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Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Kinnock: I said “May I say to her”—there seems to be some difficulty with the English language on the other side of the House. The noble Baroness has demonstrated a full understanding of the real nature of the role of the Commissioner and the way in which the reform agenda has to be promulgated and effectively developed in the European Commission and, indeed, she is manifestly a woman. In order to make a real breakthrough and represent fully the proper interests of this country in the context of the realities of the treaty, which have been misrepresented by UKIP and by certain Members on her own side, may I make so bold as to nominate her for the position?

Baroness Warsi: That is a very kind remark from the noble Lord. It is an incredibly important job but I can honestly say that it is not one that I am interested in.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, my noble friend has talked about the importance of the characteristics of the individual who is appointed. Given the portfolio that the United Kingdom is hoping to get within the economic sphere—on these Benches we would like it to be the single market because that is an area where reform really needs to continue—does she accept that the right candidate is one who has a deep and thorough understanding of the portfolio and that it is not just the characteristics of an individual per se that are important?

Baroness Warsi: My noble friend makes an important point and, as I said at this Dispatch Box, the United Kingdom will be looking for an economic portfolio. My noble friend will be aware that the make-up of the portfolio itself has yet to be discussed and what the final portfolio will look like will be determined once the President has been confirmed.


NHS: Hospital Waiting Times

Question

11.14 am

Asked by Lord Dubs

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to reduce hospital waiting times.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, hospital waiting times are low and stable, but there are pressures from a growing and ageing population, and some patients are not receiving their treatment as soon as we would like. NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor are working with the most challenged providers and commissioners. Operational resilience guidance, published in June, will help the system prepare for winter and improve waiting times sustainably for emergency and elective care.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, that is a very impressive Answer. The Prime Minister said some time ago that the test will be to get NHS waiting times down. Judged

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by that test, will the Minister comment on this morning’s statistics from NHS England which showed that over the past year the number of patients waiting six months or longer for treatment has gone up by 20%? Does that not show that the Prime Minister has failed his own test?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I do not believe that that is a fair comment. In the past four years, since the Government came to office, we have substantially reduced the numbers of patients waiting longer than 18, 26 and 52 weeks to start treatment. Those numbers are lower than at any time under the previous Government. However, we need to address the build-up in patients waiting and, as a result, we are directing extra support and money for hospitals to do more than 100,000 additional operations over the next few months to meet the extra demand.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, is it not a fact that the statement made this morning by the new president of the Royal College of Surgeons makes quite a lot of sense, and that most people would agree with it? People who need life-saving operations urgently should have priority, and people who have conditions that will not deteriorate—I am spreading more words than she actually said—may be asked to wait longer to give that priority to the more urgent cases. Does my noble friend not think that that first ever woman president of the Royal College of Surgeons is talking common sense?

Earl Howe: Yes, she is. I have known the new president of the royal college for some years. She is a very considerable surgeon, and I agree with what she has said. Clinical priority is the main determinant of when patients should be treated, and should remain so. Clinicians should make decisions about the patient’s treatment and patients should not experience undue delay at any stage of their referral, diagnosis, or indeed treatment. That is why we have moved away from targets to standards—to signal the importance of clinical priorities, which doctors should always feel able to act on.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that, whatever he says about targets, the previous Labour Government reduced the maximum waiting time for in-patient treatment from 18 months to 18 weeks? Was that not a substantial reduction? Is the Minister not concerned that if we take a whole raft of measurements, it shows a health service now under great pressure financially and in terms of waiting times?

Earl Howe: Yes, of course, the previous Government did an enormous amount to reduce waiting times. I also hope, though, that the noble Lord will give us credit for what we have done to reduce waiting times for those who have been waiting the longest, who were never targeted under the previous Government. I acknowledge that the system is under strain at the moment, but we have plans for the short, medium and long term to address that situation.

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Baroness Manzoor (LD): My Lords, the Government have stated that there is to be parity of esteem between mental health services and acute services. Will my noble friend the Minister state whether this will include waiting times for the provision of mental health services to both adults and children?

Earl Howe: Up to now, mental health has been omitted from the waiting time standards. However, we are looking actively at what might be possible within the bounds of affordability.

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, there seems to be little doubt that waiting lists will grow. Is the noble Earl aware of the recent King’s Fund report, The NHS Productivity Challenge, which shows that the share of the national cake for the NHS, which was above 8% in 2009, is now about 7% and is set to fall to around 6% by 2021. Is there any justification for reducing the share of GDP for health services?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord knows of the economic constraints that this country has to contend with at the moment. Despite that, the Government are increasing the NHS budget over the course of this Parliament by £12.7 billion. That should indicate to the noble Lord the priority that we are giving to the NHS.

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): My Lords, the Minister mentioned that the strain on the NHS is due to old people getting older, but is it not true that the strain is due to young people getting fatter and fatter? Is it not true that the Department of Health misled the nation by saying that the obesity epidemic—the worst for 90 years—is due to a lack of exercise when really it is due to people eating too much?

Earl Howe: My noble friend is a very eloquent advocate of this particular issue and he is of course right.

Lord Patel (CB): Can the Minister tell us how those trusts that do not report on their waiting times, although they are small in number, are dealt with? How can they be held responsible when they do not report?

Earl Howe: A handful of trusts are unable to report the full range of figures on their waiting times. They are given support to enable them to do so either by Monitor if they are foundation trusts or by the NHS Trust Development Authority.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, I do not believe that the House heard the noble Earl address the issue raised by my noble friend Lord Turnberg. It was not about cash but about share. Can he expand a little on why the share of GDP allocated to the National Health Service is set to go down?

Earl Howe: The share of GDP is only one measure. We have to take into account the state of the economy. If the party opposite had been elected to office, it had

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in fact decided that the share of the cake should be less than the one we have allocated. We have had to strike a balance and I believe that we have done so in a responsible way.


NHS: District Nurses

Question

11.22 am

Asked by Baroness Wheeler

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure that the National Health Service has sufficient district nurses.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, the Department of Health is working with Health Education England, NHS England and the Queen’s Nursing Institute to raise the profile of district and community nursing and to attract more nurses to choose this as a career path. That work includes a workforce project led by the Community Nursing Strategy Programme to ensure an adequate supply of highly skilled district nurses to support patients in community settings, provide quality care and improve patient outcomes.

Baroness Wheeler (Lab): I thank the Minister for his response. Does he not agree that the failure to address the chronic shortage of district nurses makes the RCN’s call to action even more urgent? The college has found that district nurses are so stretched that they can spend only 37% of their time actually dealing with patients in the community, which is deeply worrying. How does this help people with long-term conditions who depend on specialist nursing care to stay out of hospital? When is a comprehensive strategy that addresses the urgent action which needs to be taken on this matter going to be published?

Earl Howe: My Lords, we recognise the need for urgent action, and that it is required across the piece. We need to train more district nurses, and therefore training places have gone up both last year and this year. We also need to equip district nurses with technology. To that end, the nursing technology fund will address the issue that the noble Baroness referred to initially, which is the time that nurses have to spend with their patients. Technology can make time management much more efficient, and it is also good for the patient, who feels more in touch. NHS England and Health Education England have set up a workforce project which, as I said in my initial Answer, is designed to address not only workforce numbers but also the attractiveness of district nursing to trainees.

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, there has been a 47% reduction in district nurses over the previous 10 years. Does the Minister agree that if we are to have real integration of health and social care, then commissioners, NHS England and Health Education England should prioritise support for district nurses and community posts, not least to reduce the pressure on hospital beds?

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Earl Howe: These matters are locally determined by commissioners, but my noble friend makes a valid point. It is important to understand that district nursing services involve qualified district nurses leading and supporting multidisciplinary teams which often include staff nurses, community nurses and healthcare assistants, working with allied health professionals. We also need to recognise that social care relies on the same pool of registered nurses for local authority-funded care, and in fact nurses employed by local authorities are not counted in the statistics.

Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab): My Lords, I recently came across a district nursing service which had been contracted out to the private sector, to the considerable confusion of some of the patients using it. Does the Minister have the figures for how many district nursing services have been contracted out in this way?

Earl Howe: I do not have the figures, but of course this process started under the previous Government with the “Transforming Community Services” programme, which very often hived off the community provision into social enterprises. If I have statistics on this I will gladly send them to the noble Baroness.

The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, I recently received a letter from a lady whose daughter has ME and is confined to bed. She is under the age of 16, and was given a male care assistant who would not perform certain tasks for her. When her mother went to the surgery to ask if a district nurse could come and do those tasks, she was told no because the girl was under 16. Is this correct?

Earl Howe: I am happy to look into that case, but clearly we need to ensure that there are the right skills for the right patients, and this is what the health service increasingly aims to achieve. The district nursing team has to contain those multidisciplinary skills. If there is a case of someone being inappropriately looked after, then that is certainly a cause for concern.

Baroness Manzoor (LD): My Lords, nearly 50% of district nurses are over the age of 50. I heard what the Minister said regarding the number of nurses in training but perhaps the numbers could be looked at again, because quite a number of district nurses will soon be retiring.

Earl Howe: My noble friend makes a good point, and this was highlighted by the royal college. Health Education England was established precisely to ensure a greater connection between the needs and demands of local employers and the education and training commissions which are made. It takes into account all the relevant variables, such as the age profile of the workforce, to ensure that it sets the appropriate number of training places for district nurses to meet future capacity and capability service needs. As I mentioned earlier, Health Education England has in fact increased the number of training places for district nurses by 7% this year, to 431 places.

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Arts: Lottery Funding

Question

11.28 am

Asked by The Earl of Clancarty

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of Arts Council England’s recently announced funding plan, whether they continue to adhere to the principle of additionality with respect to lottery funding of the arts.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, the Government believe in the importance of a mixed funding model for the arts. This includes public funding, lottery revenue, philanthropic giving and private income. Each contributes to the vibrancy and success of the arts in this country. The Government expect all lottery distributors, including Arts Council England, to ensure that they adhere to the principles of additionality and remain accountable to Parliament.

The Earl of Clancarty (CB): My Lords, I am sure that companies whose entire award now comes from the lottery, such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Glyndebourne Touring Opera, are grateful that they benefit from what is undeniably the changed status of lottery funding. However, does the Minister not agree that what have always been most at risk over the past four years, and increasingly so even within a supposedly improved economy, are the small companies and organisations whose funding by government subsidy has proved over decades to be the best and most efficient means by which innovative work is encouraged throughout the whole country?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for referring to the whole country, because investment outside London is very much one of the Arts Council England’s priorities. The increasing amount that is invested outside London is terribly important. Arts Council England has the responsibility for ensuring that those funds are directed appropriately. It clearly would not be for government or civil servants to start deciding winners and losers in the artistic world; that is for Arts Council England and its responsibility to invest.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, is the Minister aware that, during the past 20 years, as a result of the principle of additionality, lottery funds have been allocated substantially to capital? As a result of the combination of lottery and substantial private funding, we have a remarkable range of new-built and refurbished cultural buildings. How will the Government ensure that, in the next 20 years, those buildings are not allowed to fall into disrepair because lottery funding is being allocated elsewhere, as happened in the 1970s and 1980s after the last big series of building projects?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, we have seen some very exciting refurbishments and restorations of our heritage buildings. It is precisely why the Government

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and arm’s-length bodies such as the Arts Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage have provided extensive funding towards cultural heritage, including buildings. It is important that Arts Council England provides capital grants which can be spent on purchase, improvement and restoration of capital projects. What the noble Baroness said is absolutely right: the last thing we want to do is to have an investment and let it deteriorate.

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD): My Lords, additionality was one of the founding principles of the National Lottery. Another was that there should be only one National Lottery. That is the not the situation today. We have the Health Lottery, which is a national lottery in all but name, and there is the new problem of gambling operators offering products that masquerade as lotteries but are in fact bets. These damage the ability to raise funds for good causes such as the arts. What do the Government intend to do about this?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My noble friend raises issues about other lotteries—she mentioned the Health Lottery. The market is changing. The Gambling Commission is providing us with further advice on how the markets are operating, which we will consider before consulting later in the year. The changes in the lottery and gambling markets have made it clear to us that any consultation on society lotteries needs to be far more wide-ranging than was originally thought.

Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): My Lords, if the principle of additionality is to mean what we all want it to mean in practice across the country, will the Minister talk to his friends at the Department for Communities and Local Government? So long as local authorities are so severely constrained in their ability to support the arts, it will not be possible to have the kind of thriving arts ecology across the whole country that I know he wants and we all want.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: That is why I said in my original Answer that it is important that we have a mixed-funding arrangement. It serves us very well to have state funding, lottery funding and philanthropic and corporate sponsorship. The noble Lord is right: local government has huge challenges, as does the nation, about spending. Local government is still the largest investor in the arts, and I hope that it will remain so. There are challenges, but there are enormous success stories where local authorities have recognised that arts and heritage are important for tourism and visitor numbers. There are many examples of cities and towns around the country, Hull and Liverpool among them, which are successful because of their artistic investment.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for his own personal commitment, may I ask him to assure the House that the places of worship scheme, whereby grants are given to historic churches and other places of worship on their intrinsic architectural and historical importance, will continue and not be diminished?

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, my noble friend’s question is timely, because the Chancellor granted an extra £20 million to cathedrals around the country, mindful particularly of the part that they will play in the commemorations of the First World War. I endorse what my noble friend has said. The buildings to which he referred are some of our most ancient treasures; they need to be helped to remain in good state.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, may we go back to the point in the original Question about the principle of additionality? I am sure that the Minister is aware of the Statement made by the Secretary of State in the other place only a few days ago. He said:

“The principle of additionality is very important and the distributors must adhere to it all times”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/7/14; col. 1057.]

Given that, can the Minister explain to your Lordships’ House why 102 companies now receiving grant in aid from Arts Council England, which in previous years were entirely funded by grant in aid, are now to be funded from the lottery?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, this is an area on which the Arts Council has been reflecting in particular, and of course it is required to report on adherence to the principle of additionality. One of the key points is that lottery funding for the years 2012 to 2015 has gone towards a specific purpose: touring, and working with children and young people. That is why Arts Council England has announced that these significant elements—of touring and of specific organisations working with children and young people—will be wholly funded through the lottery from 2015 to 2018.

Lord Aberdare (CB): My Lords, following the report by Darren Henley some years ago, the Government launched a national plan for music education. When will the Government announce the future funding for that national plan, and how will they ensure its successful delivery?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, the Government have committed £171 million over three years to 123 music hubs across England, to ensure that every child aged five to 18 has the chance to learn a musical instrument and perform as part of ensembles and choirs. Because of those hubs, 500,000 children have been given the chance to learn a musical instrument for the first time. There is always more to be done, but a lot of effort is going into recognising and then ensuring that there is fulfilment of the musical experience for young people and children.

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, we are soon to see the 50th anniversary of the Notting Hill carnival—but, sadly, we have just seen Arts Council funding cuts to the only carnival arts organisation that provides design, art and culture for children and gives them the opportunity to be exposed to creativity, and for their imagination to blossom. Can my noble friend tell the House what provision has been made to address this deficit?

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, obviously the decisions that the Arts Council or any organisation has to make are always difficult; they are full of challenges. But Arts Council England is very clear that if an organisation does not receive funding, part of its advice service is to ensure that other sources of funding are considered and advised upon.

Business of the House

Timing of Debates

11.37 am

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

That the debates on the Motions in the names of Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lord Woolf set down for today shall each be limited to two and a half hours.

Motion agreed.


Communications Data and Interception

Statement

11.37 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made this morning by my right honourable friend Theresa May, the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the use of communications data and interception; the difficulties faced by the police, law enforcement agencies and the security and intelligence agencies in utilising those capabilities; and the steps the Government plan to take to address those difficulties.

Before I do so, I would like to make something very clear. What I want to propose in my Statement today is a narrow and limited response to a set of specific challenges we face. I am not proposing the introduction of the communications data Bill that was considered in draft by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament last year. I still believe that the measures contained within that Bill are necessary—and so does the Prime Minister—but there is no coalition consensus for those proposals and we will have to return to them at the general election.

The House will know that communications data—the ‘who, where, when and how’ of a communication but not its content—and interception, which provides the legal power to acquire the content of a communication, are vital for combating crime and fighting terrorism. Without them, we would be unable to bring criminals and terrorists to justice, and we would not be able to keep the public safe.

For example, the majority of the Security Service’s top priority counterterror investigations use interception capabilities in some form to identify, understand and disrupt the plots of terrorists. Communications data has played a significant role in every Security Service counterterrorism operation over the past decade. It

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has been used as evidence in 95% of all serious organised crime cases handled by the Crown Prosecution Service. It has played a significant role in the investigation of many of the most serious crimes in recent times, including the Oxford and Rochdale child grooming cases, the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and the murder of Rhys Jones. It can prove or disprove alibis; it can identify associations between potential criminals; and it can tie suspects and victims to a crime scene.

I have talked before about the decline in our ability to obtain the communications data we need, which is caused by changes in the way people communicate and the technology behind those forms of communication. That is why I continue to support the measures in the draft communications data Bill. In addition to that decline, we now face two significant and urgent problems relating to both communications data and interception. The first is the recent judgment by the European Court of Justice that calls into question the legal basis upon which we require communication service providers in the UK to retain communications data. The second is the increasingly pressing need to put beyond doubt the application of our laws on interception so that communication service providers have to comply with their legal obligations, irrespective of where they are based.

I can tell the House today that the Government are introducing fast-track legislation—through the data retention and investigatory powers Bill—to deal with those two problems. I deal first with communications data, because we must respond to the ruling by the European Court of Justice that the data retention directive is invalid. The directive was the legal basis upon which the Governments of EU member states were required to compel communication service providers to retain certain communications data where they do not otherwise require it for their own business purposes. Indeed, the ruling provides us with such a problem precisely because very strong data protection laws mean that, in the absence of a legal duty to retain data, companies must delete data that is not required beyond their strict business use. This means that, if we do not clarify the legal position, we risk losing access to all such communications data and, with it, the ability to protect the public and keep our country safe.

The ECJ ruling said that the data retention directive does not contain the necessary safeguards in relation to access to the data, but it did not take into account the stringent controls and safeguards provided by domestic laws—in particular, the UK’s communications data access regime, which is governed primarily by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. RIPA was, and remains, designed to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. It ensures that access to communications data can take place only where it is necessary and proportionate for a specific investigation. It therefore provides many of the safeguards that the European Court of Justice said were missing from the data retention directive.

This ECJ judgment clearly has implications not just for the United Kingdom but also for other EU member states and we are in close contact with other European Governments. Other Governments, such as Ireland

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and Denmark, implemented the data retention directive through primary legislation, which means that they have retained a clear legal basis for their data retention policies, unless a separate, successful legal challenge to their legislation is made. The UK does not have that luxury, because here the data retention directive was implemented through secondary legislation. While we are confident that our regulations remain in force, the Government must act now to remove any doubt about their legal basis and to give effect to the ECJ judgment. The legislation I am publishing today—and the draft regulations that accompany it—will not only do this, they will enhance the UK’s existing legal safeguards and in so doing it will address the criticism of the European Court.

I want to be clear, though, that this legislation will merely maintain the status quo. It will not tackle the wider problem of declining communications data capability, to which we must return in the next Parliament. But it will ensure, for now at least, that the police and other law enforcement agencies can investigate some of the criminality that is planned and takes place online. Without this legislation, we face the very prospect of losing access to this data overnight, with the consequence that police investigations will suddenly go dark and criminals will escape justice. We cannot allow this to happen.

I want to turn now to interception because there is growing uncertainty among communication service providers about our interception powers. With technology developing rapidly and the way in which we communicate changing all the time, the communication service providers that serve the UK but are based overseas need legal clarity about what we can access. The House will understand that I cannot comment in detail on our operational capabilities when it comes to intercept, but I have briefed the Opposition on Privy Council terms and members of the Intelligence and Security Committee have heard first hand from the security and intelligence agencies and it is clear that we have reached a dangerous tipping point. We need to make sure that major communication service providers co-operate with the UK’s security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies when they need access to suspects’ communications. This would result immediately in a major loss of the powers and capabilities that are used every day to counter the threats we face from terrorists and organised criminals.

The Bill I am publishing today will therefore put beyond doubt the fact that the existing legal framework, which requires companies to co-operate with UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies, also extends to companies that are based overseas but provide services to people here in the UK. I will make copies of the draft Bill available to the Vote Office and the House Library. I will also make available in the Library the regulatory impact assessments and the draft regulations to be made under the Bill, in order to allow the opportunity for the House to scrutinise these proposals in full.

The parliamentary timetable for this legislation is inevitably very tight. My right honourable friend the Leader of the House has just provided details of the prospective timetable for the Bill’s consideration but it

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is crucial that we must have Royal Assent by Summer Recess. The Government have therefore sought to keep this Bill as short as possible. It is also subject to a sunset clause that means the legislation ceases to have effect from the end of 2016. This means that the Bill solves the immediate problems at hand and gives us enough time to review not just the full powers and capabilities we need, but also the way in which those powers and capabilities are regulated, before Parliament can consider new and more wide-ranging legislation after the general election.

It is right that we must balance the need to prevent criminal exploitation of communications networks with safeguards to protect ordinary citizens from intrusions upon their privacy. That is why, alongside the legislation I am publishing today, the Government will also introduce a package of measures to reassure the public that their rights to security and privacy are equally protected.

We will reduce the number of public authorities able to access communications data. We will publish an annual transparency report giving as much detail as possible—within obvious parameters—about the use of these sensitive powers. We will appoint a senior diplomat to lead discussions with other Governments to consider how we share data for law enforcement and intelligence purposes. We will establish a privacy and civil liberties board, based on the US model. This will build on the role of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, and the board will consider the balance between security and privacy and liberty in the full context of the threat we face from terrorism. And we will review the interception and communications data powers we need, as well as the way in which those powers and capabilities are regulated, in the full context of the threats we face. The Government are discussing in the usual channels the precise form this review might take, but I hope that an initial report will be published before the election.

I have said many times before that it is not possible to debate the correct balance between security and privacy—and, more specifically, the rights and wrongs of powers and capabilities such as access to communications data and interception—without understanding the threats we face as a country. Those threats remain considerable. They include the threat from terrorism—from overseas and from here in the UK—but also the threat from industrial, military and state espionage practised by other states and foreign businesses; the threat from organised criminal gangs; and the threat from all sorts of criminals whose work is made easier by cyber technology.

In the face of such a diverse range of threats, the Government would be negligent if they did not make sure that the people and the organisations that keep us safe—the police, other law enforcement agencies and the security and intelligence agencies—have the legal powers to utilise the capabilities they need. They are clear that we need to act immediately. If we do not, criminals and terrorists will go about their work unimpeded, and innocent lives will be lost. That is why I commend this Statement, and this Bill, to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

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11.53 am

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for early notification of the Statement, and for providing a copy of it beforehand. Before I refer to the content of the Bill, I flag up our disappointment regarding the timetabling. We understand and appreciate the necessity of this legislation and the time imperative that now exists, as the noble Lord explained. But why is it being brought forward now as fast-track legislation? As he said in the Statement, the decision of the ECJ was taken in April. We accept that it takes some time to digest and analyse the implications of such decisions and to prepare legislation, but it would have been preferable to bring this legislation forward earlier.

Over the past weeks we have been discussing the Serious Crime Bill, and the noble Lord is aware that we support measures in the Bill but have tabled amendments that would strengthen and improve it where we feel that the provisions are okay but too weak. So why were these measures announced today not brought forward alongside that Bill, given that the fast-track Bill he has announced strikes right at the heart of serious and organised crime and counterterrorism?

The data of which this Bill will ensure temporary retention are used in 95% of serious and organised crime investigations, counterterrorism investigations and online child abuse investigations, so we do not doubt the necessity of their use. In considering our response to this fast-track legislation, we have focused on the principle that such crime and counterterrorism investigations must not be compromised. We have a duty to maintain the security of our citizens. We also recognise that this Bill does not go further than existing legislation, as the noble Lord outlined, but maintains existing capabilities.

We also have to ensure that individual privacy is protected. We therefore considered it crucial that there should be safeguards, including a sunset clause and a major review of the legal framework that governs surveillance. Will the Minister confirm that what we are talking about here does not in any way include the content of communications, merely that such communications have taken place?

When our Constitution Committee reported on constitutional implications and safeguards for fast-track legislation, it set out certain safeguards that Ministers must address in Statements to your Lordships’ House. First, Ministers must explain why fast track is necessary. I take that to mean not just the immediate necessity but, as I have already asked, why this was not brought forward earlier. It is also very clear that there should be a presumption of a sunset clause; that is, in effect, that any fast-track legislation should be temporary with an expiry date. We welcome the sunset clause in this Bill. It is essential that a date is set down in statute when the legislation will expire, and it must be reviewed during that period.

The Constitution Committee recommended this for any fast-track legislation. Another issue it raises is that parliamentary committees should be given the opportunity to scrutinise the legislation. Are arrangements being made to ensure that the relevant committees—and

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specifically the Constitution Committee—will have the opportunity to do so within the timetable, and will discussions take place regarding this?

Another matter the Constitution Committee raised was post-legislative review. I ask that the Government consider using the Interception Commissioner to review this on a six-monthly basis and report back to Ministers and your Lordships’ House.

Noble Lords will be aware that we have called for a review of RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for this back in the speech she made in March. As a noble Lord commented in our discussions this week on new legislation to tackle cybercrime, technology moves very quickly and criminals move very quickly. Our legislation has to keep pace with that. RIPA is now 14 years old and needs to be brought up to date. We also need that review to ensure that it is used appropriately. Will the Minister confirm that the reference in the Statement to reviewing,

“the interception and data powers we need”,

does in fact refer to RIPA and that a review will take place? Can he tell us if any decision has been made on who would undertake such a review and what resources and expertise will be made available for that?

Alongside a review of RIPA, we have also asked for an overhaul of the system of independent oversight commissioners, as outlined in the shadow Home Secretary’s speech in March. I ask the Minister to ensure that these reforms are considered as part of the review. Also, it would be helpful to have a wider public debate on this whole range of issues.

We believe that this legislation is urgent, but it is equally important that we have further scrutiny of the whole framework. I hope noble Lords will agree that longer-term reforms are needed.

11.58 am

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, once again I thank the noble Baroness for her support for the legislation. I am very happy to reassure her on the various aspects that she quite legitimately raised. It has of course not been possible to talk about this matter in public until today. Noble Lords will understand why that is the case, but the House will have the opportunity to consider the legislation. I expect that will be next week, but that will be for the usual channels to decide and announcements will be made.

The noble Baroness asked why we are having fast-track legislation—after all, the judgment was on 8 April. I can understand her concern. It is not easy to deal with things in fast-track legislation. On the other hand, I think she will understand that this is a difficult and sensitive area of policy. We did not want to get mired down in the communications data Bill, as the Joint Committee originally considered. We wanted to ensure that the measures that we were presenting, and which we are presenting in the Bill today, were sufficient to deal with the immediate problem and no more. We were not looking to extend any powers; we were just seeking to restore the situation ex ante the judgment. We wanted to ensure that there was proper consideration, to work with the law enforcement agencies and the data providers on how we dealt with this

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problem in legislation, and to give proper effect to the judgment that had been made by the European Court of Justice.

I am pleased that the noble Baroness has welcomed the sunset clause. We accept that this is, if I might use the expression, a puncture repair job; it is not equipping data protection with a new tyre so that it can corner more suitably for the road conditions of the future. Future-proofing has to await new legislation. Meanwhile, we are dealing with the problem that would face us if we did not act now. While I understand that the House will want to scrutinise in detail what we are doing, I hope that we will have its support in taking the Bill through.

The noble Baroness asked what contact there had been with the chairmen of the Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee. Some of the constitutional issues are addressed in the Explanatory Memorandum that is being published today, but I have tried to ring the chairman of the Constitution Committee; unfortunately, though, he was not available. I also tried to ring the chairman of the Delegated Powers Committee but unfortunately she was not available either. However, both are Members of this House and I have left messages. I shall try to talk to them over the weekend, as indeed I am intending to do with other noble Lords who are interested. Various Select Committee chairmen in the House of Commons have been briefed by the Prime Minister.

The data retention provisions of the Bill relate to comms data. However, I must make clear that companies must provide the content of the communication when served with a warrant issued by the Secretary of State. The powers laid out in the Bill do not change anything in that regard.

There were indications in the Statement that RIPA and its whole relationship with future legislation is a matter for review. If we are to inform a new Bill after the election, we will need to study where we are at present. The role of the independent terrorism legislation reviewer in this matter is clear, and David Anderson is likely to be involved in a number of discussions specifically aimed at ensuring not only that this legislation is achieving its objective but that any future legislation or arrangements regarding privacy are going to be effective.

12.03 pm

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for contacting me earlier this morning. Obviously, bringing this stop-gap legislation in such a hurry to both Houses has been a difficult process, and the opportunities for consultation have therefore been limited. There are very strong and divided views on these issues, including among human rights and civil liberties groups. I wonder whether the Minister can reassure the House that there will be consultation with those groups on regulations and guidance, if there is to be any, as well as their involvement in the review of RIPA.

I welcome what was described as a package of pro-civil liberties measures mentioned in the Statement. Will the Minister tell the House whether they will be introduced to the same swift timetable? Also—I do

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not mean the question to be frivolous—we are proposing to talk to the Americans, but have they agreed to talk to us?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: We have good discussions with all our allies and I can assure the noble Baroness that I have no fear in that regard. I understand what she is saying about civil liberties and much of the discussions about this have centred on ways in which we can enhance privacy protection. The noble Baroness is quite right; we have not had time to consult. Letters will be going to a large number of people and I know that the list includes a number of the best-known civil liberties groups. As far as future business is concerned, and the implementation of the powers in the Bill, they will be parties to the discussion in the usual way. I will do my best to ensure that the noble Baroness is also kept informed.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, I am very supportive of what the Government are doing. I think it is absolutely appropriate, subject to the various caveats that my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon raised. There is no doubt whatever, as the Minister said, that this has ensured in the past our security, our ability to tackle organised crime and our ability to get murderers, paedophiles and the like. There is no doubt whatever about that, and it was something that was going to be lost. But is it not a disgrace that we find ourselves in this position? The communications data Bill was looked at by a Joint Committee of the House. It made a mass of suggestions as to how it should be amended to protect privacy and civil liberties. All of those measures were taken in and agreed, and the Bill redrafted. I think that the Liberal Democrats should be ashamed of the fact that they did not agree then to go forward with the Bill. If it had gone forward, we would not now be rushing through this legislation. Does the Minister agree?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Of course I do not agree. To be frank, I am a great believer in the partnership that the coalition represents. I have given an indication today in repeating the Statement that it is important to see this as a partnership between protecting individual liberty and at the same time making sure that we have the capability. I am so grateful to the noble Lord for his support in that regard. I am sure he would not expect me to go into detail as to why we have not progressed. We said in the Statement that we recognised that there was not enough unity of purpose across the coalition to continue with the communications data Bill. I make no apology for that. This will obviously be discussed at the time of the general election and hopefully afterwards we will be able to address the issue.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick (CB): My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will recall that a committee of privy counsellors was set up some years ago to consider the admission of the intercept as evidence in terrorist and criminal cases. Does he agree that the intercept, the actual words spoken, provides by far the strongest basis on which to convict terrorists and other serious criminals—far better than just the fact that a

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communication took place? When does he think that the Chilcot committee, which is still considering this matter, is going to report?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I am not in a position to answer that particular question. It may be beyond the gift of anyone to answer it at this stage. The noble and learned Lord makes a very interesting point which I am sure will be considered, but it is not part and parcel of this legislation, which is very narrow in what it is seeking to achieve. We are not looking to extend the powers that we currently have available.

Lord King of Bridgwater (Con): My Lords, to save the Minister embarrassment I do not expect him to reply to this point; I fully agree with the previous comment of the noble Lord, Lord West, about the failure to move forward with the previous Bill. Having said that, my noble friend will be aware that both Houses of Parliament are very leery indeed about emergency legislation, and are rightly suspicious of it. It is not just the cynics who say that they are not totally reassured when all parties are in agreement on emergency legislation, which has not always had a happy history.

Having said that, nobody could underestimate the importance of the matters that the Minister has discussed and of what the data have meant to the defence of this country. If ever there was a time not to reduce our defences, this must be it. Can the Minister confirm again that this represents no change in the present situation—that there is no advance in the intrusions on the citizen; it is a matter of data, not the content of messages? It is the “who, when and where” that are so vital in the pursuit of this.

The most important thing is that the provisions also contain the surprisingly short sunset clause, as I understand it, of May 2015—

Noble Lords: 2016.

Lord King of Bridgwater: That is still, for the matters which must be discussed, a short sunset clause. It is absolutely right that that is there, and I welcome it.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am most grateful to my noble friend. As a former chairman of the Intelligence and Security Select Committee, I know that he—like the noble Lord, Lord West, from his ministerial role—can see inside this problem. I expect and want the House to scrutinise this legislation, because it is right and proper that we do so.

My noble friend is right also to point to the fact that the sunset clause allows an incoming Government only 18 months to put a new communications data Bill on the table if they choose to do so. If I were part of any such Government I would be exhorting prompt action in that area. Clearly, without the legislation that we are now hoping to bring forward, we place ourselves in an extraordinarily difficult position.

Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): My Lords, in all the unfortunate circumstances, the Government were quite right to respond to the ECJ decision as they have. However, on the first part of the Statement on the

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powers that we thought existed to compel private sector organisations to retain communications data, is not the unfortunate position in which the Government now find themselves a result of their tendency—perhaps more than a tendency; sometimes it looks like a default option—always to implement European directives whenever they can by means of secondary rather than primary legislation? It may the tendency of every bureaucracy, and perhaps every Minister, to try to minimise the degree of democratic transparency and parliamentary scrutiny through which they have to go to get legislation on the statute book. However, in the light of experience, do the Government not agree that they have been getting the balance wrong compared to other countries—the Minister cited the Irish and Danish examples—and that that balance needs to be looked at again?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Well, we are now coming forward with primary legislation; I hope that it meets with the noble Lord’s approval. I understand his point exactly, but we are dealing with that problem now. It has been the practice of successive Governments to deal with European directives in this fashion. Perhaps in some areas it may pay us to make exceptions to that, particularly if we think that there are matters that really ought to be brought to the attention of the House through primary legislation.


Lord Armstrong of Ilminster (CB): My Lords, I was a member of the Joint Committee which scrutinised the draft communications data Bill. I am sure that all members of that committee would attach great importance to restoring the position that we thought we were in before this. For that reason, I, and I think many colleagues on the Cross Benches, will support the Bill. The sunset clause which has been described will make it necessary to review communications data legislation very early in the new Parliament. I hope that the scrutiny given to it will then bear fruit because I think the result was a good Bill which balanced the essential needs of civil liberty and privacy against the Government’s first duty to protect the security and safety of the citizen.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, speaks from a great deal of experience in this area. I welcome his support. I agree that this is a matter which will have to be addressed very quickly by an incoming Government. This is a live issue, as is properly demonstrated by the debate we are having now.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, would we be in this predicament if we were not members of the European Union and therefore subservient to the judgments of the Luxembourg court? Surely these matters should be for our Government and Parliament and for international collaboration under their control.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: No, my Lords, I do not see the sequitur in that at all. It is right and proper that we should make sure that the legal framework under which we operate is established in Parliament. That is what we are doing. The way in which we adapt to

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changed circumstances is a healthy arrangement. Regardless of the European Court of Justice’s decision, we would need to address some of the issues that this Bill deals with. We are right to be dealing with it as soon as we possibly can.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, when I was in another place I conducted an inquiry into organised crime in Northern Ireland and I became aware of how crucial cross-border collaboration was in that context. Will there be full discussions with the Government of the Republic of Ireland to ensure that our fight against crime in that part of the United Kingdom can continue unabated?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Yes. One of the factors which the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and I welcome is that, in the Serious Crime Bill, there is a whole series of measures attaching to Northern Ireland which have support. We hope that these will enable the two law enforcement agencies on that island to work closely together in the interests of protecting the people of that island.

Baroness Taylor of Bolton (Lab): My Lords, I associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord West, and the noble Lord, Lord King, whom I succeeded as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Those of us who have had direct experience of the benefits of this kind of information will very much support what the Government are doing. Perhaps I may ask the Minister a practical question about data retention. By acknowledging that new legislation is required, can we assume that there is nothing that threatens the use of existing data that are held? Will the Minister continue to use examples in the way that he did today in repeating the Statement so that people outside who have concerns about the use of data recognise the productive way in which they can be used in important criminal cases?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Yes. I think that sometimes the arguments become focused on particular issues. I agree with the noble Baroness. I know that she speaks from experience and I am grateful for her support. There is an important communications exercise in making sure that people realise why we are involved in the fight against crime and the fight against sexual exploitation. These are all factors in our need to have this capability. I am grateful for the noble Baroness’s support.

Lord Butler of Brockwell (CB): My Lords, I know that the Intelligence and Security Committee, of which I am a member, will now look at this legislation very urgently, as is necessary. However, that committee has to deal all the time with highly classified matters. Does the Minister agree that it would have made the task of the committee easier, and its task of advising the two Houses easier, if the Government had consulted the committee at an earlier stage?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Had that been possible, it might have been done. Clearly, the Bill is a complicated piece of legislation and getting it right has not been easy. I think the noble Lord will understand

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the background against which the Bill will be presented to the House of Commons and to your Lordships’ House. In such circumstances, it was important that the Government got their own position right first. Having done that, we are very grateful for the scrutiny and advice that we will receive from the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, I wholeheartedly support what has been said concerning the inhibition which now exists on the use of vital evidence by way of intercept, which makes it impossible for what would have otherwise been crucially important prosecutions to succeed. I well appreciate that there are two sides to the argument and I appreciate that final advice to Parliament on this matter is still awaited, but will the noble Lord accept that in many common-law countries the rule is different? It is left to the good sense of the prosecution whether to rely on such evidence, bearing very much in mind the sensitivity of the situation in the public interest. It does not seem beyond the bounds of possibility that the United Kingdom is coming under very severe pressure from very powerful allies in this particular matter, to her own detriment.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I do not want to go into detail today on the noble Lord’s points. However, I will examine what he said, because he is talking about procedures rather than the matter that the Bill deals with—how we handle this in legal process. If the noble Lord will allow me, I will write to him in response to his question. I am grateful to him for raising it.

Lord Marlesford (Con): Given the point that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has just made, and of course given the total paramountcy of the defence of the realm, will the Minister assure us that if the scrutiny of the Bill were to reveal defects in the legislation—which, after all, is what scrutiny is about—the Bill would be amendable, notwithstanding the parliamentary timetable for the Recess?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, the passage of the Bill contains all the normal phases of discussion so it would be for Parliament to decide whether it needed to change the Bill. I hope that it will not be a political football, with people trying to make further points about what might have been and what could be, and all the rest. I do not think that the House is in the mood for that. All the comments that have been made have made it clear to me that, in general, the Bill correctly addresses the issue and we will look at the wording and make sure that we have got it right. That is what scrutiny is for and that is what we are here for. I hope that we will take advantage of that opportunity. I also hope to brief noble Lords on Monday by party group—arrangements are in place for those briefings—because I thought it would be helpful if we had an opportunity to talk about these things before we consider the Bill and before it goes to the House of Commons, which will consider it early next week.

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Arrangement of Business

Announcement

12.24 pm

Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, it may be helpful if I make a brief business statement to explain how it is envisaged that this House might consider the data retention and investigatory powers Bill.

The House of Commons is due to take all stages of the Bill next Tuesday, 15 July. We will therefore receive the Bill at the end of their proceedings on Tuesday and the Bill will be printed overnight. Following discussions in the usual channels, we have agreed to propose that the House take Second Reading of the Bill next Wednesday, 16 July, and Committee and remaining stages of the Bill the following day, Thursday 17 July.

Members will be able to table amendments to the Bill at any time from next Wednesday and the Legislation Office has kindly agreed to offer drafting advice to Members who require it as soon as the text of the Bill has been published by the House of Commons. A revised edition of forthcoming business, setting out these arrangements as well as the knock-on effect on other business, will be published imminently—indeed, I expect almost as soon as I resume my seat. There will be a speakers list for Second Reading, again, opened more or less as I sit down today.

There are some knock-on effects; it may be convenient if I refer to one in particular, because I see the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, in his place. Next Thursday we had anticipated a Labour debate day. There are two debates set down for that day, the first to be led by the noble Lord, Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan, and the second by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell. It has been agreed in the usual channels that those two debates will be delayed. Another date will be found that is convenient for those debates to take place. We will negotiate on that matter. The procedure at the moment is that those speakers lists have been frozen as we are now in the process of changing next Thursday’s business. Those who have already signed up to speak will be informed. Indeed, there are currently only five speakers signed up for the first and four for the second, so I hope that does not inconvenience too many people.

The approach I have set out today, outlined by the Minister, has the support of the usual channels. I hope the whole House will support that next week.

BBC World Service and British Council

Motion to Take Note

12.27 pm

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To move that this House takes note of the role of the BBC World Service and the British Council in promoting British values and interests worldwide.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friends on the Cross Benches for selecting this Motion for debate today. It draws attention to the role of the BBC World Service and the British Council in promoting British values, part of what

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Joseph Nye once described as the exercise of soft power. It sits comfortably with the debate that will follow in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf, which draws attention to the role our legal institutions play in promoting Britain’s reputation and way of life worldwide. I am grateful to all noble Lords who will participate, many of whom bring a lifetime of experience and knowledge. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, the Minister who will reply. The House of Lords Library also deserves our thanks for the excellent note it has prepared for today’s debate.

It hardly needs saying that all of our speeches will be held against a backdrop in the Middle East of the exercise of a different kind of power, characterised by visceral hatred and unspeakable violence. They are being held in a climate in which fragile peace and seedling democracies, from the China Sea to Ukraine, are at daily risk. That is to say nothing of global violation of human rights, from North Korea to Sudan, from Nigeria to Pakistan.

More than 30 years ago as a young Member of the House of Commons travelling behind the iron curtain, and in 1981 to India, Nepal and China, I first began to fully understand the importance of the BBC World Service and the British Council as agents for change. The BBC World Service started life in 1932 as the BBC Empire Service, with Sir John Reith—later Lord Reith—warning,

“don’t expect too much in the early days … The programmes will neither be very interesting nor very good”.

More than 80 years later, with a global audience last month of 265 million people and transmitting in English and 27 other languages, there is no doubt that the World Service has surpassed all of Lord Reith’s modest expectations. Often, it has been the only lifeline to honest reporting of news and current affairs. Mikhail Gorbachev said that he listened to the BBC’s transmissions. However, both organisations—the British Council and the World Service—promote the UK’s economic interests too. In one survey of international business leaders in America, India and Australia, two-thirds said that the BBC was the main way in which they found out about the United Kingdom. Hence, the Motion talks about promoting our values and our interests.

During the past 10 years, as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea and during visits to remote parts of Africa and Burma, my appreciation of the BBC World Service and the British Council has grown into deep admiration, not least for courageous BBC journalists, such as its chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet and the head of the BBC’s Burma service Tin Htar Swe, who were both recently honoured in the Birthday Honours List.

Courage, however, comes at a price. Let us consider the 90 journalists killed since the start of the Syrian conflict three years ago, with scores of others kidnapped, or the imprisonment of journalists in Egypt, including Peter Greste, the former BBC journalist. James Harding, the BBC’s director of news, said that these jailings were an,

“act of intimidation against all journalists”.

Getting the news out and getting the news in are therefore two sides of one coin.

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In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi says that World Service transmissions reach more than 80% of people. When I visited her in March last year, she told me that the World Service had been a game-changer. Of course, she also listened to the World Service during her many years of detention, describing it as a lifeline. Believing passionately in the power of ideas, she used her Nobel Peace Prize money to establish her own Democratic Voice of Burma radio service.

At the World Service’s 80th anniversary commemoration held in December 2012 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, I was particularly struck by the words of a young Ukrainian woman, who described how her parents had illegally concealed a radio beneath their floorboards and would bring it out clandestinely to listen to the news from London. She said that the proudest day of her parents’ lives was when she told them that she had secured a job at Bush House, where the BBC World Service was located from 1940 until 2012. Not without significance, the audience of the Ukrainian service has tripled in the past 12 months. A long-serving BBC foreign correspondent, Allan Little, recalls an elderly Jewish man in Paris who agreed to give him an interview because, as a boy in hiding in wartime Poland, the BBC was the only way he knew to keep on hoping. He also recalls the old independence fighter in Zimbabwe who hated the British yet, when he wanted to know what was happening in the world, listened in secret. He said, “We listened to you and we trusted you”.

Like many, Little regards the trust placed in the World Service and the BBC, fiercely guarded across the world and over generations, as a kind of covenant. Credibility and authority—what Peter Horrocks, the World Service director, calls “radical impartiality”—marks out the BBC from its competition in increasingly crowded airwaves and with the phenomenal growth of the internet. However, at a meeting held here just two nights ago, Mr Horrocks also pointed out that a broadcaster such as Al-Jazeera probably has a budget two to three times bigger than that of BBC News. If the BBC World Service is not to decline, I hope that the Minister will tell us that comparative resources will form part of the review of the BBC charter scheduled for next year. I hope that the Minister will also say something about the current ambiguity in the BBC World Service’s lines of accountability and its mandate.

On 1 April this year, a great and almost unremarked on change occurred when the Foreign Office ceased to fund the World Service. From now on, the £245 million bill will be borne by the licence fee payer. In January the House of Commons Select Committee which looked at this question voiced strong opposition to the plans outlined by the BBC Trust for wider commercialisation at the World Service. Its March 2014 report, The Future of the BBC World Service, outlined concerns about the impact of changes in the funding of the World Service.

Although the committee welcomed budget increases, it urged the BBC to announce detailed future funding allocations to allow the World Service to plan for the longer term. Many of us share the Select Committee’s apprehension that further commercialisation will both overinfluence the BBC’s decisions on where and what

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to broadcast, and diminish our ability to use the service to pursue foreign policy objectives. The example of the BBC World News offers salutary lessons. Conceived as the sister television arm of the World Service, this continuous news channel has 74 million viewers each week in 200 countries, and powerfully projects British values worldwide. Unlike radio, BBC World News is owned and operated by a commercial entity, BBC Global News Ltd, and relies entirely on subscription, advertising and sponsorship deals to survive.

The failure of the current business plan means that on the 17th of this month BBC World News is to announce what its managers are calling “significant savings”—that is, cuts. These will come on top of year 3 cuts to BBC News under the programme Delivering Quality First, which since 2010 has seen spending on news cut by 20% and the loss of 2,000 jobs in the BBC. The danger of the commercial imperative alone is that the BBC becomes dependent on it and, instead of seeing such deals as useful, it sees them as additional resource. It cannot be in the British interest for the BBC’s presence in the global media landscape to be increasingly subject to the vagaries of the ups and downs of the advertising market. It is bad for Britain’s business needs, and it is bad for the business of what Britain is all about. I hope that the Minister will do her best to allay those fears today.

In considering commercial factors versus our Article 19 obligation under the 1948 declaration on human rights to take no notice of frontiers but to communicate information worldwide, the Minister may want to comment on the example of North Korea, which was recently listed by the United Nations as a “country without parallel” and a perpetrator of human rights abuses. In the view of the author of the report, Mr Justice Michael Kirby, BBC World Service broadcasts to the Korean peninsula would be a welcome contribution to breaking the information blockade that imprisons North Korea. Professor Andrei Lankov states in his book The Real North Korea:

“The only long-term solution … is to increase North Korea’s awareness of the outside world”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, will say more on this subject when she makes her speech, and we will return to it in a Question for Short Debate in a few days.

Staying with North Korea for a moment, I particularly welcome the British Council’s English language work there, which I have seen first hand. I also welcome the work of the British Council in Burma. During my 2013 visit, I gave a lecture at the British Council library in Rangoon. I am told that the British Council receives more than 200,000 Burmese visitors to its sites in Rangoon and Mandalay each year. The libraries in Burma have more than 10,000 members and there is a network of 19 remote learning centres across the country. The British Council’s Facebook page has 340,000 “likes”—almost a quarter of the total internet users in the country.

The British Council was established in 1934 and incorporated by royal charter in 1940. It has 70 British Council teaching centres in 53 countries. It taught more than 1 million class hours to 300,000 learners in one recent year, and it describes itself as,

“the world’s largest English-language teaching organisation”.

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I know that other noble Lords will speak more about its work, but let me give the example of Project English, which has benefited more than 27 million learners in India already. There is the Young Arab Voices initiative that has helped more than 25,000 young Egyptians, Tunisians and Jordanians. But in 2010-11 the FCO grant was 27% of the British Council’s income. In 2013-14 that grant is forecast to be less than 20% of total income and the proportion is projected to decrease, reaching 16% of total income by 2015-16.

Last month, the Prime Minister said that British values are,

“a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law”.

But he went on to say that these values do not come from thin air, and resources do not come from thin air either. We must be prepared to see the value of these amazing instruments of soft power and ensure that they are adequately resourced. Our military response to global threats and new forms of terror will always require hard power, of course, but we are disproportionate in spending hundreds of times more on hard power than on soft power. Combining the two, what Hillary Clinton has described as “smart power”, should be part of our approach. That is a view which was put by the House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence in its March 2014 report entitled Persuasion and Power in the Modern World. It said:

“The ‘reach’ of the BBC and the British Council is immense, and this certainly adds to their ability to enhance the UK’s soft power”.

Before I conclude, I highlight for noble Lords a particular work by a notable champion of soft power, the former US ambassador to Hungary, Mark Palmer, who died a year ago. I commend his book Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025. We have just 10 years left to meet the deadline he set, and I believe that the BBC World Service and the British Council have a crucial role to play in achieving that. I pay tribute to Mark Palmer, and I believe that we in this country could learn much from his ideas. We can also learn from those put forward by the British Academy, which has said in a report:

“UK foreign policy is too often conducted in a compartmentalised manner, with the would-be benefits of soft power either judged to be outweighed by security concerns, or simply never taken into account”.

Soft power is, as the report concludes,

“likely to become more important in international relations over the coming years. UK governments can help themselves simply by recognising this, and by providing enough resources for the development and maintenance of its long-term assets”.

In moving this Motion, I ask the Minister what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to strengthen the deployment of soft power, how we are going to combine soft power with hard power, and to affirm, as I hope she will, our continuing belief on all sides of the House that the BBC World Service and the British Council are indispensable in promoting British values and interests throughout the world.

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12.42 pm

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab): My Lords, the number of speakers in the debate is testament to the huge respect in which both the World Service and the British Council are held in this House. I want to focus on the role of the British Council as part of the fabric that underpins the UK’s foreign policy, and our soft power. There are friends of the UK around the world for whom the first step towards engaging with our country was sitting in the library of the British Council office in their home city.

I have had a long connection with the British Council and was once one of its trustees. Since that time, the landscape in which the British Council operates has changed, and the council has changed, too. It is not widely known that the council now draws just 20% of its income from government, and as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has said, that is set to fall further. The council exists to provide a public benefit. It has evolved to become a very significant social enterprise with a turnover of nearly £1 billion, but it operates in an increasingly commercial and competitive environment. Its bridge-building work between the UK’s cultural and education sectors, and those overseas, is funded by delivering commercial services. I have no doubt that this social enterprise model has created some challenges for the council, although I am glad to say that it continues to grow, to provide indispensable services and, most of all, to provide a network of well informed staff around the world. It is an exemplar of an entrepreneurial public service model and, in that context, offers excellent value to taxpayers.

I have seen this in the context of universities. The council’s network of international offices is envied by many of our competitors. It has the ability to provide market intelligence and to anticipate opportunities in countries where links are not well established. These are functions that we should protect and support, and I hope that the Minister will agree that the Government should continue to fund them. There is inevitably a tension between its cultural relations role on the one hand, and on the other the need to provide services for which universities are willing to pay. I believe that the council is well aware of this and is sensitive to it.

When I was chief executive of Universities UK, I created a small international and Europe unit. I am delighted to learn that this has grown to be a significant organisation, delivering millions of pounds’ worth of benefits by identifying opportunities, making links, influencing policy and negotiating collective agreements around the world. The council should be applauded for the way in which it has adapted to this changed landscape. It has recognised that it can be most effective by working in partnership with Universities UK’s international unit and with parts of government pursuing opportunities overseas, such as the UKTI education unit. I hope that the Minister will agree that it is important to ensure that those sources of support are well articulated, and work in complementary ways rather than creating confusion and duplication.

I like the fact that the British Council has been working closely with the international unit of Universities UK on an advisory service to help universities develop

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the rapidly growing area of transnational education. I like the fact that the council is working alongside Research Councils UK, the national academies, the international unit and a range of other bodies to deliver aspects of the Government’s newly announced Newton Fund, which supports research links with 15 emerging powers around the world.

Yes, the world has changed since the creation of the British Council. Yet it remains an important part of the UK’s effort to promote strong and lasting relationships internationally, including through education links. Reduced funding has necessitated changes in strategy, yet it has picked its way sensitively and effectively through this increasingly complicated terrain. It is a hugely valuable asset to the UK. We should be proud of it, and we should continue to support it.

12.46 pm

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for this debate. I speak on culture and media matters from these Benches, and I am an avid believer in the importance of the part played by both the BBC and the British Council in binding our nation together and defining us in the eyes of other nations. Yet their role and influence goes further, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. They are also key to the UK’s successful pursuit of soft power, defined in the very good recent report of a House of Lords Select Committee as,

“the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion”.

The pursuit of soft power is essential to UK diplomacy—and prosperity—in the 21st century. I declare an interest: I am the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Mexico, and in this capacity I have seen at first hand how cultural diplomacy is a major tool in pursuing collaboration on both an economic and a strategic level. In Mexico, the BBC is enjoyed, admired and trusted, and the British Council actively promotes British culture, language and values. Both are instruments by which those in Mexico understand who we are, what we stand for and what we offer.

2015 is the Year of Mexico in the UK and the UK in Mexico, and it will be a great mutual celebration. It will strengthen ties between our Governments, our people and organisations. This forging of greater bilateral trust and engagement will make both of us richer in every sense of the word. On the ground in Mexico, it is the British Council, alongside our embassy, that is making this happen.

I worked for the BBC across genres, across departments and across the globe. I remember that when filming years ago in the Gulf, a fisherman from Somaliland saw our camera and came up to talk. “BBC”, he said immediately, “BBC. We love the BBC”. He was talking about the World Service, which of course in those days was received through a physical entity known as a wireless, not through a wireless connection delivering to a multitude of platforms. The World Service has kept up with the times and now people across the world get their information through many devices, but whatever the device the BBC is respected as accurate, impartial, objective and free of national interests. This

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goes back to the Second World War. Penelope Fitzgerald, in her wonderful novel set in Broadcasting House, writes that the BBC was,

“dedicated to the strangest project of the war … that is, telling the truth”.

Over and over again we see people turn to it in times of crisis. Noble Lords may remember a photograph taken at the beginning of the Arab spring at a demonstration in Syria, of a young man holding up a placard with “Thank you BBC” written in English.

Charter renewal is upon us. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will agree that the BBC, funded by the licence fee, should be protected and celebrated. We on these Benches support the BBC taking over responsibility for the World Service from the Foreign Office, but the Minister will know that World Service funding has at this point been settled for only one year. Does she not agree that this makes important long-term planning difficult? I hope that she and the FCO will help in the charter process to ensure that the future of the World Service is not diminished.

12.50 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB): My Lords, I welcome this debate on two renowned and much loved British institutions whose impact on the globe during the past century has been immense. We as Members of this House, and, indeed, the British people, can take great pride in what they have done to promote British values of decency, fairness and respect. Both the council and the World Service have ensured a lasting British impact and influence in all corners of the globe.

For reasons of time, and to reflect my own personal experience, I will concentrate my remarks on the BBC World Service. I declare an interest as a trustee of the BBC with responsibilities for the World Service. I should also note that I worked for eight years as a journalist and editor at the World Service’s then headquarters, Bush House, in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In a subsequent career at the United Nations I experienced at first hand, in Cambodia and the Balkans, how critical the World Service is for people caught up in the vortex of violence and conflict, where information is always the first casualty. In the Middle East, I have seen how vital are the BBC’s services in Arabic and Farsi, on radio, in television and online, for the peoples of that region, and perhaps now more than ever, when conflict rages and freedom of the press scarcely exists in any country from the Maghreb to the Gulf. The tasks facing the World Service are as great as ever. In this country, we look to the BBC for information, entertainment and education, but there are still all too many countries in this world where the BBC sheds light where darkness prevails. One of my former bosses, Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the UN, declared the World Service to be Britain’s greatest gift to the world in the 20th century.

I am pleased to say that today, in a striking example of the BBC World Service’s continuing relevance and agility in adapting to changing circumstances, the Foreign Secretary has agreed to a new Thai language digital service being established. This online news service is responding to the need for accurate and impartial news and current affairs at a time when the

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Thai media are subject to censorship following the coup d’état of recent weeks. I welcome this move, which is of considerable importance. It may be a model suitable for a Korean service, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has advocated for some time. Although there are many difficulties in that regard, not least the funding, I salute the noble Lord’s endeavours. When I left the BBC in the early 1990s we broadcast in more than 50 languages, and nearly all on short wave. That number has now diminished to 27 languages, plus English. Our capacity in east Asian languages is much weaker than it was, making a viable Korean service difficult, although we have an online presence in languages such as Mandarin and Vietnamese.

I can testify that much of the focus in recent years has been on launching television and online services in Arabic and Farsi, which have had a great impact throughout the region. Nevertheless, the withdrawal from short-wave broadcasting during the past decade has been too fast, and in some cases deprived some of the most vulnerable audiences that the BBC World Service should serve.

Despite this, the World Service remains the most popular and best known of all international broadcasters. Yes, it is under pressure from competitors and budget cuts, but it is still primus inter pares. Following the financial settlement of 2010, it needs now to do more to show its relevance to licence fee payers.

Closure of the 648 kilohertz medium-wave service was a mistake and I propose to encourage the BBC Executive to do more to promote not only World Service language and World Service English but languages such as Somali, Urdu and Hindi, which have more speakers in our country than Welsh or Gaelic. The impact of the World Service on domestic radio and television has already been apparent, and we are seeing rather fewer white men in suits in the world’s trouble spots. I believe that as we embed the World Service further into the domestic BBC, our people will increasingly see its value at home and abroad.

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, may I remind noble Lords that this is a time-limited debate? When the clock reaches four, noble Lords have had their four minutes.

12.55 pm

Baroness Prashar (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for the opportunity to debate this topic, and for his introduction. The BBC World Service and the British Council are, of course, two of the best instruments we have for promoting our values and interests. I am proud to be the British Council’s deputy chair. This year is its 80th anniversary, and it has retained the same mission for which it was founded in 1934. It has, however, transformed its economic model and changed the way in which it fulfils that mission, in response to changing times.

The government grant now represents less than 20% of the British Council’s turnover. Entrepreneurship delivers the rest. This means that, at a time of declining public sector funding, it has been able to grow its influence for the UK. Some criticise this approach,

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seeing it as a deviation from its core function. In my view the critics are wrong. The mixed funding model is the engine that keeps the British Council’s global network in more than 100 countries running at a time of austerity. If we want to continue to benefit from the 80 years of relationships and experience that the council has established, it would be unwise to change the mixed funding model that has proved its worth for the UK.

The British Council’s establishment in 1934 was a conscious effort to counter extremist views, and spread values of democracy and free speech around the world. It has continued that work by taking the long view and maintaining a lasting presence in countries, even in circumstances when other forms of engagement are no longer possible. That continuity of presence and purpose has been central to the organisation’s success, and in creating the conditions for sharing our values and strengthening our business ties.

It was the British Council’s lasting presence in the countries of the former eastern bloc that proved so important 25 years ago. Staying in places such as Romania and Poland through the tough times meant that it was able to support these countries’ transformation into liberal open democracies. I could go on and give a number of other examples, but time does not permit.

The British Council’s cultural and artistic work, in today’s digitally connected world, is based on reciprocity —that is, on developing a shared understanding of the world through collaborative effort. This is the approach that we are currently using, for example, to work with South Africa to mark the celebration of 20 years of democracy, which will benefit not only South Africans but those in the UK.

The British Council’s school in Madrid, Spain, which opened in the 1940s during the years of dictatorship, offers bilingual and bicultural education, and was quite explicit about its intention to inculcate values of freedom, honesty, integrity and creativity. Now this school, in a different way, serves the same purpose as the British Council’s work in South Africa—promoting the aspects of our national life that are attractive to others, not least the excellence of our education and the values that underpin it.

This work does not set out overtly to export “British values”, but it is an indirect way of sharing important values—by keeping conversations going and by keeping doors open to exchange views, ideas and beliefs. Reciprocity and longevity are central to the British Council’s success, but those values do not always fit comfortably with the rather utilitarian and short-term views of those looking for immediate results.

The British Council has always had a degree of separation from the political arena and has had operational independence. Repeated studies and recent reports have shown that soft power should be, or appear to be, not closely state-directed. Those reports build on the Foreign Secretary’s concept of a networked world, which best sums up how the council will need to operate in future. That means that the British Council needs not only support but better understanding of how it operates and why. As the salience of soft power has increased, it is all the more important that the factors which have made the British Council so effective for 80 years are protected.

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I should therefore be grateful if the Minister would assure the House that the Foreign Secretary and the FCO will do all that is required to ensure that the British Council’s entrepreneurial model and ethos will be supported. Any attempts to tamper with it or change it, as suggested by some, will be resisted—albeit with the promise of continuous improvement from the British Council. It would also be helpful to get an assurance that the British Council’s operational independence from government will be maintained.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I remind noble Lords that when the clock reaches four, they have had four minutes.

1 pm

Lord Sheikh (Con): My Lords, I am pleased to speak in this debate. I think that we all appreciate the importance of soft power in the modern world. We must therefore make friends and influence people overseas. I am very supportive of the BBC World Service and believe that it provides a truly valuable service, but I shall focus today on the work of the British Council.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, building lasting relationships between the UK and other countries. The British Council has been building long-term trust, people-to-people connections and international opportunities for the UK for more than 80 years. Each year, it works with millions of people on six continents and in more than 100 countries. It is an essential part of our international effort to promote British values and interests.

I speak as someone who has benefited from the work of the British Council. Growing up in Uganda, I found the British Council to be an extremely helpful and informative organisation. The regional representative of the British Council used to come to our school to give talks. There was a British Council library in my home town, and I used to borrow books from it frequently. It was through the British Council that I learnt about Britain—its constitution, institutions and values. Indeed, my first knowledge of this House doubtless came as a result of the British Council. Little did I know that I would end up in your Lordships’ House one day—I would never have dreamt that when I was young.

I came to the UK to study by myself, and my family arrived later. When I came to Britain, I stayed in a British Council residence: first in Knightsbridge and, following that, in Lancaster Gate. The council also helped me to find private accommodation in London and once, when I was once in hospital following an injury, a lady from the British Council used to come to see me frequently.

I have nothing but admiration for what the British Council does. I have continued to support it in my work ever since. I have travelled a great deal abroad and have spoken to representatives of the British Council all around the world, including in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Jordan and Nepal.

The British Council does admirable work, but in this country, at least, it is not good at telling people what it does. We must therefore publicise its work. I was pleased to learn that only 22% of the British

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Council’s funding comes from government, with 63% coming in the form of fees and income from services. By 2015, government funding will be less than 20%. I am pleased that the British Council seeks to maximise earned income to minimise the cost to the public of its activities.

The activities of the British Council can be summarised under the following headings: English examinations, language school accreditation, arts, education and society and overseas development assistance. As noble Lords will be aware, the British Council’s activities are under review, with the findings expected later this year. I would like to add my views on the subject.

I have already said that more needs to be done to promote the work of the British Council. I also think that the British Council could move out of central government, with its multifarious activities taken over by the private sector. I also believe that we need to put more power in the hands of local groups. The British Council is already a very good employer in the areas in which it operates, but individual facilities must be given more autonomy. However, they must work hand in hand with our embassies to ensure a joined-up approach to our overseas activities.

I am passionately supportive of the British Council and hope that the Government continue to give it the support it needs to carry on with the work that it does so well.

1.05 pm

Lord Eames (CB): My Lords, the House must be in the debt of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for giving us the opportunity to debate this Motion. The expertise that is exposed in the contributions that we are listening to from all sides of the House speaks for itself. Perhaps I may presume to add two human faces in support of the BBC’s overseas programmes.

The first takes me back to the days of the hostage crisis in Beirut, in Lebanon, when I was privileged to lead the efforts on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury to gain the release of the hostages—British and Irish. I remember well the incident when a student in Beirut, with the gunfire surrounding us and the thunder of the gunfire filtering the air, said to me, “But for the BBC, we wouldn’t know what the outside world thought is going on”. That was a simple incident.

More recently, I visited North Korea, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, highlighted in his words a few minutes ago. From a most unlikely source, there was a remark that will live with me for a very long time. Obviously, I cannot disclose the complete circumstances, but the words speak for themselves. “Where”, he said to me, “is the BBC?”. If you knew the person who said that, the circumstances and the position that he held, it would set the balance right of many of the impressions that we have of what is going on in North Korea. Those words speak louder than statistics, transmission problems and the facilities needed, and I convey them to the House with great feeling.

In the present situation, vastly different to 1932 when this all began, with global conflicts and the transition from hard to soft power, the tactics that the BBC now employ to maintain that lifeline—a lifeline of voice, sound and meaning on behalf of our nation—must be

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maintained. Those of us who have contributed to the BBC’s overseas service, who welcome it and admire it, are among those most anxious that, in this period of financial change, everything is done in the new circumstances to maintain and advance the global role of such a service.

I implore the Minister, when she considers what she hears in this debate, to give serious consideration to those of us who worry that although a budget may be set forth with great hope and vision, there are always circumstances in which political reasons can be found to change it. I, for one, plead with her, as one who has been impressed with the way in which she listens to arguments such as this, to reassure the House that those fears are unfounded.

1.09 pm

Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on securing this debate, but I regret that he included the word “values” in the Motion. Not surprisingly, he said little about values in his opening remarks and made no attempt to clarify what those values are. That is my point.

We had a debate in this Chamber two weeks ago on the question, which was utterly inconclusive. It is instructive that both the British Council and the World Service in the briefings provided to noble Lords for this debate tried to define British values. The British Council described them as “respect and tolerance”; the World Service listed “fairness, integrity and independence”. “British values” means different things to different people; there is very little consensus on what the values are. Therefore, until such time as there is a settled view on what British values involve, it should not be seen as the role of the British Council, or indeed the World Service, to promote them, because what are they promoting?

The British Council and the World Service are institutions which I have supported and worked for and with for many years, and I have the greatest respect and admiration for them. Both have had to adapt to the effects of cuts in funding in recent times and each has accepted the challenges that brought with a determination to maintain their high standards and long reach. The British Council has had to bear a reduction in its FCO grant of around a quarter between the year 2009-10 and now. Rather than scale back its activities, it has grown its self-generated income and is on course to fill that gap. That is very much to be welcomed.

Every year with the assistance of the British Council more than 2 million people in more than 90 countries sit international exams leading to qualifications that improve their employment and life prospects in an increasingly competitive global market. However, the council’s activities form a two-way street, because by presenting the best of the UK’s cultural assets abroad they attract tourists, students and inward investment to the UK and build links between higher education institutions in the UK and overseas, expanding the exchange of research and innovation which benefits our economy.

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The Foreign Secretary is currently considering the recommendations of the council’s triennial review and I hope he will ensure that when implemented it adequately reflects the fact that the British Council is a long-established and continuing success story which does Britain proud. Quite simply, if it did not exist, it would need to be invented. The same can be said of the World Service, which reaches more people worldwide than any other international broadcaster. Independent surveys consistently rate the BBC as the most trusted and best-known international news provider, as other noble Lords have already mentioned.

Three months ago the World Service underwent a fundamental change in its funding model. It was predicted prior to that—not least by a committee in the other place—that the move to licence-fee funding would see a reduction in services and quality of programmes, yet we hear that its funding this year has actually increased by more than £6 million. That is obviously very welcome, because despite suffering funding cuts in 2010 which led to the loss of a fifth of its staff, the World Service weathered that storm and today it can be said to be in very good health, with audiences are up by some 9 million on last year. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Alton, himself who referred to the situation in Russia and Ukraine as being largely responsible for that. At times of crisis, people know where to turn for dispassionate, fact-based reporting, delivered professionally by World Service staff on the ground.

I believe there remain concerns about governance. The man in charge of the World Service, Peter Horrocks, does not have the top-table seat in the BBC enjoyed by his predecessors, and secure guarantees are required over safeguarding the distinct nature of the World Service into the future. Equally, it is essential that the World Service should be taken into consideration when conversations around the BBC’s charter review and decisions about the future of the licence fee take place.

It is to be hoped that those in senior positions both at the BBC and indeed in government fully appreciate the huge asset that the World Service is both to the BBC and to Britain.

1.13 pm

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Alton on obtaining this important debate. I am particularly glad that he mentioned the wider context of the soft power role of the World Service and the British Council in promoting British values and interests. I declare an interest as a member of the recent Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence and as a member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy.

My own practical experience of the BBC World Service was honed in Kenya and it became an affection when I was commanding a base on the remote border between Borneo and Indonesia during confrontation. My appreciation of the British Council was warmed four weeks ago when, with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt, I visited Cairo. We were very impressed, first by the energy of the director of the British Council there, and secondly by the fact that he brought together some very interesting young students of English from Egypt who were able to explain to us the youth

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verdict on what was going on in Syria in a way in which we might not have otherwise realised.

I want to concentrate very briefly on three recommendations in the Select Committee’s report and say something about each of them. First, we stated:

“We are concerned that the Government are not currently doing enough to support the BBC World Service, and we urge the BBC and the Government to ensure between them that the BBC World Service’s budget is not reduced any further in real terms, and the opportunities for coordination across multiple platforms to deliver content are taken”.

The Government said that they disagreed with our recommendation but warmed us a bit by saying that they were currently working on a memorandum of understanding between the Government and the BBC.

Secondly, we stated:

“The Committee supports the use of DFID funding to assist the BBC's development work, and we urge further consideration of how this type of support can be expanded”.

We were very glad that the Government welcomed the support for DfID funding because that opens a much wider consideration of the way DfID funding is applied anyway.

Thirdly, on the British Council, we recommended:

“The Government must ensure that the British Council is properly resourced”.

The response we got was:

“The Government is firmly committed to the work of the British Council and recognises its significant contribution to the UK’s strategic interests through its work … and the Government will continue to work with the British Council on future funding”.

I took particular encouragement from the use of the words “United Kingdom’s strategies” because they suggest that soft power was being considered in wider terms than it had been before.

Reverting briefly to the committee, witnesses we had were effusive in their praise of both institutions. In particular I was very glad that the trust they both engendered was mentioned. I like to think that the tide is now flowing in favour of soft power and I am very glad that the momentum initiated by my noble friend’s debate today may be maintained both by the debate on the soft power report and in the national security strategy 2015 when that is produced.

1.17 pm

Viscount Colville of Culross (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Alton for securing this debate. I declare an interest as a producer at the BBC.

Noble Lords know the great reach of the World Service but I have my own experience. I was filming with the Evenki reindeer nomads in Siberia, 1,000 miles north of the Arctic circle. One evening, the young blades were going to take us to their nomad camp. It was supposed to be a three-hour journey. Unfortunately, they got a bit lost and it turned into a six-hour journey. The temperature was a little parky—minus 46 degrees. When finally we arrived at the camp, you can imagine our relief when we were shown our tent. Inside, warming the tent, was a marvellous gummy old Evenki lady who was chewing reindeer ligament to make it into thread for sewing. She looked at us and said, “I am so very pleased to meet the BBC. I have

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listened to you all my life. I have listened to your services through communism, through the chaos of democracy and through the autocracy of Putin. It shaped my view of the world. It shaped my view of my country”. I found that moving and very warming, literally.

Many noble Lords have spoken of the extraordinary work done by the World Service to project soft British power across the world and to shine a bright light of truth in places where it is being smothered by darkness and lies. I want to talk about the extraordinary work of my colleagues in the Russian and Ukrainian service of the BBC, who have seen the biggest audience increase of any service this year, to 14.5 million visitors monthly. It is not surprising as the Russian broadcast media has almost completely been taken over by government supporters pumping out nationalism and anti-western sentiment.

Earlier this year, when the Russian Government annexed Crimea, the anchor on the main Russian news announced that Americans must not forget that Russia can turn them to dust in 10 minutes. That was the anchor, not the Defence Minister or a nationalist. However, he has a point. Russia has a nuclear arsenal, an increasingly disciplined and well equipped army and a leader who appears to be prepared to attack its neighbours.

One of the great casualties of this year’s events in Ukraine, as in so many other conflicts, has been truth. The people of the Russia and Ukraine need disinterested news reporting to understand what is happening in their countries, and the BBC is providing that. I cite an example. In May this year, a bus carrying separatist troops was attacked outside Donetsk airport, and a number of separatists were killed. On that day’s evening news the Russians claimed a Red Cross vehicle carrying injured separatists to hospital had been hit by Ukrainian jets and 30 people killed. A Russian website even Photoshopped a picture of the Red Cross symbol onto the side of the vehicle. The BBC simply showed a picture of the vehicle, which did not have the Red Cross symbol on it. It reported that a vehicle with separatists on board had been attacked, it was not known how many were dead, and it was not known at that moment who had attacked them. The values of BBC journalism mean that reporters do not just say what they know but, equally importantly, say what they do not know. However, it is not just what is reported; it is also the tone and words used to report, which is so crucial. The Russians call the fighters in eastern Ukraine “supporters of federalism” and the Ukrainian media call them “terrorists”, while the BBC simply calls them “separatists”.

The inclusion of World Service funding in the licence fee means that whatever comes out of the charter discussions will affect it. We are told that another freeze in the licence fee would be a brilliant outcome, an improvement on the threatened move to a subscription service, which is being talked about. I ask the Minister to make sure that the funding is protected. People ask me why the licence fee payers of Britain should pay for the rest of the world to get the BBC when we do not benefit. In fact, World Service reporting increasingly affects the BBC journalism we receive in

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this country. Journalists from the World Service are used to report on our main news broadcasts in Britain. Last week, for instance, when there was the attack on Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine, there were no main BBC reporters present. The World Service reporters were the only people there. If you cut them you will also cut the news service that we receive here.

The BBC World Service is a global treasure which must be guarded and nurtured. I am so very proud to be the citizen of a country that supports an organisation transmitting what I see as British values: truth, free speech and democracy.

1.22 pm

Lord Loomba (LD): My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this important debate. In my brief contribution, I want to focus on India and education.

Taking first the BBC World Service, one of the many advantages of this wonderful institution is that radio broadcasts are available in Hindi. This increases the awareness of British current affairs enormously, which contributes to the cultural interaction between India and Britain. The English-language programmes provide something similar. For example, the “World Have Your Say” programme facilitates discussion of current affairs and cultural ideas, while documentaries increase knowledge and interest in British culture and events. Such programming can also assist in British efforts in international development, through the promotion of British values and increasing mutual understanding between the two nations.

Importantly, the English-language broadcasts also encourage the listeners in their own use of English and therefore provide an invaluable learning tool. There are resources devoted to the BBC “Learning English” programme, which provides free language-teaching resources to those studying English in India. It is clearly of great benefit to everyone involved that the ability to speak English is spread as far as possible. For example, many English speakers in India are of great benefit to British industry in India.

I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government have ever carried out any focused research on how far the BBC World Service is responsible for educating listeners about British culture and British values, particularly in India. Have people been asked why they choose to listen to the BBC World Service? Do we know what they get out of it? Do we know what they would like to see more of? I would be interested in the answers to these questions. If they are not being asked, I would suggest that perhaps they should be.

Turning to the British Council, the UK-India Education and Research Initiative is a programme that develops leadership, innovation and technical skills in leading educational institutions in India. In turn, this develops partnerships between these institutions and British universities, as well as with industry in the United Kingdom. This programme is supported by both the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; but the initiative I have highlighted would not have happened without the British Council.

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It is a vital tool in promoting Britain to the rest of the world, and is invaluable in shaping the way in which Britain is viewed.

1.25 pm

Lord Empey (UUP): My Lords, there is so much unanimity about the House today that we are in danger of being over-repetitive. However, in a world increasingly dominated by social media, which shape the views of so many impressionable young people around the world, the World Service can provide the United Kingdom with an opportunity to project in a professional and authoritative way our views on key global events. One has only to look at the propaganda that is being put out on social media by the ISIS people, who are brainwashing a young generation of people, including, sadly, people in our own country. But the one thing we do not want the World Service to become is an instrument of propaganda. It must retain a degree of independence and objectivity; otherwise its credibility throughout the world will be lost.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Watson, who is not now in his place, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, mentioned the position of Ukraine and Russia. I did not think that I would see in this day and age Cold War-style propaganda coming from Putin and his people. The reports that I listened to were so outrageous, so inaccurate and so misleading. Indeed, they were very dangerous because we know from experience that inappropriate reporting can lead to actual death and destruction on the ground. The material that was coming from Russian sources was absolutely outrageous. Having a source, an anchor, from which people can get reliable information, particularly if it comes from one of our own institutions, is something about which we should be proud.

I have to say that I have some more general concerns about the BBC. I know that the House will return to that issue when the discussions on the licence fee and so on come up. The BBC has perhaps lost focus in recent years. We have seen senior executives coming to the other place to defend the indefensible. That is most unfortunate. However, it is things such as the World Service that give many people in this country a sense of pride that there is something there to defend, protect and ensure. I often wonder whether the production of mindless game shows and other such programmes is really the core of the public service broadcasting ethos that I am sure many people in this House would wish to protect. However, we will have an opportunity to return to that issue. We certainly have not heard the last of it.

I am sure that the Minister will wish to look at the accountability aspect. The report from the Select Committee asked, “Do we want to have proper accountability to Parliament for the activities of the BBC in general?” We certainly do. If the accountability mechanisms are there, a lot of the problems that we have had in recent years will no longer be so strong.

In summary, I must say that the World Service is something that we are very proud of; it is something that is very successful; and I sincerely hope that it is long spared to promote truth and justice throughout the world.

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1.30 pm

Baroness Coussins (CB): My Lords, I will focus on the ways in which the World Service and the British Council need and use foreign languages. I do not question for a moment the importance of teaching and learning English around the world. However, in the 21st century, speaking only English is as much of a disadvantage as speaking no English.

I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Group on Modern Languages, whose secretariat is provided by the British Council, and as one of the vice-chairs of the British Council All-Party Group.

The World Service operates in 28 languages. Five of the language services were cut following the spending review in 2012 and others were reconfigured to reflect changing use of media. The Hindi service was one of those cut, but then reprieved—I believe because of a commercial funding partnership. I should be grateful if the Minister could clarify how the very successful Hindi service is now funded and whether it is now secure. What of other language services that were not reprieved? For example, I believe that there is no longer a service in Spanish to Cuba, or in Portuguese to Africa. Perhaps the Minister could say whether these two have been reviewed. It is the Foreign Secretary who decides whether to open or close a language service. I should like to know what the criteria are, what the process is, and who else is consulted.

The World Service plans to boost language service websites, do more multilingual programming and more translation of key TV programmes. Multilingual journalists do such a great job because they bring not only language skill but the local and cultural knowledge that goes with it. They can analyse and interpret, interview and comment, in a way that no monolingual could ever hope to. However, the pipeline of talent for multilingual journalists is in danger of drying up. The UK lags well behind our international competitors and things are getting worse. GCSE take-up has improved but there is an alarming drop at A-level. Forty-four British universities have scrapped language degrees since the year 2000. We are not taking advantage of the linguistic talent of the 4.2 million people in the UK whose first language is not English but who speak some of the languages in demand for business, diplomacy and the World Service. These include Korean, Arabic, Turkish, Mandarin, Pashto and Farsi.

The British Council plays an important part in keeping this pipeline open. It supports thousands of students every year through the Erasmus programme. It brings native speakers into UK classrooms—nearly 2,000 last year—through the language assistant scheme. Its partnership with HSBC promotes Chinese. Other schemes support school partnerships with francophone African countries to support French, and with Brazil to develop Portuguese. Despite this, only 9% of English 15 year-olds are competent in a foreign language beyond a basic level compared with 42% across 14 other countries. Languages are compulsory up to age 16 in 69% of independent schools, but in only 16% of state schools. It will be 2025 before we see the full impact of the Government’s policy on key stage 2 languages. In the mean time, a whole range of relationships, services and functions which collectively constitute the kind of

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soft power spearheaded by the World Service and the British Council could be unsustainable unless the Government get a grip our languages deficit.

I ask the Minister, finally, whether she will initiate a coherent cross-departmental languages strategy. The FCO has continued responsibility for the World Service language services, as well as being the department with a most excellent resource itself in the language centre, so it surely has the authority and the enlightened self-interest to take this step.

1.34 pm

Baroness Hooper (Con): My Lords, I, too, welcome this debate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for introducing it so thoroughly. Because they operate overseas and mainly to overseas audiences, both the BBC World Service and the British Council—particularly the latter, perhaps—are not widely understood and appreciated in this country. More should be done to raise their profiles with the taxpayers who fund them.

Given the number of excellent and informative contributions today and the quantity of briefing that has been put together, as well as the Select Committee report on soft power, there is clearly plenty of evidence of the valuable roles that these institutions play in promoting the United Kingdom and its values and interests worldwide. So I do hope that this debate is well reported. It may be that the British Council’s cultural programme for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will also be helpful in bringing its role to the attention of the British public.

As a member of the all-party group on the British Council, I intend to focus on this side of the debate. The all-party group which is chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has given us, in both Houses of Parliament, the opportunity to hear from a series of regional directors who operate in the Middle East, China, Latin America, Afghanistan and elsewhere. From these meetings, the way in which the British Council’s educational role, in particular the teaching of English, visibly supports the UK efforts to maintain and increase trade and commerce is made very clear. Sadly, these meetings are not always well attended by Members of Parliament, which suggests that many do not perhaps consider this area of their work as a high priority. I think that is terrible. It means in turn that when budget and funding issues arise, there may be insufficient champions of these institutions in the other place. Perhaps after the next election we can do something about that.

In the few minutes that remain, I would like to revert to an issue that I raised with your Lordships on other occasions. As has been said, the British Council does valuable work overseas in promoting British universities and other educational establishments in selection processes for fellowships and scholarships, and also in encouraging the formation of student alumni associations in various countries in order to maintain the links that have been formed. I am particularly aware of this in Mexico, because there are significant numbers of Mexican students who come to this country and many of them become leading figures in the political world and in industrial fields. Maintaining that link is important and valuable.

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I believe there is also a role for the British Council in this country. In the old days there was a British Council presence in most university cities—my noble friend Lord Sheikh referred to this. The British Council provided a centre not only for overseas students to meet and relax but also where they could meet British people. Too often nowadays students come to this country and remain in an international grouping, having little or no contact with British people or the British way of life. It is not likely that we will be able to return to the concept of a British Council house in every university city, but if the British Council were to take a lead in providing co-ordination in this area, I ask my noble friend whether the Government would be prepared to support it.

1.38 pm

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, honest and accurate reporting plays a vital role in conflict, as my noble and right reverend friend Lord Eames reminded us just now. We all benefit from the risks that these men and women take in the course of their duties. We would do well to remember them more often.

I sincerely congratulate my noble friend Lord Alton on securing this further instalment of a time-honoured debate. The BBC World Service has a well deserved reputation for the integrity and honesty of its reporting and for its diplomatic outreach. It is also highly respected among news reporters themselves, who are the best judges of what can and cannot be trusted. I have some experience of the World Service in developing countries. For example, I thought highly of Focus on Africa for many years and I occasionally contributed to it.

I was pleased to learn that the Afghan service is not winding down in line with ISAF’s defence arrangements but will continue. The BBC reaches around 25% of those in Dari-speaking areas and 21% of those in Pashtun areas every week, which is quite a high proportion. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that the FCO and DfID will continue to support programmes such as the radio soap opera “New Home, New Life” and “Afghan Woman’s Hour”. Many such programmes have international development content, as my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham mentioned, and a BBC survey found that 39% of listeners to “Afghan Woman’s Hour” were men learning about women’s issues such as domestic violence and equality of opportunity.

There have been other successes through the training of local journalists, including refugees: Yalda Hakim, who was born in Afghanistan in 1983 and fled with her family into Pakistan, later returned to Kabul as an Australian broadcast journalist and is currently working for BBC World News.

As has been said, it was a great disappointment to those who follow eastern Europe that under the 16% cuts proposed in the review several services were scheduled to close, including those in the western Balkans. This came at a time when the concept of European Union enlargement not only had become a priority but was one area where the EU could demonstrate considerable success. We have heard since then that through force of circumstance there seems to have been a change of heart. I understand that the Ukrainian service has

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been much more active, with more local journalists, and has trebled its audience. What changes have taken place in the coverage of events in eastern Europe? Are people there becoming limited to online and digital services, or do they benefit from the full range of live radio reporting?

It is an important time for our relations with Russia. The BBC’s Russian service seems to have continued and expanded its audience, but I would like to hear whether the Minister thinks it is going to confront the Kremlin’s hostile propaganda about the European Union. Incidentally, I recommend to colleagues the BBC’s monitoring service, which, in spite of cuts, still collects news from all around the world. This week, for instance, I learnt that the St Petersburg migration service has had 22,000 applications from would-be migrants and refugees from Ukraine—only on the World Service.

I will say a final word about the British Council, of which I am an enthusiastic supporter. Its office in Juba, South Sudan, remained open throughout the conflict last December. This is an excellent example of the transformative value of culture during conflict. The council has developed an amazing and daring range of projects, and I hope that it will be able to reopen its office and continue.

1.42 pm

Lord Crisp (CB): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate and on putting values and British interests centre stage, and indeed on linking them. We may not be able adequately to define British values, but I think that all the versions we have seen are pretty compatible with each other. I am also very clear that British values are central to the UK’s reputation and influence in the world. Like others, I see this around me in many different parts of the world.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Alton’s concerns about the resources and support for the World Service and the British Council, and will listen to the Minister’s answer with great interest. The report from the British Academy that has been referred to encouraged the Government to invest in and sustain soft-power institutions such as these over the long term and at arm’s length. That seems to me to be the right formula. That report also pointed out that everything British people do abroad is taken as a representation of the country or a projection of Britain abroad, and it referred to the compartmentalisation of government on this. Those are the points that I want to take up, and I shall ask three questions about them regarding these two great institutions—in other words, how they link with other British activity abroad.

I shall start with what I know about, which is health. You cannot now run the Department of Health or the NHS without having a global perspective on national policy. This means many things, from sharing in the management of global epidemics to, just as importantly, the mutuality of learning and sharing of research in policy development. There is now an established tradition of health as foreign policy and health diplomacy. I am delighted that the Government have set up Healthcare UK to lead this work and to

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develop these relationships, building largely on the NHS; what could be more emblematic of British values than the NHS? I believe that this is true in other areas and assume that therefore most, if not all, domestic departments need to have some kind of foreign policy, if you like. I wonder how strongly government departments are encouraged to develop relationships with the World Service and the British Council to develop this role.

The comments about activity being a projection of Britain abroad also reflect the importance of civil society and the links of all sorts between hospitals, schools, villages and commercial organisations that exist across countries and continents. Moreover, in today’s atomising society, people-to-people links are more important than ever. People get their news, information and opinions from diverse sources. People are influenced by people like them. National boundaries have become largely meaningless in the way in which people relate to each other around the world. In that context, I also note that today’s Britain is rich in diversity of cultural backgrounds and languages, and in familial and religious links that circle the globe. These, too, are a projection of Britain abroad, a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute and perhaps second-by-second source of interactions globally.

These reflections leave me with three questions for the Minister. What can she say about relationships between domestic departments, such as health and education, and the World Service and the British Council? Do these organisations reflect the full range of interactions and possibilities, or is there more that should be done to encourage these departments to engage? Secondly, what contribution can and does the very diversity of the UK population make to the UK’s soft power? That question may go a bit beyond the remit of this debate but it links to my third question. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s reflection on how effective the Government think these two great institutions, the World Service and the British Council, are in using and harnessing the power of electronic communications and social media to project and develop the UK’s reputation globally.

1.47 pm

Lord Parekh (Lab): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, on securing this debate. I shall introduce three reservations about the discussion that we have had. First, I do not think that it is a good idea to couple the BBC with the British Council. We should not lump them together because they play different roles in our policies. The British Council is expected to promote Britain abroad in a way that the BBC is not; the latter is an independent organisation and expected to be a voice of impartiality and objectivity.

Secondly, although both are asked to promote British values and interests, we are not entirely sure what British values are specifically in mind, especially in relation to other countries that share almost all our values. When we talk about British interests, we also need to bear in mind that there can be genuine disagreement between two political parties, or between the British Council and the BBC itself, about what British interests are. We should therefore allow for a divergence of views.

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The third thing that slightly worries me is the notion of soft power. I have always felt uneasy about it because it seems to be an oxymoron; if it is too soft then it cannot be power, and if it is power then it cannot be too soft. I generally find that if everything is geared to the mobilisation of power, we are in danger of corrupting almost everything that we value because it then becomes an instrument of mobilising power. I want to stay away from the language of “hard power” or “soft power”, whatever “soft power” may mean, and talk instead in terms of moral authority. We as a country want to be trusted and respected; our intentions should be recognised as honourable and other people should want to listen to us. When we express an opinion, people should say, “That’s a mature society reflecting a view. We’d better hear it”. This is not the same as soft power because it is simply us being ourselves, living up to our own ideals and, in the process, exerting a silent influence on others, not deliberately but through people recognising that we have something to say and respecting our moral stature.

Having got rid of these three general points, in the minute that I have left I want to turn to three questions that I have for the Minister.

First, so far as the BBC is concerned, people are simply amazed that we in this country should have an organisation which we fund and over which we can exercise control and yet we restrain ourselves and allow it to speak freely, including criticising the country. The BBC already exemplifies an extremely important value. That means that we should keep a distance between the BBC and the FCO.

Secondly, we are not entirely clear about the role that ethnic minorities can play in projecting Britain abroad. They are our ambassadors and they should be invited to play an important role in the thinking of the BBC and the British Council. I am thinking, for example, of the fact that the Foreign Secretary has announced that we will be having a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. That is one thing in which the Indian community here could be more effectively involved—certainly, the Gandhi Foundation, of which I happen to be the president. The Gandhi Foundation and other bodies have views on what kind of statue to have and how it should be organised and so on, and I recommend that they should be involved.

Lastly, while the British Council has an important role to play in projecting Britain abroad, I am not entirely sure that it has always been as imaginative and inventive as it could be. Great changes are taking place in the world at large—in India, for example. The British Council could play a major role in bringing the debates that are taking place in India to Britain. Likewise great change is taking place in Britain and those debates could be projected to India so that people can become familiar with how profoundly Britain is changing. I hope I have made some of the points I wanted to make and I would welcome a response from the Minister.

1.51 pm

Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB): My Lord, I have great admiration and respect for both the British Council and the BBC World Service but I want to focus in the

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few minutes I have today on the BBC World Service. If I may be allowed one small comment on the title of the debate, I would have preferred to talk about the BBC World Service as promoting British interests through promoting British values, which would have guaranteed the independence and objectivity that are so important to it and to which other noble Lords have referred.

The BBC World Service has built up a huge and justified reputation for clear and objective reporting of developments around the world, and it is listened to for that reason. The more closed and controlled the regime abroad to which it is broadcasting, the more important its broadcasts and values are to the people who listen to it. That is why a number of noble Lords who have spoken today, and whose views I share, would very much like the BBC World Service to be broadcasting to North Korea. I know there are difficulties in that but I think it is an aspiration that it should keep.