The Government have produced no facts or evidence for the assertions they are making. If we are to take this seriously, we need to know a bit more about how the resources challenge and the current acute shortages in many staffing areas are going to be met—bearing in mind that the Government are cracking down on the use of agency workers; the ludicrous 2012 Immigration

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Rules, which mean that nursing staff who are not earning £35,000 a year after six years will be sent back to their country of origin; and the serious issue of staff morale.

The Minister mentioned the 2003 contract but will he confirm that the contract negotiated then was actually very largely based on the one negotiated by the previous Conservative Government in the 1990s? How does he think the Government intend to work in partnership with NHS staff to make those changes? The briefing from his department—phrases such as “declaring war on NHS staff”—does not seem to have got this policy off to the right start. The kind of provocative statements that are currently emanating from his department, no doubt under the authority of the Secretary of State, do nothing to create the conditions in which people in the NHS will actually want to work with the Government on developing these policies.

I also want to mention the impact of another five years of, in effect, real-terms pay cuts. What impact does the Minister think the Chancellor’s announcement on pay will have on future staff numbers and retention? I want to raise one issue with him, which is the subject of a statutory instrument in your Lordships’ House. If the pay of NHS staff is to be held down, how can he justify the 12% increase in fees by the HCPC, one of the key staff regulators for the healthcare profession? Will he withdraw this regulation? Does he not agree that it is absolutely disgraceful that staff are being asked to pay more money by what essentially is a government-owned quango when their own pay is being held down? It is utterly unacceptable.

Can the Minister tell me how this is going to be funded? Either the staff are going to be thinned out during the week or extra staff will have to be found. It is not just consultants and nursing staff; it has to be the whole infrastructure to make this work, including community services and primary services, and there will be a knock-on impact on social care costs. How is this going to be paid for? If he says that the Government are giving £8 billion to the health service overall, he knows that is dishonest. We know that that will probably be paid in 2021, according to the Treasury briefing. We also know that £30 billion per annum will be needed by then. Nobody I know in the health service thinks that it has any chance at all of closing that gap because the kind of efficiency saving required has never been achieved in this or any other health service. The excellent report on efficiencies by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, in itself will produce only £5 billion by 2017-18.

On whistleblowing, I welcome the Freedom to Speak Up report, which contained a number of important recommendations to foster a more open culture. The Minister will know that in recent years there have been a number of other examples of appalling care in social care settings, including Orchard View, Oban House and, of course, Winterbourne View. Many of those scandals were exposed only once undercover reporters infiltrated the care home. Of course, we welcome the action the Government are taking, but does the Minister agree with the point I have made to him previously: that if the Government really want an open culture in which people can raise their concerns, that has to apply right up the line, meaning that the leaders of

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NHS organisations can speak openly about their own concerns about the direction of policy and the actions of Ministers? He will know that at the moment those people are slapped down if they make any criticism at all of the Government. You will not get an open culture until everyone in the system feels that they can be open. At the moment they cannot.

We support the steps in the Kirkup report to improve the regulation of midwives but if the Government are so concerned about modernising regulation, why have we not had the Law Commission Bill containing a comprehensive approach to the modernisation of health regulation for individual professionals? Why are we carrying on with this antiquated approach and these wretched Section 60 orders, which cause a lot more expense and delay in the Minister’s department? Why has the new speeded-up system of dealing with regulation, for regulators such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council, been held up for many months now? Of course, one of the reasons why it has had to increase its fees is that the Government will not agree to this legislation coming before Parliament to streamline its proposals.

It is pretty disgraceful that the Rose report, which was mentioned, was not published alongside the Statement. Why are we having to wait until after this Statement to look at it? The noble Lord knows that Ministers received it months ago. What is in the report that they do not want the public to see?

On the merger of Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority, I welcome the appointment of Mr Ed Smith, who is a high-calibre chair. He is also pro-chancellor of Birmingham University, which is a very strong recommendation. I also like the name “NHS Improvement”. But how many staff in Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority have any concept of improvement, given their current record of bullying, hectoring and intimidating the agencies they are responsible for? Can I assume that there is going to be a drastic change of personnel in that combined organisation? Will the Minister confirm that no one employed in that organisation will earn more money than the Prime Minister, given that the Government have chosen to attack NHS chief executives in relation to their salaries? Will he also confirm that they will not use agency staff? Does he not find it rather ironic that Monitor, in order to instruct NHS bodies not to use agency staff, has employed temporary staff? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

There is a dangerous gap between the kind of fantasy land that Ministers talk about in the health service and the reality of life on the ground. On the ground, people are struggling every day to meet the pressures with limited money and no support from the Government. The health service is in real danger of falling over. The Government should stop blaming the NHS and take responsibility.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. It reflected much of what I heard this morning from the Secretary of State at the King’s Fund. It is a brave and realistic approach but there are some yawning gaps in it compared to what I should have expected in a major statement about NHS reform. However, I welcome several points.

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The focus on culture change and nurturing staff is absolutely right. The NHS is the best and most cost-effective service in the world only because of the skills and commitment of its staff, yet we are told that in some places staff morale is poor. This is very sad to hear. It was good to hear earlier this morning about the beneficial effect on morale in those hospitals that are responding positively to being put in special measures.

I welcome the new personnel, processes and training that are being put in place to ensure that staff can safely express concerns about the quality of care, so that each member of staff can take part meaningfully in the improvement pathway of his organisation. We could do with ditching for all time the expression “whistleblower” with all its negative connotations. I welcome what the Secretary of State called “intelligent transparency”, a no-blame focus on what went wrong and how to put it right. In common with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I think that merging the TDA and Monitor could be a good thing, with this focus on no-blame improvement. That should help, but we still need more signposting for patients and service users about how and where to complain if they have poor care in what is a very complex system.

I of course welcome the focus on better data-gathering, especially in the field of mental health, where we are rather short of it. Managers cannot make good financial decisions without the facts about what everything costs. Businesses could not survive like that and neither can the NHS.

I welcome the long-awaited publication of the Rose report and the acceptance of its recommendations. I look forward to seeing what they are. We need a new focus on the quality of NHS management. If we are to rise to the challenge of the £22 billion of efficiency savings, we need excellent managers and finance directors as well as excellent doctors and nurses. I welcome the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Rose, extended his remit to CCGs.

I also welcome the new requirement for hospitals and groups of doctors to provide a seven-day service but I share some of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about how it will be delivered. People do not get sick to order just on weekdays, so that is important. I should, however, like assurance that this does not necessarily mean putting any further burden on individual hard-working doctors, nurses and laboratory staff. Good planning is needed to avoid further burdens. However, this will certainly mean the recruitment of more trained staff. We need assurance that they are in the pipeline. Can the Minister say, for example, what the Government are doing to stem the flow of staff, trained by the NHS at a cost to the taxpayer, who leave the country as soon as they qualify?

What was missing from the Statement and the speech this morning was context and understanding that filling the £30 billion black hole in the NHS requires a whole-Government response. If patients are to be in charge, they need good health education so that they know what a healthy lifestyle means. They need access to sports and leisure facilities and nutritious food, and they need warm, dry homes. Integration needs to be a lot broader than just integration between health and social care. Unless social care is properly

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funded, the NHS will not be able to find its expected £22 billion of efficiency savings while making the improvements outlined in the Statement because of the knock-on effect on acute hospital beds. Yet while there has been more money for the health service, there has been nothing but cuts in social care.

The thrust of the Statement was about getting it right first time and, if not getting it right the first time, then certainly the second and subsequent times. This has to be right for patient safety and confidence but also for cost-effectiveness. If we are to rise to the increasing demand on the health service, we must get it right as near as possible to every time and we must support the staff in doing so.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their comments. I was quite depressed listening to the noble Lord opposite. We had a debate in this House last week and we talked about a sense of political consensus on the NHS. I start by saying—rather personally—that, having listened briefly this morning to his right honourable friend Andy Burnham in the other place misquote me out of context from the debate that we had last week, I thought that there was no hope of a non-partisan approach to the NHS. For the avoidance of any doubt from anybody, and as I think I made pretty clear in last week’s debate, I believe fundamentally and passionately in a universal, tax-funded healthcare system—the NHS—that is free at the point of delivery and based on clinical need, not ability to pay. Having looked back on it, I do not remember uttering a word in that debate that would question that statement. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord opposite might have a word with his right honourable friend in the other place to make it absolutely clear that playing cheap party politics has no place in our discussions about the NHS.

Turning to the comments about my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health’s Statement today, seven-day services are in many ways at the heart of it. Thousands of people are dying because we do not provide seven-day services in hospitals. We cannot carry on with a system with thousands of people dying. It is not just that thousands of people are dying. The health of thousands of people is deteriorating in our hospitals over the weekend.

This is an anecdote, which may be unfair. However, two years ago, I met a radiologist walking down the corridor in an NHS hospital on a Friday morning. His wife had been admitted through A&E. She had abdominal pains. He could not get her a scan. She was going to have to wait in that hospital until Monday. Had it been a bank holiday, she would have had to wait in that hospital until the following Tuesday before she had that scan. That is an anecdote, but we know that it is happening all the time. It is unacceptable.

So I ask the noble Lord opposite to be more enthusiastic about this. Of course it will be difficult. This Government are putting in £8 billion of new money. This is more money than his party was prepared to offer before the election. It is the same amount of money that the noble Baroness’s party was offering to put in. This is £8 billion of additional money that we

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are putting into the NHS. It is a critical part of our strategy. It was laid out in our manifesto and is in the




ve Y


Forward V


that we would make seven-day services a main plank of these reforms. For those people who think that this cannot be afforded, put yourself in the position of a chief executive of an NHS hospital that works four and a half days a week because theatres stop work at lunchtime on Friday. Often, they do not start again until Monday lunchtime because every bed is taken up when they come in to work on Monday morning. Across the country, thousands of consultant surgeons, theatre staff and anaesthetists are hanging about on Mondays because they cannot start their work. This is because there is not a bed in the hospital because the flow of patients through that hospital came to a grinding halt on Friday. The noble Baroness is right that this is not just a hospital issue but about joined-up care. You cannot get the discharges out of the hospital unless social care, the physios and the OTs are working—the whole system needs to be working. Seven-day working is not only right for patients but will enable our hospitals to work much more efficiently.

I will pick up a few other issues. I remember when the 2003 contract was voted on by consultants. In my view, it was a disastrous contract, which deprofessionalised many professional consultants. They voted against it the first time and voted for it, grudgingly, only the second time. They voted for it because their pay went up by 28% as a result of it and they could opt out of providing care over weekends and outside normal hours—of course they voted for it. Looking back on it, some of the noble Lords and Baronesses opposite will maybe accept that it was a disastrous contract. It deprofessionalised a deeply vocational profession and fundamentally changed the culture of the NHS—a culture that we are now trying to change once again.

I welcome the comments of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness about Sir Robert Francis’s report on whistleblowing. We want an open culture, in which whistleblowing is a thing of the past. I agree with the noble Baroness that whistleblowing is not a great name. It would be great if we never heard about whistleblowing ever again because people felt able to raise their concerns in a proper, central and safe way and knew they could raise them without fear of any detriment to their employment prospects. The proposals put forward by the Public Administration Select Committee, which have been taken up by the Secretary of State for Health, are absolutely right. We need a safe place for when things go wrong.

I turn to the Rose report. Leadership is fundamental. Around a hospital, one ward will be doing well and one will not because there is a good ward sister in the first one; one hospital will be doing well and one will not because of good local leadership in the former. Leadership is absolutely fundamental, and I subscribe to all the comments that my noble friend Lord Rose has made in his report.

The noble Lord’s comments about the TDA and Monitor are harsh. David Bennett and others in those organisations have done a very good job in very difficult circumstances. We are fundamentally changing the roles of TDA and Monitor. Together, they are now, as

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the name suggests, an improvement agency first and a regulator second. The new role of the TDA and Monitor in NHS improvement will fundamentally change the way we approach performance management and improvement. The Secretary of State for Health alluded to the contract that the TDA recently signed with Virginia Mason, one of the safest hospitals in the world, which is one way of bringing best world practice into the NHS.

I will conclude on the context. Times are difficult in the NHS and we should not pretend differently. This Government are absolutely committed to seeing this transformation programme through. The noble Lord opposite said he did not know anybody who thought that we could achieve the £22 billion in savings that are set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View—he knows me.

2.23 pm

Baroness Blackstone (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Foundation Trust. Before I put my questions to the Minister, I will just make one brief comment on his remarks about the Opposition. I have no idea what the shadow Secretary of State for Health said in another place, but I will defend what my noble friend Lord Hunt has just said. He said that he agreed in principle with a great deal of the Statement, but it is legitimate for the Opposition to ask questions about how a Statement of this sort might be implemented, which is what he was doing.

I have two questions, the first about bureaucracy. The Minister said that he wished to see a reduction in bureaucracy. As a chairman of a trust, I entirely identify with that. However, some of the bureaucracy is in the regulators, and I hope that his attack on bureaucracy will cover the regulators. The Government are about to set up another outside agency, which will put further bureaucratic pressure on those who are delivering services upfront. Anything he can do to try to reduce that would be helpful.

My other question concerns seven-day services. Again, I entirely endorse what the Government wish to do with respect to seven-day services—if anything, they are overdue—but there are questions to be asked. What is the timetable for this, if it is only going to apply to new consultants? It will take a very long time to introduce seven-day services if only new consultants are going to go on to the new contract requiring them to work at weekends. I understand why the Government are doing that, but it will make for a very long delay. What steps will the Government take to try to encourage existing consultants, who will be far greater in number than the flow of new consultants, to adjust to a new approach where seven-day services are introduced in the interests of patients?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I can only agree with the noble Baroness on bureaucracy. The new body that we are setting up to look at incident reporting, as recommended by the PAC, will only look at big incidents so will not be an added bureaucracy for the day-to-day running of a trust. I am always struck by the figure that nurses spend only between 70% and 80% of their time dealing directly with patients because they are

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dealing with bureaucracy. The bureaucracy argument falls into two parts: it is partly about the way hospitals run their affairs and partly about external regulators. We believe fundamentally in intelligent transparency. I see the CQC, for example, as less a regulator and more a means of providing intelligent information to boards of hospitals and to patients. But I take on board what the noble Baroness says. We will do everything we can to reduce the level of bureaucracy.

As far as the timetable is concerned, junior doctors will switch over much more quickly than consultants, because they turn over much more quickly. It will take time for consultants to move over to the new contract, but we hope that we can make it more attractive to consultants and that it will be more of what I would call a professional contract, so that existing consultants will switch over to it as well as new consultants. We will have to watch that very carefully.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): The way that the Minister has been speaking has made it sound as if the majority of consultants do not work on weekends, and I question the validity of that. The consultants who are on and on call are dealing with emergencies at the weekend and are very often in. However, without diagnostic back-up, without physiotherapy and occupational therapy, without specialist nurses and without community services to which they can discharge patients, they effectively have to function with one hand tied behind their back—sometimes both. You cannot provide modern medicine without that broader team. If you are going to free up hospital beds, you have to be able to discharge patients safely, knowing that they will have the care they need. The 24 hours post-discharge is when patients are at their most vulnerable.

I will question one thing the Minister said. He gave a six-week timeframe for the BMA. Does that also apply to the NHS Pay Review Body negotiations? What will be done to make sure that all the other staff also move on to contracts that will provide that infrastructure, right through from operating department staff to, as I said, allied healthcare professionals and so on?

The Statement referred to end-of-life care. Could the Minister inform the House when there will be a response to the report What’s Important to Me. A Review of Choice in End of Life Care, which was undertaken for the National Council for Palliative Care? I declare an interest as its incoming chairman. It has been submitted to the Department of Health, but there has still not been a response to it, even though it has been universally welcomed by both providers and patient groups.

My last question relates to digital innovation. I welcome the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, with her tremendous skills, will be brought in. What are the Government’s targets and how rapidly are they planning to roll out digital innovations? Will they undertake in the process to decrease the paper-load bureaucracy, so that staff can be freed up to deliver front-line patient care, and are not caught by risk-averse processes and procedures that force them to spend a lot of time in documenting or double-checking, when the evidence base for that improving patient care is extremely thin?

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Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Baroness raises a number of points. Of course, she is right that it is no good just having senior doctors in a hospital without the right back-up, particularly diagnostic specialist nursing. She has just mentioned OTs and physios, and I agree with her completely there.

The noble Baroness mentioned the NHS pay review. There is not an opt-out clause in the Agenda for Change contract. Discussions will be taking place with the RCN and other trade unions later this year. I will have to write to her about the timing of the response on the end-of-life care point that she raised; I do not know it offhand. Digital information will be rolling out progressively over the next five years. I certainly hope that we will have electronic patient record in place for the vast majority of patients over the lifetime of this Government.

Baroness Browning: I welcome my noble friend’s announcement—I hope that he will take some cheer from that. I have too often been an emergency admission at a weekend and know only too well that if you have to wait to see the consultant on Monday you simply end up bed-and-breakfasting for two or three nights in hospitals. I hope that my noble friend will take into account how having a consultant available for those sorts of patient would save a lot of money, free up a lot of beds and achieve what he is describing.

I know that Ministers do not like to micromanage what goes on in hospitals, but with the transition to new contracts for new consultants, I hope that my noble friend will find a way to identify those particular disciplines in hospitals where there are more deaths—he mentioned this—so that attention can be given to consultants with new contracts in those disciplines. An aortic aneurysm needs a consultant standing by the patient, but with other easily identifiable conditions it would be good if the Government could make sure that hospitals proactively recruit consultants on new contracts to ensure that the 6,000 deaths that he mentioned come down as rapidly as possible.

Lord Prior of Brampton: I was interested by my noble friend’s comments about waiting until the following Monday when she has been in hospital. That is a good illustration of why we want to bring in seven-day services. My noble friend might be interested to read the report in Future Hospital, written by the Royal College of Physicians, that came out a year ago. I think that we will see over the next few years a significant change in the way that our hospital consultants are trained and deployed, and more generally what is called in America hospitalists, who can have a broader range of disciplines.

When it comes in, the new contract will enable us to differentiate payment for those consultants who are working more anti-social hours, such as A&E consultants who will have to work much more regularly out of hours than others. It will enable us to identify those consultants who may be on call but are more likely to be summoned in, like those that my noble friend just mentioned, at short notice. Depending on the surgical specialty, the on-call requirements can be much more demanding than others. For example, this is the case if

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you are a vascular surgeon than if you are a dermatologist, who do most of their work in normal time. I take on board what my noble friend says.

Lord MacKenzie of Culkein (Lab): My Lords, no one will disagree with the concept of a seven-day-week health service. I was at the wrong end of a catastrophic surgical error that meant instead of one night in hospital I was there for six months. I dreaded weekends, and I dreaded them even more if there was a bank holiday attached, as has already been mentioned.

If we want to deal with party politics, can I explode the myth that has been peddled that the Labour Government were responsible for the five-day-week approach, because of the consultant contract? For many years I was a theatre nurse. I never scrubbed on a Saturday or a Sunday in the 1960s or 1970s. Hospitals ran on a five-day-week then, so it is quite wrong to suggest that this is all the fault of the consultant contract a few years ago.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. If we want to have endoscopy suites open, radiography, radiologists, and nurses manning theatres and recovery rooms on Saturdays and Sundays, we must have more of these professions. If we do not, we shall diminish them on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and we will not be much further forward. Will the Government commit to increasing training places for all of these professions, together with consultants such as radiologists, as I suspect that we have many fewer of those than in most other developed countries?

Lord Prior of Brampton: Interestingly, the number of consultants has increased very significantly over the past 15 years across not all but most specialities. The noble Lord refers to dreadful weekends, and how he dreaded them, particularly bank holidays. That is really why we are here today, so that in future patients like him do not dread them.

If I indicated earlier on that I blame the 2003 contract for the difference between five days’ and seven days’ working, and if that was the implication of what I said, I withdraw it. What I meant to say was that I felt that that contract to some extent de-professionalised the profession.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): My Lords, most people will welcome much of what is in the Statement.

I would like to come back to the issue of seven-day working that in principle this side supports and accepts. Some of the problems that we have at the moment in the NHS are the top issues with patients. We keep talking about patients being “top of the tree” and being in charge. Can the Minister tell the House what issue about NHS performance at the moment disturbs patients most of all? We have a list of issues where we are doing well: tell us what is worst.

The worst is the inability to access a GP, on a timely basis, five days a week, not seven days a week. This is not new. The position was bad in 2010, when Labour, my party, was in power, but it deteriorated while the Lib Dems and the Conservatives were in the coalition. I can point to Questions in Hansard raised in 2012, when we were promised by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that discussions were taking place in the

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profession about trying to improve access to GPs, particularly where there were problems in London. I speak as a patient with a GP in London, who asks how he is to provide a seven-day week service when he cannot get the GPs and does not have the money to do it.

My noble friend Lord Hunt asked a basic question which is of prime concern to people, particularly in London. Will spreading this over seven days until such time as you can provide the 5,000 trained GPs who were promised, which will be seven years down the road, lead to a further deterioration in the ability to access a GP during the week?

Lord Prior of Brampton: There is no doubt that, looking forward over the next five years, the resource to be put into primary care will be greater, relatively, than it has been in the past. We wish to deliver more care outside hospital. That is why we are committed to training and having in place 5,000 more doctors in general practice by the end of this Parliament—not just GPs, but others who will support GPs.

The model of primary care will change significantly over the next five years, and it is fundamental to the five-year forward view that we reduce the number of people going into acute hospitals and that we discharge people at the other end of their journey through an acute hospital much quicker.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, I welcome the principle of working towards a weekend service—indeed, I think it is hard not to—but I certainly do not underestimate the difficulty of achieving it, particularly in a fully joined-up way. This morning, I attended a meeting with many children and young people who had experienced a serious mental health crisis at the weekend and had real difficulty accessing the treatment they needed. Indeed, some of them had turned up at A&E but there had simply been no mental health services available for them. In the light of that, will the Minister reassure me that the principle of seven-day working will apply to consultants from mental health disciplines, particularly those treating children and young people whose access to those services seems to be even harder to secure than it is for adults? Secondly, the Statement talked about CQC quality ratings as well as waiting times being made accessible to patients. Will he confirm that these will include waiting times for mental health services?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The Government are committed to parity of esteem, and if we are truly committed to parity of esteem the answer to both the noble Baroness’s questions must be yes. We must have the same standards for physical health as we have for mental health. If someone has a psychotic crisis on a Friday afternoon and they cannot get access to any help until the following Monday, that is clearly extremely poor care. If they end up in an A&E department being looked after by people who have no experience of dealing with mental health problems, it is a very poor environment to be in, so I agree entirely with the noble Baroness.

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Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, I, too, welcome the Statement and many of the things in it. We accept that higher mortality rates at weekends in hospital are unacceptable, so we have to try to think of ways of reducing them. Seven-day working for consultants is just one element. Consultants are important, of course. The Minister is probably aware of Brian Jarman’s publication some years ago which showed that there was an inverse correlation between the number of doctors in a hospital and the mortality rate; that is, a hospital with more doctors had a lower mortality rate. There are lessons to be learned there, especially as we in the UK seem to have fewer doctors per head of population than almost any other OECD country, and fewer beds come to that—so we are starting from a low ebb, and the points made by noble Lords about where we are going to get the extra people from are important.

However, the consultant element is just one part. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made a very good point about the need for radiologists, physiotherapists and pathology laboratories. All the machinery of the hospital has to be there. Equally, there is the whole business of general practice and community care. Primary care at the weekend is poor, by and large; that is one of the major problems. Patients are not getting into hospital until they are in greater extremis, so they are more ill when they get there: then they require more service, and once they are there, they cannot get home because there is no one to see them home. Concentrating on consultants is just one element. What is the Minister’s response?

Lord Prior of Brampton: The noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, knows the situation on the ground as well as anybody in this House and, of course, he and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, are absolutely right that this will not be solved just by having more consultants in acute hospitals. We have to look right the way across social care, primary care, community care, mental health care and acute care. We are talking about a system. In many ways, one of the reasons why we find ourselves in the position we find ourselves in today is that we have not had a system for some time. We have deliberately broken up the system for good reason.

I was very much in favour of foundation trusts having their own balance sheet and their own profit and loss account because of increased accountability, but disadvantages have flowed from that. Chief executives in acute hospitals look after their own. They have treated themselves as an island. We are not part of an island. Rebuilding the system will take some time. It is not going to happen tomorrow, and there is no silver bullet. All I can say is that the Government are committed to the five-year forward view, the new models of care and joined-up care. We are committed to experimenting with accountable care organisations, integrated care organisations and all kinds of joined-up models. We are seeing exciting developments in Manchester and possibly, in time to come, in Cornwall and other parts of the country where we will have pooled budgets between social care and healthcare. I am confident that over the next five years we will if not solve these problems, at least go a long way to doing so.

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BBC Charter Review


2.46 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con):My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement read earlier in the other place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

“I have today laid before Parliament a BBC charter review consultation paper, copies of which are being deposited in the House Libraries.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is cherished and admired not only in this country but around the world. At its best, the BBC sets international standards of quality. Even in a multimedia age, its most popular programmes continue to draw the country together in a shared experience, as with the London Olympics and world-beating dramas such as ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Doctor Who’. The BBC reaches 97% of the UK population every week, and it has a pivotal role in helping the United Kingdom to reach every corner of the globe, as reflected in a recent report that found that the UK leads the world in terms of soft power.

The BBC is almost 100 years old. There have been many changes in this time, but the scale of change in the media sector over the last decade has been unprecedented. People are consuming a vast array of content from multiple sources, using technology that either did not exist or was in its infancy 10 years ago. Ten years ago, when a Government last conducted a charter review, millions of households still received just five television channels. Much of the social media that is now ubiquitous was, at most, at an embryonic stage, and few of us owned the sort of devices that colleagues use daily, including in this Chamber.

One of the few things that is certain about the media landscape of the future is that we cannot be sure how it will look, not least because we cannot predict how much will stay the same. Predictions about the demise of television have proven premature, undoubtedly in part because technology has evolved, but also because many people still enjoy sitting down to watch TV in their living room. Radio also retains an important place in people’s daily lives.

The current BBC royal charter will expire at the end of 2016. This paper launches the Government’s consultation, which will inform a number of decisions that we need to take about the future of the BBC. The BBC Trust will play an integral role in the process by running a series of public seminars and events. Fundamentally, we need to consider four questions. What is the overall purpose of the BBC? What services and content should the BBC provide? How should the BBC be funded? How should the BBC be governed and regulated?

First, on the BBC’s mission, purpose and values, the BBC has six public purposes, which were set out at the last charter review. They are: sustaining citizenship and civil society; promoting education and learning; stimulating creativity and cultural excellence; representing

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the UK, its nations, regions and communities; bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK; and delivering to the public the benefit of emerging communications. We need to ask whether these purposes are relevant and right.

One key task is to assess whether the idea of universality still holds water. With so much more choice in what to consume and how to consume it, we must at least question whether the BBC should try to be all things to all people—to serve everyone across every platform—or if it should have a more precisely targeted mission.

Along with considering the mission and purpose of the BBC, we will consider whether the Charter should also define its values—and what those values should be.

Secondly, on the BBC’s scale and scope, the public purposes set the framework for what the BBC should be seeking to achieve, and the charter and supporting framework agreement articulate what activities it should undertake to accomplish this. The upcoming charter review will look at whether the scale and scope of the BBC is right for the current and future media environment and delivers what audiences are willing to pay for.

Twenty years ago the BBC had two television channels, five national radio stations and a local radio presence. It is now the largest public service broadcaster in the world, with nine television channels, five UK-wide radio stations, six radio stations that reach one of the home nations, 40 local radio stations and a vast online presence. This charter review will look at whether this particular range of services best serves licence fee payers. It will also assess what impact the BBC has on the commercial sector. There is evidence that the BBC helps to drive up standards and boosts investment, but also concern that public funding should not undermine commercial business models for TV, radio and online.

The BBC is highly used and valued by the majority of people in this country. But variations exist, and there are particular challenges in reaching people from certain ethnic minority backgrounds and in meeting the needs of younger people, who increasingly access content online. Variations exist among the different nations and regions, too. These are issues which we will need to take into account throughout the process of the charter review.

The BBC’s global reputation is second to none and the BBC has a central role in determining how the UK is perceived internationally. Each week, BBC services reach more than 300 million people across the world, and the director-general has set a target of 500 million.

The charter review also gives us an opportunity to look at the content the BBC provides, both in terms of the mixture of that content and its quality. We will analyse the way that the BBC’s content is produced. This is essentially shaped by two main elements: the broader regulatory framework, including the terms of trade which set out how the BBC and other broadcasters work with independent producers, and the BBC’s quota systems.

The BBC executive has made some radical proposals that would remove quotas and turn the BBC’s production arm into a commercial subsidiary. These and other reform options will need to be considered as part of

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the charter review. We will also look at BBC Worldwide, which contributes a substantial amount of additional income to the BBC.

I turn now to the third question—BBC funding—a subject on which I know that many honourable and right honourable Members in the other place hold strong views. The licence fee has proven to be a very resilient income stream for the BBC, bringing in £3.7 billion last year, but it is not without its challenges.

There is no easy solution to the broad question of how the BBC should be funded. The licence fee is levied at a flat rate, meaning that it is regressive. A subscription model could well be an option in the longer term, but cannot work in the short term because the technology is not yet in every home to control access. Therefore, the three options for change that are viable in the shorter term are: a reformed licence fee, a household levy, or a hybrid funding model. In the longer term we should consider whether there is a case for moving to a full subscription model. All have advantages and disadvantages.

There are a number of other funding issues that the charter review will cover. We have already announced that the BBC, rather than taxpayers, will meet the cost of free TV licences for over-75 year-olds. This will be phased in from 2018-19, with the BBC taking on the full costs from 2020-21. We also anticipate that the licence fee will rise in line with the consumer prices index over the next charter review period, but this is dependent on the BBC keeping pace with efficiency savings elsewhere in the public sector and it is also subject to whatever conclusions are drawn from the charter review about the BBC’s scope and purpose.

I am grateful to David Perry QC, who has conducted an independent review of the sanctions appropriate for non-payment of the licence fee. The TV licence fee enforcement review, which is being published today, has concluded that decriminalisation would not be appropriate under the current funding model. The Government will now consider the case for decriminalisation as part of the charter review. I am today laying before Parliament the TV licence fee enforcement review and placing copies in the House Libraries.

More people, especially younger people, now access catch-up television exclusively online and without a licence. This is perfectly legal, as the existing legislation was drawn up when the iPlayer did not even exist. The Government have committed to updating the legislation.

We will also analyse the merits of a contestable public service funding pot that would not be limited just to the BBC, and we will look again at what areas and activities should have their funding protected in future. Broadband rollout, digital switchover, local television, the World Service and the Welsh language channel S4C were protected in the last charter period. As I announced the other day, the broadband ring-fence is to be phased out by 2020-21, and S4C will be expected to find similar savings to those in the BBC.

Finally, there is the matter of how the BBC is governed and regulated. Any organisation as large as the BBC needs effective governance and regulation. There have been occasions when the BBC has fallen well short of the standards that we expect of it.

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Editorial failures in the light of the Jimmy Savile revelations, the aborted digital media initiative, and the level of salaries and severance payments are among the issues that have caused disquiet. A lack of clarity in the BBC’s governance structures has contributed to these failures.

The last charter brought in a new regulatory model, creating the BBC Trust, which exists to represent licence fee payers and hold the BBC to account. This structure has been widely criticised and the chair of the BBC Trust herself has called for reform. There are three broad options: reforming the Trust model, creating a unitary board and a new stand-alone oversight body or moving external regulation wholesale to Ofcom. As with funding options, each of these has pros and cons.

While the BBC’s editorial independence must not be compromised, that does not mean that we are not entitled to ask whether the BBC could be more transparent and to scrutinise how the BBC relates to the public, to Parliament and to government. Any public body should be fully accountable to the public. People should be able to give voice to how well they think the BBC spends public money—some £30 billion over the current charter period—and how well it meets its myriad other responsibilities.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is part of the fabric of this country, and a source of great pride. We want it to thrive in the years to come. This consultation paper sets out the framework for what I hope will be a wide-ranging and informative national debate about the future of the BBC. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

2.58 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement given by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport in the other place.

However, we now know for certain that, as part of their zealous drive to destroy the public realm in this country, this Government have the BBC in their sights. Those who care about these matters, who—from the evidence of recent debates in your Lordships’ House—are to be found in every party, all around the Chamber and are in a majority, certainly know that we now have a fight on our hands.

The BBC is established by royal charter, and has been so from the very early days of its existence. The first charter ran from 1 January 1927 to 31 December 1936, and we are now approaching the end of the ninth charter. You would have thought that running a process for the 10th time would mean we had developed a standardised approach; and that certain questions about the BBC’s role, functions and structure would have been agreed as settled business. There is surely a need for stability and security in all organisations if they are to thrive and deliver their best. So my first question is: why is the current charter review so different from its predecessors?

Compare where we are today with what happened last time, when the Government published a similar Green Paper entitled—and perhaps this should be noted—A Strong BBC, Independent of Government.

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Then, the review process involved significant public engagement, including a range of events, consultation, research and focused analysis. What public engagement preceded this Green Paper? How many people responded, and will the evidence from that engagement be published? Then, the department’s work was closely informed by the work of an expert panel. There is a panel this time, but has it met yet? What will its role be? It was not even mentioned in the Statement. Will the Minister please elaborate on this?

Then, the Government conducted a major programme of survey research, to support and inform the consultation proposed in the Green Paper and ensure that it reflected the views of all sections of the population. This programme encompassed qualitative, deliberative and quantitative survey research, and was published. Has the department done the same this year, and will this be published?

Then, the department also conducted four independent reviews of the BBC’s services, which fed into the Green Paper. The Statement makes a lot of noise about the technical uncertainties faced by the BBC and makes a number of unsupported judgments about issues that it may be facing, but has the department carried out reviews comparable to the Lambert review of BBC News, the Graf review of BBC Online, the Barwise review of the BBC’s digital television services and the Gardam review of the BBC’s digital radio services? If not, what evidence have the Government relied on to make these judgments, and will that evidence be published?

Then, the independent panel chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, held a series of 11 seminars looking in detail at all aspects of the BBC, from funding and governance to educational and international issues. The panel published its conclusions. Will the new panel follow suit, what will the timescale be and will it publish its conclusions? The Green Paper invites comments between now and October, but certain decisions have already been taken so it is not really comparable with what happened in 2005-06.

My second question is whether the Government really understand, or want to understand, what the BBC is for. In the Statement, the Secretary of State merely says:

“The British Broadcasting Corporation is cherished and admired, not only in this country but around the world. At its best, the BBC sets international standards of quality”.

In a debate earlier this week, the Minister said:

“The BBC is a world-renowned institution … It retains a unique importance in the UK’s broadcasting industry and in our collective sense of identity, and it is a brand that is respected and valued around the world—a world beater, indeed”.

That is certainly better, but talk about damning with faint praise. I put it to her that it would make a huge difference to the tone of the forthcoming review and the debates that it will engender if she would at the very least associate herself with the words that I and others used during the QSD of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, this week. In case she does not have the reference to hand, I remind her that I said that the BBC is,

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“the cornerstone of the sort of open and accountable society that we want in this country, the gold standard for other broadcasters, the fulcrum for a competition for quality in broadcasting, and the guarantee of impartiality and fair coverage throughout the United Kingdom”.—[

Official Report

, 14/7/15; col. 533.]

Could she please respond to the House on whether she agrees with this?

I am sure that others will want to make detailed points and ask questions, including about protection for the World Service and S4C, as well as more generally on the charter review announced today, but there are three or four points that I ask the Minister to respond to particularly. Could she say more about how the Government are to deal with the question of universality? Does this imply that the Government no longer accept the formulation, which has stood the test of time, that the BBC should be big enough to deliver the service that audiences demand but as small as its mission allows? If not, does she have an alternative plan for how the broadcasting system is to sustain, for example, its contribution to the health of the creative economy by research, training and production?

Could she say more about how the Government intend to assess the distinctiveness of BBC output? In the past, it has been broadly accepted that the BBC should remain a cultural institution of real size and scope and not only be a broadcaster of minority-interest programming. It should provide a wide range of different programmes to a wide range of different audiences, and only with this scale and scope can the BBC meet the public purposes that were set for it. I hope that the Government will continue to continue to accept these, as the people of this country certainly seem to. What evidence does she have to suggest that people no longer support the current range of BBC services? Can she confirm in particular that when it finishes the charter review, the Government will not require the BBC to shut down or privatise any of its current services?

The Statement outlines only three scenarios for dealing with governance issues, which I agree need to be addressed. Have other options in effect now been ruled out? In response to a question asked by my right honourable friend the shadow Secretary of State in the other place, the Secretary of State implied that the question of changing to a subscription model to replace the BBC licence fee was only a matter of not having the right technology. Is that right? Have the Government already decided in principle that they will change to subscription? If that is the case, can she reassure us that the licence fee is to be retained for the whole of the next charter period?

Given that the TV licence fee enforcement review has recommended that while the current licence fee collection system is in operation the current system of criminal deterrence and prosecution should be maintained, will the Minister elaborate on what was meant by the comment in the Statement that:

“The Government will now consider the case for decriminalisation as part of the Charter Review”?

That sounds to me as if the excellent report by David Perry QC—and it is extremely good—has been rejected. Has it?

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We are at the beginning of what looks like a quick and dirty charter review process, one that is not worthy of the sort of concern and interest that every Government should have in one of their principal public institutions. As I have indicated, we on this side are concerned about the general approach being taken, the tone of the public consultation document and the sense that, taken along with the recent Budget decisions, the Government have already decided to cut the BBC “down to size”. As the BBC itself has said today,

“this Green Paper would appear to herald a much diminished, less popular BBC”.

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on what should happen to the BBC over the next charter period, albeit at the same time worrying that most of the decisions have in effect already been taken and will not be in the interests of Britain. As I said in the earlier debate, the biggest tragedy in all this is that at a time when we should all be thinking of ways to improve the BBC, many of us will be forced to defend it, warts and all.

Baroness Grender (LD): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. No one could be more splenetic about the BBC’s coverage during the election than our party. Its appalling coverage of the Liberal Democrats’ absence from one of the leader debates, due entirely to the BBC’s own negotiating failures, will live with me for some time to come. However, this party and these Benches will not succumb to venom where vision is required. Whatever the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s personal views, this is the time for the bigger picture.

The BBC is a world leader in soft power, as we learnt this week. One has only to listen to the now entirely BBC-funded World Service and its interviews from Iran on the new nuclear settlement to understand the unique place that it has in the world. It is a major player in the creative industries, which are the fastest-growing sector of the economy. The Statement rightly acknowledges the challenges of reaching younger people and people from ethnic minority backgrounds. It is worth noting that “The Voice” alone has a more diverse audience than other outlets or programmes. However, the Green Paper suggests that it is too costly. I seek reassurance from the Minister that such programmes will not be discouraged, as suggested in the Sunday Times. I heard the Secretary of State compare that weekend article to Booker Prize fiction, so I ask the Minister whether the journalist, Tim Shipman, is accurate when he says that the Government question whether the BBC,

“should stop chasing viewers and provide more public service programmes”.

Which is it—fact or fiction?

The Statement asks for greater transparency from the BBC. I am sure that the Minister would like to match that by making available the processes by which the new advisory panel was recruited. Formal or informal, it provides a clear signal about past opinions that the new Secretary of State has given on the BBC. Perhaps she could make available to us in this House the process by which the panel was recruited and the rationale for each of its members’ appointments. Is there an intention—it is already possible to infer this from the Green Paper—to make the BBC smaller?

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Does any evidence therefore currently exist that licence fee payers are asking for less, rather than more, from their BBC?

Lastly, the chair of the BBC Trust seems to be under the impression that she has the Chancellor’s word that, unless there is a massive change, the licence fee will rise by CPI in the first five years of the charter. Does the Minister believe that she is right to have that impression?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, the BBC is not in our sights. We want it to flourish and we want it to change. Actually, I detect the forces of conservatism on the other Benches. We need to keep up to date. Technology is changing and it is right that at this time we have an 18-month review of all aspects of the BBC. I welcome this and very much hope that others will engage in it and give us the benefit of their experience and views. This is very important. This is the start of the process. That is the answer to the parallel that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has sought to bring.

The noble Lord also asked how the public engagement will work. There will be a panel, which I will come on to in a minute. There will also be a process of public engagement which the BBC Trust has agreed to lead, events and public consultations, and the opportunity to write in and to submit views online. We really care about what the public think about this great institution and will be listening to them during the consultation process.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked a number of questions, and for most of them the answer is that these are exactly the kind of issues that will be addressed during the review, but I will touch on one or two. He will know that we share a huge passion for keeping the creative industries healthy and growing. Our musicians, writers and television producers are a special part of Britain and, of course, are helped by the demand that the BBC provides.

We have indeed set out the governance models we are looking at, and I think it is helpful to set out options so that we can get comments in during the consultation period. Of course, in a review process people can make other proposals and they will also be looked at.

We have explained that, as I said in the Statement, moving to a subscription model cannot happen straightaway because the technology does not exist. Again, we are going to look at options for the best way to fund the BBC and to bring in public broadcasting catch-up TV. That is one of the big changes and an essential part of the agreement between the Government and the BBC on the whole question of funding, which I believe gives a useful envelope for the future discussions to take place.

As noble Lords will note from the consultation, we have also set out specific questions on universality and the BBC’s content and services. We have not ruled any options in or out because this is the start of the process. The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, sought to tweak my tail about the Sunday Times. We cannot be responsible for what is written in the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail or any of the other great papers. I am a strong believer in the freedom of the press but this has other aspects to it and it is often not clear whether

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things are fact or fiction. We have published the Green Paper. We are making a full Statement. We wish to consult the nation, both Houses of Parliament and indeed our specialist panel about the right way ahead. I was trying, as you can imagine, to keep the Statement as succinct as possible. We will certainly write with a full list of the members of the panel. We have issued a press release on that, and the expertise varies from ex-members of the BBC to people who are expert in internet issues. It is an advisory panel. The decision on the future is obviously for the Government.

3.14 pm

Lord Fowler (Con): My Lords, I hope the Minister will note that if, back in 2006, the then Government had listened to the Lords Select Committee on Communications, we would not have had the BBC Trust in the first place. Perhaps the lesson there is that Governments might do better to listen to parliamentary committees rather than committees of so-called outside experts.

Do not two points come out of this Statement? First, is it not clear from everything the Secretary of State said in the paper and in Questions that his eventual aim is a subscription model for the BBC? That is a profound change, particularly for an organisation which the Secretary of State himself says is part of the fabric of this country. Though it will doubtless be welcomed by advisers with their special interests, it will be strongly opposed by many of the public.

Secondly, there was much talk prior to this paper that the BBC was guilty of biased reporting. As far as I can see, there is little or nothing in the paper on that. Does that mean that the Government have now dropped that foolish charge? Does it mean that they now agree that the BBC’s standards of journalism are exceptionally high, and that this is a strong argument for preserving its news services as they currently stand?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, I agree that we should listen to parliamentary committees, especially ones in this House, which often bring a great deal of expertise. The point about looking forward Cassandra-like at the BBC Trust was a point well made. We have made it clear that we are now looking at options for governance, and the chair of the BBC Trust has obviously raised questions about the way the trust works.

On subscription, the Green Paper asks an open question about how the BBC should be funded. We want to engage with the public on whether the licence fee only continues to be the right model or whether it makes sense to have a more mixed economy. The BBC already has a certain amount of commercial income and that has improved in recent years. We would like to see more of that, provided it fits in with the total broadcasting landscape and continues to encourage the creativity and independence of the supply chain that we so much want. Subscription is one of several options we are asking for views on. No decisions have been made. The Secretary of State has a great background because of his previous chairmanship of the DCMS Committee in the other place. He knows that subscription

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is one of the things we need to look at, but just looking at them does not mean we have come to a particular conclusion.

Objectivity and impartiality are very important features of the BBC. There has to be a system that keeps an eagle eye on them at all times. I have been frustrated sometimes at what the BBC says and does, despite my passion for the freedom of the press, which I certainly apply to it. We will, of course, be looking at that aspect in the charter review. However, as my noble friend says, it is not huge and in lights, in the way that perhaps you might have expected from some of the previous comments.

Lord Birt (CB): My Lords, charter review is a proper, healthy and entirely necessary process. It is entirely right that from time to time we look at the scale, scope, purpose and governance of the BBC. I have just had a very quick skim read of the Green Paper. It appears to be characterised by a certain lack of generosity of spirit about the BBC, but more importantly—unless I have simply missed it—there is a hugely important issue missing from the paper: UK original production. I refer the Minister to Ofcom’s analysis, with which I am sure she is very familiar, of the scale of UK original production not only in the BBC but among public service broadcasters at large. It is a scary picture: over the last six years we have seen a drop of something like a sixth. Will this issue be put on the table during the charter review process, looking at what sort of scale is justified in this context to maintain the long and valued tradition of UK original production?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, we want the BBC to support the UK creative industries. As I have already said, they are a proving ground for those industries, and this will be studied in the charter review. More than half of PSB investment in original content is BBC expenditure.

Lord Soley (Lab): The Minister said, rightly, that the BBC is immensely popular with the public throughout the United Kingdom. Bearing that in mind, can she tell us how the Government plan to consult the wider public, given the profound importance of the changes that are being discussed?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, as I have already explained, a programme of public consultation will begin shortly and last right through the summer. The BBC Trust will be putting forward a plan. I am sure that, as that gets communicated to the public at large, we can provide fuller information to Members of this House with an interest, and I am sure that there will be full details on our websites. We want to hear the public’s views on the scale and scope of the BBC, what people like about it and what they like less. That is an absolutely prime objective of the consultation.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart (LD): Since the ministerial Statement indicated that 97% of the UK population is reached by the BBC every week, why are the Government proposing to question the idea of universality? Are the Government able to say what the scale of public representation has been at this stage regarding the

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licence fee system of raising funds? Why have they put forward three alternatives when, for so long, the licence fee has commended itself to the public?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The noble Lord makes a good point but the world is changing. The whole television, radio and online world is changing, and online is part of this review. We need to look at models and ways in which income might be raised as well as by the licence fee. This is an open review and there are different views. I remind noble Lords that the BBC has a 35% market share of the TV audience. In March, the top 10 most popular programmes were BBC programmes, although I think that that is partly down to the “Poldark” effect. However, we have a big responsibility to make sure that money is provided in the right way for the BBC and that it is spent in the right way.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con): My Lords, before the Green Paper came out, the idea was floated that it might be a good idea to pool the licence fee and for the BBC and other television production companies to bid for parts of it so that they could make quality public-interest programmes. Is that option still a runner?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My noble friend will be interested to know that I made a brief reference to that in the Statement. I think it is called contestable funding. It is part of the consultation and it would in principle allow new entrants, such as small Welsh production companies, to play a greater part in the creation of TV and radio programmes and online content in the future.

Lord Puttnam (Lab): My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right: the world is changing rapidly. Somewhat to my surprise, it has been very widely reported this week that the UK has come top in the world for its use of, and reputation for, soft power. Would she like to suggest any other organisation in this country that contributes more to that reputation than the BBC?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The simple answer is no. I think that the existence of the BBC World Service and all that it does was absolutely key to that assessment.

Lord Wrigglesworth (LD): My Lords, the Minister will be aware that this review is taking place against a background of persistent attacks upon the BBC from Conservative Members of Parliament and from some on the Benches opposite, as well as from commercial interests that support the Conservative Party. Can she therefore reassure the House that the outcome of this review will be based on the evidence given to the review and not on the prejudice of those in the Conservative Party who are antagonistic towards the BBC or of the commercial interests that support them?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I assure the noble Lord that evidence will be looked at—the review will be evidence-based. We will also take account of what the public think—a point that I have sought to emphasise—as well as taking account of the very important expert advisory panel, whose members are a challenging lot and who will, I think, enable us to ask better questions during the consultation process. However, there have been some difficult issues in the BBC in recent years—

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Savile, pay-offs for senior executives, the digital media initiative and so on—and one needs to look at these as well as at the very strong, wonderful things about the BBC in considering what the right framework is for the future, including the BBC’s governance and regulation.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, the Minister read out the reference in the Statement to S4C, the Welsh language broadcaster. Does she appreciate that that body holds a very particular commission, given to it in the first instance by Her Majesty’s Government when it was created—namely, to be responsible for the future and welfare of the Welsh language? It is therefore imperative that its viability in a financial context should be safeguarded and its independence preserved. In the circumstances, would Her Majesty’s Government be prepared to say in principle that a niche should be found in the new charter clearly setting out these entrenched rights, unless of course some other, more appropriate locale of a statutory nature can be discovered?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, for providing that history, which I was not aware of. We are committed to the provision of minority language broadcasting, including S4C, and that is a key part of the charter review. The Secretary of State spoke to S4C ahead of today’s Statement and is planning to talk to the Welsh Office. I think that our determination is demonstrated by the £7 million of direct funding that we currently provide for S4C. Our firm but fair agreement means that we have to make some choices about how the licence fee is spent. Of course, S4C has to be part of that process but Welsh language broadcasting is incredibly important for exactly the reasons stated by the noble Lord.

Lord Low of Dalston (CB): My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will have seen the comment to the effect that the advisory panel, to which she referred just now, is just as stacked against the BBC as the other interests which the noble Lord mentioned earlier—people with ideological and commercial grudges against the BBC. Can the Minister give us more reassurance about the impartial nature of the advisory panel?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, I do not agree. The panel includes a former board member of the BBC and I think that one or two of the other members have links. It is drawn from the media industry, where there is quite a lot of circulation of talent. However, it is an advisory group—as I have already explained, it is advising the Secretary of State on the consultation process. We are also looking at other sources of advice, including your Lordships, as well as, fundamentally and very importantly, the British public, who pay for the BBC through the licence fee.

Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury (Con): My Lords, in responding to those in this House who think that the Green Paper has been motivated by hostility, is my noble friend the Minister aware that on the BBC “One O’Clock News” today the BBC media correspondent Mark Easton said specifically that the BBC did not regard the Green Paper as hostile?

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, I was not aware of that, but it is clearly very good news. I know that the chairman of the BBC Trust said that the Green Paper recognised the enormous contribution that the BBC had made, that she valued that and that there would be a wide debate involving the public. These are all important points that we must not lose sight of because of concern about a particular paragraph or figure.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: I hesitate to interrupt but I want to correct what has just been said. In front of me—thanks to the iPad and other new technologies—I have the statement from the BBC. It says:

“We believe that this Green Paper would appear to herald a much diminished, less popular BBC. That would be bad for Britain and would not be the BBC that the public has known and loved for over 90 years”.

I do not think that that squares well with what was said.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): Does the Minister recognise that all around the House—and in the Statement itself—there is recognition that the World Service and the vernacular programmes are hugely important to this country and its soft power. However, what I am missing is any indication of how the Government are going to protect those services from being squeezed if there is a reduction in resources, or some change in the mandate, for the rest of the BBC. I would welcome the Minister’s response as to whether those outside these shores will also be consulted.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, asking overseas listeners is an interesting idea, and one I will feed into the process. I have already said that the BBC World Service is a key priority. We cannot prejudge the review, as I have said on every other question. However, I can assure noble Lords that this soft power role that we were congratulating the BBC on earlier is a vital part, and comes through the existing objectives, which we are looking at and can be reiterated in whole or in part.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): My Lords, the Statement says that the review will also look at the impact the BBC has on the commercial sector. It goes on to say, however, that there is evidence that the BBC helps drive up standards and boost investment, but also concern that public funding does not undermine commercial business. On the one hand we have evidence and on the other concerns. Can the noble Baroness tell us who has these concerns, other than the commercial business models for TV, radio and online, and how will they be tested?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: This point will, I am sure, be closely scrutinised by the review process. It is at the heart of the issue. The BBC is large, and that brings responsibility. There is evidence on the positive side and there is evidence on the other side. Some of it will come from the commercial operators; that is entirely right. When considering industry policy and competition policy in our country we try to look not only at—in this case—the BBC, but at how that how that affects the whole infrastructure, the talent and the way things

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feed in. This seems an entirely appropriate question for the review to consider. However, I note the noble Baroness’s concern and I thank her for the question.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, there is a perception that some recent decisions about the BBC, such as the one about licences for the over-75s, did not come from DCMS but from the Treasury. Can we have an assurance that there will be a proper basis for moving forward with the BBC without pressure from the Treasury, with saving money being the dominant factor?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The Government will conduct the review and will come to their conclusions in an entirely proper way. Funding and matters of value for money are important issues. As I was saying earlier, there is some advantage in having an understanding of the financial envelope in which the charter review can be looked at. There are some positives for the BBC. I have talked to their executives about some of the positives that have come out of the deal that has been done: the change to broadband funding, the CPI—which was mentioned earlier—and this vital point about taking account of changes in new technology and finding a way of bringing in the catch-up market which, as we know from our children, is set to mushroom very rapidly.

English Votes for English Laws

Question for Short Debate

3.35 pm

Asked by Lord Butler of Brockwell

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to consider alternatives to their proposals for English votes for English laws.

Lord Butler of Brockwell (CB): My Lords, I am very grateful that so many Members of your Lordships’ House will speak in this short debate. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for being willing to answer it. The fact that so many Members have put down their names to speak in this debate indicates and strongly reinforces the case for this House taking an effective part in the debate on what is certainly a constitutional issue. This debate does not constitute such an opportunity: much more is needed, and I will return to that at the end of my remarks.

I want to put four points to the Leader. First, the Green Paper presented by Mr William Hague in December 2014 entitled The Implications of Devolution for England said unequivocally, on behalf of the Conservative Party:

“We therefore believe the arrangements for England or for England and Wales should also be put on a statutory footing, even if they are implemented in the first instance through changes to Standing Orders in the House of Commons”.

It appears that the Government are retreating from that approach, and that the reason is that they fear that the statutory route may be justiciable. Is it the Government’s view that the fact that the legislation

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might be justiciable is a satisfactory reason for not making these important constitutional changes in the proper way?

Secondly, in questions following the Statement that the noble Baroness repeated to the House on 2 July, she said:

“It is important to understand that English MPs cannot overrule the whole House, and the whole House cannot overrule English MPs”.—[Official Report, 2/7/15; col. 2218.]

In reply to a question I asked, she said:

“It is not about having a veto. It is about trying to find the right way forward”.—[Official Report, 2/7/15; col. 2220.]

Yet the Government’s Statement said:

“Our plans provide for an English veto at different stages of the process”.

Will the noble Baroness now acknowledge that the Government’s proposals do indeed provide for a veto for the first time by a restricted group of Members of Parliament?

Thirdly, Mr Hague’s Green Paper listed three options for approaching this issue. The second was the proposal of the 2008 democracy task force, chaired by the right honourable Kenneth Clarke, which recommended that stages at which English, or English and Welsh, Bills could be amended should be confined to English, or English and Welsh, MPs, but that the whole House would vote on Third Reading. The Mackay commission included a similar option. Yet the Government have rejected that. Why have these simpler proposals, which do not involve a veto, been rejected by the Government? So far they have given no explanation.

Finally, it must have become absolutely clear from the attention that these proposals have received, and the debates on them that have taken place, that this is an important constitutional issue. It is not just a simple matter of technical changes to Standing Orders in the House of Commons. Is it not the duty of the Leader to ensure that your Lordships’ House can make a proper contribution on these constitutional matters?

Yesterday, the opposition spokesman in another place suggested a Joint Committee of both Houses. That would be a good way in which this House could make its contribution on these issues. I do not expect that the Leader will be able to give the Government’s response to that proposal today—although it would be welcome if she could do so. If she cannot, I give notice that I propose to table a Motion for debate before the Recess that would give your Lordships’ House an opportunity to vote on whether this House would wish to take part in such a Joint Committee.

3.39 pm

Lord Norton of Louth (Con): My Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for initiating this debate. Seeking answers to what we now call the West Lothian question is nothing new. The Government of Ireland Bill of 1893, the so-called “In and Out Bill”, provided that Irish MPs would vote only on “imperial” legislation. The Speaker’s Conference on Devolution in 1919 proposed that grand councils of MPs from England, Scotland and Wales should consider Bills that affected their particular part of the United Kingdom. Harold Wilson in 1964 raised the issue in respect of Northern Ireland. He queried the logic of Northern Irish MPs voting on

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legislation where Stormont held concurrent powers; and he asked the Attorney-General, Sir Frederick Elwyn Jones, to devise an “in and out” solution.

The attempts normally flounder when it comes to devising an effective means of implementation. There are problems of definition and process. I make two points. First, the Government’s proposals do not provide for English votes for English laws. As the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said, they provide for an English veto of English laws. Secondly, context is important. Given other constitutional changes, implemented or proposed, there may be a case for looking at the proposals as part of a constitutional convention—I would argue for a convocation—looking at, and ensuring that they fit with, what is happening to other parts of the constitution.

3.41 pm

Lord Desai (Lab): In the same vein, I should say that the advantage of having a proper Bill that undergoes pre-legislative scrutiny by both Houses, and is debated and passed in both Houses, would cover all the unanticipated and unanticipatable consequences of such a narrow construction of the question. If we do not at the beginning take care to examine all those consequences, we shall regret it and have to come back to this question again and again in a very messy way. The best thing to do is to follow proper procedures, use the strength we have in the two Houses and come to a proper conclusion on what is the most important constitutional question for the United Kingdom.

3.42 pm

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, it is a pretty pathetic self-regulated House that cannot even allocate appropriate time to such an important issue as this. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Butler, that there is every difference in the world between giving English MPs a voice and giving them a veto. That was, of course, what the McKay commission, to which I gave evidence, identified at the very outset. I simply do not understand why this Government have ignored the advice of the McKay commission.

I endorse absolutely the suggestion that this is an appropriate issue for a Joint Committee of both Houses because it clearly affects the process by which all of us examine legislation at both ends of the building. That would be the traditional way forward, and I hope that the Leader of the House will give us an assurance that that will be looked at seriously.

In the mean time, I suggest that this issue has much wider implications for our constitution. I have constantly heard from the other side of the House suggestions that we have been far too ad hoc and piecemeal when looking at issues of this sort. Surely this is the time for the Government to commit themselves to a convention. But we must have some agreement about the purpose of a convention because the Scottish convention, at the outset, already had a clear remit, with agreement from all participants. That is one of the reasons why the Scottish nationalists and Conservatives did not agree to that convention. We should, at the outset, have agreement on what we should be doing.

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There are considerable constitutional implications to the proposed veto, to which my noble and learned friend, with his experience of Scottish devolution, will refer in a moment. This is not a minor issue for one end of this building.

3.44 pm

Baroness Boothroyd (CB): My Lords, we should not doubt the gravity of the situation we will face if the Government do not revise their procedures on this issue. This is not, as the noble Lord has just said, a run-of-the-mill controversy.

The proposal is a hybrid form of English devolution new to our constitution and it is being done by bypassing the statute book and amending the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. It simply will not do. The claim is that none of this affects the House of Lords and we can carry on just as we are. Well, we cannot. In the Commons debate on 7 July, the Leader of the House, Mr Chris Grayling, said that,

“those with long experience of the workings of this House, including Members of the other place who have worked in positions of authority in this one, are all united in the view that changing Standings Orders is the right way to proceed”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/7/15; col. 195.]

Mr Grayling must have misplaced my telephone number. It is not the right way to proceed, and others whose expertise I respect obviously do not think so either.

Magna Carta gave us the right to oppose the arbitrary exercise of power, and we must not shirk our responsibilities. If we fail, we say goodbye to our bicameral Parliament and undermine the union. We passed Acts of Parliament devolving power to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the European Community by not playing around with Standing Orders. England deserves no less. The West Lothian question has become the Westminster question and the Government are shirking it.

What troubles me, too, is the manner in which the Government seek to involve the Speaker in all this. The definition of geographical boundaries is not as straightforward as it might seem. There are cross-border issues and an England-only Bill needs to be defined.

Pushing a Speaker into the political cockpit to determine and define legislation is the worst possible idea. It is a recipe for discord and I believe that it threatens both Houses and the union. The Government need to think again, and do so sharply.

I am delighted and pleased to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, will table a Motion for debate next week. I trust that it will carry the heaviest possible weight in this House.

3.47 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I have two minutes to deal with 21 pages of amendments to Standing Orders. That works out at six seconds a page. I should like to ask my noble friend five questions, if I can get to five. First, will she confirm that if we had this EVEL in place, it would not make a whit of difference to the vote on fox hunting because it requires a double majority?

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Secondly, why have the Government not adopted the time-honoured convention, as we did at the time of Irish home rule and as we have done with Northern Ireland, and reduce the number of MPs in Scotland commensurate with the degree of power being transferred to them?

Thirdly, does my noble friend agree that if you want English votes for English laws, you need an English Parliament? I wish to retain a United Kingdom Parliament in this building.

My next question is: why, in the revised Standing Orders, has the Finance Bill suddenly been included? It will be subject to EVEL. As the Government propose to give setting income tax on earned income to the Scottish Parliament, that means that no Government—the House of Commons is about voting means of supply—will be able to get the largest slice of their income tax without having a majority within the Parliament of non-Scottish Members. That is a huge constitutional change that has been put in at the last minute, with the House of Commons having 24 hours to consider it.

Fifthly, and the changes that have been made to the Standing Order proposals in the other place, the Government have not dealt with the issue of the Barnett consequences of decisions being made in Scotland not being able to be voted on by Scottish MPs. Their answer is that there will be votes on the estimates. When I was Secretary of State, for example, it was decided to privatise water in England, so we lost the funding from the Barnett consequences of that. That is the point being made by the nationalists.

Lastly, will my noble friend take account of what everyone in this House who has thought about this seriously thinks, which is that we need a Joint Committee of both Houses, if not a constitutional convention, to sort this out before we end up playing into the hands of the nationalists, fragmenting the union and ruining the United Kingdom Parliament?

3.49 pm

Lord Haskel (Lab): My Lords, I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, about the effect that EVEL will have on the Barnett formula.

Let me explain, and I am most grateful to John Kay for pointing this out. If English MPs decide that English schools will receive an additional service paid for by an additional charge on English taxpayers, this rise will be reflected in the Barnett formula, irrespective of whether Scottish MPs want this additional service or not. That is how the formula works on devolved matters. Equally, if English MPs decide to cut a service, this, too, will be reflected in the Barnett formula, and if Scottish MPs want to maintain that service they will have to find the money from elsewhere. This is because the Barnett formula is based on United Kingdom-wide expenditure throughout the country.

I understand that when this was raised in the devolution discussions it was agreed that it would be settled on the “no detriment” principle. This means that compensation would be agreed on the basis of mutual good will. Bearing in mind the debate yesterday in the House of Commons, and the Scottish nationalists’ attitude towards the Government’s proposals on fox

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hunting, are the Government confident that this good will exists? If not what will they do? Will they leave the Barnett formula alone? Will they rewrite it? Will they go in for hypothecation? In the absence of good will, any of those would be very difficult. This is just one more example of the difficulties that we have over these territorial matters. They are best settled with a constitution or a proper Bill that goes through both Houses.

3.51 pm

Lord Lisvane (CB): My Lords, the Leader of the House told us on 2 July that this issue was fundamentally a domestic one for the House of Commons. Might I very respectfully disagree with her for three reasons? First, as my noble friend Lord Butler said, this is fundamentally a constitutional problem. It is simply that one of the possible solutions to that problem has been presented in terms of changes—extraordinarily complex changes—to Commons Standing Orders.

Secondly, the amendments made by this House will be subject to certification by the Speaker of the Commons, so what we send back may influence the outcome. For example, it will be possible for this House to turn an English-only provision into a UK-wide one, thus avoiding certification and possibly affecting the outcome.

Thirdly, although I hope I am wrong, I see a possible hazard to Article 9 of the Bill of Rights. For the first time, a Speaker of the House of Commons will be asked to certify something that is a matter of law, whether it is within the legislative competence of devolved institutions to make provision for this or for that. This is wholly different from Parliament Act or money Bill certifications.

The Speaker and parliamentary proceedings would be better protected by ministerial certification along the lines of a Human Rights Act certification of a Bill. The possibility of any inroad by the courts into the exclusive cognisance of Parliament is emphatically a matter for both Houses. I should say in passing that those who argued for this to be done by legislation rather than by Standing Orders are going down a very dangerous road. In my view, nothing would bring the courts into Parliament faster than making this arrangement explicitly justiciable through legislation.

My learned predecessor, Sir William McKay—like the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, I gave evidence to his commission—recommended in effect an English legislative consent Motion. That was a very shrewd recommendation because LCMs are animals well known to science. An advisory LCM would have avoided any charge of creating two classes of MP. It might have been possible for the McKay solution to be a first step, later ratcheted up if necessary. It is much more difficult to ratchet down, and of course expectations may already have been raised too high.

We are too tightly constrained for time today and this does argue for a full debate before long. I thoroughly agree that a Joint Committee is emphatically the right way to tackle a major constitutional issue, which is rightly of such interest to both Houses, as it might offer the possibility of some informed consensus, which, at the moment, is rather far to seek.

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3.54 pm

Lord Cope of Berkeley (Con): My Lords, until this week, we had a statement of principle from the Scottish National Party that its Members would not vote on or be involved in purely English or English and Welsh matters. That was effectively, in practice, English votes for English laws. I suppose that it might, in time, have become an accepted constitutional convention, as these things sometimes do in Britain. However, the SNP has abandoned that principle, as we know, and that makes other action necessary.

Polls for the McKay commission and others showed overwhelming support for English votes for English laws in principle. Most recently, Populus polled 10,000 people over the age of 50 for Saga plc on Scotland’s position in the UK. Of those polled in England, 75% supported the principle that English-only laws should be decided by English MPs—the principle that the SNP has now ditched.

The West Lothian question has, as we have heard this afternoon, been avoided, evaded and kicked about for far too many years. Of course we need to debate it, as has been said by all who spoke this afternoon, and a Joint Committee is certainly a good way to do that. However, we need to move and be seen to be moving towards a decision. The English need it to happen.

3.56 pm

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, those of us who have been enthusiasts for Scottish devolution were among the first to recognise that the asymmetric devolution that we have has resulted in a very serious English democratic deficit. That needs resolution—I think we are all agreed on that—but EVEL is not the way forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has ably argued. It is yet another quick fix from the constitutional quick fixes that we have had and which have resulted in the current mess.

What we need is a plan B—another way forward—but the Government have no plan B. I do not think that the EVEL proposal in the House of Commons is going to survive. Anyone who listened to the Tory rebels in the debate last week will know that it has a very serious problem ahead. The plan B should include a coherent, comprehensive look at this, which is why I have argued, as others have argued, again and again, for a United Kingdom constitutional convention. That has growing support in this House and the other place.

When it was raised previously, there was an interesting answer from the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, the Minister of State at the Scotland Office, in reply to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, in which he said that if the Government are not going to do it, someone else could. Some of us have taken him at his word and we now have movement in that direction. Tomorrow, for example, the Bill from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, will propose exactly that. As the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has made the announcement, I can also tell the House today that the all-party group on devolution and decentralisation will announce next week the setting up of a high-level panel to take evidence and make recommendations on the way forward towards a

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constitutional convention. If the Government are not going to wake up and do it, someone else has to. I would welcome a Joint Committee and hope that that happens. However, if it does not, we in the all-party group have taken the initiative and some action will be taken by parliamentarians to show the Government the way forward.

3.59 pm

Lord Judge (CB): My Lords, this document with a very long title could just as easily be called, “Future Processes of the Sovereign Parliament”. This House is part of that sovereign Parliament. If this is not our business, what on earth is?

I simply adopt what my noble friend Lord Lisvane said, because there is no time to go into it further. But we should also be very alert to the possibility that, as we shimmer and shilly-shally through this process—disgracefully if we do, but as we look as though we might—we could end up with a constitutional aberration of the Speaker of the House of Commons finding himself the subject of litigation. That would destroy our constitutional arrangements.

4 pm

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, in 1997, Tom Nairn published a book called The Break-up of Britain, which hugely influenced my generation of academics. It has not broken up. One reason is that the economic facts of life have favoured the union, but the other reason is the existence of an effective imagined community in the devolved regions of the United Kingdom, still in favour of the United Kingdom. I agree with much of what has been said about the constitutional difficulties of this moment. I gave evidence to the McKay commission and I have a small flame in my heart for the gentle tweak that he offers.

The Government are right that the status quo is sustainable. I absolutely accept the sincerity of the Government’s belief in and support for the United Kingdom—I have no doubt about that—but the battle is beginning to be lost among young people in favour of that imagined community. The key point here is the Government’s mode of address, and how one best sustains the imagined community, which still exists for the United Kingdom. We cannot assume that that effective imagined community is going to persist, and the style of current debate in many respects is corrosive.

4.01 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD): My Lords, there is some consensus that this issue needs to be addressed, but also an equal consensus that the mode of addressing it will lead to some very unsatisfactory outcomes. It is an example, as has been said, of a piecemeal approach to the constitution, but it is an issue to be dealt with by a constitutional convention.

In the Statement accompanying the White or Green Paper—whichever colour it was—in December 2014, the right honourable William Hague referred to the Prime Minister’s Statement on the morning after the referendum, when he said that,

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“a new and fair settlement for Scotland must be accompanied by an equivalent settlement for all parts of the United Kingdom”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 16/12/14; col. 1265.]

I do not think that this is proper equivalence.

The point was made about the concerns that certification could bring the Speaker into the courts, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said; I do not think that people would particularly want that. Much of the work of my former department in the office of the Advocate-General was to consider when Scottish Parliament legislation was passed, whether it was within the competence of the Scotland Act, and much time was spent between officials, lawyers and my old department and Scottish Government lawyers in determining whether a legislative consent Motion was required for a particular piece of legislation. It is not easy, and it is possibly an unfair burden to put on the Speaker, however well advised he will be by lawyers, and it could lead to litigation.

As the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said, it is a veto, and if a veto is going to be given to what might be described as a sub-set of the House of Commons, that is not Parliament. If it is okay for English MPs to have a veto, is it not okay for democratically elected Members of the Scottish Parliament also to have a veto—in other words, for Section 28(7) of the Scotland Act 1998 to be repealed? That leads to some very important, fundamental issues about the sovereignty of Parliament.

I do not believe that it will have no effect on your Lordships’ House. It may be that we do not need to have any Standing Orders changed here, but it will have an effect. If this House passes an amendment to a Bill, which goes to the other place and which, in a double vote, is actually approved by the House of Commons but not approved by English Members of the House of Commons, we will be in an anomalous situation where a piece of legislation has been passed by both Houses but will not be sent to the monarch for Royal Assent. That is a fundamental ABC of constitutional law.

I do not think that this has been thought through. I welcome the response from the Leader of the House to some of the important issues of concern that have been raised in this debate.

4.04 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, this is the debate the Government did not want. We are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, for taking the initiative and providing this opportunity to try to ensure that the Government understand why there are so many concerns about how their proposals affect our work and our role in legislation.

There is widespread recognition that there is an issue to be an addressed; we have put that on record previously and we have heard it today. But the Government’s proposals go way beyond the McKay report and the Hague report, so their assertion that this change has been fully debated and considered has to be dismissed. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House has been emphatic, and I quote her directly when she addressed your Lordships’ House in a previous Statement. She said, “We are not affected”. But in the same Statement, she also said that the Speaker of the

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House of Commons would have to certify amendments passed by your Lordships’ House. As we have heard, that creates potential for legal and constitutional difficulties. The situation is clearly more complex than the Government are suggesting. The short but substantial speeches we have heard today have expressed serious and well-founded concerns. These have been exacerbated by the Government’s initial attempts to evade appropriate parliamentary scrutiny by issuing a multi-page amendment to Standing Orders in the other place, with no debate here. That is wrong.

We will fail in our duty as a scrutinising Chamber if we fail fully to investigate the implications this legislation and these changes could have for the governance of our country. If, after hearing from the experts here today, the noble Baroness still believes that there definitely will be no impact on the work of your Lordships’ House, she has nothing to fear from an investigation by a Joint Committee of both Houses. However, I and many other noble Lords do not share her confidence on that point.

Surely it is better to interrogate this issue now and be reassured that there is no impact, or to identify and plan for any possible impact. What a dereliction of duty it would be if, in six months, a year or two years’ time, there is a constitutional difficulty the resolution of which we have given no consideration to. That is a recipe for constitutional chaos, and it reinforces calls for a constitutional convention.

We support the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and I look forward to a considered response from the noble Baroness that I hope will address the concerns raised by noble Lords. I hope she will be able to agree to the request from the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for a Joint Committee of both Houses.

4.06 pm

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for tabling his Topical QSD and for the debate this afternoon. It has been a typically thoughtful debate on the Government’s proposals for English votes for English laws. The contributions made have shown the depth of expertise in this House on constitutional matters. I will say something in a moment about more time for debating this matter, because it is an issue I have been reflecting on since I repeated the Statement last week. Before I do so and respond to some of the specific issues that have been raised, let me remind the House of the Government’s proposal to address this important issue of English votes for English laws.

We sincerely believe that the proposal is sensible and pragmatic. Importantly, it builds on the views of the many different and important groups who have discussed and debated this matter over many years. Each time the different groups have come together and examined this important issue, we have tried to learn and to keep refining further. We propose that where a measure affects England, or England and Wales only, it cannot proceed without the consent of both the House of Commons as a whole and English, or English and Welsh, MPs. Neither side can push through a change without the agreement of the other. This gives

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a strong voice for English and Welsh MPs, while protecting the fundamental rights and responsibilities of all MPs in the House of Commons.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who referred to my answer to him when I repeated the Statement last week, English MPs cannot overrule the whole House and the whole House cannot overrule English MPs; neither side can force something through without the consent of the other. That is a very important aspect of our proposals.

The Government’s proposals seek to make these changes while keeping the process as close as possible to the existing procedures in the House of Commons. MPs from across the United Kingdom will continue to vote at Second Reading, in most Committees, on Report, at Third Reading and when considering Lord’s amendments. In response to the question about the Barnett formula, asked by my noble friend Lord Forsyth and the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, we have clarified the draft Standing Orders to make it plain that Members from across the United Kingdom will approve spending plans which set out the level of funding for the devolved Administrations. On the point my noble friend Lord Forsyth made about Finance Bills, it is worth clearly acknowledging that most taxes are rightly UK-wide, so the Finance Bill will be voted on by the whole House. Any taxes that are devolved in Scotland will be subject to the consent of MPs from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the whole House. By doing this, we set out a balanced way to deliver fairness within the union. The noble Lord—

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: On the income tax point, can my noble friend not see that a large proportion of the Government’s revenue coming from income tax on earned income will be subject to a veto by English, Welsh and Irish MPs? Therefore, a Government would not be able to get its means of supply unless it had a majority in part of the House of Commons. That is a huge change, which has been added at the last minute as an afterthought.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: No, it has not been added as a last-minute afterthought. What is made clear in the proposals that have been brought forward and published this week is a clarification of what was originally intended.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler, the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, and others, asked why we have not brought measures forward on a statutory footing. Standing Orders are the usual means by which procedural changes are made in the other place. But my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons has confirmed that we will review the way forward in 12 months’ time, once the first Bills subject to the new procedures have reached Royal Assent. We have not ruled out legislation being considered at that point. I note the comment from the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, that legislation would risk bringing the courts into Parliament. That is something we clearly wish to avoid. But more importantly, by approaching these modest changes in a modest way, via Standing Orders, we will allow them to be tested properly, in real time, with legislation. As my right honourable friend the Leader of the Commons said, we will put them to review in a year’s time, reviewing them properly then.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, raised some questions about the role of the Speaker, as did the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace. Clearly the noble Baroness knows far more about what is involved in being the Speaker of the other place than I would ever dare to consider. It is, as she will know, the responsibility of the Speaker to make impartial judgments in a political environment. We believe that giving the responsibility to the Speaker to certify the legislation that the Government bring forward is more appropriate than inviting the Government or the usual channels to do so. That is a much more appropriate way forward.

As to the complexity of the decisions that will have to be made on the extent of the Bills, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, is right: these are sometimes technical decisions but we make our existing processes work when it is necessary for decisions to be made on legislative consent Motions, and I am confident that the same can apply in this case.

As I said when I repeated the Statement last week, it is important to acknowledge that while we are clearly interested in English votes for English laws, the changes that are being brought about apply only to the other place. Our role as a revising Chamber, the part we play and the powers available to us remain just as they are now and our procedures do not change. Noble Lords have suggested that none the less there could be implications in practice for this House. That is something in which I, along with all noble Lords, will take a very strong interest as these changes are rolled out in the House of Commons, and if any issues were to emerge, I would consider it very properly my responsibility to ensure that we have an opportunity to contribute to the review process that has been promised in a year’s time. But we must be careful, as I say, to respect the right of the other place to consider its procedures, in the same way as we would expect it to do when we consider our own.

All that said, of course I appreciate the strong desire among noble Lords for a debate here to inform proceedings in the other place at this early stage. I can just hear some noble Lords making those comments from a sedentary position. As I say, I have been reflecting on this and I think that it is right that we provide some additional time. My noble friend the Chief Whip and I have been looking at this and I propose to arrange a further debate after the Summer Recess in September, in government time and without a time limit, because I recognise that time has been tight today. While I urge noble Lords to keep in mind that ultimately these are matters for decisions in another place in so far as they affect its procedures, I am happy none the less to ensure that we provide that time for a debate so that we can contribute in the way that I feel is most appropriate.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords—

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am running out of time so if the noble Lord will forgive me, I would like to make progress and comment on the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for a Joint Committee, which is an important topic.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I wonder—

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Perhaps I might just say what I need to say in response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, about a Joint Committee. He gave me notice of this proposal only shortly before the debate so I have not had time to consider it in any great detail. I do not think there is a formal government position for me to offer on that proposal at this time. But we do have a Constitution Committee of this House. There is a committee of a similar kind in the House of Commons. I believe that the time has come for us to make some progress on actually implementing English votes for English laws.

As I say, this has been debated many times over many years. We are and have been in pursuit of a perfect solution and I put it to your Lordships that I do not think that there is a perfect solution to this question—but there has to be a way forward because it becoming more and more urgent. The people of England feel the need for us to address this unfairness and this imbalance. What we are proposing as a Government is a way forward that we consider is sensible, pragmatic, fair and proportionate. Doing it through Standing Orders, as I say, allows for it to be tested in practice and then, after a year, for it to be reviewed again, and if it is necessary to make changes then, I am sure that that is something that we would want to make happen at that time. But I really believe that the time now is to continue.

Freedom of Religion and Belief

Motion to Take Note

4.20 pm

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To move that this House takes note of worldwide violations of Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the case for greater priority to be given by the United Kingdom and the international community to upholding freedom of religion and belief.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I begin by thanking all noble Lords who take part in today’s debate. We have a speakers list of great distinction, underlining the importance of this subject. It is also a debate that will see the valedictory speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, who has given such distinguished service to your Lordships’ House. The backdrop to all our speeches is Article 18, one of the 30 articles of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. It insists:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”.

The declaration’s stated objective was to realise,

“a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

However, with the passage of time, the declaration has acquired a normative character within general international law. Eleanor Roosevelt, the formidable

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chairman of the drafting committee, argued that freedom of religion was one of the four essential freedoms of mankind. In her words:

“Religious freedom cannot just mean Protestant freedom; it must be freedom of all religious people”,

and she rejoiced in having friends from all faiths and all races.

Article 18 emerged from the infamies of the 20th century—from the Armenian genocide to the defining depredations of Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s concentration camps; from the pestilential nature of persecution, demonisation, scapegoating and hateful prejudice; and, notwithstanding violence associated with religion, it emerged from ideology, nation and race. It was the bloodiest century in human history with the loss of 100 million lives.

The four great murderers of the 20th century—Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot—were united by their hatred of religious faith. Seventy years later, all over the world, from North Korea to Syria, Article 18 is honoured daily in its breach, evident in new concentration camps, abductions, rape, imprisonment, persecution, public flogging, mass murder, beheadings and the mass displacement of millions of people. Not surprisingly, the All-Party Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, in the title of its influential report, described Article 18 as “an orphaned right”. A Pew Research Center study begun a decade ago found that of the 185 nations studied, religious repression was recorded in 151 of them.

Today’s debate, then, is a moment to encourage Governments to reclaim their patrimony of Article 18; to argue that it be given greater political and diplomatic priority; to insist on the importance of religious literacy as a competence; to discuss the crossover between freedom of religion and belief and a nation’s prosperity and stability; and to reflect on the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom.

Although Christians are persecuted in every country where there are violations of Article 18—from Syria and Iraq, to Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea and many other countries—Muslims, and others, suffer too, especially in the religious wars raging between Sunnis and Shias, so reminiscent of 17th-century Europe. But it does not end there. In a village in Burma, I saw first-hand a mosque that had been set on fire the night before. Muslim villagers had been driven from a village where for generations they had lived alongside their Buddhist neighbours. Now Burma proposes to restrict interfaith marriage and religious conversions. It is, however, a region in which Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the Foreign and Commonwealth are doing some excellent work with lawyers and other civil society actors, promoting Article 18.

Think, too, of those who have no religious belief, such as Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian atheist and blogger sentenced to 1,000 public lashes for publicly expressing his atheism. That has been condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as,

“a form of cruel and inhuman punishment”.

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Alexander Aan was imprisoned in Indonesia for two years after saying he did not believe in God. Noble Lords should recall that Article 18 is also about the right not to believe.

Later, we will hear from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently said that the “most common feature” of Anglicanism worldwide is that of being persecuted. Twenty-four of the 37 Anglican provinces are in conflict or post-conflict areas. Referring to the 150 Kenyan Christians who were killed on Maundy Thursday, the most reverend Primate said:

“There have been so many martyrs in the last year … They are witnesses, unwilling, unjustly, wickedly, and they are martyrs in both senses of the word”.

We will also hear from my noble friend Lord Sacks, who offered his prayer on Hanukkah last year for,

“people of all faiths working together for the freedom of all faiths”.

My noble friend’s brilliant critique, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, is required reading for anyone trying to comprehend what motivates people to kill Christian students in Kenya, Shia Muslims praying in a mosque in Kuwait, Pakistani Anglicans celebrating the Eucharist in Peshawar or British tourists simply holidaying in Tunisia and for anyone trying to understand the dramatic rise in Christian persecution, the vilification of Islam in some parts of the world and, in Europe, the troubling reawakening of anti-Semitism.

My noble friend’s insights into the shared stories of the Abrahamic faiths—not least the displacement stories of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, and Joseph and his brothers—and how they can be used to promote mutual respect, coexistence, reconciliation and the healing of history underline the urgent need for scholars from those faiths to combat the evil being committed in God’s name and to give emphasis to the ancient texts in a way which upholds the dignity of difference—the title of another of my noble friend’s books. If Jews, Muslims and Christians are no longer to see one another as an existential threat, we urgently need a persuasive new narrative, which is capable of forestalling the unceasing incitements to hatred which pour forth from the internet and which capture unformed minds.

It is not just scholars but the media and policymakers who need greater religious literacy and different priorities. How right the BBC’s courageous chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, is when she says:

“If you don’t understand religion—including the abuse of religion—it’s becoming ever harder to understand our world”.

It is increasingly obvious that liberal democracy simply does not understand the power of the forces that oppose it or how best to counter them. At best, the upholding of Article 18 seems to have Cinderella status. During the Queen’s Speech debate, I cited a reply to Tim Farron MP—for whom this has been quite a notable day—in which Ministers said that the Foreign Office,

“has one full time Desk Officer wholly dedicated to Freedom of Religion or Belief”.

The Answer also stated that,

“the Head and the Deputy Head of HRDD spend approximately 5% and 20% respectively of their time on FoRB issues”.

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To rectify this, will we prioritise Article 18 in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office business plan and across government departments? Has the FCO considered convening an international conference on Article 18—something I have raised with her? Is it an issue we will raise at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in November?

In May, the Labour Party gave a welcome manifesto commitment to appoint a Canadian-style special envoy to promote Article 18. The Foreign Office resists this, insisting that all our diplomats promote freedom of religion and belief. But that has not been my experience. On returning to Istanbul from a visit to a 1,900 year-old Syrian Orthodox community in Tur Abdin, which was literally under siege, I was told by our UK representative that his role was to represent Britain’s commercial and security interests and that religious freedom was a domestic matter in which he did not want to become involved. Self-evidently, there is a direct connection with our security interests, not least with millions of displaced refugees and migrants now fleeing religious persecution.

Paradoxically, if he had studied the empirical research on the crossover between freedom of religion and belief, and a nation’s stability and prosperity, he might have come to a very different conclusion. Where Article 18 is trampled on, the reverse is also true, as a cursory examination of the hobbled economies of countries such as North Korea and Eritrea immediately reveals. This is not a marginal concern, as the outstanding briefing material for our debate from many human rights organisations makes clear.

Last month, the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and I chaired the launch of a report by Human Rights Without Frontiers. Among its catalogue of egregious and serious violations, it says that North Korea, China and Iran had the highest number of people imprisoned, in their thousands, for their religion or belief. It highlights Pakistan, where in 2011 two politicians who questioned the blasphemy laws were shot dead; where Asia Bibi remains imprisoned with four other Christians and nine non-Christians, facing the death sentence for alleged blasphemy; and where Shias and Ahmadis have faced ferocious deadly attacks.

When did we last raise these cases and other abuses of Article 18 with Pakistan, or the use of blasphemy laws in Sudan, where two pastors are currently on trial, facing charges that carry the death sentence? Have we urged Sudan to drop the charges against 10 young female Christian students who face up to 40 lashes because of the clothes they were wearing? What of the Chinese Christian lawyers arrested this week as part of a major crackdown? Will Article 18 be on the agenda for discussion with China’s President when he visits the United Kingdom?

I am a trustee of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, and the noble Baroness the Minister kindly launched its report, Religious Freedom in the World 2014, which found that religious freedom had deteriorated in almost half the countries of the world, with sectarian violence at a six-year high, nowhere more so than in the Middle East, where last week Pope Francis said that Christians are subject to genocide. In a recorded

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message for that launch, His Royal Highness the Princes of Wales condemned “horrendous and heart-breaking” persecution, and spoke of his anguish at the plight of Christianity in the Middle East, in the region of its birth, describing events in Syria and Iraq as an “indescribable tragedy”.

In 1914, Christians made up a quarter of that region’s population. Now they are less than 5%. Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, during a meeting that I chaired here in the House, underlined their traumatic, degrading and inhuman treatment, pleading with the international community to provide protection. Two weeks ago the same plea was made by a remarkable Yazidi woman who gave evidence at a meeting organised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson. The Yazidi, a former Iraqi Member of Parliament, told us:

“The Yazidi people are going through mass murder. The objective is their annihilation. 3000 Yazidi girls are still in D’aesh hands, suffering rape and abuse. 500 young children have been captured, being trained as killing machines, to fight their own people. This is a genocide and the international community should say so”.

This view has been reinforced this week by reports on “Newsnight” and “Dispatches”. How will we answer that woman? Do we intend to use our voice in the Security Council on behalf of the Yazidis and Assyrian Christians? Do we intend to have the perpetrators brought to justice in the ICC? Are we collating and documenting every instance, from genocide and rape to the abduction of bishops and priests, to the burning of churches and mosques, to the beheading of Eritrean Christians and Egyptian Copts by ISIS in Libya? What are we doing to create safe havens where these minorities might be protected?

In 1933, Franz Werfel published a novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, based on a true story about the Armenian genocide. His books were burnt by the Nazis, no doubt to try to erase humanity’s memory, Hitler having famously asked, “Who now remembers the Armenians?”. The Armenian deportations and genocide claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians. Werfel tells the story of several thousand Christians who took refuge on the mountain of Musa Dagh. The intervention of the French navy led to their dramatic rescue.

A hundred years later, the Yazidis besieged on Mount Sinjar were saved, but their lives are still in the balance. Last week the Belgians made it to Aleppo and brought 200 Yazdis and Christians to safety. For fragile communities facing a perilous future, such as these, could we not do the same? Are we re-examining our asylum rules to reflect the lethal threats faced by families and individuals fleeing their native homelands?

In the longer term, should not the international community have a more consistent approach to Article 18? We denounce some countries while appeasing others who directly enable jihad through financial support or the sale of arms. Western powers are seen as hypocrites when our business interests determine how offended we are by gross human rights abuses. Take Saudi Arabia as one example.

The challenge is vigorously to promote Article 18 through our interventions and our aid programmes, unceasingly countering a fundamentalism that promotes hatred of difference and persecutes those who hold

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different beliefs. For the future, the three Abrahamic religions and Governments need to recapture the idealism of Eleanor Roosevelt, who described the 1948 declaration as,

“the international Magna Carta for all mankind”.

She said that Article 18 freedoms were to be one of the four essential freedoms of mankind. Who can doubt that this essential freedom needs to be given far greater emphasis and priority in these troubled times? I beg to move.

4.35 pm

Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on obtaining this debate, on the eloquent way in which he introduced it and on the tremendous illustrations that he gave of how bad the situation is throughout the world. I do not have the qualifications to follow him, and certainly do not have the qualifications to be in front of many leaders in this debate, but here I am, and I shall try to make the best of it. I also wish to express my deep gratitude to Edward Scott of our Library for the excellent brief he prepared for this debate, which shows the position in great and excruciating detail. I am sure that anyone who has read it will feel tremendous sympathy and a loathing for what is happening to so many of our fellow humans throughout the world for the simple reason that they have adopted a faith or belief, including a non-faith—no belief at all, which is also protected—in the execution of their ordinary lives and have been tremendously badly dealt with on that account.

I declare my interest as a professing Christian for most of my life, and a practising Christian so far as I can. I am sorry to say that I have not reached the extent of perfection in that area which I would have liked. I am glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester is speaking in this debate, although I am very sorry that it will be a valedictory speech. He has given most distinguished service in this House and also in his diocese in an area where there is a great deal of difference and, I hope, also the dignity of difference in ethnic and other communities. I wish him well in his retirement.

Speaking from the government Dispatch Box when she was a Minister in the Home Office, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, expressed the view that her religion defined her personality. This shows that the restriction of a person’s faith or belief is as serious as any other restriction of personal freedom. The brief to which I have referred and the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, show that mistreatment for faith and belief throughout the world extends to much more than restriction of bodily movement. It goes to serious injury and death in the most terrible circumstances.

Yesterday we had outside the House a demonstration relating to prisoners of conscience. This is a most important aspect of the human personality—the internal monitor which tells us that what we are doing is wrong, even when no human eye can see us, and whether or not what we are doing is in according with the tenets of the faith, belief or non-belief we seek to follow.

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In preserving standards in society, listening to conscience is an extremely effective activity. More so even than an effective enforcement system, it can preserve society’s standards. It was valued in our nation during two world wars. Persons with a conscientious objection to military service were exempted from the universal obligation to enlist. It was also shown in relation to the Abortion Act.

Charities based on faith have done tremendous service in many nations throughout the world. It surely is the most terrible damage to a nation’s people that they are debarred from having these services simply on the ground of the faith of the organisation that is providing them. In our own country, we had the problem of the Catholic adoption agencies that were providing an excellent service but which were debarred from continuing to do so because they were not able to offer as full a service as some would have required.

I am sure that leading by example is one important way to contribute in trying to help with this tremendous problem. I am sure there are many other ways, which will be illustrated by the distinguished speakers to follow.

4.41 pm

Lord McFall of Alcluith (Lab): My Lords, it is a privilege to participate in this debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on securing it, as well as on the work that he and the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, have done over many months and years on this issue.

As we know, Article 18 is under threat in over a quarter of the nations in the world. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has given eloquent testimony to what is happening. I want, however, to focus on the domestic—on us. To change the world, first we have to change ourselves. When the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury took office, he said that one of his three principles was the concept of good disagreement. That is a very important concept for us.

As I remember from my childhood in Scotland, the society had been scarred by what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, has referred to as sibling rivalry—bigoted, religious, sibling rivalry. In 1923, the Church and Nation Committee of the Church of Scotland asked for Irish immigrants to be repatriated. More specifically, it was Catholic Irish immigrants, like my forebears. So if good people had not got together and ensured that that crusade failed, I, for one, would probably not be here today. It was good people walking together. There is still a legacy in Scotland; we have to recognise that sectarianism has not departed. Our own experiences should teach us a lot.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, said in his book, which makes compelling reading, we need faith to strengthen, not to dampen, our shared humanity. He made it very clear, as we all know, that it will be soft power that wins this battle—if we can call it a battle. It will not be hard power. War is won by weapons, but dialogue wins the peace.

I am delighted to see not only the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, but also the noble Lord, Lord Singh, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester who

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have contributed greatly to the dialogue. It is a dialogue with strangers. The biblio-patriarch Abraham has been referred to. Abraham’s test of worthiness, as we know, is the question, “Did you show kindness to strangers?”. Abraham ruled no empire, he commanded no army, he conquered no territory, but today he is revered by 2.5 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims, and 13 million Jews. The Abrahamic faiths and others need to walk much closer together.

That is very hard to envisage today, but we can look back at our short history to see that there have been successes. With Vatican II in the 1960s, Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical Nostra Aetate, transformed the relationship between Catholics and Jews, and 2,000 years of pain and sorrow were diluted as a result of that engagement. That prompts the question: can the world be changed? If the Christian and Jewish relationship can be changed, can the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh and non-faith relationships be changed as well? Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, Laudato Si’, is an encouraging example because he embraces all humankind. He makes a call in the very first paragraph of the encyclical for care for our common earthly home. He says:

“Nothing in this world is indifferent to us”.

For a very short time in the Labour Government I had the privilege of being Minister for Northern Ireland. I saw examples in the peace process in Northern Ireland, but I shall illustrate just two examples today. The first is Gordon Wilson, whose daughter was killed in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb. He had to hold her hand while she was dying and she said that she loved him. Immediately after that, he came out and said:

“I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge … I will pray for these men tonight and every night”.

The other example that I remember was Father Alec Reid, the late Redemptorist priest from Clonard monastery in Belfast, who was a silent architect of the peace process because he allowed Gerry Adams, John Hume and others to come together to ensure that there was a dialogue and an understanding there. The photograph of Father Reid giving the last rites to soldier David Howes, when he and another colleague ran into a republican funeral, is one that will stay with us.

That is an example of the good of two individuals confronting the evils of terrorism. In a 20th-century world dominated by violence and mayhem in the name of religion, our task, perhaps akin to the task of the miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Bible, is to multiply that number, not 1 millionfold or 10 millionfold but 100 millionfold. Eighteenth-century author Jonathan Swift’s statement is maybe as relevant today, and something for us to remember:

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”.

As we go on our journey together, it is worth remembering that.

The Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the debate for a few moments, but I ask noble Lords to remember that it is time-limited to five minutes per speaker. Once the clock reaches five, your Lordships are out of time.

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Lord Thomas of Swynnerton (CB): My Lords, it may be appropriate—

Lord Avebury: My Lords—

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: It is the turn of the Cross Benches.

The Earl of Courtown: Order. There is a speakers list for this debate.

4.48 pm

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, I join in the congratulations that have been expressed to my noble friend Lord Alton for the powerful way in which he introduced this debate, and indeed for the consistent and wonderful way in which he always defends the rights of people’s religious freedom. On no occasion have I heard him speak more powerfully on the subject than he did today.

My old friend Dennis Wrigley, founder of the Maranatha community, asks if we care that entire Christian communities have been wiped out in the Middle East and what we are prepared to do about it. Those are questions that I hope the Minister will be able to answer.

However, the challenge is in fact much greater than that. Daesh makes no secret of its intention to expand its so-called caliphate from its base in Syria and Iraq so that it covers the rest of the Middle East and north Africa. Ultimately it aims to spread its interpretation of seventh-century Islamic governance and beliefs across the whole world, eliminating all other faiths by conversion or assassination, as it has already demonstrated by the massacres of Yazidis, Christians and Shia and the enslavement of the martyrs’ widows in the territory that it occupies.

William Young of the RAND Corporation observed:

“Al-Baghdadi’s messages have resonated with Sunnis in the region, North Africa, Europe and the United States primarily because he appears successful”.

I agree with his conclusion:

“The faster the Muslim world can be shown that ISIS is not invincible and does not have a divine mandate to rule the Islamic world, the quicker young Muslims and others will stop listening to its messaging”.

The coalition needs to ratchet up military operations against the Daesh and we should explore the willingness of our partners in the 60-state coalition to provide troops for a multinational ground force in Syria. We are providing 75 military instructors and headquarters staff as part of the US-led programme to support the “moderate Syrian opposition”. Can the Minister please identity the groups included in that phrase. They do not include, apparently, the heroic YPG which successfully repelled the Daesh assault on Kobane at the end of last year. Operations on that frontier would have the merit of not undermining the Assad Government’s capacity to hold the Daesh at bay.

The so-called caliphate sends out a powerful signal to extremist Sunni Muslims elsewhere that they can help towards the realisation of the universal Islamic state by destabilising existing kufr Governments through acts of indiscriminate terrorism such as the attack on British tourists in Tunisia. However, the main thrust of Daesh operations this year outside its own territory

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has been attacks against the soft target of Shia mosques in neighbouring Arab countries. In March there were simultaneous attacks on two mosques in Sanaa, capital of Yemen, killing 137 people and injuring 357. In May there were two attacks on Shia mosques in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, killing 29 and injuring more than 85; and on 2 June, a Shia mosque in Kuwait was attacked, killing at least 27 and injuring 227 others.

However, it goes wider than that. In Pakistan, terrorist groups swearing allegiance to the Daesh have been responsible for three major atrocities so far this year: the suicide bombing of an imambargah at Shikarpur in January, which killed 80 and injured 100; a suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar, capital of troubled Balochistan, in February, killing a least 22 and injuring 80 at Friday prayers; and a gun attack by killers on motorcycles on a bus carrying Ismailis in Karachi in May, killing at least 26 and injuring 13. Eliminating the Daesh, its metastases and its wicked ideology taught in Saudi-funded madrassahs throughout the world must be the main goal of all who believe in freedom of religion.

4.53 pm

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in the debate and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing it and for all the work he has undertaken in this area over many years. I associate myself very closely with what he said in his very eloquent opening speech and also with the speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and the noble Lord, Lord McFall. I also pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. He will be much missed by this House and I will miss him enormously for the wise advice he has given me on numerous occasions.

We have already heard many examples of the horrific situations around the world where people are persecuted for their religion or for their absence of religion. I witnessed such persecution in its rawest form many times during my visits in 2013 and 2014 to the 37 other provinces of the Anglican communion. Almost half of these provinces are living under persecution; they fear for their lives every day.

I will make two points in the short time available in this debate The first is that the relationship between law and religion is invariably a delicate one. The passionately lived religious life or passionately lived humanist life of many people around the world and in this country cannot be compartmentalised within our legal and political systems. It is not good enough to say that religion is free within the law. As was eloquently pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, religion defines us—it is the fundamental element of who and what we are. Thus, religious freedom and the freedom not to have a religion stands beneath the law, supporting it and creating the circumstances in which you can have effective law, as has been the case in this country since the sealing of Magna Carta 800 years ago, negotiated by my predecessor Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton. In its first clause, it says that,

“the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired”—

sorry, I had better declare an interest there.

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Religion gave birth to the rule of law, particularly through Judaism. The question is therefore: how do we translate this undiminished right and unimpaired liberty into the contemporary situation, where, too often, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, culture, law and religion seem to have incommensurable values? The foundational freedom of religious freedom in the state prevents the state claiming the ultimate loyalty in every area, a loyalty to which it has no right—never has done and never will do—if we believe in the ultimate dignity of the human being.

My second point is that religious freedom is threatened on a global scale, as we have heard, but also in a very complex way. Attacks on religious freedom are often linked to economic circumstances, to sociology, to history and to many other factors. Practically, if we are to defend religious liberty, we have to draw in these other factors. For example, if we want to defend religious freedom around the world—and again I say, the freedom to have no religion—do not sell guns to people who oppress religious freedom; do not launder their money; restrict trade with them; confine the way in which we deal with them; and, above, all, speak frankly and openly, naming them for what they are.

Where a state claims the ultimate right to oppress religious freedom, it stops the last and the strongest barrier against tyranny. From the beginning of time—from the beginning of the Christian era, when the apostles said that they would obey God rather than the Sanhedrin, through the Reformation to the martyrs of communism, to Bonhoeffer and to Archbishop Tutu—up to our own day around the world, we have needed religious freedom as a global defence of freedom.

4.58 pm

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on his uncanny knack of being successful in the ballot for debates.