By law, schools are supposed to provide young people with career advice, which should not just consist of saying to students, “All of you should go on to A-levels and to university”. But far too many secondary schools still do that and do not have proper links with the business community. Legally, they are supposed to do that, so why are the Government not enforcing it? I think that it has already been mentioned in this debate that there are young people going to university when it is not the right route for them at that age. They drop out and would have been far better off going on the vocational route.

I am part of the Lords outreach programme and still find that when I go to secondary schools and ask 15 and 16 year-olds where they are going and what their intentions are, the vast majority say that they are going to university. I do not deplore that but when I ask whether they know of any alternatives, I am lucky if one hand goes up and they mention apprenticeships. Because I cannot stand it any longer, I am complaining to the teachers. I say, “Why are you not giving the full range of advice? You are disadvantaging young people”. We need to do a lot more on that.

I make no apologies for again referring to the article, which states:

“It will make sobering reading for ministers, who have pledged to create three million new apprenticeships … Ofsted describes this as a commendable aim”.

I agree that it is a commendable aim. It continues, stating that,

“so far, apprenticeships have not trained enough people for sectors with skills shortages”—

we have talked about that before as regards the desperate need in engineering and construction—and,

“that smaller businesses are not being involved”.

Again, we know that and we are still stuck at the figure of about one in five businesses. It is as though one is driving a car and cannot get the speedometer to

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go above 20 or 30 miles an hour. We need to do a lot more. The article also states that,

“not enough advanced schemes leading to higher skills and wages are being created”.

We have a strange situation where there is a demand for apprenticeships. I make no apologies for again citing British Telecom because it is a good example. It gets about 25,000 applications for 400 to 500 apprenticeships. There is huge demand.

There is an issue as regards getting young people ready for apprenticeships. We know that there is work to do on the educational side. I will not spend too much time on that issue because it was covered by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott. She said that the journey starts at school, but as a primary school governor I say that it starts before school, which is why Sure Start and things like that were and still are important programmes. One can see a variety of achievement of children starting nursery school. Some are not even potty-trained and others do not know how to socialise at all. A big demand is made on primary schools these days.

The article states that the Ofsted report’s,

“conclusions were based on … 22 apprenticeship providers, discussions with 188 apprentices, a survey of 709 apprentices”.

Whether you think that this survey is good enough, there is enough in it to give us real cause for concern. It continues:

“Some apprentices were not aware that they were classed as such, while others did not receive broader training or support to improve their English and maths. In the retail, catering and care industries, inspectors found apprentices cleaning floors, making coffee or serving sandwiches”.

I am not sure that I necessarily disagree that they should have to do that. Doing a job involves a wide range of applications. The problem comes when they are doing it to the exclusion of being taught a wider curriculum—when there is no proper learning programme. We must remember that with apprenticeships we are trying to equip young people for a career, with skills that we hope will be transferable and enable them to progress in later life. I have been working my way through the Library Note on this debate, which is extensive and makes fascinating reading, especially when it looks at the changing nature of the world of work.

I ask the Minister whether we have the balance right between funding levels for vocational training, further education and higher education. I ask that because we have had another report from Professor Wolf—the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf—expressing concern about the level of funding in further education. If we wish to drive up the number of apprentices in the way that the Government suggest, it is worrying to hear alarm bells ringing in relation to funding. I am not here to proselytise on either one or the other. However, where I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra—although I am not sure that I agree with his analogy about the laptop repairer and the social worker—is on his point that it is just as important for us to get funding right in further education as it is in higher education. We should not see them as completely separate silos.

Another point in the government document interested me. It says:

“The government wants strong local areas and employers to take a leading role in establishing a post-16 skills system that is responsive to local economic priorities. The government will make an offer to local areas … First, the government will invite

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local areas to participate in the reshaping and re-commissioning of local provision to set it on an efficient and financially resilient footing. A differentiated approach to local involvement will be adopted which will enable areas with the strongest governance and levers to shape provision, building on the skills flexibilities agreed with Greater Manchester, London and Sheffield”.

I do not know why it is only the strongest areas—surely it should be every area. I have asked this in previous employment debates: why we are not looking at the areas covered by the local enterprise partnerships and the best practice in those areas? Why are we not looking at the areas where they have driven up the numbers of apprentices and where they have the best possible links between business and education, and seeing those as the role models and examples of best practice? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

2.22 pm

Baroness Fookes (Con): My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott has given us this opportunity to discuss some very important issues. I would like first of all to expand a little on the Think Forward scheme, which the noble Baroness mentioned in her opening remarks. I was fortunate enough to visit a school in London—I shall name no names—where the scheme was being carried out. As the noble Baroness explained, it involves a coach or mentor staying with a particular pupil over a period of years and giving them real support, very often in difficult circumstances. I met about half a dozen young people in receipt of this help. The difficulties that they had to face were an eye-opener to me: chaotic home conditions; fellow pupils who thought them stupid for trying to better themselves academically; the general world outside school, where there was precious little hope; and a kind of resistance to doing better for oneself. All manner of obstacles are put in the way of anybody even trying to make the most of their school education. Think Forward is a most valuable system, which—echoing my noble friend’s words—I certainly hope the Minister will take on board, to see if it can be rolled out on a much wider basis.

I like to think of the mentor or coach as the nearest equivalent any of these young people will get to a well-educated and supportive parent. We all know the value of a supportive family when it comes to achievements at school and thereafter. All the other schemes that we have tried certainly have their value, but I think this one-to-one scheme is the most valuable of all, and I certainly hope that it will receive a warm appreciation from the Minister and a commitment to try to extend it nationwide.

I now turn to the wider scene, which other Peers have already touched upon: the issue of further education. I sometimes feel that there is a distinct snobbery in this country about education, a very firm division where universities are seen as good and further education as the poor relation. I deplore that, because they should be working in collaboration and partnership; one should not be seen as better than the other. In the attempt to get more young people to go to university, successive Governments have gone rather overboard and, in doing so, have deprived people of very good chances of finding fulfilment and qualifications in another way. I hope that the Minister will take that on board in her reply.

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It is extraordinary that spending is ring-fenced for education on the whole, but not for further education. Is that not an indictment of the way we organise things? We know that further education colleges have considerable financial worries, yet they can be responsible for so many people finding fulfilling and rewarding careers. I hope very much that this will be looked at.

Mention has also been made of careers education. Again, there are some very sharp failings in this area. As somebody has already pointed out—perhaps it was the noble Lord, Lord Young—teachers and career advisers barely mention any alternative to going to university. That is absolutely deplorable. There are many ways of setting about these things, and pursuing one option does not preclude another later on, if people suddenly turn out to have a particular academic bent. We have long passed the days when it was either brawn or brain. The brawn bits are now undertaken by machines. What we need is a whole range of people who have manual skills allied with intelligence and are able to put them to good use. I feel very strongly about this.

What is more, we have a number of skills shortages. Here we are, worrying about the ability of young people to get jobs and keep them, and yet we have these skills shortages. This is particularly true in the world of horticulture. Perhaps I had better declare my non-financial interest here as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group. We are constantly hearing about worries over lack of skills. Ask any schoolteacher or careers adviser whether they have recommended the world of horticulture as a possible career, and you can almost bet that they will not have done. Both the National Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society have very serious concerns. Even last week, in the latest edition of Horticulture News, the industry’s newspaper, there is a heading that says:

“Arboriculture sector faces key skills shortage”.

This is in the world of arboriculture: the planting, care and surgery of trees. One of the experts in the field, who recruits, says that his company is having real worries about fulfilling key skills, to the point where it is hardly able to fulfil contracts. He says that colleges offer qualifications up to level 3, but his company needs people with level 6 qualifications and they are not finding them in sufficient quantities. That is just one small example of our shortage difficulties.

I now turn to apprenticeships, already touched upon by several others today. I, too, am less concerned about actual numbers than about the skills of apprentices. Let us remember that in centuries past, many apprentices would work for seven years, under a very skilled craftsman or workman, before they were allowed to call themselves fully engaged workmen or craftsmen. I am not suggesting that we now need seven years to do all this, but the ideas of “quality” and “apprenticeships” should be one and the same. Anything that means that an apprenticeship is watered down and not really worth it is not an apprenticeship. That is just a half-baked course, leading to half-baked qualifications. I want none of it. Apprenticeships should be restricted to where there are real, quality skills. Again, it is something about which I feel very strongly.

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Many years ago—literally in another century—I was a schoolteacher. It was always my wish that the pupils under my care would do the very best that they could, but it was not always going to be in the direction of university. We really should be much keener on providing a whole series of alternative vocational arrangements. The various types of further education colleges can offer that. I believe that half the apprenticeships come from colleges as it is. There are also all these other skills that they can offer, but will they be able to offer them if they are worried stiff about their financial resources? Again, I leave that point for my noble friend the Minister to answer. Meanwhile, I again thank my noble friend for the excellent opportunity that she has afforded us.

2.31 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford (LD): My Lords, I have particular cause to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, for organising this debate. I had hoped to speak in the apprenticeship debate last week, but I had prior commitments that meant I could not. I am therefore very pleased indeed that this debate, which to some extent picks up some of the same issues, is taking place. I need to declare several interests. I am a patron of the 157 Group of large FE colleges. I am an honorary fellow of the City & Guilds of London Institute and of Birkbeck College.

I began my career back in the 1960s when I was a young assistant lecturer at the London School of Economics. At the time there was a technique known as growth accounting, which looked at where economic growth comes from, given the three factors of production that economists identified: land, labour and capital. With land not being regarded as an expandable resource, on the whole growth was accounted for by the increase in the population—of labour supply—and the increase in capital supplies in terms of investment. When they looked at the growth figures, they came up with what they called the “unexplained increment” in economic growth. This was put down on the one hand to technical progress and on the other to education—improvements in the capabilities of the labour force.

Those two elements have to some extent dominated my interests since then. I went on from the London School of Economics to play a part during the late 1970s in Neddy—the National Economic Development Office. Subsequently, I went to the Science Policy Research Unit in the University of Sussex, where I did a lot of work on research and development, and the role of research and development in promoting growth. I came to this House in 1998. Since then, education has dominated my interests, particularly further and higher education.

Going back to those days in Neddy, though, my job in the early 1980s was a very interesting one—a project looking at where Britain would be going in the 1990s. We called it the 1990s project. At the time, we identified an important trend. We had begun to see the disappearance of manufacturing industry in Britain. The textile, shoe and television industries were disappearing to what were then called the newly industrialising countries, such as South Korea and Taiwan.

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What became increasingly apparent in our work—this picks up a phrase used by the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes—was the fact that Britain had to live by brain rather than brawn and that it would be very necessary to expand education generally. In those days only about 12% of the age cohort went to university. On the one hand it was about expanding higher education—one saw through the 1980s, particularly at the end of the 1980s, under the noble Lord, Lord Baker, when he was Secretary of State for Education, this very rapid expansion of the higher education sector—but we also recognised that skills were vital. We began a series of surveys of skills. I remember an OECD study that identified that Britain had an unduly high proportion of those with no skills and low skills. In particular, we lacked the intermediate skills—the HNDs and HNCs, the technician-level skills—that we needed.

Roll forward to the present day and we still have very considerable skills shortages. The total number employed in the UK is 31 million. As the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said, that is the highest number of people employed in this country ever. Of those, 23 million are in full-time employment and 8 million in part-time employment. Some 26 million are employed by other people and 5 million are self-employed. Self-employment and part-time employment have increased over the last two decades, even though, as the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, suggested, it has decreased slightly in the last few years.

This is very interesting in itself: the shape of the labour market has become increasingly what some people call the “hourglass economy”. The top of the hourglass reflects the fast growth of high-skill, high-pay professional and managerial occupations, particularly those where skills are combined with technical and engineering capabilities. The bottom of the hourglass also reflects fast-growing areas of employment, but ones which are generally the low-skill, low-pay service sectors associated with personal care—children and older people, healthcare and healthy living—and the hospitality industry: restaurants, fast food, hotels and tourism.

The big change has been the drastic reduction in middle-range, blue collar management and clerical occupations. While these changes have in part been driven by technology, they also reflect globalisation and the push for more flexible labour markets. In turn, flexible labour markets have led to an increase in subcontracting in both public and private sectors, more self-employment and the rise of the zero-hours culture. Skills shortages mean that the expansion of the high-pay, high-skill sector has been accompanied by relatively higher pay, while the low-skill, low-pay sectors, although expanding in numbers, have seen little or no increase in their relative pay.

The general advice now given to young people is, not surprisingly, to aim for the high-skills, high-pay occupations at the top end of the hourglass. This gold route—five GCSEs at grades A to C, A-levels and on to university—is now followed by almost 50% of the cohort of school leavers. But what of the other slightly more than 50%? Much noise is made about apprenticeships, but in fact only 6% of those school leavers go into apprenticeships. Some of the rest go

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straight into jobs with A-levels or their equivalent vocational qualification of BTEC, while others pursue jobs with lower-level GCSEs and vocational options.

Training on the job is the main source of training for these young people. Since 2011 the majority of apprenticeships have gone to those already employed. Most are not, as the public image of apprenticeships suggests, in sectors such as construction and engineering. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, the majority have actually been in sectors such as care, hospitality and business administration—those low-pay, low-skill jobs in the lower half of the hourglass. And most of these have been one-year apprenticeships, leading to a level 2 qualification—equivalent to GCSE with five A to C grades. Government pressure means that employers are shifting to providing longer apprenticeships of two or three years leading to a level 3 qualification—equivalent to an A-level—but this has yet to take effect.

The big skills shortages are at the technician level—the HND level—and we are not meeting them. The UK therefore ends up with a large number of young people going into the low-skill, low-pay sectors, receiving little by way of further training and with very little opportunity to develop a career pathway and upgrade their skills. It is hardly surprising that of every four people who were in low-paid jobs 10 years ago, three are still in low-paid jobs today.

The other side of the coin is that the UK, in comparison with our competitors, is well supplied with graduates—but we continue to suffer chronic shortages of those with intermediate and technician-level skills. The CBI recently reported that nearly 60% of employers—not just horticulturists and the arborealists—are worried that their operations will suffer because they cannot recruit people with the technical skills required.

Over the next 10 years, some 12 million of the UK’s 31 million workforce are due to retire, while the number of those emerging from the education system—approximately 600,000 a year—will total only 7 million. Many of those due to retire may stay in work longer, but this only serves to emphasise how important it is that there should be a route by which those already in work can upgrade their skills or retrain, in order to meet the country’s skills needs. Otherwise the trend, which is already apparent in UK industry, of filling those crucial vacancies with skilled workers trained overseas will become the norm. Meanwhile, many of those leaving school with relatively low skills will be locked into the low-skill, low-pay sector.

The scandal is that, just when we need to provide progression routes for upgrading skills, it is becoming more and more apparent that the Government are closing down those opportunities. The only game in town is apprenticeships. Outside apprenticeships, the adult skills budget has already been cut by 11% since 2013 and is scheduled for a further cut of 24% over the next two years. The traditional pathway for individuals wishing to retrain and acquire higher level skills—HNDs, HNCs and foundation degrees taken part-time at a further education college—has all but collapsed, while fees have trebled. Although loans are available, the terms are much less favourable than for degree-level students—and many mature students, already encumbered

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with mortgages or high rents, balk at the increased indebtedness. So if you cannot persuade an employer to fund you through a higher-level apprenticeship, there is very little you can do.

Alison Wolf—the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, as she now is—in her latest publication, Heading for the Precipice: Can Further and Higher Education Policies be Sustained?, concludes that the result of current policies—I must confess that these are coalition policies as well as the policies of the current Government—is that:

“In post-19 education, we are producing vanishingly small numbers of higher technician level qualifications, while massively increasing the output of generalist bachelors degrees and low-level vocational qualifications”.

This as an immensely short-sighted policy and I hope that the Government will do something about it.

2.43 pm

Baroness Newlove (Con): My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott on bringing this debate to the House. I had some reservations as to how I could support my colleague on the subject of education and employment opportunities in the United Kingdom—so I shall speak wearing several hats today, and I hope that my words will have a place in this debate.

There are many things I could say about the value of work. Much has been written by greater minds than mine about its importance to individuals, to communities and to the economy. But for me personally, it was Barack Obama who summarised what it meant when he said,

“The best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope”.

Following the murder of my late husband Garry Newlove in 2007, and the ordeal of watching my three young daughters appear as witnesses at a trial, I felt angry, frustrated and traumatised. But I had to think about my three daughters and their future. I had to think of a way of providing for them financially and in terms of health, but I was also determined that they would grow up, as Garry would have wanted them to, as healthy, happy young women whose lives would not be entirely defined by their loss of their father on that night. So I took hold of my anger, frustration and outrage and put it to work.

In October 2010 I was proud and honoured to become the Government champion for safer communities, and more so in December 2012, when I became the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales. Although I would not go so far as to say that work saved my life, I know that Mr Obama was right when he said that the best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something. That is the rule I live by, and the rule that I have instilled in my three daughters.

Employment needs to be accessible to everyone, and we should develop policies to bring this about. Everyone should have the ability to reach their potential and to find work that is meaningful, secure and satisfying. Some people may need help to achieve this. In his recent conference speech, the Secretary of State for Justice spoke about the importance of work for prisoners.

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I agree with this. It is not good for prisoners to sit idly in their cells. Learning the skills and discipline of working life is important, because, we hope, it will help them go out and live a law-abiding life.

However, what is harder to accept is that victims of crime do not seem to be given the same help and support. Once the offender has been sentenced, victims of crime often feel left, with nowhere to go, and very lonely lives, which they have to pull themselves up from.

Believe you me, the impact of a crime can last for many years; indeed, it never leaves you for the rest of your life. We are all different, and crime affects us all in different ways. It can impact on a young person’s ability to attend school. It can affect their concentration or ability to retain information. More than anything, it crushes their self-confidence and destroys their belief that they are capable of doing or achieving anything. I am standing here because I have seen my three young daughters struggle to retain the very abilities they were brought up with—their self-confidence and their belief in life gone. Lack of access to appropriate psychological support meant that my daughters never felt part of society—yet society had let them down.

My eldest daughter had been an A* student. She had a place at university, but felt unable to carry through her academic achievements and do what she had walked into that university with her father to do. Her confidence had been destroyed. My youngest daughter really struggled, at 12, to get up to go to school, and was living in a bubble, thinking that no one ever really cared about her, or could understand her mood swings. My middle daughter’s GCSEs had gone for ever: she could not get over what had happened to her—because nobody sat and spoke to her to ask how she felt, or about the trauma she was going through. More importantly, they were all grieving for their father at that early age.

What saddens me is that I meet many victims of crime throughout the country, all saying the same thing. We are all too familiar with the numbers of children who have suffered lengthy and systematic abuse. We are more aware than ever of how domestic abuse physically and mentally destroys the victim, and we know about the lasting damage that it causes children who witness such acts.

More recently, we have learned about the horror of those forced into years of sexual and physical slavery after being trafficked into this country. Many of these people will need a wide range of psychological and practical help. Without it, they are unlikely to recover sufficiently to take up and enjoy the benefits of regular employment or education. It is therefore essential that all departments work together to provide whatever a victim needs to help them recover. In some cases, victims of domestic abuse and sexual abuse will have turned to drink and drugs. Many victims can find themselves without a stable place to live, and many will not have acquired or retained the skills that enable them to compete in the job market. When the Government develop their many training, apprenticeship and employment schemes, they need to consider that these opportunities can be accessed by some victims of crime only if they have first received help in other areas of their life.

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At the risk of saying the obvious, most people can hold down a job only if they have somewhere safe to live, are free from debilitating addictions and have a healthy body and mind. So I encourage the Government to ensure that their plans for promoting employment consider how their programmes can be accessed by all potential applicants. This means thinking not just about what employment plans should be produced by the Department for Work and Pensions, but about how the Home Office, health, education and justice departments can come together to ensure that barriers to education and employment are reduced or removed. Of course, that will not be easy. Bringing agencies together to make education or employment a realistic prospect for those who have been damaged and traumatised will be hard work, but the best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.

I stand here wearing many hats, but I speak as somebody who has lost a husband and who is now the only supporting parent of three beautiful young women. When victims are handed reports by the criminal justice system saying that offenders are now getting education programmes and employment and skills programmes because they were damaged in their early lives, please think about—the time has come for the Government to think about—what it really feels like for victims whose lives have been damaged and traumatised not by their own hand, but by somebody else. We need better support for victims and to give young people the education and employment support they need for a healthy future.

2.52 pm

Lord Fink (Con): My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott on securing this debate on a most important subject. Her knowledge and powerful advocacy of young people is well known and certainly appreciated by many in this House.

I also point to my entries in the Register of Interests, which include a range of non-financial interests in children’s charities. I wish to highlight my trusteeship of Ark, which is generally an educational charity which operates one of the largest chains of academies and free schools in the country. As well as being a trustee of Ark, I also have the privilege of being chair of the board of governors at Ark Burlington Danes Academy, a school in the White City area of London that I sponsored through Ark.

The debate so far has been wide-ranging and fascinating across the whole range of employment, apprenticeships, further education and, most movingly, from my good noble friend Lady Newlove on the subject of victims of crime, which is an area that I had not even contemplated for this debate. Because I have spent the majority of my time in and around schools, I want to focus my speech on primary and secondary education and on some of the achievements of Government in these areas, which have largely built on the remarkable academy initiative started by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and passionately supported, and then championed, by the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove and further by Nicky Morgan, the current Education Secretary, who between them have greatly expanded the academy programme and moved it through to free schools, which to most intents and purposes are very similar to academies.

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I want to talk about the benefits to educational achievements that academies and free schools have created, particularly Ark, because I know a lot about it, and then explain some of the helpful ways in which the Government have expanded the programme and, indeed, most importantly, extended it to primary schools and beyond because, as several other speakers have said, the problems of the most needy need to be addressed very early.

Education was a transformational factor in my life, and as a former grammar school boy, I used to be a passionate believer in having more grammar schools as a major driver of social mobility, as it was for me and, indeed, many of the parliamentarians who sit in this House and another place. However, when I started looking at the data for the charities affecting the neediest, I realised that while grammar schools did help a large percentage of able students to achieve their full potential, indeed, incredible results, sadly, the attainment gap opens up in the early years for the most disadvantaged in our society. Most children in receipt of free school meals, which is one very important measure of poverty, would never make it into a selective school at the age of 11, as socio-economic factors and, in some cases, parental and family issues, will help determine the results of an 11-plus exam. Hence, despite having enormous respect for the achievements of all good and outstanding schools, including grammar schools as well as academies and all other schools, and particularly the staff who work in them, sadly, I cannot accept that grammar schools alone will achieve the social mobility needed to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that affects many parts of our country.

I should explain that all of Ark’s schools are non-selective and almost all are in areas of major economic deprivation. The few that are not are in areas of very poor historical educational outcomes. Many, including my academy—Ark Burlington Danes—have high levels of free school meals and pupil premiums, some up to, and even beyond, 75%, which is over three times the national average. You have to be pretty poor to get free school meals.

Good academies with great teaching staff are achieving remarkable results for the most disadvantaged pupils. In fact, most Ark academies—we have several dozen now—are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted and achieve results well above the national average, despite poverty levels among their intake and prior attainment which would suggest that the students would achieve results markedly lower. I have to pay tribute to the executives at Ark, led by Lucy Heller, and the staff and senior leadership teams at our schools for these achievements and for their incredibly hard work. These schools are managing to get some of the poorest students into the best universities in the country, including Oxford and Cambridge. Many of the others go on to very useful jobs indeed, including some to apprenticeships, although I will leave that subject to others who know far more about it than me. But what is important to me is that whatever their pathway, the school helps them identify the right pathway, and the students have the confidence and resilience to shine at universities or places of work due to the extra work, initiatives and experiences that have been gained in school.

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Ark uses a mixture of techniques to achieve this success and indeed is often rated the highest performing academy chain in the country. It starts with a real focus and incentive to get full attendance at school. When I first looked at secondary schools, I saw schools with attendance rates as low as 80% and, in some cases, the teacher attendance rates were nearly as low as the pupils’, which shows some of the intrinsic problems for both the schools and the problems for teachers teaching in a school with poor discipline, so we have rigorous attention to discipline and an extended school day because many children do not have facilities at home to do their homework, and we focus on depth before breadth.

The recruitment, training and promotion of many good young teachers who are generally fully qualified in their degree subject, including many Teach First teachers, combined with a very creative approach to the curriculum and innovation, including a programme called Mathematics Mastery that was modelled around the Singapore maths curriculum, which is a country that is rising up the league tables in mathematics, more or less mirroring Britain’s sad decline in maths, has helped to achieve our goals at primary level, where we are achieving levels of achievement for young children that are beyond any expectations.

As I said earlier, the main focus at ARK has always been depth before breadth. We want to ensure that literacy and numeracy are totally hardwired because, without this, it is difficult for students to benefit from the rest of the school curriculum or, indeed, get a job; if you are not numerate and literate other things really do not matter.

How are the Government helping? They are generally increasing the number of academies and free schools by changing the paradigm away from the original concept, under which too much was spent on each school’s capital cost because the sponsor was allowed its own choice of architect; many expensive architects were used. New schools were meant to cost £10 million to £15 million, but most of the data that I have seen suggest the average cost was in excess of £20 million. The programme has been made more sustainable by using refurbished schools and stopping the use of famous architects. Indeed, based on our data—the Minister will probably have more accurate data—the average cost today of a similar academy is less than £15 million. That is a cost reduction of about one-third per school, which clearly makes it more affordable to build more.

Another big improvement has been extending the programme to primary schools and encouraging its use all through schooling, from four to 18 years old, and beyond this, by trying to include nursery provision. When it first looked at academies, ARK was convinced, based on experiences in America, that for schools to be genuinely transformational they had to start younger. In many of the secondary schools it opened at that time, the first year or two were spent on remedial work, trying to offset levels of literacy and numeracy that were often two to four years behind expectations. This limited the teaching time available for GCSEs.

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My school, Burlington Danes, eventually got permission to open a primary school last year. We started, in effect, in large porter cabins in an existing outbuilding. I went into that school last week. It has been operating for probably six weeks this year and already I saw a bunch of four and five year-olds who had started to make progress. I could see them beginning to learn how to read with the use of synthetic phonics and, using the maths curriculum, they were starting to be able to add up and understand numbers after just a few weeks. They also showed amazing discipline. They moved seamlessly from their desks to a bug boardwhere they sat down for the lesson taking place. When they did not move quietly and efficiently the teacher asked them to do it again, and they did. I believe that sort of discipline, instilled early in a career, will hold them in good stead for the rest of their schooling—indeed for life.

I hope your Lordships believe that education should never be the subject of political infighting. I am privileged at ARK to work with the labour Peer, the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton, as well as the prominent Liberal Democrat supporter, Paul Marshall. Truthfully, we have seldom, if ever, had any disagreement on our goals and virtually none on the methods for achieving the best for each student, particularly the most disadvantaged, who we focus on.

I also want to do something that we perhaps do not do enough and pay real tribute to the teaching profession. I have direct experience with the teaching profession at ARK schools. As well as many curriculum differences, we have saddled them with expectations which are beyond anything that they or the Fischer Family Trust tables would have children achieving, when there is the intake we have. In many cases that has involved a lot of extra work for the teachers. Frankly, provided that we could convince them that what we were doing was in the best interests of their students, the teachers have never stinted in their efforts and their enthusiasm.

I hope I have given your Lordships’ House an insight into some of the factors that enable disadvantaged young people to have a better chance of success in a more competitive world.

3.04 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, I hope it is appropriate to pay tribute both to the noble Lord, Lord Fink, and to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who spoke earlier this week on the Education and Adoption Bill, for their extraordinary leadership in setting up both the Ark chain and the Harris chain of academies. Their inspiring leadership is leading the way for educational achievement and changes in this country and we should be very grateful to them and the many others involved in this.

The case for creating the right education and employment is clear and I thank my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott for providing us with the occasion to debate this topic. The opportunities and, indeed, the challenges so ably set out by my noble friend, vitally important as they are, must be for all the UK population. Opportunities in education and employment must be aimed not only at those who will be entering the workforce for the first time, but also at those who wish to stay in their jobs; to continue to progress fulfilling careers; or to join or re-join the workforce in later life.

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I would like to talk about the workforce of the “third age” because of a round-table discussion I recently attended, organised by the Centre for Social Justice and the Scottish Widows Centre for the Modern Family. I thank them for their advice in preparing for this debate. I learned a lot about the reality of older people in work—the drivers and barriers, the different roles in tackling old age and employment and how health plays a part—from eminent specialists such as Professor Sir Cary Cooper and Chloe Wright from Carers UK. I am glad to have the chance to raise and share, in this Chamber, a number of the important issues which were discussed at that meeting.

We know that we as a society are older than ever before. Thankfully, many of us will retain good health into our later years. The Government’s abolition of the default retirement age, so that workers can no longer be forced out, and the extension of flexible working rights, has seen more and more people working into what would have once been considered retirement years. More than a quarter of the national workforce, approximately 8 million people, are aged between 50 and 64. A further 1.1 million workers are aged 65 or over. Working later and longer is the new norm.

However, employment rates decline as people get older and these age groups remain less likely to be in work. The latest Labour Force Survey found that 67% of 50 to 64 year-olds are in employment, compared to 81% of 25 to 49 year-olds. Only around 10% of people aged over 65 are in work. One in four women and one in six men who reach the state pension age have not worked since 55.

The rapid demographic change being experienced by our ageing society means it is increasingly urgent to address premature exit from the labour market. Doing so would bring a significant boost to our economy. Recent estimates from the Department for Work and Pensions—which has been undertaking much welcome work on this topic—found that adding just one year to the average working life would increase gross domestic product by 1% every year. In 2014, this would have amounted to £17 billion.

It is not only on a national level but also within individual workforces that the benefits of retaining and supporting an experienced workforce can be measured. The hardware chain B&Q, for example, has been at the forefront of employing older people for more than 20 years. It has seen its staff turnover greatly reduced, as well as improved customer service from staff, who have lived in their own homes for many years and have personal experience in DIY.

I have spoken before in this Chamber about the importance of diverse workforces. Businesses which are able to harness and retain talent from all aspects of society are stronger performers and better attuned to their client and customer base. My comments on this issue have usually focused on the role of women in business, but the same evidence applies to older workers, and increasingly so, as the number of people in this age group continues to grow.

The stereotype of an older worker is too often deemed to be someone with outdated practices who is waiting for the opportunity to retire. However, a recent report from the Scottish Widows Centre for the Modern

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Family compiled the views of workers and business leaders, and happily revealed a far more appreciative view: 85% of employees, and a similar number of employers, welcome the skills and experience that older workers bring.

Given this context, it is clear that any discussion around increasing the number of people in appropriate and fulfilling work must include consideration of those who are approaching what would previously have been thought of as retirement age.

The challenge to extend working lives is threefold. First, there is the need to change perceptions of older people in the workforce, among both employees and employers—not, I think, an issue in this particular place of work. I welcome the fact that from April of this year older claimant champions have been introduced in each of the seven Jobcentre Plus groups. These specialists will work with work coaches and employer-facing staff to raise the profile of older workers, to highlight the benefits of employing older jobseekers and to share best practice. As the former business champion for older workers, my noble friend Lady Altmann did much to challenge outdated views of older people, to actively promote the business case and the benefits of employing older workers, and to engage both employers and employees on these issues. We must continue to build on her work.

Secondly, we must support businesses to provide the flexibility and support that older people may require to remain in the workforce. Older workers are more likely than young people to be affected by disability or caring pressures, out-of-date qualifications and skills, and discrimination—both intentional and unconscious —by employers. Nor should we assume that older workers will be able to, or wish to, remain in their current jobs. Scottish Widows research found that almost half the over-55s intending to stay in work are planning to shift to a part-time role; for example, to help family members with childcare support. Flexibility is a vital component in retaining this top talent, and we frequently see that those considered to be the best employers are thought of as such because they appreciate and adapt to the wider circumstances of their staff. The same report found that 50% of employees currently believe that their organisation is supportive of older workers, but only 18% believe that their employer would continue to support them if they expressed a desire to reduce their hours.

We should also consider that older workers will have physically demanding roles which may need to be adapted to allow them to remain in employment. The DWP has recently launched sector-specific toolkits to provide guidance for employers of older people. The experience and skills which develop over a long career do not need to be lost from a business, and mentoring roles can be a particularly important consideration; we know that many older workers thrive when they are able to help younger colleagues succeed.

Thirdly, there is a need to work with the older people themselves, to support them in gaining new employment opportunities and to help them access the retraining and education that they may require for the rapidly evolving employment market. Department for Work and Pensions research has found that

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unemployed people over 50 are more likely than others to remain unemployed for longer and are more likely to be economically inactive. The Government have made considerable efforts to directly address this point. A pilot project, launched in April this year, introduces targeted provision of work academies and work experience programmes for older people where age is a barrier to finding work. Separately, from May this year, the DWP has trialled an enhanced approach for career advice and reviews for older claimants, and has provided dedicated IT support to guide older people through modern job-search techniques.

I conclude with an acknowledgement that not all workers will wish to remain in their job. For some, working in later life will be a simple consequence of feeling as though they effectively cannot afford to retire. For women in particular, gaps in employment may mean a working life of low-paid and unfulfilling employment which does not provide transferrable skills. At present, two-thirds of working women over 50 are employed in just three sectors—education, health and retail—and the Scottish Widows research found that while more than a third of men want to continue working because they like their jobs, barely one in 10 women feels this way. For these people, the importance of part-time learning should not be underestimated. It can provide an opportunity to change their job but not give up work altogether.

As we in this House are only too well aware, older people play a vital role—one which will only increase—in both our national workforce and the businesses, large and small, which comprise it. With the continued focus of government, good business practice and a rebalancing of the way in which we think about older generations, I hope that this contribution may be better recognised. As a starting point, I encourage my noble friend on the Front Bench to ensure that the older generations are included in all conversations on this issue.

3.14 pm

Lord Addington (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, for bringing this subject to our attention. It has been a very interesting debate, which has covered a plethora of activity. I agree with her wholeheartedly that early intervention pays. Every single person who has looked at getting the best out of a workforce knows that if you get in early and get your preparation right, you get a result.

The noble Baroness started off by looking at those people who have problems and for whom you need to intervene. She said that the journey starts with school. I would challenge her on that. I think the journey starts with your parents. The intervention starts the minute you have any organised education. Early intervention pays because that is when you can see where you should be intervening and giving that support. Clearly, all the social problems that we have talked about mean that that person is less likely to be employed; more likely to get caught up in anti-social activity and, indeed, the criminal justice system; and less likely to contribute to the well-being and happiness of the nation. That is accepted by everyone. The question is: how do we start to address this?

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Having stated the obvious, I will go into what has been suggested. We are talking about our education system. One thing that was referred to again and again was the fact that we tend to pray to certain education gods. The A-levels and university path, the one I went down, gets quite a lot of prayer quite a lot of the time from most of us, because most of the people who make decisions went down it. As the noble Lord, Lord Fink, said, one of the most important observations is, “What I did is right”. We all know that. When our teachers go down this path, they say, “Pray at the same altar I did, because how could I have possibly made a mistake?”

My noble friend Lady Sharp, with her usual forensic analysis, said that we have always failed to address the areas where we have skills shortages. I have been hearing in this Chamber for well over 25 years that at HND, technician level we are underachieving in our skills base. There is no argument about that. It is a very old song. So how do we get to these groups which have been underperforming, traditionally, and get them into the right type of employment to guarantee them a valuable way forward? Unless we start to recognise that there is more than one way to skin this particular cat, we are going to get into real trouble. We need to intervene in the teaching process, because that is where the most intervention is required, and show that there are other ways of making a decent living and giving yourself some status.

We all know what teachers should be doing all the time, and the average teacher could spend several decades in training and not fulfil our requirements. How do we deal with this? There is a very good case for at least doubling the length of teacher training. I would like far more recognition to be given to special educational needs, and I will be bringing this issue to your Lordships’ attention in the future. If you do not know how to intervene and get your message across, you will always be at a huge disadvantage, no matter how willing and able you are. If you spend time on catch-up, the good will follow; those who follow the herd will follow, if you do it properly; the rest will slip away. A teacher should not have to be a saint; they should merely be competent at their job. The vast majority of us, when doing our jobs, are doing what is required of us. How do we educate teachers to take these options?

A less prayed-to idol, but one that is definitely improving its status, is apprenticeships. Everybody thinks apprenticeships are wonderful. I have spent a lot of time pointing out that they miss out on, for example, support for those with special educational needs. I raised a case involving dyslexia, and I faced huge resistance in trying to change the structure of this new shiny thing which was going to answer all the problems.

We still have not got it right. There is still not enough intervention to bring in the groups who are most likely to be linked and who are most likely to acquire those skills. So how do we bring them together? How do we have a coherent strategy of investing in further education to make sure we enhance our workforce? First, we need to make sure that those who are making the decisions have the skills to intervene and offer encouragement. If you intervene you may well, as the

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noble Baroness said, stop people thinking that activities such as gaining qualifications are “not for people like us”. Returning to my prayer theme, we pray to the value that “people like us do this; this is what we do”. Normal economic activity is not about passing exams and getting qualifications; it is not about even turning up to regular employment. We have to break into that idea, and we can only do it with a decent skills base in our educators, no matter which sector they come from. We must invest here.

The special educational needs group pulls all these factors together. Unless somebody tries to remove you from that group, your problems are going to be intensified considerably. We must always try to intervene. We were given a wonderful example of how the criminal justice system affects not only the criminals but the victims. That is something we often forget and I congratulate the noble Baroness for raising that issue. We have to start educating people to pick out the groups who find themselves gravitating towards this situation. Middle-class dyslexics, for instance, get support and help and often end up going to university. If you know how to identify the support which is out there and which we have provided over the years, you are fine. If you do not—I am talking about the social groups at the bottom—it all gets that little bit darker and difficult, and it looked pretty difficult in the first place. Breaking that expectation of failure is probably the most important bit. We are not going to achieve this unless we invest across the board in education. Further education provides a wonderful way in, because it does not have the “them and us” divide to anything like the extent of A-levels and university. It is just more accessible.

As many people have said, we should not be looking at this as an either/or situation. In a perfect world, these elements should come together. We are a long way from perfection, but let us aim for that anyway. Unless we get better education for teachers and lecturers in further education—which means continuing training after identifying the strategies to be put in place—we once again guarantee failure. The further education sector was fine for my own disability group, dyslexia, but now there are major structural problems because the group has not been identified.

So we have all identified a series of common goals. Unless we start to communicate more about what this pathway should be, we are always going to go back and forth, blaming one another for the last failure. To take my religious analogy slightly further, the idea that academies will solve everything is a fallacy. They will not because they are still schools, and they still have teachers who have to be trained. You may get an improvement and the shock of change, but ultimately they are still just schools, and once they get all the problems, they will have to deal with them. We are going to have to work with them. They will still have to make sure that they are achieving not prestigious outcomes for people, but putting them into further education to succeed.

Can we do this? Can we recognise that we should co-operate? We can. Oddly, we had a wonderful example from the Government of everybody at least acknowledging the idea of communality and that various factions

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should talk to each other. It is called sport. Read the sport consultation paper. It is wonderful. We get dozens of different departments all saying they have a part of the solution. I am not holding my breath to see if they actually do change their behaviour and co-operate. “Change the way we do things? No. We have said it is important. That is enough.” I have a nagging suspicion that is where we are, but we should at least start to think about co-operation in education and certainly within further education. How do we support one another? How do we have that coherent approach? It takes a lot of talking and a lot of communication to bring things together but unless we do, we will ultimately fail and we will go back to having little miracle solutions which will run into the ground and then get resurrected, with other miracle solutions working against them. We really should start to talk to each other more and stop shouting.

3.25 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, like others, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, for initiating and introducing this debate. She did so with commitment and passion. As we have discovered and as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, has just acknowledged, this has proved to be a multi-faceted topic and one which, in various ways, we have discussed elsewhere in recent days in our debates on apprenticeships, the Enterprise Bill and the Education and Adoption Bill.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, was introducing the Motion she said that what she was talking about was generally not technically sophisticated. I agree with that. She instanced the concept of personal coaches, which I am sure are challenging and rewarding but of themselves not technically complex. She instanced the importance of transition from schools to work and the need to address this because of the poverty of hope, belief and aspiration. I found that I could not agree with much that the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said. I agree that work is a route out of poverty and that there is a need to encourage employers to pay people properly, but I remind him that the economy was actually growing when Gordon Brown left office and it was austerity which choked off that growth. On tax credits, I am sure we will have an interesting session on Monday.

My noble friend Lord Young of Norwood Green is a strong advocate of apprenticeships—he spoke about the need for proper monitoring if these are going to be effective—and the importance of Sure Start. The noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, gave us her own experience of the arrangements for mentoring and coaching and how important that could be, and touched on the need to raise the esteem for vocational education. I agree with that. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, took us down the path of her initiation into growth accounting. Despite all that and the march of technology and globalisation, we still have a skill shortage. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, spoke movingly about how trauma in her own life was the spur to action—she got up and did something—and the need to recognise that everyone should be able to reach their potential. The noble Lord, Lord Fink, spoke in an enlightened way about the contribution he had made and seen of

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education, praising the teaching profession. I very much support that. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, spoke about the issue of older workers and the challenges that they face.

The Motion invites us to debate on,

“the case for creating the right education and employment opportunities in the United Kingdom”,

a case which can hardly be denied. It is implicit in the Motion, of course, that the opportunities at present are not as they should be and it begs the question of what constitutes the right opportunities. In a speech included in our pack, the Minister Nick Gibb mused about the purpose of education. His definition embraced being the “engine of our economy” and the “foundation of our culture”, educating “the next generation” and,

“instilling … a love of knowledge”.

It was also, he said, about,

“the practical business of ensuring that young people receive the preparation they need to secure a good job and a fulfilling career”.

I would not disagree with any of that. The speech might also have included that education can be the engine to drive greater equality and social mobility. The whole journey of a child through education needs investment to ensure that all young people have the opportunities they need and for our society and economy to thrive.

Sadly, we know that vocational education has been neglected, with spending plans for post-16 education threatening many colleges. We have heard that from several contributions today. That is showing: the CBI already says that one in three of its member firms is not confident that they will have all the skilled staff they need for the future.

If we are to create effective education opportunities, as my noble friend Lord Watson of Invergowrie spelled out in his excellent opening speech from these Benches on Second Reading of the Education and Adoption Bill, we need to address the fundamental problem of recruitment and retention of teachers. As he pointed out, nearly 50,000 teachers left the profession in the year to November 2014.

I think we all accept that what makes a difference in schools is much less to do with structures than with good leadership and good leadership teams. There is much else, but I recall attending a conference held by an international educational foundation which was unveiling its findings about the status of teachers in a variety of countries around the world. There had been a strong correlation between educational outcomes and the esteem with which teachers were held—an intriguing concept, I suggest.

We believe that more quality apprenticeships are essential to the prospects of young people and the future success of our economy. Although we welcome the Government’s expressed desire to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 and to protect the brand, the track record has not been inspiring. The focus should be on quality rather than quantity.

As my noble friend Lord Young said, just today we received the report of the Chief Inspector of Schools, with a damning indictment of the Government’s record on apprenticeships. As has been suspected for some

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time, despite the increase in the numbers, very few apprenticeships are delivering up-to-date skills in the sectors which most need them. One in three providers visited by Ofsted was failing to deliver high-quality training. Sir Michael Wilshaw has called it,

“little short of a disaster”,

that only 5% of young people took up apprenticeships at the age of 16—a real failure to prepare pupils for the world of work.

The Ofsted report identifies that too many low-skilled roles are being classed as apprenticeships and too few apprenticeships provide the advanced professional-level skills needed in sectors with shortages. Sir Michael is quoted as saying:

“We have won the argument over the value of apprenticeships. We have yet to make them a sought-after and valid alternative career choice for hundreds of thousands of young people”.

His call for urgent, joined-up action by schools, employees and FE and skills providers must be part of the creation of the “right” education and employment opportunities. Of course, that cannot happen without resource. The Government’s own adviser on skills has warned that there is simply no money with which to move from low to high quality.

We acknowledge and welcome the fact that unemployment has fallen year on year, although the number of people working fewer hours than they want to has increased by almost 1 million since 2008. The overall unemployment rate, at 5.4%, is below the OECD average but the youth unemployment rate, at 14.8%, is significantly above it. The previous coalition Government, by scrapping the educational maintenance allowance and trebling tuition fees, made it financially more difficult for those from low-income backgrounds to engage in further education. Disbanding the Connexions service and transferring responsibility for careers advice has led to a deterioration of careers guidance just when it was most needed.

We were expecting the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to include measures to provide Jobcentre Plus adviser support in schools across England to supplement careers advice and provide routes into work experience and apprenticeships. However, all that seems to have been announced is a small-scale pilot project in the Midlands. Does the original ambition still pertain?

Of course, we have the Earn or Learn task force—inaptly named, it is suggested, because why should those be alternatives?—which is supposed to oversee the end of long-term youth unemployment and decades of so-called welfare dependency. We shall see, but there is ministerial rhetoric about creating a “no excuses” culture, putting young people through their paces and references to boot camps. That kind of language blames young people who cannot find work for their own situation and assumes that they lack the necessary willpower.

We know that the Work and Pensions Select Committee has launched an inquiry into welfare-to-work provision to explore options for the future with a particular focus on promoting a broader range of specialist provision, including through innovative and community-level approaches. This is obviously to be welcomed. The DWP’s main contracts for welfare-to-work schemes— the Work Programme and Work Choice—are due to

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expire in 2017, and it is understood that a retendering process will begin in the new year. Most recent statistics show that of 1.76 million people referred to the Work Programme since 2011, about 27% have found sustained work. That is to say, more than 70% did not. The total price tag is £2.8 billion. Is that as good as we can do?

I think that there is general agreement that moves to greater devolution away from the centre and passing powers and responsibilities to local authorities—especially combined authorities—is a movement whose time has come. Local communities better understand their local economies and skills needs. It is a pity that this issue has got mired with the attempted imposition of elected mayors as part of the process. There is also concern that responsibility may pass without adequate resources.

The focus has been on the mainstream and at a macro level, but we should recognise that there is a multitude of circumstances across the country, where there is a range of organisations with low-key but vital projects helping to train and educate individuals, improving their chances of employment. I should like to introduce to the House just one, Noah Enterprise—that is, New Opportunities and Horizons—of which I have the privilege to be a trustee. It is a Luton-based charity working across Bedfordshire offering support and opportunity to people struggling against homelessness, addiction, exclusion and unemployment. It runs a welfare centre, and outreach programme and a furniture-based social enterprise that combine to provide a holistic approach to rehabilitation for those who are among the most vulnerable in our community. In helping people to recover their lives, they are encouraged to enrol in the academy, where they can engage in digital learning, learn English as a second language and be prepared for employment. That is combined with volunteering in the social enterprise, where they can learn skills, including furniture restoration, portable appliance testing, warehousing, white goods refurbishment, driver’s assistant duties, and others.

In those ventures, we look to generate income to contribute to supporting the running of the welfare services. They are, especially, a place where vulnerable people on the margins of society can find a rekindling of self-esteem, respect and confidence, a means whereby they can find a framework that helps them to live their lives constructively and with satisfaction—and, for the first time in many years, the prospect of a job. For them at this time, that is the right education and employment opportunity.

3.39 pm

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): My Lords, I would first like to congratulate my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott on securing today’s debate and thank all noble Lords who have contributed. We have certainly had many impressive contributions today; I fear that mine might seem inadequate by comparison, but I will do my best.

We have covered a wide range of issues that are central to this Government’s ambition to extend opportunity and transform lives. Let me be clear: whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever your background, this Government’s aim is to help you to fulfil your potential in life. The core of our approach to improving life chances is to focus on tackling the

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root causes of poverty. A number of noble Lords referred to this today. Having a parent in work, and leaving school with good qualifications are the most important determinants of whether a young person will do well in life. Education and employment, the key drivers of opportunity, are captured in our new “life chances” measures set out in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. It is through these measures that the Government will be held to account to ensure that we do improve the life chances of all children.

This Government want every family and individual in the country to benefit from the rewards of employment. Noble Lords have all talked about the importance of this. It is through work that parents provide security for their children and help them to get on in life. But the rewards go well beyond the financial; a steady job provides a sense of purpose and pride. Work is central to creating self-worth, self-confidence and self-belief. Conversely, worklessness—as we all know—is strongly related to poor mental and physical health, poor child outcomes and poor educational attainment. That is why this Government have set the ambition of securing full employment in this Parliament.

I know that a number of noble Lords do not like it, but, as my noble friend Lord Blencathra said, we are starting from a good economic position. The employment rate is at a record high and there are more people in work than ever before. There are 480,000 fewer children living in workless households than in 2010. The employment rate of young people who have left full-time education is continuing to rise. Since 2010, nearly two-thirds of the rise in employment has been in higher-skilled occupations, which generally command a higher wage. My noble friend Lady Jenkin will be pleased to know that there are more older people in employment than ever before. But we know that we have more to do, which is why we are committed to transforming our welfare system, improving our education system and growing our economy.

Central to our welfare reforms, as we have heard today, is universal credit, which radically simplifies our overly complex system: but it is much more than a technical exercise. Universal credit will make sure that work always pays. The structure supports parents to make joint decisions about how to balance work and raise their children, while, through the claimant commitment, every individual has a clear understanding of what is expected of them in finding work. As a result of universal credit, up to 300,000 more people are likely to be in work due to its more effective work incentives, increased simplicity and increased conditionality. As my noble friend Lord Blencathra said, early results show that it is working. Compared to JSA claimants, universal credit claimants do more to look for work, enter work more quickly and earn more money. I know that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, asked me about a specific DWP pilot project: I will have to write to him with details of that.

As a number of noble Lords said, we know that youth unemployment can have significant negative impacts on young people’s life chances, which is why we are committed to eradicating it. My noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, laid out some of the issues that young

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people face. An important part of achieving this goal is our commitment to creating 3 million new apprenticeships in England in this Parliament.

Apprenticeships offer young people a route into the world of work, valuable experience and vital skills. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, said that we were not providing enough apprenticeships, but in fact, in 2013-14, 240,000 workplaces had apprentices. In 2015-16, we will be spending £1.5 billion in total. The noble Lord, Lord Young, and my noble friend Lady Fookes mentioned the recent Ofsted report. Of course we will be reflecting on the findings of that, but we are absolutely clear that we need good-quality apprenticeships. The Enterprise Bill, for instance, will be introducing a protection of the term “apprenticeship” to stop it being misused. We will certainly ensure that there is rigorous testing and grading at the end of apprenticeships. This is absolutely key: there is no point in young people taking apprenticeships that are not of sufficiently good quality, and the Government are committed to ensuring that they are. We also have in place degree apprenticeships in the nuclear industry, engineering, chartered surveying and the automotive industry, to name but a few. Other employers are exploring ways to develop their own apprenticeship programmes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, and my noble friend Lady Fookes talked about the importance of further education and adult skills training. The Government take this very seriously. In relation to funding, we have the upcoming spending review, so I cannot say much more about that, but I reassure noble Lords that between August 2011 and February 2015, nearly 600,000 jobseekers started adult skills training.

Furthermore, key to tackling youth unemployment is early intervention to ensure that young people get the help they need before they leave school, so that they can make the transition between school and further learning or employment. That is why we are putting Jobcentre Plus advisers into schools around England. Working with 14 to 17 year-olds, these advisers will complement the work of careers advisers to ensure that young people get the advice they need on local training and employment opportunities.

The Government are also supporting young unemployed people through work experience and traineeship programmes so they can get that vital experience of the workplace to help them find sustained jobs. An evaluation in 2012 found that work experience participants were around 16% more likely to be off benefits than non-participants after 21 weeks. This is a similar success to the Future Jobs Fund but at 1/20th of the cost.

As a number of contributors to the debate today said, we know that attainment at school is the biggest determinant of our young people making a successful transition to adult life and future success in the labour market. As my noble friend Lord Fink so eloquently highlighted, a good education unlocks potential and lays the foundations for future success and employment prospects. Those who have benefited from a good education are more productive, healthier and happier

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citizens who contribute greatly to the communities in which they live. That is why we want schools not just to provide a high-quality education but to help their students develop qualities such as confidence, resilience and motivation. These character traits not only support academic attainment but are highly valued by employers.

The best schools—such as those of Ark, which my noble friend Lord Fink is involved in, and those of my noble friend Lord Harris, who we heard from earlier this week—do this through daily interaction with teachers and staff, through the curriculum, and through encouraging activities such as playing team sports, volunteering, learning an instrument or debating. But in order to encourage this further we are investing £5 million in character education and have already awarded grants to support 14 projects for schools, particularly those in the most deprived areas.

We are also ensuring that schools have the resources they need to close the attainment gap between the poorest students and their peers through the pupil premium. During the last Parliament we invested £6 billion of additional funding in schools in England through the premium and are providing an additional £2.5 billion this year. Schools such as Charter Academy in Portsmouth demonstrate the impact that can be achieved. In 2014, 82% of disadvantaged pupils achieved five or more good GCSEs including English and maths—double the national average for pupil premium pupils and 18 percentage points higher than the national average for non-disadvantaged pupils.

Our reforms also include a rigorous new curriculum, world-class exams and a new schools accountability system which rewards schools that push children to achieve their best. Now 82% of all schools in England are good or outstanding—the highest proportion since Ofsted began inspecting schools—and there are over 1 million more pupils in England in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. We will not hesitate to intervene where schools are failing or “coasting”. As the Prime Minister has said, we will have zero tolerance of the failing schools that still exist, so every inadequate school will be turned into an academy with new leadership.

Free schools are providing parents with more choice—and at a cheaper price, as my noble friend Lord Fink correctly said—and offering new opportunities for young people where there is local demand for new provision. Since 2010, over 300 new free schools have opened, providing over 150,000 new places for children. The free schools programme is encouraging school partnerships and allowing excellent practice to spread. For instance, Bury St Edmunds Technical Academy is being set up by an academy trust that already runs good and outstanding schools. It will be a 13 to 19 school focusing on STEM subjects through both academic and technical routes. Its partnerships with local employers will mean that students will be able to access work-based projects and work experience in addition to their studies. Free schools are more likely to be rated outstanding by Ofsted than other state schools, and almost half are in the most deprived areas of the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, and my noble friend Lady Fookes talked about careers advice. We absolutely agree that high-quality careers

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guidance is vital if young people are to make good decisions about future learning and careers, and it is particularly important for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not get that advice at home. We know that some schools are doing excellent work and that their pupils are accessing the right support, but in too many cases careers advice has long been inadequate.

Since September 2012 we have devolved responsibility for careers advice to schools in England. They will now be held to account for the destination of their pupils, whether it is an apprenticeship, a job, further education or university. The Government have also set up the Careers & Enterprise Company to transform the provision of careers education and advice for young people. Last month it launched its Enterprise Adviser network programme to link employees in firms of all sizes to schools through a network of enterprise advisers drawn from business volunteers. As my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott mentioned, the Leeds City Region was part of the Enterprise Adviser pilot, and its programme began in November 2014. Since then over 100 business leaders and 60 schools from across the city region have joined their network, which has resulted in over 3,500 young people accessing new employer-led activities and over 50 action plans created in schools to develop employability skills.

We also want to unlock the potential of all young people who have the ability to succeed at university. The Prime Minister has committed to doubling the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by the end of this Parliament from 2009 levels and to increasing the number of BME students going to university by 20% by 2020. We recognise that graduates have a vital part to play in building a highly skilled workforce through their ability to challenge assumptions, energise and innovate. The best way to produce more employable graduates is for employers, either individually or jointly, to work directly with universities and colleges. They can and should help with course design and delivery, provide work placements and, where appropriate, offer sponsorship for students.

My noble friend Lady Jenkin of Kennington was absolutely right to mention that it is not just young people who need the right opportunities. The structure of our society is changing and life expectancy is increasing as people live longer and healthier lives. Despite the increase in the employment rate of older people, the problem of people leaving the labour market too early remains a problem. The Government have implemented a number of initiatives to help people to live fuller working lives. We have appointed a Business Champion for Older Workers, extended the right to request flexible working, and introduced Carers in Employment pilots in nine local authorities to explore ways for carers to balance work with their caring responsibilities.

In March 2015, in her previous role as Business Champion for Older Workers, my noble friend Lady Altmann published the report A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit. It makes a number of recommendations designed to challenge outdated stereotypes of older workers. The Government will respond to the report’s recommendations shortly.

I now turn to the issues raised by my noble friend Lady Newlove, who spoke so movingly earlier. The Government recognise that difficult circumstances can

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cause a substantial and varying amount of distress for children. All schools should create a caring and supportive environment and earlier this year the Government brought together a group of experts to advise on how to provide good school-based counselling services. We are providing nearly £5 million of funding this year to support 17 projects delivering a wide range of support for children and young people with mental health issues, including supporting Dove, an organisation that provides mental health support for bereaved children.

The Government recognise the variety of barriers that many people, including victims of crime, face and we agree that a holistic approach is required. That is why, for instance, the Government are committed to expanding the Troubled Families programme and why the DWP and DCLG are looking at what more they can do with local authorities to break down barriers. Victims of crime will be delighted that they have such a strong voice within government also fighting their cause. Finally, on Think Forward, raised by my noble friends Lady Stedman-Scott and Lady Fookes, the Minister for Children and Families will be delighted to meet my noble friends to discuss the programme and hear more about the benefits that they outlined.

In conclusion, high levels of employment and educational excellence drive opportunity and are at the heart of this Government’s social justice vision. It is through employment that parents provide for their families and through education that children, in turn, fulfil their own potential. It is by tackling worklessness and delivering excellence for all our young people that we will break the cycles of disadvantage—and this Government will focus relentlessly on both.

3.55 pm

Baroness Stedman-Scott: My Lords, I thank everybody who has taken part in this debate. I almost feel like we are just getting going. I am sure, though, that the Companiondoes not allow me to apply for an extension to the debate. The debate has been very lively—livelier in some parts than others—but it keeps us on our toes. This is a subject beyond political banter and I hope our hearts beat in concert to try to do something about it.

I have a few closing remarks. I think it is work in progress on apprenticeships. We have more homework to do and we had better get on and do it. As the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said, we have got over to people the value of apprenticeships, and we need to make sure that those apprenticeships are valuable to the people who will undertake them.

There is nothing more to say on careers advice and guidance, but we are taking too long to get this right so we must re-treble our efforts and make sure that young people get the best labour market careers advice and employment support to ensure they can fulfil their potential.

The points about the rebalancing of higher and vocational education were well made by everybody, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for her contribution. Her knowledge and experience is well respected and there is much more that we will be doing.

I have got the message on early intervention and where it starts. I really have got that, thank you.

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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for drawing our attention to older workers. They have a great contribution to make. We have got to keep them in the workforce and they act as good role models to younger employees and sometimes they become their “parent” in a roundabout way. I completely agree that it is competence rather than age and I hope that this House at some time in the future will remember that, too.

On education, I became a governor of an academy so that I really understood them and I hoped I could make a contribution. Teachers are to be complimented. They do great jobs. Of course, like in every workforce, they could do better in some respects but they are terrific. I concur that the noble Lords, Lord Fink and Lord Harris, and others have made a great investment in academies and our country will only be the richer for that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, has paid a high price, but her girls are a credit to her. She gets all the grief—believe you me—because they are teenagers but they are doing well. I think the next debate should be the rehabilitation of victims. We must do that.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, who has changed her place in the Chamber, that horticulture jobs are valuable. They need doing and there are a lot of people—one in this Chamber in particular—who spend a lot of time in horticultural establishments purchasing things for their garden. Horticulture is a great contributor to the economy.

Noble Lords have seen the value of coaches first hand. If any noble Lord wants to go and see a coach, see me and I will fix it up. There was nothing half-baked about the contribution, I must say.

The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, mentioned the importance of the economy. If the economy is strong then employers will create jobs. It is a no-brainer. Of course, there is also the importance of the family in that particular journey.

I am really grateful for the offer of a meeting. Let me know when it is—if it is tomorrow, I will be there. I will go away now and prepare for that.

I received a phone call at 6.50 am today from my niece’s six-year old son, who was crying on the telephone. He has a massive eye infection, but he was not crying at the thought of going to the doctor but because he could not go to school and the people in his class might learn something that he missed and he might feel at some disadvantage. I hope that we may create that desire to learn in our education and employment system.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions.

Motion agreed.

Chilcot Inquiry

Question for Short Debate

4 pm

Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the case for discharging the Chairman and members of the Chilcot Inquiry, and inviting the Cabinet Secretary to set out a mechanism for an interim report to be produced on the basis of the evidence gathered.

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Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab): My Lords, I welcome at last the opportunity to debate the Chilcot inquiry. I have been very critical of the scandalous delays in publication. It may well be that the members of the committee will, after all, turn out to be knights in shining armour and produce an authoritative report that completely justifies its delays—in which case, I would withdraw my criticism. This committee was set up in June 2009, but it is still not able to give us a firm date for publication. Sir John recently promised to write to the Prime Minister in November with a timetable but, crucially, will not give a date for publication. The proposed legal action of some of the families of the 179 soldiers killed may have moved him. They are the ones most directly concerned in the establishment of the truth as to why we went to war. They have been badly let down: justice delayed is justice denied.

As an ex-law officer, I am concerned with upholding the rule of law in all its manifestations. A public inquiry is set up where there is widespread public concern on an issue of great importance. Although the cynical may portray it as kicking something into the long grass, we have no means other than that: to identify distinguished persons, be they lawyers or others, to identify the facts, deliver an authoritative judgment and publish their conclusions in good time for lessons to be learned. Respect for good governance is undermined if reports do not see the light of day before issues become dimmer and dimmer in public memory. Failure to publish reports in a timely way is indeed kicking it into the long grass.

The Franks committee into the Falklands War took about six months. Prime Minister Brown accepted the Cabinet Secretary’s recommendation to accept it as a model, and probably its terms of reference, the choice of members and perhaps also the mistaken advice to choose a non-statutory inquiry without the controls of the Inquiries Act 2005. I believe that the committee’s remit into an eight-year war might have been more tightly drawn. In the view of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, the terms of reference are so wide as to be almost infinite.

Sir John has said that he was not given the opportunity to discuss the scope of the inquiry. The Cabinet Office was in such a hurry that he was given only 10 minutes to decide whether to accept the chair or not.

I trust that the inquiry has concentrated on two fundamental issues, rather than chase every hare. First, what was the cause of the war? Did the Government believe the claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction or was the aim regime change, which has no basis whatsoever in international law? Was this the real motivation? Secondly, when was the decision taken to go to war? Was it at Crawford or Camp David, in April 2002, in discussions between Prime Minister Blair and President Bush? Even the British ambassador was excluded from those discussions and apparently no note was taken. If the decision was taken then, any subsequent discussions at the United Nations would have been a charade. It might explain why, blaming the apparent unwillingness of the French, no further effort was made to get an agreed political solution at the Security Council. In my memoirs I say that the Chilcot Inquiry may tell us.

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The saddest feature of the inquiry process was the strenuous efforts of the Cabinet Office to block the committee from having access to whole swathes of vital documentation, including notes from Blair to Bush. Eventually, the Cabinet Office’s arguments could not be sustained and the committee deserves our congratulations for winning this argument. However, the agreed redactions and the agreement to publish the gist of some of the documents will need very close examination. Sir John is not clear as to how much time was lost in the argument. At one stage the evidence was 13 months, but it could have been up to two years. The Minister’s comments on these two aspects will be of great interest.

The lost time is not the most glorious period in the history of the Cabinet Office. I presume that the committee has not considered the memorandum, disclosed last weekend, from Secretary Powell to President Bush. Sir John has stated that he has seen 30 minutes from Blair to Bush and records of conversations between Powell and Jack Straw. However, he did not have access to the archives of foreign Governments. Assuming the validity of the memo, will the committee need to reflect on it and will it affect its conclusions and the date of publication? Regrettably, there was no counsel to the inquiry, which can do the spade work, assemble the evidence and save a great deal of time.

The next cause of delay is the doctrine of Maxwellisation—briefly, in common law, fairness to all concerned. The criticised should have the opportunity to comment before publication. The Times has published some very important letters on Maxwellisation—for example, from Sir Robert Francis and Sir Stanley Burnton. In my view, the process of Maxwellisation, much criticised by a Select Committee of this House on which I had the honour of serving, is open to criticism for statutory inquiries. This doctrine and the fear of judicial review have been elevated to a far higher level than previously envisaged. We do not know how much time has been lost, how many witnesses were involved, and what has been deemed a reasonable time for replies. In his evidence, Sir John kept his cards very close to his chest.

The Prime Minister, who complained so much when the inquiry was set up about its estimated time of one year, has since been wringing his hands as he says the inquiry is independent. It may now be counterproductive to dispense with the committee’s services, although I have been calling since 1 July—and indeed earlier—for the Cabinet Secretary to assess the evidence and produce an interim report for Parliament to consider what further action could be taken. If this had been a statutory inquiry, Section 14 of the Inquiries Act 2005 would have allowed the Minister, with notice, to pull the plug and bring the inquiry to an end. Every public inquiry, one way or another, is subject to the will of Parliament. In this instance, I have a feeling that we went down the wrong way in not having a statutory inquiry with the controls of such an inquiry.

4.09 pm

Lord Finkelstein (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, for his speech; it was a privilege to listen to it. Earlier this month, I showed the great Beatles historian, Mark Lewisohn,

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around the House of Lords. He hopes to finish his biography of the Fab Four by 2028—by which time he will have spent almost a quarter of a century on it. Next week, the great Lyndon Baines Johnson historian, Robert Caro, will be here. His first volume on Johnson was published in 1982 and he still has not finished. Proper history—proper accounts of history—take a long time.

Sir John Chilcot has been asked to conduct a proper inquiry into one of the most controversial and complex events of modern times. It is not just, or even at all, a trial of Tony Blair. It is about, of course, how and why we went in, but also everything between 2001 and 2009. We may reflect on whether the terms of reference were correct, but, given the terms of reference, we have to understand that proper history and proper accounts of history take time.

Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize-winning social psychologist, says that it is a special cognitive illusion that, this time, things will be different and that our book will be quicker to write than everyone else’s. The Hillsborough inquiry, on a single afternoon, took from 2009 to 2012 to publish. The Saville inquiry took 11 years for the events of a single day. I calculate that if Sir John Chilcot proceeded at the same pace as the Saville inquiry, his inquiry should take 32,000 years—he is actually going quite quickly.

I am a journalist, and there is a trade-off between depth and speed, completeness and deadline. It is one of my central jobs to judge that correctly, so I wish to make two points. First, if Sir John is choosing depth over deadline, I believe that he is making the correct choice. If the House is anxious for an interim report on the Iraq war, I can give it one: it did not go as well as we had hoped. But he is supposed to try to do better. That is the only point of having the inquiry—we have already had so many books, articles, speeches and other inquiries. We have asked Sir John Chilcot to produce an inquiry which provides us with depth and authority, and such things take time.

Secondly, even if Sir John had made the wrong trade-off, the trade-off is his to make: it is an independent inquiry. Hurrying him is an infringement of his independence, and it is being done basically only as an insurance against him reaching inconvenient conclusions. A lot of my colleagues in the press believe that if they can discredit him in advance it will be a useful insurance policy in case he does not agree with what they already think about the Iraq war.

I supported the Iraq war, and that is why I want as much as anyone to hear what was right and what went wrong. It is extremely important to me to learn those lessons. But I do not want to learn the lessons that I already know from all the things that have been published; I want to learn the lessons from the deep inquiry that we have been engaged in. Of course we are all impatient for the outcome of anything we have invested time and energy in and wish to hear the results of, but we need to behave less like children in a car saying, “Are we nearly there yet?” and more like people who have asked for a big inquiry to tell us some very important things—which we are all going to hear, as we all realise, soon enough.

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4.13 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, I agree with almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, said. He is absolutely right that getting the truth about this very complex and troubling story is more important than having a particular deadline in mind. An attempt to have an interim report would be very dangerous; it would lead to Maxwellisation and counter-Maxwellisation in an endless effort to find out the truth.

One difficulty of the whole report is that we were still getting substantial chunks of serious evidence as late as last weekend. The discovery of the Powell memorandum that went to the President of the United States, which explicitly set out in terms that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was willing to consider military action, is of the first importance, not just because of the issue itself—many of us would disagree about military action; others would support it—but on an another issue that is equally important. It was March 2002 when the Powell memorandum was sent to the President, shortly before the summit meeting that took place at the ranch of the President in Crawford, Texas, in March 2002.

One of the crucial aspects of this was illuminated by the fact that, in February 2003, I asked the then Leader of the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, whether there was any prospect of military action. I repeat the date: March 2003. The noble Baroness said: “I repeat that there is no prospect of military action at the present time”. The statement about Mr Blair’s view, dated March 2002, and the question that I asked the Leader of the House in February 2003, raise key constitutional questions. The immediate question which needs to be pursued by the Chilcot commission is whether the British Cabinet knew anything about the proceedings and negotiations between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States.

Mr Blair was a great believer in presidential leadership. One of his views was that something called “sofa diplomacy” was central to getting serious outcomes discussed and agreed. The difficulty with sofa government is that it excludes something which is critical to our way of doing politics, in which collective decisions are made by the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, not just by the Prime Minister. That has major implications. Presidential decisions—at least in theory—can be made by the President on his own. It is up to him whether he consults advisers or not. That is not the situation in the United Kingdom, and many of us would not wish to see it become the situation. The concept of Cabinet responsibility is deeply bound up with that of parliamentary responsibility.

What was the Chilcot commission asked to do? It has been harshly criticised on grounds it could not have avoided. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, correctly said, it was given an almost impossible mandate of exploring the period from 2001 all the way through to 2009: eight years of endless negotiation and discussion. The report is intended to cover not just the run-up to the war and the invasion of Iraq but also the issues of what the aftermath should be, what the exit strategy was and what steps should be taken to protect Iraq

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during the reconstruction. We now find that very little of that was ever openly discussed in Parliament or even in the US Congress.

I will take a moment to look at what was discussed in the US Congress. In September 2002, still well before the invasion, Congressmen asked Mr Powell and—perhaps more significantly—the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, where the money was going to come from for the reconstruction of Iraq. This reconstruction would be crucial to the prospects for peace in the Middle East and the surrounding area. Donald Rumsfeld answered that he did not know. He was asked if it was suggested that the money should come from the United States. The question was: “Will it be dollars for the reconstruction?”. His brutal reply was: “I do not think it will be dollars and I do not think it is likely to involve us”. In other words, he buried the issue of expenditure on reconstruction without the matter being discussed by Congress, which was crucially involved in giving support for any budgetary demand of that kind.

I will not go on—but, before I touch briefly on a couple of other matters, I will say that the Chilcot commission was confronted with an awful problem. The commission consists of five privy counsellors, selected not only for their long experience in international affairs but also, bluntly, for their outstanding reputation as people of integrity. I suspect that the issue of integrity was central for Sir John Chilcot and, as the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, implied, he is determined to find out the truth, however difficult that may be. We then roll on to the long, terrible story about the aftermath, in which it is increasingly clear that the British Government were hardly involved at all and that the issue was treated as a unilateral issue by the then Government of the United States.

I conclude by saying that we need desperately to have the truest possible account of this, which I think is the second-gravest mistake ever made in the history of the United Kingdom’s foreign policy after the end of the Second World War. It is on rather the same scale as the effects of Suez. Today, when we look at what has been tragically not only an attempt to try to invade Iraq but, perhaps more crucially, an attempt to see the Middle East fade away into a situation where there is almost no legally available support, let us not forget that an invasion based on the argument that you need regime change has no place in international law and no place in the United Nations.

Last of all, and perhaps most important, there is the straightforward fact that when we went along with the proposals for the aftermath, one issue that was never discussed with us was whether the Baathists should be completely expelled at the level of the police, the level of the army and the level of the civil service from a country which was then left in a desperate vacuum from which it has not to this day recovered. With peace in the Middle East very much in doubt today and very much sweeping towards a kind of nihilism, having a serious look at the truth of this report is probably the most important thing we can do to avoid anything like that happening in the future.

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4.21 pm

Lord Luce (CB): My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness. Just over 45 years ago, during the 1970 election, I opposed her and lost but I could not have asked to lose to a better person. I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, on this timely and healthy debate but I hope that the House will allow me to say a word about Lord Howe of Aberavon whose funeral was held this morning. As his former Parliamentary Private Secretary and a Minister of State at the Foreign Office, I had many conversations with him about inquiries. We both gave evidence to the Scott inquiry, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, is here today. Had Lord Howe been alive and well, he would have undoubtedly wished to speak in this debate. Indeed, he chaired the Ely Hospital inquiry in Cardiff in 1969 when he had already taken Silk.

We are all familiar with Lord Howe’s distinguished career but, in my view, he was one of the most civilised, thoughtful and intelligent of post-war politicians, and a great parliamentarian. In a week when we are marking the state visit of President Xi, I should say that one of Lord Howe’s greatest achievements was negotiating the future of Hong Kong. It is worth saying that when he was negotiating with Deng Xiaoping in Beijing in 1983, I was on duty on a Saturday as a Minister in the Foreign Office when the British ambassador reported to say that Deng Xiaoping had disclosed that he trusted Geoffrey Howe. He authorised talks to go ahead and to conclude with the “one country, two systems” position. That was an act of great statesmanship.

It is the word “trust” on which I want to dwell because it is relevant to this debate. Clearly, it is essential that there is trust and confidence in the Chilcot inquiry and it has been continually under challenge. Like everyone else, I share the frustration about delays. But, as a former Civil Service Minister, I have to say that I suspect the most frustrated people of all are Sir John Chilcot and the other three distinguished members of the committee. Sir John is known for his fairness, impartiality and sense of duty, and all the members of the committee are known for their integrity and abilities.

Sir John has already made it clear that he never expected or wanted this inquiry to last this long. So why has it happened? First, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that unlike the Butler and Hutton inquiries—I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, will speak shortly—the terms of reference of which were tightly drawn, the scope and terms of reference of this inquiry were immensely broad. It has lasted over eight years of study. The run-up to the conflict, the period of the conflict and the post-conflict period were all included in the terms of reference.

Secondly, I recall that, after the inquiry was announced by the then Prime Minister in 2009, the Select Committee on Public Administration called for transparent and open procedures, rather than having evidence given in private. I gave evidence to the Franks committee in private and that has its merits. However, in an atmosphere of little trust in Governments, and so on, it is right to hold proceedings in the open—but surely they are bound to take longer.

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Thirdly, as has already been mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, the amount of documentation the committee has had to study has evidently been absolutely massive. There are also questions of declassification and of the disclosure of exchanges between Bush and Blair—all that has to be sorted out and looked at. There were major delays, but I am told that 150,000 documents had to be studied and one should not underestimate the time it takes to work through all that. However, when the report comes, it should indicate who is responsible for the delays.

Fourthly, there is the matter of Maxwellisation. There are arguments for and against Maxwellisation, but that is not my point. Many people have suggested that that was the main cause of delay, but the Maxwellisation procedures did not start until the end of last year; I understand that they are now completed. They may have prolonged the process a little, of course, but I do not believe they were the main reason for delay. The big problem is the scale and complexity of the inquiry.

I agree with all those who suggest that it is not sensible to have an interim report. It is too late for that, in any event, and all stages of the inquiry are interrelated. It is also essential for Sir John to go on working to retain the confidence of the public and Parliament in what he is doing. What are the main causes of delay? It is perfectly reasonable for him to take opportunities to explain to the public the reasons for these frustrating delays, in order to retain the confidence of Parliament. Once the report is published, Parliament can debate the lessons to be learnt over Iraq and the lessons to be learnt about the nature and type of inquiries we hold in this country.

4.27 pm

Lord Parekh (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, for securing this debate. As he rightly pointed out, no other inquiry in our public life has taken so long. It was announced in June 2009 and it is now 2015. I have two questions to ask. What explains the delay? Was that delay justified?

It seems to me that five factors are responsible for the delay in submitting the report. The first is that it was not set up under the Inquiries Act 2005, and therefore the committee had to make up its own rules as it went along—for example, the rules governing the publication of documents within less than 30 years.

The second difficulty was that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, pointed out, its remit was extremely wide—not just the lead-up to the war in Iraq but what happened afterwards and what we should have done.

The third factor that explains the delay was the dispute over access to various documents. For example, it took nearly a year to obtain the Blair-Bush correspondence and the notes Mr Blair is supposed to have left with Mr Bush, to read them and to decide whether to include them in the report.

The fourth factor is Maxwellisation, and the fifth, which I shall concentrate on, is the chairman’s determined attempt to be absolutely fair and to produce as accurate an account of events as possible. As the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, said, every relevant fact had to be

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gathered, every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. That is where my difficulty begins. I want to ask whether these five reasons for delay were all equally justified. It is obviously true that no inquiry can be exhaustive. If I were to write the history of the House of Lords, or of Parliament, it would not be definitive, for obvious reasons. Different facts and angles emerge, and you can look at the whole thing in many different ways.

In the case of this inquiry, we have already been told by Sir John Chilcot that transcripts of discussions and dialogues with foreign government officials were not properly written down or will not be circulated, so even this report will not be entirely accurate or comprehensive. Simply no report can be, because new facts constantly keep emerging. If you aim to write a definitive and comprehensive account on an event as momentous as this, you will have to wait until the end of eternity. The chairman was wrong to aim to produce that kind of report.

Maxwellisation is another factor. I am not entirely sure that we should have gone along that road. Maxwellisation emerged in a certain context and it was justified, but should it be applied to every situation? It may lead to counter-Maxwellisation: someone might stand up and say, “Look, he is involved in a public inquiry; he should be able to defend himself against every criticism”. The public inquiry body would then say, “Look, we want to be able to answer your criticism”, and there is no end to the process.

Also, a report such as this, which tries to cover every aspect, ends up saying that someone is responsible for this and someone else for that, and there is no focus of responsibility—no single agent is responsible for the war in Iraq. My feeling is that the inquiry needed to be limited in its remit from the beginning, but that is neither here nor there.

If one looks at what is happening now, there are two things to bear in mind. First, an inquiry of this kind is supposed to attain certain objectives, such as closure for the families and the country; to get at the truth of the matter; to suggest ways to restore trust in politics; and, as the terms of reference set out—in a rather strange form of English—to,

“strengthen the health of our democracy … and our military”.

If these are the objectives, the question is: how will they be realised? The longer the delay in the report’s publication, the greater the chance that public trust in our system will be weakened, or that closure for the war, the families and the country will not be obtained.

In my view, these objectives require that the report should have been published much earlier, or at least that it now needs to be published as soon as possible. Having said that, I want to make it absolutely clear that this does not imply that there is any reason at this stage for discharging the chairman or the members of the committee. They have done a most honourable job. As I pointed out, where they have faltered, they have done with good intentions and a sense of honour. We need to learn lessons from the inquiry itself and ensure that it is allowed to publish its report as early as we would like it to be.

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4.32 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, I too thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, for initiating the debate. It is important for us to realise that this inquiry is crucial to the family and friends of those who lost their lives in Iraq, who must feel very badly treated in this sorry affair. To them it must feel that the decision to lay down the lives of their loved ones must have been taken in weeks or perhaps months, yet the analysis of why those decisions were taken—the basis of their understanding why it appears that this was embarked on almost with such carelessness—is still incomplete 12 years after the commencement of that war.

I start by making it clear that I have the greatest respect for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, but I do not agree with discharging the inquiry at this point. It would be invidious because the report would be published incomplete—we all want a full and thorough account of what happened. Also, in any event, it would not come out very shortly because security clearances would have to be obtained before publication.

Before I go any further in my analysis of the failings of the inquiry, I should say that we have been talking about what led to the Iraq war. I bring to the House one other fact that my noble friend Lady Williams, in her extraordinary recall of how hard the Liberal Democrats worked at the time to influence the outcome of that decision, pointed out to me: that Liberal Democrat spokespeople in both Houses repeatedly pressed for UNMOVIC—the team of UN inspectors—to be given full authority by the UN to inspect Iraq for any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Focusing on getting rid of such weapons would have been more effective and cost far less in lives and destruction than an invasion.

The British Government’s own dossier, published on 24 September 2002, stated that the inspectors had achieved a great deal in Iraq. The leader of the Iraq inspectors, Hans Blix, pleaded for more time to complete the inspection of all the suspect sites, but the US Government were not in any mood to concede this. So we lost an opportunity at that point, and it was clear that that particular US Government did not really want evidence or inspection; they just wanted to proceed to war—and it might now appear that that is what they had been promised by their ally, the United Kingdom.

Coming back to the Chilcot inquiry, it is worth noting that Sir John Chilcot has announced that he will write to the Prime Minister on 3 November with the timeline. I do not know to what extent the fact that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, had tabled his Question to be debated today led to Sir John deciding to do that. I suspect that the Question was on the Order Paper before the decision was taken to set a date to publish the timeline.

In this sorry affair there have been big issues of judgment. The inquiry was announced on 15 June 2009. In this House on that day, as is recorded in the Hansard report, I said that given the very wide scope of the inquiry it should be in two parts—the first looking at the events that led up to the war, and the second

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looking at the conduct of the war. The response of the then Leader of the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was that:

“It is up to the committee how it structures its work”.—[Official Report, 15/6/09; col. 866.]

Three days later, the Public Administration Committee also recommended the same thing—a two-part inquiry into the decision to go to war, and another on the conduct of the war. The Labour Government again stated that it was up to the inquiry to decide what it wanted to do. So the question has to arise: given how very wide the scope was—everybody who has spoken has commented on that aspect—and that that was known from the outset, why did the inquiry decide to do its work as a single comprehensive exercise? Ultimately, that is a matter of judgment.

When Sir John gave evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the other place on 4 February 2015, he admitted that he was not consulted on the scope of the inquiry; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, said that in his opening remarks. In other words, Sir John was given the absolute thinnest of job descriptions: perhaps an analogy would be the kind of initial job advert that we see in newspapers. Rather than asking for a detailed job description with a detailed specification, and arguing the case for a different kind of inquiry or a different timeline—or different staff, more resources or whatever—he accepted the job in 10 minutes flat; frankly, I felt embarrassed reading that part of his evidence.

It therefore seems a fair criticism to ask why, once he had agreed to do the job, he did not take the opportunity to consider the recommendation that he proceed down a different course. Never mind the fact that I made that recommendation; it was also made by a serious committee in the other place, the Public Administration Committee. Sir John said in his evidence that the inquiry took evidence from 150 witnesses and saw thousands of documents. One is tempted to suggest that he might have foreseen that.

My second point is about the delays. Looking at the sequencing of events, it is clear that there was some kind of stand-off between the Cabinet Secretary and the inquiry team, which lasted for a while. Sir John is not ready to criticise the Cabinet Secretary for delay; none the less it took from July 2012 to January 2015 to reach an agreement on publishing the Blair-Bush correspondence. It is perhaps worth noting that Messrs Blair and Campbell, and Jonathan Powell, had been able to publish their reports of these conversations without hindrance.

I am running out of time, so let me conclude with this: the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, has put up a spirited defence about how long it takes to measure the march of history, by telling the House how long it takes to write a biography. I say to him that his colleague Charles Moore has written volume 2 of Margaret Thatcher’s biography, which I am reading at the moment, with great aplomb, in an extremely short time.

I want to pick up the issue of our continuing intervention in the Middle East. Let us go back to the August 2013 vote on not intervening in Syria. We as a country cannot, and should not, make a decision on that until we know of our hand in setting that region ablaze in the first instance. That is the least we owe the country.

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4.40 pm

Lord Butler of Brockwell (CB): My Lords, I start by following the noble Lord, Lord Luce, in making a brief reference to Lord Howe, whose funeral was today. I would have liked to attend that funeral, but I decided not to because I felt that I should take part in this debate. However, seeing the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in his place, who attended the funeral, I perhaps made the wrong choice, but I do not think I could have been sure of doing it. I had the privilege of knowing Lord Howe well from 1979, when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a major political figure and a great public servant. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and his family have been very much in my thoughts today.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, for giving us the opportunity to have this debate. For the most past it will have given deserved comfort to Sir John Chilcot and his team because very many supportive things have been said. I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, made it clear in his remarks that his suggestion that the committee should now be discharged was really a vehicle for the debate rather than a suggestion that he wanted the Government to take seriously. Many speakers have referred to the sense of frustration, which I am sure is shared by Sir John Chilcot and the members of the inquiry itself, that it has taken so long. But although the precise timing of the finish has not yet been specified by Sir John and the team, it is now in sight. To dissolve the committee and to produce a report which is only 90% baked would go a very long way towards wasting all the effort and the resources which have gone into the report so far. It would deny satisfaction to those who have been waiting for a full conclusion on the matters which are of so much concern to so many people, particularly those who lost loved ones in the war. It would require a gigantic learning curve for those who would be charged with taking up the task of producing an interim report, and it would almost certainly take longer than allowing the present team to conclude its task.

There has been much reference, rightly, to the problems which the inquiry has faced. First, as has been said, its terms of reference, settled in the dying days of the last Labour Government, I think in haste and under pressure, were ridiculously wide. They covered everything that happened, both politically and militarily, between July 2001 and 2009. The mind boggles at the number of documents and the number of people involved during that period. In the review which I led into intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, on Iraq alone there were many thousand intelligence reports. The number of documents and the number of people in this case must be many multiples of that. Then, of course, there is also the question of the confidential exchanges with allies, particularly the United States, which has been referred to. That is not a straightforward matter. My sympathies are, as noble Lords might expect, with the Cabinet Secretary in his difficulties over that because, if the President of the United States cannot speak frankly to the Prime Minister of Britain and expect those confidences to be preserved, future presidents will not do so. So that has been a genuine problem and, if I may say so, trying to deal with United States

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Administrations over the release of papers is also not a matter that you can conduct quickly, as I have found in my experience. Then there is the question of the Maxwellisation process and fair treatment of the people who were criticised. That, no doubt, led to more documents, which had to be accessed and assessed. And so the problem has gone on.

Whatever lessons the inquiry teaches us about the Iraq war, there are, as has been said, lessons to be learned about setting up inquiries of this sort. During my time in Government, I was involved in setting up inquiries and since then I have been set up myself, if that is the right term. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner—I am sure other people who have conducted inquiries would share the view—one does not often get the chance to discuss the job description before an inquiry is announced.

When an inquiry is being set up, there are huge pressures on the Government to widen the terms of reference to cover every angle. If the Government wish to confine the terms of reference, they risk being accused of covering up. I am particularly glad to see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, in his place because I was concerned about the setting up of the arms-to-Iraq inquiry. I remember, vividly, that the Government were concerned about the charge that, by bringing a prosecution against Matrix Churchill, they had tried to put innocent people in jail. That was the subject which prompted the inquiry. The Opposition pressed, understandably, for it to be widened to cover the whole subject of the export of arms. The Government, because they did not want to give the impression they had anything to hide, agreed to that and the whole subject was opened up. An inquiry which they had expected to take three months—I do not know what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott expected, I have not asked him—took three and a half years, to cover that very big subject.

The experience of the Chilcot inquiry shows that when we press for inquiries to be set up we should be careful what we wish for. In this case, it is a very big subject and it deserves proper treatment. If the inquiry has taken the time it has taken, I think we should judge it by its outcome and be patient until it is delivered.

4.47 pm

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, I have an interest to declare. I was a TA officer serving in Iraq on Op Telic 1, in the spring of 2003, and I served in the headquarters of the divisional support group of 1 (UK) Armoured Division.

I assumed that the Prime Minister at the time had a very good reason for invading Iraq. It was not my role to worry about why; my job was to do my duty. For me, the purpose of the inquiry is to find out what, if anything, went wrong, to learn from our mistakes and to inform future policy. I do not see the report as purely of academic or historical interest and I think it will help us with our current problems in the Middle East. I do not believe that democratic leaders can lead a country to war without being held to account for the decisions that they made on our behalf. I could see the dodgy dossier for what it was and the inquiry of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, told us about how sofa government worked.

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In Iraq, when we crossed the start line on Operation Telic, we honestly believed that there were weapons of mass destruction, in military significant quantities, in Iraq. I well recall one evening when the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare Warrant Officer looked like death warmed up. We asked him, “What’s wrong?” and he said that the meteorological conditions were absolutely perfect for a chemical attack and that we had already crossed several strategic trip wires.

Fortunately, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But in the first missile attack, I, along with all the other servicemen in Iraq, donned my full NBC protection equipment. I do not know what the temperature was but it must have been at least 40 degrees centigrade. I did not know whether I was going to survive the next hour but I did know that if I did not get my drills correct, I could be killed by my own mistakes.

Maxwellisation seems to be aptly named. It seems to be an invitation to be as economic as possible with the volume of the evidence that you give to the inquiry because the witness is safe in the knowledge that if the inquiry gets on the money, they can come back with better particulars. Surely it would be much better to make it quite clear that there will be no Maxwellisation or very limited Maxwellisation, so you had better tell the inquiry everything you know.

Many noble Lords have pointed out the difficulties that Sir John has experienced. It is worth pointing out that he could have declined to take the mission or could have changed the mission. He could have gone back to the Prime Minister and said, “I have had a look at it and it is far too difficult. We need to do two inquiries. We need a much more closely focused inquiry”. The key issue for people is: was this war—because that it what it was—legal and necessary? Actually, there was plenty of time to appoint the inquiry and to think about the terms of reference, because the inquiry was set up several years after we started the invasion.

On the Blair-Bush communications, if you take two democratic states to war, you must expect to come under a certain amount of scrutiny post the event. I accept that there would have to be some redaction but I think that the inquiry is entitled to refer, without all these delays, to what was going on between our Prime Minister and the President. I do not accept the arguments that we must never know what the two were discussing—because it is absolutely critical to understanding what, if anything, went wrong.

As someone who took part in the military operation in Iraq, I think that the inquiry is a complete waste of time. It is too late and it is too wide. It does not yet hold anyone to account. It also does not yet exonerate Ministers and officials who, in my opinion, have been unfairly pilloried—and, I am sorry to say, by senior politicians in my party who should have known better. Actually, in terms of the conduct of the operation, the logistics side of it, the Ministry of Defence did exceptionally well and there were some really unfair attacks on Labour Defence Ministers.

When we do get the report, it will really help us to understand how we got to the current situation in the Middle East, because Saddam Hussein was the first leader that we deposed and we are now not sure whether that was the right thing to do at all. Finally, of course,

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the delay in the report and in setting up the inquiry is extremely unfair to the Liberal Democrats because they have gone through several general elections without the benefit of the report, which would tell the electorate whether they were right or wrong to oppose the war.

4.53 pm

Lord Dykes (Non-Afl): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, for launching this debate and raising some of the very searching questions that he did, quite rightly. On 1 July at Question Time he referred to these matters and suggested that there should be some kind of interim publication.

None of us can be other than extremely sympathetic to the role that the hapless—I use the word deliberately—Sir John Chilcot has had to undertake in this inquiry. He is regarded as a person of great integrity, probity and distinction in his field. In many ways, there could not have been a better choice. But I was very struck on 4 February when the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Commons, chaired by Richard Ottaway, had its hearing with him. The then right honourable Sir Menzies Campbell—now the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem—asked,

“do you ever rue the day that you were asked to take on this responsibility, Sir John?”.

Sir John Chilcot said:

“I try very hard not to rue the day”.

He went on to say:

“May I put it this way, Sir Ming? All of us, and I say this in seriousness, are determined to get this thing done. None of us thought it would take this long. We want to get it done, but we are not going to get it done by scamping the work or failing in the essential principles that we have set ourselves: everything we say and conclude must be based on evidence. It’s got to be fair; it’s got to be impartial; it’s got to be rigorous—all of that”.

That must therefore be the background once again to the putative timetable for the eventual publication—I very much agree with the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, on these matters—of the substance of what happened in those terrible events in 2003: the declaration of a war that was illegal, only certificated by the UN under pressure afterwards; the worst possible post-war Foreign Office decision apart from Suez for the United Kingdom; the mistakes that were made.

In the debate which I raised in July 2014, which I think was probably the last substantial debate on this matter in this House apart from exchanges at Question Time, I was very struck by the contribution of a non- politician and a non-lawyer, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, who is not here today. He said this of the commemorations of the First World War and all that:

“That is germane to what we are talking about because we owe it to the many people who gave their lives so bravely and to the many families that lost relatives to always look with microscopic attention at the reasons for going to war. We know now that many mistakes were made and we really should be trying to use the example of those errors to never make them again. That is why this inquiry is so terribly important. Then we have the families of those representing us who were bereaved in Iraq and—because of our actions there, arguably—the people who are still losing their lives”.—[Official Report, 1/7/14; col. 1698.]

That was when events were still taking place afterwards. It also applies to the fate of Iraqi civilians. That should be a substantial part of this report.

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I remember vividly an exchange at Question Time before 1 July 2014 when I complained about the delay and the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, a former Foreign Secretary, who is not here today, said that the delay was a scandal, whatever the reasons for it, on the body politic and the public interest. Why was it so important for them to turn on Saddam Hussein if regime change was not the main driver? Why did Tony Blair have those embarrassing exchanges in 2002 when there was no question of there being any declaration of war? Why did the then Government ignore the instinct and feelings of 1.5 million people marching down Piccadilly to protest about what was still an illegal war? Why did the Americans and the British ignore the wise advice of the French Government under President Chirac and Foreign Secretary Dominique de Villepin about the mistake of going to war on that occasion? Those things must come up now and all I say in response to the very apposite points made by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, is that it has to be quam celerrime and not too soon. We look forward to seeing the timetable on 3 November and then making a judgment. Possibly there should be another debate in the House of Lords on this matter as soon as possible after that.

4.58 pm

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I told the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, that if I got back from the funeral of Lord Howe of Aberavon I would try to say a few words in the gap. I begin by endorsing everything that my noble friends Lord Luce and Lord Butler said about Lord Howe. This morning’s service was a very moving one and the feelings of love were palpable throughout because he was a great man who deserved the affection in which he was held. There was much laughter as well, which was entirely appropriate.

I have great concern about this subject. When the inquiry was established I was worried about it. I was worried that we should have an inquiry which could jeopardise international relations and conversations between national leaders—the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has already referred to this—and I was also worried about its open-ended nature. However, in those immortal words, we are where we are. I endorse very strongly the general sentiments of my noble friend Lord Finkelstein. There is no point in having an interim report and abandoning what is there. We now need and deserve to know. There must be a thorough examination. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, I am especially concerned about what happened in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.

I supported the war, as did my noble friend Lord Finkelstein. He supported it in print; I supported it in speech in the other place. I believed that our Prime Minister was entirely patriotic in his designs and desires. I do not resile from that now, but I want to see a thorough inquiry. Sympathetic as we all are to those who lost loved ones who laid down their lives in this war—a small number but, nevertheless, each one an individual who means a great deal to his family—we must not allow our sympathy to create a sense of panic. So, Sir John, who has come in for much undeserved criticism, should know that he has the confidence of your Lordships’ House, that he and his team have our

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trust and that we trust that they will produce a report that is serious and far-reaching and makes conclusions and judgments that are entirely fair. They must not be rushed into so doing. We are grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, for giving us this opportunity, but the message that goes out from your Lordships’ House should of course be that we await with eagerness the publication of the report, but we do not wish to create any sense of undue pressure on those who have been charged with producing it.

5.02 pm

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD): My Lords, I, too, commend the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, on securing this debate. I share with him and others the concern and frustration at the serious delay that has, I fear, damaged the credibility of the Iraq inquiry. However, like all the other speakers, I do not believe that discharging the inquiry would be sensible. In my view, that would send us back to square one, and for us now effectively to go back to the drawing board would be a great mistake. Indeed, were that course adopted, we might never, after all the expenditure of time and money, secure a final report—and securing an authoritative report is vital in the public interest.

What is required now is for the full report to be completed and published as quickly as reasonably possible. The public, those involved in the events of and around the Iraq war, within and outside the armed services—in particular, the families of the casualties— deserve nothing less than a thorough and convincing report within a clear and achievable timetable.

This inquiry has exposed a serious weakness in our arrangements for inquiries, whether or not established under the Inquiries Act 2005. Unfortunately, and no doubt in the interests of protecting his independence and that of his inquiry, Sir John’s correspondence has reflected the view that timetabling is a matter for the inquiry and is almost entirely free from scrutiny. Indeed, he resisted providing a timetable until 13 October, when he promised to write to the Prime Minister by 3 November with a timetable to completion. I agree with the suggestion of my noble friend Lady Falkner that that was probably in response to the tabling of this debate. As recently as 8 September, Sir John had written thus to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee:

“There is, inevitably, further work for my colleagues and I to do to evaluate these submissions”—

he was referring to the Maxwellisation responses—

“which are detailed and substantial, in order to establish with confidence the time needed to complete the Inquiry’s remaining work. As soon as I am able to I shall write to the Prime Minister with a timetable for publication of the Inquiry’s report”.

I do not accept the view of the noble Lord, Lord Attlee, that there is no need for the Maxwellisation process, but I suspect that its management has been insufficiently strict. I also suspect that, had a senior judge been in charge, with experience of bringing difficult cases to readiness for trial, much tighter deadlines would have been imposed, and imposed publicly. The need for a public timetable is one of the things we should stress. I cannot believe, for example, that any individual needs more than two months to respond to indicative criticisms. I am also clear that only one

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response should be permitted, in the absence of the most exceptional circumstances, to avoid the process that fairness requires becoming a negotiation. In my view, the chairperson of the inquiry should publicly set out a timetable, subject to necessary adjustment, with a clear explanation of any need for extension.

When the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced the inquiry in 2009, he said that he was advised that it would take a year. It is unacceptable that, more than six years on, we have had only partial explanations for the delay, despite Sir John’s evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee in February of this year. For my part, I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord that I see no reason why this inquiry was not established under the Inquiries Act 2005. The Select Committee on the Act, established under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland, which reported last year, recommended that,

“inquiries into issues of public concern should normally be held under the Act. This is essential where Article 2 of the ECHR is engaged”,

as it is, of course, loosely, in this case.

Sir John, in his evidence to the Select Committee, did not agree. He felt that the power of compulsion contributed to an overly formal or court-like adversarial process, and said:

“The absence of legal powers to subpoena witnesses and to take evidence on oath was also the subject of debate when the Inquiry was launched…In my statement of 30 July [2009], I said that the Inquiry is not a court of law and nobody is on trial, and that remains the case”.

I disagree with Sir John as to the thrust of that. I regard the power of compulsion, along with firm time management, as essential. It is also quite clear that the protection of national security can be properly managed on an inquiry under the Act. There is a strong case for the Act to be amended to give the commissioning Minister the power to require the inquiry chairman to give a full timetable for his work at the outset and keep it updated as the inquiry develops, much as this House often does when establishing committees to report to the House.

I do not believe that an interim report on the basis of the evidence gathered would be helpful. Such an interim report would be no more than a recitation of the evidence to date, without conclusions or recommendations, or it would draw provisional conclusions open to reversal at a later stage. A record of evidence without the conclusions would be of limited use because the whole purpose of an inquiry is to draw such conclusions, and without them, the report—interim or not—is of no help. Moreover, I agree strongly with others who have spoken that an interim report containing the evidence and interim conclusions would be confusing and unsatisfactory. It would leave the inquiry open to charges of interference if any of the provisional conclusions were altered, and neither set of conclusions—interim or final—would command any respect. If they turned out to be the same, the final conclusions would be criticised on the basis that they were reached precisely in order to accord with the interim conclusions—by definition, the incompletely considered conclusions. If the conclusions were different, then the final conclusions would be criticised for inconsistency with the provisional conclusions earlier expressed.

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Therefore, let us await the timetable for publication on 3 November in the hope that this debate has brought home to the public and the inquiry members the importance of completing an authoritative work and producing a report with expedition.

5.10 pm

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, I first stood at this Dispatch Box about a year and a half ago, and the issue we were discussing at that point was Chilcot; we were awaiting the imminent publication of the report. But here we sit, £10 million poorer and still waiting.

I thank my noble and learned friend Lord Morris for his perseverance in pursuing the publication of this report, but we do not believe that it would make sense, after all the money spent and all the time committed, to dismiss members of the inquiry team and produce an interim report. However, I cannot emphasise enough that Labour would like to see the report published as soon as possible without compromising the thoroughness of the inquiry.

It is worth recalling that we are not here today to debate the substantive issues of the Chilcot inquiry. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Iraqi invasion, a Labour Government under Gordon Brown initiated the Chilcot inquiry in 2009—a public inquiry into the nation’s role in the Iraq war. We appreciate the vast scope of the report, both in terms of the time period it covers and the range of issues which it seeks to address. The report will cover the run-up to the 2003 conflict, the legality of military action, faulty intelligence, the subsequent military action and its aftermath, and will attempt to establish the way decisions were made and the handling of Iraq after the invasion. It will also identify lessons to be learned to ensure that in a similar situation the British Government will be equipped to respond in the most effective manner and in the best interests of the country. The task set for the committee is huge.

Six years since the establishment of the inquiry, with hearings completed in 2011, it is difficult to explain, in particular to the families of those who lost loved ones in the war—alluded to by my noble and learned friend Lord Morris and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner—the prolonged length of time it has taken to complete this difficult exercise. The people involved in decisions on intervention in Iraq have also stated that they are keen to see the report published. Tony Blair himself said in June last year:

“I have got as much interest as anyone in seeing the inquiry publish its findings”.

However, the delay in the publication however does not matter just to them but to all of us. Even the most cursory glance at the region today leads us to conclude that post-war preparation was ill-conceived and ill-prepared. The area of Iraq is still extremely unstable, with IS having taken control of large swathes of the country. The United Kingdom Government, with support from Labour, have already agreed to go back into Iraq to help support the democratically elected Iraqi Government, who are finding it hard to withstand the incursions of ISIL. It would have been useful to know prior to that decision whether we could have learned lessons from our previous intervention.

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With the Tory Government hinting very strongly that they are anxious to intervene in Syria, it would be invaluable to learn whether and how mistakes were made so that they can be avoided in future. That may determine whether and how we intervene at all—who knows? How and to what extent we should take a lead or work with coalition partners in future in the Middle East neighbourhood, and how much influence we have on them, are crucial questions for our long-term strategic plans in the region.

We know that there have been many reasons for the delay in publication; they have been outlined very clearly by my noble and learned friend Lord Morris and other noble Lords. It was partly caused by discussions over certain classified documents, in particular in relation to correspondence with US Presidents.

Members of the inquiry team have had access to and sight of this information; they are all privy counsellors and have had access to thousands of documents which have been declassified from a number of government departments, including the most sensitive intelligence documents. My understanding therefore is that Gordon Brown’s promise at the start of this inquiry that,

“No British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the inquiry”,—[Official Report, Commons, 15/6/09; col. 23.]

has been respected.

The Maxwellisation process has also caused severe delays and, while we do not object to this process, it seems extremely odd—as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Marks—not to have given deadlines to witnesses within which time they needed to respond.

It is important that not only do we learn lessons from the invasion of Iraq so that those mistakes are not repeated but that we learn lessons from our system of carrying out inquiries in this country. Even independent inquiries need budget and time restrictions. This is not the first time that an inquiry has taken so long. The al-Sweady inquiry took five years to report and cost £24 million. The Baha Mousa inquiry took three years and cost over £13.5 million. The Bloody Sunday inquiry cost £195 million and took 12 years to report. These are obscene figures and we cannot continue to function in this way when the country is under such immense financial pressure.

We believe that it is time for the truth on this matter to come out. It is time for the report to be published but we are prepared to be a little more patient so that the job is completed properly.

5.16 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Lord Bridges of Headley) (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, on securing this debate on the Chilcot inquiry. I also thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate—there have been some extremely good and informative speeches. Once again a number of your Lordships, but by no means all, have spoken eloquently of the need for the inquiry to publish the report as soon as possible. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, and my noble friend Lord Dykes, said, uppermost in our minds are the families and friends who lost loved ones in Iraq, as well as those who were severely injured, who have been waiting for years for the publication of the report.

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Despite this sense of disappointment that the report has still not been published, I am sure that everyone here would agree that, as my noble friend Lord Finkelstein remarked, this inquiry is unprecedented in its scope and scale. Never before has a UK public inquiry examined in such depth and detail a decision to go to war and its consequences with unprecedented access to question the people who took those decisions and advised on those decisions, as well as having access to the papers surrounding discussions. I think there will be surprise at the number and extent of highly classified and sensitive material that will be published with the report.

As has been said, it is more than six years since this inquiry of privy counsellors was set up by the previous Labour Government and no one at the time expected it would still not have published its findings in 2015. Sir John himself said, not long after the inquiry was launched, that he expected it to conclude within 18 months. However as Sir John said earlier this year:

“I don’t believe it was possible then … to have foreseen the nature and range of issues that would be disclosed progressively from the examination not only of witnesses in the oral hearings, but of the extraordinarily wide-ranging and voluminous archive”.

As a number of noble Lords have said, I am sure that when the report is published and its conclusions have been considered, we will also wish to debate what lessons we can learn from this inquiry, as the noble Baroness just said, in terms of the process that has been followed, be it on Maxwellisation, that the noble Lord, Lord Marks, spoke about or other matters, such as its remit or how it was established. However, I would argue that that debate is best had when the report is published. As to the publication of the report, since I last answered the noble and learned Lord’s question in the Chamber last July there has been some progress. As we have heard, Sir John has confirmed that all the individuals who received provisional criticisms under the Maxwellisation process have responded and Sir John is currently evaluating those responses. Crucially, last week, the inquiry informed No. 10 that Sir John would write to the Prime Minister by 3 November with a timetable for the completion of the report. Therefore, by early next month, we should know when the report will be delivered.

I turn now to the noble and learned Lord’s question for debate. In the light of these developments, he will not be too surprised when I say that the Government do not believe there is a case for discharging the chairman and members of the inquiry and inviting the Cabinet Secretary to set out a mechanism for an interim report to be produced on the basis of the evidence gathered. As the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said, in less than two weeks we will have a timetable for publication, and we owe it to the families to continue with this inquiry as it aims to provide the answers that they desperately want. Discharging the inquiry at this stage would obviously not help that process.

As has been mentioned, the inquiry is fully independent of government. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, said, this inquiry was not set up under the Inquiries Act. This means, of course, that it has no statutory basis as such. If the Government were to accept the

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course of action set out in the Question, it would undermine the fundamental independence of the inquiry. Therefore, we have to see it through, otherwise any outcome will be significantly devalued and it will delay closure on what has been such a controversial episode in British political history, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, set out very eloquently.

Once the report is published, there will be an initial Statement from the Government in both Houses. Then, once we have all had the opportunity to read and digest what the report has to say, there will be an opportunity for a full debate in both Houses.

I will now touch upon a couple of points that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, mentioned, in particular about the release of papers relating to Tony Blair’s correspondence with President Bush, a point that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, also referred to. I should make it completely clear at the outset that the inquiry has had full access to the information that it has requested. The discussion was about the disclosure of the information that the inquiry had access to. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for setting out in a little detail what actually happened.