Finally, I want to inform the Committee that I intend to make two changes to the amendments that I proposed last Wednesday. The first is to remove any reference to Irish voters lest this fall foul of the Belfast agreement, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, pointed out and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, as well. The second is to introduce what might be called a “sunrise clause”, so that the amendment would take effect only from 1 January 2017. That deals with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, about the practical difficulties of changing the electoral register in time. As your Lordships probably know, EU citizens are marked on the electoral register; Commonwealth citizens are not. The sunrise clause has the additional advantage that it provides to Commonwealth citizens the opportunity to seek British citizenship if they should so decide. The next version of the amendments will deal with the points raised by noble Lords.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I shall speak in favour of Amendment 21, to which I added my name and which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick. As this debate has progressed today, it has underlined the need for the kind of reports that we ask

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for in the amendment. It is of enormous importance that there be a point of reference where voters can see the implications of the decision they are being asked to make, whether that decision is to remain in the European Union or to leave it. It is my hope, although I appreciate that we are asking my noble friend on the Front Bench to accomplish something extremely difficult, that we will be able to find a form of words which is acceptable to both sides of argument as we have heard it articulated during the afternoon. I hope that the areas where information is needed can probably be agreed. They may be surprised and may not wish me to say it, but I think that common threads run through Amendment 21, which I support, and Amendment 27 put forward by my noble friends Lord Blencathra, Lord Hamilton of Epsom and Lord Flight.

Of course, I think I know what my noble friends hope the outcome of the referendum vote will be, and they probably suspect what I hope the outcome will be. Indeed, I have been clear about what I hope the outcome will be. It is probably the opposite of what I suspect they want it to be. However, the report that we are calling for should not lead voters one way or the other. That is for the in/out campaigns, between which we have heard some preliminary skirmishes this afternoon. Those campaigns will be coloured by rhetoric and a selective use of facts—hence the need for an effective report on the consequences of withdrawal, covering a wide area. The report must highlight the changes that will flow from an in or an out decision, and without comment.

I dare say that I might be appalled by the conclusions. Others will be delighted, but that is for the individual to decide and for their own reaction to the factors laid out. It is for the Government to lay out the facts. In some areas, there may not be an immediate change, as many if not all the European directives and regulations have been incorporated into our domestic law. I do not know how that situation will be dealt with or how quickly it could be dealt with. Will it be by piecemeal repeals and replacements, or by some big bang like the European Communities Act 1972? Other prospective changes may be dependent on the outcome of the exit negotiations.

I do not want to trespass into Amendment 24 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, and if I do so I apologise; I will not take the time of the Committee when we reach that amendment by intervening. I believe that the report that we are asking the Government to provide must spell out to the citizens of the United Kingdom that the changes that we seek in exit negotiations, if that is where we get to, are not a fait accompli. They are not ours to demand. We cannot assume that all the other 27 states will agree. It will be for the 27 to decide and agree, and we do not have a vote in that.

I support the thrust of the amendment and hope that the Government will find it possible to enter into discussions before Report on a formula for the report to cover unbiased, informative and complete information, which citizens will require to enable them to make their choice.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, perhaps as two of the amendments mention the EU balance of competences review, I might be allowed to comment on the extent to which the 32 reports that that review produced over two years in four tranches have provided a solid basis of evidence for a rather more dispassionate result. I am well aware that at the time of the 2010 coalition agreement, some in the Conservative Party thought that inviting evidence from stakeholders in law, business, the economy, aviation, and so on, would provide the basis to ask for repatriation of powers, which those various stakeholders felt were already excessively transferred to Brussels.

The outcome of the 32 reports, which I warmly recommend to the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, as evening reading over the next six months, was an overwhelming conclusion from most of the 2,500 pieces of evidence that came in that the current balance of competences suits us fairly well. That is part of the reason why people in No. 10’s press office and others wanted to ensure that the reports were published the day after Parliament rose for the summer or for Christmas so that they would receive as little publicity as possible, but they are there.

I particularly recommend to the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, the report on criminal justice co-operation and the evidence from the Association of Chief Police Officers and various other bodies on why the current arrangements are so strongly to Britain’s advantage. I also recommend the report on co-operation in civil justice, which contains evidence from the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland and the Law Society.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: I am very grateful to the noble Lord for telling me what my reading should be, but can he explain why the existing arrangements cannot continue just because we vote to pull out of the EU?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I think the noble Lord wants to negotiate that we should have a special status and be able to pick those things that we want and say no to those that we do not. However, all international multilateral negotiations are trade-offs and it is not always easy to get exactly the arrangements that you want. There are those who would argue—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, would—that much of what is currently imposed on us is a conspiracy cooked up by people in Brussels. I am merely saying that we need to get hold of the evidence of where we are and what are the costs and benefits of a whole set of very complicated international regulations in a highly internationalised economy and a world where the number of British citizens who cross the channel each year has increased by a factor of 10 over the past 30 years. That has certain implications for policing, crime and all sorts of other things.

5.30 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for being late to our proceedings. British Airways cancelled my flight so I drove down from Scotland.

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The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has the advantage that he has read this competence review. Can he therefore explain why, for example, it is necessary that the guarantee on people’s money held on deposit in this country, which previously stood at £85,000, has to be reduced to £75,000 because the euro has fallen in value? Surely that should not be decided at a European level.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, politics is precisely about the level at which a whole set of decisions are taken. Until the mid-1980s, when Margaret Thatcher launched the single market initiative, international regulations were largely American decisions on standardisation which others—such as ourselves, the Germans and the French—had to accept. Now, these regulations are often negotiated at EU level and then, in turn, negotiated with the United States. The various reports go into some detail on the advantages and disadvantages of acting at the national, subnational, European and global levels. That is part of what happens across the world. I merely point out that some of this analysis has been done. It is extremely important that, as the debate continues, there should be further analysis.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Before we leave that point, is the noble Lord seriously arguing that a Government who guarantee through a guarantee scheme in this country deposits put by pensioners in their banks should be left powerless to decide the level of guarantee; and that the review of competences, if it allowed for that, was in any way competent?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The noble Lord may not have noticed that banking has become a little less national and a little more international over the past 40 years. That is part of the reason why the negotiations over the amount of bank reserves have taken place. That matter has been negotiated for the past 100 years through the Bank for International Settlement and a range of other bodies. Since modern banking developed, there has always been a range of international agreements on aspects of banking, although not in so much detail.

A small number of think tanks have provided some valuable advice. I have great respect for Open Europe, a largely Eurosceptic think tank in origin but which respects the evidence it finds and produces worthwhile reports. Similarly, I have great respect for the Centre for European Reform. There are others on both sides that are less reliable. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, that Migration Watch stands out by the careful way in which it tries to find out the most accurate figures. That is highly desirable. We need accurate figures. The question of what is happening on immigration to this country—how much is long term and how much is short term, in the case of Spanish and Portuguese workers here who may go back when their economies recover—gets us into the range of speculation, but at least we know where we are at present. That is what we need for this debate. It is not easy. We know that there are conspiracy theorists all round. There are great fears about what might happen. However, dispassionate analysis and evidence, where we can find it, are essential to intelligent debate, and that is what the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others are about.

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Lord Grocott: My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, will agree that it is essential to any dispassionate debate—if such a thing is possible—that both sides of the argument should be presented. All the amendments in this group are of a similar character—they all seek further information to present to the British public before the British public make a very important decision. I do not have a problem with any of the amendments because I am in favour of the British people having all possible information. I would like them to have even more information, were it possible.

I cannot find a way of tabling an amendment on this subject that would be in order, but I would love the British people to be able to consider—on the principle that it is better to look in the history book than in the crystal ball—the last time that a major decision in relation to the European Union was made in this country, which was when we decided not to join the euro. I think that that was a splendid decision by the last Labour Government. They went to some lengths to present to the British people the facts of the arguments of those who were in favour of Britain joining the euro as well as the facts as to whether the forebodings of their prophets of doom came into being. I remember that there were all sorts of arguments about the collapse of inward investment into Britain should we not join the euro, and so on. However, that point is out of order so I shall not speak to it at length.

The only problem I have with these amendments—it was part of my interventions on the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, although it does not, in my book, disqualify the amendments—is that I have considerable doubts that I could say that the word “objective” is a characteristic of every amendment in this group. By way of illustration I will refer again to the common agricultural policy. I mentioned the amendment in the name of the noble Lord—I was about to call him my noble friend, although he is not far off—Lord Wigley, with whom I agree on so many things. I agree with him very much that it is extremely important that there should be support for British agriculture in difficult terrain such as north Wales. The noble Lord knows far more about that than I do, but it is extremely important that there is support for that economic activity in our country. However, if we are to have a report on the consequences of coming out of the common agricultural policy, do we or do we not include the presumption—and only a fair-minded person would have to make this presumption—that some of the moneys currently spent by the British taxpayer on the common agricultural policy should be spent directly on British agriculture by the British Treasury?

Lord Wigley: That is, indeed, a central question. However, it is not a matter on which we should make an assumption. We should be told whether or not that will be the case.

Lord Grocott: It would be fine if that happened, but the figures are worth reflecting on. I find it difficult to imagine that the contribution to British agriculture would be less than it is currently via the common agricultural policy. I took the precaution of getting an up-to-date figure—I assume that responses from Ministers are accurate on these matters. I asked the Government

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two or three weeks ago what the current cost of the common agricultural policy was and the answer from the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, was €55 billion for 2015. He went on to say that the CAP accounts for 40% of the EU budget.

Noble Lords who regularly contribute to economic debates—which I do not—will be able to do these figures in their heads. However, €55 billion is the total cost of the CAP. That represents 40% of the EU budget. The UK contribution to the EU budget as a whole is €16 billion. Let us work that out. Off the top of my head, I think the British contribution to the cost of the common agricultural policy is 2 billion or 3 billion euros. I repeat that I have doubts about the use of the word “objective” in this kind of discussion, but it seems that anyone considering this objectively would have to consider that a very substantial contribution to agriculture—that vital industry in this country—would have to come from the British Exchequer if there were less support coming via our contributions to the CAP.

Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): My noble friend asked rhetorically whether there was any reason to suppose that, if we came out of the EU, our level of support to our agricultural sector as a separate country would be any less than it currently is within the EU. I put it to him that there is one obvious ground on which one might expect that our support to agriculture would be much less if we were outside the EU. The political weighting of the agricultural sector’s interest is markedly less in this country than on the continent, in the Republic of Ireland or in other EU member states. If the noble Lord goes to Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands or France—let alone Poland or Romania—he will be able to satisfy himself of that. We have one of the very lowest proportions of population—which of course means voters—who are directly dependent on the agricultural sector: about 1%. That means that the political balance is very different here when agricultural matters are discussed from how it is on the continent, where there is much more political weight behind agriculture. Inevitably that will be reflected in the amount of money coming through to agriculture and in the willingness of the Treasury to continue to support agriculture at the current level, which is based on the aggregate weight of agricultural interests in the European Union as a whole and not on their weight within this country in terms of domestic and political debate.

Lord Grocott: My noble friend makes my point very effectively: these are matters of debate. There is no objective analysis of the cost of the CAP and the likely expenditure in the UK that can be resolved by putting statistics into a computer. He makes a perfectly valid argument from his own perspective.

I am tempted to go down memory lane. Believe it or not—this may come as some surprise to the House—40 years ago, in 1975, I would occasionally go to meetings of the Agriculture Ministers of the European Union, in my lowly capacity as a Parliamentary Private Secretary. I have to say that the conclusions reached by the Council of Ministers at the time were not always in Britain’s interests.

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However, let us not go down that road, because I am not disagreeing with my noble friend. These are not matters of fact but matters of judgment. Part of the judgment might be whether—

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. All afternoon, he has been making a very persistent effort to draw our discussion on to grounds that are not covered by the amendments. If he reads the amendments carefully, he will see that nobody is suggesting that the Government should be asked to quantify the support it would give to agriculture after we withdrew. They are being asked to state, purely as a matter of fact, what the consequences would be—statutory and legislative—if we ceased to be in the European Union and ceased to have the common agricultural policy applied to us. That information can be provided factually: so much in structural support, so much in market support, and so on. These facts are all to be found in the budget of the European Union. The amendments I have tabled do not ask the Government to speculate on other matters, although they do ask the Government to say what would be needed by way of legislation to fill that gap.

Lord Grocott: I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has a different reading of the amendments from mine. Amendment 29, in the name of my noble friend Lord Wigley, inserts a clause that states:

“No later than 12 weeks prior to the appointed date of the referendum, the Secretary of State shall publish, and lay before each House of Parliament, a report on the consequences of withdrawal from the European Union on the provision of financial support for agriculture in each region of the United Kingdom”.

Presumably he is saying that no part of that consideration would take account of the support, if any, to be given to agriculture in the event of our not being in the European Union. My contention is that undoubtedly there would be support for agriculture should we country not be a member of the European Union. That is why my comments are entirely relevant to these amendments—and certainly to that one.

In any event, my broad point is that any discussion of this sort inevitably goes beyond dry legal jargon. It ends with a matter of judgment at some point, as do nearly all matters of foreign policy—if I am allowed to refer to relations with the European Union as matters of foreign policy. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, knows that better than most of us. It seems to me that we either support all of these amendments or none, but we do it with the acknowledgment that they will not solve the problem for anyone. At the end of the day, people will still have to make their own judgments.

5.45 pm

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said that he could not see how any reasonable person could possibly object to these amendments. I hope that I will be able to open his eyes just a little. We have already heard, even in the extended debate on this proposal, just how easy it is to slip into outright campaigning. It seems to be impossible to separate the facts from the campaigning. They say that there are facts, political facts and campaigning manifestos. I happen

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to have written a few campaigning manifestos in my time. I know what wicked statements they are, and I am very glad that I have left all that behind me and now simply write works of fiction.

The amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Blencathra, and others call for an official report—but could any official report ever be worth the paper it was printed on? For instance, an official report at the start of this year that talked about immigration policy in Europe would not have known how events were going to impact on it, and would presumably have looked totally different six months later. The noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Hannay, ask us to gaze into the future of agricultural policy. What will happen if we vote to leave? It depends who is making those decisions after we leave. You do not have to be a political seer to suggest that there is a strong possibility that, if we decide to leave the EU, we will not even know who is going to be Prime Minister six months after that vote. That is the political reality.

Lord Wigley: Does the noble Lord not accept that the Prime Minister himself, when he comes to a judgment on whether to recommend the package he will have renegotiated, will be making some assessments—presumably quantifiable—of the implications of that renegotiation? Is it not reasonable that those who are asked to vote on this have as much information as possible?

Lord Dobbs: I agree entirely with the noble Lord that they should have as much information as possible. However, as well as known unknowns there are also unknown unknowns—as someone once said—which are completely dominant in this area. As far as the EU is concerned, it is the unknown unknowns that have come to the fore and gained strength in recent months and years.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am most grateful to my noble friend. When he looks at these amendments, does he not think that it quite revealing that the Euro-enthusiasts in this house want a report on the perils of leaving and not on the benefits of staying in?

Lord Dobbs: Indeed. However, as I made clear in my statements at Second Reading, I personally—

Lord Bowness: When my noble friend Lord Dobbs replies to my noble friend Lord Forsyth, will he note from me—presumably bracketed among the Euro-enthusiasts—that the reports are not about the perils? The request is for a statement of fact on the consequences of a decision to leave. That is what is being asked for, and indeed I would oppose any suggestion that the report should comment one way or the other, but unless people know about the consequences of leaving, how can they make up their minds?

Lord Dobbs: Getting stuck between my two noble friends is a perilous position. As I made clear at Second Reading, I hope very much that the Prime Minister can bring back the reforms which will enable me to vote for and support him in continuing within the European Union. I do not adhere to my noble friend’s position where he will vote to stay in no matter

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what or that of the position of the noble Lord, which I suspect is that he will probably vote “out” no matter what.

Noble Lords have asked for a factual report. It is worth reminding ourselves of what happened in 1975 when a White Paper was produced. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is probably not asking for the exactly the same sort of operation, but there was a White Paper, and of course it was huge. What the noble Lord and other noble Lords are asking for is a huge amount of work to be done, which will have to be distilled into something more manageable and digestible for public consumption. I have with me the 1975 version and I have to say that it is laughable in its simplicity and its paean of praise. There is very little that is truly objective about it. That indicates to me that it is impossible for anyone, let alone poor beleaguered officials, to come up with something that is going to satisfy everybody. I will not quote from the pamphlet because we do not need to delay ourselves.

Of course we need information. We need as much information as possible in the form of views, predictions and analysis, but that is surely the stuff of the campaign itself. It is the substance of the campaign, not that of some poor, hard-pressed official’s work that will never satisfy either side. These are issues which need to be argued in public with both sides in full cry. As I say, I am afraid that I have no faith in anyone’s ability to produce a report that will satisfy both sides of the equation. It will be no more than a fig-leaf on a very windy day and not worth the paper it would be written on.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, surprisingly, I agree with the spirit of both sets of amendments because, as the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, says, it is important that the people of our country have access to as much factual information as possible. Where I disagree with the noble Lord is that he says that it is up to the two campaigns to put forward the information. The information put forward by each campaign is bound to be biased because they are campaigning organisations. I would ask for a White Paper, and I think that the Minister herself mentioned a White Paper in our debate at Second Reading. I think it is imperative that the Government should themselves produce unbiased, factual information on which the people of this country can make their decisions. Of course the information provided by the campaigns will be of the utmost importance, but it is bound to be biased.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: At the moment it seems as if the Government are going to be campaigning for us to stay in the EU. Why would any report they produce be unbiased?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: There is the political Government, but I believe that the civil servants of our country—there are eminent former civil servants around this House—can produce unbiased information if required to do so by the Government. Civil Servants per se are able to produce unbiased information, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is acknowledging. I think it is imperative that this should be done.

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I want to come back to one issue that was brought up by the noble Lord, Lord Green. Of course I understand people’s fears and concerns about freedom of movement and I understand what he has said about refugees. However, personally, I deeply regret the fact that refugees and the refugee crisis are being brought into this argument. The facts show for themselves that at the moment most refugees wish to go to Germany and Sweden. They are learning the language—it is a prerequisite when they get there; they have to do that—they will have jobs, and I am sure that the majority of them will stay in those countries. But the fact is that these people are fleeing from areas of conflict. People are on the move going from south to north, and they will keep on being on the move until we resolve the conflicts and invest in the regions of the south. I do not think that what is happening with the refugee crisis should have anything to do with the referendum campaign.

Lord Green of Deddington: My point is not actually about refugees because in seven years’ time they will not be refugees, they will be citizens of the European Union. Therefore the issue that may be in the minds of the electorate, at least, are the implications for us in the future if the European Union has lost control of its southern borders and if the chaos in the Middle East continues, which is quite likely. I am not talking about refugees. There is a lot to be said about them, but in this context we need to have our eyes wide open, and in so far as we can provide some guidance to the public, we should cover this issue.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord is saying, but I think we are muddying our feet and that we are in very dangerous waters when we go into these places. By raising these issues we are stoking people’s fears about refugees, and that is not a proper thing to do. At some stage we should discuss these things in more depth rather than in this sort of debate, but I think that it is a very dangerous way forward.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab): My Lords, I have been listening to this debate all afternoon and I find it very interesting indeed. I also realise that all the amendments are well meant, but I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has hit the nail on the head. What she wants is unbiased information, and she believes that you cannot get it from the Government because they are in fact biased. I say that because the Prime Minister has just been to Iceland where he made his position perfectly clear, which is that he wishes to remain in the EU. He believes that it is the best thing for Britain to do, so he has made his position absolutely clear. How can the Government be unbiased? The noble Baroness said that we have civil servants and they will be unbiased. Civil servants are never unbiased; they take their lead from the boss, as in fact they should. Knowing that the Prime Minister has gone abroad and said that he believes that the United Kingdom should remain in the EU come what may will condition whatever is put into these reports. We should make no mistake about that.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Would the noble Lord allow for the possibility that the Prime Minister might have reached the position he now holds because of his concept of the British national interest and his position as Prime Minister in trying to define that national interest?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Yes, I believe that the Prime Minister believes that, but the British national interest cannot be served in the European Union. That is because the European Union is exactly what it says it is and what it wants to become. It has been made perfectly clear by unelected officials and indeed by elected people that they want further integration. However the Prime Minister tries, he will never be able to join a full Union unless he is prepared to agree to more integration, and that of course will also mean joining the euro. Further integration must include the euro and anyone who wishes to be part of further integration will have to join it or else leave or become some sort of associate member. Those are the facts and we should not try to deny them.

6 pm

The other thing that has worried me about this debate is the lack of confidence that so many people have in this country’s ability to negotiate with other countries and to stand on its own and build up its own businesses and exports. Why is it that other countries in the world can do it? Why can South Korea do it with a population of 25 million? Why cannot Britain, with a population of 65 million, negotiate successfully with other countries when smaller countries including Saudi Arabia and Iceland can? The Prime Minister of Iceland made it perfectly clear that it was doing very well outside the EU with a population of 350,000 and did not want to go into the EU any longer. Why have we lost confidence in ourselves? Why is it that so many people say we have to be members of this great organisation to succeed?

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, mentioned South Korea, which has indeed been a great economic success. It is interesting that it has signed a free trade treaty with the European Union. If South Korea can do that, why cannot we?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: If the European Union did not sign a treaty with us but put restrictions on trade, it would be very much the loser. We are trading with the European Union at the moment on the basis of a deficit of £70 billion a year. Why would Europe not want to trade with us? It traded with us before we joined, when 35% of our exports went to Europe. Why on earth would the European Union wish to stop trading with us? Of course it would not. That is nonsense and I wish people would stop talking about these 3,500,000 jobs which are going to be lost.

Lord Flight: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I suggest to him that this lost confidence is in reality merely a scare campaign by the yes vote. There is no evidence that this country has lost confidence in looking after its own interests. It has emerged as the most successful economy of the past four or five years. It is no more than a scaremongering tactic; it is not true.

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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The noble Lord is absolutely right. As I have said before, I believe this country would thrive outside the European Union.

Lastly, I want to comment on the American official, whoever he was, who said that it would be grave from the point of view of America and its relations with this country if we left the EU. Of course that is American policy for two reasons. One is that America is scared that the European Union will succeed. It knows that most countries are anti-American so it wants a friend in sight. The other is that America does not really believe that Britain should shine in the world because the American interest is paramount under any circumstances.

Lord Tugendhat: The official concerned was the United States Trade Representative. I think we ought to assume that the United States Trade Representative is able to speak for the United States in trade matters and surely the point he was making was a very different one. Signing free trade agreements for the United States is a very complicated matter. It involves an infinite amount of politicking in Congress and it is very difficult to carry through. Therefore, from the point of view of the United States it is better to be able to sign trade agreements with very large units where there is a good deal to offer both ways rather than with relatively small units. That is the point he was making and, given that he speaks for the United States in trade matters, one should not be quite as dismissive as the noble Lord has been.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I was not being dismissive. I understand the point of view of the United States and of other countries. The problem is that they want huge agglomerates to discuss and decide matters and I believe that there will be a loss of democracy under those circumstances. I may be wrong but in any event the Americans will still want our whisky and we will still want their awful films so trade will go on.

I want to finish with a quote:

“The European Union faces long-term economic decline and the ‘love affair’ of integration is at risk”.

Who said that? Not me. It was Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.

Lord Higgins (Con): My Lords, I have listened throughout the debate and I remain a little puzzled. A number of possible reports have been proposed but no one has made it clear at which audience the reports are intended to be directed. I suspect very strongly that, even if all these reports were published, the percentage of those voting in the referendum who will have read any of them will be a tiny fraction. Therefore one is bound to ask: at who else are these reports to be directed? They may well be very useful for Members of Parliament but it is unlikely that any of them is going to change our views very significantly at this stage.

To take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Green, I think it would be helpful if we had more information. I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, about the problem of asylum seekers. There is great movement at present not only of asylum seekers but also of migrants. As the noble Lord, Lord Green, pointed out, very complicated issues are arising

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about the effect on the population and the way in which those coming to the country may eventually become full citizens. I think he is right about that but none the less I am very doubtful whether the various reports which we will consider will have much effect on those voting, even if we include 16 year-olds, but I look forward to hearing the view of the Front Benches on this issue.

Because this is an advisory referendum not a binding referendum, as the note from the House of Commons Library makes very clear, we may find ourselves with a somewhat inconclusive result, in terms of both turnout and the majority. In those circumstances the matter may well have to go back to Parliament and these reports may be very useful in that context, so I am in favour of the reports but we need to be clear what their purpose is.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I hope that I may put this point to the noble Lord. All the opinion polling that has gone on in recent months has shown that the people who have made up their minds already are a relatively small proportion on both sides, and that a very substantial number of people have neither made up their minds or believe that they have yet been provided with sufficient factual information to enable them to do so. I do not believe that we should surrender to the sort of cynicism which has percolated through this debate whereby it has been questioned whether providing factual information will be of any use at all, will be read by anyone at all or will be unbiased, et cetera. The purpose of these amendments, which were carefully drafted so as not to stray into the realm of advocacy, is to try to fill a gap which I would have thought all the objective evidence shows exists and needs to be filled. I hope that the Minister, who has listened extremely patiently through this long debate, will see her way to moving ahead in a direction whereby help can be provided by giving factual information which would enable people to make up their own minds.

Lord Higgins: I entirely agree with the noble Lord that it is helpful to have more information; that is entirely common ground between us. I merely said that I thought it would be rather naive, for want of a better expression, to suppose that these reports would be read by more than a tiny percentage of the people voting. They may be taken up in the press, of course, and get somewhat wider dissemination, and that would be useful. I am merely saying that we should not exaggerate the effect on the people voting. However, the reports may have a useful purpose in the mean time and perhaps in the longer term.

6.15 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I have listened to this debate with fascination. It is, of course, crucial. It raises huge issues and takes us right back to the origins of the move towards having a referendum at all. In the end, what we need in this country is leadership and people who stand up for what they believe in and argue for it. This vision of nurturing an imaginary world in which somehow the provision of passive, impartial information will enable people to make up

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their minds is naive, as has been said. What enables people to make up their minds is an argument of real substance adduced with passion and conviction. That is the issue.

I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has given us an opportunity to have this debate although I have slight anxieties about how you can spell out the consequences of this situation. That seems to me a very absolute understanding of how human affairs are conducted. I do not know that you can say what the consequences are. However, you can say what the implications are and they can be well argued and substantiated, and a report of that kind would be helpful.

Having had the privilege to serve on the home affairs sub-committee of the European Union Committee, I know that the sense of urgency behind our deliberations has not been neglected. The sub-committee looked at the implications of change in the home affairs role and at crime and security. One thing was absolutely clear in those deliberations—modern crime is completely internationalised. Indeed, one thing was devastatingly clear—terrorism is totally internationalised. There can be no one in this House who does not lose sleep over security issues. We took evidence from people in the front line with practical, in-the-field responsibility in these spheres. It is worth noble Lords looking at not just that report but also the evidence because what came across to me as we listened to that evidence was that virtually without exception those with operational responsibility said that, unless we had gone mad, we must realise that we could handle this situation only with effective international arrangements in place. They had not a shred of doubt that we would have lost our marbles if we ceased to co-operate within the context of Europe. It is there in the evidence. Noble Lords should not listen to the opinions of fellow Peers but should read the evidence. However inadequate, however much there is need for change and improvement in the relevant arrangements, the European dimension has become indispensable to work in that sphere.

I think that a timescale of at least 12 weeks before the referendum is incredibly short for consideration of any report, but I also think that it is awfully luxurious in terms of how much time would elapse before such a report was available. If we are talking about the safety of our families and this nation and the protection of our industry, given the cyber issues that have been raised, we need factual information from the people in the operational front line about what we are luxuriously contemplating. The immediate security issues affecting our people today—tonight—demand that we know what we are going to do and how we are going to achieve that if we withdraw from the European Union, and how we ensure that the co-operation which those in the front line see as indispensable is maintained.

Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I will not detain the Committee by going over all the arguments that have been made. I, of course, agree with those noble Lords who think that the information and any statements that may be produced should inform people about the consequences of remaining in as well as leaving the European Union. However difficult that may be, at

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least the Government should say what kind of association with the European Union they think would be desirable for the United Kingdom to pursue in the event that it votes to leave the EU.

My noble friend Lord Forsyth commented that under the Bank of England bank deposit guarantee scheme the maximum amount that is guaranteed has been reduced from £85,000 to £75,000. It is clear that that is because the euro is the currency of the European Union and all monetary values are determined in euro amounts. I suspect that this has happened because the sum was fixed at €100,000, which was approximately £85,000 and is now approximately £75,000. That is why the Bank of England has reduced by a significant percentage the maximum amount available under its guarantee scheme.

I also noticed that, according to the Daily Telegraph, Cabinet sources have informed that newspaper that the Prime Minister’s thrust for substantial alterations to our terms of membership will cover four main areas, and that he is asking for an explicit statement that the euro is not the official currency of the EU, making it clear that Europe is a multicurrency union. From that it follows that if Europe is to be a multicurrency union, it would not be possible in future for the Bank of England arbitrarily to reduce the maximum amount under its guarantee scheme in the way that it has, or to increase it, should the currency movement be reversed.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My noble friend is absolutely right. Is the situation not even worse, however, in that even if the Bank of England wished to set another level it cannot do so? British pensioners and savers are having to reorganise their savings to make a reduction. The British Government, the Prime Minister or the Bank of England do not have the power to decide a simple matter, such as how much is guaranteed on deposit. That illustrates how overwhelmingly intrusive Europe has become.

Viscount Trenchard: The noble Lord is completely right. As I said in at Second Reading, it is necessary that our renegotiations should include the repatriation of financial regulation, the independence of the Bank of England from the European authorities, and the independence and equivalence of our own financial regulators with those of the European ones, which should be those for the eurozone.

Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords, in intervening briefly on this group of amendments, I apologise for doing so after having been unable to speak at Second Reading or in Committee last week, because of a serious family illness. I hope that the Committee will permit me to make a brief intervention, despite that absence.

I want to say two things. One has been said more than adequately by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. This concerned the point in Amendment 21 that stresses that the report on withdrawal should cover law enforcement, security and justice. The noble Lord is right: we should listen to the police and others in front-line operational roles. This indeed happened with

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the exercise of opting back in to 35 measures and that is what was so persuasive. That has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Judd.

Secondly, in supporting this group of amendments, particularly Amendment 21, may I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart? He suggested that those of us who are perhaps on the inside have a lack of confidence in the UK. I deny that charge. It is not about lacking confidence in Britain, with its overtones of almost being unpatriotic, a charge I also deny; it is about living in the real world.

May I also take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra? Earlier, we heard that somehow we know better than the US trade representative. Mike Froman, a senior and serious person, has, in the words of the Financial Times, “poured cold water” on the prospect of the UK negotiating its own trade agreement with the US or with other major trading partners, such as China. He said that the US would have little interest in doing so and that the UK could face the same tariffs as China, Brazil or India. With respect, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, suggested that we know better than the US what the US would want to do.

Lord Blencathra: I am sorry if I gave the impression that we know better. I am not suggesting that; I am suggesting that we should distinguish between political rhetoric from a member of the US Government, who wants the United Kingdom to stay in Europe for a host of other reasons, and the reality that Americans would face should Britain decide to leave.

Baroness Ludford: I had some contact with Mike Froman when I was vice-chair of the European Parliament’s delegation to the US. He is an extremely hard-headed and tough character. I rather doubt that he is just indulging in politics. He is talking about the real world and what is actually negotiable.

This debate on the report on our withdrawal from the European Union has strayed into the set of amendments beginning with Amendment 24, on the alternatives and our future relationship with the EU, which is what I really intended.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Could the noble Baroness help me with her great experience in these matters and her knowledge of these trade relations? Could she explain how it is that Iceland, which the Prime Minister visited the other day, has managed to negotiate a trade agreement with China and the EU has not?

Baroness Ludford: I am not a trade specialist, but I fully accept that far fewer interests are involved when 28 member states are trying to negotiate with China, while with a country of 60-odd million—the UK—would have many more interests at stake than Iceland. If you listen to the Scotch whisky producers, they say that it is because of EU clout that they have access to Asian markets. They did not get this with the UK negotiating for them, but with the EU negotiating for them.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords—

Baroness Ludford: I will finish, rather than be intervened on from every direction. May I just finish?

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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, like other noble europhile Lords, is praying in aid the recent remarks from the other side of the Atlantic, may I ask her and her colleagues to remember that 15 years ago, in 2000, the International Trade Commission, which I think is the largest economic think tank in the world and advises the US Congress, came over to this country for a fortnight? It took every single department to pieces and concluded that the United Kingdom would then have been much better off had it left the European Union and joined NAFTA, and that the United States would been better off, too. Since then, the trading position between us and the United States makes that claim even stronger, while the position of the European Union has declined and will go on doing so. It sounds as though as these remarks from the United States should be left out of the arguments of those who wish to stay in the European Union.

Baroness Ludford: I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing a 15 year-old report to my attention. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the International Trade Commission or its report. If he would care to send it to me, I would be more than pleased to read it. I think my point about living in the real world has been well made. The idea of the United States wanting us to join NAFTA is new to me.

In conclusion, it is essential to have these reports on withdrawal. In anticipating the ones on alternatives or the future relationship, I think they will become points of reference. We campaigners on both sides will try to make our point, but we have to give confidence to citizens and a point of reference to check our claims. These reports are essential.

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords—

Lord Flight: My Lords—

The Earl of Courtown (Con): Could we hear from the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford? I know that he has been trying to get up for some time.

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, I should like to comment briefly on two contributions this evening that should not be left unanswered or uncommented on. One was a contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, which I shall come to in a moment. The other was the recent remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. He said that it was obviously absurd that the European Union should fix the level of retail deposit insurance. This is an important matter for financial stability. I put it to the noble Lord that there are extremely good reasons why there should not be a free for all in retail deposit insurance, and he should think about them carefully.

There are two such reasons. One is that if there is a free for all, there is a great temptation for individual states to compete by increasing the level of their guarantee, thereby attracting deposits from neighbouring states—or, as they would see it, competitive states. That is extremely dangerous because it leads to transferring risk from the banking system to a sovereign Government and when taken beyond a certain point, as happened dramatically in the case of Ireland just a few years

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ago, can produce a crisis of confidence in the credit rating of the sovereign state itself. That would be very foolish.

The other thing that it does is to introduce a moral hazard, when depositors find that in certain countries they face the chance of getting such a large level of guarantee on their deposit from the local sovereign state that they do not have to pay any attention at all to whom they are banking or placing their deposits with. That goes for sophisticated investors who are depositing hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars, pounds or euros. That sort of moral hazard is extremely dangerous and leads to lazy banking, and to banks being able to get away without satisfying their depositors that they are solidly and solvently managed—an extremely damaging thing for the stability of the financial system. I give way to the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who I hope will take my comments seriously because they are genuinely important.

6.30 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I do not take the noble Lord’s comments at all seriously. We are talking here about a guarantee of £75,000, which has nothing to do with people who are depositing millions of dollars around the world. Where I think he is right is that I can see the case for having a guarantee in a single currency zone. My point is that we are not in the euro, yet we are being told what to do with sterling.

Lord Davies of Stamford: My point is that if we had a free-for-all, it would start off at £75,000, which is roughly the equivalent of €100,000—that is why we have that figure. Some member state might well then be tempted to say “We will offer €150,000”, then somebody else would come back and say, “We will offer €180,000”. Then another would offer €250,000. There becomes a Dutch auction in these matters, which is very much in no one’s interest. This is an example of where the collective interest is much better served if individual member states do not adopt their own rules on this matter. I leave the point there. Although it is very important, I am prepared to continue with it in another context.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: On the same principle, would the noble Lord, Lord Davies, advocate that we all had the same corporation tax rate?

Lord Davies of Stamford: There could be economic advantages in doing that; equally, there are other advantages in having tax competition. I am rather in favour of the latter, as tax competition produces downward pressure on the level of taxes. A free-for-all in retail deposit insurance produces upward pressure on the guarantee and therefore on the liability of the member states extending it. The two things are diametrically opposed. I know that there are arguments in favour of unifying corporation tax rates but they do not persuade me. I do not imagine that they persuade the noble Lord either.

I come to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, who always speaks with great thought and wisdom on these matters, although I do not usually

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agree with him on European issues. He said something very depressing: he did not think that anybody—or very few people—would bother to read any reports produced on this matter and that people would take their decisions otherwise, perhaps by looking at the press. I have no illusions about this. I am very depressed and worried about this campaign, which could turn extremely unpleasant. I anticipate that a number of the large-selling newspapers, particularly the


and the

Daily Mail

—and the

Daily Express

, which does not sell very many—will adopt a very demagogic and emotive campaign, which will be rather subtle and indirect. It will use dog-whistle techniques but will really be all about foreigners, refugees and barbarians at the gate. I fear that people will be influenced by that sort of thing but I hope that it will not be a dominant number, or certainly not a majority.

We have a sophisticated democracy and an educated public, so we should not be too depressed or cynical about our fellow citizens. There must be literally millions of people in this country who will face the decision they will be asked to make in this referendum very conscious of its importance for the future of their country, their families and their communities. They will desperately want to have some clear advice and information from somewhere. If they go on to the internet they will have 5 million references and be completely paralysed, as we all are when we look up a matter which is the subject of substantial and wide-ranging controversy on the internet. It is utterly reasonable that they have a small, defined number of authoritative sources, some of which must be identified with the two campaigns but some of which should be identified with the Government.

We seem to be missing two essential points here. One is that the Government and Parliament are the servants of the public, not the other way round. It is our responsibility, and the Government’s responsibility, to provide such a source of material and information. Whether or not the elector chooses to bother with it at all would of course be his or her decision. The elector is sovereign but under no circumstances should we not fulfil our duty, which is to provide the opportunity for this important element in the decision that individual electors will need to take.

Lord Marlesford (Con): Does it not follow from what the noble Lord is saying that one way of reducing undue influence would be for both sides of the campaign to agree on a simple exhortation: make up your own mind?

Lord Davies of Stamford: I come now to my second point, which relates to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. A citizen of this country is entitled to think that the politicians who he or she pays for will do an honest job in a case like this, by not merely providing an opportunity for a referendum to take place but providing what we can by way of elements to enable that individual elector to take a decision.

I want to re-emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. Any Government who are half competent—or even a quarter competent—will, in circumstances like this, produce their own study of the cases for joining or leaving, along with the costs of

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leaving or not leaving and so forth. Any Government who were 10% competent would be going through those exercises and, as he said, given that those studies will have been undertaken they must not be kept under lock and key in Whitehall. The public in a democracy have a right to know to what conclusions the Government have come in their own studies. They have a right to have disclosed to them material information of that kind, which may be available in Whitehall or elsewhere in the interstices of government. On those two counts, it is absolutely essential that we do what we can to ensure that such reports are identified, undertaken and, above all, made available to the British public.

Lord Flight: I wrote to the Treasury about the reduction in the guarantee to £75,000 to have the reason confirmed. I have had a letter back from the Treasury saying that it is doing its best to negotiate that it cannot go any lower than £75,000, so I wish it luck.

I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Higgins but, to be candid, for even wider reasons the exercise is unlikely to be of huge use. First, if you are to have papers about staying in, you have got to have papers about coming out. Secondly, and fundamentally, the issues that are so important are matters of judgment. We do not yet know what the agricultural arrangements may be or what trade agreements there may be with America and India, and so forth. You could take an educated guess but a factual paper must not have educated guesses in it. A whole lot of historic dead data about the EU one way and the other will, candidly, not excite anyone to read it in the slightest, but it is not the job of the Government to publish opinions. It is the job of the campaigning entities to express those expectations and opinions.

Lord Davies of Stamford: The whole point is that the individual campaigns will not have access to the material which the Government will have produced. It is essential that the public have access to that; if they cannot have access to it through the campaigns, the campaigns themselves will not know what material the Government have on the subject.

Lord Flight: Most of the factual information is already there in various forms, so it would not have to be reprinted by a government department. The crucial point is that the campaigners will set out their expectations and judgment as to what will happen one way or the other. As the noble Lord pointed out, leadership in this situation one way or tother is likely to win the referendum campaign.

The proposals seemed to start by proposing that there should be a whole set of papers on either the advantages of staying in or the problems and risks of staying out. If we ended up with a fair and balanced covering of both sides, I think it would be pretty much a waste of time.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, the key to producing reports is who writes them. The answer is that the Civil Service writes them. Two things are wrong with that. First, the Government at the moment look as if they are going to advocate that we should

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stay in and the civil servants, if they are doing their job, will slew the reports in such a way that they advocate that we should stay in—so they are going to be biased and of little value for that reason.

The other point is that the EU is very bad at creating jobs. At the moment, it is looking at astronomically high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. There is one exception to that, which is creating jobs for civil servants. This makes the Civil Service even more biased than it might have been otherwise.

Baroness Morgan of Ely: My Lords, we have had a long and comprehensive debate. The decision in front of the country will have a huge effect on its future. If members of the public are to have a say, it is absolutely right that they should have information available to them in order to make an informed decision. The Electoral Commission suggests that people want this information. They do not feel equipped to make the decision at the moment. That is why we are requesting these reports.

The Government’s silence on some of these matters is extremely concerning. It could be interpreted in two ways. Either the Government do not know the answers or they have not understood the question. I want to explain what is at stake because it is very important that we prepare now to inform our fellow citizens. When I talk about our fellow citizens, I mean citizens of the United Kingdom, but there are also implications for EU citizens. We have to understand that a decision to leave the EU would have an impact not just on UK citizens but on EU citizens as well.

First, it is vital that we do not underestimate the complexity of the legal situation that would arise if we were to leave. EU law is part of UK law and its adoption over more than 40 years has given UK citizens, companies and public authorities a vast array of rights and duties. We need to know what those rights and duties are and what being an EU citizen gives you. We need the public to understand that. Many thousands of EU provisions have become part of UK law, not just at central government level but in the devolved Administrations and at local government level. So repealing or amending EU laws would necessarily be a very complex and demanding process. How would the Government manage this process? What would they do? What would they retain? Would they repeal certain amendments or would they just take the whole lot, lock, stock and barrel and accept them into EU law? Would we have one Bill, as was suggested earlier, or would we have to change every single Bill that has been passed over the past 40 years that has any reference to the EU?

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I do not understand the noble Baroness’s point. It is true that our law has been fashioned by the EU, but it is on the statute book. There is no need to do anything on day one after we have voted to leave the European Union. Surely she is presenting a problem that does not exist.

Baroness Morgan of Ely: We will not need to do anything on day one, but we will certainly have to disentangle our relationship with the EU at some point in the future. That will take an army of

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administrators and legislators to sort that out at a time when the Government want to cut the number of civil servants. We need to confront this practical issue.

We are interested in providing and getting the public to see objective information. Regarding the practical consequences for individuals in the UK in the event of withdrawal, I have already asked the Government questions in relation to maintaining EU employment rights. I am still awaiting a reply. The questions concern social legislation in a huge number of areas including maternity, paternity, parental leave, annual rights, the rights of agency workers, protection of employees on the transfer of a business and anti-discrimination legislation. Will these be retained or will they go? Is there a risk element here or not? It is fair to ask these questions.

6.45 pm

Similarly, people deserve to know the implications for EU legislation in the area of consumer protection, for example, on unsafe products, unfair practices and distance selling. We can buy things at the click of a switch today—the click of a mouse—from any of the EU member states and certain guarantees will come with that. Will they be respected in future?

What about the raft of EU environmental legislation? Will the Government retain EU standards for water quality and clean beaches? Presumably, UK citizens would no longer receive automatic health insurance if they go to other EU countries. All these issues carry a risk and have a question mark over them if we were to leave. It is absolutely right that the public are informed about that. We have had a long discussion on the huge implications for farmers. Of course they have the right to know. We perhaps will not know the consequences—how much the Government would make up for any loss that comes from leaving the EU—but farmers should be clear that there is a question of risk for them.

The same issue applies to structural funds, about which the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, talked very clearly. We know that we have been able to trust the EU in terms of giving us this money in the past. We have not necessarily been able to trust central government in London. It is important that people understand that sometimes we trust the EU to look after us in a way that the UK has not looked after us in the poorest parts of the United Kingdom.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: When the noble Baroness talks about giving us this money, it is our money which the EU is giving back to us because we are substantial net contributors. Is she really suggesting that we cannot take decisions for ourselves as to how we could spend that money?

Baroness Morgan of Ely: The noble Lord is absolutely right that we can take decisions; I am concerned about what those decisions will be. I have no clarity whatever that the money will go back into the UK coffers and then straight back to the farmers in the UK or the structural funds in the poorest areas of Britain. We

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have no clarity on that and it is absolutely right that we raise the question, particularly for those who are directly affected.

Turning to the amendment in my name, I ask what will happen to the citizens of Gibraltar. Spain would love to take the opportunity to leverage the whole situation of British exit to push its case for sovereignty over the island. What is the Government’s contingency plan if we were to leave? What would happen if Spain were to close the border? Would we send a fleet? Would we mount a Berlin-style airlift to support the island? The people of Gibraltar are very concerned with these questions.

Few would deny that membership of the EU and the single market brings huge advantages to the UK economy and to British businesses. Many other aspects of our national life have also benefited. Will the Government provide a precise and comprehensive report on the possible consequences of withdrawal? We are pleased that the Minister has said that she is in listening mode and that there may be a possibility of producing some kind of White Paper on the impact of withdrawal—and of remaining in the EU as well; I do not object to that. We would like to hear today a commitment that the Government will produce a White Paper and we would like to hear the timescale in which the Minister believes it will be possible to produce it. Much of the work has been done. The balance of competences review has done a lot of the spadework. It needs to be updated into a comprehensive look at the consequences. We believe that the failure to provide such information before a decision of this magnitude would be letting down the British people and shirking an essential responsibility of government.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to what has been an extensive and certainly an important debate today. This Bill sets the stage for one of the biggest decisions that the British public have been asked to make in a generation. It is absolutely right to say, therefore, that the British public should expect to be able to make an informed decision and to be provided with information about the possible consequences of the decision they take when they cast their vote.

The debates today give the Committee the opportunity to consider what information it is appropriate and/or necessary for the Government to provide at the conclusion of the negotiations for a reformed EU. As the Electoral Commission has recognised, it is the designated campaign organisations that will play a crucial role in providing such information. This is the established practice in the United Kingdom and is in line with the Council of Europe’s best practice guidance on referendums. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has argued, along with many other noble Lords, there may also be a role for the Government. That issue has been fully discussed today, and there are further matters relating to that in other groups that we will discuss later today.

Each of the amendments in this group creates a statutory requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a report no later than 12 weeks before the date of the referendum and to lay such reports before each

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House of Parliament. Before I refer to the timeframe itself, in line with the normal practice in these circumstances, I should comment on the different content required in each report as set out in the amendments themselves.

Amendment 21, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the noble Baronesses, Lady Morgan of Ely and Lady Smith of Newnham, and my noble friend Lord Bowness, requires the Government to publish a report that sets out information on the consequences of withdrawal from the European Union. The report must cover: the effect that withdrawal would have on the rights of individuals in the UK, and on the rights of UK and EU citizens living in the EU and UK respectively; the legislative consequences for each government department and the devolved Administrations; and the impact on social and environmental legislation, law enforcement, security and justice. Many noble Lords have intervened in other Members’ speeches with regard to these matters.

This has been a very useful opening salvo to the debates today on information, but I rather feel that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, will not be too surprised if I remark that his amendment is highly prescriptive. I know that he meant to set out a very good construct around which other noble Lords could contribute; he has achieved just that and I am grateful to him. As for the content of the amendment, the duties that it imposes are onerous. That is not necessarily a reason to not do this, but I am very mindful of what my noble friend Lord Higgins said when he posed the question of who these reports are meant to be for. That is what we need at the core of our deliberation. The public are educated and sophisticated, and those of us who are unelected take those who cast their votes for another place very seriously indeed. When we go on the doorstep, we listen to what they say. We are confident, as we should be, that they want to see clear, objective information, but the question to consider is how that will be best delivered. How will it be objective? As my noble friend Lord Higgins said: how will it be accessible? We do not want to overwhelm people with detail but want to enable them to make an informed decision.

Amendment 21 would also need to be carefully reworked before it could appear in the Bill. For example, the references to “European” or “United Kingdom citizens” and to “devolved jurisdictions” would need to be corrected. We would need to work out whether there was an intended distinction between the use of the terms “legislative” and “statutory”. We would also need to clarify what was intended by the term “social legislation”, which is at present so broad as to be unclear. The very broad nature of the examples that noble Lords gave showed the difficulty with the definition. We would also need to think carefully about which of the areas in question, such as environmental legislation, were devolved matters.

I know the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has used this as a valuable spur to debate, but I should put on the record why it would not be appropriate to accept the amendment, which appears to require detailed analysis of future discretionary changes to devolved legislation, without first consulting the devolved Administrations. I hope that noble Lords will accept that it would be inappropriate to commit at this stage, on behalf of

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four different Governments, to producing such broad analysis. To condense this into one report could be confusing to those who need to make a decision at the ballot box.

Amendment 27, tabled by my noble friends Lord Blencathra, Lord Hamilton and Lord Flight would create a statutory requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a report and lay it before both Houses of Parliament, 12 weeks before the date of the poll. Unlike Amendment 21, this report must set out the consequences for the United Kingdom of remaining in the European Union. The amendment has given the Committee a valuable opportunity to broaden the debate on what constitutes information appropriate for the Government to publish. In that respect, it assists the debate today. However, like Amendment 21, this is a highly prescriptive amendment that sets out six areas that the report must cover. These include the effect on the UK’s social security systems, its insolvency law and its place on the IMF if it were to remain in the European Union. Noble Lords will be aware that providing the level of detail required by this amendment on a wide range of policy areas could involve a high degree of speculation. We would all be cautious about that, I hope. Without a crystal ball—I do not have one to hand—I fear that we could struggle to anticipate future policy developments at EU level. I know, as I have heard it from all quarters around the Committee all afternoon, that noble Lords want to ensure that any information provided to the public is well founded and assists an informed decision.

Amendments 28 and 29, from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and Amendment 30, from the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, focus on the consequences of a withdrawal from the EU on structural funds, support for agriculture and Gibraltar. Amendments 31 and 32, from the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, focus on the consequences on net migration of remaining in the EU and access to citizenship for non-EU citizens within member states. I will make two points with regard to all these amendments. These are highly specific obligations. The question we need to consider is whether every one of the requirements set out in these amendments represents the extent of the information that the general public would need from the Government or not. We come back to the question of what it is right for the Government to propose for the public—which includes us as voters—to be able to make a well-informed decision. Noble Lords clearly already have varied views on that, and we need to see how we take that forward to be able to come to some common conclusions at some stage.

Lord Wigley: I thank the noble Baroness for the attention she is giving this. If the Government were unable, after considering this matter, to give a commitment to bringing reports on structural funds and agriculture—which my two amendments address—would she rule out the right of the National Assembly for Wales to bring forward its own reports and its own interpretation of the situation?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it would be wrong of me to give a commitment on that until I have come to the conclusion of what I may or may not be able to offer. I do not want to provide too much hope

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about what I am going to be able to offer, but I hope it will be seen to be constructive, which is how it is intended. I know the noble Lord makes a very serious point in his intervention. At the base of this, and what needs serious consideration, is what the Government should be providing and what should be provided by campaigning bodies.

7 pm

I turn now to the 12-week minimum period imposed by each of the amendments in this group. The content required by the amendments, individually and in aggregate, is both extremely broad and very specific. Requiring that the Government supply this information 12 weeks before the referendum date may well have a significant impact on the date of the poll itself. That is an issue that the Committee, and then the House, will need to take into careful consideration when discussing these matters further, because anything connected to timing implications will need to be taken into account. I appreciate that noble Lords will have different views on the matter.

The Government have made it very clear that we are committed to delivering a referendum that is fair and is seen to be fair, but the 12-week timeframe imposed in these amendments risks jeopardising the legitimacy of the referendum. I am concerned that failure to deliver this breadth of information at least 12 weeks before a poll, once the date of the referendum had been agreed by both Houses through affirmative regulations, would leave us in breach of the law. The ambiguities that I have mentioned in some of the amendments could cause uncertainty and argument over whether an obligation has been fulfilled, and therefore cause potential legal risk. I know that that is not the outcome that noble Lords want. At this stage, therefore, we believe that to commit to an arbitrary deadline would be unwise.

Our approach is to engage in ongoing reform, to negotiate and then hold a referendum. We will work together with other countries to discuss and agree reforms, many of which will benefit the whole EU, before holding a referendum to ensure that the British people have the final and decisive say. Although the referendum is not considered to be binding—I have seen the report by the Select Committee on the Constitution—my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that he will abide by the decision that the people make. As the Prime Minister has said, Britain would benefit from being in a reformed EU, but a reformed EU will also benefit from having Britain in it. As my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in June, the Government intend to publish an assessment of the merits of membership and of the risks of a lack of reform in the European Union, including the damage that could do to Britain’s interests.

Naturally, I heard the strong calls last week on Second Reading and again today for an in-depth assessment of the implications of a vote to leave or remain in the European Union. The Government will now give careful consideration to what we may be able to bring forward, by way of an amendment on Report, which would command the support of both Houses.

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However, before I comment in more detail, I wish to listen carefully to the remaining arguments that will be made today on the provision of information. Three groups of amendments remain and it is important that I listen to the noble Lords who move them. Therefore, at this stage, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, to withdraw amendment 21. I also invite other noble Lords not to move the remaining amendments in this group when they are reached in the list in the usual way.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I welcome all the contributions that were made today, even if some of them strayed into what is known as the ”Second Reading repeat” category. We heard many views expressed and I think we have made progress. I thank the Minister for her response to the debate—which was, as usual, thoughtful and considered—and for her willingness to take this all away and consider what sort of amendment the Government could introduce on Report. I would certainly not be so churlish as to either criticise or reject that.

I am a little puzzled by her recoiling in horror from any time factor to be associated with the provision of information. I was not quite sure whether she thought that 12 weeks was too long or too short. In any case, a time factor of some sort is pretty desirable; the risk otherwise is that there will be controversy about the material being produced too late. It would not be the first occasion on which the Government have arrived too late with material and it would be bad and contrary to the Government’s own interest if that were to happen in this case. So I hope the Minister will not exclude the possibility of a time limit when she considers all that has been said in this debate. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 21 withdrawn.

Amendment 22

Moved by Lord Turnbull

22: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—

“Office for Budget Responsibility

(1) The Secretary of State shall request the Office for Budget Responsibility to consider and report on the effect on the United Kingdom economy of withdrawal from the European Union.

(2) The report provided for by subsection (1) must be published, and laid before each House of Parliament, no later than 12 weeks prior to the appointed date of the referendum.”

Lord Turnbull: I apologise for missing the earlier part of this debate; I was detained on other business in the House. I have heard enough, however, to convince me of the importance of providing an authoritative and objective analysis not just of what “in” looks like, but of what “out” would look like. I have also heard enough to convince me just how complex a task this is, but it is a task that we have to complete—we owe it to our electorate. I do not share the pessimism that not many people out there will want to read this: they may not read the actual reports, but they will certainly want to go into the discussion of them.

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It can be argued that reporting on the impact to the economy, which is the subject of this amendment, would be subsumed in one or another of the amendments in the previous group, or in the analysis that the Minister has offered. I very much welcome the assurance that she has given us. This amendment is less about scope and more about who is best placed to provide an objective account, whether that is the Government, the campaigning groups or an independent entity. For many of the issues—including those listed by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, of residence, citizenship, employment and the various regulatory regimes which will replace EU legislation—answers can be provided only by the Government, as they are the only people who know the full complexities of them. However, for a report on the impact on the economy, I believe that we do have an alternative—we have created the Office for Budget Responsibility, which has developed a reputation for objectivity—and I think we could entrust this task to it.

There have been two major reports produced by Treasury officials—it was after I left the Treasury, but I am still very proud of them—the assessment of the five tests for entering into the euro, in 2003, and the implications for Scottish independence of the attempt to share a currency. Both were excellent pieces of work, objective and authoritative; and both, I believe, had a significant influence on the decisions that were made. However, in the case of a possible exit by the UK, I believe that political pressures will make it difficult to separate analysis and advocacy, to use the terms that my noble friend Lord Hannay has used, in any reports emanating from the Government. Special steps will need to be taken within Government, for the bits that they are doing, to separate out the people developing the advocacy part of it from the people doing the work.

In the case of the impact on the economy, when we have a body such as the Office for Budget Responsibility available, with a reputation for competence and independence, I believe that we should use it. I beg to move.

Amendment 23 (to Amendment 22)

Tabled by Lord Blencathra

23: After Clause 5, line 5, after “from” insert “and staying in”

Lord Blencathra: I can be brief, my Lords, because the key issues of principle were thoroughly debated in the previous group of amendments—the key issue of principle for me being that if the Government were minded to go down the route of publishing a report setting out the dangers of leaving then there should also be a report on the consequences of staying in. I noted very carefully what my noble friend the Minister said. I congratulate her on winding up such a controversial and difficult debate. I look forward to seeing that amendment and hope that it will be impeccably neutral. She will have noticed that the Government would be stepping into a political quagmire if they went into the details set out in my amendment or even the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay.

The Office for Budget Responsibility describes itself as one of the,

“independent fiscal watchdogs around the world”.

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It has five main roles: to produce a five-year forecast for the economy and public finances twice a year; to use its public finance forecast to judge the Government’s performance against their fiscal targets; to scrutinise the Treasury’s costing of tax and welfare spending measures; to assess the long-term sustainability of the public finances; and to assess the Government’s performance against the welfare cap. I am therefore not certain that the OBR has any real role in forecasting the consequences of leaving the EU, but again I make the point that if the Government are minded to accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, it should have a parallel duty to forecast the consequences of staying in the Union.

If the OBR is going to make such a report, I hope it will look at three little things as the EU continues its attempts to harmonise social security legislation—and there is talk about the need to change pension rules. In those circumstances the OBR should report on the financial consequences for British tax and welfare budgets. If we were to stay in, then it should report on the lost opportunities to utilise our £12 billion Union contribution, which would be completely at our own disposal if we were to leave. Since the Union, as I have said very boringly before, is in relative decline compared with the American and Asian economies, we should have a report on the dangers to the UK economy of being held back by the slow growth of the EU.

There are many other issues that I could add to that à la carte menu, but we do not need to go through them again tonight. However, I suspect that it is better for the credibility and independence of this fiscal watchdog that the OBR should not attempt to report on the consequences of either staying in or leaving. If it does one, though, it should do the other. I beg to move.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I normally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, and I have the greatest respect for him and indeed the Treasury. He is right to say that the Office for Budget Responsibility has been a success. I would therefore be very concerned if we were to accept the amendment and taint the reputation of the OBR by giving it this impossible task. Perhaps the noble Lord could contradict me but if I were to take the Bank of England, for example, an organisation that has a formidable reputation, and I were to look at the forecasts it has made about the progress of the economy over the past 20 years—indeed, over most of my lifetime—the only thing that has been consistent about those forecasts is that they have been consistently wrong. The notion that this body called the Office for Budget Responsibility can look into its crystal ball—I am reminded of that character that used to appear on the National Lottery, Mystic Meg—and predict the future is asking a very great deal of it. As my noble friend Lord Blencathra has said, it is hard to see, given the existing responsibilities of the OBR, how it would be able to set about this task—with the necessary expertise, at any rate. As he listed its responsibilities, it seemed to me that the OBR has quite enough on its plate without adding to it.

I support my noble friend, though, and indeed my noble friends Lord Hamilton and Lord Flight, in the amendment that seeks to bring a balance to this. I am

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not going to repeat the arguments that we had in considering the previous amendments, but if you are walking in the woods and you see a bear trap, it is probably not a good idea to put your leg in it. None of the arguments that one hears about the EU is couched in terms of, “If we weren’t in it, we would want to join it”. That was what struck me about the Prime Minister’s remarks about Iceland and Norway over the weekend. No one in Iceland or Norway wishes to join the European Union.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government of Norway have consistently had a large number of Ministers who wished to join. There are all sorts of reasons why a substantial chunk of its population does not agree. I myself was involved in discussions with the last Icelandic Government, who also wished to join. So “no one” is a mild exaggeration.

7.15 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I do apologise to the noble Lord. He is still in ministerial mode; I was talking about the people. I know the people of Iceland extremely well; I have gone there every summer to fish for the past 12 years. I know exactly what has happened in Iceland. I note that the noble Lord also, in his typically selective choice of argument, talks about the last Government of Iceland, not the present one, whose Prime Minister himself made the point to our Prime Minister that they were perfectly happy outside the EU because they had all the fish and, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, the opportunity to deal with their financial services crisis as they saw fit, which did not involve bailing out the bondholders and the bankers, and very successful they have been.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, distracts me from my bear trap.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the very thought that the noble Lord would ever intervene on someone to distract them is something that I would not conceivably believe.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I have to say that the noble Lord is probably the only Member of this House who I think might possibly put his leg in the bear trap while it was still in the wood. No one is making the argument in this country, in Iceland or indeed in Norway that if we were outside the EU we should join now on the terms that we are already subject to. That is the point about the bear trap.

However, we are in the position where our leg is in a bear trap. The argument from the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, and from many of the people who have spoken today on these matters seems to be that it would just be too painful to take our leg out of the bear trap, and that the best thing is for us to stay where we are and bleed to death. I think we ought to consider what the benefits would be of taking our leg out of the bear trap, and that is what my noble friend Lord Blencathra’s amendment seeks to add to Amendment 22. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, wants to intervene, and I happily give way to him.

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Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: How kind of the noble Lord. Nothing was further from my mind than interrupting him in any way. I would like to get back to his Mystic Meg argument, which I am still trying to work out; my mind is very slow in these matters. That argument depends on the assumption that the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, would be asking the OBR to forecast the future course of the world economy, the European economy and the UK economy if we came out or if we stayed in. I do not think that that is the case. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, asks that the OBR consider what would have changed—what the effect would be of coming out.

I myself would be happy to add to that, although I do not know if the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, would, the amendment suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, which seems to be perfectly reasonable. I follow his argument about staying in or coming out. The important bit would be: what would be different if we came out? The consequences of the differences is what one would be asking for. The Governor of the Bank of England addressed this question the other day, talking about what would have been different if we had not been in the single market for financial services. That is a perfectly reasonable question to ask. I would be happy to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, and that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, but I do not understand the Mystic Meg argument, advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, that somehow we are asking the impossible.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for that intervention. The amendment refers to the,

“report on the effect of the United Kingdom economy of withdrawal from the European Union”.

In order to do that one would need to take a view on what is going to happen to the euro and if there is someone in the Office for Budget Responsibility who knows the answer to that question, I have to tell them they could be a billionaire tomorrow.

Of course no one knows what is going to happen to the euro. I agree the probability is that it is not going to survive unless there is very substantial further integration within the European Union but no one knows to what extent that will be possible. For example one can look at the attitudes towards the problem of mass economic migration into the European Union and the chaos which the members of the European Union are in at the moment and their inability to agree. Does anyone in the Office for Budget Responsibility know how to predict the outcome of that matter?

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, is expert at dealing with the European Union. I can remember as a Minister arriving at meetings and he had already prepared the compromise that we would accept and the press release which announced a great victory by Ministers over the European Union to be released before we had even got off the plane. I know that he believes very much in the opportunities for flexibility in matters of wording but the wording on this amendment is asking the Office for Budget Responsibility to do the impossible—to tell the future. In so doing they will almost certainly

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get it wrong, like the Bank of England and everyone else who tries to tell the future, and that will damage their constitution.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): The bear trap metaphor is getting in the way of the thread of the noble Lord’s own logic. He has got lost in trying to demonstrate that this is either a job that no one should do or it is a job that should possibly be done, but not by the Office for Budget Responsibility. If it is the former, is it not the case that many people in the debate about the referendum are desperate for some sort of guidance on the two scenarios? Indeed the governor’s speech and what happened last week in Iceland are very relevant. Is the noble Lord saying that no one should do this job to the best of their ability, however difficult, or simply that the Office for Budget Responsibility should not do it?

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am saying that the Office for Budget Responsibility should not do it and I am saying that the point made half an hour ago by my noble friend Lord Flight is absolutely right. These are matters of judgment, and the people who should make the arguments are the people who are on either side of the campaigns. It seems to me, listening to arguments from the noble Lord and from others on his side, that they have got quite a lot of work to do if they are going to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the European Union. Whether or not staying in the European Union is in the best interests of our economy is a matter of judgment. Even in Greece it would appear that a majority of the voters still think that it is in their interests to be in the European Union and within the eurozone. I am very happy to leave that to the judgment of the British people in the referendum.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Unless I have got it completely wrong, the noble Lord is basically advancing the argument that Governments should not produce economic forecasts at all—they are a complete waste of time, they are always wrong so let us ditch them. However, he supports a Government who regularly produce economic forecasts at the time of the Budget. Those economic and fiscal forecasts are regularly reviewed by the Office for Budget Responsibility and I think we are all a bit the wiser for it. Of course it does not give you the answer to everything and like the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, I would be happy to support the addition by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, but this dismissal of all forms of forecasting on the impact on the economy of staying or leaving is frankly to go back about 150 years in the practice of economic policy.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: The noble Lord exaggerates to make his point. I am not arguing against economic forecasting. I am simply saying that the record on economic forecasting is not very good and the Bank of England is a classic example.

This is not about economic forecasting. This is about the effect on the United Kingdom’s economy of withdrawal from the European Union which is a huge issue. It is not just about the implications for the economy directly as a result of taxation or fiscal policy or matters of that kind. It is about the impact of immigration, it is about what happens in terms of the

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advantages that we would gain by being outside the European Union, our ability to negotiate our own trade agreements, our ability to be free of suffocating regulation, our ability to decide matters for ourselves, our ability to control our borders—all these things will have an impact on growth rates and the future of our economy. I am simply arguing that the Office for Budget Responsibility does not have the expertise or the ability to do that. I am delighted that the noble Lord supports my noble friend Lord Blencathra’s amendment looking at the other side of the equation, which is staying in.

I will repeat a point I made earlier. It is astonishing to me that we are members of the European Union and the arguments that we have heard from the Europhiles—the people who wish to remain in the European Union—have all been characterised in terms of the threats of leaving rather than the benefits which we have. That seems to indicate a degree of uncertainty.

Lord Liddle: I do not know who the noble Lord has been listening to about threats. It seems to me that the pro-European people are making a very modern argument for our membership of the European Union—a case which is far stronger than it was when we originally joined—that in this really dangerous world with chaos in Africa, fanaticism in the Middle East and rising nationalism in Russia, what we should be doing is sticking with our friends and acting as a united Europe.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: We do not have to be in the European Union to stick with our friends, and NATO is a good example of that. I am not referring to the general debate, I am referring to the amendments—for example the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, to insert a new clause headed:

“Report on the consequences of the United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union”,

but not to report on the benefits of being in the European Union.

Baroness Smith of Newnham: Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: May I just finish answering this point first? I am simply making the point that it is very startling that those who are most enthusiastic about the European Union wish to couch their arguments in terms of what it would be like if we left as opposed to why it is in our interests if we remain.

Lord Liddle: There is a very simple reason for that which is that most of the anti-European case that is put forward suggests that it is cost-free to come out of the European Union. That is why these arguments are being pressed; if you listen to the way a lot of people talk who favour withdrawal, they think it is cost-free. They assume we can negotiate anything we want. It is they who are not facing up to the realities of the world.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I have to say that cost-free would be a considerable improvement on the £8 billion net contribution that we are currently making because it is certainly not cost-free to remain in.

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Baroness Smith of Newnham: Will the noble Lord explain why he thinks that a report on the consequences of withdrawal is about fear rather than something that benefits people who want to remain in the European Union? To go back to his bear analogy, what if the vet comes along and suggests taking the bear’s leg out of the trap so that it is recovered, rejuvenated and much happier? Is that not an alternative reading of it?

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: The noble Baroness is now pulling my leg if she thinks that that argument has any substance. I am simply making the point that the whole thrust of the argument that we have had in terms of producing reports from those who wish us to stay in the European Union have been about “hanging on to nurse for fear of something worse”.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I do not know whether the noble Lord has noticed but the fact is that we are in the European Union now, so the question for the electorate is, “Shall we leave?”. The argument that he is just making would be very good if we were not in the European Union and the question was, “Shall we join?”. Then I would be required to try to demonstrate to him that there would be benefits. However, the question for this referendum is, “Shall we stay or shall we leave?”. That is the issue.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I entirely agree with the noble Lord about what the issue is. I will not repeat the same arguments, because I can see that the Whip is beginning to twitch and is thinking about the dinner hour.

7.30 pm

Baroness Ludford: Very briefly, on the logic of the noble Lord’s argumentation it seems to me that he should have tabled an amendment asking for a report on the benefits of membership, because he is saying that those of us who want to stay in wanted to put a negative spin on withdrawal—which I do not accept, because we want a factual report. However, turning that round, those people who want to leave should have forced or tried to force a report on the benefits of staying in, because they believe that that would show up that there are not benefits.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I would not ask for a report on the benefits of staying in, because it seems absolutely apparent that we are considerably disadvantaged by joining with an organisation which is unable to control its currency or borders, and which prevents us exercising our sovereign ability to control our borders and to ensure that we have the conditions in which enterprise can flourish. I look forward to David Cameron’s initiative in the European Union to discover whether the European Union itself realises how it is damaging member states in the Union. I cannot for the life of me imagine why the noble Baroness would want me to put down an amendment suggesting that we have a report on the benefits when so much damage is caused by the way in which the European Union is organised at present. I support my noble friend’s amendment.

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Lord Lea of Crondall: The last 15 minutes have been very illuminating. We now have the position where the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has concluded that we do not want any attempt to have this independent assessment because it is up to the two sides to fight it out as if we were in Madison Square Garden. I will quote him many times in the future on that basis. These people do not want any independent analysis—they just want a shouting match to see who can shout the loudest. That is exactly what he said, and that is my first point.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: It is not what I said at all. I said that whether we stay or leave is a matter of judgment and opinion. The idea that the Office for Budget Responsibility can intervene in this matter is not sensible. In fact, it would be difficult for the Government, because I very much hope that at the end of the day collective responsibility will be suspended and that members of the Government will be able to campaign according to their own judgment. Therefore the idea that the Government or anyone else could produce an independent report is fantasy. Of course people must have the facts; I hope very much that people on both sides of the campaign will resist the kind of scaremongering which we have heard from people like the noble Lord—yes, indeed—who support that particular side of the argument. We have heard that 3 million jobs will be lost and other scare stories, which will simply turn off the voters. However, I do not believe that it is impossible for those on both sides of this argument to honestly put out arguments and facts and let the people decide.

Lord Lea of Crondall: It is quite often possible to summarise the general opinion of politics in this country, as a default position, as: “They just shout at each other and they don’t try to find the truth in the public interest”. This will be an historic decision for Britain, and the idea that we will not do our best to find any independent ground to give to the British people is quite extraordinary.

I was the person who, at Second Reading, first made this proposal and started this hare, or bear, running. That was done to meet the argument put forward by noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, that we must find out what the consequences would be of being out, because they on their side—and it is true that I am on one side, just as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is on the other side—were saying that there will be absolutely no problem with being out, without any of the downsides; for example, that we will have all the benefits of EFTA. Of course, this weekend we now hear from the Prime Ministers of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and wherever that this is not the case. We have now got into the position where, this bear trap or whatever it is having been opened up, the noble Lord seems to be running away from the argument that his side started about a month ago, which is very interesting.

The only other way in which I guess we could have an independent analysis without it being done by the Office for Budget Responsibility would be to set up some new academic/ex-Whitehall or Civil Service commission, or something like that. It would not be easy to get agreement—as I think the noble Lord,

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Lord Turnbull, said at the beginning—in that rather heated atmosphere on what such a body should be like. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has doubted that the credentials of the OBR as regards its degree of dispassionate analysis could be bettered. It now has a reputation, with some ex-Treasury officials in it, as a body which does not kowtow to the Treasury, which some people feared. However, it established its own independence and credibility at the same time, not like a parliamentary Select Committee with an eye for newspaper headlines wanting to find something extravagantly newsworthy to say. This is therefore about as good an attempt as will be made.

Finally, we do hear a red herring from time to time, which is of course that after the referendum, if it leads to exit, another negotiation would follow whereby tariffs would not go up against Britain, and that otherwise they would. All these existing problems would suddenly be revealed for analysis when we are out, not before we are out—before we have voted—but when we are going to go out they would have another negotiation. That particular fox, to change the animal metaphor, has been shot dead three times, and I should think it is pretty dead now.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, I will try to be very brief. I will start by saying that in the previous debate and at Second Reading my noble friend Lady Morgan made our position of support for the principle of reports and information quite clear. This comes back to the Electoral Commission’s submission that people want more information and informed debate. Clearly, we know that the debate will be focused on those who are committed to remaining in and those committed to leaving. However, the debate today highlights a problem we have with people who take a fixed position. I am one of those who believe that the Prime Minister is intent on negotiating progress within the European Union. I also believe that the European Union is open to constant reform. I do not see the date of the referendum as the date when everything stops, with it simply being a question of deciding, “It’s good now” or “It’s bad now”. The debate on reform is really important, which is why the Office for Budget Responsibility can have an important role to play.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, asked, “Who are these reports for?”. I could not agree with him more in asking that, but I think that they will make an important contribution and stop the debate deteriorating into one between those who simply want out at any cost and those who simply want in at any cost. The reform agenda must be very much at the forefront of the debate that we will have.

I think that the Office for Budget Responsibility is capable of doing the job. It produces reports on the Budget and is capable of producing a longer-term fiscal sustainability report on future trends and pressures. It is ideally suited to the job and I think that people will want to hear from it. There were debates in the other place about whether the Bank of England should or should not express an opinion. We support the independence of the Bank and it has been doing a good job. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, thinks that the Bank has got it wrong many times and asks, “Why should we listen to it now?”. However, I am also aware

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that when even a body like the Bank of England reports, the


says that its report shows that the EU provides a dynamic environment for economic growth, whereas the

Daily Telegraph

said that the report has nothing to do with EU membership. So whatever the OBR produces, I have every confidence that the campaign to remain in the EU will say one thing and that the campaign to take Britain out will say something else. However, the British people deserve to understand the source of the information, which is why we will support both amendments.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, in moving Amendment 22, the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, has enabled the Committee to have a debate which goes to the heart of the question of who should be the author of a report regarding the effect upon the economy of the UK were there to be a decision by the British people at the referendum to leave the EU or remain in the EU. Of course, I notice that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, talks about withdrawal and that my noble friend’s amendment talks about remaining in, but Amendments 22 and 23 together have enabled an overall debate.

The request in both amendments goes beyond the remit of the OBR, which is set out in the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act 2011. The OBR’s main duty is to monitor the sustainability of the public finances. Its role is to make economic and fiscal forecasts based on the policies that the Government plan to implement. Conducting analysis of hypothetical scenarios for the purpose of a referendum is simply beyond its scope. Indeed, the statutory basis of the OBR forbids it to consider the effects of alternative policies.

It may assist the Committee if at this point I refer briefly to the 2011 Act. The precise language under Section 5(3) is as follows:

“Where any Government policies are relevant to the performance of that duty, the Office … must have regard to those policies, but … may not consider what the effect of any alternative policies would be”.

The point on alternative policies is very clear. In the Government’s view, these amendments would indeed require the OBR to consider alternative policies, as I think has become clear during the debate.

As my noble friends Lord Blencathra and Lord Forsyth alluded to, we should consider a wider point. If the OBR were to report on the economic consequences of UK withdrawal, it would risk pulling the organisation into the political debate—something that the OBR was set up precisely to guard against—which could therefore undermine its reputation as an independent and objective institution.

I understand that the amendment was tabled as a spur to debate and it has helped us in that regard. As I advised noble Lords at the end of the debate on the previous group of amendments, we will now think carefully about the issue of public information and consider what we may be able to bring forward by way of an amendment on Report. At this stage, I therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, to withdraw his amendment but, in the first instance, I urge my noble friend Lord Blencathra not to move Amendment 23, which is an amendment to Amendment 22.

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7.45 pm

Lord Turnbull: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment was to draw attention not just to the question of information but to the validation of that information—the quality of it and the trust that people can put in it. One point on which I can agree with the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth and Lord Blencathra, is that the information should be symmetrical, but I fear that the way that the debate will go is that the Government will negotiate a series of changes and will want to come back and tell people that they are good and sufficient. So I think that we will hear rather more about the benefits of staying in and not enough about the effects—I will not say “dangers” or “fears”—of going out. Symmetry is the first principle and validation is the second. There may be objections to using the OBR but, whatever the Government produce, and I welcome this proposal, they will have to answer the question of how we make people believe that the analysis is authoritative and technical. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, wishes to intervene. The purpose of the analysis is to help people to make up their mind; it is not to offer them judgments.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I appreciate that people are thinking about the dinner break, but will the noble Lord just reflect on when we last tried this? It was when the Scottish Government produced their White Paper on the referendum. The assumption was that the oil price would be $110. Is he not concerned about that experience?

Lord Turnbull: The noble Lord keeps using the word “forecast”. I do not see these as forecasts; they are analyses based on different assumptions, the purpose of which would be to draw out for people the complexity of the situation and the number of variables in play, and to draw attention to aspects that they may not have thought of. The idea that the OBR would produce a single forecast that could be falsified simply on the basis of one variable is wrong.

I return to the fact that there is to be a response from the Government. I think that we should wait for that but I hope that it will address how this work can be done by government, even if it does not use institutions outside government, in such a way that people can have the greatest faith in it.

Amendment 23 (to Amendment 22) not moved.

Amendment 22 withdrawn.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.49 pm.

Disabled Students’ Allowance.

Question for Short Debate

7.49 pm

Asked by Lord Addington

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to make any changes to the disabled students’ allowance.

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Lord Addington (LD): My Lords, I thank all those who have put their names down to speak in this debate. I particularly thank the noble Baronesses on the Front Bench directly in front of me. They have had to put up with one or two changes of plan.

I declare my interests. Normally, it is just a case of referring to them, but on this occasion I think that I should go through them a little more fully. I start by saying that I am dyslexic. For nearly two decades I have been a user of assisted technology in my day-to-day life. I am a vice-president of the British Dyslexia Association and I am also the chairman of a company called Microlink, which deals with assisted technology and has a long involvement in a student loans company. It is a decreasing part of that company, which is a very good thing because we are now losing money on it.

My Question as originally put down asks whether the Government have plans to make changes to the disabled students’ allowance. It is now quite clear that they do. They are well developed plans and the consultation has gone out, which I have seen some of the documents for. The big question that comes up in this is the role of the universities where the students are studying—the HEIs, universities or call them what you like. What happens and what their role is in this new situation are vital, because if we look at the existing model we see that the institutions do not have to do that much. The disabled students’ allowance allows you a plan of support which is individual to you and which you take to the university. The university then integrates you into the system and does not have to do that much.

The Equality Act potentially draws this into question. However, we do not know exactly what the Equality Act would mean in terms of legal responsibility to the individual student because the best and most important thing about the current scheme is that it is an individually based package. Perhaps I may digress from the mainstream for the moment: as a dyslexic, there is something that I would have raised a long time ago if I had known this process was going on, just to show that the existing system is not perfect. It is the fact that dyslexics had to be assessed again, at the cost of several hundred pounds per individual, if they were dyslexic—not if they had another condition—because, apparently, the fact that they had been assessed for a lifelong condition at some point in the past was not good enough and they had to go again. It was most keenly argued for by people who seemed to be carrying out the tests—but let us leave that one where it falls. It could and should have been looked at in the past. It grew organically; it grew as you could meet needs going through the system.

However, you now have an individual structure. Will the university provide that individual package to meet the needs of the person? This is very important, because when you look through, you see a lot of talk about generic technology and providing it free of charge with no licence involved. As a user of this type of technology, software and back-up—I think that I am the only person in the Chamber who does, although I stand to be corrected—let me tell you one thing about it: if it is not reliable, it is not worth having. There is a lot of very cheap and shoddy stuff out there.

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If you do not have somebody you can go to to support you with it, it is not worth having. If you do not know when you switch on that device that you have got a system that allows you to interact with it, it is not worth having. What sort of support structure will be going in there?

Also—and I keep coming back to the individuals—are you sure you are going to get the right package for that particular student? If you take as an example one disability group, dyslexics—it is the biggest, but it is just one—you find that no two dyslexics are exactly the same. You have every variation, from the way their minds work and intellectual capacity to the type of course they are on. A history student’s support work will not be the same as that for somebody who is doing chemistry: they will need a different interaction; they will need to be trained to use it properly to get that interaction. This will mean an individualised training package and variations around it.

We then have the extra complication of what you have done before. How good is the computer that you are using? How much training have you had in it? How are you taking it on and being supported through there? Unless these factors are brought together, you are not going to get the best out of it. Worse still, we all know from personal experience that if you have something that you cannot use properly, you do not use it. Any money that is provided and any support that is not effective and accessible will basically be ignored. We might then have a situation where the university is in breach of the law. The government help, whenever it comes in, does not work; university help does not work. What are the downsides of that? If the technology is needed, I suggest that there is a very good chance that that individual will drop out of the course or at least underachieve. If they drop out, the university could find itself losing two or three years of fees and having a hole in their structure and funding. The person who drops out might not know what to do with the rest of their life. We also know that disabled people need to be better qualified to get jobs at all. So we have a nice little downward spiral setting in there. That is if you have not focused in on getting the best out of the system.

As we go around looking at this, we have to try to get some idea of exactly how the Government’s thinking is going through: what is going to happen next? If you are not going to require universities to have an individualised package—funding that supports that individual to get the best out of it—are you going to do something else? If you are, what? Do we continue with the same scheme, better audited and slightly better organised? Or are we going to go back to the universities? If we are, we have got to say, “You’ve got to deliver something that is user-friendly”. If it is not user-friendly enough to make sure that people will use it, do not bother.

Universities are very odd beasts; they run themselves. Are we going to make sure that there is a universal standard throughout the sector so that no student is restricted in their choice by what that university does? X University could become where you go if you are dyslexic; if you are deaf, you go somewhere else; if you are blind, you go somewhere else. How do we work

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these in together? How do we make sure that you take your package and you go to the course? The package will help you get through the course. But you need to be trained and you need to have the right technological support—you could say that training probably comes first: you have something that gives you the access point.

Are universities going to have to change their behaviour and impose on their staff changes in behaviour? Access to lectures is one of the big points. I gave up on lectures, so I really cannot comment too far on that; there again, in history, if you read the right textbook or, better still, get somebody else to read it on to a tape recorder—he said, claiming his own experience—it is a better way forward. Access to lectures is seen as being a very important part of many university courses. How are we going to make sure that academics interact with technology in storing information? It is just another way in which these pulls and pushes take place.

I could go on for a considerable time about this, going into more and more detail, and I am aware, as I just said, that dyslexia is not the only show in town, although it is the biggest group. How are we going to make sure that the new scheme works for the individual student? How can we guarantee standards so that they can access and get through?

Let us take a quick glance sideways now. We have just done a great deal of work on the Children and Families Act, making sure that further education and education generally support you until the age of 25. We did not touch universities, and were told that we were not going to touch them, because we had the disabled students’ allowance. We also have Access to Work, which runs another series of standards where you take on things that make you work independently—an important part of this scheme. Is that tying in as well? Unless we bring all these things together, we will ultimately fail and let down these people and waste money. I suggest that that is something we do not want.

7.59 pm

Lord Lipsey (Lab): My Lords, debates in this House are always at their best when we hear the voices of experience, and we have just heard that from the noble Lord, Lord Addington.

I am going to make only one political point and it is this. Some of us are very concerned that this change was scheduled to happen last year—these things happened in sequence—but there was a big National Union of Students demonstration at a time when student-dominated seats were expected to be very important in the general election and the change was postponed to next year.

I hope that the fact that there is not an imminent general election now will not affect in any way the Government’s verdict on the consultation.

I do not think it can be denied that if the disabled students’ allowance goes, there will be a disincentive to universities and higher education institutions to take disabled students. I should declare an interest as chair of the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. We are particularly affected because, although about 11% of students at all HEIs have a reported disability, 21% of our students are affected by a disability and 16% claim DSA. Most of them suffer, like the noble Lord, Lord Addington, from dyslexia.

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People might think, “Oh well, that’s all right. It’s only musicians. It’s only arty- farty types. It’s not going to affect the country if they can’t have an education, or the talent pool is limited”. At Trinity Laban, 99% of our graduates are in work or further education six months after graduating. That is in the top three in the country, ahead of Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and all the Russell group of universities. These are people who make a huge contribution to our national wealth as well as our national culture.

Let me move from that general picture to the specific. I think of Lewis Raines, an outstanding young man who is president of the student union. He is the most capable member of my governing board. He contributes enormously. How he gets through all the papers for the board, I am not quite sure, but he does. He had an early diagnosis of a severe learning disability—namely, dyslexia. This is how he describes his experience:

“I was first granted DSA whilst studying a BA (Hons) in Musical theatre at the Blackpool and the Fylde college. I had previously whilst at Rossall school been given a reader and scribe for my exams and now with DSA support I was given the opportunity to pursue my goal of getting a degree and becoming an opera singer. The fantastic equipment I was given let me record my lectures, I could speak vocally into my computer to write my essays and was given additional one to one assistance with a tutor for two hours every week to work on my English language. I graduated with 2.1. This gave me first of all the confidence to believe I could study at a top conservatoire of music. When I came to London to study at Trinity Laban I still could not read music or for that matter read another language. However I was just so grateful for DSA, the work and support they gave me helped me get a 2.1 because I had additional hours of coaching. I can’t sight read music but I am so glad to have been able to have one to one coaching from my teachers Alison Wells and Helen Yorke funded by DSA.

Without the DSA I don’t think I would have a degree today and I don’t think I would have ever been here as the president of Trinity Laban. The work and support I was given I will forever be grateful for”.

I am sorry that Lewis cannot be here because, if noble Lords met him, they would realise what a loss it would have been if he had not had the education that has set him on course. He will be a huge contributor perhaps in music, perhaps more widely to our society. His is just one of many cases. One of our students has just won a major jazz award thanks to DSA. David Toole was a leading dancer at the Paralympics thanks to DSA. We have the Candoco Dance Company of disabled people, and they are able to work only thanks to DSA. I think I am seeing the personal benefits that these students derive from the current DSA system, and I am extremely concerned that we should be moving away from it.

Trinity Laban already spends £100,000 of our own money in helping disabled students, in line with our legal responsibilities. That is quite a large sum for an institution with a turnover of only £23 million. If the Government go through with some of the changes that are being canvassed, we reckon that that figure could roughly double—we would lose anything from £50,000 to £150,000. That would be extremely significant to a small arts institution such as ours. We do not have hidden pots. There is not a purse stuffed up the principal’s sleeve. We have a very limited income, and

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it would be extremely difficult to cope with a loss of DSA. The obvious way of coping would be to find ways of cutting down on our numbers of disabled students.

I am afraid that the Government have rather a habit of arguing like this: “We must cut the deficit. But we will be unpopular if we do the things that cut the deficit so someone else must cut the deficit”. We see this with local authorities every day of the week. The cuts in government spending are much less than the cuts the Government are forcing on local authorities, and I am nervous that this is another such case.

I am sure that the DSA scheme can be improved. I am not against reviewing it. I am worried by some of the wording used for that review. When I hear “rebalance”, I know precisely what the Government mean—less cost for the Government, more cost for institutions. I could go through their consultation paper finding case after case of that sort of language.

At the end of the day we are left with this dilemma—what are we to do? Do we help people like Lewis or balance our budget? It is not possible to find a magic wand that enables us to do both. I give credit to the Government; they backed off once. I hope that they will back off again. I am delighted that the consultation documents says in paragraph 11:

“If any changes result from this consultation”.

It does not say that changes “will” result from the consultation. I do not think that the Government would find it good business in any sense to mount an attack on disabled people, who do not come into any of the categories of people getting welfare benefits whom the Government do not so easily support. I hope that the essentials of the existing DSA system, tweaked and tuned as it might be, remain in place after this review and that people like Lewis will therefore go on being able to receive an education that equips them to contribute to our society.

8.08 pm

Baroness Thomas of Winchester (LD): My Lords, I both congratulate and sympathise with my noble friend Lord Addington, who secured the debate at short notice. His experience in this field is invaluable. My starting point is the report that has just been published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission Is Britain Fairer?. Under “Education”, it says:

“Disabled people are less likely than non-disabled people to have a degree qualification (16.7% compared to 31.4%). This was also the case in 2008. However, compared to 2008, the percentage having a degree level qualification had increased more for the non-disabled group (+7.6%) compared to the disabled group (+4.9%). This has resulted in the gap between the two groups being larger in 2013 compared to 2008”.

Is this really the time for changes to the DSA which are likely to make that gap larger than ever? Disabled people and the country need many more disabled people to obtain degrees to enable them to get good and fulfilling jobs. If the Government’s stated aim is to halve the number of disabled people who are unemployed, are they really going about it in the right way?

One of the problems about preparing for this debate is knowing exactly what is going on with the DSA. The consultation closed on 4 September this year and

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I would like a firm assurance from the Minister that this was a genuine and not empty exercise to close off the possibility of judicial review.

The Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Mr Greg Clark MP, made an announcement on 12 September last year that the changes to the DSA would be delayed until 2016-17. He said that the Government were going to explore certain issues and work with institutions and stakeholders on other issues, but it would help everyone if we knew at what stage these negotiations were. Can the Minister say whether her department is in contact, for example, with the Equality and Human Rights Commission for guidance in this area, or with the Office for Disability Issues in the DWP, or with the Government Equalities Office?

It does not surprise me that the Government want universities not just to rely on the DSA to make certain non-medical reasonable adjustments for disabled students, such as the cost of a helper, that perhaps they should make themselves. In fact—here, I am afraid I shall divert slightly from the DSA—I have some sympathy with the Government over reasonable adjustments. These have been required since the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 and should be in place by now as a matter of course. All lecture halls, student unions, libraries, ICT suites and halls of residence surely should be accessible by now, with safe ramps, dropped kerbs, lifts, good lighting and clear signage being provided as a matter of course. However, we all know that this is far from the case. This is why the words “reasonable adjustments” are characterised as anticipatory. In other words, it should not be left to disabled students to request them; they should be provided in anticipation of their necessity for disabled students.

However, I acknowledge that the word “reasonable” is not always easy to interpret in all cases, particularly for those with hidden disabilities, and has to be considered in each case. Some want the word defined more clearly but others recognise that flexibility is more important. What is clear is that universities—or perhaps I should say HEIs—vary widely in the facilities they offer disabled students.

We are lucky to have an invaluable report compiled two years ago by the Trailblazers, a group of more than 600 young disabled campaigners from across the UK who report on all kinds of issues affecting their lives, from access to higher education to housing issues and leisure opportunities. Their report, University Challenge 2013, highlights existing problems that could be exacerbated by the proposed changes to the DSA, including the varying levels of support offered by different universities; the reliance on the allowance to enable a levelling effect of support for those living in poverty; and the disparity between undergraduate and postgraduate allowances. The Trailblazers are part of Muscular Dystrophy UK and make the point that neuromuscular conditions are progressive and that the support students need is likely to vary from year to year.

The situation is not all bad. The survey they carried out two years ago showed that 90% of university disability advisers were found to be helpful, and 90% said that universities made adjustment to improve access to

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lectures. However, three-quarters found that organising care from the local authority was not straightforward, and 30% felt limited in where they could study because of concerns about their care packages. Time precludes mention of more of their findings but I hope the Minister’s department has this report, which I am sure they would find useful.

One of the most important of the proposed changes concerns the provision of computers, as we have already heard. I gather that for this academic year the DSA can be used to help with the additional cost of a computer and assistive software if needed solely because of the student’s impairment, although the student will have to find the first £200. Printers and consumables—whatever they are—will not automatically be provided by the allowance. Those students without their own computers will be expected to use the computers provided by the universities, but only just over half the universities surveyed have full access to study rooms, including libraries and computer labs, thus putting disabled students at a clear disadvantage. It puts disabled students from poor backgrounds at a double disadvantage. It is also at odds with the Prime Minister’s goal for increasing not only students from BME backgrounds progressing to higher education by 20% by 2020, but also for doubling the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by the end of this Parliament. What about setting a goal for disabled student numbers to increase?

8.16 pm

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Addington for introducing this debate and giving us an opportunity to discuss the disabled students’ allowance. I feel sure that, given longer notice, many more of your Lordships would have been drawn into discussion of such an important issue.

My noble friend is a long-standing champion of disability rights. He has pursued measures that have improved the rights and opportunities of those who have to overcome disability before they can prove their talents and achieve their ambitions. His focus on dyslexia is ever more relevant; that unseen disability afflicts more people than was recognised in days gone by, and it is always heartening to hear of the achievements of people who have had to struggle from a young age to access learning, with barriers not faced by their non-dyslexic peers. My noble friend is a tenacious champion on their behalf.

My noble friend Lady Thomas also speaks compellingly on behalf of those with disabilities. As we know, the disabled students’ allowance is a non-means-tested, non-repayable grant, provided through Student Finance England to help eligible higher education students pay the extra costs incurred as a direct result of a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia. It is a wide-ranging allowance, which is one of its great benefits, and it takes into account the very wide variety of disabilities that students may have. It has been invaluable in encouraging students to succeed, because those covered by it may be every bit as intelligent and ambitious as others, but may be

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able to achieve their potential only with the help of additional personal, technical or financial support. The DSA is the means to that end. My noble friend Lord Addington made a powerful case about the imperative for equipment to be of good quality.

For this debate, we have received many helpful and informative briefings from the Library and from many individuals and organisations who have direct experience with disabled students and who know the disruption that changes may bring. Widespread concerns have been expressed at the transfer of certain responsibilities to institutions. The National Union of Students—which the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, has already referred to as a powerful lobbying group—has set out its essential criteria for support for disabled students, which should be,

“high quality, timely, individualised, consistent ... and with appropriate and speedy mechanisms for appeal and redress”.

Could the Minister say how the Government propose to monitor the support against these criteria, given the numbers of higher education institutions which each will be interpreting the needs of students in their own way? Some will face the challenges of having insufficient financial resources or expertise to deal with changes to the system.

There are further complications with collegiate universities, where we have seen individual cases in which problems have arisen. Individual colleges will be dealing with small numbers of applicants and there may be significant variations in funding depending on the relative wealth of the college. What advice and support will come from the Government to ensure fairness in any new provision?

We have raised before in your Lordships’ House our concerns over support for part-time higher education. This provision plays a key part in enabling people to access high-level skills and increase their personal fulfilment, as well as their contribution to the economy.

We hear from the Open University—which supports around 20,000 students with at least one disability—of its concern that reductions in funding for disabled students will have a considerable effect on the opportunities for part-time students. In addition, there is a deterrent factor if there is uncertainty about the support that might be available to them. The Open University has done a magnificent job over years in providing opportunities for all sorts of people who may have missed out the first time round or may have found more difficulty in accessing mainstream education in different ways.

The discussion of changes may already be acting as a deterrent to those who have enough challenges to overcome without also being unable to plan ahead for future studies. Disability Rights UK has already identified that more disabled people are questioning the wisdom of going to university.

As the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, set out so clearly and movingly, many arts-based institutions have higher proportions of students eligible for DSA, whose disability in one way can result in increased talent in another, such as art or music. They could well be disproportionately affected. We also know that the creative industries are

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a source of immense pride to this country, as well as being of great benefit to our culture and to the economy. What reassurances can the Minister give to such institutions that they will not find difficulty in enabling their students to succeed?

We have evidence that it is in all our interests to enable disabled students to continue their studies and gain qualifications to equip them all the better for competitive life. It was striking to read the research carried out by the Equality Challenge Unit, which showed that the prospects for disabled graduates are significantly better than those for non-graduates. The figures for 2012 showed that 71% of disabled graduates gained employment, compared with only 42% of disabled non-graduates, and that is with all the benefits of skill-based qualifications and so on that might have been available to them. Surely it is in all our interests to ensure that provision is available for those with talent and commitment who need some specialist help to get them over the hurdles.

It was reassuring to hear that maximum grants for full-time, part-time and postgraduate students with disabilities will be maintained at 2015-16 levels into 2016-17, but students and institutions need to plan ahead, so reassurance for another year is only a temporary solution. Can the Minister reassure the House that no full-scale changes will be made until an impact assessment has been undertaken? As has already been indicated, it will be a false economy if reforms to these allowances turn out not to be the improvements the Government are hoping for, but result in an increase in disabled students unable to study or to work. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

8.24 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for securing this debate, which gives us the chance to hear from the Government whether they really are committed not just to maintaining but to increasing the chances for disabled people to go to university, as suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. It is perhaps more important for disabled people to go to university, as throughout life this will help their development and the contribution they can make to their own and others’ lives. Indeed, they seem to be better able to make the most of the opportunity, even though most of course get DSA at well below the maximum levels, the average being just over £2,000.

Disabled students who get DSA are more likely to graduate, and with a first or 2.1, than disabled students without the grant. Perhaps more surprising is that students with DSA are slightly more likely to graduate, and with a good degree, than non-disabled students, so it is a high return on a small investment. However, the proposed changes to DSA have worrying implications, partly because of the variation between institutions in attracting disabled students. While almost 7% of full-time undergraduates get DSA, this varies from 2% to 30% across different universities. In 60 universities, the percentage exceeds the average, with more than 10% of students being disabled in 24 of them. The higher numbers tend to be in modern universities with the best record of widening access.

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As has been mentioned, part-time participation is particularly vital. Just last week, the Higher Education Policy Institute showed the role that part-time education plays in boosting productivity, contributing to economic growth and driving social mobility. As the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, has said, it is the Open University which supports more disabled students than any other, showing the importance of its part-time and open access to this group of students. But these very numbers, and the OU’s dedication to widening access, mean that any reduction in DSA or indeed in student opportunity allocation which is based on it, will have drastic implications for disabled people seeking to improve their employability and life experience through study and qualification.

That brings us to the problem of moving responsibility for DSA from HEFCE to the individual university without transferring the funds. The only way forward will be for universities to have to rob Peter, in this case non-disabled fee-paying students, to pay Paul, disabled students. It also means, self-evidently, that those universities which have done the most to attract and cater for disabled students will be penalised the most, with significant burdens on those with the highest proportion of disabled students, often the smaller ones or conservatoires, as described so movingly by my noble friend Lord Lipsey. More than that, given that the separate institutional funding for disabled students through HEFCE’s student opportunity fund depends on the number of DSA claimants at the institution, a change in DSA numbers would affect that overall level of support or else its distribution. Could I therefore ask the Minister whether she expects funding through the student opportunity fund to a university to decrease should the number of DSA recipients decline? Furthermore, since BIS is an unprotected department with regard to government funding, how important does she consider this element of BIS expenditure to be?