While the review by Sally Coates is going on, work is under way to improve the quality of learning and skills provision in prison. These measures include improving support for prisoners with learning disabilities—unfortunately, many have them— developing more creative teaching methods and collecting better management information. Giving poorly educated adults a basic level of literacy and numeracy is vital, following tried and tested methods, and the current failure to

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educate prisoners well is hard to defend. I do not think the House will need much convincing about the Secretary of State’s attachment to the importance of education.

Meaningful employment is crucial. It is a vital part of the Government’s approach to support those who have committed a crime to get out of the cycle of offending. We are keen to increase the number of employers who engage with prisoners and offenders to offer them employment opportunities. We hold an Employers’ Forum for Reducing Re-offending, chaired by the CEO of Timpson, James Timpson, which brings together employers who support the employment of offenders to share their experiences and promote the benefits of employing offenders to other businesses. We have built a relationship with several employers, including Halfords, which provides work for prisoners in its academy, which is run in a prison and employs the prisoners on release if they positively engage on their 16-week course. I have had several conversations with the Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous, who is particularly keen on and pleased with the progress that has been made in this regard.

We are also anxious that there should be greater autonomy at a local level for prisoners—a point made by my noble friend Lord Fowler and the noble Lord, Lord Beith, with his considerable experience of justice issues. That is a form of localism in the Prison Service. The noble Lord made the interesting point that Texas has brought about a strange consensus between the political parties on the way forward in that regard.

I could respond on the issue of IPP prisoners at considerable length; unfortunately, I do not have time to do that. Suffice it to say that we are progressing well in the number of courses available to IPP prisoners. We are also in the process of reducing the backlog for hearings before the Parole Board. As I told a number of noble Lords at a recent meeting, there remains the question of the Secretary of State’s powers to change the test for release. That is a matter which he continues to consider carefully. I will make sure that I faithfully transmit all messages from this House and noble Lords about the need to do something about that.

The points of the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, were well made. We are aware of the importance of reviewing the working of ROTL and liaison and diversion services. The Secretary of State has well in mind a possible wider review of sentencing. Similarly, several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Cormack, emphasised the importance of restorative justice.

Finally, my noble friend Lord Trefgarne rightly drew our attention to the plight of older prisoners, who are becoming a particular, somewhat unusual, feature of the prison population. That is partly to do with so many offenders having been committed for ancient offences of sexual abuse and the like. All prisoners, regardless of age, need to be treated in a humane manner that reflects their needs. That is a matter we should attend to particularly carefully.

I am grateful to all those who have taken part in this excellent debate and to my noble friend Lord Fowler for initiating it. The Secretary of the State and the Ministry of Justice will have learnt a great deal from it.

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2.06 pm

Lord Fowler: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for his reply, which was very constructive and will be well received. There were two significant features of this debate. First, there was vast agreement on the changes that are required. Prison is not remotely the right place to tackle mental health problems or, for that matter, drug abuse, points made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, and my noble friend Lord Suri. The central issue remains the overuse of prison and the overcrowding that goes with it. That point was made by my noble friend Lord Cope and the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia, Lord Beith and Lord Ramsbotham, to whom we owe so much. More needs to be done to consider the position of women prisoners, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Healy and the noble Lord, Lord Judd. There is a range of other issues, not least the roots of crime going way back to life before prison, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and my noble friend Lord Cormack.

The second significant feature of the debate was that it just showed how much good will there is for the new Justice Secretary. I hope that is recognised. It was shown in the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. It was shared by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who agreed—reluctantly, I think, but he agreed nevertheless—with old Tories like me and my noble friend Lord Forsyth. The noble Lord, Lord Beith, also mentioned the rather strange Texan coalition. The message of this debate is that we wish the new Justice Secretary well and now look forward to the action that is so necessary to reform a Prison Service which cries out for change. Above all, we wish him well in this vastly important job.

Motion agreed.

North Korea: Nuclear Test

Question for Short Debate

2.08 pm

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the security and human rights challenges on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula. That division was the prelude to the 1950-53 war, which led to the deaths of about 3 million people, including 1,000 British servicemen.

Throughout the intervening seven decades, the danger of a repetition of that carnage has hung like a pall over the region. For more than 10 years, during which I have chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, that group has tried to shine a light on security threats and the day-to-day egregious violations of human rights. These are themes of the Question before your Lordships today. I am particularly indebted to all noble Lords who will participate.

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North Korea’s failure to make constructive moves on these questions was thrown into sharp relief by the unverifiable claim in North Korean state media on 6 January that it had conducted its first hydrogen bomb—thermonuclear weapon—test. Ban Ki-moon described these actions—this fourth nuclear test—as “a grave contravention”.

When the Minister replies, I hope that she will give us her own assessment of the test which has taken place, and perhaps say how long she thinks it will be before we know whether this was fusion rather than fission and whether hydrogen isotopes were used in the nuclear chain reaction. Also, how far away do we think North Korea is from miniaturising a nuclear weapon and from utilising its submarines to launch nuclear attacks? These have obvious security implications for the United States of America and Europe, as well, of course, for North Korea’s regional neighbours.

What we do know is that Chinese citizens living in the neighbouring Jilin province, which I visited, felt the buildings shake and residents feared an earthquake. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization reported seismic signatures with a magnitude of 4.85, consistent with previous North Korean nuclear tests. Whether a hydrogen bomb or not, this action is yet another road block in securing a lasting peace and it represents a serious international security threat and destabilises the region. In addition, it is in flagrant violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087 and 2094. I should be interested to know from the noble Baroness what more the Security Council will be saying about this.

I hope that she will tell us what response the Foreign and Commonwealth office received from the North Korean ambassador when he was summoned to the Foreign Office on 7 January, and what the Foreign Secretary had in mind when he told the House of Commons that North Korea will,

“face increasing isolation and further action by the international community”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 13/1/16; col. 22WS.]

I wonder whether the Foreign Office sees this test as an act of defiance by Kim Jong-un and an attempt to bolster his authority. What does it make of the continuing systematic executions, including members of his family? In 2013 his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was seen as reform-minded and close to China, was executed. Jang had questioned an ideology which has paralysed economic development and incarcerated hundreds of thousands of citizens, which has conferred pariah status on the country. He was close to China and admiring of its reform programme. His death was followed by the execution of around 70 officials in the last year. North Korea’s Defence Minister, Hyon Yong-chol, was shot with an anti-aircraft gun from close range in April. It was then reported that North Korea’s vice-premier Choe Yong-gon was executed by firing squad this year, after showing discontent with Kim Jong-un’s policies.

Kim Jong-un knew these men well, but this did not save their lives. In this reign of terror, killing those who are not part of your circle is even less of an issue. The purges, the reign of terror, the falsifying of history, the show trials, the network of gulags—where an estimated 200,000 people are incarcerated—the 400,000 said to have died in the prison camps in the

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last 30 years, and the attempts to obliterate religious belief and all political dissent bear all the hallmarks of a regime that has carefully studied, admires and imitates the visceral brutality of Joseph Stalin. The authoritarian dynastic regime in North Korea ruthlessly crushes dissent, and through its policy of guilt by association, collective punishment and the execution of men like Jang is trying to ensure that there is no Kim Dae-jung, Lech Walesa or Dow Aung San Suu Kyi able to become a focal point for opposition.

We can see these killings either as a display of strength or the actions of a weak regime, paranoically trying to cling to power at all costs. Of course, the creation of mass fear is a time-honoured technique of dictators from Nero and Caligula to Ceausescu and Stalin. But China’s role in all this is surely crucial. I wonder how the Minister evaluates the extent of China’s influence on the regime. It previously described North Korea’s actions as “brazen”, but notwithstanding the presence of a senior Chinese emissary at last year’s Workers’ Party anniversary celebrations, what do we make of China’s relationship with North Korea today? Will China’s irritation be reflected in energy assistance to North Korea, or will she be dissuaded through fear of regime collapse and the flow of refugees across its 800-mile border with North Korea?

If North Korea is in total contempt of its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and by its refusal to permit full access by the International Atomic Energy Agency, its contempt for human rights puts it in a league of its own. The publication of the United Nation’s Commission of Inquiry report into human rights violations in North Korea, described by the commission as “without parallel”, was a defining moment. In that 400-page report, it said that North Korea’s crimes against humanity are sui generis. It stated:

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

It is in breach of pretty well all of the 30 articles in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Hea Woo, a Christian who escaped from one of the camps, gave graphic and powerful evidence at one of our Westminster hearings. She described routine torture and beatings and how prisoners were so hungry that they were reduced to eating rats and snakes or even searching for grains in cow dung.

I ask the noble Baroness how we have taken forward the Commission of Inquiry report and its call for the prosecution of those responsible? Why, of the 2016-17 FCO fund for human rights and democracy, which has been doubled to £10.6 million, has just £4,261 been spent in Pyongyang in nearly two and a half years? Can she also say what we have done to raise the plight of the more than 50,000 North Korean workers sent overseas to around 20 nations, where they are treated as virtual slave labour but earning the regime $300 million annually? What action are we taking on companies, third-party banks and countries which are breaking sanctions and providing revenues to this regime? Crucial to transforming North Korea will be the breaking of the information blockade. I applaud the decision of the BBC to commence broadcasts to the peninsula and hope that we will be given an update on this important development.

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Does the Minister accept that hand-outs can bolster this regime? Although food should never be used as a weapon of war, it is worth saying that North Korea’s food gap could be closed for something in the order of $8 million to $19 million. That is less than 0.2% of its national income, most of which is currently being used on military programmes.

Last year, following an influx of food aid, the regime sent groups of students around to destroy private agricultural plots. The regime’s opposition to reform has led to starvation and death. People suffer while the regime spent more than $1 billion on the launching of two rockets in 2012 and 2013, $200 million on Kim family celebrations, and $300 million on luxury facilities, including ski resorts and riding grounds.

North Korea is surrounded by three of the world’s largest economies, yet close to 70% of the population suffer from malnourishment. It persists with its vast and brutal network of concentration camps, and millions of women are subjected to unimaginable levels of sexual and other violence while children are indoctrinated and forced to endure manual labour.

Since 2000 we have had diplomatic relations with the DPRK and in that time the regime has conducted four nuclear tests, launched unprovoked military attacks on South Korean targets, has bolstered its standing army—one of the largest in the world—and has been condemned for the worst human rights record in the world. It is not unreasonable to ask how and in what ways we think we are making some kind of difference. I look forward to the debate that will follow and to the Minister’s reply.

2.18 pm

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, thankfully North Korea is the only closed country and I think this should give us hope, as many who grew up in or in the era of Eastern Europe and the USSR thought that freedom would never come, but it did. Kim Jong-un’s leadership will end, and through the work of people like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, awareness of the plight of North Koreans has risen dramatically over the last decade.

These unparalleled systematic human rights abuses in North Korea are indeed well documented by the commission of inquiry of Michael Kirby, and in relation to religious freedom violations by the inquiry of the all-party parliamentary group, which was chaired by the noble Lord and published its report last year. The only detail that I can add to that report that moved me recently was to hear that teachers in schools in North Korea are asking pupils to tell them whether their mum and dad have a hidden little black book at home. Unwittingly these children come forward, and of course, what is hidden is a Bible and their parents are arrested and disappear. These reports have shown the need to break the information blockade. There is also a need to prepare the leadership of the future. There may be more that can be done to prepare, and I wish to focus this afternoon on practical solutions and things within our power here in the United Kingdom.

The decision, referenced by the noble Lord, of the BBC to begin a daily short-wave news service is a step forward in breaking this information blockade. It would

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be helpful to know the detail from my noble friend the Minister. When does the Foreign Secretary expect to be asked to agree to this service and what is the current Foreign and Commonwealth Office position on whether it can extend beyond news to other broadcasts?

There are many interesting studies on the growing cultural, linguistic and religious differences between North Korea and South Korea. In the 70 years since the division of the peninsula, North Koreans have been taught to worship their political leader like a god, but South Korean society is pluralistic and has recently seen a huge growth in the Christian faith in particular. In 1945, only 2% of South Koreans were Christian; now 30% are. Those growing differences mean that the 26,000 or so North Korean refugees in South Korea often find it hard to integrate, and feel like second-class citizens. According to a BBC report late last year, 14% of defectors from North Korea in South Korea who have died committed suicide. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could confirm whether Her Majesty’s Government had spoken to South Korea outlining our concerns around the integration of those refugees into its society. Until the South Koreans address this problem, the push factor forcing North Koreans to flee South Korea will mean that some will continue to arrive here in the United Kingdom, applying for asylum. Australia and Canada, among others, face a similar issue.

Even highly qualified doctors from the north struggle to make the transition to the south. Surely the international community can help with specific plans to skill up professionals for the future of North Korea, and not see those valuable skills go to waste. I can fully understand the comments in the Security Council last November that the international community had struggled to agree a plan of action in relation to the Kirby report. However, a plan to ensure that North Koreans can remain in the region and that those abroad are trained up, ready for reunification, is in the doable category, which is often sparsely populated with solutions to many of the tragic situations that we discuss in your Lordships’ House.

I turn briefly to the leadership of the future. Even if the South Koreans solved the integration problem tomorrow, there would still be approximately 1,000 North Koreans who have been granted refugee status here in the United Kingdom. If North Korea became free tomorrow many might travel there, hoping to be part of the future of the country. Then the Westminster Foundation for Democracy would ask MPs and Peers, via our political parties, to go out there to train up the future politicians. As North Korea is a unique case—we have no access to train people in North Korea—could the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the human rights and democracy fund merely ask the WFD specifically to see if half a dozen folk among our 1,000 refugees had the potential skills and competence to be future leaders and invest in them here? I am sure that many in your Lordships’ House would respond to the persuasive power of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and be happy to help. That would really cost very little—definitely cheaper than flying us out there, and so much better value for money for the UK taxpayer in the long term. If your Lordships were involved, we could make requests of the royal colleges, Bupa or

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AXA to train up one North Korean doctor; we would not be requesting them to do something that we had not started doing here ourselves. More things could be done to prepare for reunification than we at first think, and many of our allies—particularly Germany—may have other relevant experience to offer.

I hope that there is a plan for the future under the leadership of South Korea, as well as a plan to bring to justice those who have committed human rights abuses. When nations change, there is often a symbolic moment. In Iraq in 2003, that was the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein. In North Korea when that moment comes, many statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un will be toppled. I believe that that will happen in my lifetime, and I hope that we are ready for that moment.

2.24 pm

Lord Rowe-Beddoe (CB): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Alton for securing this short debate. The DPRK—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—is in itself a name that would not qualify under any trade descriptions Act. It is not democratic; it does not represent the people; neither is “Korea” correct, for that implies the whole peninsula. However, that is but a comprehensive illustration of the nightmare that this world has to confront and face.

Unlike my noble friends Lady Cox and Lord Alton, I have never had the opportunity to visit, although I have certainly viewed the 38th parallel closely on my many business trips to the south over the past 20 or so years. I speak therefore from second-hand knowledge, by study, by observation, by discussions with people from the south and—all-importantly—from encounters with refugees living in or visiting the United Kingdom.

I wish to use these few minutes to highlight one thing: the importance of breaking the blockade of information, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Alton. Why have we not seen a popular uprising against the regime, or perhaps acts of mass civil disobedience? It is due partly to the physical brutality of the regime but, significantly, also to the indoctrination of the North Korean people, whose Government wish to ensure complete psychological control over the entire population. It is therefore forbidden to access foreign media. All North Koreans are exposed to state-controlled media in their homes, work and public spaces. As well, all television and radio—state information—is broadcast through fixed-line speakers in every household. Those speakers are inspected frequently to ensure that they function and cannot be turned off. One refugee stated to a United Nations commission of inquiry:

“You are brainwashed from the time you know how to talk … North Korea is … a fenced world … They want the people to be blind, deaf to the outside world”.

The United Kingdom Government had been unconvinced that radio broadcasts would reach sufficient numbers of North Koreans due to a lack of radios. However, after persistent lobbying discussions—if I may use that word—by members of the all-party group, at last, in 2015, our noble friend Lord Hall, director-general of the BBC, declared that the World Service would reach out to North Koreans through a daily news programme on short wave. The BBC is of

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course aware of the consequences for those caught consuming foreign media, but should it not broadcast into North Korea for fear that citizens, if caught, are tried and perhaps executed for listening? I believe the answer to be emphatically no. Although the risks are high, there are even greater consequences of inaction. Pyongyang will of course attempt to answer, censor and jam the broadcasts. No doubt it will lodge formal protests to our embassy and open, yet again, the bag of threats. However, in an age of global interconnectivity, it is my belief that such actions will be diminished in their harm.

For a BBC service to become a reality today, the corporation has to put together a team to decide and deliver the content. I hope that this will include UK-based North Korean refugees. Once that is done and costed, I understand that the plan will be submitted to the Foreign Secretary, who will then be required to approve the service. Perhaps the Minister will comment on a timetable. It is my sincere hope that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sees such broadcasts as complementary to its own efforts to improve human rights within that country.

2.29 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for giving us this opportunity to debate this important issue. I will concentrate my remarks on the security aspects following the nuclear test. In doing so, I declare my interest as co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.

It is both heartening and disheartening that, in these last few weeks, we have had the great example of success of talks in Iran and then the very disheartening example of the nuclear test in Korea. It shows what the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and associated treaties are up against. It goes to the heart of our obligations under the NPT—by “our”, I mean in particular the nuclear weapons possessing states, the P5 plus.

Noble Lords will remember that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty began life in 1970. In fact, North Korea acceded to it in the mid-1980s, but it never came into compliance and it withdrew from the treaty in 2003. The treaty has an unprecedented number of countries belonging to it—191, in fact—which could make it the most successful arms-limitation and disarmament treaty that there is. Only four UN member states have never joined the NPT: India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan. Today’s debate is not the time to discuss the implications of that, but it is something that we need to keep in mind.

The point I make is that the situation in North Korea has been decades in developing. In nuclear terms, we knew, once it withdrew from the treaty in 2003, that we had a real problem on our hands. The question for the Minister is: who does she believe is in the best position to start that dialogue with North Korea about nuclear issues now? I noticed the comments of Mr Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State for the US, that China should take the lead. He said that the United States believes that,

“China has a special role to play”.

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If China is to be the one to take the lead, there has to be a real push from all of us other countries for China to do so.

The point I would really strongly like to make is that every country concerned with nuclear material has a special role and responsibility. Being part of the so-called nuclear club may, some believe, give you added status as a world power and the added security of owning a deterrent. Personally, I do not believe that either of those is inevitably correct. However, it is indisputable that, as a member of that nuclear power club, one has a special duty to ensure the safety of non-nuclear states and the rest of the world. In this context, China has a duty to do everything it can do to denuclearise North Korea. Because it is probably closer to North Korea than anyone else, China is in the best position to do so. I have no doubt that there are incredibly complex political considerations and insecurities that will influence this, but the overwhelming danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons means that that issue has to take priority.

For our part, we—the UK, USA and France—should see nuclear material as a potential continuum from energy to material for bombs. The purpose of the various treaties—the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, the CTBT and the NPT—is to contain it and make it as safe as possible. Of course, the USA undermined the NPT with its civil nuclear deal with India, which, as I mentioned, is not a member of the NPT, even though it had not joined the club. Israel is allowed to remain in the position where it does not declare its nuclear weapons. In that continuum, the UK also made a decision—there may have been behind-the-scenes talks about this, I do not know—to allow the Chinese to buy into Hinkley Point. That is tacitly saying that all is satisfactory with the Chinese attitude to nuclear material in general and the treaties governing it, but clearly that is not in the case as far as North Korea is concerned.

The logic by which the P5 plus decide who shall and shall not be a nuclear state has not been historically arrived at by the logic of those that are the most responsible countries. But it is by virtue of being in the P5 that we have to exercise our responsibilities in every possible sphere, including trade, and make it quite clear to those whom we trade with and those who can influence other people—in this case, China and North Korea—that there is a continuum in nuclear material and that we have to stay within the terms of the treaty.

2.35 pm

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I warmly congratulate my noble friend on his tireless work on North Korea, and on opening this debate with characteristic comprehensiveness. I have had the privilege of travelling to DPRK with my noble friend three times, and of meeting many refugees and escapees, whose heartbreaking accounts of horrific violations of human rights remain ingrained in my heart and conscience.

In addition to echoing the serious concerns highlighted by my noble friend and other noble Lords, I wish to highlight specific concerns regarding infringements of freedom of religion and belief, including the recent arrests of two foreign nationals. First, Hyeon Soo Lim,

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a South Korean-born Canadian Christian, is a 60 year-old pastor. He is a Canadian citizen, but he was sentenced last December to life imprisonment with hard labour, accused of using religion to overthrow the state and harming the dignity of the supreme leadership. He had previously made many visits to DPRK and engaged in humanitarian work supporting an orphanage, a nursery and a nursing home. A CNN report emphasised:

“It is this tremendous love for the people of the DPRK that motivated Mr. Lim to travel (there)”.

Unusually, he was recently able to give an interview to CNN, in which he described being forced to work for eight hours a day digging holes. He is believed to be in poor health, but all he asks for is a Bible and letters from his family. I understand that Canadian government officials have so far been denied access to him. Secondly, a Korean-American pastor, Kim Dong Chul, has been arrested on spying charges.

The arrest and detention of these two foreigners is deeply disturbing as they illustrate the Pyongyang regime’s attitude to human rights and religious freedom. I ask the Minister: what response is the United Kingdom making to these arrests, and, particularly given our diplomatic presence in Pyongyang, what support has the UK given to the efforts of Canada and the United States regarding these two cases? More generally, what more can the United Kingdom do to address the violations of freedom of religion or belief in the DPRK?

On the same topic, I highlight serious concerns about a recent statement by the World Council of Churches. On 28 October last year, the WCC’s Forum for Peace, Reunification and Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula issued a Pyongyang appeal following a visit to DPRK. I entirely support efforts to pursue constructive and critical engagement with the DPRK. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Alton and I have participated in such direct engagement during our visits, so I endorse some of the WCC’s recommendations, particularly for exchanges between North and South Korean citizens, cultural and academic exchange, and engagement.

However, I and many others are deeply concerned that the WCC’s statement and an accompanying report issued by the Asia secretary of the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Council ignore the horrific human rights violations and the severe persecution of Christians, documented by the UN commission of inquiry report. Instead, the WCC’s statement calls on,

“all churches, church-related organizations and people of good will around the world”,

to resist,

“the confrontational misuse of human rights”,

avoid,

“the promotion of enemy images”,

and lift economic sanctions. The WCC describes North Korea as,

“a society that is visibly advancing, demonstrating great resilience and self-reliance despite the longstanding and recently strengthened international sanctions”.

In an article published on the Church of Scotland’s website, Sandy Sneddon describes visiting tourist and cultural sites in Pyongyang, including a Protestant church. My noble friend and I visited this Protestant

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church and three other churches in Pyongyang—another Protestant church, a Catholic church and a Russian Orthodox church. While we welcome their existence there, they are tightly controlled by the regime, and are widely believed to exist largely for the benefit of foreign visitors. In the rest of the country severe violations of freedom of religion or belief are well documented. The UN commission of inquiry concludes that,

“there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to of freedom of opinion, expression, information and association”.

The regime, according to the UN inquiry,

“considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat”,

and, as a result,

“Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted”.

Severe punishments are inflicted on “people caught practising Christianity”.

The WCC report makes no reference to the UN inquiry. As my noble friend highlighted, it concluded that,

“the gravity, scale and nature”,

of the violations of human rights in North Korea,

“reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

It claims the systematic and widespread violations, described as “unspeakable atrocities”, are continuing,

“because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place”.

They amount, according to the inquiry, to,

“crimes against humanity in international law”,

and these crimes,

“clearly merit a criminal investigation”.

In conclusion, I ask the Minister for reassurance that the brutal violations of the rights and freedoms of people of DPRK, including freedom of religion and belief, will be at the centre of any engagement with Pyongyang by Her Majesty’s Government, alongside the priority concerns about the security situation.

2.41 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB): My Lords, like others, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for obtaining this debate on a country rarely discussed in this Chamber, but one which uniquely suffers from perhaps the most oppressive regime in the world. It is no accident, perhaps, that its godfathers were Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, who did so much to bring this state into existence in the 1950s.

More than 30 years ago, I worked as the head of the Asia department of Amnesty International and one of the most remarkable documents that we published then was the testimony of a Venezuelan communist, Ali Lameda, who had worked in Pyongyang as a translator and editor and found himself caught up in its Kafkaesque workings, and was arrested and tortured for many years.

Thankfully, in today’s world there are few countries where one can say the human rights position is little better now than it was decades ago. But if one reads the reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the US State Department and the Foreign Office itself, it is clear that this is still the case in North Korea. In no significant manner is the human rights

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situation any better today than it was 30 years ago. That this is the case is abundantly clear from the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, referred to by several other noble Lords, and written by the Australian judge, Michael Kirby and the distinguished Indonesian lawyer, Marzuki Darusman, and published in February 2014. It reports:

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

For decades, it argues, North Korea has committed,

“crimes that shock the conscience of humanity”,

which,

“raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community”.

The international community must accept responsibility to protect the people of North Korea. This responsibility is a heavy one for the UK as we are one of only five countries that are permanent members of the Security Council. In that regard, can the Minister assure us that in our dialogue with China, enhanced by the state visit of President Xi Jinping last year, there are regular discussions about North Korea with Beijing? It must, and should, be part of our dialogue with China, the single most important country in terms of influence on North Korea. We also sit on the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, together with China. Can the Minister assure us that we will continue to use that forum to follow up the excellent work undertaken by Judge Kirby and Marzuki Darusman? As Michael Kirby himself stated:

“If the Human Rights Council is not the place to speak up about the atrocities … then where is the venue?”.

He went on to argue that the crimes against humanity were of such gravity that a case should in his judgment be taken to the International Criminal Court. Can the Minister tell us whether this has been considered with like-minded partners in the international community?

As the register of interests makes clear, I am a trustee of the BBC with a special interest in the World Service, where, indeed, I worked for seven years. In September 2015, the director-general, Tony Hall, declared that the BBC wished to reach out to ordinary Koreans through a new daily news programme via shortwave radio. The director-general wrote about this to the Chancellor on January 5 this year, outlining plans for a Korean service, among other World Service projects. There will also be an online presence. I am delighted that in a letter on 8 January, the Chancellor, George Osborne, agreed to provide £85 million of new funding for the World Service through a grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In due course, a proposal to establish a Korean service will be placed before the Foreign Secretary, whose approval is needed for the launch of any new language services. Such funding from the Government is imperative for the establishment and continuation of the new service. Some will inevitably question its impact on North Korea, although I am sure that it will gain attention in South Korea as well as the diaspora. However, there is growing evidence that North Koreans, especially those who have worked and lived in China—and hundreds of thousands have—have access to devices that would enable access.

The regime itself has recently allowed the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, as well as Associated

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Press, to open news bureaux in North Korea. In due course I look forward to a BBC Korean service making its contribution to the improvement of human rights and security on the Korean peninsula that we all wish to see.

2.47 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating today’s debate and enabling us to focus on a country with probably the worst human rights situation in the world, with summary executions, arbitrary detentions, abductions and disappearances—a country where the tools of the state include forced labour, prison camps, torture and rape. Such flagrant human rights violations cannot go unchallenged.

Shortly after it detonated its fourth nuclear test, North Korean state media issued a lengthy statement justifying the explosion. Their primary grievances justifying it was the 2014 UN commission of inquiry report that accused the regime of grave, systematic human rights abuses against its own people. In the opinion of the North Korean leadership, the United Nations report was nothing more than a,

“conspiratorial human rights racket against the DPRK”—

the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The official North Korean rebuttal ran to 50,000 words and claimed that the,

“popular masses enjoy genuine human rights”,

and accused the West of pursuing a “false and reactionary” agenda designed to interfere with national sovereignty.

The DPRK has always been extremely sensitive about its human rights record. The fact that it focused on this issue, after such a significant military provocation, shows how central the issues have become to its battle against the world. It may be that, by bringing the diplomatic spotlight back on to itself, North Korea is hoping to prompt the international community, particularly the US, to negotiate. I have no doubt that it would like to see an end to the state of war and international sanctions, which, whether or not it admits it publicly, have led to huge deprivation and extreme poverty in the country.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, quickly issued a Statement strongly condemning the nuclear test as,

“a grave breach of UN Security Council resolutions”.

Of course, as we have heard, the UN Security Council’s swift condemnation following its emergency meeting on 6 January indicated that there should be a robust response, including immediate work on “further significant measures” in a new Security Council resolution. I ask the Minister: what does she believe those “significant measures” should be, and when does she expect the new resolution to be considered?

The Foreign Secretary has also called for concrete action by the DPRK to improve human rights. Last November, Fiona Bruce asked in a Written Question in the other place whether he would request information from the DPRK on the measures it has taken to meet the recommendations of the UN report. The Written Answer referred to a meeting last October in the United Nations and stated:

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“We were informed the accepted recommendations were being discussed by the relevant domestic DPRK institutions”.

Has there been any further contact on the need for implementation plans to be shared with the world community?

Peter Wilson, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, said in the Security Council in December:

“The United Kingdom fully supports the call for the Council to consider how it can best ensure accountability”,

of this regime, which of course is so important,

“including through considering a referral to the International Criminal Court”.

In answering a Written Question from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this issue, the Minister said that the United Kingdom,

“worked with the EU and Japan to co-author a UN resolution on the human rights situation in the DPRK which calls for accountability”.

What further progress has been made on achieving strong support for this resolution?

With South Korea assuming the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 1 January, there is a chance that this could seriously raise tensions on the peninsula. If South Korea leads a global coalition in referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court, I have no doubt that that would be interpreted by the regime as an act of provocation. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, reminded us, the two countries have been technically in a state of war since 1950 to 1953. The point of raising this is that whatever the tensions and provocations, they must not stop us raising the horrendous violations of human rights in North Korea.

2.53 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for calling this important debate and raising these serious issues relating to the DPRK. I, along with fellow Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DfID, appreciate the invaluable work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, of which he is a co-chair. There is a long-standing interest in North Korea, across a broad range of serious and challenging issues, which has informed today’s debate.

As noble Lords have pointed out, it is only a fortnight ago that we saw the regime’s flagrant disregard of multiple UN Security Council resolutions by conducting a fourth nuclear test. It would be inappropriate to go into the technical detail of our assessment of the capabilities of the DPRK’s military position with regard to its current and potential future development but clearly it is something we watch very carefully. Although the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others referred to the thermonuclear test, we ought to take into account the fact that North Korea also continues to develop its ballistic missile programme—also in contravention of UN sanctions. We know that it has launched missiles from submarines as recently as last year. That is something that we have to consider always.

With regard to the thermonuclear test, the UK responded swiftly and decisively to condemn this serious violation. The Foreign Secretary spoke to his counterparts

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in Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing and called for a robust and united international response. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, who raised these matters—absolutely rightly—that we are working within the United Nations Security Council and the EU to deliver this response, which will include a resolution on further significant measures. He asked me for a timetable. I am afraid I am not able to say when that will be achieved but technical work is under way to look at what further sanctions may be imposed that will be significant and effective. We will consider the full range of options open to us during negotiations on those new sanctions measures.

The United Kingdom has also expressed our concern directly with the North Korean regime. I was asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, summoned the North Korean ambassador to the Foreign Office on 7 January. My right honourable friend further condemned the test and made it clear that North Korea had a choice: to reform its approach or risk facing further international isolation and sanctions. He added that amid reports of widespread hardship and human rights abuses, the priority must be the health and welfare of the North Korean people rather than the nuclear programme.

Of course, China remains vital to resolving issues related to North Korea and the Korean Peninsula. I was pleased to hear noble Lords concentrating on the importance of China’s role. The Foreign Secretary made it clear on his recent visit to China, as did the Prime Minister when he met President Xi on his recent state visit to the UK, that we share the same goals of security on the Korean Peninsula and respect for United Nations resolutions, and that we fully understand the role of China and the importance of its influence. China, like the UK, does not want a nuclear-armed North Korea. As a P5 member, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, pointed out, China has a vital role to play in the implementation of UN sanctions, and we continue to work closely with it on this. We consistently engage with China on DPRK issues, including nuclear and human rights, across the board. That involves specifically the enforcement of sanctions.

As set out in the strategic defence and security review last year, the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent remains essential to our security today and for as long as the global security situation demands. History shows us that threats can emerge without notice but the tools for defending ourselves cannot be built overnight, so the Government will not gamble with the security of future generations of British people. We judge that a minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, based on continuous at-sea deterrence and assigned to the defence of NATO, remains vital to our national security to ensure that the UK is protected from extreme threats that cannot be countered in any other way.

Turning to the critical issue of human rights, we remain concerned by the continuing reports of widespread and systematic state-sanctioned human rights violations in North Korea. The regime’s actions, its lack of international engagement on human rights and its rejection of the United Nations commission of inquiry report remain of deep concern. As the Foreign Office

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Minister for human rights, I am indeed engaged in seeing what negotiations can take place with our like-minded partners. I was asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan. It is important that we use the range of expertise and influence at the Human Rights Council as well as at the United Nations to be able to exert influence on international views of the DPRK.

Comments by the UN special rapporteur on forced expatriate labour, if accurate, appear to provide further evidence of North Korea’s lack of respect for international norms. It is important that any country around the world that is hosting North Korean workers should respect the rights of those workers. We continue to press the regime to make tangible progress on its absolutely appalling human rights record, including in the meeting that Hugo Swire had in December with senior visiting North Korean diplomats.

It is only a few weeks ago that the UN Security Council met to discuss the human rights situation in North Korea. So while we consider security as part of this debate today, crucially, we must never ever lose sight of the fact that the regime’s appalling approach to human rights denies ordinary North Koreans the rights that we, and many others across the globe, demand for ourselves. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, outlined a critical issue: it is vital that people should have the right for freedom of religion or belief. Indeed, the constitution of North Korea makes provision for it. It is about time that it took note of its own constitution.

What action are the British Government taking? We work hard in international fora to press for action that addresses North Korea’s serious human rights violations. We play a vital role through our policy of critical engagement. The British embassy in Pyongyang works to ensure that the regime is not oblivious to the condemnation of its approach to security and human rights. Our ambassador and embassy staff consistently raise human rights with the North Korean authorities, including freedom of religion or belief, and encourage their Government to implement all the recommendations of the UN’s universal periodic review. This work is valued by many of our allies, who may of course not have based an embassy within Pyongyang or North Korea and, as I told the current British ambassador before he assumed his duties recently, it is important that this engagement continues. The embassy also runs a series of projects where we engage with ordinary North Koreans. For many, this is their first encounter with a non-Korean and it is an opportunity to showcase our own values.

I was particularly asked about spending. On Monday, I launched the new Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, in which we have doubled the FCO’s democracy fund money for this year to more than £10 million. That funding is available for bids from NGOs and others who work within North Korea but there is a much broader range of spending from government than just that fund. We have a programme spend which has covered humanitarian projects aimed at improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in North Korea, including helping to improve food and nutrition for people in rural areas, the funding

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of equipment for disabled people and support for children affected by the recent floods in Rajin. Many of our projects are about encouraging change.

My noble friend Lady Berridge asked about the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. In fact, I happened to meet its board yesterday as part of our regular engagement. I will make sure that it takes note of our debate today but it is not for me to tell it what to do. That is not the role of government, but I will invite it to take note of what Parliament wishes it to do. Although DfID does not have a bilateral aid programme with North Korea, its programmes are based on the fact that we can give contributions to multilateral agencies that are working in-country.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked about two consular cases. We are indeed aware of the media reports regarding US and Canadian nationals. The British embassy in Pyongyang has been in close contact with the Swedish embassy and we remain in that contact because Sweden has consular responsibility. That does not mean to say that we do not take an interest—we do.

With regard to engaging North Korean refugees, which was another question from my noble friend Lady Berridge, the British embassy in Seoul also works towards improving the future prospects of the North Korean refugee community in the Republic of Korea through its English for the Future programme. We also engage with the North Korean refugee community in the UK to share information and listen to their views on our policy towards North Korea, so that we may better address the very issues that my noble friend outlined about the needs of refugees.

I was asked particularly about the BBC World Service, which remains the world’s largest international broadcaster. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has discussed proposals for a range of new World Service programming, including for the DPRK, and he will make a decision on whether to support additional services on the basis of any formal request from the BBC Trust. I am not in a position to give a date about when that may happen but when a formal request comes forward, he will make that decision.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised the most important issue—there should be no impunity for crimes such as serious human rights violations. It is not only Governments who have responsibility for this. NGOs take on that responsibility, too, and I pay tribute to the human rights defenders around the world, including those in North Korea, who carry out their work in very dangerous conditions. It is a long battle ahead for us all to achieve conditions of humanity in North Korea. We will not give up, and I know that the British public and this Parliament will not give up.

Litvinenko Inquiry

Statement

3.06 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, with the permission of the House, I will repeat a Statement made in the House of Commons earlier today by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

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“Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the death of Alexander Litvinenko on 23 November 2006, and the statutory inquiry into that death, which published its findings this morning. Mr Litvinenko’s death was a deeply shocking event. Despite the ongoing police investigation, and the efforts of the Crown Prosecution Service, those responsible have still not been brought to justice.

In July 2014, I established a statutory inquiry in order to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Litvinenko’s death, to determine responsibility for his death and to make recommendations. It was chaired by Sir Robert Owen, a retired senior High Court judge. It had the Government’s full support and access to all relevant material, regardless of its sensitivity.

I welcome the inquiry’s report today, and I would like to put on record my thanks to Sir Robert Owen for his detailed, thorough and impartial investigation into this complex and serious matter. Although the inquiry cannot assign civil or criminal liability, I hope that these findings will provide some clarity for his family, friends and all those affected by his death. I would particularly like to pay tribute to Mrs Marina Litvinenko and her tireless efforts to get to the truth.

The independent inquiry has found that Mr Litvinenko died on 23 November 2006, having suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of acute radiation syndrome caused by his ingestion of polonium-210 on 1 November 2006. He ingested the fatal dose of polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel on the afternoon of 1 November 2006. The inquiry—which in the course of its investigations has considered “an abundance of evidence”—has found that Mr Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, who had met him at the Millennium Hotel on the afternoon of that day.

The inquiry has also found that Lugovoy and Kovtun were acting on behalf of others when they poisoned Mr Litvinenko. There is a strong probability that they were acting under the direction of the Russian domestic security service—the Federal Security Service, or FSB. The inquiry has found that the FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved directly by Mr Patrushev, the then head of the FSB, and by President Putin.

The Government take these findings extremely seriously—as I am sure does every Member of this House. We are carefully considering the report’s findings in detail and their implications. In particular, the conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr Litvinenko is deeply disturbing. It goes without saying that this was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilised behaviour. But we have to accept that this does not come as a surprise. The inquiry also confirms the assessment of successive Governments that this was a state-sponsored act. This assessment has informed the Government’s approach to date.

Since 2007 that approach has comprised a series of steps to respond to Russia and its provocation. Some of these measures were immediate, such as the expulsion of a number of Russian embassy officials from the UK. Others are ongoing, such as the tightening of visa restrictions on Russian officials in the UK. The

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Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation into Mr Litvinenko’s murder remains open. I can tell the House today that Interpol notices and European arrest warrants are in place so that the main suspects, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, can be arrested if they ever travel abroad. In light of the report’s findings the Government will go further, and Treasury Ministers have today agreed to put in place asset freezes against the two individuals.

At the time, the independent Crown Prosecution Service formally requested the extradition of Mr Lugovoy from Russia. Russia refused to comply with this request—and has consistently refused to do so ever since. It is now almost 10 years since Mr Litvinenko was killed. Sir Robert Owen is unequivocal in his finding that Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun killed him. In light of this most serious finding, Russia’s continued failure to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime can be brought to justice is unacceptable. I have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions this morning, asking her to consider whether any further action should be taken, both in terms of extradition and freezing criminal assets. These decisions are, of course, a matter for the independent Crown Prosecution Service, but the Government remain committed to pursuing justice in this case.

We have always made our position clear to the Russian Government, and in the strongest possible terms. We are doing so again today. We are making senior representations to the Russian Government in Moscow and at the same time will be summoning the Russian ambassador in London to the Foreign Office, where we will express our profound displeasure at Russia’s failure to co-operate and provide satisfactory answers. Specifically, we have demanded, and will continue to demand, that the Russian Government account for the role of the FSB in this case.

The threat posed by hostile states is one of the most sensitive issues that I deal with as Home Secretary. Although not often discussed in public, our security and intelligence agencies have always—dating back to their roots in the First and Second World Wars—had the protection of the UK from state threats at the heart of their mission. This means countering those threats in all their guises—whether from assassinations, cyberattacks or more traditional espionage. By its nature, this work is both less visible and necessarily more secret than the work of the police and the agencies against the terrorist threat, but it is every bit as important to the long-term security and prosperity of the United Kingdom.

The House will appreciate that I cannot go into detail about how we seek to protect ourselves from hostile state acts, but we make full use of the measures at our disposal from investigatory powers right through to the visa system. The case of Mr Litvinenko demonstrates once again why it is so vital that the intelligence agencies maintain their ability to detect and disrupt such threats.

The environment in which espionage and hostile state intelligence activities take place is changing. Evolving foreign-state interests and rapid technological advances mean it is imperative that we respond. Last November, the Chancellor announced that we will make new

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funding available to the security and intelligence agencies to provide for an additional 1,900 officers. In the same month, I published the draft investigatory powers Bill so that we can ensure that the intelligence agencies’ capabilities keep pace with the threat and the technology, while at the same time improving the oversight of and safeguards for the use of investigatory powers.

In the Government’s recently published national security strategy and the strategic defence and security review, we set out the range of threats to the UK and our allies, including from Russia, and our comprehensive approach to countering these threats. Since the publication of the previous SDSR in 2010, Russia has become more authoritarian, aggressive and nationalist. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its disturbing actions in Ukraine have directly challenged security in the region. These actions have also served as a sobering demonstration of Russia’s intent to try to undermine European security and the rules-based international order. In response, the UK, in conjunction with international partners, has imposed a package of robust measures against Russia. This includes sanctions against key Russian individuals, including Mr Patrushev, who is currently the secretary of the Russian Security Council.

This Government are clear that we must protect the UK and her interests from Russia-based threats, working closely with our allies in the EU and NATO. This morning I have written to my counterparts in EU, NATO and Five Eyes countries, drawing their attention to both the report and the need to take steps to prevent such a murder being committed on their streets.

We will continue to call on President Putin, and Russia, as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to engage responsibly and make a positive contribution to global security and stability. They can, for example, play an important role in defeating Daesh, and, together with the wider international community, help Syria work towards a stable future. We face some of the same challenges, from serious crime to aviation security, and we will continue to engage, guardedly, with Russia where it is strictly necessary to do so to support the UK’s national interest.

Sir Robert Owen’s report contains one recommendation within the closed section of his report. Honourable and right honourable Members will appreciate that I cannot reveal details of that recommendation in this House, but I can assure them that the Government will respond to the inquiry chair on that recommendation in due course.

Finally, I reiterate the Government’s determination to continue to seek justice for the murder of Mr Litvinenko. I repeat my thanks to Sir Robert Owen and, in particular, to Marina Litvinenko. As Sir Robert Owen says in his report, she has shown ‘dignity and composure’ and,

‘has demonstrated a quiet determination to establish the true facts of her husband’s death that is greatly to be commended’.

Mr Litvinenko’s murder was a truly terrible event. I sincerely hope that, for the sake of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko, for the sake of Mr Litvinenko’s wider

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family and friends, and for the sake of justice, those responsible can be brought to trial. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.16 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier today in the other place by the Home Secretary. The inquiry report confirms that the Russian state at its highest level sanctioned the killing of a citizen on the streets of our capital city in an unparalleled act of state-sponsored terrorism. We accept that time must be taken to digest the findings of the report and consider our response.

Before I proceed further, I express our appreciation to Sir Robert Owen and his inquiry team, without whose painstaking work the truth would never have been uncovered and known. I extend our thanks to the Metropolitan Police Service for what the report calls “an exemplary investigation”, and to the Litvinenko family’s legal team, who, as I understand it, supported them on a pro bono basis.

We express our sympathy to Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko, who have fought so courageously to make this day a reality. While the findings of this report raise international and diplomatic issues, this was first and foremost a family tragedy. Has the Home Secretary met, or does she intend to meet, Marina and Anatoly to discuss this report, its findings and the British Government’s response?

We welcome what the Home Secretary has said today in the Statement about Interpol notices and European arrest warrants, along with her announcement about asset freezes. Will she also directly approach all EU, NATO and Commonwealth allies, asking for immediate co-operation on extradition in respect of those named in the report as having poisoned Mr Litvinenko? Since there may be other individuals facing similar dangers, has a review been undertaken of the level of security provided to Mr Litvinenko by the relevant British services to see whether any lessons can be learned for the future?

No individuals commit crimes of this type alone, and today’s report confirms that there is a network of people who have known about and facilitated this crime. I understand that Mrs Litvinenko has prepared a list of names to be submitted to the Government, of those who have aided and abetted the perpetrators against whom, she believes, sanctions should be taken. That could include the freezing of UK assets, property and travel restrictions. Will the Minister give an in-principle commitment today to look seriously at that list and those requests?

The Statement indicates that there will be new diplomatic pressure, which we welcome, but given what we know about the way the Russian state operates, do the Government believe there is a case for a wide-ranging review of the nature and extent of our diplomatic, political, economic and cultural relations with Russia?

On diplomacy, do the Government consider that there is a case for recalling the ambassador for consultation and for making any changes to the Russian embassy in London? Given the proven federal security service involvement, are the Government considering expelling

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FSB officers from Britain? Has the Prime Minister ever raised this case directly with Vladimir Putin, and will he be seeking an urgent conversation with him about the findings of this report?

On cultural collaboration, given what this report reveals about the Russian Government and their links to organised crime, on top of what we already know about corruption within FIFA, do the Government feel that there is a growing case to reconsider our approach to the forthcoming 2018 World Cup and to engage other countries in that discussion?

On the economy, are the Government satisfied that current EU sanctions against Russia are adequate, and is there a case to strengthen them?

We ask these questions not because we have come to a conclusion but because we believe they are the kind of questions this country needs to debate in the light of today’s findings. While the Home Secretary ordered this review, I believe I am right in saying that she originally declined to do so, citing international issues. Will it be considerations of diplomacy or justice that influence the Government’s response?

Finally, will the Government commit to coming back to update Parliament on whatever final package of measures and steps they intend to take in the light of this report and its disturbing findings? The family deserve nothing less than that after their courageous fight. Alexander Litvinenko’s last words to his son Anatoly, who was then 12 years old, were, “Defend Britain to your last drop because it saved your family”. He believed in Britain and its traditions of justice and fairness and of standing up to the mighty and for what is right, and we must now make sure that we find the courage to show his son and the world that his father’s faith in us was not misplaced.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minster for repeating the Statement made by the Home Secretary. The death of Mr Litvinenko, although it happened almost 10 years ago, is shocking and tragic, and we hope Marina Litvinenko and her son can find some solace in the findings of this report.

There are fundamental issues at stake here. Sir Robert Owen cites as the motivation for the murder of Mr Litvinenko his criticism of the Russian domestic security service and of the Russian President, Mr Putin, and his association with other Russian dissidents. He concluded that Mr Litvinenko may have been consigned to a slow death from radiation to “send a message”. Freedom of expression and freedom of association are fundamental human rights, and we cannot allow foreign Governments to murder people in this country, let alone a British citizen, for expressing such views or for associating with critics of a particular regime. Such an act cannot be left without serious consequences for Russia.

We acknowledge with gratitude the role of the security and intelligence services and the police in keeping us safe, and we accept the Home Secretary’s assertion that some of the work the security and intelligence services carry out in combating the threat from hostile states must remain secret. We also acknowledge the constant struggle the police and the security services face in trying to keep abreast of

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developments in technology. Any increase in investigatory powers must none the less be necessary and proportionate and must not unnecessarily undermine the right to free speech and the right to private and family life.

Will the Minster explain how the conclusions of this report have come as such a surprise to the Government that it is only this morning that the Home Secretary has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking her to consider whether further action should be taken? It is the Government who should already have taken action in freezing the assets and banning the travel of all those linked to this murder. I accept that a head of state cannot be subjected to a travel ban, but there is no reason why the Government cannot signal their intention to impose one as soon as Mr Putin leaves office.

Why are the Government limiting themselves to expressing their “profound displeasure” at Russia’s failure to co-operate and provide satisfactory answers? Why are they not expressing their outrage that state-sponsored murder by Russia to silence its critics has been carried out on British soil? The Government’s response is late, lame and lamentable.

Lord Bates: I am grateful for the points made on this report by the official spokesmen for the opposition parties. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is absolutely right to say that it is a substantial report, and it is right, given that it has been a thorough exercise to undertake this study, that we give it due consideration before we come forward with all our recommendations. He is also right to point to the sections of the report that talk about the exemplary Metropolitan Police Service investigation into this crime, and I know that that will be welcomed as well by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Often in such circumstances the police are criticised, but the chair of the inquiry goes out of his way to point out how exemplary they have been.

The noble Lord is right also to pay tribute to the legal team involved in this, and to ask about the security of individuals. The security of individuals is of course first and foremost the responsibility of the police with, where necessary, advice from the security services. We are confident that the police will be looking at the situation very carefully, particularly for individuals who may be at risk.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked if the Home Secretary will meet Marina Litvinenko, and the answer to that is absolutely. The Home Secretary wrote to Marina Litvinenko last night, and she was provided with advance sight of the report so that she could prepare her responses to it. That meeting will take place very shortly. When it does, that will be the appropriate time to consider Marina Litvinenko’s list of names on which she feels further action should be taken. Following that meeting, I will be happy to update the noble Lord and the House on what actions have been taken.

The noble Lord talked about what actions would be taken and whether we would be recalling our ambassador. At present—of course, we are only dealing with the report that has been received now—we certainly feel that the diplomatic channels have immense value in communicating to the Russian authorities our shock

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and outrage at this incident, which did not just involve the murder of a British citizen in the capital of the UK but involved the use of radioactive material that could have had a lethal effect upon many more people. In fact, some of the most disturbing parts of this entire report are those that show how lazy the two people who carried out this crime were and how unaware they were of the danger of the material that they were handling. There are examples of spills that were mopped up with towels. It was horrific behaviour and incredibly irresponsible, and it is amazing that only one person died as a result of it.

On the points made about this by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I understand the frustration that will be felt but I draw his attention to appendix 1 of the report, which sets out in some detail the action that was taken. The Home Secretary has taken the action of writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions; following the conclusion of the report, we believe that that is the right course of action. The arrest warrants were issued under the previous Labour Government in 2006 and 2007—very prompt action was taken. Further action has also been taken in the light of the events in Crimea and Ukraine through the European Union, which has gone to the heart of some of the issues which were touched upon as regards cultural and commercial links. The European Union has frozen the assets of five banks, looked at commercial restrictions—and arms embargoes, as one would expect—as well as restrictions on movement. On whether there is more to be done, that is one of the reasons why the Home Secretary has written to her EU counterparts and will continue those discussions in the Justice and Home Affairs Council to see what more can be done, as well as through NATO, to see what more can be done there.

Ultimately, our objective is to ensure that the two people clearly identified as having carried out the murder are brought to the United Kingdom so that they can stand trial and so that the Litvinenko family can get justice for the crime which has been committed. We will not rest or resile from that commitment.

3.31 pm

Lord Blair of Boughton (CB): My Lords, I am not entirely sure that I should declare this as an interest, but this appalling crime took place during my term as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I endorse the Home Secretary’s Statement and I am very conscious that the implications of Sir Robert Owen’s report are far wider than having anything to do with the police. However, I would like the Minister further to acknowledge something which appears to have been omitted from the Home Secretary’s Statement. I would like the Minister to take note of the fact that this investigation was into a homicide by a method never seen before in the history of the world. It presented a unique and immensely dangerous challenge to the investigators themselves. In these days, when the Metropolitan Police faces sustained criticism over a number of unrelated matters, this investigation was in the finest tradition of that organisation. It was not only exemplary but was innovative, intelligent, unstinting and astonishingly brave.

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Lord Bates: I certainly echo the noble Lord’s remarks and pay tribute again to the work of the Metropolitan Police Service. I also pay tribute to the work of the Cyclamen network, which tracks nuclear materials as regards potential terrorist threats, as well as the Atomic Weapons Establishment, which provided important scientific input into the inquiry by identifying what had happened. I am therefore happy to endorse those remarks and confirm my agreement with them.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I think many of us in this House on all sides will want to congratulate the Government on their firm Statement and in particular to thank Sir Robert for the clear and detailed work he has done and for his honest, forthright report. Particularly in view of what the Minister has just said about the wider implications as regards the lethal radioactivity spread around the capital, London, its transport system and the rest, how will the Government raise this matter in the Security Council of the United Nations, with fellow Governments in the European Union, and, most particularly, in the Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe? The Council of Europe is of course committed to human rights, and we have a very good opportunity there with other Ministers to put the Russians under close scrutiny as regards this report. I was rapporteur for some years to the Council of Europe on the conflict in Chechnya, and what has happened here is all too characteristic of the gruesome repeated action I came up against in Chechnya and in the north Caucasus in general.

Lord Bates: References to that engagement in Mr Litvinenko’s background in Chechnya are contained in a report, which makes very interesting reading. The noble Lord asked about the UN Security Council. There are issues that could be addressed through that forum, but the fact that Russia is a permanent member of it makes some of the discussions that need to be had a little more difficult. However, we have said that the European Union plays a crucial part in our security here, and we have made it clear that NATO also plays a very important part, as do the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. We need to get the message out that this is unacceptable and to communicate that as widely as possible.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, my noble friend has rightly paid tribute to the courage and dignity of the widow and the bereaved son. Can he give the House an assurance that he is utterly confident of their security in this country and of their financial security for the future?

Lord Bates: That is a very good point, and it is characteristic of my noble friend to focus on the humanitarian aspects of this matter. I do not have a sufficient understanding of the situation but I give an undertaking to ensure that it is on the agenda when the Home Secretary meets Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko to make sure that any personal needs they have are met.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, the Minister mentioned Syria. I do not understand why we regard it as necessary to be weak on the rule of

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law at home in order to persuade Russia to do what is in its national interests in Syria. I am sorry to strike a dissenting note to the general tenor so far, but in my view this Statement pretends to roar like a lion but in fact ends up squeaking like a mouse. There is only one new action, and that is to freeze the assets of the two perpetrators, who have no assets in Britain anyway, and shortly to be rude to the Russian ambassador. That is it. Moscow has been found by a British court to have murdered a British citizen using a nuclear weapon in daylight and in public in our capital city, and that is it. Perhaps I may suggest to the Government that they should go away and consider what further action should be taken. When they do so, perhaps they will bear in mind what Mr Putin would do if the tables were reversed and perhaps frame their actions around that.

Lord Bates: We might not go quite that far with Mr Putin as a role model for action. In a sense, I understand the point that the noble Lord is making, but let us remember that this report has come out into the open. It contains some damning verdicts on the Russian Administration, on the FSB and on the Russian President himself, and it poses a number of questions in the international community which we have said need to be answered. I think that the report itself is a step along the path of ensuring that we get justice in relation to this crime and of making sure that it does not happen again.

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, the Minister has outlined the carelessness with which this material was treated here in the United Kingdom. With regard to how this material came to enter the country in the current security context, can he say whether there are proposals to review the systems that we have in place? We are used to being checked thoroughly as we go out of the country but it seems that we do not have any systems for checking that people do not enter the country with this kind of material. Do we need any such systems?

Lord Bates: The Cyclamen co-ordination group, which works with the Border Force and the security services in tracking down this material, does a lot of work in this area. Sections of the inquiry findings point to the fact that, because polonium-210 consists of large molecules, it is extremely difficult to detect through the normal detection methods. We will have to look at that to ensure that we are better at detecting this type of material when it crosses borders or is used within the UK—or anywhere else, for that matter—in the future.

Lord Hayward (Con): In his comments, my noble friend emphasised that he wanted to ensure that the two perpetrators were brought to justice in this country. I heard the Russian ambassador earlier today trying to rubbish the report on the basis that it was written without having been tested in a court. Will my noble friend take this opportunity to send a further message to the Russian ambassador that we are quite willing for these two individuals to be tried in a British court of justice and, if necessary, will he give

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consideration to the process that was undertaken for Lockerbie to protect those individuals until that process is complete?

Lord Bates: I am very happy to do that. Of course, that is what we are aiming for. That is the direction and thrust of our policy. We want those two individuals to come to the UK so that they can be put on trial and all the evidence can be put to them, they can seek to defend themselves and a judgment can be made.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, does the Minister think it possible or even likely that the polonium could have entered Britain in a diplomatic bag?

Lord Bates: The report does not go into that level of detail—or certainly not the parts that I have read. That is something that will be examined very carefully because, again, that would ratchet up this issue to a further level of deep concern.

Lord Rea (Lab): I am sure that Marina Litvinenko is extremely pleased that this inquiry was held and that the findings are so definite, but she would be even more pleased if the findings could be tested in law with regard to the two main suspects being accused. Although it seems impossible to get them to come to this country, would there not be a precedent for having a trial in absentia?

Lord Bates: I am afraid that I am not qualified to know whether that is an option. I think that it would be immensely difficult. In effect, there has been an inquiry without their contribution. The evidence was considered and it has produced a pretty damning judgment. As to what the legal options are, I hope that the Director of Public Prosecutions might be able to come forward with something in response to the Home Secretary’s letter.

Women: Businesses

Motion to Take Note

3.43 pm

Moved by Baroness Wheatcroft

That this House takes note of the contribution women are making to businesses, the economy and the future economic growth of the United Kingdom.

Baroness Wheatcroft (Con): My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to introduce this timely debate, for it is a chance to celebrate—to celebrate the huge success both of the country and of individuals.

Women have come a long way in a short time. Let us not forget that it was only in 1928 that women gained equal voting rights with men, but it is less than 100 years ago that the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act enabled the first women to become barristers and solicitors and only in 1997 that a woman became chief executive of a FTSE 100 company. Such was the amazed reaction to Marjorie Scardino getting the top job at Pearson that many appear to regard the event as akin to Dr Johnson’s response to a woman being a preacher:

“a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all”.

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Well, to find women succeeding in business is no longer any surprise. There are many examples of that success in this Chamber, and I am delighted that we will be hearing from so many of them today, and that the Minister who is to respond had herself a highly successful career in business before turning her hand to politics.

In particular, I am delighted that we will be listening to two maiden speeches, both from women who are making a serious contribution to the business world. My noble friend Lady Rock is a director of a FTSE 250 company, and my noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith, runs the mighty Mitie company and chairs the Women’s Business Council, which aims massively to increase the contribution of women to the economy. I have no doubt that they will both have some very interesting things to say.

For too long, women were a wasted resource in the economy. There is now a clear understanding that we cannot afford to squander the talent of half the population. If we could equalise women’s productivity and employment with that of men, it could add £600 billion to the economy. I applaud the moves that the Government are making to encourage this change: the right to request flexible working, shared parental leave, and now 30 hours of free childcare for the parents of three and four year-olds.

But it takes time to change attitudes. When I was a working mother, I was somewhat taken aback at a school parents evening to be shown the work of the eldest son, who was then aged five. “My daddy is tall and thin. He is a publisher”, he had written. That was largely accurate, if perhaps slightly flattering on the size front, but never the less he was indeed a publisher. He went on, “My mummy is short and fat. She is a typist”. It was true because I was pregnant and I typed, but I did so as a journalist on the business pages of a national newspaper. Prejudices are formed early and they can be absorbed from seemingly innocent sources such as children’s books.

The remarkable Dame Stephanie Shirley built a fantastic business in the tech field. At the time she started it, in the 1960s, a married woman needed her husband’s permission to open a bank account. So she decided to work as Steve rather than Stephanie, because she was sure that someone with a man’s name would have a better chance of persuading customers to join the business than a woman would. She built the business up to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds, making 70 of her staff, largely women, millionaires in the process. She has since become one of our leading philanthropists. Her experience, however, led her to remark that, “You can always tell ambitious women by the shape of our heads. They’re flat on top from being patted patronisingly”.

Things have improved since then. Led by the dynamic and determined noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch, the drive to get more women on to corporate boards has been very successful. In 2011, just 12.5% of FTSE 100 directors were women. Last year that proportion overtook the 25% mark. Now the drive is to increase the number of women directors among the FTSE 350 companies. Astonishingly, in 2011 there were 152 all-male boards in the 350 index. In four years, that number has

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been cut by 90% and the Government target now is to bolster the proportion of women on those boards to a third.

I was so relieved that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and the Government set targets and not quotas. I do not believe that quotas would have been for the long-term benefit of the country or of women. It would inevitably have led to women being put on boards because of their gender and not their ability. Promoting token women is not to anyone’s benefit. What boards need is a diversity of experience, skills, talent and outlook.

I believe that women are as diverse as men. I hope that I will not be seen as being disloyal to the sisterhood if I say that, just as women can be thoughtful, caring, kind and ambitious, so can men, but not all women are paragons. Some can be as scheming, ruthless and mean as any man. Both men and women can fall victim to the groupthink that is so damaging to a business. Various studies purport to show that having women on the board has a positive effect on performance. That may be, but might the positive factor be having a board that is not so blinkered, old-fashioned and prejudiced as to close its doors to anyone who does not fit the stereotypical male, pale director image? Diversity is what is required.

I should probably take this opportunity to say that I currently sit on two company boards, one of which is a FTSE 100 company and is, I am delighted to say, chaired by a woman. My experience of being on boards is that generalisations are dangerous. Getting the right mix of people is what is important, irrespective of gender, so it makes sense to choose from the biggest possible talent pool. That means looking at men and women and, equally important, looking at people from diverse backgrounds and, in this global business world, diverse countries.

Although we are making progress at board level, it is among non-executive directors rather than executives that the biggest changes have come. When it comes to executives, we now have six female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies, but the ratio of male to female senior execs is pitiful. I think it is more likely that a man called John will be a senior or chief exec than a woman of any name.

Is this because of a glass ceiling, or is it because many able women choose not to take on those roles? Here, we should not—cannot—ignore the realities of family life. The issue of childcare and, increasingly, the need to look after older parents, undoubtedly impacts on careers. It is true that families are moving towards more shared care between parents, but it still tends to be the mother who carries the bulk of domestic responsibilities.

There is more that companies could do to make it easier for people to balance work and life. For all the talk of flexible working—some companies pay much more than lip-service to it—we still have a long-hours culture in this country and presenteeism is rife. It is interesting to note that this does not in any way equate to world-beating productivity—on the contrary.

One thing I find remarkable is that for many executives, a huge amount of travelling seems to be required. Why should this be the case in an age when videoconferencing is highly sophisticated and Skype is readily available?

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It may be that people still believe that it is imperative to do business face-to-face and, on some occasions, it certainly is, but if companies could make better use of technology instead of business class seats and comfortable hotels, more mothers might be encouraged to take on senior executive roles.

I have to say that, in my career, I have never felt discriminated against for being a woman. Indeed, I often found it something of an advantage. As a journalist, when I was younger, older captains of industry seemed quite responsive to being interviewed by a younger woman. Later on, I suspect that younger captains of industry felt comfortable talking to someone who reminded them of their mother.

However, it saddens me to admit that women are still discriminated against when it comes to the matter of pay. There are explanations for why there should be the apparent gender pay gap, but it is so glaring, so consistent, that it is hard to avoid concluding that there is an element of discrimination at work. It would be charitable to think that it was always unintentional. Fifty years ago, it was still largely taken for granted that women would be paid less than men. But the Equal Pay Act came into force in 1970, so it is remarkable that the gap between average earnings of men and women remains so wide—a staggering 19.2% in this country, which is nearly 3% higher than the average for Europe.

Work by the Fawcett Society shows an even bigger gap at the top: the highest-earning 2% of men earn an average of £117,352 while the average for the highest-earning 2% of women is just £75,745—an extraordinary gap of 55%. Now, of course, there are factors to explain the gap, not least the fact that women are slow to climb into those top jobs that pay more. The good news is that among younger people—those under 40—the gap has been narrowed almost into non-existence. But the evidence points firmly towards the fact that older women are not being paid what they deserve.

The Government have pledged to close the gap within a generation and last year announced plans to force companies to publish the figures showing their pay by gender, including bonuses. It is important to keep the bonuses in there because of the belief that men get bigger bonuses than women, either because they demand them or because those handing out the bonuses just think they are more deserving. The figures point to there being some truth in that.

The hope is that, by forcing companies to publish their numbers, it will encourage them to examine their pay structures more carefully. It might, but I suspect that, unless they are forced into disclosing pay by tiers rather than just overall, they will cling to the belief that they are being asked to compare apples and pears. I hope that the Minister today may be able to give us some thoughts on how real change is to be brought about on this front.

Getting more women into top jobs is clearly part of the solution, but it may not be enough. The actress Sienna Miller is clearly at the top of her profession. When she learnt that a film offer made to her would pay her significantly less than her male co-star, she walked away. That option is not available to many women.

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However, I do not want to finish on a down-beat note. As I have said, the increased proportion of women in the economy is a cause for celebration. We have girls being enthused about business at school, more women setting up their own businesses than ever before and women running some of our biggest companies. We have a woman chairing the Institute of Directors and a woman directing the CBI. We are not a monstrous regiment, but we are a formidable force. I beg to move.

3.58 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft for initiating this debate and I, too, very much look forward to the maiden speeches of my noble friends Lady Rock and Lady McGregor-Smith, both of whom come to this House with considerable business experience and expertise.

Noble Lords may be aware that I spend a lot of time banging on about women’s equality in Parliament. As a result of the work I have done in this space, I have been lucky enough to meet and talk to many successful businesswomen and female entrepreneurs who support this. Due to efforts by women themselves, the introduction of voluntary targets, as the noble Baroness said, and government support, progress continues to be made in all areas to increase women’s representation in the workplace. The news that 69% of women aged between 16 and 64 are now in employment, the highest number since records began in 1971, is to be welcomed. Here in Parliament, women now make up a record 29% of the House of Commons—not good enough, obviously—and 26% of the Lords.

In the business world, however, the UK still languishes in the bottom 10 of the league table of senior management roles around the world, with women in the UK holding only 19% of these positions. Interestingly, the number one spot is occupied by China, with 51% of senior management positions held by women. I have not studied the correlation but I would be surprised if the success of women in business there is not a significant factor in powering China’s economic success.

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute has analysed gender equality in 95 countries around the world, and estimated that closing the gender gap in the workplace would increase annual GDP by between $12 trillion and $28 trillion in 2025, depending on how quickly change could be implemented. That is a very big number, equivalent to the economies of China and the US combined. We could create economic value equivalent to two world superpowers in less than 10 years if women’s participation in the workplace were equal to men’s across 95 countries. The opportunities are mind-boggling.

Some noble Lords will be aware that I speak regularly in debates about international development, encouraging the Government to do even more to empower women in developing countries and making the economic case for doing so. I am delighted that Justine Greening has just been appointed to the UN’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, designed to put the issue on the global agenda, and I am sure we all wish her and the panel every success. However, I am

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struck that we seldom focus to the same extent here at home, where we are still far from reaching our full potential.

It is great news that proportionally more women than men are now involved in business start-ups. In 2014, the proportion of working-age people involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity was 11%. By gender, the entrepreneurial activity in the UK was 14% among women and 8% among men. From listening to many women who have been involved in starting their own businesses, I know that flexibility in working hours is often a key to balancing work and family life. I personally identify with that, as in 2007 I set up my own business with a partner. That business continues to thrive today and employs 19 people, although I do not think I would be in this Chamber today if I had stuck with the business rather than focusing on other areas of women’s empowerment.

I recently asked a number of successful women entrepreneur friends what they thought should be done to support more women to maximise their potential in the workplace. In their view, women tend to nurture their business growth, are financially prudent, and seldom look for a quick exit but focus more on developing a sustainable business. People management and team development skills are paramount, as start-ups are highly dependent on a few scarce people. They told me that it is lonely if they start on their own. An inclusive style, working as a team together with natural mentoring and coaching skills, are strengths often found in women. Of course, that is not to say that successful male entrepreneurs do not display some or all of the same characteristics, but entrepreneurship should be encouraged as an area of growth for women in the economy. The recent paper from the Centre for Entrepreneurs, Shattering Stereotypes: Women in Entrepreneurship, is well worth a read for further insight.

More entrepreneurial education, support and encouragement are needed for the next generation of female entrepreneurs—interestingly, they do not like to be called entrepreneurs but want to be called business founders; the word somehow turns them off—with the establishment of high-quality mentoring schemes and networks. I welcome the Government’s work in that space, including the new mentoring campaign to be led by Christine Hodgson, chair of Capgemini UK and the Careers & Enterprise Company, but is the Minister confident that all those various initiatives are promoted widely enough? Preparing for the debate made me aware of how much support was available, but I am not convinced that it is easy to find. Might all that activity benefit from being joined up under a single strategy, leading to an entrepreneurial revolution in our schools, further education colleges, universities and beyond? That kind of bold initiative could lead to a considerable economic prize to ensure that the UK continues to be one of the fastest-growing global economies for the next decade and beyond.

4.03 pm

Baroness Rebuck (Lab): My Lords, I am indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, for introducing this debate on women’s contribution to business and economic growth, not least because it gives a context

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for two much-anticipated maiden speeches, from my noble friend Lady Rock—I am pleased to say that she began her career in book publishing—and the noble Baroness, Lady McGregor-Smith, who has done such amazing work as chair of the Women’s Business Council, is an important role model for young women, and is a long-serving CEO.

I have been a woman in business since I entered the workforce in the mid-1970s, launching a publishing start-up in 1982 and becoming CEO of one of the largest publishing groups in the UK in 1991—a position I held for 22 years until I became chair.

I join the noble Baronesses, Lady Wheatcroft and Lady Jenkin, in applauding women’s achievements, with 69% of women in work—the highest number since I joined the workforce, but still behind 79% of men. I have seen women’s attitudes and aspirations towards fulfilling work transform with each generation and I enjoy my millennial daughters’ utter intolerance of many of the compromises that I have made in my life. For them, the notion of equalising women’s productivity and employment to men’s is a real possibility—potentially adding, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, told us, some £600 billion to our economy. But it would depend on a different culture in organisations and, at home, a truly shared responsibility for child-rearing.

But as well as our successes, we also have to acknowledge that there is much more to achieve. There are currently 2.4 million women who want to work but cannot and 1.5 million who are failing to increase their working hours. In the 21st century is it not shocking, as we have heard and will clearly agree on, that in the UK we have a gender pay gap of 19.2%, which is well above the European average? Why is it that 42% of women who work part-time—often involuntarily, many on zero-hours contracts—are three times more likely than men to earn far less than a living wage? These depressing statistics do not fit with the fact that around half of our young women hold a university degree, with significant numbers achieving first-class honours. Why is it that so many are in low or middle-skilled jobs, well below their qualifications? Depressingly, for these women, little has changed since the 1970s.

Going right back to school, girls outperform boys, but very few are on a pathway towards high-growth STEM subjects, where many high-profile jobs would await them. The CBI reports that girls suffer from pigeonholing in their careers and that 93% of all young people are not getting the careers advice that they deserve. So I suggest that we need to improve career preparation for women, whether in the humanities or STEM subjects, even as early as primary school, because by the time women are exposed to inspiring role models—if they ever are at all—they tend to have already decided on their exam choices and their ambitions are potentially curtailed.

When I speak to girls’ schools I encounter such enthusiasm and curiosity, but I often feel like I am a visitor from Mars. There is little continuity, training or consistent role models for the majority of the 3.7 million young women who are not being prepared to aspire to a career and fulfil their potential in the workforce.

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I hope that Christine Hodgson’s new independent careers advice company will address these gender issues specifically.

At the same time, millennials—women between the ages of 18 and 34—are more likely to want self-determination and to start their own businesses rather than follow a regimented career. A third of start-ups in Britain are by women aged under 35; 37% of them self-fund and operate their business from home, covering service sectors, probably with limited upsides. They do not tend to move into the tech and science environments that men monopolise—a fact championed by my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. I look forward to hearing her views on this. Women are also less likely to seek VC funding than the majority of start-ups by men. Could it be because generally, and not always through choice, they take on the family responsibilities and therefore fear debt and failure more acutely?

Similar dynamics operate in the traditional workforce, where 75% of CEOs and 69% of full-time managers are men. This has pretty much been the case all my working life, as I witness women’s career trajectories change once they become mothers, with one-third of managers going on a downward trajectory. It is also at this point—as we have heard, when they are roughly in their 40s—that women’s pay begins to deviate from men’s in what has been called the “motherhood penalty”.

The argument has been made time and time again that if you add 10% of gender diversity at the top of companies, you add a potential 3.5% EBIT increase, yet the number of senior women leaders remains stubbornly low. There are only 8.6% women executive directors on our top companies’ boards. There are 26% women non-executive directors on our top boards—a great achievement of my noble friend Lord Davies and others—but we now need radical action on women’s executive careers. Is it a question of unconscious bias in companies and benevolent stereotyping? Or, as Sheryl Sandberg argues, are women failing to “lean in”? Perhaps the Government themselves, a big national employer, could set targets for their executive women’s pipeline? I certainly find increased anxiety in the brilliant young career women I mentor, especially when they start a family, as if they have subscribed to some ideal notion of perfect motherhood, blended with perfect work performance—both impossible goals.

Millennial women, for the most part, take a different attitude from my generation. They reject the compromise of working motherhood where all the responsibility rests with women and demand a more equal approach with a partner and much more time flexibility from the companies they work for. Work/life balance is firmly on their agenda. I was lucky enough to be able to afford childcare when I had children, but today the cost of nursery provision is up 33% since 2010, well ahead of any salary inflation. And, unfortunately for anyone working in today’s 24/7 environment, how adjusted is childcare provision generally to the majority of working families or, indeed, lone parents, 93% of whom are women working outside the nine to six, nine to five—or whatever—norm?

If women are going to make their full contribution to the workforce, we need a different culture of shared parental responsibility and universal, affordable and flexible childcare. We need to stop demonising working

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mothers or colluding in setting up impossible ideals. We need trust and flexibility within companies to allow women—and men—to juggle their lives, and we need finite measures to increase aspiration in schools and universities, followed by focused training and sponsorship in executive pipelines for women. Mentorship and active sponsorship of women in all companies are essential.

These issues are many and complex and, yes, I think it is right that we applaud the contribution of women to business and their current and future potential impact on the growth of our economy, but let us also be aware of the warning signs of lack of progress and stagnation and of unequal access to opportunity, and honestly debate any barriers—practical, psychological and cultural—to women’s full contribution to our future.

4.13 pm

Baroness Brady (Con): I congratulate my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft on securing this debate, and particularly the way it has been framed. We are finally talking about the contribution that women can and do make to growth and economic prosperity, instead of being trapped in a debate on equality for equality’s sake. There are reasons why we need to empower women in the workplace and they are for the benefit not just of women but of the whole country. Our businesses can do better, innovate more and grow faster if we leverage the talent of the whole country.

Today I want to focus my remarks on opportunity—opportunities for women in business and opportunities for our economic growth as a country, now and in the future. The opportunities for women are simple. They are the same as the opportunities for anyone building a career in business—an access-all-areas pass to any skill set, any profession and any industry, and, in those areas, the chance to go as high as anyone wants to go, from middle management to senior leadership to FTSE 100 CEO. On that note, I pay tribute to and welcome my noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith to this House. Her success in business, as well as her work at the Women’s Business Council, is an inspiration to us all.

How do we unlock these opportunities? Our generation is more fortunate than previous ones in that we at least can point to equality before the law. We therefore need to make sure that, first, we empower women with the skills they need to get on in whatever career they choose and, secondly, change culture and attitudes where we need to so that women with the right skills get to the top and do not get sidelined by gender issues.

Take my own industry, football. In 1993, when records began, just 10,000 women and girls played in affiliated league and cup competitions. That number is now 147,000, which is of course progress, but we still have a long way to go. It will not surprise many in this House that there are no female managers in the professional ranks of men’s football. But it may surprise noble Lords that just eight of the 24 teams at the recent Women’s World Cup were managed by women, and in global professional women’s football women manage just 7% of teams. If we can encourage more girls into the sport, this may yet filter through into

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management and leadership roles as well, and I commend the FA’s targeted outreach programme to recruit more female players and coaches.

Some of the remaining barriers are cultural. Noble Lords may have seen the “This Girl Can” campaign—a celebration of women in sport, designed to challenge the idea that certain activities are not for girls. There is a football example of a woman doing keepy-uppy, with the caption, “I also know the offside rule”. I commend such initiatives for helping to show that no part of our society or economy should be closed to half the population. There are lessons here for the wider business community.

Culturally, perhaps the most important thing we need to do is address flexible working and raising a family, as many speakers have said, and end the stereotypes that may still exist in this area. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government have introduced the right to request flexible working as well as shared parental leave. It is important that this is seen as an opportunity for men as much as for women. I think Sheryl Sandberg said it best when she said:

“I look forward to the day when half our homes are run by men and half our companies and institutions are run by women. When that happens, it won’t just mean happier women and families; it will mean more successful businesses and better lives for us all”.

Of course, for men and women, raising a family does not mean being less committed to building a career.

Then we have to consider the gender pay gap and continue to get more women into senior leadership positions—and pay them. The gender pay gap is the lowest it has ever been but it still exists. We now have no all-male FTSE 100 boards but we still need more female representation. This is the opportunity for women. Of profound importance is the opportunity for our economy, competiveness and growth prospects if we can empower more women in business and unlock the talents of British people. The Women’s Business Council has calculated that if we equalise women’s employment to that of men by 2030, we can add at least 10% to GDP. Closing the pay gap does not benefit just women, it benefits the whole economy. Until women earn the same as men, the economy will continue to lose money, currently around £40 billion a year. As the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, has said,

“gender equality doesn’t require trade-offs; it only has benefits. And the benefits accrue to everyone”.

We have heard today of the outstanding contributions that women are making to the UK economy, and their potential to do more. Women deserve these opportunities but, more importantly, Britain deserves them. In a fiercely competitive global economy, we need to lever every advantage we can to stay ahead. We still have a lot to do but Britain is ahead of many other countries in maximising women’s economic footprint. Let us lock in that first-mover advantage and reap the benefits it can bring for our girls, our women and our country as a whole.

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4.19 pm

Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho (CB): My Lords, I, too, add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, for securing this debate. She may not remember that we first met in 1999, when she wrote about me—I quote directly—“She is overhyped”. She wrote with characteristic vim and absolute accuracy, I hasten to add. I was personally overhyped by the excitement of the dotcom boom, which I thought would lead to an incredible redistribution and democratising of the world. In many ways it has, and in many ways unexpected things have happened, for good and for slightly less good.

I would like to talk this afternoon about the potential to unlock even more for women using the power of the internet. There is much to be positive about. To give your Lordships two examples, there is a company that you may not be aware of called Samasource, which was started by a brilliant female entrepreneur in the US. It employs women in developing countries to do outsourcing and data collection and to work for companies all over the world. I was amused to read on its website that one of its key employees—she is also called Martha—said of working for Samasource:

“It’s been a dream, me having my own place, paying my own rent, buying my own food. Being independent”.

I feel much the same about the internet, I should add.

On the one hand, we have brilliant companies such as Samasource being built and giving opportunities to women all over the world in new ways. At the other extreme, I met a woman this morning at the launch of the Lloyds consumer digital index, which is benchmarking how we are progressing towards being a digital nation. She is called Lisa and used to be a bus driver. Now she makes her own financial products online and has been quite astonishing in building her own business. It is smaller scale but I am sure it will be as big as Samasource soon enough.

I would be telling a terrible untruth, however, if I described any situation other than an internet that is controlled, run, funded, made and used predominantly by men. It is an extremely serious situation. If we look through any cut of the numbers, it is profoundly upsetting. About 4% of the world’s software developers, the people controlling and building the internet, are women. About 9% of businesses founded on the internet are run by women. About 10% of venture capitalists in the internet space are women. In the total technology sector here in the UK, 13% are women and there are 17% of women in management positions. On every metric, it is fewer than the number of women in your Lordships’ House. This is in an industry that did not exist 30 years ago, and that has grown in parallel with the general acceptance that men and women should be treated equally. We have effectively replaced the establishments and hierarchies of the Industrial Revolution of the last century with hierarchies that look exactly the same. It takes my breath away.

However, I am an optimist and I believe that there is much that can be done. I was so delighted when the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, referred to Dame Stephanie Shirley, who was in this House this morning having a cup of tea with me but unfortunately could not stay for the debate. There are three big areas we

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should grab as a country because if we do not, we will not be able to compete economically and for the better.

The first is to address the enormous skills crisis that we have in our tech sector, using creative and new ways. There are 600,000 empty jobs right now in the UK and there are forecast to be 1 million by 2020. Dame Stephanie gives us an example of how we could fill them differently. What the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, did not mention in her anecdote about her was that at one point she hired 2,000 women, who were all working from home and all doing coding and software design on hard-core government contracts, such as the black box for Concorde or the Polaris submarine. That was hardly a walk in the park or about flaky projects.

We have lost that capacity to engage women in the incredible design and use of software. Why can we not take some of the 800,000 women who are currently unemployed in this country and train them to fill our skills gap? How much more imaginative could we be by matching some of the challenges that we have? I recently worked on projects that took women who had no understanding of computer science, just basic maths, and in six months they became Java-ready and able to go into work. We should be much bolder in addressing these challenges. We will not have a shot at competing globally if we do not fill these jobs. Let us use the widest possible talent pool that we have.

Secondly, we will design much better products and services if we engage women in their original conception and creation. I am sorry if noble Lords have heard me talk about this before, but there is a well-known example from Apple, which released a health kit that it was touting globally 18 months ago. Apple said, “This will track every single thing you can possibly need to know about your health”. That was true—as long as you did not have a baby, had never had a period and were not planning on going through the menopause. There was not one single woman on that development team.

How much better products are when co-created with women at their heart. The former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, said as much when he talked about how Twitter had mucked up completely when it had not considered the issues of trolling, bullying and online abuse. Again, you can bet your life that if there had been one woman on that development team, Twitter might have foreseen that.

This is not just about economic empowerment for the individual but about economic empowerment for the country. I feel so strongly that there is so much more that we can do to address these challenges. No country in the world has put gender balance in the technology sector at the heart of how it builds that sector, and I believe there will be huge economic gains if we do so. The internet is growing—it is not going away, despite many of your Lordships perhaps wishing that it would—and becoming a more, not less, important part of our global economy and the way we work with each other. It is already bigger than our manufacturing industries and is growing to be as big as our services industry. It is very important that we take action right now to make sure that the widest pool of talent is involved in the world that I love and have been so lucky to be part of.

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4.26 pm

Baroness McGregor-Smith (Con) (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I am incredibly honoured to stand here today as a Member of this House and make my maiden speech. From the moment of my arrival, I have been humbled by and thankful for the generous, kind and welcoming support I have received from the staff, officers and Members of the House.

In fact, the kindness of noble Lords almost got me into trouble from the first occasion I arrived in this building. I was waiting for my first meeting with my charming noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach when the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, came across me and suggested afternoon tea. I, however, was unaware that meeting him was not a part of my schedule. I later learned that my assigned minder sent out a search party hunting for me across the Parliamentary Estate, and 40 minutes later, I was found in the Peers’ Guest Room having tea. I was very late for the Chief Whip, but left with a strong impression of how kind and welcoming noble Lords are on all sides of the House.

I am hugely grateful to my two supporters, my noble friends Lady Verma and Lord Livingston of Parkhead, for doing me the great honour of introducing me to the House. I also thank my mentor, my noble friend Lady Noakes. This is the first time I have had a female mentor, and her wisdom, guidance and support have been invaluable. She also encouraged me to make my maiden speech today, knowing how passionate I am about this topic.

I am delighted to speak in this debate on the contribution of women to business, the economy and the future of economic growth in the UK, and I congratulate my noble friend, Lady Wheatcroft on securing this important debate. I am also pleased that my noble friend Lady Rock, who I know has a wealth of experience in this area, will be making her maiden speech later in the debate.

On the day of my introduction, surrounded by noble Lords and my family, my only regret was that my father did not live to see the occasion. My unlikely journey to this House took its greatest turn at the age of two. My parents were part of a minority, Muslim community in northern India, and felt our opportunities were limited. My father was also determined to ensure that education and financial independence would be a part of my future as a female. Believing they could build a better life, they made a brave choice to begin again in the United Kingdom. They arrived with nothing but their education and some very big aspirations. My father trained as an accountant, and he and my mother built a successful life here.

However, it was not all easy, particularly financially. I also found the differences between the two cultures very challenging and difficult. Experiencing first-hand the conflicts around race and religion shaped my passion to help make it easier for the next generations. It also cemented my belief that business must play its own role in supporting aspirational Britain by being far more diverse.

In 2007, I was appointed as chief executive of Mitie, and became the first Asian female to run a FTSE 350 business. I never thought I could be a role model, and suddenly I realised I was. We have seen

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great progress in recent decades but, as a business leader, I still find myself surprised at the lack of other women and mothers I meet at a senior level in business. We also know that women are still more likely than men to be in low-paying jobs.

Achieving gender equality is critical to the growth and productivity of British business and our economy. That is why, in 2012, it was my honour to be invited to serve as the chair of the Women’s Business Council, established by the Government to advise on how women’s contribution to economic growth could be improved. Our research found that, if men and women’s economic participation was equal, this could add 10% to GDP by 2030. If women were setting up and running new businesses at the same rate as men, we would have 1 million extra female entrepreneurs.

As a council, we made recommendations to address the barriers encountered at every stage of a woman’s life. We have seen really good progress and really welcome the strong actions that Government have taken. These include shared parental leave, the right to flexible working and more support with childcare. But there is still so much more to be done. Childcare in particular is still too expensive in the UK, and continues to prevent women from going back to work. I congratulate the Government on the Childcare Bill, which goes some way to addressing this.

Your Lordships will also be aware of the great strides that have been made in getting more women on boards. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch, has made such a huge contribution to this issue. But true workplace equality comes only from having strong representation of women at every level in business. I have set aspirational, self-imposed diversity targets below board level in my own business, and I believe that all organisations, both public and private, should take this approach.

For businesses to be truly diverse, we need to look beyond what we see in people every day and really begin to tackle our unconscious bias. This is about looking for talent and taking more risks on people who do not tick every conventional box—believe in them, back them and help them to achieve their dreams. We must also celebrate more the success stories that we do have in business, and share best practice.

Britain offered unparalleled opportunity to my family and, later, to me. I was really fortunate to have parents and then mentors who believed in me and supported me to realise my dreams of having a career and a family. I genuinely believe that, if I can do it, anyone can do it. We just need to understand what the barriers are for everybody, and how they need to be overcome.

For me, it has never just been about equality, fairness or doing the right thing; it really is about securing our economic future. We should be, and really need to be, a country where every person can aspire to do any job or build any business. We are not there yet, but I know one day we can be.

4.32 pm

Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, I am honoured to follow my noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith. I am sure that Peers from all sides of the House will

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agree that that was an excellent speech, and that my noble friend will add substantially to the breadth and depth of knowledge in this House.

As noble Lords have heard, my noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith has spent a decade at the helm of a FTSE 250 company, and I am sure there are a number of FTSE 100 companies vying to have her as their next chief executive. She raises some important points in her speech, such as having strong business representation at executive level, not just at non-executive level. The mention of her family and the inspiration that came from her parents has clearly been a factor in her journey to the House of Lords, a journey which I have no doubt will in turn inspire others.

Women have long contributed to economic growth. They have done so in every sector of the economy, as employees, self-employed, and employers. But they have often faced a subtle discrimination, which has ultimately been to the cost of economic growth both nationally and internationally. As already mentioned, they face many more obstacles in setting up and growing their business and are less confident in their capacities as entrepreneurs. According to the UN, women in the developing world tend to have less access to formal financial institutions and saving mechanisms, and in developed economies women are less likely to have access to the kinds of investments and networks required to grow their business.

The UN reports that statistical evidence shows that:

“When more women work, economies grow”,

and that:

“Increasing women and girls’ education contributes to higher economic growth”.

In terms of diversity, studies show that more diverse companies perform up to 15% better on average. As Forbes Magazine puts it, diversity,

“reduces the risk of ‘group think’ creating an unhealthy level of unchallenged consensus”.

Yet despite the evidence, a gender gap still exists. McKinsey has identified: that to help women better develop as leaders we must design the conditions in which this can take place; that sponsoring, not just mentoring, is important; that neutralising the effects of maternity leave and ongoing parenting responsibilities are key; and that we must place value on a diverse range of leadership styles. Studies have shown that diversity in opinions in board rooms and other decision-making groups leads to better decisions.

In recent years there has been a concerted effort on the part of the UK Government to address issues of gender in the business environment. The report by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, has been mentioned by other noble Lords, so I shall not do so, except to say that despite its success in bringing about significant change there are still areas where it is yet to have an impact. For example, a recent study by Forbes stated that the UK’s financial technology sector is booming but that financial technology companies are still very much a male domain. Very few women are in managerial roles, and only 9% are at board level positions in the top 35 British financial technology companies.

However, cultural change happens gradually and is difficult to impose. In fact, it is long-standing cultural norms which have influenced what we are discussing today. Of course there has been an argument for

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enforcing legally binding quotas to bring about change. In fact, this issue is being discussed as the Scotland Bill passes through this House, with the suggestion that it becomes a devolved issue, allowing quotas for public sector organisations in Scotland. Some would say that there is a case for positive discrimination, but I must admit that I have a problem with the word discrimination, whether positive or negative. By positively discriminating in favour of one group of people we automatically negatively discriminate against another. It simply creates resentment and ultimately does not solve anything. Equally, I do not think that people from the ethnic minorities or women would want to be token people within an organisation; they want to be there on merit and because they have something to offer. As a former chair of CBI Scotland, I would not like to think that I was there as a token woman, but I certainly dispelled all the stereotypes of male, pale and corporate. Perhaps more crucially, the focus should be on better recruitment techniques. For example, how representative of society are the interview panels? Perhaps that is where we need to start to redress the balance so that the changes automatically filter through.

It is true that women are generally underrepresented in many forums. If we take the World Economic Forum currently under way at Davos, just 17.8% of the participants are women at a forum where Heads of State, chief executives and investors are discussing issues which impact on the whole global socioeconomic and geopolitical landscape.

However, this debate is not just about things which need to change but about the great achievements that women have made despite everything, the great strides forward in the corporate world with their significant presence on boards and the small and medium-sized enterprises owned and led by women that are providing employment and contributing to the economy.

The key in this is education. Looking at the needs of boards, there is a real requirement for financial acumen in this area. Women should be encouraged to take the initiative and go for courses which will equip them better in this regard. As well as encouraging girls to take STEM subjects at school, we should convey that business and enterprise is a very valid career choice. This upward trajectory has to continue. The talent pipeline has to remain populated and carefully nurtured. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, on securing this debate today.

4.40 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, for securing this debate. Her speech was very much at one with her distinguished career as a journalist and in business, and was elegantly and forcefully presented to this House.

I am going to use my time today to speak about a subject that is not discussed very much but is critical to the long-term health of our economy: the contribution, or the lack of it, from ethnic minority women in the workforce. Those of us who have come from those backgrounds—there have been three of us as yet, with one to follow—know that there is a problem, but actually finding data on it, as I discovered when preparing this speech, is incredibly difficult.

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A lot of work has rightly been done to highlight gender in business, on boards and in different professions, and to highlight the gender pay gap, the gender penalty and so on. But if you want to disaggregate the data into racial or religious subsets, there is very little material to work with. We are told that, on current trends, by 2050 one in five people in the UK will be from an ethnic minority background. No economy can afford a situation where one-fifth of its population is underemployed, underutilised and under-recognised.

In exploring the topic, I therefore decided to look at employment statistics overall. We know that the UK has been a success story in terms of having weathered the financial crisis and the ensuing recession without a dramatic fall in employment. This week’s figures show that the rate for 16 to 64 year-olds in employment is now 74%, but the rate for those from BAME backgrounds is 62%, reflecting a very clear ethnic penalty.

Different minority groups have different outcomes, however. In terms of professional advancement, Muslims seem to do proportionally worse. Research by the think tank Demos—I should declare that I am on its advisory board—shows that only 16% of Muslims occupy top professions, as opposed to 30% across the general population. Of those 16% in top professions, only 40% are women—or, to put it another way, roughly 6.4% of Muslim women are represented in top jobs. You would not have thought so, looking around this Chamber—but I do not think that we are representative of the population as a whole.

In another extensive study by the University of Manchester, which looked at social mobility based on the father’s profession, researchers found that while 46% of white women moved up to a higher socioeconomic class than their father, just 28% of first-generation Pakistani and Bangladeshi women moved up from their father’s socioeconomic class. Moreover, even in second-generation south Asian groups, men benefited from greater upward mobility than women. I should add that across the board in education, employment and professional advancement, black, Caribbean, Indian and Chinese people did better than Pakistanis and Bangladeshis—although Bangladeshis are catching up now, most notably in education. Looking more closely at this group, another study found that three-quarters of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were economically inactive. Although those in the second generation were more likely to be in employment than those in the first generation, the rates are still far behind those of other minority groups.

This brings me to something more controversial: the reasons why certain religious groups seem to do less well than others. One reason is cultural norms, often driven by a misrepresentation of religious mores. It is not an accident that Muslim women are less economically active than Muslim men. A survey called Understanding Society showed that 44% of economically inactive Muslim women are inactive because they are looking after the home, as opposed to 6% of males. The national figure for those who gave this reason for not working was 16%. When asked why, 52% of the Muslim respondents said, “The family suffers if the mother works”. This was compared with just 34% of Christians and 23% of non-religious people.

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Therefore, a male-dominated culture reflecting the perceived mores of the home country enforces the role of the woman as housebound, often in a multigenerational household where her place can be consigned to being the unpaid home help. I say “perceived mores”, as often the young women who might have been the product of an arranged marriage have come here from a country which itself has changed, but the community which they joined here in the UK does not seem to have kept up with those changes.

Disengagement from gainful employment means a lower family income, too. In the Manchester research, 57% of Pakistanis and 46% of Bangladeshis lived in poverty. Anecdotally, speaking to women from these groups I have seen their desire to improve their lot in life, but the barriers of language, education, culture and the lack of integration are too great for some to surmount.

What can be done? Talking about the first group—those in top jobs—at senior managerial and professional level, surely it is now time to amend the UK Corporate Governance Code. I look forward to the Minister being able to touch on that in her response. This currently says that boards need to pay heed to “diversity, including gender”, but I argue that it is now time to add the word “race” to those characteristics. UK plc can only benefit from becoming more inclusive. It may also be helpful for annual reports to break down the composition of managerial and senior staff into both gender and race categorisations. Where companies provide data, it is all too easy for them to hide behind apparent diversity while women and minorities occupy back-office and admin jobs.

At the more complex level of gender and integration, this will be a long haul, and a more vigorous approach to quantify the economic aspects of the problem is needed. This involves public expenditure on language classes, catch-up and ongoing training—but, above all, it requires shifts in mindset. It is mainly government which can drive change, and it is time it did so.

4.47 pm

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, as this provides some context to a number of points I wish to make later.

The economic emancipation of women is a critical benchmark on which our social progress must be judged, and it is a fact in every society women face barriers in achieving their potential as regards education and employment opportunities. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, for allowing us to celebrate women’s contribution to the economy; I do agree about flattened hair, so much so that I had to grab on to my hijab to avoid any further hardening. Like the noble Baroness, I, too, salute my good friend and mentor Dame Stephanie Shirley. I have always believed that she is much missed by this House, and I salute her contribution to autism research, which is second to none in this country.

It is a fact that now, in the 21st century, women are entering the workplace in larger numbers than ever before. However, it is also a fact that for the vast

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majority of women their work experience is one of low and often unequal pay and discrimination. Women often make up the larger proportion of the lowest paid and are grossly underrepresented in senior roles in the workplace.

Women’s economic equality, independence and security is often and tragically hugely reliant on a welfare system that fails to reflect the contribution that women make to our economy and society, where women still make up the vast majority of unpaid carers in our homes, for example. Women’s unpaid labour is estimated to be worth tens of billions of pounds to the economy every year, which is unrecognised. Unpaid carers contribute billions to both economic and social health every year. For these and other reasons, benefits tend to make up a fifth of the average women’s income as opposed to a tenth of men’s, and women are more likely to work in the public sector and use a number of its front-line services. Recent austerity cuts to benefits have ensured that women bear the brunt of the reductions in welfare support.

The Treasury’s own figures show that since 2012, 60% of new jobs for women have come from low-wage industries, compared with 39% of new jobs for men. One in four of all female workers is on low pay. The tragedy here is that the fragile nature of low-wage employment means that women are more likely to end up out of work and subsequently in need of welfare support—a vicious and desperate cycle of disempowerment.

We are into the eighth or ninth year of the worst kind of global financial crisis, impacting all economies and, in particular, low-paid women workers. Added to this, and despite five decades of equality legislation, the gender pay gap remains and is completely unacceptable. We are failing in our obligations to half the population, and our country is unable to utilise the economic influences of women. According to the Women’s Business Council—I was delighted to listen to the noble Baroness, Lady McGregor-Smith, and I welcome her to the House; I very much enjoyed her contribution and look forward to hearing more from her—2.3 million women are not working but want to work, and 1.3 million who are already in employment want to do more hours.

We need to invest in the future of girls and young women to maximise their economic potential in the global market. I commend the Young Foundation, which is based in my local area and whose initiatives support young entrepreneurs. The Women’s Business Council further recommends comprehensive careers advice in schools—something with which I definitely agree.

Recent decades have seen the celebration of BME women entrepreneurs through the formation of network organisations committed to supporting and developing the skills of women. In this context I draw the attention of the House to the work of a small organisation called British Bangladesh Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs. It is a dynamic not-for-profit organisation, supporting businesses of all sizes run by women. I am proud to declare my interest as its patron.

Black Women Mean Business is another organisation set up to unite black women entrepreneurs, providing

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support through networking. It was set up in 1992 and is still running successfully today. Numerous private sector programmes encourage minority women to go into business, notable among them being NatWest, which supports numerous projects.

I hope that the House will examine the report British Muslims in Numbers, which was undertaken by the Muslim Council of Britain and focuses on the employment of Muslim women. It states that only 29% of women between the ages of 16 and 74 are in employment compared with half of the overall population, and 43% of the 330,000 Muslims in full-time education in a number of local authorities. It also states that Muslim women exceed men in full-time education, but in reality their educational and employment aspiration often is not matched by the opportunities and support that are available to them. Few young Muslims take up apprenticeships.

Forty-seven per cent of British Muslim women were born in this country and do not have language problems. Despite what has been reported, only 6% of Muslims are struggling with English according to the report conducted by the MCB. However, disparities still remain, and a study conducted by Bristol University found that Muslim women were more likely to be unemployed compared with their white female counterparts, despite equality between the groups in terms of being educated to degree level.

Globally, women also tend to be locked out of leadership positions, where gender seems to matter more than ability. Women make up only 5% of the Fortune 500 CEOs and account for only 24% of senior management positions around the world—a point that has already been made. These numbers are fairly consistent across Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Gulf countries. Clearly, the global economy is not using its productive resources effectively. It is tossing away economic growth at a time when it cannot afford such wanton waste. This needs to change. Excluding women simply makes no sense in terms of a country’s economy. All that is required is to change economic policy, change laws and institutions, and of course change attitudes and culture. I accept that government cannot change everything and that we need to work together. I also accept that there are limits. However, the solution lies in our grasp for an inclusive society. I hope that we can collectively root out the barriers in the UK that prevent women being recognised as our social capital and open wide the door of opportunity, adding potentially billions to the Treasury.

4.55 pm

Baroness Rock (Con) (Maiden Speech): My Lords, it is a great honour to stand in this place to speak for the first time on a topic close to my heart and reflective of my own personal journey. It is humbling indeed. I do so in the warm and generous welcome that I have received from the doorkeepers, clerks and staff along with noble Lords on all sides of the House. I would like to thank them for their kind support, advice, guidance and help. I would also like to thank my noble friends Lord Feldman of Elstree and Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, who so graciously supported me at my introduction.

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I am emboldened to speak in this debate by the legacy of entrepreneurship and female enterprise in my own family. My great-great-great-great grandfather was John Scott, First Earl of Eldon, who served as Lord Chancellor for over 20 years. While he made his name devising the parliamentary procedures to address the temporary incapacitation of King George III, he was also well known because his wife-to-be, Bessie Surtees, defied the wishes of her father and climbed out of a first floor window to elope with him to Scotland—surely an early example of female enterprise.

In 1837, Charles and Sarah Eldridge founded our family business, at the Green Dragon Brewery in Dorchester, Dorset. After Charles’s premature death, it continued to grow under Sarah’s entrepreneurial stewardship, eventually joining forces with the Pope family to form Eldridge, Pope. By 1881, Eldridge, Pope was the biggest employer in Dorchester, and eventually floated on the stock exchange. I am immensely proud of my Dorset roots and the strong history that my family has in the county, so I was delighted to be able to use Dorset in the choice of my territorial title.

I wish to focus on the contribution of women to our economy in three areas. The first concerns placing a greater onus on building a pool of talent—a pipeline for the future. We need to improve the amount and quality of financial education to allow young girls to better consider risk and reward. We also need to increase the number of women who take up careers in STEM subjects. I commend the Government’s record on this with 16,000 more STEM A-level entries for women since 2010, as well as providing a dedicated fund to help women progress as engineers. I declare my interest as a non-executive director of Imagination Technologies, a FTSE 250 tech company and a UK business that is proud to be working with schools and universities to promote technology, engineering and coding. Broadening access to specialist education and training can only help to increase the number of women working in these fields.

Secondly, we need to provide more readily accessible mentoring. We need to make sure that we do not lose out on female talent because of women thinking that business and entrepreneurship are somehow not for them. I am delighted that the Government have launched a new national campaign to recruit high-quality mentors for young teenagers. Inspirational role models will help young people to make big plans for their future. I would particularly like to thank my mentor in this place, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, who secured today’s debate. It is apt that on a day when we are speaking about the importance of mentors, I have such an inspiring exemplar.

Thirdly, flexible working is perhaps the holy grail of equality in the workplace. Until we reach the stage when flexible working is not seen as being synonymous with “lack of ambition”, we will not get enough women in leadership positions, nor will we reap the full economic benefits of greater female participation in the workforce. As has already been mentioned, this potential contribution is estimated to be worth £600 billion by the Women’s Business Council, which is chaired by my noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith, who spoke so

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passionately earlier in this debate. She is a great role model for the contribution that women can make to the 21st century economy.

My own experience is a mixed one. When I began my career in publishing, my first boss, a woman, provided me with excellent mentorship, demonstrating what it takes to run a business and take risks. It is an industry full of hugely talented women, the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, being a noted leader and champion. I have been fortunate to continue my love of publishing and I declare an interest as a non-executive director of a weekly newspaper for children. However, my next experience, working in financial communications was far less encouraging. There, taking time out to have a family had the potential to be viewed as falling off the ladder entirely. A lot has changed in 20 years, but there is still work to be done.

Ultimately, what is our motivation as an economy and as a country for pursuing these goals? I am of the view that this is not about quotas and equality for equality’s sake. This is about businesses being successful. The UK cannot succeed in a fiercely competitive global economy if it is missing out on a large proportion of the talent pool. It is incumbent on us to lay the foundations and provide the right environment. Whether it is about sustainability, innovation or profitability, women can and must play a part to realise our potential as a country. I am proud of my heritage in this field, and speaking now in this place, I hope to be proud of the role that this Government will continue to play in helping women to make a greater contribution to our businesses and to our economy.

5.02 pm

Lord Borwick (Con): My Lords, it is a great honour to follow the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Rock, a speech which refreshingly followed the conventional format. And yet, as she declared in her interests, she is clearly a lady of imagination too. My noble friend also told us that her great-great-great-great grandparents eloped to Gretna Green, a story which seems to prove her enthusiasm for alliteration. The maiden speech of my noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith was similarly excellent, and we look forward to their future contributions.

The late Charlie Hebdo editor, Charb, finished his last work “Open Letter” just two days before he was assassinated in Paris last year. In it, as Amanda Foreman recently reported in the Spectator, Charb writes: “No form of discrimination is better or worse than any other”. Discrimination, where it means choice based on prejudice, is wrong, not only morally but economically, too. And while we all know the moral objections, it is the economic objections to discrimination that are not discussed enough.