I listened with great interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. We were given one of those speeches which suggest that this marks the end of civilisation as we know it. In my previous incarnation, when I did employment, I listened to the speeches on the Trade Union Act 1984 and I was told that it would mark the end of civilisation and the destruction of all responsible trade unionism. I listened to Mr Tony Blair and Mr Gordon Brown promising—as new Members of Parliament on that occasion, making their early speeches in the Commons—that it would be repealed immediately. Of course, as we know, it never was, and I am prepared to take any bet in this House today—although I am probably not allowed to do so—that no responsible Government would repeal this provision in respect of facility time, requiring public sector bodies that are publicly funded at least to publish the details of how much facility time they offer within their organisations.

The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I hesitate to question the assumptions being made by the noble Lord, Lord King, because he is a resident of my own diocese. However, it seems that he may be missing the point. The transparency that he speaks about is quite appropriate, but I thought that the aim of Clause 13 in particular was to assess the cost of facility time and possibly for the Minister to restrict it. That is what is being seen as the threat by trades unions. The noble Lord is quite right in one way, but this carries with it a threat. It would be interesting to know how much it will cost a Minister and his staff to vet all this stuff, but I think that that is where the threat lies and that is what the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Hain, have been talking about.

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Lord King of Bridgwater: If the right reverend Prelate will allow me, we are actually on Clause 12, which is about transparency. He is quite right to say that Clause 13 raises a different issue, but this debate is on amendments to Clause 12 and a Motion tabled by the noble Baroness that the clause should stand part. That is the issue I am addressing.

The other interesting fact here is that this is not some sort of great leap into the unknown because, as noble Lords know, this is already happening because it has been introduced in the Civil Service. I have not heard either the noble Lord, Lord Hain, or the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, say that it has caused riot and confusion within the Civil Service. My understanding is that what has actually happened is that following the publication and examination of the figures, there has been quite a significant reduction in expenditure on facility time. I have seen this happen, as has anyone who has worked in a big organisation or in industry. I had facility time in a factory for which I was responsible and I saw what happened there. It started off as quite a modest enterprise. Then one rather powerful shop steward, or father of the chapel as they were called in the printing industry, established a position of his own so that he managed to turn what was meant to be a part-time activity into a full-time one; that was all he did. He then persuaded the factory manager that he was a very busy chap and was getting older, and asked if he could have someone else to help him.

I thought that the right reverend Prelate was going to accuse me of encouraging gambling in your Lordships’ House, so I will not indulge in another bet. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hain, that I favour facility time, but I know what is going to happen and I am absolutely sure of it. We will find that when these figures are published, there will be a huge variety of situations. Some managements will have kept reasonable control over the amount of facility time by starting out with the best of intentions and ensuring that it is properly monitored. That is probably what happened in Cornwall, if I may say to the noble Baroness. I believe that they are already required under local government regulations to publish their arrangements. I expect that the leader of Cornwall Council, if that is the person to whom she referred, is probably rather proud of the efficiency of the arrangements. What we will find as a result of this transparency is a huge variation.

We cannot walk away from the actual figures. I do not know if they have been challenged, but I have some figures which show that the cost of facility time in the Civil Service was running at £36 million. Since publication of the figures and some further negotiation, the cost has come down to £10 million, and the saving to the public purse is now more than £50 million. If that is right, what responsible Government or Parliament or House of Lords would walk away from saying, “If that is the case in the national public Civil Service, do we not have a duty to see whether other publicly funded bodies that are organised in this way are being run efficiently in this respect?”. That is why I say that this provision will not be repealed. We will find that some public bodies are being run very efficiently and have a sensible balance in the amount of necessary facility time that is paid for out of public money and that some others are being grossly excessive. Even before

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publication we will find that changes will be made to ensure that the figures are not wildly out of place with those elsewhere.

I support facility time, and I support the recognition that public bodies should publish their figures so that people can see the amount of facility time being taken and then stand up and be prepared to justify them. I am prepared to stand up with those organisations in support of a sensible amount of facility time.

5.45 pm

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, I have listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord King, and I accept entirely that he is genuine in his support for facility time, but I am afraid that I share the doubts of the right reverend Prelate that we may be seeing the first instalment on an instalment plan to dilute further the position of trade unions and their capacity adequately to represent their members. In addition to the Government’s naked attempt to damage their political opponents through legislation in relation to the political levy, about which we have heard this afternoon and about which even some of their own MPs and some Members of your Lordships’ House opposite have misgivings, as again we have heard today, we are seeing a trend in legislation that is clearly hostile to trade unions—all trade unions, not just those affiliated to the Labour Party or which might, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Collins, lend their support to other political parties.

The Royal College of Nursing is not known for its militancy or left-wing politics, but it has circulated to Members of your Lordships’ House a 13-page briefing setting out its concerns about the provisions in the Bill relating to facility time and what they might lead to. Under legislation by a previous Conservative Government, of course, trade unions are able to negotiate with employers for union representatives to have time to work with employers and union members on matters affecting the workplace. The college says, “The ability of the health service to transform and improve, without protected facility time for union representatives to enable smooth transition to facilitate learning and ensure safety is a significant cause for concern”. It cites a number of hospital trusts, including one from my own region of South Tees, that strongly support of facility time, as does the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. There is also research demonstrating a much lower turnover of staff in organisations with union representatives which it is estimated saves the NHS £100 million a year, while government research confirms major savings in relation to work-related illness, accidents and employment issues.

The noble Lord, Lord King, calls for transparency, while the Government have themselves produced reports and information about the effect of facility time that support its continuation. Some 91% of public healthcare service managers agree that trade union representatives can be trusted to act with honesty and integrity. The RCN calculates that the impact of union reps on the turnover of staff and the cost of replacement by agency staff is alone to save the service £112 million a year.

Yet, the Government propose to take powers to impose a limit on the amount and cost of facility time for the National Health Service. It is not just a matter

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of providing information; they are taking the powers to impose a limit on the amount and cost of facility time. They would enact this by secondary legislation, which usually undergoes minimal scrutiny, certainly during its passage through the House of Commons and to a lesser extent here. They would be able to restrict the right of union reps to paid time off, and even to rewrite collective agreements and contracts of employment. Studies show that this is likely to result in greater cost, rather than savings.

As is the case with check-off, where the employer deducts union dues from wages and passes them on to the union, there is an issue of principle here. Public or private employers, councils and health service trusts should be free to determine what policy to pursue and not have decisions imposed on them by the Government —a Government who profess their belief in and support for localism, but which, at virtually every opportunity, certainly under the previous Secretary of State for local government, took powers to control the most minute detail. Obsessions with weekly bin collections were the least of the previous Secretary of State’s concerns in that respect.

As an example, my authority is renegotiating its facility time scheme. This authority, with approximately 8,000 or 9,000 employees, which is about half of what we were only a few years ago, will have the equivalent of 5.9 full-time staff paid for, with 3.6 in addition paid by the city’s schools, which, of course, are free to engage or not with facility time—a tiny fraction of the council’s workforce and a total cost of £135,000, which is substantially less than 0.1% of the council’s budget.

During the long period in which I was leader of Newcastle City Council—too long in the opinion of some people, not necessarily exclusively belonging to the opposition parties in the council chamber—I never found facility time to cause problems. On the contrary, it helped councillors and officers to make the best of difficult problems as they arose, whether they affected particular groups, or, critically, promoted efficiency and protected services.

Clause 12 appears to be based on unproven estimates of the cost and ignorance of the benefits of a properly developed scheme. It is the more objectionable because, once again, any change will be made by secondary legislation. As the Delegated Powers Committee points out, new Section 172A(9) contains a wide power to treat, for the purpose of the Bill, a person,

“that is not a public authority but has functions of a public nature and is funded wholly or partly from public funds”,

as a public body. As the committee points out, this would appear to extend to private companies or non-profit organisations to which services are contracted, or voluntary organisations receiving grants. The Minister earlier gave assurances about that. If she is right in what she said—and if I am right in understanding her— and the concerns raised by the committee are not really valid, I hope that such assurances can be embodied in the Bill. Let us have in the Bill what is and what is not to be included if this part of it goes forward. The committee points out that such bodies would be caught by publication requirements. That is why it concluded that if these measures go ahead they should do so by the affirmative procedure. If the Minister is unable to

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assure your Lordships that the Bill will clarify matters, I trust she would accept that the affirmative procedure should be available.

Clearly, I support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Hayter. My Amendment 87 seeks to exclude councils, the National Health Service and the Greater London Authority from the clause’s provisions. That is partly because local government is accountable to the public anyway, to the auditor and to audit committees. I should say that I am a member of the audit committee in Newcastle City Council. A degree of scrutiny is already available in local government, if required, but it seems to me unnecessary for the Government to extend its provisions in this respect to bodies that are accountable in a variety of ways. Even the health service is, to a degree, accountable to local government because health scrutiny committees can look at these matters—again, I serve on a health scrutiny committee in my authority. The Government’s concerns here are, to put it mildly, exaggerated. I hope that the Committee will either persuade the Government to change their position, or, if necessary, pass amendments requiring them to do so.

Lord Callanan (Con): My Lords, I support the Government’s position and these clauses. I strongly associate myself with the remarks of my noble friend Lord King, who put the argument perfectly. We are talking about a taxpayer subsidy for trade union activities, the amount of which we do not know—it may be tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of pounds a year. Nobody knows. It seems to me perfectly equitable to ask local authorities and taxpayer organisations to say how much that subsidy amounts to. It may well be, as my noble friend said—

Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab): Has the noble Lord read the impact assessment on facility time? It has done a calculation. We do not know how, but it at least gives a figure.

Lord Callanan: I have seen the impact assessment, but I do not think that it is particularly specific about how much is spent. Once the regulations are published we will know how much is spent across the piece. It is a taxpayer subsidy. It may be justified; we do not know. There are some egregious examples of abuse of the facility, which I referred to in my speech at the start of the scrutiny of this legislation, which are well known and have been well publicised.

We spent the previous couple of hours talking about the campaigns that trade unions run and the tens of millions of pounds they spend campaigning against Israel or whatever. That is perfectly proper and it is their right to do that, but they cannot argue on the one hand that it is in their members’ interests to spend lots of money campaigning on these various issues, but on the other that they need a taxpayer subsidy to represent their members in the workspace because they do not have enough money left in their coffers to pay for this facility themselves.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, how would the noble Lord characterise the cost of health and safety reps and the work that they do to ensure the workplace is safe and that the employer’s legal obligation is supported by their efforts?

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Lord Callanan: Of course expenditure on health and safety activities is justified and I would support it, but equally, I would not support the activity of organising political demonstrations. The noble Lord will be aware of the famous case from which these reps derive their name, that of Jane Pilgrim, the nurse in the London hospital who has not done any nursing for about seven or eight years, who was supposed to be representing her union’s activities, but managed to find the time to organise demonstrations against Jeremy Hunt when he visited the hospital in that area. It is her right to do that—it is a free country—but it is not her right to do that while paid for by public taxation.

Figures have been released. In the Metropolitan Police there are 57 full-time equivalent employees engaged in trade union activities. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has 78 full-time equivalent employees engaged in trade union business. I find it hard to believe that they need so much free time and have received so much subsidy for their activity in those organisations. It may well be justified, but we will see whether it is when the regulations are published. We will be able to compare how much the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spends with equivalent fire and rescue services. We will be able to compare how much Newcastle City Council spends on its trade union subsidies against maybe better local authorities and how much they spend at all. It will bring transparency to the whole process.

I understand why the Labour Party wants to try to maintain this subsidy, but it seems to me that the central Civil Service has managed to save £57 million by the publication of these figures, as my noble friend Lord King made clear. If there are equivalent sums to be saved in other parts of the public sector—it seems to me that the central Civil Service still manages to function, trade unions are still represented, the world has not come to an end—perhaps we can also save equivalent amounts of money in other public sector organisations. Until the figures are published and we know how much is spent, we will not know that.

6 pm

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I apologise to the Committee that I did not have the opportunity to speak on Second Reading. I declare my interests. The first is a practical and domestic one in that my wife is a lay official of a trade union, works in a hospital and has a certain amount of facility time which she devotes to representing individuals, primarily at hearings of one sort or another, or to sitting on partnership boards. Most of those activities are conducted in her own time. Rather like Lady Eden, I am aware of the Suez Canal flowing through the living room in terms of the detail and nature of those cases.

As regards my own personal involvement, I have been a member of a trade union all my working life. When I was very young, I was a branch official for various periods. However, the experience I want to bring to this debate is of my 24 years as a member of a local authority, 12 of which were as a council leader and, indeed—given the contribution that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has just made—my period as chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He cited in that connection the shocking statistic of 57 people

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being on full-time release in the Metropolitan Police. I do not know whether that figure is correct; I would need to check my files. However, given that that organisation has expenditure well in excess of £3 billion, the relevant expenditure is way less than one-tenth of 1% of the organisation’s expenditure. That organisation is enormously complex and many issues arise all the time. It is extremely important that its disciplinary matters and grievances are properly handled. My experience as a council leader, and, before that, of chairing committees, showed me how valuable and important the use of facility time was in improving the effective running of the organisation.

The noble Lord, Lord King, has done us all a service by telling us why he also supports the principle of facility time. However, he did so in the context of arguing that this clause, and the amendments we are considering, are completely irrelevant to whether or not one thinks that facility time is a good thing.

However, the question that the Minister has to answer is: what is all this about? We have a Government who are committed to reducing costs and bureaucracy. Therefore, various government departments have put out edicts that certain sorts of statistics and performance measures should no longer be collected. Indeed, the Home Secretary made a great point about the waste of police time collecting information which the Home Office always used to collect and no longer requires. In some instances, after five years in office, she is now starting to reinstate that because the relevant information is rather important and she wants to have it. However, this Government are committed to reducing the amount of information collected. So why, in this one area, are the Government saying that it is so important and there is such a big problem that they need to reverse their policy and collect the relevant information? The only real purpose there can be for collecting this information lies in the next clause of the Bill—the clause that I think the noble Lord, Lord King, suggested was perhaps a little bit over the top, but I may be putting words in his mouth. So the only purpose of collecting the information and of the legal requirement is to create a framework whereby some of the expenditure in this area can be capped. My experience is that that would be counterproductive, costly and inefficient for the organisation.

I recall on a number of occasions sitting on disciplinary hearings where the person who was potentially being disciplined, or perhaps witnesses, were clearly so emotionally involved and wound up by what was happening that without the assistance and support of a lay official the evidence and discussion would have gone on interminably. I remember one occasion which did go on interminably simply because the person concerned had declined to have a lay representative or official with them. Lay officials help to codify things and sometimes explain to a member that perhaps their case is not quite as strong as they feel on an emotional level that it might be. Sometimes they explain to members why they are in that situation. That is what local lay representation is all about. I have also been present when a full-time official from the area or regional office has represented someone. I say with all due respect to my noble friends who have served in this capacity that it was always more useful to have a

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representative who knew the local environment and was part of what happened locally. That is why the service is so valuable, particularly when grievances between groups of employees are involved—I say this having experienced the “Suez Canal in my living room” scenario as much as anything else—where the local lay official is often able to make progress so much easier when rather heavy-handed management intervenes, as is sometimes the case.

My other experience which I think is relevant to this issue is of dealing with big issues in a local authority, when we needed to introduce major changes. We made what we thought were very significant and substantial cuts, although I suspect that local authorities now face cuts of even greater proportions. I valued being able to talk to the local representatives on facility time, explain to them what was happening and take them through it. They did not like it. They would much rather it was not happening. In some instances, they would have much preferred the council to act illegally rather than doing what we needed to do to balance our budget. However, that dialogue was an important part of setting the parameters and making sure that the changes that needed to be made could be implemented sensibly. That is why participation in the partnership structures in the health service is so important. The note we have all had from the Royal College of Nursing spells this out. That takes time. Sometimes I think it takes a lot of time because local management is not quite sure what it wants, but the important thing is that there is an involvement at that stage and that people are able to feed in their experience and local knowledge. Often, the trade union lay representatives on facility time have a better understanding of the circumstances and the changes than the management representatives who are trying to bring them about.

As regards public safety, a significant amount of facility time is devoted to health and safety matters affecting not just employees but the public, particularly in the NHS and local government. That is what people are engaged in. Are we saying that those public bodies carrying out their responsibilities in respect of health and safety should no longer have the support of local lay representatives, who, again, will have an intimate knowledge of the way things operate and of the particular problems that may arise? Yes, of course, the management structure can set up its own people to do that work but I suspect that that would cost more and be less effective and less useful.

Lord King of Bridgwater: I thank the noble Lord for giving the most brilliant support to the point I wanted to make. He is not frightened to stand up and say why this issue is important and why facility time is vital to an organisation. He is not frightened of this being made public. It has been made public as regards the Metropolitan Police. He will be able to explain why it is necessary and why it is a real benefit. I strongly support that.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Lord for that support. I was about to conclude by saying that I rather wish that the noble Lord was the current Secretary of State because I would then be much less concerned about the context in which this clause sits within the Bill. If we had a Secretary of State who

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unequivocally understood the value of facility time, as the noble Lord, Lord King, clearly does, I would be much less worried that there is some hidden agenda behind the inclusion of this clause. I suspect that, as my noble friend Lady Hayter made clear, the real reason behind all this is to provide the framework for the capping which is intended to follow. That is why we have to be extremely cautious and extremely clear about this clause. I hope the Minister will accept some of the amendments or, perhaps, abandon the whole project.

Lord Hayward (Con): Before I make any comments in relation to the speeches that have gone before, I echo the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and apologise to the House for not being present and participating at Second Reading, for other reasons. I come to this House with many years’ experience of trade union negotiation. I also sat on the Back Benches when my noble friend Lord King was Secretary of State for Employment. I wish I had heard from the Labour Benches then all that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has said this afternoon. At that time, it was all sorts of vitriol and condemnation. The noble Lord certainly did not get the expressions of support he has just received. I have experience of negotiating with a large number of trade unions, face to face, over a number of years. In this House—and particularly in the other place —I have so often been depressed that in these debates we have a lauding of every trade union on that side and no condemnation of management on this side.

When I negotiated, I was involved in the removal of two managers because they were so bad at managing in their negotiations with the trade unions that they endangered relationships. We should be honest on both sides that we know there have been bad trade union officials and bad managers. I have unhesitatingly admitted—I will go no further than that—that I have been involved in removing two managers because they were so bad at trade union relations. I worked for many years in the oil industry and in the distributive trades. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is not in his place, because I negotiated with Alan Law of the Transport and General Workers’ Union in the West Midlands. I think it would be fair to say—and recognised on the Benches opposite—that he was a man of a certain repute. Earlier on in Committee, I was interested that the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, referred to mine winders. I know about these, because I was involved in the heavy engineering industry at the time and I negotiated with the trade unions who made them in factories in the Midlands.

I do not want to duplicate the comments made by my two noble friends. However, it is right that we should have a clear indication of the cost which taxpayers are required to pay to cover facility time. I am as passionate about facility time as Members on the opposite side. I was once a guest speaker at the General and Municipal Workers’ Union conference, to give the management perspective. One might say that I was there on facility time from management. I do understand every ounce of the sincerity shown in relation to identifying good, useful, constructive, long-term facility time, whether it is for paid officials, lay ones or part-time ones. However, let us be honest with ourselves. There are occasions when it runs riot. In the private sector,

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that is a decision for management; in the public sector, it is a cost for the taxpayer. We have a right to know when that cost applies. I note from her comments that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has done a lot of research. However, a letter was sent from the Minister to Sir Alan Meale, the Member of Parliament for Mansfield, some five months ago, identifying the difference in costs per hour between the private sector and the Civil Service. The noble Baroness did not quote it: my noble friend Lord King made reference to it. That is an indication of why Clause 12 is in the Bill.

Lord Sawyer (Lab): My Lords, there is one difference missing here. We are, essentially, talking about good employee relations and resolving problems. We are not necessarily talking about management and unions. We should be directing our energy and thought processes towards how to get the best employee relations and, thus, the best-quality service for the taxpayer. When a trade union representative engages in bargaining with an employer, we surely do not expect the trade union to pay for it. If we did, we would expect the taxpayer to look at how much time was spent by the employer’s side. In other words, could it be that the amount of time employers spend on employee relations should be equal to the amount of time the trade unions spend? Should it be the same, because all parties are there at the negotiations?

6.15 pm

One point which has not been made is that the time trade unions spend when they act in negotiations to improve employee relations is not just facility time, it is something else—employee relations time. The two things can be quite different. We are surely not going to argue that when all trade union representatives are employed and engaged in improving the quality of public services the trade unions ought to pay for it. That is my first point: it needs to be carefully looked at because it is not a simple equation. Secondly, if we had all the information on facility time which the Bill would allegedly provide, what would that tell us? Would it tell us about: the quality of the negotiations; what was being talked about; whether the time was usefully spent? It will not tell us that at all. It will not give us any—or only crude—information about facility time.

The Civil Service example, which the Minister seems quite pleased about, is a separate case. I do not know anything about Civil Service employee relations. I know a lot about employee relations in the health service and local government and I know that, by and large, they have been extremely good for many years and continue to be so. There are no employers in the health service or local government who want this piece of legislation. In the private sector, the decision about how much facility time is spent is for employers to make. Why is that not the case in the public services? Do we have different standards of quality employee engagement in public and private sectors? Of course we do not: none of us believes that. It is up to the employer to decide on the amount of facility time and to account for the quality of work that comes out of that time. That is where we ought to be heading. The Bill does not take us in that direction. It is a crude,

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unnecessary measure and I agree with the speeches made on this side, particularly that by my noble friend Lady Hayter. As somebody who worked in this sector for many years, I can say that it was a great speech: she hit all the right issues and said all the right things.

Baroness Emerton (CB): My Lords, first, I apologise for not being present at Second Reading. I know it is customary not to speak in Committee unless—

Lord Teverson (LD): It is not necessary to have been at Second Reading to participate in Committee. No noble Lord should feel guilty about it: it is not a problem. The House is delighted that the noble Baroness is speaking to amendments in Committee, despite not being at Second Reading.

Baroness Emerton: I joined the Royal College of Nursing in 1957 and I am still an active member and fellow of the college. I support all that it does on both the professional and labour relations sides. I have also been chairman of a trust and of a regulatory body, so I have had a considerable amount of management experience. Had I been present at Second Reading, I would have spoken clearly against Clause 12 because, in my experience, it is important that the culture of the organisation is maintained by good relationships throughout it. It is there with labour relations and the trade unions. If we do not pay attention to that, we fail in any innovation or forward movement. Particularly in the health service, we are talking about patient safety and high-quality care. I believe managers are beholden to ensure that in their business plan they allow an allocation of money for facilities for staff to participate. Even up to board level, I always had a member of staff present at the board meeting. We will be doing an injustice, particularly to a large part of the health service, if we reject the fact that staff need that facility time, particularly as they are the lower-paid portion of the health service and public service.

We must not forget that there are care homes that are not part of the public service, or that we have problems with the private sector as well in terms of its being able to ensure that its labour relations are correct and staff are able to participate. We cannot go on having strife between management and staff. We have to tackle this and the Bill is the opportunity to do it. I ask the Minister to pay some thought to what I have said, particularly in terms of the large workforce in the health service. However, every workforce needs to be able to participate and give satisfaction in whatever the job is, getting a high standard and ensuring that there is a culture of working together.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 87 in particular, but before I do so I shall address a few remarks to the noble Lord, Lord King. The example of the Civil Service is clearly what underpins this part of the Bill as far as the wider public sector is concerned. The noble Lord, Lord King, said that there had been a significant reduction in the cost to the Civil Service since facility time was reduced. That is true, of course, but there has also been a reduction in the representation of civil servants by the people to whom they have previously looked for assistance

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in times of difficulty. The staff rep is basically a mediator and part of the HR process. In many cases, issues that may go to the grievance procedure are dealt with before that, which is to the benefit of the Civil Service as a whole, management and employees.

I know for a fact that at HMRC, since the reduction in facility time, staff reps have had considerable difficulty getting time off for union work, particularly for looking after individual cases. In some ways the most important part of such work is looking after individuals who, for whatever reason, do not feel confident enough to look after themselves. There have been other reductions as well—that is natural. So I say to the noble Lord, Lord King, and other noble Lords who have highlighted the Civil Service as an example: if you cut the time available, thereby saving the Civil Service money, a situation results in which civil servants do not get the representation that they have a right to expect.

I shall focus on Amendment 87 because it concerns an area that has not yet been highlighted in this evening’s debate on facility time for representatives. The specific impact assessment on the part of the Bill on facility time—not the overall one—contains a table listing the number of public sector bodies affected by this measure. I was surprised, as noble Lords may have been, that they totalled 21,000, 20,000 of which are state-funded primary and secondary schools.

Many primary schools in particular are small and de-delegate their union facility arrangements to shared local authority organisations. School employers recognise the benefit of this as being cost-effective and efficient. Part of the benefit of what is known as de-delegation—an ugly word but it seems it is quite effective—is that it allows joint local authority organisations to use the paid release of experienced, trained and accredited trade union representatives. In some circumstances this is done on a full-time basis because it is to everybody’s benefit. The Bill’s prohibition of full-time release would seriously undermine the availability of trade union representatives to attend meetings at which they are required to represent the interests of school staff. That means not simply teachers but all the other categories of staff so essential to a school’s day-to- day functions. It could lead to the need for trained and accredited union representatives in each individual school, which would surely lead to an increase in costs at those schools at a time when they are already under considerable financial strain.

I understand that the Government want generally to weaken trade unions through this Bill, but did they really intend that local schools should be forced to provide local representation at least at an acknowledged cost when it is already being provided more effectively by other means? The Bill puts that at risk and it puts at risk collective agreements on facility time to which employers and unions have signed up. There is no justification for the Government interfering in agreements that unions and employers are content with and regard as beneficial to the smooth running of schools.

There is of course the wider issue that the provisions apply only to public sector workers, which means that their right to representation is unfairly limited compared to other workers. That is very much to be regretted; it is unnecessary and unacceptable that the Bill is creating

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a two-tier workforce in this area. Perhaps this reflects the Government’s view that imposing bureaucracy, red tape and what they like to refer to—and regularly do—as burdens is unacceptable when it applies to the private sector, but acceptable when applied to the public sector and the trade unions that seek to represent public sector workers.

I referred earlier to the impact assessment on facility time. Under the heading “The rationale for intervention” on the issue of facility time, the impact assessment says:

“The whole public sector needs to ensure it delivers value for money; it is unacceptable that taxpayers’ money should be spent without proper monitoring and control”.

On the face of it, that sounds perfectly reasonable; I do not think anybody could seriously disagree with it. However, I shall return to that point. The impact assessment also contains a section entitled “Problem under consideration”. I suggest that it is a problem only in the minds of government Ministers, but it states:

“The cost of facility time in the public sector is paid for out of public funds”.

That is not terribly revealing; everything the public sector does is paid for out of public funds. It goes on:

“There was inadequate monitoring and control of this spending in the Civil Service and evidence (including research carried out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance)”—

which is accused of many things but balance is not one of them—

“suggests this remains the case in the wider public sector. These measures will extend this publishing requirement to the wider public sector, in the interests of transparency and accountability”.

So transparency, accountability and value for money are the three pillars on which this attack on the ability of trade unions to represent their members adequately is supposedly based.

When it comes to these pillars, some consistency is required. I shall limit my one comparison to the schools sector, on which I am focusing. There are now some 5,000 academy schools, which annually receive around £20 billion of public money. Yet transparency and accountability are next to non-existent as far as academy schools are concerned. Try seeking the detail of the operation of the regional schools commissioners. Try seeking information on the decisions made by the academy chains. In many cases it is almost impossible to judge whether value for money is achieved, due to the lack of information made publicly available. This is for £20 billion of expenditure. That is surely a much more urgent target for legislation, yet the government impact assessment estimates the potential saving from cutting back on facility time in the public sector at around £100 million. I will not say that £100 million is an insignificant amount, but some balance is required here.

The impact assessment estimates that the percentage of the public sector pay bill spent on facility time is around 0.14%. With the Civil Service figure now roughly half that, it suggests that bringing the wider public sector into line would deliver that £100 million—give or take—saving. Yet there is neither rationale nor explanation in the impact assessment as to how that figure is arrived at.

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Returning to education, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers cites the DfE’s own statistics on school spending, which show that the per pupil rate for the teaching staff pay bill is £2,500. So the average cost of trade union facilities currently constitutes 0.07% of the total pay bill—remarkably, exactly the same figure as applies now in the Civil Service.

For that and other reasons that I have referred to, I believe there is a pressing need for education and indeed other public bodies listed in Amendment 87 to be excluded from the Bill.

6.30 pm

Lord Balfe: My Lords, part of the problem here is that the Government have a bit of history to live down on this. As the noble Lord, Lord King, said, this clause is about the publication requirement—it is not about the detail, which comes in Clause 13—but I can understand why people are a bit suspicious.

When I started doing trade union work for the Conservative Party back in 2008, a huge number of Questions were being put to the then Labour Government about facility time. At one time, I asked the honourable Member in the House of Commons whether he had calculated how much cost he was generating in finding out about the cost of facility time. But if you look back to the records of 2008 to 2010, you will find 400 or 500 Written Questions asking various things about the facility time. I am not surprised that the trade union movement got a bit suspicious about what was going on. It is similarly unhappy about this.

I do not think that anyone would justify the examples given by my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan. Those were unacceptable. But the question is: whose job is it to sort out the unacceptable? My view is that if there is sufficient publication of what is happening, it is then up to the bodies concerned to sort it out. After all, facility time is something that comes from the employers locally to the unions. Clearly, there have been examples where the employers—not the unions—have bought off trouble by giving facility time that might not be justified. It is not all on one side. As has been mentioned many times, the fact is that facility time—which equals local representation rather than someone from the hierarchy of the union—is often far more effective in sorting out disputes.

It is also extremely useful for smaller unions. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, mentioned a couple of the smaller unions, which, in the interests of fairness to all sides, have also written to me, so I will not repeat what she said. I will use the example of the union of which I am president, the British Dietetic Association. It has 10,000 members, very thinly spread around the country, the vast majority of them in the National Health Service. Because it is a union of 10,000 members—which also, incidentally, acts as a professional organisation —it does not have many staff. It relies to a very large extent on its local representatives gaining local knowledge to help sort out the generally minor problems that come up at a local level.

One difficulty that some people have, in my party particularly, is that they imagine that unions spend all their time on class warfare. In fact, in my experience—and

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I was for a time a lay union official—they spend most of their time dealing with and sorting out extraordinarily mundane difficulties in the interface between the troubled worker and the troubled institution. I am afraid I find it very difficult to attach the words “taxpayer subsidy” to the time that is given. Local authorities, as employers, are required by law to have facility agreements and to involve trade unions in a quite wide range of processes and activities involving staff. It is a legal requirement. Whether they are in the public or private sector, they have to involve union officials in certain areas, such as redundancy, disciplinary procedures and grievance procedures. If it is a legal requirement, it cannot be a taxpayer subsidy.

I have a letter here from the Conservative leader of North Yorkshire County Council. He says:

“North Yorkshire County Council has some 22,000 staff including 5600 teachers and in the current climate there is a cost benefit analysis to be considered in relation to whether facilitating trade union input at work is a good thing or not. Our experience at a local level is positive … Since 2010 there have been over 200 service restructures, affecting over a third of the workforce in some way with a proportion of our staff going through potential redundancy processes … To date all changes have been delivered in the timescales set … We have worked closely with Unison as the locally recognised union to deliver the savings”.

This is the Conservative leader of a county council, a very responsible official looking after a lot of people. He ends his letter by saying that,

“the local unions have been a real asset in delivering the changes needed and I hope this will continue for the foreseeable future”.

I have never met Councillor Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, but I venture that he probably knows how to handle his local facility time better than someone working off a spreadsheet in an office which is probably some way away from there.

By all means let us have transparency. That is a good thing. But let us not use transparency as a weapon to try to force out the best of what we have had. A British Dietetic Association lay official said to me recently, “The atmosphere at the moment is a bit difficult. I’m not sure I want to put my head over the parapet”. If a feeling gathers that we do not want to put our heads over the parapet, industrial relations will suffer. They will get worse, not better, because situations that would have been solved by the input of someone who knew what was going on locally will be referred upwards to full-time union officials who probably will not have the time to do the job properly anyway; industrial relations will deteriorate and the employers will lose out.

I was very impressed by the words of my noble friend Lord Hayward, who clearly has a lot of experience in this field. I counsel the Minister to let us have transparency, by all means, but let us not use transparency as a way of yet again making life difficult in an area of industrial relations which, overall, actually benefits from the ability of unions and management to negotiate sensible levels of facility time to help employees and employers deliver their targets.

Baroness Donaghy: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, for putting some balance into the debate. I have a lot of respect for his experience. He called for honesty. I could say a few words about my experience when I was chair of ACAS of certain behaviours on both sides of industry but I do not

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think it would be a good idea or take the debate forward, but I would be very happy to have private discussions with him at some stage so that we could swap examples. I am also very grateful to my noble friend Lord Harris, who reminded me what it was like to be a lay union representative, which I was for 33 very long years, for both NALGO and UNISON. I was not a full-time official; we prided ourselves on dealing with our problems without needing a full-time officer.

This issue about transparency needs to be looked at in the context of the Trade Union Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, touched on this just now. This is not just about transparency being a good thing, so that everybody who undertakes a fishing expedition can find out wicked things about what certain individual trade unionists are up to; the context is that the Bill appears to be a general attack on the trade union movement. The context is the clause that is coming up next, which talks about cutting, curtailing and capping facility time. One of the things that I worry about is that facility time should be seen in the light of a cost-benefit analysis. Nothing has been said by the Front Bench on the government side about the positive work that is done by union officials and the savings that are made by union health and safety representatives and union learning reps, through saving time dealing with grievances, redundancies and reorganisations.

There were times during my trade union lay career when I was accused of being a management stooge because I was delivering an unwelcome message to the members about what was practical; there were times in ACAS when I was accused of being a management stooge because I was not in a position to agree with everything that the union said; and there were times when I was accused of being a union stooge because of my background and because I did not always entirely accept what the management argument said. It is extremely important that we keep on reminding ourselves, in the context of the Bill, that things of this kind are not just about saying, “Oh let’s get some information; it’ll be a jolly good idea”. It is more like a scene from an Arnold Schwarzenegger film with him standing there, fully armed, and saying, “We are not going to do you any harm, just give us the information”.

Lord Stoneham of Droxford: My Lords, I share experience of the print industry with the noble Lord, Lord King, although mine is slightly more recent than his, I think. I know the benefit of union facilities. I also accept that both management and unions should question those facilities from time to time to ensure that they are efficient and the money is well spent. It also has to be said—here I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Hayward—that if we just look at this from a slightly anti-union perspective, we will not take into account the fact that, often, more union facilities are needed when the management is poor. I do not know the detail, but I suspect that in the modern successful car plants we now operate in this country, they will have union facilities but not to the degree that they needed in the 1960s and 1970s when they had all their problems. They will now have much more professional management and, indeed, much more professional union representatives.

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Union facilities are also a factor in change. When you are undertaking a lot of change, you need more facilities, such as when you have redundancies because skills and so on are changing. I remember in the print industry taking union delegations abroad to try and negotiate manning agreements on the basis of what our competitors were doing on machinery. Noble Lords may remember that. It took a lot of time and cost to do that, but that was because we were conducting major changes.

I also find it extraordinary that a Conservative Government can advocate another layer of bureaucracy to achieve this so-called change, but that is what they are doing. The impact assessment says it is going to cost £2.4 million to have the information collected regularly. The initial cost of getting that information together will be over £2 million and then there will be another £2 million going on. The Government also say that they expect there will be £100 million of savings. I accept that is not insignificant, and that it is important to have those changes, but I question, when we are trying to find £35 billion of cost savings in the public sector, with all the change that that requires, whether this is the priority. I suspect we are we just going up a blind alley here, and it is wrong.

6.45 pm

The strategy is also wrong. I do not know how the health service manages. I am amazed when I listen to debates in this House on the health service, because more regulations and requirements are always being put on people who should be concentrating on care. I do not know how people actually carry out their roles in the health service under all this regulation. We have to question whether we actually want all the ongoing bureaucracy involved in collecting all this information on these facilities every year. If the Government really think that there is a lot of money wasted on union facilities, why not have a one-off review and expose it? The Government could achieve the change they want and the cost savings, but probably without the ongoing regulation and information-gathering that this proposal is going to require for ever more and for no clear purpose.

We also have the example of the Cabinet Office producing all these changes to facilities. Why do we have to legislate to get change in the public sector? Why can we not just have managers do it? Why do the Government not initiate these sorts of reviews, so that they can get these savings? Why does there have to be an ongoing burden of regulation to get change? It is madness, and the Conservatives should question themselves about this further bureaucracy they are imposing on the public sector. In time, what will happen of course is that when they want to blame all this bureaucracy on somebody, they will come up and impose the cap. That is what will happen and that is why we are very worried about that clause.

As has been said in this debate, this one-sided approach is worrying. It is wrong as a concept because you could get this by having, as I say, a one-off review. It does not need the regulation and of course it is very one-sided: it is basically saying that excessive facilities are the fault of the trade unions, when actually anybody who has worked in industry knows that this should be about partnership, and that unions and management have an interest in using them most effectively.

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate. I believe that our proposals can save money, strengthen people’s trust in government and encourage greater public participation in decision-making. We have already made changes in the Civil Service in relation to facility time, and it is in the spirit of this Government’s transparency agenda that we are introducing publication requirements for public sector employers elsewhere.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, mentioned the Conservative manifesto. The provisions in the Bill reflect that manifesto, on which the Government were elected, which said that we would,

“tighten the rules around taxpayer-funded paid ‘facility time’ for union representatives”.

We therefore have a democratic mandate in this area. As my noble friend Lord King said, we are not abolishing facility time. We value the role that public sector unions can play, but we need to know the costs in the public sector—the cost to the taxpayer, as my noble friend Lord Hayward said so clearly.

These regulations will bring transparency across the whole public sector. For those who currently publish facility time information, it will bring a consistency of reporting which will allow taxpayers to compare the various employers which they fund. For those not currently publishing data, it will bring them in line with local councils in England, government departments and other organisations such as Transport for London. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, asked about the Post Office, Royal Mail and BT Openreach. They are not caught by the provisions now that we have clarified their scope.

Responsible public sector employers—they, not Ministers, are the managers, by the way—should already know what time and money they spend on facility time. Many already formally record the information; it is not onerous for the Civil Service to publish it; and nor should it be for other public sector employers. Where an employer has trade union representatives, it is hardly bureaucratic to expect that it should know who they are and what they do. Any employer, especially one which delivers a service to the public, should know how much time its staff spend delivering the role that they are employed to do. It should, therefore, also know how much resource is spent on facility time.

The Bill simply requires the publication of that information, so that the public will also have access to it. Transparency breeds greater accountability and public scrutiny that ensures that taxpayers’ money is used effectively and efficiently. Public sector organisations are becoming more transparent. For instance, government departments publish the salaries of the highest-paid senior civil servants and, beyond the public sector in England, NHS Wales publishes its expenditure data. As an ex-civil servant, I was always a bit worried about the great transparency drive that we started when we came to power in 2010, but it has been a very good thing and I am glad to see it extended here. I was also grateful for the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, who brought her experience to our debate. The NHS is the biggest employer group in the UK, and delivers such valuable front-line services.

Let me be clear here. Transparency is not the same thing as seeking to reduce or remove facility time. The Government do not view facility time simply as a cost.

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I echo the positive points made by several noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Donaghy. We recognise the value of facility time and do not for one moment wish to suggest that it is simply a drain on the public purse. There is the work on improvement in skills, especially for the disadvantaged, which the noble Lord, Lord Hain, mentioned. I know that facility time is used to very good effect on trade union duties, such as during employer restructuring, which the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, talked about; for health and safety, as several noble Lords said; and when accompanying an employee to a grievance hearing, which was always a valuable service in my experience over many years in both industry and the Civil Service. We expect such valuable facility time to continue—although, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said, such duties are not exclusively performed by trade union representatives. Where I am less sure of the value to the taxpayer is where it funds trade union activities such as attending conferences or voting in union elections. We do not seek to ban the reasonable use of facility time; we want greater transparency and public scrutiny.

I turn to some points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, on local government. The aim of the facility time regulations is to ensure consistency of approach across the public sector. The Local Government Transparency Code requires only a high level of information. As for monitoring the impact on unions, the Government will be able to use the transparency data to monitor the impact of the changes, as will members of the public and parallel institutions with an interest, such as neighbouring councils.

On evidence, in the Civil Service, we introduced the requirement to publish similar information three years ago. We have seen significant savings for taxpayers—cumulatively, £52 million, to respond to my noble friend Lord King. We reduced spend by nearly three-quarters, from 0.26% of the pay bill spent on facility time down to 0.07%. That approach in turn helped the Civil Service to identify and reduce inefficient spending. For instance, it was found in one department that more than £400,000 of taxpayers’ money in one quarter alone had been spent on sending union representatives to the annual conference at the seaside. This transparency also showed that 200 civil servants, paid for by taxpayers, did no regular Civil Service work at all.

Lord Sawyer: Perhaps the Minister can help me to understand her argument. Let us say that in a local authority, professional architects went to their conference to improve their architectural skills, and a trade union representative went to a conference to improve their ability to be a good trade union representative. Would they both be paid for by taxpayers’ money, or would one be right and one wrong?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I do not think we are requiring anything here; we are introducing a level of transparency, and how it would be recorded would be set down in the regulations. That is the point that I am trying to make. I can see that there could be value in a conference. Indeed, I have spoken at trading standards conferences in my time; they can be valuable. That is the sort of thing I had in mind.

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The public sector as a whole spends an average of 0.14%—that is, £200 million—of its total pay bill on facility time. Civil Service transparency data is available on gov.uk, which shows the costs of facility time in Labour councils such as Bristol City Council, which spent 0.09% of its pay bill on facility time and employed 107 representatives, eight of whom spent the majority of their time on trade union work. By contrast, Suffolk County Council spent just 0.05% of its pay bill on facility time.

Lord Beecham: Perhaps the noble Baroness will recall that Bristol has an independent mayor, who controls the council.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I am grateful to the noble Lord for correcting me. The point I was making is that it is interesting to compare different council experience; we could probably agree on that.

Lord Hayward: For the sake of accuracy, following the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, the independent mayor was formerly a Liberal Democrat, so the noble Lord and I may agree on the role there.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: In London, local government displays significant variances. Lambeth Council spends 0.33% of its pay bill, or £281,000 a year, on facility time; Tower Hamlets spends 0.15%. At Transport for London, facility time costs £4.1 million a year, which is 0.3% of its pay bill. Those are large figures when one considers that Wandsworth Council spends just £22,000 a year, or 0.01% of its pay bill, on facility time.

Amendments 76 and 77 would limit the range of information published to just the total number of union representatives and the total cost of facility time. To promote reasonable transparency and accountability, there needs to be an appropriate level of detail published. That is to improve efficiency and is not—as was suggested by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Harris—just as a trigger. That is a separate provision, which we will be debating in a later group. The inefficiencies identified in the Civil Service would not have come to light if only the total cost of facility time and number of union representatives had been published. A single cost figure for a large council and another single figure for a small government agency are just not comparable. That is why we propose the publication of the data as set out in the annexe to my letter.

Amendment 78 would expand the range of information that relevant employers should be required to publish to include cost savings and the value of facility time arrangements. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for any employer to quantify the efficacy or value of existing facility time arrangements. Unlike calculating the cost of salaried facility time, this strikes me as an exercise for an academic. It would be unreasonable to expect every public sector employer to undertake calculations that would be so burdensome. Of course, should employers feel able to estimate the information suggested in the amendments, they are free to do so.

With regard to the proposed amendments to the public authorities which could be required to publish information, Amendments 83 and 84, I acknowledge that some types of employer are clearly understood to be a public authority, such as government departments

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or local authorities. For other public sector employers, such as academy schools, the position is less well understood. I hope that noble Lords are reassured by the government amendment brought forward today which will enable the regulations to be drafted so that they apply only to those bodies specified either individually or by category. If I may, I shall take away the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, on primary schools, because I am not quite sure where that falls, in the light of that letter.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee set out in its 15th report on 4 December the view that the powers to specify the information to be provided were properly exercisable using the negative procedure, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, reminded us. The committee expressed concern that the regulations could be extended to private companies receiving a small amount of public funding—we had some examples earlier —and, in turn, the reserve power to cap facility time could be applied to those organisations. Amendments 83 and 84 reflect similar concerns. I hope that noble Lords will accept that by amending the Bill as proposed and as agreed, and largely mirroring the regulations for Clause 14, we have taken a reasonable and proportionate approach to capturing only those public authorities that should rightly be accountable to the taxpayer.

7 pm

On Amendment 87, I believe that when a public sector employer grants paid time off for facility time, regardless of the sector of the employer, it still represents a cost. Much has been said about the Government’s localism agenda, but the Local Government Transparency Code 2015 already requires facility time information to be published as best practice. We are simply asking that this information be meaningful enough for the taxpayer to see how resources are being allocated, and that the format be standardised across the public sector to allow proper comparison. Also, given that the practice already applies to local authorities, the Civil Service and schools, there seems no reason why a major publicly funded employer, such as the NHS, should be excluded.

We have debated this matter well and at length and for today I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, as the Minister said, this has been an interesting debate, but I have to ask one question—where on earth this all came from. I am getting a bit jaded, I guess. A couple of weeks ago we finished debating the charities Bill in this House and a couple of days later—I think that it was a Saturday morning—I woke up to hear that the Government had announced changes to charitable law or, at least, to charitable practice. They suddenly announced that they were going to stop any charity getting government money from using any of it to influence either Europe or indeed Parliament in its work. The press release began with the words, “The Institute of Economic Affairs”, and went on to say what the Government were going to do. Today we have something where the evidence given in the impact assessment is from the Taxpayers’ Alliance. So I am beginning to wonder why this Government can seem to jump and follow when those outside bodies try to

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influence them, but somehow when trade unions or charities want to do the same it gets them very nervous.

This point was best put by the noble Lord, Lord King. I am not particularly responding to him, but he encompassed so well whether Clause 12 is simply about transparency, so I shall respond to how he put it. If it was just about transparency, I wonder why the Government’s own explanation says that it is,

“to encourage those employers to moderate the amount of money spent on facility time”.

So in the Explanatory Notes it is clear that it is not just about transparency; it is with a view to moderation—by way of instalments, as my noble friend Lord Beecham said.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The whole point about transparency is to encourage efficiency of use. I explained by reference to what has been happening in the Civil Service that there have been some advantageous changes. That does not mean to say that this is not worth doing and that we do not value many of the facility time activities.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): I am sorry to intervene in this debate, but I wonder whether I could make an additional point. Many of the bodies to which the Minister refers would already be covered by existing legislation. If those bodies are receiving grant in aid from government, by a simple stroke of the pen the Government could add a couple of paragraphs to the contract requiring them to publish the cost in the interests of transparency. So why is primary legislation required?

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: And the intention is clearly to moderate—it is not just about transparency. In fact, I thought that the Minister actually undermined her own case at the very end when she read out all those statistics from local government, because that has all existed but actually no one has gone looking. They do not look over each other’s shoulders, and it has not had the effect that she supposedly wants from this—that they will be competitive as to how little they each get away with.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: We believe that by setting it out in a clear way and doing the numbers on a consistent basis we will get a much better idea about what works and what works less well, making the sort of comparison that I should like to see across the public sector. That is against a background and experience of improvements having been made within the Civil Service, where some of these changes have already been introduced.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: As I hear from behind me, who says they are improvements? The point is that for local government, as the Minister says, the statistics are already there, and it has not led to a levelling up, levelling down or averaging out. So it is not just about transparency—it is clearly about moderating.

Lord Beecham: Would not my noble friend agree that the answer to her question is really that this clause paves the way for Clause 13, with the reserve powers to the Secretary of State to limit paid time off? Is not that what this is about?

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: Yes, it was a point that I made in my original case—that is why we do not think, as the noble Lord, Lord King, said, that it is just about transparency. We have a feeling that these are two of the same bits, which is why there is great nervousness about this.

In a sense, this is the same issue that my noble friend Lord Sawyer, raised. If you are going to talk about transparency in terms of saying which trade unionist will go off to a safety conference, that gets listed. But I used to work in the health service, and doctors were always going on very nice “continual professional development”, often in ski resorts. If we are going to have transparency, maybe we should look at some of that. Why are we picking on one particular small element for all this transparency, with the list of nine things that have to be covered? It is the employers who will have to do this. Why not perhaps look at the gender pay gap in some of these organisations? That might help and give us the tools to improve the situation of women. Or maybe we should look at diversity statistics and make more of these organisations that are not all covered by that. That sort of transparency should help much more.

Maybe we should look at the compensation paid by some of these organisations, where employers have not been very good. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, would say that not only did he remove those two people but there was quite possibly compensation that went with it that was not declared. So there are other ways. The interesting thing is why on earth we are picking up on just this aspect, if not for what my noble friend Lord Beecham said—that it is the trailer for Clause 13.

What the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, said about fire, rescue and police is really important. But this is a management issue. I started by saying that good management manages this—it does not need an outside Minister at 30 Whitehall, or wherever it is going to be, to be able to set this down. We will come on later to which organisations are covered by this, and I shall not respond to that at the moment. There will be some organisations that the Minister has not even heard of, let alone visited, but she will still have the ability to put a cap on that. This is about management. It is something the Minister should keep well out of and leave to good managers.

It is fairly clear that we will be coming back to this at a later stage, but at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 76 withdrawn.

Amendments 77 and 78 not moved.

Amendment 78A

Moved by Baroness Neville-Rolfe

78A: Clause 12, page 8, leave out lines 36 to 39 and insert “may make different provision for different employers or different categories of employer”

Amendment 78A agreed.

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Amendment 79

Moved by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

79: Clause 12, page 8, leave out lines 42 and 43

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, rather than looking at the types of organisations that are covered, this amendment looks at the role of safety and learning reps. My noble friends Lord McKenzie of Luton and Lady Donaghy have put their names to it.

The role of safety and learning reps is probably unparalleled. Having worked a lot with trade unionists from other countries, I know one of the things that they have learned from us is how it has improved the workplace. The work these reps do benefits the whole organisation enormously. Our fear is that it will be at risk if these representatives are denied the time to undertake this work and to do it at a high standard.

There are some workplaces where safety representatives are particularly important, where there is heavy machinery is one, but also in hospitals where there are drugs, surgical equipment, radioactive equipment and very pointy needles often with nasty things on them, so safety is clearly particularly important. I shall take just one example which could affect any one of us. It is when firefighters come to our homes to put out fires. Safety is key to their lives, but it impacts on our property and often our lives. The Fire Brigades Union is a proud and active trade union, but it is also the professional voice of firefighters and has a key role in improving health and safety. It trains highly qualified serious accident investigators who work with fire authorities to investigate incidents where firefighters have been injured or killed in order to identify problems and implement improvements. Our fear is that any restriction on facility time for health and safety reps—that could be without even Clause 13, just that they are concerned about what it looks like on paper—could come at a very high price, particularly in safety-crucial industries, such as fire and rescue. Cuts in any such time could stop FBU reps investigating incidents thoroughly and consequently retraining or redesigning protocols.

The amendments in this group would exclude safety and learning reps from these provisions. Both contribute to the success of the relevant businesses as well as to the wider economy. I beg to move.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I shall speak to Amendments 87A, 89A and 89B, which are in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Donaghy, and in support of Amendments 79 and 80A to which we have added our names. Our focus in this contribution is health and safety and particularly the role of safety reps. I should make it clear that focusing just on that does not mean that we resile from the broader issues of representation and facility time which have been argued so effectively by my noble friends.

I came at this issue and learned about health and safety not through long active work in the trade union movement, like a lot of my noble friends, but as Minister for Health and Safety in the DWP under the

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tutelage, for a period, of my noble friend Lord Hain, who is not in his place. I understood from that the importance of partnership working, the role of the HSE and, in particular, the role of safety reps and the contribution they can make.

7.15 pm

Anything this Bill does that potentially undermines that role and undermines health and safety should be opposed as rigorously as we can. If we need reminders about the impact of health and safety, let us look at the statistics for the economy as a whole, not just the public sector. Despite the fact that we are recognised around the world as having a very good and effective health and safety system, in 2014-15 142 workers were still killed at work, 1.2 million working people suffered a work-related illness, 611,000 injuries occurred at work according to the Labour Force Survey and 27.3 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury at an estimated cost, according to the HSE, of something like £14.3 billion. There are still around 13,000 work-related deaths, predominantly from cancer caused by past failures to address health and safety issues. I return to the point that anything that undermines good health and safety potentially has very substantial costs for our economy, individuals and employers.

So far as Amendment 87A is concerned, I will address in a moment the reason why we consider that health and safety reps should be removed from the scope of Clauses 12 and 13 but, should that view not prevail, we consider that the publication requirements concerning time spent by safety reps and their costs would not show a meaningful picture without recognition of the benefits which they bring to an organisation, a point that has just been made by my noble friend Lady Donaghy. These benefits accrue to the employer, employees and more widely. As a former health and safety Minister, I recall a case where there were problems with a construction site where a crane collapsed and killed somebody walking in the street nearby, so it is not just employers and employees who are affected by this. It is simply a nonsense to look at costs of safety reps without looking at the other side of the question. Of course that begs the question of how you construct this requirement, and that would have to be dealt with in regulations, but it is perfectly possible to flesh out rules that would require some balance if this publication is to take place. What lessons do you learn in terms of the time that safety reps spend for an employer? You cannot just look at the time or the cost without understanding the risk profile of the business environments in which they are working.

Amendment 89A would remove from Clause 13 the prospect of a Minister making regulations which restrict the right of safety reps to time to carry out their duties. Amendment 89B would prevent the time costs of safety reps being included in the calculations which can be used to restrict facility time. On this point, I am grateful to Hugh Robertson of the TUC for focusing on this matter and reminding us that time off for health and safety reps to perform their functions is not strictly facility time but a separate legal requirement of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and of the European framework directive. Indeed, it would be

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a breach of European legislation—long may this be relevant—to restrict or cap the time that safety reps take. It has been suggested that the Government accept this view. I think the Minister may have expressed that; perhaps she will take this opportunity to confirm that. So if there is no intent to restrict the time of safety reps, why not remove them from the scope of Clause 13? If that is the case, the Bill allows a back door to impose a de facto restriction on the time of safety reps which would be in breach of legislation if imposed directly. The mischief is that the Government are saying that health and safety reps can have as much time off as they need, but the total amount of time that a union can have off will be capped, so the Government are trying to force unions to restrict the time themselves by saying that time spent by health and safety reps will come off the time available to other representatives. This must be opposed.

The Robens report on health and safety, which led to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, was clear that an effective health and safety system requires the involvement of all the workforce, and that health and safety systems work best when trade unions and employers work together. This has proved to be the case, which is why the Act gave legal backing to union safety reps. This is all in the context that it is of course the duty of the employer to ensure, so far as reasonably practical, the safety and welfare of all his employees. It is not for Ministers to intervene or to take over that responsibility, or to second-guess employers. Employers have the legal responsibility, and that is as it should be: those who create the risks should have the responsibility for managing them.

We know what health and safety reps do. It is massively effective, saving countless numbers of people from injury and ill health, let alone costs to the benefit system and the NHS, and indeed preventing the human tragedy that comes with accidents or fatalities in the workplace. There have been numerous studies over the years underlining the benefits that union safety reps bring to employers and society. Indeed, over a decade ago the then DTI estimated their value to society to range up to £578 million per year. Although for manufacturing an earlier study found that employers with health and safety committees at half the injury rates of employers who manage without, the Health and Safety Commission—before its merger with the HSE—produced a declaration stating:

“Trade union safety representatives, through their empowered role for purposes of consultation, often lead to higher levels of compliance and better health and safety performance than in non trade union systems”.

The current HSE website cites a large body of evidence that points to the advantages of involving workers in health and safety risk management. Trade unions covering the public and private sectors can offer countless examples of the benefits of health and safety reps making workplaces safer, as well as identifying the training that they undertake and encourage in others—in many instances, as we have heard, spending their own time on it. We should be supportive of these systems and not, because of some antipathy to health and safety or to trade unions, seek to chip away at what has been achieved. Given the acknowledged benefits that

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safety reps can bring to the workplace, it is perhaps surprising that more is not being directed to ensure compliance with the legal requirement for employers to consult with employees on matters of health and safety.

We should genuinely be proud of our health and safety system but never complacent, as the costs of failure can be high. We should be encouraging safety reps to play a full part in securing the safety of our workplaces, rather than seeking to embroil them in a bureaucratic process that devalues their efforts. Have 20,000 schools, many of them riddled with asbestos, not got better things to do than form-fill for the Secretary of State?

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, I address the House as a former Minister for Health and Safety. I agree with almost all of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie. Health and safety in this country has received a pretty bad press for quite the wrong reasons, but health and safety in the workplace is something that we should be immensely proud of. I think it is still true that the United States has about four times the number of accidents in the construction industry, for example, than we do here. We have a proud record in what we do but it is not a record to be complacent about; the noble Lord rightly said that this is something that you have to keep on about all the time.

So I do not rise with any antagonism either to the health and safety laws or to the very important role that trade unions play in ensuring that, in workplaces up and down the country, these laws are adhered to and employers take their responsibilities seriously, and indeed that work people take their responsibilities seriously. Very often, when employing in these circumstances, I found that it was the trade union representative who did most to ensure that, for example, people used hearing protection, which is always such a difficult thing to get many people to wear. Indeed in one factory, when I was Minister for Health and Safety, I found that the staff failed to put the earplugs in their ears but put them in their noses because they did not like the smell of the oil, which was not the purpose of the whole process.

The trade unions play a hugely important part in this. However, I do not understand why in those circumstances we should be ashamed of saying how much time it takes. We should be wanting to say how much time it takes, generously speaking of it and being able to point to businesses and parts of the public sector that do not seem to do as well as others. I am not afraid of transparency in this area. I know that there is a feeling on the Benches opposite that that it is all designed to stop things, but I am not sure that that is true.

I share very much the Minister’s point about anything that starts with a comment from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which means that it is probably fallacious; its use of words, and certainly of figures, is almost universally to be questioned, at the very least—rather less so than the IEA, but I would certainly be careful about relying much on its figures. I seem to remember some figures produced by the TaxPayers’ Alliance showing the suggested cost of the necessary green measures on energy efficiency being entirely wrong, and I want to take that opportunity to say so.

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Lord McKenzie of Luton: Does the noble Lord accept that there are plenty of ways to promote good health and safety practice without forcing safety reps through the processes in the Bill, with the risks that run from the subsequent clause, under which they could be restricted?

Lord Deben: There are plenty of good ways, but I have to say to the noble Lord, having said that I agree with so much of what he has to say, that in the world of the internet, when everyone expects to be able to know everything, it is an odd argument to say that we should not know how much time is spent on this. I just think that that is not of 2016; it is the kind of argument people used 20 years ago. Today we need to know. We need to use those figures in order to point out that this borough spends very little time on health and safety while that borough spends much more, and it is about time that I as a taxpayer in a particular borough could say, “I don’t think my council is behaving properly”. If I do not have the figures then I cannot make that point.

I quite agree with the noble Lord about the consequences if this were used to push down the unions, but I have no evidence whatever that this Government, or any previous Conservative Government, have done that on health and safety. All I am saying is that I know of no evidence of that. I can imagine that in some areas suspicions might arise, and indeed I might find myself equally suspicious, but on this particular measure I do not think that is a fair assertion.

Still, it gives me an opportunity to say to the Minister something that I think needs to be said more often. Just because certain popular newspapers find ridiculous things that health and safety has insisted upon, and just because it is true that many local organisations fail to do the things that they used to because some unnecessary intervention by health and safety has suggested that it might be dangerous—children might fall over or something untoward might happen—that does not mean to say that we should not continually press for better health and safety in our workplaces. I particularly want to make the point about health and safety as far as hearing is concerned; we still have far too many people who retire to an old age of deafness because the health and safety provision has not been satisfactory.

In supporting my noble friend’s view about this amendment I would like to hear from her a very robust defence of the need for health and safety, the role of trade unions in ensuring that, and a determination to use the knowledge which we get from the Bill to ensure that those public sector bodies which do not treat this seriously enough can now be pinpointed because we shall know that they are not giving the time off which they should for the trade unions to play the part that they ought to play on health and safety.

7.30 pm

Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD): My Lords, these amendments aim to remove from this clause elements of facility time that are used on health and safety. I suppose that our attitude to this just depends on how we view the status of health and safety activities. I wonder whether the Government are saying that health

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and safety should be part of the same category as everything else that trade union representatives do. It is of great credit to employers and trade unions that the health and safety record of this country’s workplaces has improved so much over the last 20 years, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said. Let us also not go back to those dark old days he describes, when employees could be regarded as some kind of an expendable commodity. They are costly to recruit and train, they have fewer days of sickness absence if other health and welfare issues are attended to, and they work harder for an employer when they are properly regarded and looked after.

We understand that no element of facility time should have carte blanche to take up as long as anyone wishes. There has to be a balance. Nevertheless, we do not want to go back to restrictions leading to short cuts and more risks. Therefore, to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, if we could have some kind of a robust explanation from the Minister as to why specifically health and safety is included in this clause, I think everyone in the Committee would rest easy.

Baroness Donaghy: My Lords, I should be clear that I do not support the Government’s intention—I still think it is their intention—to reduce facility time in the public services in principle. It is a matter for employer and employee to agree between them. Even the claims of cost saving in the Civil Service which were made in the last debate made no attempt to produce a cost-benefit analysis, which includes the undoubted benefits of facility time to the employer. The attempt to aggregate all facility time, including that of health and safety representatives and union learning reps, is cynical. The Government will decide what are “unacceptable inefficiencies” in the system and what is,

“poor value for money for the taxpayer”.

One wonders how objective that will be. It is to be hoped that the benefits, including staff satisfaction, improved health and safety and learning, will also be taken into account.

It is clear, as has already been said, that those employers with the best health and safety record welcome and support union safety representatives. Workplaces with union safety representatives have half the serious injury rate compared to those without. They also have lower rates of occupational illness and disease. The 100,000 health and safety representatives also save the economy millions of pounds and help to develop a positive safety culture in organisations and the reporting of injuries, and risk-awareness.

I will give two examples of health and safety partnership between employers and UNISON, my former union. In 2015, over 1,000 employees took part in a high-quality dementia awareness training in conjunction with the Open University in a range of workplaces. More partnership work is planned with the Open University around mental health awareness and autism awareness. While days lost through strike action amounted to 0.8 million, those lost through injuries or illnesses caused by work were 29.2 million—more than half because of “stress, depression or anxiety”, according to the CIPD. I am not trying to claim that

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health and safety representatives in most of the public services face the same physical hazards as, say, the construction industry. However, promoting well-being at work leads to huge savings for the employer. No attempt has been made by the Government to assess the benefits of this work.

A recent report by the CIPD, Growing the Health and Well-Being Agenda, reveals that the average cost of sickness absence alone is £554 per employee per year. This is the tip of the iceberg, as it does not cover the “indirect costs” of ill health,

“such as lost productivity, impaired customer service and lower employee morale”.

If you compare that cost of £554 per employee with the estimated cost of the apprenticeship levy and the national living wage at approximately £483 per person it illustrates the importance of well-being strategies and the link with day-to-day management.

I turn to union learning reps, because I have an amendment in the same group. It is important to place on record the important work undertaken by union learning representatives and their involvement in lifelong learning. A recent report by Exeter University also documented the significant added value which employers and individuals derive from projects provided by the Union Learning Fund. The report found that each £1 invested from the fund generates a total economic return of £9.15. The authors of the research estimate that £5.75 of that return goes to individuals in the form of improved prospects of employment and higher wages and £3.40 to employers, resulting from the greater productivity of a better skilled workforce—less output lost as a result of working time taken off to engage in learning.

I will give an example of other partnership deals, first, with Stoke Mandeville Hospital and local learning agreements with Sodexo and Carillion. One member, Louise, said of her own experience:

I left school at the age of 14 with no qualifications as I never sat my GCSE – I was a very rebellious teenager! … I took an NVQ2 admin course at college … I started working for the council in July 2009 … and was fortunate to work with UNISON ULRs [union learning reps], who encouraged me to do my level two adult literacy and numeracy in 2010” … I became lead ULR in January 2014 and began the digital champion project with the help of branch, ULF and UnionLearn funding, which is still going strong … By November 2015, I was already looking for my next learning mountain to conquer and I start an Institute of Leadership and Management leadership and management qualification this month”.

Louise went on to say that it was the investment of time by the union learning reps at the beginning which helped her life improve, and of course I pay tribute to her own commitment and dedication to lifelong learning. The investment of time in lifelong learning pays enormous dividends for our society, and nothing should be done to inhibit the work of union learning reps, which a cap on facility time will almost certainly do.

Lord Monks (Lab): My Lords, I want to underline one point: British health and safety standards are the bedrock of European health and safety standards. The Single European Act—a great achievement of the Conservative Government at the time—allowed standards for health and safety to be set across Europe. I know

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that noble Lords opposite are delighted that the working time directive falls under this heading, and a lot of other things fall under it too. It demonstrated that if we had good health and safety regulations and other countries were brought into line with our standards, that would be in the interests of Britain. We raised standards across the European Union. There are not too many areas in the labour market where we have done that—in many areas we have tried to reduce them—but in health and safety we are top of the league.

Therefore, I hope that anything that the Government do in this area will continue the traditions of previous Conservative Governments, distinguished representatives of whom are sitting on the Benches opposite, and maintain high health and safety standards. We cut them at our peril.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, these amendments all seek to limit the information published under our transparency regulations by excluding certain types of trade union representative. I start by agreeing with the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Donaghy, about what health and safety and union learning representatives do for their organisations. The debate that we had about the dangers in the NHS, about heavy equipment and about many other areas showed how important health and safety is. Of course, there are duties on employers as well. If you sit on a public body or on a company board, you take these matters very seriously in this country, and that is a good thing. As my noble friend Lord Deben said, we have a strong record, although we always need to keep working at it. He gave examples of where trade union reps are very helpful in enforcing the detail of health and safety, which is so important. As the noble Lord, Lord Monks, said, we have taken our fine traditions in this area to Europe, and that has been important as well.

I also commend the work that the TUC and Unionlearn do right across the public and private sectors in working with adults who lack basic skills in numeracy and literacy, including peer support from union learning representatives.

Those sentiments do not jar with what we are proposing. I say in response to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, an employer must allow union representatives as much paid time off work as is necessary or reasonable to perform their statutory functions and duties, and we are not proposing to change this rule. We simply want to ensure—

Lord McKenzie of Luton: If there is no proposal to change the rule, why not take union reps out of Clause 13, even if there is a wish to leave them in Clause 12 on information gathering?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The answer, which I suppose relates mainly to Clause 12, is that we want to ensure that the time that union representatives collectively spend on union duties and activities during working hours, at taxpayers’ expense, is justifiable and accountable and represents value for money. Clause 12 enables Ministers to make regulations requiring specified public sector employers to publish information relating to facility time for those representatives.

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Equally, if the reserve powers in Clause 13 were ever required, they should logically apply to all types of facility time, whatever legislation the rights are granted under and whatever category they fall into in the public sector. In a sense, no area is more immune to attracting inefficient or unaccountable spend than any other type of facility time. Where facility time is found to be at an acceptable level and adds value to the organisation, we expect it to continue, as I have already said. The way that I see it is that the benefits of transparency and accountability do not vary according to the type of work undertaken by, or designation of, a union representative engaged on facility time.

Lord Deben: Where one found a public service in which the amount of time spent on health and safety was manifestly below what would normally be expected, would not the fact that you had these figures enable people to complain about that, pointing out that this would be dangerous and that the situation ought to be improved?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My noble friend makes a very fair point. Transparency will show where money is being spent, and sometimes too little is spent as well as too much.

7.45 pm

Lord Harris of Haringey: Are the Government planning to have a provision that not only sets a cap but sets a floor?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: That is not the current proposal.

Amendment 87 would require employers to publish an estimate of the cost savings and value of facility time taken under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. That would be significantly burdensome for public sector employers to calculate. It would be very much a subjective calculation, and we have already been round this circuit. Should public sector employers believe that they can estimate the information suggested by these amendments, then they may do so, but it would not seem reasonable to require every public sector employer to make this calculation.

Finally, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, for her interesting comments. I agree with much of what she said about the importance of tackling illness at work, about the days that can be lost through illness, which is bad for productivity and growth, and about what can be achieved by focusing on health and well-being. However, I do not think that that affects what I have said on these amendments and I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: I thank the Minister and am grateful for the contributions to this debate. The problem is that what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said flies in the face of what the Government have said. As I said in the debate on the previous group, they stated that the whole idea of this provision is to promote transparency so as to encourage employers to moderate the amount of money spent on facility time. That is the aim. It is not to increase the amount spent; it is to moderate and reduce it. It is impossible to see Clause 12 without looking at Clause 13. Clause 12

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is the way into Clause 13. We will come to Clause 13 after the next debate and will have very serious questions to ask about how on earth the man in Whitehall who knows best can lay down a maximum amount of time that can be spent by a health and safety or learning rep in Newcastle working in a care home or whatever. It is beyond belief that that will happen.

Sadly, the point of this transparency is not to show how well these things are being done; it is an introduction to moderating the amount of time available to health and safety and learning reps, and it is a lead-in to the ability to cap that time under Clause 13. We will come back to make that point when we reach Clause 13 later this evening, because we are extremely worried about safety reps being caught by any cap on the amount of time that they can spend on that activity. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 79 withdrawn.

Amendments 80 and 80A not moved.

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

Middle East

Question for Short Debate

7.49 pm

Asked by Lord Grade of Yarmouth

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to increase understanding of the Middle East.

Lord Grade of Yarmouth (Con): My Lords, I first of all thank all noble Lords who have put their name down to speak. I am sorry that the time is so short, but I will thank them all now and hope that that is reciprocated, which might save noble Lords a few precious seconds on their allocated two minutes.

At the outset, let me declare my interest: I am Jewish and I support the right of the State of Israel to live at peace. However, that does not mean that I believe that the country’s Governments are beyond criticism; nor do I believe that any critic of Israeli policy is automatically anti-Semitic. That having been said, what I hope this short debate will concentrate on is how we might promote better understanding of one of the most contentious issues of our time.

Let me start, topically, with freedom of speech. Just yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, who is in her place this evening, and other noble Lords spoke with eloquence and passion on the intimidating environment in our scholarly communities which is suppressing constructive discussion on the Middle East. The vicious approach to debate, or rather to the stifling of debate, taken by some—for example, those who violently disrupted an Israeli speaker at King’s College, London, last month—does nothing to foster greater understanding of the Middle East in the UK; quite the contrary. The KCL Action Palestine society, which spearheaded the disruption of KCL’s Israel society event, is a committed supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The BDS movement continually smears the only democratic state in the

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region by comparing Israel to the apartheid South African regime of yesteryear. This is as intellectually bankrupt as it is dishonest: it is almost like comparing BDS to the National Socialist Party in pre-war Germany. Let us be clear that the overarching aim of this particular movement is to quash constructive dialogue and end any hope of a viable two-state solution.

To achieve its ends, in recent years BDS has engineered votes to boycott Israel at some of our top universities, which really should know better. In recent months, students at the School of Oriental and African Studies voted overwhelmingly to boycott Israel, and only last week the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, Alex Chalmers, while lamenting that much of the student left has,

“some kind of problem with Jews”,

resigned in the light of the club’s decision to support Israel Apartheid Week at the university this week.

Elsewhere, the movement has been particularly successful in galvanising support for BDS against Israel in the UK’s influential culture and entertainment sectors, culminating in a letter last year signed by 1,000 artists indicating support for a boycott of Israel. Interestingly, Professor Stephen Hawking publicly boycotted one academic event in Israel. It is perhaps worth noting that his extraordinary speech-generation device’s most important component is a silicon chip that was designed in Israel. A leading commentator writing about the professor’s decision asked whether the solution to this problem would be for Professor Hawking to boycott himself.

While advocacy for supporting boycotts represents a disturbing trend in any sector, the prominence and success of the movement in areas which should thrive on free expression is particularly distressing. Last year, more than 300 professors committed themselves to boycotting Israel. Campuses should be at the forefront of charting a way towards the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not spaces to further entrench differences and incite hostility and, dare I say it, bigotry.

Parliament is at the heart of the academic issue. There is a blatant double standard here, which we as legislators have not addressed. There is evidence that we permit the funding of some educational departments by authoritarian states with abhorrent track records on human rights and free expression, yet UK institutions are somehow at the forefront of calls to ban Israeli academics and students on the basis of their nationality and, probably, their religion. The connection between the funding of universities by vehemently anti-Israel regimes, the constraining of free expression and referenda to ban Israelis must be exposed. While we in this place advocate free expression and a two-state solution, elsewhere, we permit the clandestine manipulation of research and teaching on the Middle East to the opposite effect.

Let me now, at last, be more positive. I was especially pleased to learn just last week of the Government’s follow-through on their commitment to prevent public authorities, such as local councils and universities, boycotting products from Israel. The statement by Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock in Israel was welcome news for all those who cherish free speech.

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I am also encouraged to see Israel’s linkages with Britain grow with unabated rapidity in recent years. In science and technology, one of the UK’s leading country priorities is Israel. The development of the UK Israel Tech Hub, the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership, and a top-level UK-Israel Life Sciences Council bring together millions of pounds in funding and some of the world’s brightest minds to collaborate on a number of fronts, including heart disease prevention, regenerative stem cell research and battling multiple sclerosis. UK-Israel partnerships are currently producing world-leading innovations in nanotechnology, agriscience, neuroscience and many other specialist subjects.

In the real commercial world, away from some of the bigoted posturing of academe, trade between Israel and Britain is supporting much-needed manufacturing jobs here at home. For example, Rolls Royce has recently won a contract to supply jet engines to Israel’s state airline, El Al—El Al, by the way, is the only airline for which you do not buy a ticket but give a donation. Perhaps some of those academics who parade their prejudices without any sense of responsibility would like to see what the employees of Rolls Royce might say to them about working with Israel. Business and trade is flourishing between Israel and Britain. In the past 10 years, bilateral trade has increased by 60% to over £3 billion per annum. As many as 300 Israeli companies operate in the UK, and it remains a principal destination for capital and market growth opportunities for Israeli entrepreneurs.

Crucially, in the arts sector, last year we celebrated 20 years of the British Israeli Arts Training Scheme. Funded by the British Council and the Government of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and Sport, the programme provides advice and short-term grants, as well as longer-term programmes.

Fostering connections between Palestinians and Israelis and between Britain and Israel is laying fertile ground from which peace may one day grow. It is in this endeavour that government can be a leading champion. Most important of all, in my view, in the search for peace in the Middle East are the many unreported collaborations where Jews and Arabs are working together on the ground. The Valley of Peace initiative promotes economic co-operation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians based in the Arava valley. Regional economic collaborations like this are critically important, as an economically viable Palestine is a necessary condition for a peaceful resolution. I could also highlight the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization, which facilitates co-operation, dialogue and interaction between Israeli and Palestinian scholars and scientists. Initiatives such as these are where grass-roots activists and professional leaders are doing the lion’s share of the work to increase understanding and work towards peace.

However, I feel that in order for us to create a society where co-existence can truly thrive, we need to focus on those who will be the future leaders: the children. How can Israelis and Arabs find common ground if they cannot talk to each other? In Israel, Jewish and Arab children attend separate schools, which creates space for fear, stereotypes and inequalities

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to grow. These children, who might even be neighbours, grow up in two parallel worlds that rarely interact. In order to change this reality, parents and community members in Be’er Sheva have played an active role in developing a future based on equality and respect for their children and their community through the founding of the Hagar Association, Jewish-Arab Education for Equality, an organisation dedicated to creating a shared society and co-existence between Jewish and Arab residents of Israel’s Negev. It is a centre for joint community initiatives which are completely bilingual in Hebrew and Arabic. There are sport activities that encourage Israeli and Arab children to aspire to be the next Lionel Messi.

We need understanding and discussion, and I hope that this debate will encourage that more than boycotts.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, as we have very little time, I remind noble Lords that we have only two minutes for Back-Bench speeches. So I urge—indeed, beg—noble Lords to try to stick to the time limit.

8 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, as in a Bond film, two minutes and counting. Who can be against greater understanding of the Middle East? I adopt much of what the noble Lord has said about BDS, about the foolishness of certain academics and, of course, about the remarkable achievements of Israel in science. But I offer some reflections of caution. Ignorance of the Middle East must be seen in the context of a general lack of interest in international affairs and a greater parochialism in this country. Therefore, one might ask: why single out the Middle East? One might argue that certain other regions have more impact on our national interest—for example, the assertive Russia and, indeed, China.

What story will the Government tell about the Middle East? There are competing narratives about Israel and Palestine. Experts will differ. We were wholly naive, of course, about the Arab spring. Who is the target for any government initiative? Is it the general public or specific opinion formers like parliamentarians?

Finally, our democracy is rightly suspicious of government initiatives on information. The Government cannot force the press or, indeed, television to take on particular issues. Coverage of Parliament today is reduced to humorous sketches, and newspapers cut the number of their foreign correspondents. The noble Lord has made some very good points, but if it were only so that we could have greater understanding. He has very laudable aims, and I agree with so much of what he says about Israel. But, alas, I fear that it will be a great task to increase public understanding.

8.02 pm

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD): My Lords, the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Grade, is how to increase understanding of the Middle East. I am just back from an all-party Peers’ visit to Israel and the West Bank. We met Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin, who were far more positive than we had been led to believe. Does the Minister believe that the Israelis are prepared to come to the negotiating table without preconditions?

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We also went to Ramallah to lunch with leading Palestinians. I must say that our meeting with them was profoundly disappointing, to the extent that they ended by blaming the British for the lack of a Palestinian state, ignoring completely the fact that prior to 1967 it was well within the powers of Jordan and Egypt, who respectively controlled the West Bank and Gaza, to have created a state of Palestine when there were no Israeli settlers in those areas. Can the Minister say whether the UK Government are making efforts to move the Palestinians out of past gripes and to think positively about what is achievable, and also ask them whether they will come to the negotiating table without preconditions?

We received a frightening presentation on the radicalisation of Palestinian youth in schools and in sport. It must say something when Palestinian sporting events are named after so-called martyrs who killed Israelis. Have the UK Government any views on how to stop this education of hate?

We also visited the town of Sderot and the moshav Netiv HaAsara, right on the border with Gaza. The people there live in and out of bomb shelters, which has saved lives but has caused great trauma particularly for the kids, who know of no life without shelters and safe rooms at home and in school. Have the UK Government views on why this life of trauma receives so little publicity in this country?

8.04 pm

Baroness Deech (CB): My Lords, to my mind, this is a debate centring on disinformation, the deliberate spreading of inaccurate information in order to cover up the truth or to mislead public opinion. Our main sources of information about the Middle East are the media and teaching at universities. Journalists are exceptionally brave purveyors of information, but to a large extent they can go only where it is safe and they can send accurate dispatches only from that region where permitted to do so. Scores of journalists have died or been imprisoned there, and their reports are censored by the majority of countries in the Middle East, without the reader necessarily knowing.

Reporting from the area is bedevilled by the failure to use the right words—for example, not saying the word “terrorist”—and consequent downplaying of the violence. There is disproportionate coverage of Israel, and nothing is ever reported about the Palestinians’ way of life or their diaspora, save for victimhood. Opinion is disguised as news—for example, Tim Willcox of the BBC, at a Charlie Hebdo rally, saying to a Jewish demonstrator:

“Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well”.

There is a lack of context; there has never been an East Jerusalem, except during the Jordanian occupation period of 1948-67. There is selective omission—for example, the headlines proclaiming that a Palestinian has been killed, when in fact he was brought down after murdering Israeli civilians in the street. That is why it is so important that complaints about the media inaccuracies are handled by independent arbiters, and the BBC has to reform its complaints system.

Our universities have accepted money from various repressive Arab regimes—money directed almost exclusively at teaching Middle Eastern studies and

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putting in place curricula and professors subscribing to that point of view. An example is the Islamic Centre at Oxford, which has received £75 million from Saudi Arabia and other such regimes. The same is true of nearly every professorial post in this subject. I hope that the Minister will announce an inquiry into the foreign funding of our universities and that university donations are to be made public.

8.06 pm

Lord Empey (UUP): My Lords, Captain Boycott, of course, had his debut in Ireland. The House will be aware that that was not a successful outcome; neither will this present arrangement, as the noble Lord, Lord Grade, indicated. In the western powers, we have an unmitigated and impeccable record of failure to understand the Middle East. We do not get it, not from the 19thcentury, not the 20th century and not even today. We have supported one dictatorship after another, we have supported regimes that would disgrace anybody, and yet we find ourselves here today; even as recently as after Gulf War 1, we encouraged the Marsh Arabs—remember them?—to stand against Saddam. Then what did we do? We sat back and did nothing, and they were slaughtered, their lands were drained and they were impoverished. But have we learned from that? No. We are doing the same thing again with Assad’s people. We said to them that Assad would be finished in a few weeks or months. We encouraged them to rebel. What are we doing now? We are sitting back and watching Putin and Assad slaughter them.

In terms of understanding and spreading understanding, our own Government and the Western powers do not have a clue, and yet we are meddling. We have a potentially nightmarish situation with the Turks and the Russians. With all that hardware flying around, sooner or later something is going to go wrong. We do not understand it. We do not have a coherent, justifiable, morally based policy in that area at all. If the noble Lord, Lord Grade, has done nothing else tonight but raise this subject, I sincerely hope that we will go back to basics and start to relearn what we should have learnt many years ago.

8.08 pm

Lord Patten (Con): The lightning conductor and fulcrum of Middle Eastern misunderstanding since the late 1940s has been the state of Israel with its polyglot and talented population. Understanding the Middle East today, almost 70 years on, must begin at home in the United Kingdom, which has a particular historical role as the colonial power in Palestine during the run-up to the creation of Israel in 1948. We have not managed so far, despite best efforts, to be at all successful in eradicating anti-Semitism at home in the United Kingdom and thus cannot be sure of our standing in getting greater understanding of Israel, which feels under deadly threat just as some Palestinians feel the same.

Only this month we had, as my noble friend Lord Grade said in his notable speech, seen a particularly nasty outbreak of anti-Semitism among the members of one particular political club in Oxford, its co-chairman

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resigning as he thought some of its members had “poisonous” attitudes made intolerant statements and had,

“some kind of problem with Jews”.

That 70 years on these attitudes prevail in what should be a bastion of liberalism and tolerance is completely shameful, so robust action must be taken where and when reason is missing. I thus congratulate very warmly the Government on their stand against local authorities who now wish to boycott Israeli goods as their own little contribution to Middle Eastern understanding—nowhere else, just Israeli goods. I want my local authority to deal with flood prevention and potholes rather than developing their own foreign policy in direct contravention of the rules of the World Trade Organisation with the sole aim of undermining and delegitimising one state and one state only in the Middle East—the state of Israel.

I say all that not as a Jew but as a Roman Catholic. There are a lot of my lot in Jerusalem and I want them to stay there. I am extremely grateful to the Government of Israel for protecting them and for making it possible for Roman Catholics and other Christians to be in Jerusalem and not to be cleansed and cleared out, as they have been in so many other parts of the Middle East.

8.10 pm

Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab): The noble Lord, Lord Grade, is right. Peace will come only when individuals on all sides understand the narrative of the other side and open their hearts to their suffering. This is the route to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and here it is in seven stages in two minutes. First, Israel accepts the Palestinian belief that the 1948 declaration of the state of Israel was a Nakba—a disaster —and that the region is their homeland and they want consideration of the right to return. The Palestinians accept that the Jews believe that from biblical times the whole area was their homeland. Yes, the settler issue needs settling. Having understood this historical context and agreeing that they cannot live together comfortably as one state, they agree a confederation of two sovereign states—the state of Israel and the state of Palestine; one homeland, two states.

Secondly, we now have the best international lawyers agreeing to help both sides work on a constitution of the two states. Israel already has a constitutional agreement. Palestine needs one. Also, jointly, they create an overall constitution for the new confederation.

Thirdly, security experts on both sides decide how the separate countries run their own military and police force and how, in addition, there will be a joint military and policing authority working together over the two states.

Fourthly, on trade and investment, and finance and currency, there is already a team of Palestinians, Israelis and investors across the world who have been working on a project called Breaking the Impasse, pledging billions of dollars to invest in the region, particularly in the new Palestinian state, once there is peace.

Fifthly, on the holy sites, we have spoken to rabbis, bishops and Imams about the theocracy of the region and they will work together as they preach, with compassion and within their own golden rule.

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Sixthly, the Arab peace initiative, in 2002, was an all-in-one, take-it-or-leave-it offer, and Israel did not respond. A team is now working on a phased implementation of the API. In this way, 22 Arab countries would support the project.

Seventhly and finally, the media, acting responsibly, do not talk up war and killing, but report on the process described here in informed, even-handed, compassionate and positive terms. There we have it. One homeland, two states and peace, in two minutes. I ask the Minister if Her Majesty’s Government might consider convening a meeting of leaders and experts with whom we are working from all sides, in each of these seven fields to try to develop this concept.

8.13 pm

Baroness Coussins (CB): My Lords, language is the key to understanding different cultures, so the importance of Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages is obvious. Arabic is the first language of nearly 300 million people, the majority Muslim. A further billion Muslims are not native speakers, but engage with Arabic as the language of the Koran. Its relevance to the UK is cultural, economic and security-related. About 2 million Muslims live here and the next generation needs at least some linguistic and cultural understanding of the Arab and Muslim worlds, and to start young before stereotypes and prejudices take root.

English as a filter can mislead. Many early reports of the Egyptian revolution in 2011 relied on articulate, English-speaking protesters, which suggested that the society was dominated by secular liberals, until Islamist election victories showed otherwise. The right sort of Arabic is important too. After 9/11, the US trained many soldiers in Egyptian Arabic, but then sent them to Iraq. What is right for diplomacy will not be right for religious texts, which will be different again from a regional dialect for the purposes of military operations.

In the UK, many Muslim children attend mosque school and learn the classical Arabic of the Koran. If only they could also learn modern standard Arabic at their mainstream school alongside non-Muslim pupils. Language is a gateway to cultural understanding and hostility is largely bred through ignorance. But only six state schools teach Arabic on the timetable and only 16 of our 130 universities. Proficiency takes time, and three or four years from scratch at university will not produce the level of expertise that we need to assist UK policy on the Middle East. In addition, 15% of British employers want staff with Arabic and an understanding of Arab business behaviour. We need a long-term strategy covering all ages and stages of education. Will the Government work with schools and HE to develop this?

8.15 pm

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Empey, drew attention to our consistent lack of understanding of the Middle East. In the brief time available to me, I should like to highlight one area of that lack of understanding—the religious dimension. What concerns me is the lack of religious literacy in our society even among opinion formers and decision-makers. By religious literacy I mean, as his grace the

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most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury put it recently, not just propositional knowledge but emotional intelligence that enables us to understand the place of faith in other people’s lives. Only with that sort of knowledge will we understand the ideological drivers to discord and violence that poison life in the Middle East, and not just between Israelis and Palestinians. How many understand the disenfranchisement and disenchantment felt in Sunni heartlands, for example?

As religion becomes more and more central to questions of peace in our world, religious literacy in this country is decreasing and religious education is in a pretty poor state. I commend initiatives like that of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has engaged consistently with the Al-Azhar University in Cairo to promote understanding between people of faith. What plans do the Government have to promote religious literacy so that it reaches all parts of our society, not least all parts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?

We have the expertise necessary; witness the long-standing and excellent interfaith programme of the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University or the impressive work of the Woolf Institute in the same university. I suggest that deep religious literacy is a fundamental precursor to understanding the Middle East and more crucial still to winning over the hearts and minds of those committed to violence.

8.17 pm

Lord Risby (Con): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hague, when he was appointed shadow Foreign Secretary, forecasted that the Middle East would be the epicentre of the world’s problems in the future. It was certainly an understatement. But more latterly, I am pleased that this country has restored relationships with the Gulf states—which were previously ignored—participated in the Iran nuclear process and welcomed President al-Sisi to London inter alia. We as a country have a unique and exceptional understanding of the region.

Very recently, the Cabinet Office Minister, Matthew Hancock, was in Israel, where he launched a most welcome cybersecurity engagement. Of course Israel’s expertise in this area is unparalleled. As my noble friend Lord Grade observed, he made a clear commitment that public authorities here would be banned from boycotts, which again is most welcome news. All this strengthens our bilateral relationship. However, according to the United Nations, more than 400 Palestinians were displaced in the first six weeks of this year because of Israeli demolitions. There have been horrific attacks on Israeli citizens and counter-attacks by Israeli armed forces. It is a tense and dire situation, but with all the horrors across the region, all eyes have moved away from the Israel/Palestine conflict.

But it is all too circular. As long as illegal settlements are being constructed, Mahmoud Abbas has no credibility to negotiate or accept the open offer by the Israeli Government, and that continues to raise tensions. The problem will fester, but surely this is precisely the time for a bold initiative to break the impasse, as inevitably it will return on the radar screen as a focus of concern. Given that in so many respects we have such an excellent relationship with Israel and are committed generously to a two-state solution, surely this is the

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moment for the British Government to try to promote actively such a dialogue. We do not need any information or analysis from the BBC, the


or anyone else. We have skilled diplomats to do this for us. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will agree.

8.19 pm

Lord Livermore (Lab): My Lords, I wish to use the short time available to argue for a better understanding of Israel. This task is urgent because we see now a disturbing resurgence of anti-Zionism that is bordering on the anti-Semitic, particularly, I regret to say, in sections of the left in British politics. Israel is not of course above criticism. It is right that where necessary we should be critical of Israeli policy, conduct and behaviour. But too often this legitimate criticism of specific actions taken by Israel obscures the reality of Israel. When this reality is not heard, it creates a space for those with uglier motivations to build support for grotesque analogies between Israel and apartheid South Africa or even Nazi Germany.

I fear that on the left today what is in jeopardy is support not just for the conduct of Israel but for the concept of Israel. We see senior figures praising as friends those who are committed to the violent destruction of the Jewish homeland. Indeed, we now have the perverse situation where people who consider themselves to be progressive oppose Israel in the belief that they are standing up for liberal values and human rights, but in doing so side with totalitarian Islamist regimes that abuse human rights and prohibit basic liberties.

I believe that it is the duty of progressives to stop the slide from opposition to specific policies of Israel towards opposition to the very existence of Israel. I want us to make the progressive case for a country where women have the right to vote, dress as they wish and say what they wish in a region where, too often, they are segregated and subjugated; for a country that is committed to the free practice of religion for all in a region where religious minorities are frequently suppressed and persecuted; for a country where gay people are not discriminated against, tortured, detained or executed, as they are almost everywhere else in the region; and for a country with a free press, freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and strong trade unions, all lacking in almost all neighbouring countries. There is nothing progressive about siding with those who oppose the very values that we as a society strive to represent, and there is nothing progressive about seeking to extinguish a beacon of democracy, modernity and pluralism in the Middle East.

8.21 pm

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD): My Lords, developing relationships in the Middle East, as the noble Lord, Lord Grade, knows only too well, depends almost 100% on building relationships. I serve as trade envoy for Iraq, and in that context perhaps I may thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Maude of Horsham, who is on the Government Front Bench for this debate, for his tremendous work in supporting all of us in the trade envoy network. I have benefited dramatically from his support and hard work and from the way in which he has built up the network.

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Indeed, three noble Lords who are speaking in this short debate focusing on the Middle East can bear evidence to what I say. We know that it is all to do with personal relationships.

Perhaps I may draw your Lordships’ attention most particularly to a comment made by my kinsman, the noble Lord, Lord Luce, when he declared in his debate a week ago that the BBC World Service and the British Council are outstanding in communicating our values to the world. It is our values that we communicate when we discuss and collaborate with colleagues and friends all over the Middle East, and it is those values that they commend and benefit from; they are what they want. Nowhere better can we look than at the British Council to see how that can be done. I pay tremendous tribute to the retiring director-general of the British Council, Sir Martin Davidson, who did a magnificent job. His successor, Ciarán Devane, has just taken over.

I am very glad that the Foreign Office has managed to retain the budget of the British Council, but I tell the Minister, as he knows well, that this is not nearly enough. The British Council has a unique outreach in teaching English and Arabic, and in understanding. It is fighting extremism in a very soft and gentle way. It is one of the big architects of peace, not just in the Middle East. Somehow, it has been devastatingly underfunded in recent years. It works not just in the Middle East but here in London. At the recent Syria conference I even found some Bromley schools representing the British Council and communicating with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. That is the British Council’s strength globally.

8.24 pm

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Anglo Israel Association, in which position I am proud to say I follow on from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, who spoke earlier.

I will address the aftermath of Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock’s remarks in Israel on the subject of boycott. Obviously I welcome his remarks, but we are at the beginning of a difficult phase. The Government must accept that there will be a reaction. It is necessary not simply to assert, as the Cabinet Minister did quite rightly in Israel, that trade between Israel and the United Kingdom is at record high levels, but to realise that there will be a strong challenge. It can be dealt with only by insisting that the Government cannot be complicit in the acceptance of a version of the history and conflict of the Middle East that stigmatises one side only.

That is the fundamental problem with the boycott movement. In many respects you can say that it has been singularly ineffectual, but none the less it is based on the idea that it is possible to proceed on the basis that the root of the problem lies with one side of the debate only. For example, I say on behalf of the Anglo Israel Association that I would be very unhappy—I think the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, would be equally unhappy—if any of the groups we encourage to go to Israel were set on a programme where they met only Israelis and not Palestinian speakers, who would put different points of view. That is fundamental to the approach that we adopt. It is very important that we

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argue, in the struggle for a two-state solution, that any approach based on the stigmatisation of one group is unacceptable. Make no mistake: in the aftermath of the recent statements made in Israel by Matthew Hancock, we are in for an ideological struggle.

8.26 pm

Baroness Morris of Bolton (Con): My Lords, almost 36 years ago the Conservative Middle East Council came into being. I declare my interests as set out in the register. It was founded after the then nine members of the European Economic Community signed the Venice declaration, which recognised the close ties between Europe and the Middle East, and called for self-determination for Palestinians and for the active participation of Europe in the peace process. Then, Margaret Thatcher thought it imperative that the Conservative Party understood the Middle East and its importance to Britain. Now, with the urgent challenges and complexities facing the region, that understanding amongst parliamentarians of all parties is more important than ever. So it was enormously encouraging during last week’s recess to see delegations from all parties and both Houses visiting countries across the region.

At the beginning of last week I was in Qatar with the all-party group and then I travelled on to Kuwait in my role as trade envoy to meet a delegation of British businesses. I, too, pay a great tribute to my noble friend the Minister. We went to Kuwait to meet up with Ministers and to attend Kuwait’s first international trade show. Trade, as my noble friend Lord Grade so rightly said, is vital because people who are economically active want to live in peace. In both countries we received a warm welcome and participated in refreshingly open and frank conversations, which would have confounded much of the prejudice against the Arab world. The women in both countries can vote, hold office and dress as they like.

That is why the Prime Minister’s key objectives of engagement and commitment to the region, with more visits, more support and more relationship-building, is vital, because it is only when you see it with your own eyes that you truly understand not only the challenges facing the region, but the profound friendships and infinite opportunities that we enjoy with this enchanting part of the world.

8.28 pm

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, I declare my interest as vice-chairman of the New Israel Fund UK and as a former chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club.

When I attended the annual NIF human rights award dinner last November, I was privileged to hear the son of Yitzhak Rabin calling for greater efforts to promote peace, and award winners, who included an Arab-Israeli woman who worked with, among others, Russian Jewish immigrants and a Jewish man who worked with Israeli Arabs who was opposed to the price tag extremists. It occurred to me that, sadly, it was virtually impossible to conceive of any other country in the region for which a human rights award ceremony could be held. The sad loss of life in Gaza has been exceeded more than a hundredfold in Syria, where more people have been displaced than the total population of Israel.

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I am not an admirer of the present Israeli Government, though as someone with a particular interest in the position of Israel’s Arab citizens I welcome its overdue decision substantially to invest in improving their conditions and opportunities—a view shared by an Arab member of the Knesset I recently met. For all its faults, Israel’s democracy is still functioning.

I have asked more than one advocate of BDS whether they were aware that the judge who presided over the trial of a former president of Israel was an Israeli Arab, and whether they could conceive of a Jewish judge performing a similar role in any of Israel’s neighbours.

Protest is legitimate, but I reject the moral relativism of those who are loud in their condemnation of Israel but whose protests against the brutality of Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers, or the dictatorial regimes in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf whom we supply with weapons, are rarely audible or visible to the naked eye.

Peace across the region requires a commitment to democracy and human rights in every country and for people of every faith and nationality. The UK’s foreign policy, including its arms sales, must reflect that commitment.

8.30 pm

Lord Sacks (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grade, for introducing this debate, to which I wish to add one observation. Democracy is not achieved merely by giving everyone the vote. Freedom is not achieved merely by removing a tyrant. They require a sustained effort of education and a balanced supply of information. Without these, democracy can descend into mob rule and from there to a new tyranny, exactly as Plato thought it would. The results of the Arab spring, four years on, are tragic testimony to this truth.

Democratic freedom is sustained by media that take it as their task to present all sides of a complex issue, and by universities that understand the importance of academic freedom, which means giving a respectful hearing to views different from your own. Today, these values are being undermined. The internet and social media mean that people can go through life without encountering views with which they disagree. Some universities have allowed students effectively to ban the presentation of views with which they disagree. A soundbite culture makes it hard for people to understand the complexities of political conflict.

The human mind finds it hard to handle moral and political complexity and can easily avoid it by dividing the world into the good guys and the demons, and concluding that all you have to do to solve a problem is to first silence, then eliminate, the bad guys. Often in the past they were called the Jews. Today, they are called the State of Israel. That is not good for the future of freedom in the Middle East. I urge the Government to do all they can to ensure that our institutions of education and information honour the principle that justice involves audi alteram partem, which means, let the other side be heard as well.

8.32 pm

Lord Rotherwick (Con): My Lords, I was fortunate to visit Israel last week, where the Israeli Government expressed to our group of Peers a wish for peace and

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economic prosperity for themselves and their neighbours. The Palestine Liberation Organization gave a somewhat different and muddled view.

During the British mandate of 1920 to 1947, there was much unrest between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews. Attacks on, and massacres of, Jews occurred in 1921 and 1929. In 1936, during the Great Arab Revolt, thousands of Jews were attacked and killed; some fled the area. Indeed, in 1939—77 years ago—my father served in what was then Palestine with his regiment, the Royal Scots Greys. I discussed our trip with a great friend who has worked as an NGO in Israel and he asked me, “Is it surprising that the Gaza people behave in the way they do when they have an apartheid or separation wall?”. “Look at the facts”, I said. In 2002, during the second intifada, around 52 Israelis were killed or wounded each week by Palestinian terrorism. After the completion of the security barrier, less than one Israeli was killed or injured a week. Even this figure would not be accepted in the UK. Today, during the recent wave of violence, the odd rocket still keeps falling on Sderot near the Gaza Strip, and Israelis are regularly stabbed, but the suicide and pipe bombers are defeated by the security barriers. These barriers are saving thousands of lives.

Many attempts at a permanent, peaceful solution have been made. Israel has signed up to most but the Palestinians have not. It seems to me, as a Christian, that the Palestinians have no intention of committing to any agreement unless they can have total control of all of Israel.

8.34 pm

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grade, for his initiative in securing this debate. Although he was keen to focus on the media and academic interpretation of the Middle East—or, more specifically on the Israel-Palestine conflict—I would like to focus on what the FCO could do to improve its understanding of the wider Middle East. However, I concur that we need to ensure an open debate in our academic institutions, while underlining Labour’s commitment to a two-state solution.

First, we must acknowledge that, on the whole, we are not doing very well in relation to our understanding and intervention in the Middle East, as underlined by the noble Lord, Lord Empey. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester that an understanding of religion is central to moving on here. However, we should note, for example, that not a single diplomat recorded on paper their opposition to the Iraq war. Politicians do need to take some advice from the experts. We got Iraq wrong; we made a mess of Libya; Afghanistan is still in trouble; at one point we were determined to see the removal of Assad from Syria but now it is not so clear. We need to have an honest debate about what is going wrong.

The Environment Minister, Rory Stewart, who previously served as an FCO civil servant in the region, has suggested that the entire structure of the Foreign Office—the incentives, the method of promotion, the recruitment—does not help us to ever acknowledge failure, as is the case with our intervention in the Middle East. He went further and suggested that these

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institutions are designed to trap us in these countries. Does the Minister agree with that analysis? We need to develop in-depth linguistic and cultural expertise. Can the Minister confirm whether more than three out of 16 Middle East ambassadors can speak Arabic, as was the case just a few years ago? Our diplomats need to spend longer in the region and they need to get out and about, but the safety rules with which FCO officials must comply are so stringent that the chances of gaining on-the-ground intelligence reports are extremely limited. Does the Minister have any ideas on how we can marry safety rules with intelligence gathering?

Finally, we must ask who is leading in the Middle East. Is it the FCO or the military? Do we have the balance right? To take an example, the fact is that we spent 13 times more on bombing Libya than we did on rebuilding the country after the conflict. We cannot disengage from the Middle East but we can make better and more informed decisions about what intervention looks like. It does not always have to be militarily led, our diplomats need better training and understanding, and they need to acknowledge when they are wrong—along, of course, with us, the politicians.

8.37 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Maude of Horsham) (Con): My Lords, this is by way of being my Dispatch Box swan song, unless I am summoned back here some time before 11 March. It is a great privilege to have the responsibility of winding up this debate. It has been sober, serious and thoughtful and my admiration for this House has been amplified by the skill with which noble Lords have managed to compress their wisdom, insight and knowledge into two minutes each. That is hugely to the benefit of the cause. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Grade for introducing this debate. The debate has overwhelmingly focused on Israel and Palestine, whereas the Middle East is an arena fraught with conflict and difficulty. Threats such as Daesh have recently emerged, but there is a huge number of issues which confront the stability of the world more widely.

My noble friend Lord Grade makes the case for more understanding. What drives understanding and builds confidence and friendship can be the role played by trade and investment. When people trade with each other, when they invest in each other’s jurisdictions, it builds confidence and understanding; people know each other better. We should never underestimate the benefit that flows from that. My noble friend Lord Grade focused on freedom of speech, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, the noble Lords, Lord Livermore and Lord Sacks, and my noble friend Lord Patten. All talked about the need for balance, respect, historical truths and to be even-handed, and the need not to take refuge in ancient grievances and distortions of history. Our higher education institutions—our universities—should be places where liberalism in its best sense and the respect for hearing other points of view are absolutely entrenched. I think all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate have understood that and reflected the importance of anyone who goes to university being willing to accept that they are places where open, honest debate must be allowed free rein.

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Whether on campus or elsewhere, British Jews, like all communities, must be able to live their lives free from fear of verbal or physical attack. The best way to tackle anti-Semitism is through effective implementation of strong legislation against racial and religious discrimination. Of course, it is important that people in the Middle East itself should be able to be taught together; that will build understanding as well.

A number of noble Lords talked about boycotts and the BDS movement and commented on the announcement made recently in Israel by my successor as Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matthew Hancock. It is important that the BDS movement should be understood as something negative, for the organisations that seek to implement it in terms of the value for money that they get in spending public money for their institutions, and for the bad message or signal that it sends. Of course, where there is an agreed, legally established sanctions regime, that must be respected, but these kinds of movements are damaging. They divide people, reduce understanding, impede the peace process and make it more difficult to achieve the negotiated two-state solution that we all want to see.

The Middle East peace process is something that many noble Lords focused on in the course of this debate. The noble Lords, Lord Palmer, Lord Empey, Lord Stone and Lord Beecham, and many others have talked about the need for the Middle East process to get a new momentum. I cannot possibly do justice to all the points that have been raised but it is absolutely essential that we ultimately see a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. Of course there will need to be agreed land swaps; of course Jerusalem will need to be a shared capital of both states, with a just and agreed settlement for refugees. We know how much frustration there is; noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber have referred to the lack of progress. We know that the current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable. A just and lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue.