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Lord Attenborough: My Lords, it would perhaps have been more appropriate had I been able to deliver these few words during the arts debate last January when my noble friend Lord Menuhin made his impressive maiden speech but, sadly, a bout of 'flu confined me to my bed. I also wish to apologise to my most kindly sponsors--friends of long standing; the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Walton--for the subsequent delay in making my own maiden speech; a delay occasioned by a lengthy professional commitment in the United States and a tour of South Africa on behalf of the United Nations Children's Fund.
Nevertheless, as possibly noble Lords may have surmised, my subject is the arts--the arts in their broadest sense; the arts as an essential element in what we are pleased to call our civilised society. I have it on the best of authority, from a not too distant relative, that we are related to apes, but it is, surely, not only the ability to stand on our hind legs that sets us so singularly apart from the animal kingdom. The crucial difference must lie in what we call soul and creativity. Our distant ancestors, the first true humans, started to communicate through language some 35,000 years ago and, almost contemporaneously, they began to create pictures on the walls of their caves.
Is it not remarkable that those early hunters, balanced as they were on the very cusp of survival, should need to paint the creatures which surrounded them in their daily lives: that in the bowels of the earth and on bare rock they felt impelled to recreate the colour, form and movement that they witnessed in the forest outside? A cave painting tells us, surely, far more than the simple appearance of a bison or deer. Across untold generations it speaks of the painter, too; of his uniquely personal interpretation. It grants us a window into his mind. President John F. Kennedy once said:
From the very earliest of times the arts have been an instinctive essential of our humanity. They are a miraculous sleight of hand which reveal the truth and a glorious passport to greater understanding between the peoples of the world. The arts not only enrich our lives but grant us the opportunity to challenge accepted practices and assumptions. They give us a means of protest against that which we believe to be unjust; a voice to condemn the brute and the bully; a brief to advocate the cause of human dignity and self-respect; a rich and varied language through which we can express our national identity.
Today, as a nation, we face daunting problems--problems which are obliging us to examine the very fabric of our society. And the role of the arts in healing a nation divided, a nation in which too many lack work, lack self esteem, lack belief and direction, cannot and must not be underestimated.
This is the first century of mass communication. We have now, as never before, the ability to disseminate the arts in all their forms, cheaply, quickly and qualitatively, to the widest possible audience. But art--any art form--can never rest upon its laurels. It was Winston Churchill who said:
The arts in this country have a long and enviable tradition. Shepherds there are in abundance. But innovation which must, of necessity, entail the possibility of ridicule, even failure, is the life blood of continuing tradition. For the arts to continue to flourish we must underwrite both innovation and, of course, training.
We have in the United Kingdom some of the finest academies of dance and drama in the entire world. Is it not, then, a supremely tragic irony that many of our most promising students are being denied access to those institutions for lack of a mandatory grant? As a result, hundreds of dedicated and talented young people are now being lost to their chosen professions as dancers, actors and technicians, with their places taken by those who can afford to pay. The loss of their talents, furthermore, is inflicting untold damage on our internationally acclaimed theatre, television and film industries.
Film (the movies) as noble Lords may be aware, has occupied much of my life. It is now more than 50 years since I entered the industry. In that time I have seen it weather many storms and falter repeatedly from lack of concern on the part of far, far too many arts Ministers. Certainly, now that at last every aspect of our cinema industry is under the sole aegis of the Department of National Heritage, such pitiful inactivity can no longer be excused.
Sadly, however, from my own particular viewpoint, cinema was scarcely mentioned during the arts debate to which I referred earlier--a fact I register with regret since I believe the vast majority of the British people generally accept that it is the art form of this century. My belief is borne out by recent figures which indicate that United Kingdom cinema attendances for 1994 will reach 120 million; the 10th successive year of steady increase from a base of less than half that figure. In fact, three times more people go to the movies than all those who attend concerts, opera, ballet and theatre put together and we currently spend, as a nation, nearly £2 billion a year on watching feature films, either at home or in the cinema. However, the sad fact is that only some 4 per cent. of that revenue will accrue to films of British origin.
Since no one film can ever be guaranteed to make a profit, wise investors will spread their risk over 10 or 20 such prototypes in the knowledge that 50 per cent. will fail, 30 per cent. will break even and 20 per cent. will prove immensely profitable. If we in Britain are ever again to have a film industry worthy of the name, we have to persuade government to create conditions that will allow investors to spread their risk in that way.
Some, of course, might argue that our film industry is not worth saving, that it should be allowed to go the way of shipbuilding or the manufacture of motor cycles. But I repeat that the making of feature films cannot be compared with any other industrial process, for they represent, as no other art form, as no other business activity, a crucial definition of our cultural identity, both here at home and throughout the world. Movies are the mirror we hold up to ourselves, the reflection of our codes and practices, our goods and services, our skills and inventions, our architecture and landscapes, our comedy and tragedy, our past and present. And they have the ability to grant us, as no other medium can, a worldwide showcase, generating immense returns--both tangible and intangible, visible and invisible--in every conceivable sphere.
A recent survey, undertaken for the National Campaign for The Arts, revealed that 79 per cent. of the population attend arts or cultural events, that the same high percentage believe that the arts help to bring people together in local communities and almost the same number are prepared to state, without equivocation, that the arts enrich their quality of life. In the face of such cogent endorsement, the role of the arts in all our lives--in health care, in social education and rehabilitation, in business, in the community--is, I profoundly believe, one that we underestimate at our peril.
Lord Morton of Shuna: My Lords, it falls to an intermittent attender in your Lordships' House to have the honour of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Attenborough, on his most eloquent maiden speech. It will be seen from what I have to say that I shall be making a very pedestrian speech in contrast to the noble Lord's eloquence. It is very refreshing to me that a Member of your Lordships' House is defending films, because about 50 years ago as, I suppose, an aggressive teenager, I was unwise enough to say to an eminent lady that I preferred films to theatre. About an hour later Dame Sybil Thorndike ceased trying to persuade me that I was wrong. I remain of the same view, however, and I am sure that your Lordships will hear more from the noble Lord, Lord Attenborough, to persuade your Lordships that I was right.
I shall speak mainly about the provision of justice in Scotland, but before doing so I should like to welcome the Government's intention to legislate about children in Scotland. It is now more than five years since the equivalent Act for England was passed. It is unfortunate that there has been that delay of five years, although it occurred for a variety of reasons for which I do not blame the Government entirely.
The new Bill will be supported by all sides of your Lordships' House and by all sides of the Scottish community. However, many aspects of the Bill will be controversial on points of detail. Because so many voluntary and other organisations have had, and will have, helpful contributions to make in any discussion of the provisions of the Bill, it would be most helpful if the Bill were to be published in good time before any debate takes place in either House. I heard a rumour earlier today that it had been suggested that the other place would start to discuss the legislation on 5th December. I hope that that is wrong, because it would not allow sufficient time for discussion. Your Lordships will appreciate that many organisations, including Save the Children and Barnardos, require time to consider the details of such a Bill. It is unproductive if the details of such a Bill are not made available to all the voluntary and other organisations in sufficient time for them to form a view as to what they want to say about it. Many voluntary organisations have a management committee meeting only about once a month, so the Bill must be made available to them about six weeks prior to expecting any reasonable discussion to take place on it.
Perhaps I may suggest to the Government that their proceedings on charities in the 1992 legislative programme highlight that difficulty, because the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has distributed to quite a number of us details of its difficulties with the present charities legislation. Those difficulties arose largely because that provision was foisted on us without sufficient prior consultation or notice.
One of the matters which will clearly require consideration in such a Bill on children is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1991. It defines a child as being a person under 18 years of age. Our legislation on children's hearings and on criminal law works on the age of 16 as the age of transfer from childhood to adulthood. I find it astonishing that the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which was published last week, takes not the slightest account of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I hope that the new legislation will at least acknowledge its existence, because, if I may say so, if it does not, it will not be for the want of documents advising the Scottish Office on how to proceed.
The 16 to 21 years age group is the group where it is most obvious that the criminal justice system, at any rate in Scotland and I suspect in the rest of the UK, fails to have any real effect. We are forced, as judges, to rely far too heavily on the expensive and usually counter-productive sentence of detention for young people. The convention provides an opportunity, as well as a duty, to do something about the 16 to 18-year olds; to take them out of the adult criminal system, either by extending children's hearings up to 18 years, by having some form of mixed court of panel members and judges, or by having some other system. Something is clearly required, and it is omitted from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill. We must do something to take young people out of the present court system, which is clearly failing society and the young people.
It is principally about justice in Scotland, and civil justice, that I want to speak. Since the major revision of criminal procedure in the 1975 Act, we have had about one Act a year looking at criminal justice. The Bill is supposed, in the words on the radio of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, to be a Bill to "streamline" criminal procedure. The streamlining effect of the previous few dozen Bills is that each criminal trial takes about twice the time it used to do, and more and more judges and more and more courts are required to be provided while there is less and less time to get rid of any of the cases. I hope that the Government are right when they say that the Bill will streamline our procedures.
The confiscation provisions are, in principle, welcomed, but they are far from simple. They take up pages of the Bill, rather like the existing provision for the confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking, and the complication of that is similar, I imagine, to someone being asked to ride a horse around the Grand National course when blindfolded. It is an appalling piece of nonsense.
It is most unfortunate that the Government have failed to face up to the need to improve the provision of justice on the civil side. It is the state's duty to provide a system of civil justice under which people can resolve their private disputes at a reasonable cost, both in time and in money, to them and the state. Witnesses complain as much about being brought unnecessarily to civil courts as they complain about being brought unnecessarily to the criminal courts.
There has recently been a radical review of procedure in the sheriff court, including a system under which the sheriff has much more control of the way the case proceeds and the speed at which it proceeds. Unfortunately, none of that applies in the Court of Session, which is the equivalent of the High Court and the Court of Appeal in England.
I am proud to have been appointed a Senator of the College of Justice, but I regret that the court's procedures have become so clearly out of date. That is largely because of a judgment of the Lord Justice-Clerk in 1961, when he said:
The trouble with that approach is that the public, quite rightly, regard that as nonsense. The public consider that the judge's role is to do justice between the parties and that justice is vitally connected with ascertaining the truth. The result of following the doctrine laid down in 1961 is that the Court of Session practice is out of date, out of step with about every other jurisdiction, is too slow in deciding cases, and far too expensive for the litigant.
In 1985, Parliament gave the court power to remit any case to the sheriff court if the court thought it appropriate. In 1990, a decision of the First Division of the Court of Session decided that that did not negate the pursuer's right to choose the forum. So we have the position that a supreme court judge is asked to hear a case for three or four days when the damages are agreed at about £2,000, and the cost to the state, not to the litigant, is £1,500 a day, according to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. The public regard that as absurd.
Our system of pleading is far too complicated and unnecessary. Thanks to an initiative of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, we now have commercial case rules that allow the speedy resolution of disputes. It is absurd that complicated commercial disputes do not require, by our rules, the complicated pleadings that we require for a road traffic accident.
It is absurd that an employer should be allowed to force the other side to prove the occurrence of an accident at work, or that the employee was injured in that accident, when the employer is the hospital, the person injured is a senior nurse and the injury was
It is absurd to have experts brought to Edinburgh to give evidence when they do not know what other experts are going to say. It is a waste of time and money, and that alleged "justice by ambush" is not the best way of getting at the truth. Expert witnesses are usually people of high qualification and integrity. To ask them to consider a view apparently different from their own, without notice and without an opportunity to look up references, is not the best way to get the considered view of, say, a consultant neurosurgeon.
As another example of how our procedure slows up disposal, we are pleased in Scotland if we can dispose of a child abduction case in the Court of Session in six months. That happens only if the court insists again and again on forcing progress. But we have no right to be pleased about that, because Article 11 of the Hague Convention suggests that the requesting state should complain if the matter is not dealt with within six weeks.
We have an absurd procedure whereby the appeal court listens to counsel reading out solemnly for days on end, to three judges who have read the evidence, the evidence that has been heard previously. The judges can do that quicker before the case even starts. That is an absurd waste of money. We require to change our procedures so that judges have an interventionist role and do not act merely as referees. We should have a procedure that insists upon the fullest possible disclosure of the evidence supporting each side's case so that the real issue in dispute can be identified and decided.
That type of cards-on-the-table approach is, and has been for many years, the English approach. It is now the approach in the sheriff court in Scotland. As a result of the insistence of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, it is now the approach for commercial cases in the Court of Session. We must have changes, but unfortunately the only way that I can see we can have changes is by legislation, or, at the very least, by the Lord Advocate securing the appointment of a person or committee to take a radical look at our procedure. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has appointed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, to do a similar job for England. We have no equivalent. I urge the Government to consider at least that. It is no pleasure for me to have to suggest that on this issue England and Wales are so far ahead of Scotland. I earnestly hope that steps will be taken to ensure that the College of Justice in Scotland regains its proper standing.
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