If the chair of the committee were to be not only a nominee of the Prime Minister but from the same party as the Prime Minister and from the same party as the Secretary of State, who could veto the use by the committee in carrying out its statutory oversight remit of the use of its power to require information from the intelligence and security agencies, that might well lead to a perception, no doubt unfairly, that the leadership of the committee and its most influential member was a little too close to the Government of the day, particularly bearing in mind that the objective of the Bill, as explained in paragraph 3 of the Explanatory Notes is to provide,
“for strengthened oversight of the intelligence and security activities of the Government”.
Lord Henley: My Lords, we have four amendments in front of us, all slightly different but all covering appointments to the committee. I will deal with them in turn. Amendment 5 seeks to ensure that if someone is turned down by Parliament the Prime Minister will have to make another nomination. This is something with which the Government entirely agree. However, the amendment is not necessary as it will be achieved by the current drafting of the Bill. If, under the appointments process in the Bill, the Prime Minister’s nominees are rejected by either House, the Prime Minister will have to make another nomination or nominations after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is clear from the fact that the Bill requires the ISC to consist of nine members so if one is turned down another would have to be found. I hope that deals with the point made by my noble friend Lord Lothian, who asked what would happen in such cases. Where we differ is that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, insists that an alternative person should have to be nominated and we would like to keep the flexibility because there are occasions where it is possible for the Prime Minister to be able to renominate. It might be that one reached some sort of impasse in due course but it should be possible on occasions to renominate and that renomination might be rejected. Whatever happens, as the Bill is drafted, a ninth person would have to be put forward.
Turning to Amendment 6 from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, he suggests that it should no longer be necessary to consult the Prime Minister. He said that he would never have been appointed if it had been left purely to my noble friend Lady Thatcher if she had been in opposition. Obviously, if we accepted
the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and removed the necessity to consult the Leader of the Opposition, there would be even less likelihood that he would be appointed, because my noble friend—or Mrs Thatcher, as she then was—would have made the decision entirely by herself, without consulting the Leader of the Opposition. We believe that it will be important in retaining cross-party support, just as it was when the original 1994 Act went through, requiring that the committee should be appointed by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. For that reason, the Prime Minister should continue to consult the Leader of the Opposition before he nominates any such person.
Lord Campbell-Savours: This is quite an important issue. The question is very simple. If the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had been Leader of the Opposition, would she have allowed someone like me, with my record at that time, to go on this committee? The answer is no, which is why I believe that this provision is wrong.
Lord Henley: But the noble Lord is also saying that he wants to delete the ability to consult the Leader of the Opposition and leave it entirely to the Prime Minister. I have to say that the Prime Minister probably would not have appointed him either, so the issue does not arise. What we suggest is that, to maintain cross-party support—I suspect that everyone agrees on this except the noble Lord himself—there should be a degree of consultation between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on this issue. The simple fact is that consultation did take place and we are all very happy, my noble friend Lord King included, that he was taken on to that committee.
Rather than dealing with the amendments sequentially, I come to Amendment 8 before Amendment 7. It comes from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and relates to the election of the chairman. The noble Lord raises concerns about the Government’s proposals for appointing the chair, arguing that the chair’s appointment should again be made with the agreement of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I notice that the effect of the amendment would be for the chair to be appointed by the Prime Minister and that there would be no requirement to consult the Leader of the Opposition. So I suppose that the chances of the noble Lord having got on to the committee or being appointed as chairman would be even more remote, but that is something that he can consider in due course.
As we explained earlier, we believe that the changes that we are making to the ISC status are designed to bring it closer to Parliament and increases public confidence in it. That is why the Government propose that the chairman of the ISC will be appointed by Parliament and will report to Parliament as well as to the Prime Minister. The noble Lord seemed to suggest that with a new Parliament, the new Members would not know each other. I suspect that with the experience of the members on that committee, as has happened in the past, it will normally be the case that the committee will know who is the appropriate person as well as anyone. It is quite right, therefore, that those members should make the appointment.
Lord King of Bridgwater: I am trying to remember how many new Members came on to the committee. There was a big upheaval. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for example, was a member of the previous committee; he was whisked off to be a Minister. It was a pretty major change of cast. With great respect to my noble friend, who says that new members of the committee might be expected to know about these things, a number of them might have had no previous experience whatever of the committee.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I will look very carefully at the point that my noble friend has made and at the statistics relating to 1997 in particular, which was one of those years in which there would have been a big upheaval, with that particular new Parliament. Off the cuff, I do not know who was on the committee and who came on, although perhaps my noble friend can remember. But in the main, with the relatively experienced parliamentarians who will be on this committee, I think that it is well suited to making the decision itself.
Lord Campbell-Savours: You might, as a Member of Parliament who had been in the House for years but had no contact with intelligence, not understand the vital nature of the relationship between the agencies and the chairman. It is critical to the whole operation. I cannot see how someone who goes newly on to that committee could have any understanding of that relationship. If the relationship is wrong because the wrong person has been appointed, the committee could be denied information. If the objective behind the Bill is to secure more access to more operational material, we are undermining the whole arrangement. Ministers should reconsider this point. It is all right saying that it is more democratic and accountable and that Parliament is more involved—but if it does not work, do not do it.
The Marquess of Lothian: My noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater was talking about the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, leaving the committee. Between 2007 and 2009, two chairmen of the committee were promoted to being Ministers and left the committee. I wonder how the committee would have been able to elect successors to those two when we needed someone of sufficient seniority to carry out that task.
Lord Henley: Yes, my noble friend is correct in that. I was looking at the wrong dates—he means between 2007 and 2009. I will obviously have to examine this and, as I promised my noble friend Lord King, examine the statistics in relation to the 1997 Parliament, when there would have been the biggest change in the membership, rather than the subsequent Parliaments. In brief, I stick to my position that it would be better
for Parliament to make this decision, rather than the Prime Minister, but I note the concerns put forward by colleagues from all sides, or both sides, of the House.
I turn to Amendment 7, which presents the idea that, whatever happened, the chairman of the committee should be drawn from an opposition party. Again, my noble friend Lord King had some sympathy for this amendment, but when one looks at the history of the committee and the distinguished service of my noble friend, who served as chairman when our party was in government, and as chairman in opposition, from 1994 to 2001, it is obvious that one can do it from either side. To make a statutory requirement that a chairman had to come from the opposition party would unnecessarily limit the available candidates for that job. My noble friend rightly pointed to the problems that might have arisen in 1997 when, after a very long period in opposition, all the more senior members of the then opposition party going into government were likely to become Ministers, and there might not have been suitable people around. To curtail who could be chosen would reduce unnecessarily the pool from which the appropriate chairman could be taken.
Having said that I would listen to comments made on Amendment 8, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, I hope that the explanations that I have given on the other Amendments 5, 6 and 7, as well as Amendment 8, will be sufficient for the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
10: Schedule 1, page 13, line 6, at end insert “and until immediately before the first meeting of the ISC in the next parliament or 21 days after the first sitting of the next parliament, whichever first occurs”
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, grouped with this amendment are Amendments 11 and 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, on rather different points from mine. I will confine my remarks to my amendment. Schedule 1 provides that members will hold office for the duration of the Parliament in which they are appointed. I do not read later parts of the paragraph, in particular sub-paragraphs (6) and (7), as applying to membership. This raises two issues, which I shall ask about in what is no more than a probing amendment. One is whether there should be a committee in existence during the period when Parliament is prorogued; the second is about the delay in appointing members after the next Parliament has started to sit. On the latter point, I have heard reports that some Select Committees have taken a very long time to be
established—up to six months. I am certainly not arguing that the approach of this amendment is the best way of doing it. If there were to be some amendments, the arrangements would need much more detail, but I am worried that there would be an issue if there were a long lacuna. I do not know whether the Minister can help the Committee regarding the position of the current committee. Are members appointed until the appointment is terminated in a positive fashion, whether or not Parliament has been prorogued? Clearly, if an MP is not re-elected, he would not be expected to retain membership.
The ISC is so important that I would be reluctant not to have some sort of formula for unbroken oversight. It could be argued, of course, that its work is largely retrospective so it would not matter if there was a gap, but I would not accept that argument. It occurs to me that one could deal with continuing membership if enough Members of your Lordships’ House were appointed for there to be a quorum over the period of Prorogation, but that is unlikely to commend itself. There is also the question of the period between Parliaments and any delay in appointment once a new Parliament sits. I beg to move.
“a resolution for the person’s removal is passed in the House of Parliament by virtue of which the person is a member of the ISC”.
In other words, there has to be a resolution of Parliament to exclude someone from the ISC. Have those who wrote this Bill thought that through? A resolution in the House of Commons, or even in this House, would mean that the person who is being removed from the ISC, with all the material that they have gained over the years on matters relating to national security and who may well be angry with the chairman and the system, is given free rein to get up on the Floor of the House of Commons and, in their defence on the back of the resolution, say why they should not be removed from the Intelligence and Security Committee. This is a very silly proposal. It is highly dangerous and has clearly been worked up by someone who did not understand the implications of what a resolution of the House of Commons means for public debate. It should be removed.
How could someone be removed from the Intelligence and Security Committee? First, one would go to them privately and explain the reasons why they should resign. I am sure that the Whips and the system have all sorts of ways for removing Members of Parliament without allowing them free rein to get up on the Floor of the House of Commons on the back of the resolution to defend themselves. That is my case for Amendment 11. I seek the exclusion of what I regard as a highly irresponsible proposition.
“A member of the ISC may resign at any time by notice given to … in the case of the member who is the Chair of the ISC, the Speaker of the House of Parliament by virtue of which the person is a member of the ISC”.
Why should the Speaker be informed? This is not a parliamentary committee; the Speaker is not a member of the committee and has no relationship with it. The committee is external to Parliament, however we want to describe it. I cannot see any explanation why, other than the fact that those who devised these sections of the Bill believe that it is necessary to have a model where they have the imprimatur of Parliament on the label. I think it is ludicrous, unnecessary, and again it should be removed from the Bill. It is trying to lead the public to believe that this is truly some committee of Parliament. It is not, because it lacks the privileges and the powers that a parliamentary committee has as a Select Committee. That is my case.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I will return to the noble Lord’s amendments in due course, but I will start with Amendment 10 in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. This seeks, in effect, to continue the committee’s existence for a period of days after Dissolution until a new Parliament is created. It must be remembered that the absence of the ISC for that short period of Dissolution does not mean that the agencies are unaccountable. There are other mechanisms for agency accountability, not least through their accountability to Ministers, who obviously continue in their role throughout that Dissolution. The absence of the more considered work of the ISC during that relatively short period will not result in some sort of accountability deficit. Naturally, continuity between Parliaments is very important, but it is not necessary to have the old ISC stretch into the next Parliament to achieve this. I assure my noble friend that we do not need legislative provision for a new incarnation of the ISC to inherit the documents, for example, of its predecessor. Under the existing regime this has happened without any difficulty. Furthermore, the provisions in sub-paragraphs (6) and (7) of paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 allow the ISC in a new Parliament to pick up work that was ongoing at the time of Dissolution of the previous Parliament.
I turn to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, who seems particularly worried about mechanisms for removing individuals from that committee. He seemed to suggest some sort of equivalent to the idea of the Whips giving them a bottle of whisky and a revolver and telling them to sit quietly in a room until they have resolved matters by themselves. I do not know if that was quite what he was suggesting, but we believe that if Parliament appoints, it is plain that Parliament should also have the power to remove. That fits the broad thrust of what we are doing. That is the reason for the provision that the noble Lord seeks to leave out, ensuring that an ISC member can be removed involuntarily from the committee only by virtue of a resolution passed by Parliament. Again, this is an important safeguard to the ISC’s independence and means that the final say on its membership is with Parliament.
Lord Campbell-Savours: Does the Minister foresee circumstances in which an angry young man or woman who was excluded from the committee on the back of a resolution would, under privilege in the House of Commons, argue a case that might even breach national security? If he, or those who have devised this provision,
can foresee such circumstances, does he not think that this provision bears further responsibility, despite what the noble Lord said?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the same could apply to whoever was removing that person. We are saying that Parliament should, in conjunction with the Prime Minister, have the responsibility for appointing, and therefore that Parliament should therefore have the duty to remove. If we accepted the noble Lord’s amendment, can he not see possible occasions where there was no possibility of removing a member of the ISC from office, no matter what they had done, unless they ceased to be a Member of their House of Parliament—this place or another place? I do not therefore accept the noble Lord’s amendment.
As regards his second amendment and the idea that the Speaker of either House has to be notified, I really do not see why notifying the Speaker as a means of resigning from the committee causes any problems at all. Both the Government and the committee are of the view that the chair should no longer be removed by, or required to resign by giving notice to, the Prime Minister. Again, the committee has previously been criticised for being a creature of the Executive. If the committee is to be a creature of, or belong to, Parliament, it seems far more appropriate that a person should have to resign by the means proposed rather than tendering their resignation to the Prime Minister.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I clearly did not explain my amendment adequately. My noble friend responded on one point, the continuity of the committee, but he has not dealt with my concern about delay in appointing members in a new Parliament. Can he help the Committee on that and give any assurances?
Lord Henley: My Lords, both Houses are normally reasonably speedy about these matters and we will obviously take the issue very seriously. I do not think that there has previously been a delay in appointing the nine members after appropriate discussions, and I cannot see that there would be any dangers of delay in the future, but whoever is in government will obviously have to bear in mind the importance of these matters and ensure that a new committee is created as quickly as possible.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have no idea about the appointment of the ISC but I discussed this matter with a Member of the Commons who has considerable experience of membership of Select Committees. It was from him that I heard that in one case there was a delay of almost six months in appointing the committee. It is that situation that I am seeking to avoid. I do not expect the Minister at this point to say anything other than what he has said, but the issue is serious in my head.
probing amendment. I am not sure that I have probed quite far enough, but of course I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, let me say right away that I come to this issue completely as a laywoman because I have never been a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, I have never been asked to be a member and I do not purport to have the arcane wisdom that is obviously involved in the intelligence committee. I speak simply as a laywoman puzzled about this point.
I find it strange that the quorum is as low as three—that is to say, one-third of a committee of nine. It puzzles me for two reasons. The first is perhaps best summed up by the rather agreeably brusque remarks of the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, who explained, when referring to Australia, that an “awkward squad” had decided to take over that country’s intelligence and security committee, and that it would therefore be open to the possibility of a small group effectively influencing the ISC in ways that might be troubling over the long term.
However, I have a rather different thought in mind. Sadly, many Parliaments around us are increasingly polarised, whereby the Government of the day and the opposition find it very hard to work together. The United States is just one example of that. If you have in a polarised parliament or congress a party that decides it will not co-operate with other parties even on such an important committee as an intelligence and security committee, the committee would be nullified by itself and it would be hard to reach overall decisions. Clearly, on a matter of such importance, it is important that a consensus, if one can be found, should be sought.
There is also another objection that I feel strongly about. The decision of a committee as important as the ISC should at least have to depend upon some level of attendance in addition to the three who may represent one party in order to give the committee the kind of credibility that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and many others referred to when they were talking about public attitudes towards the ISC. I should therefore have expected a larger quorum of at least four or five, rather than three, as stated in the Bill.
The main point of the amendment is to persuade the Minister to think about whether that quorum is not a little too small. There is a real danger that a faction could dominate the committee in a way that would be completely destructive of its credibility over a period of time. I therefore ask him to consider this issue, explain why the figure in the Bill is as low as three—for all I know, it always has been three and I do not know if changing it would be a bad precedent—and to say whether we could have a figure more convincing in terms of carrying public opinion with it.
I have no wish to delay the House but I am surprised that no other amendment has been tabled about the size of the quorum. That may be because I am not part of this wise and arcane group, and I am delighted now to see the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, to whom I have just referred in relation to the quorum being as low as three, which makes it possible for an awkward or fanatical club effectively to control the discussions of the ISC. The noble Lord quoted the case of Australia, as regards the danger that the committee, if there were a low quorum, could be dominated by a small faction or extreme group of some kind. I hope that he will not mind that I referred to him. I beg to move.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I start by being faintly flippant. I remind my noble friend that the quorum for this House and this Committee is only three—one to speak, one to listen and one to sit either in the Chair or on the Woolsack. Even with the crowded House that we have at the moment, we represent probably well below a third or even a tenth of the membership of the House. I should also remind my noble friend that my understanding is that it is the practice of most Select Committees to have a quorum of three or a quarter of the committee’s membership. Three is therefore the number that we have picked. Bearing in mind that the ISC is a relatively small committee with a membership of only nine, three represents a third of the membership.
Having said that, one should take my noble friend’s amendment seriously but we have not, as far as I am aware, had any problems with the quorum. A quorum of five might be overly restrictive, particularly if you take the view that the function of a quorum should be to provide protection against the possibility of a small number of persons on a body taking actions or decisions that could be unrepresentative of that body as a whole.
Lord King of Bridgwater: I think it fair to say that this is a Committee that, quite exceptionally, has a remarkably high attendance level, and this is something we are quite proud of and which, I am sure, has continued. I do not ever recall any problem about a quorum. In fact, I recall very few occasions when the whole Committee was not on parade and, as anyone familiar with House of Commons Select Committees will know, that is often far from being the case.
Lord Henley: I am very grateful to my noble friend for giving me that assurance. I remember when, many years ago, I was first put on a Committee—the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, possibly the outer Siberia of committees. I think there were seven Members from each House and a quorum of two from each House. On a committee of that sort it was often quite difficult to reach the quorum of both Houses, but some of us manfully attended week in, week out, to preserve it. I am very grateful to my noble friend for making the more serious point that the Committee does, in the main, have not just a quorum but is normally fully attended by virtually all Members; that really answers the points of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: With great respect, I do not think that what the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, said went very far towards supporting the argument that because there is such good attendance at this extremely important committee there is a case for a very low quorum. On the contrary, it seems to me that Members take their duties so seriously—and rightly so, given the importance of the subject matter—that it would not be disruptive to increase the quorum, at least to some extent, from the present three.
Again with great respect, the fact that around 5% of the possible attendance of the House of Lords is present at this particular discussion is not really the point because, of course, noble Lords attend when they are expert or knowledgeable on a particular subject and do not come when this is not the case. In the case of the Intelligence and Security Committee, one assumes from its very careful appointments process that most members are people with a strong commitment and very considerable knowledge of the fields in which they operate.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I hope my noble friend heard in my opening remarks that I was being faintly flippant when talking about this House. I agree that this is a very important committee. I am very happy that attendance is well above its quorum number—that it is always fully quorate. However, I do not think it is necessary to restrict it in such a manner by bringing in an artificially high quorum, which would be completely unlike all other committees. I think that three out of nine is a perfectly effective number and I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
“(a) the ISC shall meet in public save when it determines that members of the public shall be excluded,
(b) a determination under paragraph (a) may be made prior to the meeting to which it applies and may apply to more than one meeting.”
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 15 as well as to Amendment 17, which was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and has been grouped with my amendments because we cover very similar ground. Indeed, we have covered a fair bit of the ground already during this afternoon’s discussions, including the subjects of open meetings, question times, public hearings and so on. I am, of course, not so naive as to think that the ISC needs to meet only occasionally in closed session, but I do think it a good discipline to ask oneself regarding every meeting whether it needs to be closed. I am therefore proposing that open discussions be the default arrangement. It is also important to justify why a meeting is closed, if it is, and to that extent I think that
Amendment 17 asks the right sort of question, although I would have put it differently, saying that “proceedings should be public unless” rather than “private if”. However, I think that these are all probing amendments.
As I see it, the role of the ISC is oversight on behalf of the public. By their nature, the agencies and government departments dealing with security matters are secretive, and one understands their concern that secrecy should go hand in hand with security. However, it can be very easy to get sucked into a cosy, almost co-dependent relationship in the work of any organisation. I do not want to suggest that this is something that might only happen in this case, nor do I want to suggest that it has happened. I have no way of knowing whether or not that is the case. Knowing something of the members of the committee, I am sure that they are too strong-minded to let this happen. However, I have seen it happen in other contexts, where a committee, particularly a chair, charged with scrutiny of an organisation becomes so attached to that organisation that he or she tends to defend it rather than look critically at it.
Baroness Hamwee: I am saying that the committee should consider whether there is a reason not to hold a meeting in public. My approach to this would be to say that each move into closed session should be considered quite positively. I look at it the other way round; it is a different philosophy and I accept that.
I have provided in Amendment 14—these are probing amendments—that a determination could be made to apply to more than one meeting. I cannot believe, given the committee’s obligation to the public, that every meeting should be held privately unless there is a good reason to hold it in public. As I say, it is a difference in philosophy. Amendment 14 is, as I say, probing, and I accept that a decision could be taken to cover more than one meeting.
Amendment 15 is rather different. I think that there is a place for something like a public question time. The noble Baroness’s amendment suggests annual hearings with the heads of the agencies and the Secretary of State, and I think that that is a good idea. In both of our amendments, we suggest that the public should have a hand in setting the agenda of the committee. I beg to move.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 17 and then perhaps say something about Amendment 15. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, might have misunderstood our intention in Amendment 17, because I think that our intention differs very much from hers in Amendment 15. Amendment 17 is essentially, as she said, intended to probe the idea of public hearings. This idea has had a mixed response in your Lordships’ House in both today’s debate and earlier debates. What is vitally important is that the public should have confidence in the system of oversight of our intelligence and security
services. I think that that has been quite clear in the early amendments to the structure and kind of committee that we are seeking. As has also been previously mentioned, the ISC itself has admitted that reform is needed urgently. One of the areas of reform that it stresses is the need to improve public confidence in its work and in its ability to function as a strong and independent check on the work of the intelligence community. Just as we would say that justice does not just need to be done, it must also be seen to be done, the scrutiny role of independent checks and balances does not just have to be done, it must also be seen to be done in order to create public confidence. I have to say to the Minister that, looking at the legislation before us, I do not think that the Government have given enough thought to the role that visibility can play in building up that kind of public confidence.
We have heard mixed responses to the public hearings held in the United States by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence with the heads of the intelligence community. Those hearings in public session—many of them televised—are a significant aspect of this issue and have produced some important public admissions by the agencies’ heads. However, I think that there is a risk of them being seen as stage-managed, as we heard earlier from the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian.
We have to recognise that a large part of the committee’s work involves hearing evidence of a highly sensitive nature that cannot safely be publicly disclosed. However, it is important to move towards a system where public hearings are considered not automatic but more routine. I do not go quite as far as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, although I think that we are going in the same direction, as I do believe that such hearings should be accepted more and be more routine. Therefore, Amendment 17 would expressly provide for the ISC to hold public hearings where it is judged that there is no significant risk of the disclosure of sensitive information, as defined by the Bill, or information that risks undermining the interests of national security. The noble Lord keeps chastising me for the wording of the amendment but I hope that he understands the theme that we are putting forward here. In effect, the amendment sets the same threshold for judging the risk of the disclosure of information in public hearings as the Bill does for the disclosure of information to the committee.
Perhaps a more appropriate set of conditions could be used here to ensure that public hearings do not lead to the jeopardising of our national security or of the work of the intelligence services. That is something that I would be happy to discuss. However, it is the principle of routine public hearings that we are trying to establish with this amendment. Similarly, annual public hearings with the heads of the intelligence services, as provided for in Amendment 17, would, as they do in the United States, send a very public signal about the accountability of our intelligence community to Parliament through the ISC.
hearings should be automatic. However, I am slightly curious about Amendment 15 and the suggestion of a public question time. I wonder whether that would change the role of the ISC. It seems to me that its role is very specific—that of oversight of the intelligence community and intelligence agencies—and I am not sure what would be gained by putting its members into the public eye, with them being questioned by the public, as I think is the noble Baroness’s intention. I should have thought that public confidence would be achieved by members of the Intelligence and Security Committee being seen to do their job robustly and ensuring proper scrutiny and oversight of the intelligence community. This seems to be more about oversight and scrutiny of the intelligence committee by the public, although I should have thought that that was a job for Parliament rather than for the public. I should be interested to hear the noble Lord’s comments on the amendments.
“the ISC shall meet in public save when it determines that members of the public shall be excluded”.
I think that that would put the fear of God into the agencies and I am afraid it would create a climate of suspicion which the committee does not deserve. I am not saying that it should not meet in public on occasion, as I shall explain in a minute, but putting words such as that into the Bill would be very unpopular within the agency. It needs to have confidence that Parliament is able to handle the material with the necessary safeguards.
In a curious way, there may be something in that amendment. I remember—and the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, may recall—that we did occasionally meet in public. After the Mitrokhin inquiry, we invited journalists in to ask us questions. Therefore, in a way, the structure is there to do it. The question is: what is on the agenda? I can foresee circumstances in which there may well be an item of some controversy or just a general report where the committee may want to meet in public, and the public—basically, journalists—ask questions. However, Ministers may want to ponder over the exact wording of the amendment.
reasons of national security, might send a hare running in the media which gets completely out of control. Although I accept that there are conditions in which the public or journalists should be able to ask questions, we have to be very careful about witnesses who might be called before the committee in those circumstances but who might feel that they cannot answers the questions in open session. The reason that parliamentary Select Committees meet in private is to avoid those very problems.
The Marquess of Lothian: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly to say that there is nothing to prevent the ISC in its present form holding public hearings. Indeed, the Prime Minister in the previous Government, Gordon Brown, called on the committee to hold public hearings, and we have been looking very closely at ways in which this can be done. Therefore, there is nothing in Amendment 17 that I find very difficult because, first, there is the principle and, secondly, the restrictions on it which would be required for any public hearing.
However, following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has just said, the first point to bear in mind is that a public hearing should not end up as a farce in which, because of the subject matter, every significant question that is asked is answered by the famous phrase, “I can’t answer that question”. The credibility of the committee would suffer very quickly if we went down that road. Secondly, it has to be an honest process. We cannot have a subject which is so anodyne and so completely rehearsed that in the end the public see through it. That, again, would be to the disadvantage of the committee.
We are looking closely, whether under this Bill or even before the Bill goes through, at whether we can identify subjects that are of genuine public interest and where the agencies or the sponsoring Ministers will feel able to answer at least the majority of the questions. We are looking at holding a public hearing in which the members of the committee, in its normal form, ask the questions and the answers are given. I think that that is slightly different from the sort of press conference to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, referred, which we have also undertaken on a number of occasions. This would be a case of the committee asking questions of the agencies, which is, after all, the true role of the committee.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I shall take together all the amendments that deal with how the ISC can interface more clearly with the public. I listened with interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and I wondered whether her view on the meetings in public and the hearings that might subsequently be held in public, which is raised in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, is that those would be televised as well. This is an option in Select Committees, and hearings that are held in public will presumably be open to television coverage.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I did not hear what the noble Lord said as he turned away from the microphone. Will the noble Lord repeat what his concern was because we missed it on these Benches? I did not hear what his objection was.
Lord King of Bridgwater: The point was that it may be decided to hold some proceedings in public which presumably would be televised as well. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, referred to a point that I was also going to refer to. The annual appearance of what was previously the ISC was the publication of the annual report. We used to have a press conference after that and it was televised and open to all the journalists. Of course there could be an inquiry of one sort or another that came outside the annual cycle. The classic illustration of that was Mr Mitrokhin and the Mitrokhin report. I have a copy of the press release that we put out on 13 June 2000 on the Mitrokhin report.
It is interesting about pushing back the boundaries. This is pervasive and accepted by the Government in the whole concept of the initial clauses of this Bill on the wider remit that has grown for the ISC. The committee agreed to conduct this inquiry on the understanding that it would have access to all the relevant documents, including advice given to Ministers as well as evidence from key witnesses. We were given this access. This was never included in the original Bill and was an illustration of the way in which the committee gradually covered a wider area and had greater access. The idea that the committee hides away in private and is not prepared to appear in public is not right.
“may decide to hold some of its proceedings in public, subject to sub-paragraph (2)”.
That is the whole problem. As the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, who has now joined us as a former member of the committee, said, if you have an effective committee with effective questioning, where may it lead? If you are discussing serious issues, you cannot be sure at the start of it. You may have started out with a wonderful public agenda but things may emerge in the evidence that make it thoroughly undesirable at that stage that it is held in public. I was trying to think what the issues are because I was myself in favour of trying to see whether the committee could have the occasional public meeting, not as an obligation and having to explain each time why it was not having it in public, but just to show that there are issues, that it is an effective committee and that it could hold the heads of the agencies to account.
One of the problems when we started was that the heads of the agencies did not always want to appear in public and have their faces too easily recognisable. That situation changed and the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, was an exception. She was extremely
good at bringing a more public face to the essential activities of MI5. I wondered about the sort of subjects on which we could see the committee in action. One of them might be recruitment for the Security Service: the issue of whether it is recruited from too narrow a sector of society, the efforts that the agency is making to recruit across a wider section of community, the importance of diversity, and the importance of access to a wider range of languages and of being involved with and recruiting from all sections of our multicultural society, which is so important at the present time. That is the sort of issue—I got a small nod as I said this—that I thought could be handled in a public hearing.
I would like to have had a public hearing on the accommodation arrangements of GCHQ and our criticisms of the control of that project. This was one of the biggest scandals that we uncovered during our time in Government, where the estimate for the expenditure on the new facility in Cheltenham, the donut, which is now well photographed, rocketed beyond an initial brave estimate of £20 million and ended up closer to £220 million. Issues of accommodation are perhaps relevant, although you can get bogged down in all sorts of tabloid sensations. One of the accommodation issues was the cost of the trees on the balcony of SIS and who was paying for those. The committee has to be careful not to get bogged down—we always took this view—in chasing the individual tabloid shock-horror story of the week and to concentrate instead on the issues that are of fundamental importance.
There is a real difficulty in trying to say that in principle the hearings should be in public. My noble friend Lord Lothian illustrated to those who were not at the earlier session what happened with the Senate Intelligence Committee and how it was a put-up job with planted questions and planted answers because that was all it felt safe to handle in public. I do not think that helps credibility and it looks as though the committee is just part of the conspiracy.
I do not support the idea that in principle there should be public hearings and that the committee should explain why if they are not, which is the theme of these amendments. Public confidence is best achieved by taking the opportunity where possible for a public hearing and showing the sort of way that the committee operates but not having it as a presumption in every case.
Baroness Manningham-Buller: I am pleased to hear from the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, that the committee is currently thinking of whether there are ways that some things could be held in public because I think it is the case that there are issues—the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, suggested some—that could conceivably be considered in public without any danger to national security. Having said that, I would also say that, whenever I gave evidence to the committee, on practically all occasions I was discussing secret information and very often top secret information. Therefore, the time that you could have an open hearing would be very restricted indeed. On whether this would improve public confidence, it would be narrow so it might or might not. However, if the committee is thinking that way, that is welcome.
Lord Henley: My Lords, we have three amendments in this group, all of which are concerned with the ISC meeting in public and how that should operate. I appreciate the concerns behind the amendments but similarly I have a number of concerns about the idea of creating any formal power and, in the case of annual hearings, a duty to hold public hearings. I am sympathetic to the noises made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, when in relation to Amendment 14 he suggested it might put the fear of God into some of the agencies involved to see such an amendment down.
Perhaps I may go back through the history of these matters to set things in context. In The Governance of Britain Green Paper of 2007, a series of reform proposals were made aimed at bringing the ISC as far as possible in line with other Select Committees. One proposal was for some hearings of the ISC to be structured to allow unclassified evidence to be heard in open session. However, as Members of the Committee will know, those sessions did not happen with any frequency. As my noble friend Lord Lothian pointed out, the committee has the power to have open sessions if it so wishes.
Building on this, the Justice and Security Green Paper stated that while the ISC’s meetings would still as a rule have to take place in private, both the Government and the committee were committed to the concept of public evidence sessions where these could be held without compromising national security or the safety of individuals. The Bill does not need to include a specific provision to enable public evidence sessions. Both the existing ISC, created by the 1994 Act, and the ISC that is provided for in the Bill have the power to determine their own procedures. That is sufficient for these purposes. In this way, there is very little difference between the position in the Bill and that proposed by the noble Baroness, and for that matter by Amendment 17. The crucial difference from Amendment 14 is that we do not start with the default position that sessions must be in public unless certain conditions are met.
There are very significant practical issues that must be addressed before public evidence sessions can take place. As I am sure the Committee will appreciate, introducing public evidence sessions for a committee that will in the vast majority of its work be concerned with very sensitive and highly classified information will be very challenging. The Government are in discussion with the committee and remain committed to making this work in practice—for instance, on issues such as appropriate subject matter, timing and having appropriate safeguards against unauthorised disclosure of sensitive information. I have already argued that the work of the ISC must be done largely in private. As only a very small amount of the evidence that it hears, whether written or oral, is unclassified, the default position suggested in Amendment 14 that it should meet in public is neither appropriate nor practical.
On Amendment 15 there are a number of different models for what could be considered a public question time. In one model, members of the public could ask questions directly to members of the ISC on their oversight role. That format is sometimes used in local government. Naturally it is in everyone’s interests that there is an understanding among members of the public of the ISC and the valuable function that it
performs. However, the Government have concerns that a question time of the nature suggested by Amendment 15 would pose significant risks and would be ultimately unworkable. Again we make it clear that the committee has access to extremely sensitive intelligence information, public disclosure of which could cause significant damage to national security. Therefore, the way it operates will inevitably be different from that of departmental Select Committees, and it must not necessarily be conducted in public. I hope that that explanation will satisfy my noble friend Lady Hamwee on her Amendments 14 and 15.
On Amendment 17, I appreciate that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, was probing. The answers that I gave on what we want to do following the 2007 Green Paper and the more recent one indicate that where possible we would like openness in order to allow public confidence in the committee to be maintained and enhanced. However, it is not necessary to go down the route suggested by the noble Baroness in her amendment. As I made clear, it is available to the ISC to do that should it so wish. Of course, we will continue to have discussions with the committee about the most appropriate manner in which to deal with that. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw Amendment 14.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful for that response and for the comments made around the Committee. Of course I accept that there is nothing to prevent public proceedings, and what we have heard about the direction in which the committee is moving is very welcome. However, I felt that it was important to raise the issue in order to indicate what Parliament will expect in future. On the query about televising proceedings, I suppose that it is almost inevitable in this day and age. If proceedings are to be in public, what are the mechanisms for making them so? However, I accept the implicit point that that raises issues.
On the issue of question time, as the Minister said, there are a number of models for questioning the committee or the agencies. I am not entirely sure that there is an absolutely clear demarcation line between the two. One can imagine members of the public asking committee members why they had not asked about something. Perhaps it is a muddy area. The title “question time” can mean different things to different people. I accept that it might raise the wrong expectations. Nevertheless, it is a flavour of where work should be heading.
We have heard examples of possible subjects that might be covered. Some—perhaps not all—financial arrangements of the agencies, along with some aspects of the administration, might also be dealt with in public. The example of recruitment was very interesting. That would be a matter of broad public interest and I hope that it could be pursued. Of course, planted questions and answers are not enough, but are they not sometimes better than nothing? People will have different views on that.
very live, but whether it is an issue for legislation is perhaps a different matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(i) the Head of the Security Service;
(ii) the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service;
(iii) the Head of the Government Communication Headquarters; and
(iv) such other persons as the Prime Minister may direct.”
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, if I have not caused apoplexy so far, I will with this amendment. I have absolutely no expectation that the Government will be minded to accept the notion of confirmatory hearings. However, I tabled the amendment because we do not have to go the way of the United States. There are more and more examples in the UK of confirmatory hearings. They do not necessarily come with a veto—in fact, there are probably no hearings where a veto is granted to the examining committee. However, holding sessions where a nominee for a position can be questioned so that the public know what they are getting in the prospective appointee is part of opening up services to public understanding as well as addressing issues of accountability.
I mentioned the Greater London Authority earlier. I will not draw too many comparisons between the organisations, but confirmatory hearings of mayoral appointments were introduced just after I stood down from the GLA. I watched one of them on what I believe is called a narrowcast on the web and it was absolutely fascinating—not just the questions but the whole experience. One could tell so much from the body language of the person who was being questioned. I thought that it was a very useful session. This is not even in hope, let alone expectation, but I do not want to think that we have to do things exactly as the United States does or discard them because of that experience.
Baroness Hamwee: I suppose it had been in my mind for the reason that I gave about public understanding. The noble Lord raises a very interesting point as to whether one should look at this as not a public exercise. That would raise different and very interesting issues, and perhaps fruitful ones. I am sorry I did not go there in my comments. I beg to move.
carry out this function, which in many ways I have great sympathy with. If we had had the opportunity when I was a member of the committee to interview proposed heads of the agencies prior to them taking over responsibility for the agencies, it would have been helpful to the committee. In so far as it had not been in public, no damage would have been done. Certainly we would have been able to make our concerns or satisfaction known to the agency, and during the questioning of the proposed appointee we could have raised subjects that would have given us, certainly in one case, a little more reassurance than perhaps I felt I had when the particular person was appointed. I think there is merit in this amendment as long as the hearings are in private.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, the issues that have been raised are the very ones that I listened to the noble Baroness to hear as she moved her amendment and to try to see what the aim was. Her amendment does not mention public or private, although in her original comments she spoke of public hearings. It was not until the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, intervened that she conceded that there could be private hearings, which have more value than a public hearing would. I am no wiser and very interested to hear what the Minister has to say. I assume that he will accept the principle. My favourite bedtime reading, the coalition agreement, includes a specific commitment to strengthen the powers of Select Committees to scrutinise major public appointments. I should have thought that this comes under the remit of a major public appointment. The noble Baroness might have done the House a service to tease out whether the Government intend to honour that part of the coalition agreement.
Lord Henley: The noble Baroness is right: there was that commitment. She also knows that pre-appointment hearings are a relatively new phenomenon. Since 2008, Select Committees have conducted pre-appointment hearings for a number of posts, and there is Cabinet Office guidance on the process and on who should be heard. The important thing to note about the list of pre-appointment posts is that the posts concern public bodies, such as the chair of Ofcom and the chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee. The most recent one that my department had an interest in was Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. There is no suggestion that the pre-appointment process has been used to appoint civil servants. Indeed, the noble Baroness is not suggesting that before appointment each Permanent Secretary should go before the appropriate Select Committee.
servants of such seniority. I could go through the details of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, but I can give an assurance that they are exempt from that. They will necessarily follow the spirit of the civil servant recruitment principles, which we consider to be the best process. We do not consider it to be the appropriate mechanism for recruitment to public bodies, whether the process is conducted in public or in private. It might be appropriate for the other posts that I mentioned but not for the public bodies that we are talking about.
Lord King of Bridgwater: I apologise to the Minister for intervening, as he has been extremely co-operative with the Committee in every respect. It seems to me that, on the whole principle of this pre-appointment hearing—we left open the question about public or private hearings—it is an important asset for the person about to be appointed if he has a successful hearing before the committee. It reinforces his position at the start of his work if the principle is accepted elsewhere.
We then have the argument about Crown servants and their exact role, and we go through a range of bodies, including Ofcom. I do not even know what Ofcom’s position is—whether it is in government or outside it—and exactly what its relationship is. However, I think that the principle of holding hearings has merit, and—to use a phrase I have used before—I have a feeling that they will come.
Lord Henley: I am afraid that on this occasion I have to disagree with my noble friend. There it is quite a distinction between Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary or the chair of the Social Security Advisory Service on the one hand and, for that matter, the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office or the Permanent Secretary of any other department on the other. We suggest that the heads of the intelligence and security agencies fit in more appropriately with that later group rather than with the former group.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am not clear whether the Minister is saying that they fit in with that group or that they are exempt under the legislation, which he mentioned. Either way, process moves forward. It is not so very long ago that we did not have the Nolan principles, but they are completely accepted now. I, too, think that this may come, although it may not come in the Justice and Security Act 2012. However, we are in Committee, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
“( ) arrange for it to be made available to advisers to the ISC who are the subject of specific security clearance who may then advise the ISC with regard to the information including providing written material in redacted form,”
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, Amendment 18, in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Thomas, is the first in quite a large group. We have other amendments in the group, as does the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and they are all about access to information.
Amendment 18 would provide for advisers to the ISC with the right security clearance to be able to have access to information. It was suggested to me by someone who was at one point a member of the ISC and who thought that it would make the process a great deal easier if some of the committee’s own advisers had that clearance and could go into the agencies and do the work that was necessary. That goes to the independence of the ISC.
The other amendments are all about accessing information when it is a necessity. If the committee is to carry out its proper role of scrutiny and to deter poor practice effectively, it should see what it wants, not what is given. Obviously others will have different views about that.
Paragraph 3(1)(b) allows the Secretary of State to determine whether information is not to be disclosed on one of the bases set out in paragraph 3(3), one of which is that the information is sensitive as defined in paragraph 4. I simply ask whether it is constitutionally appropriate for the Government to withhold access to documents which the committee considers necessary to hold the Government to account. A much happier situation would be to provide information but to be confident in the appointees and in restrictions on their using it. However, access to information is the point from which I start. I beg to move.
There is a constitutional principle that the Executive and every agency of government are accountable to Parliament. Parliament is supreme, not the Executive, and it is to Parliament that accountability must be made. If the ISC is to operate effectively and to act as a deterrent against malpractice, it should have the power to examine any document that is held by the security services. As my noble friend said, the ISC members will be nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by Parliament and, presumably, will be security-cleared to the necessary level. If they are to be limited in the documents that they can inspect by reason of the diktat of a Minister, as advised by the security services, there is a breach of constitutional principle. It is not appropriate for there to be legislation to prevent government accountability to Parliament by allowing Ministers to operate in that way.
Under the format of paragraph 3 of Schedule 1, the Director-General of the Security Service and others, if asked by the ISC to disclose any information, can arrange for it to be made available. However, they can also inform the ISC that the information cannot be disclosed because the Secretary of State has decided that it should not be disclosed—the decision of the
Secretary of State, presumably, being advised by the security services. Amendment 19 seeks to delete sub-paragraph (1)(b).
If the ISC asks a government department or any part of it to disclose information, the relevant Minister of the Crown—who, under sub-paragraph (5), may be any Minister—must arrange for that information to be made available in accordance with the memorandum of understanding or, as the Bill stands, inform the ISC that the information cannot be disclosed because the Minister of the Crown has decided that it should not be disclosed. Therefore Amendment 20 seeks to delete sub-paragraph (2)(b)
Under sub-paragraph (3), the Minister of the Crown can take the decision not to disclose only if he considers that it is sensitive information and information which, in the interests of national security, should not be disclosed to the ISC. So, again, presumably he is acting on the advice of the security services in coming to the conclusion as to whether it is sensitive information or as to what the interests of national security are.
“it is information of such a nature that, if the Minister were requested to produce it before a Departmental Select Committee of the House of Commons, the Minister would consider (on grounds which were not limited to national security)”.
The Secretary of State or Minister of the Crown can decide, either on the advice of the security services or on their own initiative, that the ISC is not very important and they can just say, “No, it cannot see this, even if it wants to. It will have to come to its conclusions simply on the documentation that I”—the Minister, acting on the advice of the security services—“think it should see”. Is that what the Bill is about? Is that its purpose? Are we debating the functions, procedures and the setting up of the ISC so that a Minister of the Crown, advised by the security services, can withhold information from it? It is constitutionally inappropriate and I firmly urge these amendments upon the Government.
“(b) it is information of such a nature that, if the Minister were requested to produce it before a Departmental Select Committee of the House of Commons, the Minister would consider (on grounds which were not limited to national security) it proper not to do so”.
such circumstances are. I have often wondered what would be the circumstances in which Ministers would take that action. Perhaps the Minister will give an explanation today.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, referred to decisions being taken on a whim. Now that that provision in paragraph 3(3) is be enshrined in the Bill and subsequently become law, we need something more substantial so that we know exactly what is intended by it.
“relevant Minister of the Crown”.
As the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said, we are not given an indication of who is to be involved. Are we talking about Parliamentary Under-Secretaries or Ministers of State? The noble Lord, Lord Henley, is, I understand, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary.
Lord Campbell-Savours: He is a Minister of State. Forgive me. However, the point is that for a long time he was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary and, in my view, if he had been in the House of Commons he would have been in the Cabinet. We are not merely talking about the quality of Ministers that we have here in the House of Lords; we are talking about some of the Ministers that we see at the Dispatch Box in the House of Commons. It would be an error of judgment to include in the Bill a provision which would give some of these Parliamentary Under-Secretaries in the House of Commons the power to block information being brought before the ISC. However, that is what I understand the Bill means to do. It means that any Minister, in any department, in any circumstances, could decide that information was not to be made available to the committee.
Why do I have concerns that go up even as far as Secretaries of State? I referred at Second Reading to a particular incident in the committee when the late Robin Cook—I am sorry that he is not here to answer me today—was, in my view, very obstructive before the Intelligence and Security Committee in that he did not want to have certain information brought before that committee. There was quite a discussion in the committee about the fact that he was resisting having that information made available. I quoted the example of the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, for whom I have great regard. Imagine the mindset of the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, in the early 1980s when he had it in for CND and all that, and giving him the responsibility or the power to decide, on his personal consideration, that this information, which the ISC wanted, should be denied to the Select Committee. I believe that it is wrong that Ministers should be in that position. Indeed, as I said at Second Reading, I would trust the heads of the agencies more than I trust Ministers.
For a start, many Ministers lack confidence in this area. As they would have very little experience of how the system works and what goes on inside the agencies, their experience of the agencies may be far less that that of even members of the committee, yet they are to be given the right to decide whether information is to
be blocked. It might well be that a junior Minister, lacking confidence, would be unwilling to take a decision to provide information, or allow information to be provided, for career considerations. He or she might worry that by providing that information and taking that risk, because they had not had that experience, they might be damaging their own career prospects. They may well simply be unable to quantify the risk on the basis of their very limited experience and, furthermore, some Ministers might simply make a straight political judgment about whether information should be made available to the committee. That is the very area about which I think considerations should not be made.
I have concerns and I do not believe that Ministers should be involved in this process at all. We go back to my very controversial model, which I put to the House at Second Reading—I put it in the same way that I put the argument for Select Committee status in 1998 and 1999. At that time it was simply ruled out of the question, so I recognise that it will probably be regarded as out of the question today, but I put forward the model that I put forward at Second Reading. First, the ISC should have Select Committee status. Secondly, the chair should be decided by the approval of the Prime Minister, not election by the committee. Thirdly, the chairman should be the critical person in this process.
The chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee should have unrestricted access to all operational material within the agency on operations that have taken place. The chairman should be in a privileged position in the committee and it should be for him to decide whether information should be made available to the committee. That is why I do not want election of the chair. I want the Prime Minister to pick the chair, because I believe that the Prime Minister will know exactly who is capable of handling the material and deciding on the circumstances in which the membership of the committee is given access to the information. I would have—I have to be very careful how I phrase this—trusted the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgewater, to take that decision on my behalf, as a member of that committee, long before I would have trusted Labour Ministers, who might not have had the experience that he had gained as chairman of the committee.
It is a very serious area and what we are doing now, by going down this route and letting the politicians decide what information gets through, will create problems for the future which we may well regret. In other words, my answer is very simple: keep the Ministers out of it. Let the agencies influence the chairman of the committee. Let them go to the chairman and say, “Chairman, we do not believe that this information should be made available”. If Ministers want to get involved they can go to the chairman and say, “Chairman, we do not believe that this information should be made available”; but give the chairman the final decision. The committee, in those circumstances, would have far more confidence in the arrangement for scrutiny of the services, et al, than is presently the case, or, indeed, will be the case under the provisions in the Bill.
Lord King of Bridgwater: I am getting very flattered by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I think that there is a real problem in this area and I do not quite understand the amendments tabled here. I certainly do not understand this business in the Bill about what would be before a departmental Select Committee,
“on grounds that were not limited to national security”.
I think that there is a point, though it may seem a bit extreme, in what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said. It may strike fear through all proper government structures that the suggestion should be left to the chairman of the committee. I think it is true that it is not just the chairman of the committee: initially, it is the heads of the agencies: they are the people who decide whether they wish to withhold information, then they have to make their case to the chairman.
This takes us into quite interesting country, because one of the arguments used in the past is, to whom are the heads of the agencies responsible? The answer is that they are responsible to the Prime Minister. That raises the question: how does a busy Prime Minister with a thousand problems on his plate really take direct ministerial involvement? One interesting study we did looked at the proposal—one or two members of the committee got quite interested in it—that there should be an intermediate Minister appointed who would have overall responsibility for the agencies at Minister of State level, answering to the Prime Minister. We thought that this was quite a good idea until we discovered that that was exactly what had happened in Germany. I do not remember the name of the Minister, but he became an intermediate and became carried away with his role in intelligence matters—he became a sort of super-M. At one stage he was flying to Iran and other places by private jet trying to negotiate the release of certain German hostages and other people. It had gone completely to his head and people suddenly realised that nobody had much control. One or two senior members of Her Majesty’s Civil Service pointed out the dangers of this role to the Prime Minister—one or two of them may be sitting here—saying that there were occasions when a previous Prime Minister thought that the intelligence agencies were out of control and trying to undermine him. Was it a good idea to pass this off to a junior Minister? The Prime Minister had better keep overall responsibility for it.
Having said all that, I think that there is an argument, for Ministers who are not—if it is the Prime Minister—entirely dependent on official advice on this, that a properly constituted, effective chairman will bear a heavy responsibility if he overrides the head of an agency and says that this information should be made public and then finds that it subsequently proves to be extremely damaging to national security. That would be enormously damaging not just to him or her personally, but, obviously, to the whole role of the ISC. On those grounds, it would not be an irresponsible chairman in this role; it would be somebody who, because of the involvement he has had already, over a period, with
the heads of the agencies, could probably be expected to take a more informed and responsible response to representations made by the heads of the agencies.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I shall be brief, as much of the subject matter has been covered already. I wish to speak to Amendments 21 and 23. The purpose of those two amendments is to ensure that the power to veto disclosure of departmental information can be exercised only by the Secretary of State and not by a Minister of the Crown. Paragraph 3(1)(b) of Schedule 1 requires that only the Secretary of State can decide that information required by the Intelligence and Security Committee can be withheld by the agencies. Moving down to paragraph 3(2)(b), in relation to other government departments, it appears that the Minister of the Crown can make that decision, which would appear to indicate, subject to the Minister’s response, that such a key decision can or would be made at a more junior level than Secretary of State in relation to disclosure of information in respect of a government department. If that is the case, no indication is given about a reason for that decision. Bearing in mind that withholding required information could thwart the Intelligence and Security Committee in its work to meet its statutory remit of strength and oversight of the intelligence and security activities of the Government, such a decision should be taken only at the highest ministerial and accountable level within the department concerned, namely, the Secretary of State. These amendments provide for that.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, perhaps I could briefly explain the problem that arises with the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It is very important that parliamentary committees are well informed. From time to time, under the previous Government and under the present one, the committee has considered inviting someone from the intelligence and security service to provide it with a proper context when it is considering something such as detention without trial for a long period or, for example, the Justice and Security Bill. Under the previous Government, when we tried, we were told that it would not be possible and, therefore, we were not given the benefit of that material. Therefore, we have not tried in relation to the Justice and Security Bill because we are certain that we would find the same refusal.
It seems to me that it ought to be possible for the intelligence and security service to assist a parliamentary committee, on whatever terms are needed, to protect its own position, whether giving evidence in private or in some other way because it is a real handicap. It means that when we produce reports, for example, on this Bill, we are deprived of information that would be very helpful. It makes us look as though we are looking at problems through one eye instead of both. I do not think that we should be put in blinkers. I mention this because it seems to be something that extends to committees other than the one that we are now considering.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, is waiting for some later amendments beyond Part 1, so I am sure that he will be here for the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I can advise the noble Lord, Lord Lester, that Amendment 37 is the one that he should stay for.
We have eight amendments in this group, which all deal with the power of Ministers to withhold information from the ISC. It might be helpful if I start by going back to where we are now. Currently, the agency heads can make a decision not to disclose information to the ISC on the basis that it is sensitive information which they consider it would be unsafe to disclose to the ISC. Information which agency heads consider should be withheld on this basis must, none the less, be disclosed if the Secretary of State considers disclosure to be desirable in the public interest. It is a matter for the agency heads, but the Secretary of State can order the disclosure if she thinks it is in the public interest.
The Justice and Security Bill removes the ability not to disclose from the agency heads; this will now rest solely with the appropriate Secretary of State according to specific conditions. Where the information in question is held by a government department, as opposed to the agencies, a Minister of the Crown—rather than a Secretary of State—will be able to withhold information on the same specific grounds applied to agency material. In other words, the Bill makes the decision on withholding information from the ISC one exclusively for democratically accountable representatives.
In passing, I shall deal with the question about Ministers of the Crown, rather than Secretaries of State, being referred to in paragraph 3. This is purely to deal with the question of the Cabinet Office, which noble Lords will be aware does not have a Secretary of State. Therefore, it would be down to one of two Ministers in the Cabinet Office to make that decision. If noble Lords look at paragraph 3(5), they will see that the,
“‘relevant Minister of the Crown’”,
“identified, for the purposes of requests of that description, in a memorandum of understanding under section 2”.
I now turn to Amendment 18. It is appropriate to go through the amendments in slightly more detail. This will have the effect that if any of the three heads of the intelligence and security agencies are asked by the ISC to disclose any information then, as to the whole or any part of the information, that person may arrange for it to be made available to a security-cleared adviser to the ISC who may then provide advice to the ISC on the information, including written material in redacted form. It is worth stressing the importance of the provisions in the Bill governing when information may be withheld from the ISC. These powers will be used sparingly only in very exceptional circumstances. It is important that we retain those safeguards. The
ISC routinely sees very sensitive information, including that at the highest levels of classification. It would not be able to fulfil its oversight role if it did not. It is not clear from the amendment to whom the noble Baroness intends the term “advisers to the ISC” to apply. Does she have in mind the current staffing of the ISC or perhaps a completely new role? The type of material that a Secretary of State may decide cannot be shared with the ISC—a good example would be the names of agents—is likely to be of such a sensitive nature that, if the Secretary of State has made a judgment that it cannot be shared with the ISC, then it would not be possible to share it with “advisers to the ISC” either.
We should also think about the practical difficulties posed by an amendment of this nature. That is Amendment 18. The amendment is likely to lead to circumstances where an adviser to the ISC has access to information which he or she cannot share with the ISC. This could place the adviser concerned in an impossible position of conflict of interest. When next called on to advise the ISC, that person may know information relevant to the advice that he or she is being asked to give, which, because they cannot share it with the ISC, they have to try to put out of their mind. If harm to national security can be avoided by providing information requested in a redacted form, then the existing provisions of the Bill oblige the agencies to provide it in that form; that is the effect of including the words,
“or any part of the information”,
in paragraph 3(1) of Schedule 1. I hope that describing the way in which the ISC and its secretariat presently operate assists the Committee and explains why the Government resist Amendment 18. In short, the amendment seems to contemplate an intermediate level between disclosure to the ISC and non-disclosure, which I hope I have shown, in practice, does not usefully exist.
The effect of Amendments 19 and 20 would be that the Government would never be able to withhold information from the ISC, whether it is held by the agencies or a government department. As I have already said, the powers to withhold information in the Intelligence Services Act 1994 have been used very rarely in the past, and we would expect the equivalent powers in the Bill also to be used sparingly, and only in exceptional circumstances. However it is important that those safeguards are retained. In particular, although the ISC will clearly be a body that sees a great deal of very sensitive material, there will be circumstances in which it is not appropriate for even the ISC to see that information on the grounds of national security. For example, there may sometimes be information that is so sensitive that national security demands that it be shared only with a small number of people within the agencies, let alone with the ISC. This is why the sensitive information ground for withholding information is expressed in the Bill in the way it is. It is not enough that the information is sensitive; it must be in the interests of national security for that sensitive information not to be disclosed to the ISC.
If we had retained the status quo, leaving a veto with the agency heads, I am sure noble Lords would have brought forward other amendments on this point. Our intention is to provide the appropriate additional checks and balances to ensure that information is withheld from the committee only in exceptional circumstances.
I move on to the effect of the fifth amendment, Amendment 28, which would be to remove paragraph 4 of Schedule 1, which defines sensitive information, and when information could be withheld from the committee on the basis that it is sensitive, for the purposes of the provisions of the Bill. The definition of sensitive information set out there is essentially the same one that appears in the corresponding provisions of the current ISC legislation, the Intelligence Services Act 1994. As such, the definition has been relied upon for many years and is well understood by Ministers, the agencies and, not least, the committee. As it happens, the definition is quite narrow. Sensitive information is,
“information which might lead to the identification of, or provide details of, sources of information, other assistance or operational methods available to”,
the intelligence agencies. It may also be information about particular operations or it may be information provided by the Government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom where that Government does not consent to the disclosure of information. As I say, this is a relatively narrow definition. The intelligence and security agencies certainly hold information which does not fall into those categories which we might, in common parlance, describe as sensitive.
The second point to note about this definition is that even if information falls into the category of sensitive information, that is not sufficient under the Bill for a Minister to decline to disclose the information to the ISC. This is because, naturally, the ISC sees plenty of this type of sensitive information. Instead, under the Bill, the Minister may decline to disclose the sensitive information only where, in the interests of national security, it ought not to be disclosed.
With those assurances and that explanation, I hope that my noble friend Lady Hamwee will feel able to withdraw her amendment. I note the concern that she and others have expressed. In particular, I do not agree with the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, but we will no doubt have other opportunities to debate that at a later stage. I hope I have also dealt with what he sees as the pressing problem of allowing junior Ministers such as me occasionally to make these decisions in the absence of a Secretary of State, by explaining that it refers only to Ministers of State in the Cabinet Office. With that, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the Minister, who has been the subject of the many compliments flowing from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, today, has given us quite a lot of material to think about. He has certainly given me some ideas about better drafting
for my Amendment 18. Given the number of noble Lords who are here not to discuss this issue, I will do no more than end with a question. I am not sure that I expect the Minister to respond to it immediately. Under this paragraph, would a decision by the relevant Minister of the Crown—leaving aside the rank or position of that Minister—be judicially reviewable? Clearly it would have to be shown to be unreasonable and how one does that I do not know. Is this an administrative decision that would fall within the ambit of judicial review? The Minister is going to dare to respond.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am not going to dare to respond. I am saying that there are a lot of very noble and learned Lords in this House and a lot of Members who are not necessarily noble and learned but know a great deal of law. I do not know the answer to that. I had better write to the noble Baroness. I am sure she will have a response before Report.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, before I resume the House, I will cover a bit of housekeeping relating to the next debate in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. I remind noble Lords that, with the exception of the noble Earl and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, all speeches are limited to three minutes because this is a time-limited debate. I remind all noble Lords participating this evening that when the Clock hits three minutes, I am afraid that is a signal that time is up. Those who have a television background should maybe think of their Whip tonight as a floor manager—they will stand between you and the camera if they need to.
The Earl of Clancarty: My Lords, the first thing I would like to do is warmly congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, on his new job and wish him all the very best on the Front Benches. I know that this will be a particular treat for him as he takes an interest in both the arts and sport.
The Cultural Olympiad—as the Arts Council points out, the product of sustained investment over the last 20 years—is currently a great opportunity to celebrate in the UK artists and the arts from across the world. But there is considerable concern that, with no end to the cuts in sight, the long-term future for the cultural sector looks increasingly uncertain.
It may be self-evident that the arts are produced by artists, yet there remains the requirement, in the long term, for a more artist-enabling policy including individual artists and companies, such as theatre companies, even if this is not the whole story of the arts and the cultural sector. A distinction does now need to be drawn between artists and the creative industries as defined by last year’s Demos report Risky Business, to which Ed Vaizey wrote an approving introduction, and which I referred to last November in the creative industries debate but is worth reiterating in an arts debate:
“We define the creative industries as businesses that ultimately seek to make a profit through the sale of something that is based on an original creative idea, and the surrounding businesses that enable this”.
The point here is that this is a significantly narrower definition of creative industries than the one which the previous Administration used and which was more encompassing of all artistic production. The arts by motivation are not primarily or ultimately a business, although at times they may have much to do with business; they are not an add-on but an integral part of the way in which society criticises and communicates with itself and other cultures.
Some say the arts need “to get real” in difficult times. But it will be unrealistic in the long run to shoehorn all the arts and creative industries alike into a business model that will not only be ultimately ineffective but inappropriate for much of the arts and the cultural sector.
The assessment of risk and more objective evaluation exercises are some of the strategies which have already been introduced into the arts, but—as the actress Julie Walters recently pointed out, as others have before her—failure and experimentation are part of the very nature of artistic practice, and we tamper with those aspects at our peril. I know from my own experience of local arts centres and services outside London that the network of services for the visual arts, music and theatre is not only already being thinned out but what remains is, out of necessity, becoming more commercialised, with, little by little, less room for innovation.
The great irony is that while the funding of individual artists, companies and organisations inevitably carries risk, the large-scale financial support of the arts sector as a whole is not only risk-free but of massive benefit to society, artistically and economically, and could make a significant contribution to kick-starting growth. However, I believe that this can only properly—that is, most efficiently—be achieved through public funding, because you need to support the grass roots as well as the mainstream, because philanthropy will only ever target the most prestigious organisations, and has a metropolitan bias.
For two years, the arts establishment has been patient and felt that it should wait its turn in the queue. But this is a false situation. The same government policy of ideologically driven public funding cuts is cutting back on state allowances, benefits, libraries, museums and symphony orchestras alike. The most devastating news last week was the prediction by the Local Government Association that a shortfall of £16.5 billion would mean an almost complete eradication of funding at the local level of arts and cultural services, including libraries, by 2020 unless there is a radical change in policy.
I will now turn to some specific issues. I have made the argument that the arts are distinct from the creative industries as now defined in that a financial goal is not the prime objective for the majority of artists and artists’ companies. At the same time central government needs to protect and encourage proper payment for artists in all disciplines, and on all occasions, as for any working person. This is part of the provision of a space in which the artist can operate and work.
There are numerous long-term concerns facing artists with regard to income, royalties and copyright, although a distinction in kind needs to be made between the protection of artists’ work and the obsessive protection of copyrighted logos such as the Olympic rings and London 2012, which has proved to be the most distasteful form of corporate bullying. For authors, among other issues, there is the concern about the public lending right, which ought to extend in practice to audio books and e-books, as provided for in the Digital Economy Act 2010.
There is also the question of proper royalties for visual artists. The upper threshold on which royalties administered by the Design and Artists Copyright Society are based is €11,500 for an artwork, irrespective of the sale price above that, a price set specifically to help the art trade. But there is a concern over a desire in some quarters to raise the current lower sale threshold from €1,000 to €3,000, which would affect many artists whose income is not high. I hope that the Minister can say that the Government will resist this and affirm their support for artists.
In the wider cultural sphere, on libraries, Ed Vaizey has queried the figure of 600 libraries under threat that I gave during Oral Questions last month, saying that this is simply a figure bandied around by the media. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals produced that figure. If I am at fault, it is in not realising quite how many libraries have already closed recently. Some of the 600 will be among the 122 that have closed in the single financial year 2011-12, according to the Public Libraries News website, which lists every single one of them. This independent website run by librarian Ian Anstice is certainly a much better source of information than the DCMS, which is not keeping a close enough eye on the situation, even though it is the Secretary of State who, under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, has the power to intervene. A library professional tells me that the figure of 600 threatened if the present cuts continue will soon be, in his words, “a gross underestimation”. For Ed Vaizey to say, as he did in his speech on 28 June at the Future of Library Services
conference, that the libraries are “thriving” when many now have staff shortages and greatly reduced opening hours, suggests to me a Government in denial about the huge problems that libraries face.
On free admission to the national museums, I am very glad that last week the Evening Standard reversed its position. It now supports free admission and I hope that the Government will continue to maintain a policy that is so successful and popular with the public.
I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, will devote her speech to the hugely important area of arts education, which at school level should properly include both old and new technologies. I will just say that the EBacc still does not contain an art and design element.
The Cultural Olympiad is a festival of cultural exchange, so important for the long-term development of British art, and a real opportunity for sharing ideas between artists of different countries and cultures. It is good that the UKBA has been working closely with the Cultural Olympiad in facilitating the admission of the many visiting artists. I thank the Government and the UKBA for introducing the permitted paid engagements scheme outside the points-based system, which started in April and goes some way to answering some of the concerns around visiting artists. However, it is not perfect and significant improvements should be made. The one-month maximum time for a visit is too short. That artists should be full-time is simply not realistic; visual artists, poets and concert pianists, for example, have jobs in related or other areas that inform their work as artists and one paid engagement per visit is too limiting. It is also important that the details of the scheme are made more widely known both externally and internally, especially to front-line staff.
It is normally the Home Office that answers questions on this issue, but I wanted to raise what is primarily an arts matter in an arts debate. The DCMS should be taking a lead on these issues, and indeed the current Artists International Development Fund, jointly administered by the Arts Council and the British Council, may be very helpful to British artists’ career development.
Arts administrators are full of ideas about negotiating these difficult times, although public funding that addresses core functions and the day-to-day running of services is what is most urgently required. There is no more unhelpful cliché than that “the arts are resilient, they will survive”. The kind of government we have has a significant effect on the nature of our arts culture. A Government can be either a friend or a foe to the arts. The current reality is that government policy is causing companies to fold and hampering particularly young and emerging artists from carrying out their work effectively. I also believe that we in Parliament and certainly those in government are directing too much attention towards a more powerful centre and big business, when artists and those working in the arts and the cultural sector elsewhere are being neglected. In the long term this must change for the good of a thriving arts culture throughout the UK.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for raising this debate and for his remarkably concise gallop through all the issues that I hope this debate will eventually cover. It is particularly timely because we are in the middle of what must be the biggest cultural festival this country has ever seen. For that, we are of course greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hall, and his colleague Ruth Mackenzie—although if I were in the Minister’s position at this moment, I would be doing my best to claim every bit of credit I could lay my hands on.
I have a couple of points for the Minister to consider, if he would. First, as has already been raised by the noble Earl, what has nourished the energy and creativity that we see now is steady, sustained investment, not just of funds but of political support and recognition. Today, even in sadly depleted economic circumstances, the arts and culture are among our greatest strengths, not least in their contribution to GDP. We should celebrate that strength, and the people who create and support it.
The second lesson is that our success comes not only because we are exceptionally rich in talented artists, which we are, but because those artists are supported by, and in many cases are leading, highly entrepreneurial businesses within which public funds, though absolutely crucial—and I stress that—are by no means the only or even the main source of income. I am sorry if that offends the noble Earl, but I think it is important. The tired old tropes about how the arts need to be more businesslike, which we still hear all too often, are way out of date. These are modern, sophisticated businesses managing substantial risk with great skill and led by people of imagination, commitment, financial acumen and integrity—and I am afraid that I have to mention the noble Lord, Lord Hall, again because he is one of them. Can we say as much for some other, allegedly more businesslike sectors? I think not.
What can government do? I hope that the Minister has listened carefully to what the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, has just told us. The Government should keep up the investment, because the return is excellent; trust the practitioners; encourage local authorities; maintain a strong Arts Council led by people who know what they are talking about and let them get on with nurturing this highly successful sector from the ground up; and above all, have the courage to speak up unambiguously for the arts, whatever the public mood. Sometimes public taste has to be led, not followed. I hope that the Minister agrees and that he will be sharing with the House at the end of this debate a strategy for the arts and culture that gets behind success and gives it a hearty shove. I can promise him that the political dividend will be worth working for.
cuts for video games, animation and high-level television production sectors, but obviously those need people who are skilled. The
report drew attention to the fact that the way that ICT is being taught in schools is too narrow. So Michael Gove’s announcement in January that the current programme of study for ICT will be withdrawn in September, and that e-skills UK is creating a brand new GCSE which has computer science at its core, is excellent news. IT is a very male world—only 17% of the workforce is female—so the fact that e-skills UK has recently relaunched Computer Clubs for Girls is a very good thing too.
However central the understanding of technology has become to the creative industries, these industries are still underpinned by creativity itself, and Darren Henley's review of cultural education is another crucial element in tackling the skills deficit. It debunks the pernicious idea that children are wasting their time by studying cultural subjects. I am glad to say that the Henley review has been greeted with enthusiasm by the Secretary of State for Education. In response, the coalition Government have committed to immediately addressing 10 of its recommendations, including setting up a cross-departmental board, a new national youth dance company, national art and design Saturday clubs and working with teaching schools to improve the quality of teacher training in this area—which is very important. What is very disappointing, however, is that the inclusion of culture as a mandatory, sixth strand of the English baccalaureate and design as a STEM subject is not on this list.
I chaired a Westminster Education Forum recently and spoke to a headmaster who said, “I have head teachers who are cutting subjects from their key stage 4 curriculum in order to feed into the EBacc. So now the school is saying that geography is in the EBacc, drama is not. We really recommend that you do geography”.
As a result of another report by Darren Henley, we have the excellent national plan for music education, and I would encourage the Secretary of State to achieve the same in cultural education by embracing the whole report.
Lord Hall of Birkenhead: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Earl on securing this debate three weeks into the London 2012 Festival, which is the best chance we have ever had to showcase the world-class nature of arts and culture in this country. I declare an interest as chair of the Cultural Olympiad board and chief executive of the Royal Opera House.
I would like to reflect a little on some of the things that we have learnt so far in respect of the festival. I remind noble Lords that there are 12,000 events featuring more than 25,000 leading artists from all 204 competing Olympic nations—no other country could do that. We wanted to attract the audiences. Some 80% of the audiences at Shakespeare’s Globe for “Globe to Globe”
performances were new attendees, and 44% of people who booked for the RSC’s World Shakespeare Festival performances at Stratford-upon-Avon were also new attendees.
We also wanted to enable as many people as possible to experience the festival for free, so we created 10 million free opportunities to take part—3 million of these have already been taken up. We should not underestimate the power of free; some 10,000 people attended the opening concert in Derry/Londonderry, and tens of thousands attended the BBC’s Hackney Weekend. We should reflect on this as we plan for the future: free can work.
In its first three weeks, the festival has inspired the “Today” programme’s “Thought for the Day” twice. I had not thought of that as being a target, but there we are. It is a good indicator, I guess, because both occasions showed off the values and importance of the festival and the Cultural Olympiad. The first “Thought for the Day” was inspired by the first ever visit of the conductor Gustavo Dudamel and his Simon Bolivar Orchestra to the social housing estate of Raploch, near Stirling, where children have been learning orchestral instruments under Sistema Scotland—the same system that produced Dudamel and his extraordinary orchestra. On a really wet night, but a brilliant night, it showed the power of sustained investment in musical education to reach places that other things simply do not reach. That is an essential part of any strategy for the arts going forward, and I very much hope that the Henley review will be committed to it with real resource for many years to come.
The second “Thought for the Day” was inspired by the concert of homeless people at the Royal Opera House, organised by Streetwise Opera. This is the first time that it has ever happened in an Olympic or Paralympic official festival and we were glad to have them there. It was as profoundly moving as the concert in Raploch. Again it sent out a strong message to the world about the values of this country and the importance of the arts to regenerate and inspire communities and individuals, and again it demonstrated the power of creativity to give confidence and to raise self-esteem. Both events illustrate the importance of the London 2012 Festival’s power to generate interest right around the world, as well as in the UK, and to show the world the value we place not just on the importance of art but on the importance of free artistic expression.
Lord Lloyd-Webber: I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for introducing this debate, and obviously I must declare my interests. I have spent every day of my working life in the creative sector and have been lucky enough to witness extraordinary home-grown talent across the board, from musicians and designers to actors, logistics specialists and even video providers. Every day I see how the ripples of a successful creative industry are wide-reaching and affect all aspects of our lives. We underestimate this at our peril.
There is a simple truth that should lie at the heart of this debate: Britain still leads the world in the creative industries. However, this leading role is dependent on a complicated and fragile amalgamation of heritage, culture and investment, particularly in education and opportunity—not to mention raw talent and government support for that raw talent. If austerity Britain ignores that fact, we will surely ignore the fact that Britain is a talent hub that creates production and content that resonate around the globe. I cannot help but feel that in this cult of austerity Britain, the Government are turning their back on one of their most promising and extraordinary world-leading sectors. It is a sector that is under fire. Arts funding is under unimaginable strain, creative agencies have been cut, a recent example being the Film Council, and—an obsessional interest of mine—some university music departments are having to close, such as that at the University of East Anglia.
I want to be clear, and if I appear a little nervous, it is because I want to say that our vast creative potential is being strangled without any clear funding strategy for its long-term future. In 1972, when I had seven productions touring the world, I remember being asked by Sir Keith Joseph, then the Minister of Housing and Local Government, whether any British theatre was exportable. I fear that some of that same lack of acknowledgement and awareness still exist today. We have to challenge the mindset of the Government.
Without the private funding and the support of many private individuals and institutions up and down the country, the situation that I describe would be so much worse; in many ways it might be irretrievable. However, it is no good for the Government to think that they can rely on benefactors for ever. So I ask the Government urgently to consider a clear formula for a public-private partnership that ensures that there is a more mutual and solidly funded foundation for the—I hate to use the word “industry”—arts.
If I were the Chancellor of the Exchequer and invited as a guest into the “Dragons’ Den”—obviously I have not been; and if I were him, I would not want to be—and someone brought to me a proposal to invest in nurturing British creative talent across the board, I would invest in it here, now and immediately. It is time that the Government did.
Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl for securing this important debate. I begin with a statistic: 15% of the population, 1% of the funding. Whether you find this as shocking as I do will depend on your attitude to the population group that it refers to, so let me tell you that the 15% refers to children up to the age of 12 and that 1% is their share of public funding for the arts. Perhaps now you find it shocking. This inequality was revealed at a conference held last month by the national charity, Action for Children’s Arts, of which I declare an interest as a patron.
The conference was called “Putting Children First”, and the finding was based on freedom of information requests made by the charity to the national arts funding bodies—the four UK arts councils and the BFI as well as 20 of the UK’s national arts
organisations—asking what proportion of their budgets was spent on provision where children were the intended audience. It is our responsibility to make sure that there is enough cultural life to go around and that more than 1% of it is left for children when we have all had our share.
Ethel Merman said: “We spend the first three years of a child’s life teaching them to walk and talk, then spend the next 10 years telling them to sit down and shut up”. We should never forget how important the arts are in forming children’s minds and giving them insight into the world they live in. We adults give them artistic and cultural messages telling them, “This is what life is about”. They soak up that information. It stays with them for ever and in turn will encourage them to become creators themselves. We must get those messages right by giving them the highest-quality cultural stimulation so that they can use their imagination to be creative, which will allow them to live fulfilling lives free from the shackles of mediocrity and will redeem those who have taken the dangerous path to gang crime, drug culture and anti-social behaviour.
The Government’s long-term strategy for the arts and cultural sector must give children a higher priority. There must be incentives through the funding system of our great cultural organisations for them all to take their share of responsibility for our children’s right to culture and the arts. Children are not just the audiences of tomorrow; they are also the audiences of today in their own right and they deserve much more than 1% of the arts budget funding to give them the necessary food for their soul. Can my noble friend assure the House that the Government will encourage arts funding organisations to increase the percentage of funding they give to children’s arts and start putting children first?
Lord Aberdare: My Lords, I have had to cut the congratulations to my noble friend and the welcome to the Minister. I will focus on private support for the arts and on classical music, including music education.
Corporate support for the arts fell to its lowest level for seven years in 2010-11, which was mistakenly designated the “year of corporate giving” to the arts. I am not surprised. I was responsible for IBM’s UK arts sponsorship in the late 1980s when it was already being overtaken by newer forms of advertising and brand promotion. Future corporate support for the arts is likely to be driven either by corporate responsibility goals, when investment in the arts is seen as achieving social or community aims, or by direct business relevance, when the arts help businesses to do better by increasing their creativity or flexibility.
The prospects for individual support are better. The Government were right to recognise, eventually, that donors need to be properly recognised and certainly not treated like potential tax-dodgers. Individual fundraising needs to be spread much more widely outside London, which received 81% of all individual arts giving in the year to March 2011. Arts strategies should include the promotion of good practice in fundraising through, for example, peer-to-peer advice and support among smaller arts organisations.
Other government priorities include broadening audiences and embracing new technologies. The national plan for music education is a welcome approach to the first of these, and I hope that all schools will be encouraged to engage with it. Efforts to promote the use of digital technology in the arts are fine, so long as technology is recognised primarily as an enabler—it has been described to me as the greatest discovery since the invention of the bucket for encouraging donations. I was delighted to learn that “The Space”, a new free “digital pop-up arts channel”—whatever that means—developed by the Arts Council and the BBC, has provided a live streaming of Berlioz’s opera “The Trojans” from Covent Garden, and I declare an interest as a trustee of the Berlioz Society.
Access is important, of course, but aspiration and accomplishment in the arts are even more so. In the current straitened times, the arts should take, and have taken, their share of necessary funding cuts, but care is needed not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. The strength of the music scene in the UK owes much to the number of talented musicians who come to study, teach and perform at our world-class conservatoires: the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama each have over 50 nationalities among their students. Training top-rank musicians, like training scientists or doctors, is expensive, but it helps to create a valuable revenue-earning asset for the UK. A new study by the LSE on behalf of these three conservatoires shows that even during the recession the creative industries continue to act as engines of economic growth and innovation for the UK. The sector is estimated to have generated some £25 billion in 2010, and the presence of institutions such as the conservatoires helps to fuel this through what the LSE calls “agglomeration”.
How do the Government seek to encourage more private support for the arts in the regions outside London? What will they do to encourage all schools to engage with their local music hubs? Will music education be formally included in the key stage 3 and 4 curriculum and in the EBacc? Can the Minister give a reassurance that the UK’s leading conservatoires will continue to receive the funding they need to develop world-class musicians and to attract top musical talent to the UK?
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, as vice-chairman of the All-Party Group for Dance and a former governor of the Royal Ballet and the Royal Academy of Dance, I intend to dwell on dance this evening. The prestige and super standards of the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet attract not only international audiences but international performers from around the world, but there are many other dance companies, in London and in the regions: the Rambert Dance Company, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Northern Ballet and the Scottish Ballet, to name but a few. They are equally international and do an enormous amount to bring ballet to the people with their touring companies and outreach programmes. Large numbers of young people who would not have dreamt of it before are now considering ballet as a career—mind you, “Billy Elliot” probably had quite a lot to do with that. All
these companies also demonstrate the work of some dynamic young choreographers, who are, after all, our future.
Dance comes into my definition of soft diplomacy and improves multicultural understanding and good will. Only last week, there were two events in Westminster Hall—the Commonwealth Carnival of Music and an Indian dance group performance on Thursday—emphasising the cultural diversity of our country and, indeed, of our Parliament. I feel sure that in your Lordships’ House I do not need to enlarge further on the contribution made by classical ballet in particular and by dance in general to the artistic life of this country. The object of this short debate is to ask what the Government’s long-term strategy is. It is vital. My objective is to plead that dance be recognised as a full and important part of that strategy.
Adequate funding is, of course, important, but there are also other ways of supporting and encouraging this part of the performing arts. Joined-up government is of equal importance to ensure, for example, that dance teachers are not forgotten when teacher training and the school syllabus are under discussion, so both education departments need to be involved. Tax incentives have been mentioned, and that brings the Treasury in. The visa regime also impinges on performing artists and on students coming to train and study in this country, and paying their way to do so, so the Home Office needs to be involved. Health can also be relevant, and I welcome the new National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, which now operates from within the National Health Service and specialises in dance injuries. The Foreign Office, too, underlines the contribution of soft diplomacy and brings in the British Council, and so it goes on.
It is not just that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has to take the lead; it also has to act as co-ordinator. I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister and I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for giving us this opportunity.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I wish to speak about a sector in which the UK leads the world—the television industry, particularly our thriving independent production sector. Figures published last week show that the indie sector now generates revenue of around £2.4 billion. This continued growth is due in great part to the Communications Act 2003, which corrected market failures in commissioning and allowed producers to keep their own intellectual property.
The recession has had an impact—figures produced for the trade association PACT show that primary UK commissions are down and that profit margins have fallen. The only indies showing a growth in profitability are the mid-sized ones, and it is a reminder of the contribution to the SME sector—Channel 4 alone works with more than 420 suppliers.
The big success story is in the independent sector export market, which increased more than 15% last year. The UK is a major exporter of programmes. “Downton Abbey”, for example, has been resold across the globe, while in many countries, inexplicably, Jeremy
Clarkson is worshipped as a god. The creativity of the independent sector has made the UK the world leader in formats, so programmes such as “Come Dine with Me”, “Who do You think You Are” and “Strictly Come Dancing” have been turned into local programmes across the globe. Channel 4, commissioning only from the independent sector, has supported films that have won 14 Oscars in the past six years—and who else would televise the Turner Prize?
Markets are well established in Europe and the English-speaking world, but there is huge potential for growth in the emerging markets. In Latin America last year, export sales rose by 16%. PACT is clear that there is much more scope for growth, so can I ask the Minister to use his best endeavours to speed up the co-production treaty with Brazil? The next communications Bill must maintain the strengths of the sector by protecting the copyright regime and focusing the terms of trade on maintaining growth and competition.
A contributor to the vibrancy of the sector has been the independent production quota and the out-of-London quotas, and these must be maintained. You have only to look at the new creative hubs in south Wales and Salford to see the impact that this can have. In Scotland, around 3,000 people are employed in the sector. What is the Government’s view of granting STV Productions independent producer status, which would allow it to grow further and attain critical mass?
We can be rightly proud of the variety and quality of UK television and its contribution to our cultural life. Our responsibility in Parliament and in government is to work with the industry to maintain it.
A starting point should also be an acknowledgement that the Government have taken some welcome steps in arts policy. They have, I am delighted to say, maintained the policy of free admission to our national museums and galleries. They have sustained the film tax relief, which has been such an important element in sustaining an independent film industry here in the UK. They have revived the Renaissance in the Regions programme for regional museums, and they have given in recent weeks some very welcome boosts to private philanthropy in relation to the arts.
We should also acknowledge that in hard financial times Arts Council England has shown some very considerable skill, under the leadership of Liz Forgan and Alan Davey, in helping the arts sector to weather the economic storms that are now around it. However, those storms are real and there are now severe financial difficulties ahead for the entire arts sector—not just difficulties in government funding but in the catastrophic falls in local authority funding in many
parts of the country, coupled with a private and corporate giving sector that is under some considerable strain.
In addition to those financial difficulties, I do not believe there is yet enough clarity from the Government in the long-term strategy for the arts. What ought the key elements of such a strategy to be? It should be based, I believe, on four fundamental pillars: first, excellence—supporting the best possible work, which means including risk and innovation; secondly, access—ensuring that the widest number of people have access to the best possible work; thirdly, education—building on the real success of the Creative Partnerships programme to give pupils in schools up and down the country a real start in being creative and understanding creativity; and, fourthly, supporting the creative economy, which is linked fundamentally with the more traditional arts sector.
We have, over the past 10 or 14 years or so, been living through something of a golden age in the arts in this country. I like to think that the Government, in whom I had a part, played a small part in supporting that golden age. I plead with the Government to dedicate themselves to sustaining it.
Baroness Young of Hornsey: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Clancarty for securing this debate, particularly since many of the arts and creative practitioners with whom I work are hard put to identify what the coalition wants from the sector, what its expectations are and how it is going to support its growth and develop its resilience. There have been some helpful initiatives, but it is not clear how they constitute the Government’s wider landscape of ambition for the arts and creative sectors.
We are fond of boasting of our creative achievements and success on the global stage. Indeed, the Cultural Olympiad, the cultural festival, is an exemplar of that ambition and that reach, taking it all to a much higher level than previously. Our achievements on the world stage are rightly lauded. We also, through our creative industries and the arts, contribute to the economy and to the social fabric of the country. However, these are somehow consistently undervalued when it comes to funding and public words of support. How else can we explain the lack of attention given to developing a sustainable, appropriately financed strategy that will ensure that the sector continues to thrive?
Our creative successes in film, theatre and so on have come about through a combination of sheer hard work and the creative talent in the sector, and public funds allocated to support those efforts. For the arts ecology to thrive, there is a need for creative diversity, scale, capacity, risk-taking and innovation, which has been described as something collective, but also something uncertain,
“with high failure rates but also high returns, with the state often undertaking the greatest degree of risk and uncertainty. And third, it is cumulative innovation today that builds on innovation yesterday”.
point; for many smaller and regional arts organisations, the debate about tax relief and donations had rather less urgency about it than it did for the London-based national arts organisations. We need a different model to encourage and build on private patronage, and donations, when different relationships exist between benefactor and organisations.
It is vital that the Government look at ways of supporting growth in the sector, particularly in regions where there is strong potential for developing a distinctive cultural offer that taps into areas with a strong sense of regional identity and the creative talent that can articulate such a vision. If we lose the capacity and appetite to invest in risk-taking, we will not hold our place as the home of some of the most creative practitioners in the world for long.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, I am delighted to add my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for introducing this debate, and to add my welcome to my noble friend Lord Younger, as he assumes his ministerial responsibility.
It has been a wide-ranging, although brief, debate at a gallop. I would just say to my noble friend who will respond that we desperately need a coherent strategy for the arts, heritage and cultural affairs in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, was right in giving his list of criteria, and I commend them to my noble friend, but I want to make two points.
In 1974, I helped the late Andrew Faulds to found the All-Party Parliamentary Arts and Heritage Group, which has become over the subsequent 38 years the largest group of its kind in Parliament—and I like to think that we have achieved something. We have lobbied Ministers constantly to try to give two things that those involved in the arts need above all others. First, there is the recognition that a little goes a long way in this field; we are not talking vast sums in the context of the national Budget. The other thing is that arts and heritage organisations need a degree of continuity and to be able to plan with some certainty for the future.
A couple of weeks ago we had an excellent debate, which I was privileged to introduce, on the future of English cathedrals. In that debate I called for an endowment fund for English cathedrals, and I commend that suggestion to my noble friend. In all fields of the built visual arts, that sort of endowment fund would produce returns far in excess of the investment. Tourists and visitors to this country are drawn as by a magnet to our arts and our great historic buildings.
In conclusion, I am privileged to chair an organisation called the William Morris Craft Fellowship. We need to encourage in our young in our schools the belief that to do things with the hands is every bit as worthy as to do other things. Indeed, I would say that a degree in media studies does not begin to compare in importance or satisfaction with the creation of a fine piece of sculpture or repairing a great historic building. We need to encourage more of our young people to take up careers in the crafts. I hope that my noble friend, with his manifold responsibilities, will talk to his colleagues
in government and say that that ought to be a priority. If we truly believe in apprenticeships, there are no more worthy ones than craft apprenticeships.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl for tabling this Question this evening. In many ways, it is an indictment of this Government that the question at the heart of the debate has to be asked. However, I welcome the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, to his new role. I hope that he has taken note of the very powerful messages from around the Chamber this evening and I look forward to hearing what I hope will be an enlightening and reassuring response.
I do not want to dwell on Jeremy Hunt’s recent misfortune, but the context for this debate is a department that has been struggling with a lack of leadership for some time, so much so that there are persistent rumours that it will be abolished altogether at the reshuffle. The creative industries need a stronger voice in government and a stronger Secretary of State at the Cabinet table, not no voice at all, and they need a champion for a coherent arts and culture strategy across government, working with the Treasury, BIS and the Department for Education, for example, as our party intends to do.
In the short time I have left, let me give some illustrations of what should be included in that strategy. First, on funding, the Government need to identify the role that culture can play in leading us out of recession. The creative industries already account for 8% of our GDP and have the potential to grow at double the rate of any other sector. Philanthropy may have a role, but it should not be expected to plug the gap left by receding public subsidy and it has a limited reach—for example, 81% of private giving goes to organisations in London. As we have heard this evening, arts organisations need financial confidence and certainty to maximise the contribution that they can make to our future prosperity.
Secondly, we need to address the crisis in regional and local funding. On top of 28% cuts so far, the Local Government Association calculates that local authority funding for the arts will have all but disappeared by 2020. This cannot be allowed to happen. Community arts are where our next generation of writers, performers and artists learn their skills, and access should not be the preserve of those living in the metropolitan areas. This is why we need a statutory duty on all local councils to support the arts in their area.
Thirdly, we need an international strategy that recognises that the cultural industries not only attract inward investment but are major exports of this country. We are a major global player in, for example, design, music, animation and film, so next time David Cameron and Vince Cable lead a trade delegation abroad, perhaps they should be accompanied by our cultural rather than our manufacturing leaders.
Finally, we need to address the glaring mismatch between, on the one hand, the Education Secretary’s agenda, in which creativity, art and design, music and the performing arts are all but squeezed out, and, on the other hand, the skills demanded by the
cultural leaders and innovators who will be contributing to our economic wealth in the future. These are the sorts of issues that we would like to see highlighted in a long-term strategy. Without it, as this debate has shown, the potential of the arts risks being set back for a generation.
Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on securing this debate. It gives me particular pleasure to respond this evening on my first occasion at the Dispatch Box, as the noble Earl and I entered this House at about the same time two years ago. As a Member of this House who continues to keep arts and cultural issues on the agenda of this Chamber, he is to be applauded. He may not be surprised to hear that I do not entirely share his views on the current status of the arts. I am pleased to hear that others, such as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, take a slightly more positive view. I also thank other Members for their contributions to our discussion. I particularly appreciate some support from the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, but I recognise his highlighting of some strains at a time of austerity, which we are all aware of. I shall endeavour to answer the points raised and I can write to those noble Lords whose points I do not have time to address.
First, arts and culture is a hugely broad topic and the need for support, while very important, has to be prioritised and constantly reviewed. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport covers communications, creative, media, cultural, tourism, sport and leisure economies. It also includes ballet and dance, so importantly raised by my noble friend Lady Hooper. A key resolve is to create the conditions for growth in this sector by removing barriers, providing strategic direction and supporting innovation and creativity. These points have been made succinctly by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey. Our overarching strategy is to see a thriving and resilient arts and cultural sector, drawing from a range of funding sources, appealing to a wide range of audiences and delivering high-quality culture. There are three strands to our long-term arts vision: financial stability, philanthropy and attracting new audiences.
First, I shall focus on financial support, where we have to start with some home truths. The first priority of this Government remains to create financial stability across the UK. Regrettably, this means sharing some pain—in some cases considerable pain—across all sectors of society. Of course, I would have preferred no cut to the arts and culture sector at all, but it would be unrealistic for cuts to be made in all other parts of the public sector except the arts. At the time of the 2010 spending review, departmental budgets, other than health and overseas aid, were set to reduce by an average of 19% over four years. However, while Arts Council England overall faces a significantly reduced budget, we have limited the reduction in the budget for regularly funded arts organisations to 15%, offering a little protection for front-line arts. Taking account of lottery as well as government funding, the Arts Council will receive some £2.3 billion over the next four years. This means that, in 2014-15, total arts
funding via the Arts Council will have reduced by less than 5% in real terms, set against the comparable figure in 2010-11.
Now let me turn to lottery funding. One of the first decisions that we took in government was to revert the National Lottery to its original aims of supporting the four good causes by restoring the shares for each of the good causes of sport, heritage and the arts to 20%. The fourth good cause is the Big Lottery Fund, representing 40%. Due to continuing strong ticket sales, income projections indicate that there should be more than £1 billion of extra lottery funding for the good causes over the next five years, when compared with September 2010 projections. The arts good cause can expect to receive more than £1.8 billion of lottery money over the life of this Parliament. This is over £200 million more than was projected in September 2010.
“the noblest possible use of wealth … The man who dies rich dies disgraced”.
We have achieved much with regard to philanthropy in a short space of time. For example, we have launched the Catalyst scheme, whereby £30 million has been given to arts and heritage organisations to encourage match funding, and £55 million has been given to arts and heritage bodies to build up endowments. This was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Cormack. The Secretary of State last month commissioned three further reports to look at making legacy giving easier, harnessing digital technology to boost charitable giving to the culture and heritage sectors and looking at ways in which we can boost fundraising outside London, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned. He also mentioned the importance of digital technology. I will need to write to him regarding his question on support for the conservatoires.
Some in the past have suggested that philanthropy is a means to replace public spending. Let me tackle this head on. It is simply untrue. As soon as this Government came to power, we carried out a comprehensive spending review as part of our strategy, whereby arts and cultural bodies such as the Arts Council, English Heritage and our major national museums knew the level of funding that they would receive over the period. We then encouraged the Arts Council to make the bodies that it supports aware of their budgets at the earliest opportunity, a request that it carried out in a speedy and professional manner. This was not an easy time for the sector or the Arts Council. Here, I pay tribute to the chair and chief executive of the Arts Council for the way in which it handled some difficult decisions. It is right not to assume that organisations that have received regular funding in the past should have a right to that funding in the future.
The third part of our strategy is to draw new audiences into the arts by, for example, utilising new technology. Last May, Arts Council England, in partnership with the BBC, launched a new free digital arts service, the Space, which could help to transform
the way in which people connect with and experience arts and culture. Last summer, Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts—known as NESTA—announced a new £500,000 digital research and development fund for arts and culture projects that harness digital technologies to connect with wider audiences and explore new ways of working. Of course, nothing will ever replace the live experience, but if a child in Cumbria can watch a production 300 miles away from the National Theatre or Sadler’s Wells, we can proudly say that our investment in the arts can benefit the whole nation.
We also wish, through Arts Council England, for more people to experience and be inspired by the arts, irrespective of where they live or their social, educational or financial circumstances. To support this strategy, the Creative People and Places Fund will focus investment in places where involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average. A total of £37 million from the arts lottery fund will be available to establish around 15 projects up to 2015.
When considering the wide reach of the arts across social groups, it is worth highlighting a finding from our Taking Part survey. When respondents were asked whether they had been to a museum or gallery on at least one occasion in the past 12 months, two socio-demographic groups had significantly increased their visits between 2005-06 and 2011-12: among black and ethnic minority respondents there was an increase of 10.7 percentage points to 61.4%; and from those in the social rented sector there was an increase of 9.2 percentage points to 55.6%.
I would like to touch briefly on the Wedgwood collection on the grounds that, although the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, has not raised it this evening, I know that it is a subject dear to his heart. The collection is designated as being of national importance; it is deemed by UNESCO to be one of the UK’s top 20 cultural assets. The collection holds several separate but nevertheless interrelated collections. It includes not only the most comprehensive accumulation of Wedgwood ceramics in Britain, if not the world, but also a huge range of portrait medallions from the 1780s through to today and some exceptionally rare and important surviving original stonework block moulds. This is why the DCMS Culture Minister is working hard behind the scenes, holding meetings in recent days with other government Ministers.