“We believe that, while it is difficult to quantify the precise impact of badger culling on the reduction in the incidence of TB, much of the improvement in the TB situation is due to the badger removal programme.”

Therefore, the Irish believe culling badgers has worked to reduce TB in the Republic of Ireland.

In a county such as the one I represent in Devon where over a quarter of the herds are restricted, where we are slaughtering 5,500 cattle a year and where probably

13 Mar 2014 : Column 511

about 40% of our badger population are infected with bovine TB, we have to take action not only in cleaning the cattle and having stricter cattle movements, but in making sure those badgers are clean so there is no TB in them If we do that, when we turn our cattle out, it will be safe to do so, and when we drink our milk it will be safe to do so. When our tourists come to Devon and Cornwall and the west country, they will come to see the beautiful herds of beef cattle, such as Devon reds grazing there, that are not infected by TB.

4.27 pm

Sir Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD): Hazel Grove is in the northern part of Cheshire or the southern part of Greater Manchester, and Cheshire is on the frontier zone of the northern spread of bovine TB. We are officially an edge risk area. In Cheshire there were 143 outbreaks in 2013 and 829 animals were destroyed as a result. Based on DEFRA’s figures for the average costs, dealing with bovine TB in Cheshire therefore cost something over £4 million, and more than £1 million—more likely £1.5 million—of that cost fell on farmers. The House will therefore understand that I share a lot of the concerns that have been expressed by those representing agricultural areas, albeit mine is a suburban one, but of course I also get a very large number of e-mails and letters from those who are concerned about the culling of badgers.

I want to focus on the efforts I believe it is right to put into preventing the spread of the disease northwards. I have asked the Minister questions about this and I am working with Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the Cheshire NFU on how we might do that. It is feasible to have a vaccinated zone across Cheshire that acts as a barrier to the spread of infected badgers to the north and hence causes a reduction in the transmission of the disease to cattle.

At the end of last year I visited a badger vaccination project being carried out by Cheshire Wildlife Trust with the full support of the NFU, and with a 50% contribution to the cost by the Department, and I want to thank the Minister for the £250,000 fund that is in place for similar projects around the country. One of my questions to him will be whether he can do more on that front, because having a vaccinated zone in Cheshire is a pretty good guarantee of preventing the spread of the disease further north.

I also want to thank the Minister for the support that the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, which is funded by the Department, is giving to the road-kill testing of badgers in Cheshire. That project is being run by the university of Liverpool, and I hope that it will provide us with more evidence on the prevalence of the disease among badgers, as well as assisting us in reducing that prevalence.

I thank the Minister and his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath), for the steps that they have taken to improve data sharing. One of the absurdities of the situation up to about 18 months ago was that data protection legislation was being used to prevent adjacent farmers from finding out about outbreaks. In Cheshire, where herds are frequently moved from one farm to another to exploit grazing opportunities, farmers were at risk of moving animals

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into an area adjacent to one in which infection had been detected. I am pleased to say that a little more data sharing is now in place, but I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that data transmission is now at an appropriate level. I am meeting representatives of Cheshire NFU tomorrow morning, and I expect them to tell me how it is on the ground, so he might want to make sure that he has got his story straight.

I am very keen to ensure that we succeed in stopping the spread of bovine TB further north into Cheshire and beyond. That is why I very much encouraged the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the NFU to work together on vaccination. I want to point out that vaccination is not quite as simple as we in the House sometimes make it sound. There is a narrow calendar window during which the badgers can be vaccinated. They spend the winter months in their setts and are inaccessible. There is a narrow period of time during the day, too, when vaccination can take place. It has to be early in the day and they have to be trapped as they come out overnight.

The trapping is not simple: we do not want to catch rabbits or foxes; we want to catch badgers. The trap has to be laid in a particular way, and the bait has to be under a suitably heavy stone that neither rabbits nor foxes can move, but that badgers can, in order to shut the trap. I am impressed by the care and thought that goes into the capture of the animals, and by the professionalism that is needed to do it.

The day I visited a farm in the south of Cheshire, eight or nine traps had been laid, and they yielded four badgers. One professional gentleman had spent a whole day setting the traps, vaccinating the animals, releasing them and clearing the traps, and he got just four badgers. It is slow, complicated work, and of course that process has to be repeated each year. I am not decrying the process; I am simply saying that there is not a solution to this problem that can be achieved by waving a magic wand.

Will the Minister give the House an undertaking that those of us who live in edge risk areas—the frontier zones, as I call them—will have all the support that is needed for an intensive vaccination programme to prevent the spread of the disease northwards? Will he ensure that the data sharing relating to outbreaks is at a level that will really prevent the possibility of herds being unwittingly moved back into infected areas?

I also want to raise a point that was put to me by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. In carrying out the vaccination programme in south Cheshire, the trust discovered more or less the same thing that had been discovered in the culling areas—namely, that there did not seem to be as many badgers as people were expecting. Does the Minister think that the assessment of the density of the badger population, on which the whole culling exercise seems to have been based, is a realistic one? Is he satisfied that the calculations that spring from that assessment have been made on a sound basis? If, when we get to the capture of animals—or in the case of culling, the destruction of animals—the animals simply are not there, the whole calculation becomes different. For those of us in the edge zone—the high risk zone—the solution on offer is not culling but the creation of a cordon sanitaire. The problem is not easy to resolve anywhere, but we believe that there is a specific solution that will do exactly that, at least in our area, and I would like the support of the Minister in achieving it.

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4.35 pm

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I thank the Backbench Business Committee for choosing the debate and the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) for introducing it—with great fortitude, I might add, and I commend her for that. I also thank the cross-party group of MPs who secured the debate, which is hugely significant and timely, because the Minister is considering wider roll-outs. We have seen cross-party support for a new way forward and a new consensus based on vaccination and cattle measures.

I thank all Members who have spoken, even those whose opinions I respect but disagree with. There were many good contributions, including by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh), who has great experience, and the hon. Members for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin), for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart), for Brecon and Radnorshire (Roger Williams)—we go back a long way—for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). I may not agree with many of the points that they made, but they spoke with passion for their constituents.

Those who have spoken for the motion today and for a considered, cross-party and scientific consensus on the way forward include the hon. Member for St Albans, who made the point that this is not a case of one side against another; my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown), for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson), for Copeland (Mr Reed), for Newport West (Paul Flynn), for Derby North (Chris Williamson), for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), for Inverclyde (Mr McKenzie), for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) and for Llanelli (Nia Griffith); the hon. Members for St Ives (Andrew George), for Southend West (Mr Amess), for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), for Torbay (Mr Sanders) and for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas); and the right hon. Members for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow) and, lately, for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell). In every part of the Chamber, on every Bench, there have been calm, rational and methodical arguments on why we should have a different way forward.

A number of questions face Ministers today. Why continue to pursue a policy of eradicating bovine TB in cattle involving mass culling of badgers? It proved hugely costly to taxpayers and farmers and was critically flawed, from the first principles, through the methodology to the application in the field. It failed to meet the Government’s own limited tests of effectiveness and humaneness. In short, not enough badgers were culled, and too many were not killed cleanly, but suffered before dying. Culls have diverted stretched police resources from front-line duties to deal with protesters and to ensure public safety, prompting police and crime commissioners to speak out in opposition. Culls are deeply unpopular with the public throughout the country, in town and country alike. Culls are scientifically controversial to the point of flying in the face of mainstream, expert advice, from which, as we have seen today, increasing numbers of Government MPs are making the right and intelligent choice to seek alternative, workable strategies for TB eradication.

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Why pursue such a policy when it is so clearly contested scientifically, so deeply flawed methodologically and so evidently failing, and when there are proven alternatives, which are more humane, more effective, cheaper and more publicly acceptable? Why do that when scientists, many farmers, MPs from all parties and Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition are willing to work with the Government on an alternative strategy that will be enduring and effective and garner widespread stakeholder and public support? In all sincerity, despite—in fact because of—those flawed and failed culls in Gloucester and Somerset, it is not too late for Ministers to think again and for us to work together on a better way forward.

Before addressing what has gone wrong with the culls and what can now be done, let me make it clear that Labour agrees entirely and unequivocally that the scourge of bovine TB must be eradicated. It must be eradicated because of the terrible waste of productive cattle, the destruction of pedigree herds, the cash-flow and wider economic impacts on family farms, the psychological trauma for farmers and their families, and the unsustainable cost of compensation payments. Some have pointed out that many more tens of thousands of cattle are slaughtered each year for many other reasons—mastitis, lameness, old age, inability to calve and so on. That is true, but 1% of the total cattle herd, dairy and non-dairy, in the UK is slaughtered because of bovine TB, and that is unacceptable. What also distinguishes that from other reasons for slaughter is that it is a notifiable disease. We have a public and legal duty to bear down on it, and pressing trade reasons to do so, too. On that, we are at one with the Government.

We support the UK and the Welsh Governments for their increasingly stringent efforts, working with farmers, to clamp down on the disease by use of cattle measures. As this is a disease in cattle, the primary resolution will be in cattle measures. Some Ministers give the impression that badgers are the main culprits, yet we know from exhaustive in-field studies that although there is some direct transmission of TB from infected badgers to cattle—it is about 6% of the total—and that that may indeed play a role in subsequent onward transmission, cattle-to-cattle transmission is the major element.

We know also that the most significant spike in TB was linked to the rapid spread of the disease in the immediate aftermath of foot and mouth disease, when the restocking of cattle took place northwards and westwards, often from areas further south where TB was present. In addition, there have been sporadic occurrences in parts of the country and farms where there has been no history of TB, and we must note the presence of TB-free farms in the midst of hotspot areas. All that reinforces the scientific conclusion that stringent cattle measures are key to a successful strategy of eradication. Movement restrictions, risk-based trading, rigorous biosecurity and other measures will play the most substantial part in eradicating the disease.

However, we also need fully to recognise the need to tackle reservoirs of the disease in wildlife, where appropriate. Our disagreement with the Government—it is a profound disagreement—is over the best means of addressing the wildlife reservoir. We believe, as do many farmers and leading scientific opinion, backed by mounting evidence of success, which has been set out before the Minister today, that there is another way to tackle badger TB which has greater certainty of success and avoids the significant risks of a mass-culling programme.

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Before I expand on an alternative approach, we have to examine what went wrong with the Government’s culls last year. There was a sequence of dire policy miscalculations, each of which compounded the other and led to wholesale failure. The crucial baseline population of badgers was first overestimated, then underestimated; a risky and wholly untested “free-shoot” approach was adopted, which promptly but predictably failed; more costly cage-trap-shoot methods were rapidly then introduced, yet still too few badgers were culled in the time frame allowed, posing an increased risk of spreading TB; the six-week time-frame was then controversially extended and, again, still too few badgers were killed; and, meanwhile, police patrolled the country trying to maintain order for deeply unpopular culls, and running up bills for the taxpayer.

We now understand from a delayed but leaked Government report that too many badgers died inhumanely, enduring suffering before death. As an aside, I note that the British Veterinary Association, of which I am proud to be an honorary member, predicated its support on these culls being humane—watch this space.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: Between 1998 and 2010, the number of herd breakdowns tripled from 1,226 to 3,334, and the number of cattle slaughtered rose sixfold, from 4,102 to 24,000. Given what I am hearing from the Labour Front-Bench team today, can our farmers, who are suffering so terribly from this disease, expect more of the same?

Huw Irranca-Davies: No, and I refer the hon. Gentleman, who makes a valid point, to the figures for the past three years, which have shown a downward trend.

I say to the Minister that the two key tests for the Government of effectiveness and humaneness have been failed. So let us not keep inflicting this costly policy failure and public relations disaster on farmers, taxpayers and wildlife. Let us learn the lessons from these two failed and costly culls, stop them now and look at the alternative way forward, which can be cheaper, more humane and more effective.

Look instead to Wales, where there has been a significant and substantial reduction in TB, at twice the rate of the decline in England. That happened without culling, but with vaccination and stringent cattle measures. Look to Northern Ireland, where BTB is declining faster, without culling, than in the Republic, where culling is taking place. Look closer to home, in England, where the incidence of BTB began to decline even before the culls started. We repeatedly pointed out that trend to Ministers, who either ignored or denied it. The trend is even more apparent now that Ministers have admitted that the figures incorrectly overstated BTB.

More and more MPs from across the parties, including independent-minded Government MPs, are calling on Ministers to pause and think again. There is a different approach to tackling TB in cattle and wildlife, if only Ministers would listen to the evidence, and to the increasing numbers of MPs of their own party who have lost faith in these deeply flawed culls. We want the Government to work with the science and across political parties to seek a new, lasting consensus on the way forward. Labour, scientists, and many farmers want to do that,

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so I repeat the offer that I made to the Secretary of State in writing in December: work with us, with farmers, and with the evidence to agree a new, better way forward.

4.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice): I begin by picking up on a point made by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick): this is an incredibly difficult disease to fight, and there are no easy answers in the war against TB. There are several reasons for that. First, it is a very slow-growing, insidious disease, which makes it incredibly difficult to detect. It has been hard to get a reliable means of diagnosis. Secondly, the disease lives within the cell wall of blood cells, and that makes it very difficult to get a vaccine to work. That is why the BCG vaccine, which is the only thing that we have, is only partially effective and provides no cure. That is why the Government have been very clear that we need to pursue a range of options to roll back the disease. We are clear that no one measure on its own will work; instead, we need to pursue a range of strategies to bear down on the disease. We set those out clearly in our draft TB eradication strategy, the final version of which will be published shortly. It sets out a range of options; I want to come back to that, because this is an area in which I think there will be consensus across the House.

There is one area where, clearly, we take a different view from the Opposition. Our view is that nowhere in the world has managed successfully to tackle TB without also dealing with the reservoir of the disease in the wildlife population. A couple of hon. Members have attempted to cast doubt on that—they have mentioned possums in New Zealand and asked whether the case is the same—but in Ireland and France, cull strategies have been successfully pursued.

Caroline Lucas rose

George Eustice: I will not give way. I want to carry on and make this point, because there were lots of issues raised. If Members do not accept that international comparisons are relevant, I say: look at the historical comparisons. We got on top of TB in the 1960s and ’70s by pursuing a badger cull strategy. Early attempts through measures such as the clean ring strategy pursued by Dunnet in the late ’80s had some success. The RBCTs that the previous Government ran also showed a 16% reduction in the disease.

I want to say a little about vaccination, because we recognise that it can provide some benefits. It can pass on some immunity to cubs, and can cause less disturbance to the badger population, but there are difficulties with it. The badgers have to be successfully trapped and vaccinated; St Ives—the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George) has talked to me about this—has managed to catch only seven in the past year. We should recognise that no vaccine is 100% effective; the evidence is that it is roughly 60% effective.

Caroline Lucas: Will the Minister give way?

George Eustice: No, I will not; I will keep going.

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Bill Wiggin: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As DEFRA has not released its report, it would be demeaning to the House to have a Division on this issue. Is it your view that Mr Speaker’s ruling should be maintained—that is, that if a Member shouts, he should vote in the way that he shouts?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): You know very well, as I do, that if a Member shouts one way, they should not vote the other way, but they could abstain.

George Eustice: I want to say a little about what we have done to progress an oral vaccine. We are spending £1.6 million a year—

Andrew George: The Minister referred to the trials that were about to commence in the Penwith area with the support of DEFRA, which is providing the vaccine ampoules, which is much appreciated. He said it was only seven. It was only a small trial of the methodology, not of the numbers.

George Eustice: I expect my hon. Friend will do better next year.

As I said, we are spending £1.6 million a year developing an oral vaccine. We have made some progress on the dose required for that vaccine, and it is around 10 times more than would be needed for an injectable vaccine. We have also made some progress towards identifying a bait that would be successful, and we have made some progress towards linking the vaccine to fats that can help get it through the digestive system. But there are drawbacks even to an oral vaccine. Not all badgers will take it, and some badgers may eat more of it than others, so it will never be 100%. But we accept that nothing in this challenge is 100% and that is why we are pursuing it.

On injectable vaccines, I have had representations from my hon. Friends the Members for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) and for Brighton, Kemptown (Simon Kirby) to look again at whether we could refocus some of our vaccination efforts, either in the edge area, as the right hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell) suggested, or around the east Sussex area. I have said that we will look closely at that. As several hon. Members have pointed out, we are doing some work in that area now, and we would be willing to develop that further.

On cattle vaccines, the Secretary of State met the commissioner on this just last week. We are continuing to do some work to develop a DIVA test. Field trials will take three to five years, so as a number of hon. Members have pointed out, it will be eight or nine years before we can get export clearance for the use of such a cattle vaccine. However, we are committed to taking this forward.

I agree with hon. Members that improving the control of cattle movements is an important tool in the fight against TB, but I simply point out that we have done a lot already. We now have annual testing in the high-risk area, and four-yearly testing across the whole country. We have banned practices such as approved quarantine units. We now have radial testing in the low-risk areas where we get an outbreak. We have stopped cattle going to major shows since July 2012. We have introduced risk-based trading to help farmers manage the risks. We have an ongoing consultation about restricting movements

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and introducing pre-movement and post-movement tests to common land. We are introducing deductions for farmers who are late in having their TB test, and we have reduced the pre-movement testing window from 60 to 30 days. So we are doing a huge amount, but I accept that we should be constantly looking to improve and do more, and we are looking, as the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) suggested, at whether more could be done, for instance, on biosecurity measures.

Caroline Lucas: Will the Minister give way?

George Eustice: I am going to run out of time and I want to leave time for the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main).

On effectiveness, we have already published the numbers of badgers that were culled in both Somerset, where it was 940, and Gloucester, where it was 921. The hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) invited me to speculate on what the effect on the population might have been from the recent flooding. One lesson that we have learnt is that it is difficult precisely to estimate badger populations. The RBCT did not use head trapping of the sophistication that we did, rather it used things like sett surveys, and there is a huge amount of doubt about whether it had a clear understanding of the badger population.

A number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) have highlighted that the RBCT concluded that the aim should be to remove 70% of the badger population. We accept that and that is why we had that as a target. However, it is wrong to say that if that target is not hit in the first year, the disease will be made worse. The RBCT clearly showed that three of the 10 test areas where there was a proactive cull got between 30% and 40% in year one, but provided that was sustained in subsequent years, it went on to have a significant impact in reducing the disease.

Finally, on the humaneness issue, I know that this is a sentimental matter for many people. In fact, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) highlighted the poem “The Badger”. All I will say is that I hope that hon. Members can develop some perspective, because shooting is used as a means of controlling foxes and all sorts of other wildlife. If hon. Members were to go to Bushy park or Richmond park in September and October, they would find signs up saying that a cull of deer was going on and so the park was closed. No one would bat an eyelid. I hope that we can develop some perspective—

Caroline Lucas rose

George Eustice: I am not going to give way, but I know what the hon. Lady is going to say.

We recognise that there are challenges with shooting badgers. That is why we issued best practice guidance that specified a range of less than 70 metres using a rifle, that they should target the chest, the type of rifle that could be used and that the animal must be stationary and over a bait point. It might be that lessons can be learnt from that to improve the proficiency of marksmen and we can obviously consider that.

I want to pick up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Mr Amess) about monitoring. He said that it was insufficient and we do not accept that. We were required to monitor 60 of the culls but

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monitored 88 and we were required to carry out 120 post-mortems but carried out 150. We did more monitoring than was required.

As the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Roger Williams) and my hon. Friends the Members for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) said, this is a devastating disease having a devastating impact on cattle farmers. When I visited one of the Gloucester culls I met a Gloucestershire farmer who had been under restriction for 12 years. He was not moving cattle on or off; it was being caused not by cattle but by a large badger sett on his farm that was infected by TB. I saw another farmer who had lost an entire pedigree herd as a result of the disease. We know that if we do nothing it will cost us £1 billion over the next 10 years and, as I said at the start, although we are pursuing a range of options, no single measure on its own is the solution to the problem. There is no example anywhere in the world of a country that has successfully tackled TB without also tackling the reservoir of disease in the wildlife population.

4.56 pm

Mrs Main: I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for their compassionate remarks in this important debate. Although I have not been in the Chamber for all of it, I have watched it all and I recognise the passion on both sides.

I stress again that the debate is not about one side against another. It is about whether we are pursuing the right strategy. I would like the House to express its wish today, but I recognise that the motion does not bind the Minister. Whatever the result of the vote today, if there is a vote, I hope that the Minister will take the issue away and reflect on it, read the report and come back before the House with a statement and a votable motion of his own. I recognise that, without that, we will get no further on this difficult subject, which gives rise to a lot of passion but on which we should not just be being seen to be doing something. I thank all hon. Members for taking the time to come here on a Thursday for this important debate.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 219, Noes 1.

Division No. 232]


4.58 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Amess, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Betts, Mr Clive

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blears, rh Hazel

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burstow, rh Paul

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Crouch, Tracey

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Philip

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Fuller, Richard

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

George, Andrew

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hemming, John

Hendrick, Mark

Hendry, Charles

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huppert, Dr Julian

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Main, Mrs Anne

Malhotra, Seema

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Miliband, rh Edward

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Percy, Andrew

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Randall, rh Sir John

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reckless, Mark

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Henry

Smith, Nick

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Mr Andrew

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Vickers, Martin

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weatherley, Mike

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Graham Jones


Tom Blenkinsop


Hollobone, Mr Philip

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Alan Campbell


Mr David Hamilton

Question accordingly agreed to.

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That this House believes that the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have decisively failed against the criteria set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in guidance to Natural England for licensing of the culls, which stipulated that 70 per cent of the badger population should be culled within a six-week period; notes that the costs of policing, additional implementation and monitoring, and the resort to more expensive cage-and-trap methods over an extended period have substantially increased the cost of the culls, and strengthened the financial case for vaccination; regrets that the decision to extend the original culls has not been subject to any debate or vote in Parliament; further regrets that the Independent Expert Panel will only assess the humaneness, safety and effectiveness of the original six-week period and not the extended cull period; and urges the Government to halt the existing culls and granting of any further licences, pending development of alternative strategies to eradicate bovine TB and promote a healthy badger population.

Huw Irranca-Davies: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Parliament has today expressed a very clear view that the mass culling of badgers is not appropriate as part of a bovine TB eradication strategy. I also learnt today, from a response to my named day question, that the Secretary of State has now received, and is now considering, the delayed independent expert report, which will likely condemn the culls as ineffective and inhumane. May I therefore ask the Minister, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to confirm that a full debate and vote in Government time will now take place before any decision to proceed with an existing or new cull takes place?

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): That is not a matter for me, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware, but I am sure that his point will have been heard. [Interruption.] If the Minister wishes to respond, I am happy for him to do so.

George Eustice: I will respond, Mr Deputy Speaker, because obviously the shadow Minister has an issue with the fact that we have received the report. We have indeed received it, and we are considering it. It was not our decision when the report was delivered to us; an independent expert panel decided that. It was not our decision to have this debate, nor did we get involved in the decision of the Backbench Business Committee to have the debate today, and nor is it the role of Labour Members to dictate when the Government should publish the report. Let me be very clear: we have always been clear that we will publish the report and then, when we have made a decision—we have not made any decisions yet—[Interruption.] No, I am not going to confirm that there will be a vote. I have discussed and debated this many times, and I am sure we will have many opportunities to do so again in the future.

Miss McIntosh: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. We have had a very well-mannered, even-handed and good-tempered debate, and I regret that we have had what the record may prove to be a vote on very erroneous grounds indeed. I would like to refer to this point of order when we have the record of the vote.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I will be quite honest: I do not treat what you have said as a point of order. There is no record of the vote as yet, and we will have to wait and see.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. This is now the second time the House has debated this issue on a Back-Bench motion, with overwhelming votes to stop the cull. What good is it having debates in Parliament if the Government are wilfully staying out of the Lobby, not involving themselves in voting for the policy that they are pursuing in the country, and taking no notice whatsoever of votes of this House. Is not this making this House an irrelevance?

Mr Deputy Speaker: I can understand that frustration is being shown at this time, but I am not in a position to offer any more advice.

Paul Flynn: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You will be aware that this debate was followed by many thousands of people throughout the country who have shown great interest in it through their tweets and responses. Will they not regard it as an outrage when there is a vote of 219 to one and the Government decide to ignore it? Are they out to prove themselves to be the really nasty party?

Mr Deputy Speaker: That is also not a point of order. It is a matter for the Government when and if they wish to have a vote.

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Public Bodies (Diversity)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(John Penrose.)

5.13 pm

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this topic, which is a key issue not just for equality but for ensuring the best decision making possible for our public services—an area in which I worked in 2009. Civic engagement and the opportunity to play a part in public life are vital for building and sustaining links between all parts of society and our public institutions.

It is nearly 40 years since the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 were first passed into law to end discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender in Britain. Since then, notable milestones have been achieved. We have had the first woman Prime Minister, the first black woman in the Cabinet, and the first Asian and Muslim to attend Cabinet in the shape of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan).

However, we have not seen commensurate attainment in the public sector as a whole. The most recent “Public Bodies” report published in June 2013 by the Cabinet Office shows a worrying trend of reversal in progress. We all agree that public appointments must be made on merit; the question is whether the processes we have in place are really delivering that. Last year, 1,087 appointments were made to the boards of bodies in the UK, but of those only 56 were ethnic minority individuals. In just one year, black and minority ethnic representation went down from 7.2% in 2011-12 to 5.5% in 2012-13—the lowest level in more than a decade. It is positive that the number of female appointments went up from 33.9% to 35.6% in the same period, but diversity strategies must go wider than gender.

The drop is of particular concern because diversity on public boards has been seemingly high on the agenda for the Government Equalities Office, the Cabinet Office and the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The 2011 review of the public appointments system addressed the core principles of fairness, openness and merit, and the Public Appointments Order in Council 2013 refers to a duty for the commissioner to promote equality of opportunity and diversity in public appointments. When the commissioner published the diversity strategy last March it was acknowledged that, although progress had been made, the pace of change was too slow.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate and on being the first ethnic minority woman to represent a seat in west London. This issue has arisen under successive Governments and it has been a real cause of concern over a number of years. Does my hon. Friend think that perhaps the problem is that, when Ministers handed over to an independent body the decision to make these appointments, the politics went out of the appointment system, and that those who currently sit on the appointments board are not as attuned to these issues as Ministers would have been?

Seema Malhotra: My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. There is a separate debate to be had about the effectiveness of creating of an independent

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body. Ministers, however, can still take responsibility and I will come on to discuss how the previous Government had targets for public appointments, which I think made a big and important difference at the very highest levels of every Department.

As I was saying, it was acknowledged last year that the pace of change was too slow, yet a year on it is slower still. Last year, the inclusion think tank Diversity UK, led by Dilip Joshi, Lopa Patel and Sushila Khoot—long-standing campaigners for equality of opportunity—undertook a survey to investigate what was happening behind the statistics and launched the findings at an event that I attended and at which there was cross-party representation.

The survey collected the views of ethnic minority individuals and found that the majority of respondents had not applied for a public appointment despite being aware of such appointments and despite 60% of them expressing a wish to apply in the future. When people were asked why they had not applied, their reasons were varied. They did not feel that they were qualified enough or that they had the right skills, which are common responses to surveys looking at people who are under-represented in different organisations and bodies. Other reasons cited for detracting 68% of respondents from applying for a public appointment included the requirement for sector-specific and previous board-level experience and—this is a very important point—little or no feedback from the process and a lack of cultural awareness from executive recruitment consultants. However, respondents also saw the positive opportunity that public appointments can provide with regard to benefiting society and playing a part in our community and national life.

The survey was circulated to approximately 1,500 senior- director level individuals, and the findings suggest a widening “aspiration gap” between the leaders in business and society and the leaders of our public institutions.

In 2003, Trevor Phillips, the then head of the Commission for Racial Equality, coined the phrase “snowy peaks syndrome” to help explain a phenomenon in the civil service. He said we should think of Whitehall as a mountain range: at the base of each mountain, we might find large numbers of women and ethnic minorities, whereas at the summit we will find a small amount of white, middle class men.

Today, more than a decade later, snowy peaks can still be found in many parts of our society, including the public sector. We see it in the NHS, where only 1% of chief executives are from BME groups even though BMEs make up more than 15% of the health service work force.

The Government have done some important work on improving the representation of women on boards in the private sector, but diversity, as I have said, goes wider than gender, and the public sector remains vital, too. Fourteen per cent. of the UK population is made up of ethnic minority individuals and it is time that the Government demonstrated greater leadership on the issue.

Just last month, new research on the corporate sector revealed the widening aspiration gap, with two thirds of FTSE 100 companies still having an all-white executive leadership. Only 10 ethnic minority individuals hold the post of chairman, chief executive or finance director, which is equivalent to 3.5% of roles at that level. A diversity deficit clearly exists in the corporate sector,

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as it does in the public sector. That deficit also contributes to the lack of growth in developing economies across the world, where our diaspora communities and diversity at board level make a huge difference in building relationships.

The disappointment is that we are still discussing this issue today, when we would have hoped that many of the barriers to the progress of ethnic minority individuals in Britain had been removed. What are the solutions? Lopa Patel of Diversity UK has stated:

“To have declining BME representation at senior levels in the corporate and public sector at a time when BME numbers are increasing in the general population is indicative of failings in the process.”

I agree with the sentiment that the Government must do more to identify and remove what might be institutional discrimination.

It is precisely because of the need to address both demand and supply side issues in the appointments process that the previous Labour Government brought in important reforms and set targets for 50% of new appointments to be women by 2015, and for appointments of BME people and those with disabilities to be in line with their representation in the population. The targets may have been ambitious, but they made a statement and gave a sense of urgency about the need for reform.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that not only has the number of people in the BME population gone up, but their level of education and their role among the professions are unrecognisable from when I was a child, which makes it even worse that the number of such people at senior levels is dropping?

Seema Malhotra: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. It goes back to the heart of the issue, which is that, as we all believe, appointments should be made on merit. It is about whether there is a gap between those with the talent, expertise and desire to be able to reach those appointments and their actually achieving that through the appointments process. The very heart of the issue is whether our system and processes are fair and bring in talent fairly in the way that we need.

Since this Government came to power, targets for those with disabilities or those from ethnic minorities have been removed. The gender target has been kept in the Cabinet Office diversity strategy, but it is now described as an aspiration.

Diversity UK sent its survey findings to all major Departments and requested meetings with Ministers to discuss the issues, but the response was mixed. Imagine its surprise at receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, with Ministers citing lack of time as the reason for not agreeing to meetings. The Home Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Cabinet Office welcomed meetings to discuss the findings, but meetings were declined by, among others, the Prime Minister’s office, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Education. Increasing representation is a complex issue, with no easy answers, but one thing is clear: it requires leadership from the top, particularly

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to give candidates the confidence to put themselves forward and the belief that it is worth the time and effort to do so.

May I ask the Minister to answer the following questions? Will he confirm which diversity targets for new public appointments are in place, and whether they are for increasing representation by gender, ethnicity and disability? What guidance is given to Departments on their recruitment processes, and on how to increase the diversity of suitable candidates at the application stage? What reviews are being undertaken of how effectively Departments recruit, and what powers does OCPA have to challenge those that do not perform well? What message is given to the head-hunters or search agencies selected to assist in recruitment, and to what extent is producing a more diverse range of suitable candidates stipulated in any contract? How are permanent secretaries held to account for their progress on diversity in public appointments? Are public appointment opportunities promoted at every level in our communities in order to reach a more diverse segment of the British public?

Finally, does he think that public bodies are using executive recruitment agencies effectively, and do those agencies have more knowledge of BME communities and how to reach them than public bodies and Departments have through their networks?

The Diversity UK report showed that respondents simply want a level playing field and a strong referee on this issue. The survey supported the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments and its independent assessors in providing those tools.

Our country is admired the world over for its openness, its sense of liberty and the opportunity that it offers all people. I look forward to the Minister’s response and to hearing how he sees us achieving greater diversity in public appointments, which is vital in ensuring that we deliver the public services that all parts of our communities need and in providing a greater sense of opportunity for all the British public.

5.25 pm

The Minister for Civil Society (Mr Nick Hurd): This issue is very important. I congratulate the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) on bringing it forward for debate today. She is well supported by her colleagues and has a credible track record of interest in this matter. Her well-informed speech has raised a number of interesting points.

I agreed 100% with the hon. Lady’s opening statement that this issue is not just about equality. As she knows well from her background in the private sector, businesses that reflect their customers are much better able to understand their needs and can offer them better services as a result. The same must be true of the public sector. There are about 8,500 people on the boards of our public bodies, which range from large public bodies to small advisory committees. All human life is here, from those who monitor the well-being of prisoners to those who govern great national museums. Board members exert significant influence over our lives. They deal with issues that affect a lot of people and shape the public services that we use.

Public services are there to serve the public—the clue is in the name. They can do that only if they understand the needs and priorities of those they serve and those

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they lead. The hon. Lady’s point about the NHS was a valid one. It leads to the obvious question of how on earth they can serve the public effectively if they fail adequately to represent the population. That has been a long-standing challenge, as she recognises. I will try to address her points and to set out that, although we are not where we need to be, we are making some progress.

I agree with the hon. Lady totally that it is extremely disappointing that the figures show a recent decrease in the representation of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. I hope that the work that the Government have done recently to encourage diversity in public appointments, which I shall explain, will reap the rewards and be reflected in the next set of published figures. However, I share her disappointment on this important matter.

As the hon. Lady suggested, it looks like the Government are making progress on the representation of women on public boards, after years of stagnation. Our challenging aspiration that 50% of new appointments to public bodies should be women is proof of how seriously we take the issue. In the last financial year, only 37% of public board members were women. However, we have seen a positive improvement. In the first six months of this financial year—from April 2013 to September 2013—the figure was 45%. The Government continue to focus on this issue by reaching out to talented women and making it clear that a range of fascinating roles are on offer, and by ensuring that those roles are as accessible as possible to all. I will go into more detail on that.

The hon. Lady did not mention disability, but I would like to say a little about it. The Government’s general approach is that the public appointments process should be open to all, regardless of who they are, and should be designed in a way that ensures that we get the best applicants. For the record, the picture is encouraging. Last year, 5.3% of the appointments and reappointments in which the disability status was known were made to candidates with disabilities. That is part of a consistent upward trend, which I hope she will welcome.

I will make some general points about the Government’s approach before moving on to the specifics. The Government have taken unprecedented steps to open up the public appointments process to new talent. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General has placed this matter at the top of the Government’s agenda, as the hon. Lady acknowledged, and rightly challenges all Departments and public bodies to ensure that their boards have the mix of skills and experience that will make them as effective as possible. The presumption against automatic reappointment of incumbents supports that. We have made the process more transparent to improve access to vacancies. Alongside this, we have placed a new emphasis on ability and skills, rather than prior experience, to ensure that key roles in public bodies are open to the widest field, instead of a narrow merry-go-round of the same old candidates that has been a feature of the system to date.

Seema Malhotra: Will the Minister confirm that there is a way for permanent secretaries to be held to account for their progress? Do they need to report progress, and is that part of any performance review process?

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Mr Hurd: The system is independently regulated and I will come on to that. There is more transparency in the process and that is an issue my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General has placed at the top of the Government’s agenda. My experience is that this is more actively monitored and more transparent than it has been in the past.

There was a debate on whether the process benefits from independent regulation, overseen by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. I think it does. It is key in supporting the merit principle, rather than other factors that might determine appointments. All panels have an independent member, who for chair appointments will be nominated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. That is a welcome initiative. The Centre for Public Appointments, which is part of the Cabinet Office, is working across Whitehall, and with the executive search industry, to make practical steps that will help us to open up public appointments to the widest possible pool. I will provide three examples.

First, we are modernising the recruitment process to ensure that adverts are effective and non-exclusive, and that interview panels are diverse and reappointments are made only in cases of utmost necessity. No one seriously disagrees that appointments should not be made on the basis of merit, but talented people often do not apply for public appointments either because they do not know about them, or because they do not recognise what they have to offer. We are placing greater emphasis on ability rather than experience, because we do not want to exclude those who may not yet have acquired board experience but could nevertheless potentially be good board members.

Secondly, there is nothing more off-putting than an unnecessarily long application process, so Departments are increasingly switching to using a straightforward CV and covering letter. We are working to simplify job adverts and are cutting out jargon to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

Thirdly, we are maximising the use of online and targeted advertising, and social media. Two years ago, the CPA did not even have a website, let alone a Twitter account. Now the former has more than 20,000 visits a month and the latter has 1,600 followers. These are sensible measures and independent regulation is important.

On the representation of women and BME communities, progress has been made, particularly in relation to women. The rise of women in the public sector during the 20th-century was agonisingly slow. We should not forget that until 1947, women in the civil service were still expected to resign when they married. They earned less than men into the 1950s. Indeed, when Dame Mary Smieton was appointed as permanent under-secretary at the Department for Education in 1953—only the second woman to reach this grade—she was paid the same as a man. It would be nice to think that that was because her Department was an early advocate of equal pay—it was not—but the Treasury had not worked out a women’s rate of pay at that grade because it did not think that it would ever need to. This is where we have come from. Thankfully, much has changed and continues to improve, both in the civil service, where 47% of employees are currently women, and across the wider public sector, where women continue to shatter glass ceilings. For example, the RAF has recently appointed its second female Air Vice-Marshal.

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Significant areas for improvement remain. As the hon. Lady acknowledged, perhaps foremost among them is the number of women on public sector boards. Women remaining a minority in the boardroom—or worse, where all-male boards persist—becomes more and more of an anachronism every year that passes. In the last financial year, only 37% of public board members were women. I believe that transparency is one of the best ways to raise performance. This was the first year that the Government published their own statistics on the general diversity of appointments, something I hope the hon. Lady welcomes.

Ms Abbott: The Minister is of course the second generation of Hurd to serve in this House, but we know he is there on merit alone and we all believe in merit. However, does he not believe that, in 21st-century Britain, it is very important for public boards and the top of the public sector to look like Britain?

Mr Hurd: I hesitate to correct the hon. Lady, because the correction will not help my case, but I am actually the fourth successive generation of my family to serve in the House. However, I am increasingly, and thankfully, an anachronism. The hon. Lady’s point is entirely valid.

The issue of transparency is particularly important. The message that I am trying to convey to the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston, and to other Members, is that we are making some progress. In the first six months of the current financial year, the number of women on boards rose to 45%. That constitutes real progress.

Seema Malhotra: I can inform the House that I am the first generation of my family to enter politics.

May I ask the Minister to return to the specific point about aspirations and targets? The last Government had targets relating to gender, ethnicity and disability for new appointments, whereas under the present Government only gender seems to remain, albeit as an aspiration. Was there a reason for the removal of the other two targets? Can the Minister shed any light on that?

Mr Hurd: I sincerely hope that the hon. Lady will not be the last generation of her family in this place. I would not wish her to carry the burden that I carry.

As the hon. Lady probably knows, the present Administration are not particularly keen on targets. I shall provide a more detailed response to her question at a later stage, but I will say in response to what she said about the aspiration relating to women that I think that aspiration is fine as long as progress is made towards the aim of the aspiration, which is what I have argued that we are doing. I hope that the hon. Lady welcomes that. We are certainly not resting on our laurels. The public sector is doing better than the private sector, but I do not think that anyone considers the current figures to be satisfactory. We maintain our aspiration that 50% of new public appointees should be women, and we will continue to publish the figures every six months. We want them to continue to rise. Transparency is a new element. As we know, it is a great driver of behaviour and keeps people’s feet to the fire.

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Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Does the Minister agree that one of the things that targets, and indeed aspirations, do is make people take action to meet them? Advertising in certain places often is not enough. This is about actively training people, educating people, and seeking people to fill those roles, rather than passively waiting for them to come forward.

Mr Hurd: I have some sympathy with that view, but I would not underestimate the strength of the new dynamics that we have introduced. There is a clear message from the top that this matters, and there is independent regulation of the competitive process. I have already described some of the things that we have done which we think will make it easier to reach out to people, and to remove barriers and obstacles. We have also made the process more transparent. In my experience as a Minister, the transparency factor is much more powerful than some arbitrary target with no transparency in regard to progress towards it The system knows that this matters and that it is being scrutinised—debates such as this are helpful in that respect—and we will be judged against progress towards the number for which we are aiming, whether it is set as an aspiration or a target.

I do not want to ignore the important issue of BME representation. I will be frank, and say that we are disappointed by the slip-back in the numbers. In their public appointments diversity strategy, published this year, the Government said:

“This is not just about gender; diversity is about encouraging applications from candidates with the widest range of backgrounds.”

It is regrettable that last year the number of successful BME candidates fell from an average of about 7.9% of appointments and reappointments since 2001-02 to 5.5% last year. We are disappointed about that, because it matters to us. We are hopeful that this will prove to be an anomalous year, and that the work that the Cabinet Office and the Commissioner for Public Appointments have been doing to increase diversity in public appointments will reap rewards in the next set of published figures, which will be transparent and will be monitored by the House and outside.

The Commissioner for Public Appointments regulates the competition for many of these posts. He also has a statutory responsibility to promote diversity and equality of opportunity in the procedures for making public appointments. He is actively concerned about the issues that have been raised today and he has already engaged in activity to try to improve the position. For example, he has run a series of workshops for different under-represented groups to identify the challenges to increasing diversity in appointments and will be coming up with practical suggestions to help Departments break down these barriers in the future. I am looking forward to the outcomes of this work and undertake to share them, as far as I can, with the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston, knowing and respecting, as I do, her strong interest in this area.

The public sector needs world-class leadership if it is to continue delivering the services that people rely on, and that means having diversity on the boards of public bodies—people with clarity of vision, who can make decisions, and rise above process to get things done. It needs innovators and people who understand the communities we are trying to serve. It needs people who

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can open up the system to new ways of doing things, who are prepared to take risks without being reckless, and who are willing to take responsibility and to learn and grow.

I do not think there has ever been a time in the public sector when this need to open up the doors to fresh thinking and people who bring different perspectives and insights and different knowledge has been more

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important. There are already great examples of diverse leaders making a significant contribution on public boards, but we are very aware that there is much more we can do and that is why diversity is genuinely at the heart of our public appointments strategy.

Question put and agreed to.

5.41 pm

House adjourned.