4.30 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Let me start by welcoming the Minister to his place and paying tribute to the excellent report we have been discussing this afternoon: “A Question of Trust—Report of the Investigatory Powers Review”, written by David Anderson, QC. He has a formidable reputation as the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. The report ranges far wider than the areas the independent reviewer is usually required to look at. It tackles matters such as the use of the internet by paedophiles, an issue that the hon. Members for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris), for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) mentioned in their contributions. It deals with the use that local authorities have made of powers under RIPA, a matter discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). It also deals with the growing threat from cybercrime and cyber-attacks. It is a very good report and, as the former Attorney General, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) said, it is an amazing piece of work. It contains 124 recommendations, five guiding principles and more than 300 pages, giving us a lot of holiday homework over the summer in this immensely complicated area. It is detailed and thorough, and it is a report that will assist us in the coming months in our deliberations when we start to consider the Government’s specific proposals for legislation relating to the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ use of investigatory powers.

We know that the Government will be bringing forward the draft legislation in the autumn, well ahead of the sunset provisions in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which take effect on 31 December 2016. Of course the Anderson report was commissioned on the basis of an Opposition amendment when Parliament was asked to legislate very quickly to introduce DRIPA in 2014. We proposed that it was the right time for a thorough review of the existing legal framework to be conducted, as we no longer felt, alongside many others, that the current arrangements were fit for purpose. That statutory obligation was then set out in section 7 of DRIPA.

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I thank the Government for finding time for this afternoon’s debate, which my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary requested when the Home Secretary made her statement to Parliament at the publication of the report on 11 June. As my right hon. Friend said in her opening remarks, it has indeed been delivered “very swiftly”, and for that we are very grateful.

This debate is important because, as my right hon. Friend said, we need to ensure that Members of all parties may discuss the report fully and to foster a wider public debate to get the widest possible debate and legitimacy for the new framework. The hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) referred in his contribution to that need to engage in the public debate.

I also pay tribute to the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which produced the “Privacy and Security” report in March. That was a review of the intelligence agencies’ capabilities and the legal and privacy framework that governed their use. We are still awaiting the third report in this area from RUSI, a report established by the former Deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg), who also spoke in today’s debate.

The Opposition accept the need for reform. Obviously, we need to wait to see what is in the draft legislation, which will be introduced shortly, but we are grateful to the Government for bringing this matter forward with cross-party agreement and discussions. We want a robust and up-to-date legal framework and the protection of liberty, as well as security and democracy. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) referred to that point in her contribution.

We want strong powers with strong checks and balances and strong oversight of how the system is to work. The five Anderson principles will be a key part in the development of law and the practice of investigatory powers. Those principles are: minimisation of no-go areas; limits on powers; rights compliance; clarity and transparency; and a unified approach.

Let me mention some of the contributions in this very good debate. I will start with the maiden speeches, which were of an exceptionally high standard. The hon. Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) told me something that I did not know about her predecessor, Tony Baldry. She said that he was the keeper of the hairspray for Margaret Thatcher. She also told us that she makes cider and keeps ferrets. I agree with her recommendation of the Bicester outlet shopping experience.

The second contribution was from the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) who painted a fine picture of his constituency. He talked about the importance of coal, his role as leader of the council and, rather intriguingly, the rolling haggis. Then we had the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) who gave a very generous tribute to his predecessor. He talked about running a shop for 50 years as a barber, and about the similarities between being a barber and a politician.

Finally, we heard from the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst) who represents her home town. She talked about the similarities between herself and Francis Drake, learning to sail locally, and becoming a Member of Parliament. I just wondered how Hansard might record the parliamentary wiggle that she gave as part of her maiden speech.

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We also had some learned contributions from experienced and senior Members of the House: the former Attorney General, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield; the former Deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam; the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), who was a member of the ISC in the previous Parliament; the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire, with his ministerial responsibility; the former shadow Attorney General, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry); and the former Director of Public Prosecutions for five years, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), who spoke about the practical application of the current law with great knowledge. Many Members paid tribute to the intelligence and security services and the law enforcement agencies, which work day in, day out to keep us all safe. I wish to add my tribute to the vital work that they do.

As time is quite limited, I will refer to two particular areas that many Members raised today. The first was the proposal by David Anderson on merging the current commissioners and setting up the new office of the independent surveillance and intelligence commission. My right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary had talked about that previously, and we welcome the idea. It will increase transparency, strengthen the role of the commissioners, raise the public profile and help to build public trust. I note that the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) also spoke about that matter.

The second issue was the proposal on judicial authorisation. The Opposition welcome that proposal from David Anderson, but we do not want to see a delay or detraction from the Home Secretary’s wider responsibility, which is to assess risk to national security and be answerable to Parliament. As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary said, the reforms will strengthen the legitimacy of our long-term framework, and I urge the Home Secretary to agree to them.

There was a mixed view in the House this afternoon. The right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield talked about the burden of proof being reversed in this case and said the Government needed to make the case for not accepting the Anderson recommendation. The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam mentioned his surprise about the operational benefits that might arise from judicial authorisation. The right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster reminded us about political accountability and how important it was, but spoke about the benefit that could be gained from judicial involvement. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) also supported the proposal on behalf of her party. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury gave her first-hand experience of the workings and worldliness of judges in balancing competing interests if they are to carry out this task. The hon. Member for Gloucester also talked about the need for public confidence in whatever system is going to be introduced. The hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) talked again about accountability.

In conclusion, we look forward to the publication of the draft Bill and to the pre-legislative scrutiny. The balance between security and liberty should always be

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struck with great care and constant scrutiny, including in this complex sphere of surveillance and data communication. Whatever the difficulties, we should aspire to achieve both objectives and never one at the expense of the other. We do so in the certain knowledge that the enemies of this country want to destroy both.

4.41 pm

The Minister for Security (Mr John Hayes): May I say what an honour it is to conclude such a measured, informed and significant debate? I am grateful to all hon. and right hon. Members who participated. It has been both in tone and content—as typified by the shadow Minister’s speech just a moment ago—dignified, reflective, measured and determined to do the right thing. There is a determination across the House to get this right.

That is not surprising, given that we are dealing with very serious matters relating to the security of the nation and its citizens. That is at the heart of the national interest and essential to the common good. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) made that absolutely clear in a powerful speech, made all the more powerful by his tribute in it to me. That is why I chose to mention him first.

Most powerful, however, were the maiden speeches we heard today. As the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), generously said, we had maiden speeches from a variety of places in the country and in this House. I congratulate all those who made their maiden speeches, but, as Members would expect, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) and for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst). Even in this non-partisan debate, I cannot help but reveal just a slight prejudice in favour of those on this side of the House.

Keeping people safe, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset also said, is the primary responsibility of Government. It is a responsibility on which all else depends and it transcends partisan politics. That is an axiomatic point; there should not be party divisions about the security of our nation and its people. We must stand together, as this House at its best always does, in the national interest and for the common good. It is also important, as my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) argued, that we consider these matters in a measured way. I was pleased that those on the Opposition Front Bench acknowledged that the Government are doing just that. We wanted to have an early opportunity to explore these matters in this debate and we are determined to proceed on a consultative basis, listening to all arguments. These are not simple matters and they must be considered in that way, and they will be—make no mistake about that.

The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg), whom I have known and worked with in all kinds of guises over some time, always speaks with great conviction on these subjects. He made important points about the considerations that dictate the extent to which the agencies’ capabilities may be made public. As ever, we will ensure that we make information available where it can be made available, and in that respect we are considering the recommendations in the Anderson report carefully. I understand the right hon. Gentleman’s perspective and we take that seriously.

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The right hon. Gentleman and many others raised the issue of third party data. It is essential that we understand that David Anderson did not say that one thing or another should be introduced; he said only that the case should be made for that capability. I think we all agree that to legitimise the exercise, a case should be made to this House and more widely. I do not think there is any difference between us on the need to explore these matters properly and to make the arguments persuasively, precisely as he asked us to do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) made it clear that it is right to consider the issues of domestic appeal. I will not say more than that at this stage, but I note what David Anderson said about that and I note too that my hon. Friend amplified it.

Others made the point repeatedly, and rightly so, that the environment we are working in requires nothing less than that consultative and measured consideration, because it is such a challenging environment. The House should be under no illusions that the UK does not face serious threats from home and abroad. Reasonableness must be tested against reality. It was Hegel who said—it is a pity the Speaker is not in his place, Madam Deputy Speaker, because he likes it when I draw on Hegel, but I know you do too, and I am coming to one of your favourites later—

“What is reasonable is real; that which is real is reasonable.”

Matching our response to the reality of the threat we face is, in that sense, a test of its reasonableness. Recent attacks on allies around the globe show us that there must be no complacency, but that we must always be alert and ready to act. We will shortly mark the 10th anniversary of the 7 July attacks in London that resulted in the deaths of 52 innocent people and injury to 700 others. Those terrible events are seared on the memories of us all, I think—a heart-wrenching reminder of just how real the threat we face is.

As the shadow Home Secretary said, it is not only terrorist threats that our intelligence agencies thwart in exemplary fashion. Daily in each of our constituencies lives are touched, and sometimes ruined, by serious crimes such as murder, rape, child sexual exploitation and trafficking. The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) made the highly pertinent point that investigations into all those subjects require scrutiny of all sorts of information, including historical information. We know that in some of the recent and most notable cases, that has been vital to bringing people to justice. I thought that was a powerful argument about not just dealing with now or what might be, but dealing with what has been in the terms that he described.

There are certainly no grounds for complacency. As well as dealing with what has been, we have to be aware that the threat we face is highly dynamic. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury said that the adequacy of our response will be tested by its capacity to deal with that very dynamism. The ability of our enemies, those who want to do us damage, to move quickly must be matched by our ability to respond with just such alacrity. It is true that, as the shadow Home Secretary and others have said, although the internet has undoubtedly served many virtuous purposes, we cannot ignore the fact that it has also created opportunities for criminals and terrorists, which they have been fast and keen to exploit.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) drew our attention to the dark web, and some of the things that happen in that place. In a digital age, our laws must be framed to give our law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools and capabilities they need to perform their essential work, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) made clear. As he said, those services will look at only a tiny fraction of the multitude of activities that take place in that area. He drew our attention to the report of the Committee on which he so ably serves, which has looked at these matters in considerable detail.

We are clear that there is a need for new legislation on the subject of investigatory powers. We note and take very seriously David Anderson’s remark, repeated in this Chamber, that there is a need for coherence and clarity in all we do. We have heard many hon. Members repeat his claim, including my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the former Attorney General, who was very bold in admitting his ignorance. He suggested that that ignorance applied to us all; I am only prepared to admit to bliss. He said that the nature of what we were dealing with was so complex that it was almost incomprehensible, and that that would have an effect on faith, belief and confidence in the system for all involved. He made a powerful contribution to our debate, and I know that he will continue to do so as we consider these matters over the coming weeks and months.

We hear clearly the message that David Anderson broadcast, which has been repeated today: coherence, clarity and, to some degree, simplification have merit of themselves in assuring people about what we do and why. As the House knows, the sunset clause in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 provides a clear deadline. Legislation is needed, and David Anderson’s report provides a clear starting point for constructing that legislation. His report is complemented by the report on privacy and security that the Intelligence and Security Committee, which I mentioned, published in March. As the shadow Minister said, we also look forward to receiving the Royal United Services Institute report in the coming weeks. Together, those reports will form a firm basis for considering legislation, but I make no apology for repeating the point that this is a consultative process. Not only do we intend to discuss these matters in the House, as we have done today, but we will publish a draft Bill precisely to facilitate pre-legislative scrutiny of the kind that was called for in this discussion. Today’s debate has been held in that spirit.

I have listened carefully to the many and varied speeches made. Some very specific contributions, including that of the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) and the shadow Home Secretary, require careful consideration and will no doubt form the basis of further discussions.

We have heard many tributes paid to our security and intelligence agencies; I want to amplify those remarks. The work they do every day to keep us safe—at great personal risk, as the Home Secretary has often said—is by necessity undertaken in secret, and is consequently unknown and often unheralded. Like her, I applaud what they do. As Security Minister, I am now able to see in person just how impressive those charged with protecting

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us are, and I welcome the opportunity to place on record the House’s appreciation for their determination, dedication and diligence.

There has been considerable discussion, not unanticipated, of who issues warrants. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield raised the issue with his usual style, and made some interesting remarks about the impact that changes might have on operational effectiveness. Others argued that the system could be affected detrimentally by what would be a more bureaucratic and possibly less responsive approach. Those are matters to be explored and discussed; I make no definitive remark on either position today, but those are certainly likely to be the sort of things that we will consider in considerable detail over the coming weeks.

What is absolutely clear is that wherever that consideration leads, the system must have two fundamental attributes at its core—first, that it is practical and workable, for as hon. Members have repeatedly argued, the price of failure is almost unimaginably horrible. Secondly, it should reflect where functions should reside in our parliamentary democracy. There has been something of a fashion among politicians in recent years, perhaps because of a certain degree of insecurity—a lack of confidence, which of course I do not share—which has led to the giving of powers to others which might more properly rest in this House. That was the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) when he talked about the accountability to the people through the power—“sovereignty” was the word used—of this House. I do not want to exaggerate the case, but it must be taken fully into account.

The Executive, answerable to this House, and through this House answerable to the people, play an important role in safeguarding our democracy. The argument that others should be involved must not be allowed to erode public confidence. There has been some confusion about public confidence. I do not mean to be unkind to the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry)—I will become more unkind to her when she has been here longer because I will feel more right to be so, but at present it would be excessively harsh—but I do not agree with her about public confidence in the system. The facts do not support her argument. She must know that all surveys of public opinion suggest a very high level of confidence in our intelligence and security services. They suggest that the public support the work they do in keeping us safe, and I do not hear a clarion call for change or the radical spirit that she conveyed reflected in the views and sentiment expressed to me, but perhaps we move in different places in different circles at different times.

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We have heard a lot said today about bulk collection of data. Let us be clear. Both the ISC and David Anderson have examined what happens at present and suggested that those capabilities are required, are properly used and are not subject to abuse. Just as clear is the need to address the so-called snoopers charter. I am sorry that it was raised in those terms. There was never a snoopers charter. David Anderson’s report puts that canard back in its nest once and for all.

Despite what some have suggested, David Anderson does not say there is no case for the capabilities that were to have been included in the former Communications Data Bill, though I accept, and the Home Secretary made it clear, that we are taking a step back, thinking afresh and taking into account all that has been said and done. Clarity and coherence are frequently the hallmarks of understanding and almost always the prerequisites of confidence. I acknowledge and accept that and will look at legislation very much in that spirit.

What a valuable debate we have had today. As I thought about our intelligence services, the guardians of our freedom, I thought of C. S. Lewis, who I knew you would want me to say a word about, Madam Deputy Speaker. He said:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

Our intelligence services are tested regularly. This is vital legislation because it affects the safety of the British people. It must be right and fit for purpose for many years to come—no small challenge, given that we are dealing with fast-moving and ever-changing technology, as many hon. Members said. Parliament will, of course, be fundamental to that process, both in the pre-legislative scrutiny to which the draft Bill will be subjected, and in the rigorous scrutiny which I fully expect will be applied to the Bill. That is how it should be.

We must act with the certainty epitomised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood, tempered by the care recommended by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield. We must proceed with the confidence illustrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, coloured by the honest assessment of the scale of the challenge we face, made clear by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster, but most of all we must act with the determination personified by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who knows that we must do what is necessary, but fundamentally we must do what is right.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered reports into investigatory powers.

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National Gallery Industrial Dispute

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

5 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I want to draw to the House’s attention the dispute taking place at the National Gallery, which has been the most extended period of industrial action at the gallery in the history of British cultural institutions. It is time for the Government and all those who want to see the dispute brought to an end to intervene so that we can bring both sides together before further damage is done to the gallery, its staff and its reputation.

There have now been 45 days of strike action since February by staff who have a reputation for loyalty to their service. It has been caused by plans by the management to privatise two thirds of the workforce—400 of the 600 jobs—which would be so damaging to the gallery and to the service provided to the general public. The dispute has disrupted the gallery’s functioning and damaged its reputation. During the period of industrial action, most of the rooms are closed to the public, talks and educational events are cancelled and much of the gallery cannot function as normal.

Staff morale at all grades is at rock bottom, and that has been intensified by the gallery’s decision to dismiss Candy Udwin as the senior Public and Commercial Services Union representative at the gallery. The gallery has so far refused to reinstate her, despite a ruling by an interim relief hearing that it is likely that she was unfairly dismissed for trade union activities.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): I am seeing a distressing trend across the public services of trade union activists being dismissed in the course of their duty of raising concerns about their services. Does my hon. Friend agree that the trend seems to be escalating? I am thinking of the situation in Barts hospital, where the occupational therapist Charlotte Monro was also dismissed, although she was just reinstated in March.

John McDonnell: There have been a series of examples of what can only be described as victimisation, and I fear that this is one of them.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): As the hon. Gentleman knows, the National Gallery is in my constituency. I have received a number of representations and am very concerned about what is said tonight. I am afraid that I will have to leave shortly, but I will read the full Hansard report of the debate. This dispute is particularly regrettable because the gallery was one of the first employers in central London to pay the living wage, which we should all support. I hope that he will give at least some credit in that regard, although I accept that there are some very worrying specifics in relation to the case to which he refers.

John McDonnell: I certainly will, because it was a campaign by the PCS that achieved the living wage, but it was intervention by Ministers and others, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall, that urged the employers to give the living wage in London. That shows that interventions by Ministers and others do work in these

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cases. All that I am asking for today is that we all recognise our responsibility to try to bring both sides together to resolve the dispute, because the gallery is a national institution of great significance.

Some 22,000 have already written to Mark Getty, who chairs the gallery’s board of trustees, calling for Candy Udwin to be reinstated. The gallery’s argument on the matter is that cuts in its grant aid require it to organise a greater number of fundraising events, and that it therefore requires greater flexibility from its workforce. The gallery claims that the staff and PCS have

“refused to agree any changes”

or to agree greater flexibility and that, therefore, it had no choice but to outsource them to a private company. That is simply untrue, as has been shown in the evidence I have seen directly from the union and in meetings with the staff. The union has put forward an alternative plan that proposes a new flexible contract that would guarantee the gallery all the flexibility it needs, as well as being supported by the staff. The union has persistently asked gallery managers and trustees for the opportunity to discuss the alternative plan properly, which it believes has never happened.

The PCS tried to engage in talks at the gallery last year, and at ACAS earlier this year, and it continues to call for talks. The union has even carried out its own scoping exercise, which confirms that there would be support from the staff for its plan and that its proposals would guarantee the flexibility that the gallery requires. The union will shortly present its detailed proposals to ACAS and invite it to organise an independent scoping exercise to confirm the union’s findings with regard to the flexibility of working that will meet the gallery’s demands. Interestingly, as recently as this week, in Newsweek magazine, the outgoing director, Nicholas Penny, was reported as

“voicing a preference to keep visitor services in house.”

There is a responsibility on all of us, including the Minister, to encourage a resolution to this dispute to help get both sides back to talks before further damage is done to the gallery and its reputation. If we can help to encourage the gallery and the union to find an agreeable solution, that would give the incoming director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, and the new chair of trustees, Hannah Rothschild, who take up their posts in August, an opportunity to heal the wounds of this dispute and the damage done by it and take the gallery forward with the staff in support of them.

I know that Ministers are loth to intervene in arm’s length bodies, but the National Gallery is funded by the taxpayer and has national significance, so it is a special case, where ministerial involvement is required. As the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) said, everyone was pleased when the intervention took place that helped to ensure that the gallery overturned its previous refusal to pay the London living wage, which will now be paid from 1 July. It would be possible for all of us present in the House, including the Minister, to make a statement to encourage the gallery to attend talks at ACAS in an attempt to resolve this dispute. That has happened before in past disputes and should happen again today.

The crux of the issue is that the National Gallery is arguing that it needs to raise additional funds through out-of-hours fundraising events—an important part of

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its strategy to cope with the reduction in grant aid. However, everyone is now saying that that should not be at the expense of the quality of the service that the gallery provides to those who visit it for free. In November 2013, the gallery and the board of trustees agreed with this, arguing that privatisation would not be in the interests of the gallery in terms of the quality of service or financially. A document published by the trustees said:

“A well trained and committed workforce in-house, with a good understanding of the Gallery’s specific circumstances”

will provide the best quality of service for the National Gallery, its 6 million visitors, and all those who access its collections for education and enjoyment.

There is no evidence that that does not remain the case. In fact, all the evidence shows that so far the privatisation and outsourcing is leading to reductions in the quality of terms and conditions for staff and of the service that those staff provide. There is some evidence for this at the National Gallery. CIS, the private company that has been brought in on a temporary basis to provide visitor services and security, has told its staff that it is not their job to answer questions from the public about the paintings. This is a gallery! PCS believes that there has also been an increase in the number of complaints from members of the public about the behaviour of the staff working for CIS.

Let us contrast that with the National Gallery’s own staff. They are extremely knowledgeable about the collection and see it as part of their duties to inform the public about the paintings, where they are located, and if they are off-show for any reason, as well as giving information or advice if asked. That is a crucial service provided at the gallery, especially for those visiting for the first time or those without specialist knowledge of the collection. Staff who are planned to be outsourced include those in the information service, those who deal with school bookings and support for school visits, and those who deal with complaints and freedom of information requests. The process of privatisation is going on apace, threatening all the expertise that has been built up over generations.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is long overdue that the Government intervened in this dispute in one of the jewels of our heritage? Does he also agree that it is extremely shortsighted of the management of the National Gallery to seek to privatise public sector jobs in this way, because what will happen is what always happens—permanent, stable staff, who are invested in their work and in the museum, are replaced with non-permanent, insecure, privatised staff, and that must, over time, lead to a diminution of the offer to the general public?

John McDonnell: It is interesting that the shortlisted companies bidding to take over two thirds of the staff jobs are security companies: CIS and G4S. These are companies with specialist knowledge of security, not of art, the gallery itself or its history, and certainly not of dealing with people who want to see and enjoy artistic talents going back centuries.

The National Gallery managers claim that they are only doing something that has already happened in other museums and galleries, but that is just not true:

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no large gallery or museum has introduced an across-the-board outsourcing of two thirds of its workforce, including all the front-facing staff, which is what the National Gallery proposes to do. The National Gallery is therefore proposing an experiment in the face of widespread opposition from not only the staff, but the general public: 45,000 people have signed a petition against the proposals.

The costs already involved in the employment of CIS are shocking: £1 million has been spent on this private company, effectively to use it as a strikebreaking force during this dispute and to avoid the current legal restrictions on the use of temporary staff to replace striking workers. The company was introduced when outsourcing was first announced in July 2014. The stated reason was the need for additional events during the Rembrandt exhibition. However, the gallery’s own staff have covered all other exhibitions, including the Leonardo exhibition in 2011-12, which was even busier, with more extended opening. To be frank, if there was £1 million to spend on the National Gallery, it should be spent on ensuring that it operates more effectively and to redress the 20% fall in the number of visitors over the past five years.

What has made this dispute even more bitter is the victimisation that I mentioned earlier. The management has refused to engage seriously with the union on the alternative plans, but it has also gone further and victimised a PCS representative, which, to be frank, is despicable. Candy Udwin was a PCS representative involved in helping lead the union’s campaign against the privatisation plans. She was dismissed. What for? For sending an email to a union representative which included an estimate of the CIS costs and suggesting he request information about the costs from the head of human resources. Even though the head of human resources replied that the figure was entirely wrong, Candy Udwin has been dismissed for gross misconduct, since sharing that estimated figure was deemed to be a breach of commercial confidentiality. This would be farcical were it not for the effect it is having on this PCS representative.

An employment tribunal recently awarded Candy Udwin interim relief and ruled that it was likely that a full hearing would find that she had been unfairly dismissed on the grounds of her trade union activity. The judge’s ruling stated that it was likely that her actions would be found

“not to be blameworthy let alone gross misconduct.”

I urge the Minister to encourage the National Gallery to review its decision to dismiss Candy Udwin and to allow her to return to the job she loves and to represent PCS members at the gallery.

The National Gallery has failed to carry out an equality impact assessment of part of the proposed changes and to meet its public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010. This has been raised with the gallery and with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Government’s Equalities Office works from within the Minister’s Department, but his Department claims that the provisions of the Equality Act and the public sector equality duty do not apply and can be ignored. Staff protected under the Act, such as the disabled and the aged, are to be told that they have to stand all day, and women with childcare and caring responsibilities could have flexible working practices imposed on them. The union has pressed for six months to work constructively in this area with the Minister’s

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Department, but without success. Is the Minister comfortable with the equality duty being ignored in that way, and will he review the Department’s decision?

Why is this happening? To be frank, I think there is a crisis of management at the National Gallery. If the director still claims, as has been quoted in Newsweek this week, that he would prefer the staff to remain in-house, and if the executive committee and the trustees still believe, as they did up to the beginning of 2014, that outsourcing would not be in the best interests of the gallery, it might be instructive to understand why there has been such a change of heart. I think it is because of the crisis of management there.

Over the course of two years, nearly all the senior managers left the gallery, whether voluntarily or otherwise. Ten National Gallery directors and senior managers resigned, were dismissed or left with a compensation package between 2012 and 2014. The gallery’s leadership style in response to the problem that they are now experiencing appears to be to remove and replace personnel, rather than to tackle any of the issues that they have to confront.

Once removed, staff have often been replaced by temporary advisers. Where do they come from? For example, there is the employment of David Commins—previously G4S security manager for the Olympics—as the gallery’s security adviser, who was then responsible for the introduction of CIS and the development of the privatisation proposals. A new head of human resources, RoseMarie Loft, was also employed at that time. This appears to reflect an absolute crisis of management at the gallery. I think there is concern right the way across the piece that, actually, unless the issue is resolved, it will sour the introduction of the new director and the new chair of the trustees.

There has been a huge campaign on this issue. Only a few weeks ago, Trafalgar Square was filled not just with strikers, but with their supporters. Artists turned up to read speeches and poems and to present artwork expressing their concern about this overall dispute. An alliance has developed right the way across those who receive the services of the National Gallery and enjoy them and those who provide them, so there must be a way forward before further damage is inflicted on the staff, the reputation of the gallery and the future of the service. This dispute is not going away, because there is such a sense of grievance among the staff themselves, particularly with regard to the victimisation of their trade union representative. There is a view that constructive talks could be held immediately that would find a resolution to the problem on the basis of the alternative plans proposed by PCS. It would not take much to get both sides together to resolve the dispute.

I suggest that we agree some proposals today, and I urge the Minister to back them. First, from this House, we should set a deadline for management and unions voluntarily to come together within 10 days. We should urge them both to get round the table and negotiate. At the end of that 10 days, however, if management and unions have not entered into talks, I believe that the Minister should intervene. His Department funds the National Gallery, and his Department will be held responsible if the National Gallery’s reputation and service is damaged beyond repair as a result of the dispute. Therefore, if there is a lack of willingness from the National Gallery’s management at the end of the

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10 days voluntarily to meet with the unions, I believe it is up to the Minister to force them to come together, to convene the meeting, to be at the round-table discussions and, at least, to plan out how the dispute can be resolved. This is too important a dispute for Ministers or individual MPs—particularly London MPs—to stand on one side.

As has been said, this is one of our national treasures—the National Gallery—with 6 million people visiting it every year. We have cherished it over generations, but its reputation could now be severely damaged. I urge the Minister to intervene at this stage. All of us who have looked at the issue think there is a resolution to the dispute if there can be serious negotiations. The onus falls upon all of us to ensure that those negotiations take place.

5.19 pm

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): I am grateful for the chance to respond to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and I thank him for securing this debate on this important issue. It is obviously a very sensitive matter and it has caused some emotion. He referred to the rally that was held at the end of May in Trafalgar Square. I had the privilege of watching his speech on YouTube today, and I certainly recommend it to all other hon. Members. It was an impassioned and passionate speech in which he talked about how he would bring this issue to the Floor of the House. He described the trustees of the National Gallery, in respect of this dispute, as “philistines”. He used another word that I do not think I would get away with passing off as parliamentary language, but you can watch it on YouTube, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I am sure you will after the debate.

As the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, although the National Gallery is funded by Government, it operates at arm’s length from Government and is responsible for its own staffing arrangements. This debate is really about the National Gallery’s much-needed plans to modernise its arrangements. There is an ongoing modernisation programme and I think that the National Gallery is doing what is needed to provide a service that meets the needs of the public today.

At its heart, the National Gallery has a duty to protect, preserve and curate its priceless collection, and to preserve free access to its galleries. I am pleased that the Government have been able to maintain free access to the permanent collections of our national museums. However, the gallery also has to provide a relevant service to the public—a public whose demands have changed over the years. Visitors have different and high expectations of the gallery, and I want those expectations to be met.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, the gallery is a great success story. It is the third most visited museum or gallery in the world, after only the Louvre and the British Museum. As he mentioned, more than 6 million people come through its doors every year. The National Gallery needs to meet that huge demand and to provide a good offer to the people who visit it that matches their expectations on security and facilities.

The current staffing arrangements mean that the National Gallery cannot provide a guaranteed level of service outside the restrictive set of standard hours.

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That limits what it can offer the visiting public. The management of the gallery have decided that the ability to extend opening hours is necessary, and I agree with them. Under the current arrangements, there is no contract to guarantee the availability of staff for evening openings, meaning that for its Friday evening openings, the gallery has to employ a completely separate workforce. On occasion, an insufficiency of in-house staff has led to the contracting in of external staff to cover even exhibition openings and other evening events. I understand that staffing costs at the gallery are projected to increase by almost a third over the next five years, with no extra provision of service. That is a wholly unsustainable situation.

As has been mentioned, the National Gallery engaged with its staff and the unions for five months, in an attempt to increase flexibility, introduce new working patterns and guarantee a minimum level of service at all times. As part of that process, a basic salary above the London living wage was offered as a minimum for all staff. After that extended period of negotiation, no agreement was reached. With the lack of an agreement, the gallery was keen to move ahead with the necessary changes. I have been assured that engagement with the union has continued, via ACAS. More recently, the union was again invited to offer an alternative to the provision of services by an external provider.

Any move will see the 315 staff transferred to an external provider via TUPE, meaning that all their terms and conditions of employment will be protected. There will be no redundancies as a direct result of the transfer.

John McDonnell: The union has come up with its alternative plans, which the management have not yet considered. It wants the management to go to ACAS to look at those plans. Would the Minister welcome that initiative, because it would bring them back round the table?

Mr Vaizey: That is new information to me. My understanding is that the National Gallery has made it clear to the unions that it would look at any alternative offer. I am not sure what the status of the offer that the hon. Gentleman mentions is and I have not had a chance to hear the National Gallery’s perspective. However, the gallery is at quite a late stage of the procurement process and, in theory, contracts for outsourcing the service will begin later in the year.

John McDonnell: Can I get this clear? As a matter of principle, the Minister would welcome the management and the unions going to ACAS together.

Mr Vaizey: As a former lawyer, I am cautious about making commitments on the Floor of the House that go beyond the general principle that I do not think it is appropriate for the DCMS to interfere in the negotiations between the National Gallery and the unions. Given that there have been five months of talks, I would say that it is, in principle, for the National Gallery to decide whether it thinks the unions have come up with something that is qualitatively different from offers that have been made before and whether it is therefore appropriate to re-engage in any talks. I would say that—

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John McDonnell: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Vaizey: No, I will not give way for a third time at the moment. If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I will make a couple of extra points, and then perhaps there will be time for me to give way again.

If the modernisation programme goes ahead, the gallery will be able to extend its opening hours and guarantee provision for extended evening openings on Fridays and at weekends, which is when a lot of people now wish to visit galleries, and for special events. That will lead to increased income for the gallery, but even more importantly it will make it relevant to a whole new group of visitors. Late events attract more and more people—I believe that as many as 5,000 visitors attend some of them. The gallery has also introduced a great new membership scheme, with 20,000 members, so it is making great strides to increase its income, which will allow it to be more resilient.

It is my understanding that staff will benefit from the modernisation programme. The previous Culture Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), worked with the National Gallery to ensure that it was in a suitable situation to supply the London living wage to all staff. That will start next week, and we should all welcome it. I believe that the National Gallery is the first national museum to introduce the London living wage for all its staff.

I understand that the incoming director, Gabriele Finaldi, and the new chairman of trustees, Hannah Rothschild, are aware of the situation. Ms Rothschild was of course a member of the board that took the decision to outsource staffing services as part of the modernisation programme. It is important to make the point that I do not believe the process is being rushed through.

I think this would be an appropriate point at which to give way to the hon. Gentleman for a third time.

John McDonnell: I just want to get the Minister’s view clear. Surely he would welcome a resolution through negotiation and talks, and would therefore urge all sides to get together for those talks at this stage.

Mr Vaizey: At some point the National Gallery has to take a decision to move on, and my understanding is that it asked the unions to come up with an alternative offer by 8 June. That deadline, which I understand was an agreement between ACAS, PCS and the National Gallery, was not met. As I have said, it is not my intention to tell the National Gallery what it should do. The process has not been rushed and there has been a great deal of engagement with the union during the process.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the individual who has left the gallery. As he made clear, there is a legal process, and the National Gallery has acted in line with the judge’s orders to this point in ensuring that no detriment is suffered pending the tribunal in October. Of course, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on a case that is effectively sub judice.

I think we can all agree that the National Gallery is a fantastic institution with a truly world-class permanent collection owned by the public of this nation.

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John McDonnell: The Minister has received his briefing from the National Gallery, and I will happily provide him with a briefing from the union so that he can get a more balanced view. As far as I am aware, the management have not considered the alternative plan. He tells us that there was a deadline of 8 June. I know of no such deadline, but we are talking about a matter of a fortnight. The staff have put forward alternative proposals that could resolve the dispute. Does he not think that in the long-term interests of the gallery, the management and the union should be urged to get together to consider that alternative plan? That would at least give the new director and the new chair of trustees a way to take the gallery forward to a long-term future in the interests of all those who cherish it.

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Mr Vaizey: As I think I have made clear a number of times during this important debate, from what I know of the dispute, the National Gallery has engaged extensively with the union to seek a way forward. We know what its aim is—to modernise its working practices to take account of the desires and needs of visitors in the 21st century. As I have said, I support its modernisation programme, and I think the National Gallery is a fantastic institution. I particularly support the introduction of the London living wage next week.

Question put and agreed to.

5.29 pm

House adjourned.