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Lord Jacobs: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Does he agree that if the economy is rising at a rapid rate, then without any increase in the rate of taxes the tax revenue will be increasing?
I shall now try to be as non-political as I can manage just for a moment. Does not our sophisticated, intelligent electorate now want to be treated with the respect it deserves? Does that not mean governments being required to report on their progress, and lack of it, in a consistent, open and transparent manner? In the absence of that, government are left with the freedom of misinformation.
The Government's answer is presumably the deregulation Bill mentioned in the gracious Speech. There is certainly a clear need for that to stem the flow of government statutory instruments. There were 3,114 in 1997 and 3,232 in 1998. As the Government's Chief Secretary recently said,
While we welcome the Government's extensive consultations, I hope that they can agree that this process has exposed many problems with the original formulation of the Bill. We find it hard to understand why the Government have rejected so many of the key recommendations of the committee so expertly led by the noble Lord, Lord Burns.
That will inevitably mean a number of amendments are left to be made when the Bill comes before your Lordships' House in the new year, particularly concerning precise legal definitions, the combined role of the chairman and CEO of the FSA, and generally questions concerning the accountability and scrutiny of the FSA to ensure that it does not use its formidable powers in an oppressive way.
Would it not have been a better approach to welfare reform if instead of playing word games to see how many mentions of "modernisation" they could cram into the gracious Speech, the Government had recognised that people today have real, basic economic concerns? For example, "How will I protect my parents in old age?" "How will my children's university fees be paid?" "Who will pay for my family's best medical care?" "How do I pay the mortgage when my taxes are always going up?" "Will there be a proper pension left for me?"
When the Prime Minister lavished praise on "modernisation" and struck out against "the forces of conservatism", he made a strategic miscalculation of the highest importance. His aim was to bury the Conservative Party for ever so that wicked conservatism and the wicked Conservative Party would go down together. Instead, he sent Conservatives, current and past, scurrying to their Thesaurus to remind themselves why they had ever been attracted to this wicked creed. They liked what they saw: "conservatism", meaning in character; natural; familiar; accepted; settled; established; to stand fast; to refuse to budge; dig one's toes in; dig one's heels in; endure; stand one's ground; keep one's footing; stand firm. In other words, the Prime Minister reminded Conservatives why they were proud of their conservatism and all it has achieved; what a good cause they had believed in. He reminded them why they did not like Marxist-style sweeping, radical changes, because it meant Mao Tse Tung's Red Revolution, Stalin's purges and Madame Renard's zeal at the guillotine.
Lord Taverne: My Lords, perhaps I may say, first, that I, too, look forward to the maiden speeches particularly as some will be made by people whom I have known for a long time. I am absolutely delighted to see them in this House and I hope to see a lot of them.
I do not intend to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, in the tour d'horizon of the legislative programme because, with so many speakers, I wish to keep my speech reasonably short and to concentrate mainly on the economy. This is one of the few opportunities we have to debate economic issues.
When one is looking at government strategy, there is always a temptation to criticise for its own sake. Having listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, the Opposition's attitude seems to be to criticise everything that the Government do whatever it may be; and to make somewhat unreal points of criticism. With the greatest respect, to describe the Government's style as "Marxist" is to be a little out of touch with reality. I should have thought that it was also unwise to criticise to such a degree. The Chancellor's Statement last year forecast a low rate of growth this year but not a recession. The Conservatives went completely overboard. Francis Maude appeared on television day after day saying, "This is a depression made in Downing Street". And what is he left with?--egg all over his face. I should have thought that the Conservatives should be a little more judicious.
We did not do that. When the Chancellor made his speech last year, on the whole we treated it with respect. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will remember that on the whole, with the Government's record for forecasting being reasonably good, we gave the Chancellor the benefit of the doubt. We are critical in many respects of the overall management of the economy, but by and large, on the record so far there is probably more to approve than regret. Making the Bank of England independent was clearly an important step--of course long recommended by the Liberal Democrats.
The Chancellor has pursued a very prudent fiscal course. My criticism has been that he concentrated his tough measures rather more on companies than on consumers. If he had concentrated more on consumers, interest rates might conceivably be somewhat lower today. That is a matter for the past. The outlook today is reasonably good. The public finances are in a very healthy state.
I want to make two main criticisms this afternoon. The first is the Government's apparent indifference to the high level of the pound. There may be some evidence that it is not hurting manufacturing industry as much as one might expect. I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, said: manufacturing must still be considered a crucial part of our economy. But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to contradict some of the rather uncertain statistical evidence. Many of the figures are often revised. The anecdotal evidence is that the pound is really hurting a large stretch of manufacturing industry, and our exports. I should have thought that there was no doubt whatever that the outlook would be very much better if the pound were lower.
One has only to look at the example of France which is now making a rapid recovery. It has a forecast rate of growth--if anything rather higher than ours--which is benefiting greatly from the relatively low value of the franc inside EMU. Indeed, I suspect that if we were to join the euro today it would be at too high a rate. But the argument is that we can do nothing about that: one can only have an inflation target and if one has several targets none of them becomes meaningful.
I do not believe it is right that there is nothing we can do. I have two answers one of which is more theoretical. First, we should look more carefully at the possibility of so-called sterilised intervention by the Bank of England. I know that propping up a currency by intervening when the market believes that the currency will drop is a recipe for losing a very large part of one's reserves, but that is not necessarily true of intervening in order to cap a currency or to seek to depress a currency. Indeed, in the past the Bundesbank has used such a policy quite successfully. It has also contained the inflationary effects by the judicious issue of bonds. I believe that that is something that the Government should examine.
My second answer is more practical. The Government could set a target date--it would be an important measure for a number of reasons--for entry into the euro. I do not suggest that they should have an absolutely fixed date, come what may, because circumstances might preclude that date. There has to be a measure of economic convergence. I think that most of the Government's five so-called economic tests are just a delaying device. They are almost entirely subjective. The only one that matters is economic convergence. Even that is subjective to a large extent. At present one cannot say that all the economies of the EMU bloc converge. But if the Government said, "We will enter at such-and-such a date subject to there being no unforeseen circumstances in economic development, and of course subject to the outcome of a referendum", it would almost certainly have a lowering effect on the pound. The markets would believe it. They already think that we shall go in in the longer term. Look at long-term interest rates. If we set a specific date, the impact on the pound would be entirely salutary for our economy.
Such a commitment is becoming more urgent all the time. Only last week the monetary committee of the European Parliament was expecting to approve the e-commerce directive. It was suddenly withdrawn. Why? Because the 11 members of EMU decided that they wanted to think about it again. They met by themselves. They made their decision; and then they faced the rest with the decision that they had taken. That is a pattern which will be repeated time and again. A great deal of important legislation is coming up. For example, there is the financial services action programme. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, referred to a number of firms which we wish to help by co-operating with our European partners within the context of the European Union. Vitally important directives are coming up in the field of financial services. Those will be subject to qualified majority voting. What will happen? The 11 will meet; they will decide on their way of dealing with these directives; and then they will face the non-members with the fait accompli. And who will those non-members be? Denmark is likely to hold a referendum early next year. In Sweden, the Government have said that it is only a question of when, not whether, Denmark and Sweden are likely to join. Greece is likely to be a member within a few years. The only member who will have no say whatever in the future of those financial services directives will be the country which has most to gain and most to lose; that is, us.
My second criticism relates to tax. The noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, said that this country has the fastest rate of tax increases as a proportion of GDP of any country in the European Union. Again, I should have thought that he might be a little unwise to commit himself so certainly. By the end of this Parliament it is likely that the share of tax as a proportion of GDP will be going down--not that we on this side of the House necessarily wish it to be. I shall come to that. But the forecast is unwise.
I have two criticisms relating to tax. One is technical. I believe that the Government are trying to do too much and there is too much detail. The measures announced by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury--I have forgotten them all, but I have read the Queen's Speech--go into a great deal of detail. The record shows not only that such measures create a great deal of bureaucracy and work, but that they have no effect. Such special, detailed tax incentives are not often effective.
We wholeheartedly approve of one measure which he announced; that is, the 15 per cent increase in the science budget. But such fiddling around with the tax system disregards the fact that there is a great deal to be said for keeping the system simple and not messing about with it too much.
My other substantial criticism relates to what the Government are likely to do with their surplus. In order, in part, to confound critics such as the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, I believe that in the Budget the Government will take another penny off income tax. They will probably take another penny off in the
To reduce income tax is tempting politically, but it is wrong. It is contrary to our most urgent needs. It is true that the Government have increased spending on schools and the NHS to a level higher than that under the previous government--4 to 5 per cent--but the demands are enormous. I do not believe that they will have much to show for it at the next election. I do not believe that they will be able to show that class sizes have significantly improved; and they certainly will not be able to show that hospital waiting lists have improved. They will still be rationing the health service.
Our health service compares poorly with that of France. There are no waiting lists in France. Our health service does not compare well with that of Germany, but, of course, they both spend much more on the health service. That should be our priority; not tax cuts. We need every penny for schools and hospitals. As regards quality of life, it is more important to improve the quality of the provision of public service than to cut tax by another penny. That is an issue on which we on this side of the House are agreed and I hope that the Government will take the issue on board.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, it is a great privilege to address your Lordships for the first time in this House. I warmly echo the thanks expressed by fellow maiden speakers for the generous welcome and unstinting help I have received both from your Lordships and from the staff of the House.
I welcome the announcement in the gracious Speech that, as part of their drive against social exclusion, the Government are to introduce a Bill to help young people leaving local authority care. Their recent consultation paper pointed out that many young people in care are forced into independence at the age of 16 or 17, which is far too young for most of them, resulting in high levels of homelessness and unemployment. The Government propose to ensure that young people are looked after until they are ready to leave care and that when they do leave they continue to have personal and financial support to fall back on--the same support that other young people can expect from their parents.
Today, I want to focus on the situation of disabled young people in care. Over a quarter of all children in care are disabled; and disabled children are eight times more likely to be put into care than non-disabled children. I was fortunate to conduct some of the interviews for the research carried out by Dr. Jenny Morris on the experiences of disabled young people living away from home, published as Still Missing?. As one young man who was sent to stay in a children's home from the age of eight said to me, "I remember crying a lot and asking why should I leave and not my brothers and sisters ... I'm resentful towards my mum because I was in a wheelchair and I was the one who had to come here".
Disabled children are far less likely to be placed with foster parents and end up in the residential care of children's homes and boarding schools. An increasing number remain at school for 52 weeks of the year. The danger for many young disabled people is not that they will be forced to become independent and leave care too early; rather, for them, adulthood just means exchanging one form of residential care for another. The spectre that haunts them is not of being thrown out on the streets but of lack of any personal concern and expectation that they could do more sentencing them to a lifelong experience of institutional care--a lifetime of having no choice or control over their lives: of when they get up; who they live with; and how they spend their day.
It is now 30 years since a group of disabled students with high support needs found themselves in this situation in California. They were getting an education but had no prospect other than to live out their days in a nursing home, at the mercy of others. Then, with a simple, radical idea, they spawned a revolution. If they were given the money spent on their care, they could hire their own personal assistance and, with accessible housing and transport, gain full control over their lives. When, 10 years later, I filmed one of them, a man dependent on a ventilator to breathe, he was responsible for running the state's rehabilitation service throughout California and had a staff of thousands. That was the start of what is now an international Independent Living Movement. Its central idea is that independence is not about doing everything for yourself, but in having control over how the help you need is provided.
Since the early 1980s this idea has taken hold in Britain. Centres for independent living, controlled by disabled people, have sprung up around the country, giving advice and support to enable disabled people to emerge from institutional life. One of the earliest was formed in Hampshire by a group of disabled adults in long-term residential care. They supported each other in finding the solutions to move into their own houses, get the money to finance their personal assistance and live ordinary lives in the community. Together they found the strength to make it happen, and their continuing mutual support has ensured that their independent living arrangements have not broken down.
The introduction of the Bill provides a real opportunity to extend the gains of the Independent Living Movement to young people who have spent most of their lives segregated and separated from family and community. Like all young people, they need access to positive role models. Many disabled children never meet a disabled adult, particularly if they are in care, which makes their sense of isolation even more acute. If it is tough for a non-disabled child to face leaving care without support, it is all the more so for a disabled young person facing the innumerable obstacles which society places in his or her way.
The Independent Living Movement has already started to address this need for support. One example is a mentoring project run by the West of England Coalition of Disabled People which links disabled children with disabled adults living independently. Another is the advocacy project run by the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People which worked with young people in residential care. As the report of the project stated,
Local disabled people's organisations are well placed to provide the kind of advice, assistance and encouragement that young disabled people in care so desperately need if they are to achieve independent living, have choices and control their lives. The Government have done much to ensure that the building blocks of independent living are put in place. Since October, all new housing must be accessible and the Government have given strong encouragement to the spread of direct payments and the funding of personal assistance support schemes throughout the country. I welcome particularly the commitment to extend direct payments to 16 and 17 year-olds, which is important for care leavers, and hope that a date will soon be set for its implementation.
I urge the Government to ensure that the Bill also promotes the social inclusion of disabled young people leaving care. To this end, it is very important that the young people's advisers and the pathway plans recommended in the consultation paper draw on the experience and resources of the Independent Living Movement. The advisers will have a key role to play in addressing the needs of young disabled people for housing and support, and their needs for inclusion in their local community.
This is an opportunity to prevent yet another generation of disabled people having to experience separation, segregation and dependency in institutional care. It is an opportunity to extend both basic human rights and the rights of citizenship to many young people currently at risk of remaining excluded from society as they enter adulthood.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I rise to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, on her excellent maiden speech. She has had a distinguished career as a campaigner for disability rights. She has worked for some time for the National Centre for Independent Living, about which she spoke in her maiden speech and about which we had an interesting exchange at Question Time earlier today. She has also advised the Prince of Wales on disability issues. She knows that in this House she has many friends. But, as her spirited speech suggested, there are still other issues where much more needs to be done. We welcome her for her knowledge and expertise, for her vitality and for
As we have heard many times, the two themes of the gracious Speech were enterprise and fairness. Our debate today reflects that well. It is about industry and the economy and about social proposals put forward in the Speech. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, concentrated on a fairness issue--the problems of disabled young people and independent living. In my speech, I wish to concentrate on the enterprise issue.
As we heard from the Minister, in the gracious Speech there are proposals for many measures to encourage in particular small and medium-sized businesses. There are proposals to promote venture capital, to grant rights to share options and to extend employee share ownership. Those proposals are of a piece with many of the measures introduced in the Budget earlier this year which sought to encourage the setting up and development of small high-technology enterprises and, in particular, the closer linkage between university science and the industrial community.
It is worth while to probe behind those initiatives. Why is there today all that emphasis on the enterprise economy? The answer lies in what has been one of the perpetual problems of the British economy throughout the whole of the post-war period: productivity. The pre-Budget report issued only two weeks ago by the Chancellor of the Exchequer contained a chapter entitled "The Productivity Gap"; so did the Budget; so did last year's pre-Budget report; and so too did all those competitiveness reports issued by John Major's governments. But, however successful our economy may appear to be, output per worker in the United States is 35 per cent above that of Britain; in France it is 25 per cent above that of Britain; and in Germany, which is pulled down by the very low levels of productivity in the former East Germany, it is 15 per cent higher than here.
We may pour scorn on the inflexibility of the German economy or on the social security provisions in France but the fact is that in terms of output per hour worked, France and Germany are both 25 per cent above UK levels. In the US, from which we have acquired the long-hours culture which some of us do not necessarily believe is as good as all that, it is 20 per cent better than in Britain.
The most galling aspect of all that is that, for all that we think things have changed in Britain and that the trend rates for growth in productivity are moving forward, the fact remains that, if we take a 10-year span, over the course of the past 10 years both France and Germany have kept pace with what has been happening in the UK. So the gap is not growing smaller.
The reasons for Britain's poor productivity performance have been rehearsed many times. They relate to low levels of investment, both in physical capital and in research and development, low levels of skills and the lack of risk taking and enterprise. We
The new measures which are being introduced seek to break those habits and to turn us into a race of entrepreneurs like the Americans. The model is American and I call it the star-and-cluster model. It has emerged in the biotechnology industry, which the Minister knows well. Rich universities in the United States buy in, rather along the lines that football teams do, star scientists who, in turn, attract other stars to work alongside them in their laboratories. In turn, they are approached by venture capitalists to set up small firms, exploiting their expertise. Graduate students from their laboratories are hired as researchers. If successful, those students in turn set up their own enterprises, perhaps supplying specialist products or specialist services required by the parent company. Therefore, over time, a cluster of small firms emerges. The firms complement each other's expertise; are highly competitive with each other; are linked closely with the academic world and engage with the academics in helping to push forward the frontiers of science and technology.
It is an exciting world in which to be. Something of that sort of clustering has emerged in Britain, around Cambridge. It is known as the Cambridge phenomenon. The Government are anxious to see the same thing happen around other star universities--Oxford, London, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Warwick and Southampton. There are about 20 of them. The Government are concentrating resources on those universities.
It is an attractive idea. It provides a way of capturing what we are good at--namely, science, which is fundamental to the knowledge economy--and exploiting it in a creative and dynamic way. Those small high-tech firms have provided the impetus behind the spurt of the US economy over the past decade. We are hoping that they will do the same for Britain.
Perhaps I may sow just a few seeds of doubt as to whether that is necessarily the right way forward for Britain. First, are the Government perhaps not in danger of putting too many eggs into one basket? Can the small high-tech firms really carry the whole weight of the revolution which we are seeking to effect?
At most, small high-tech firms constitute 5 per cent of the population of small firms, if that. It is well known that Britain's problems lie not with that 5 per cent but with the under-performing tail of the
The American star-and-cluster model works but it is complemented by a much more comprehensive framework of support, often organised at state or local level, which networks together small local businesses with local colleges and universities to provide bottom-up support services. In Germany, the Lander, which run the university system in that country, likewise co-ordinate with local chambers of commerce, the Frauenhofer societies and with other specialist support and technical services to meet the needs of local business.
Are we doing enough to provide these "bottom-up" services here in Britain? The idea is that the regional development agencies should assume that responsibility. Are we giving them enough resources to do that? In England, the total budget for the eight regional development agencies is £700 million per year. That is under £100 million each. Much of that is dedicated to physical infrastructure projects. Only 2 per cent is scheduled for innovation.
If we are talking about enterprise, it is high time we lifted the dead hand of the Treasury from our local authorities in England and Wales. If they are to act as regional development authorities should, to promote the development needs of their regions, they need more resources and, above all, much greater discretion as to how they raise and use such resources.
Such a development would logically argue for the regional development agencies to be not, as they are now, glorified quangos, but, as we Liberal Democrats argued when the Bill was before this House, answerable to a directly elected regional authority. Our answer to the PFI and the PPP is to go the American route; unhinge the local and regional authorities from the Treasury guarantee and give them the right to go directly to the bond market to raise funds on their own credit rating.
Such a move would unlock a wealth of creativity in our regions. It would help to leverage resources available from Brussels which at present go uncollected because local authorities cannot raise matching funds. It would help to counter the over-heating of the economy in the South East with all that that entails in terms of house prices and pressures for development. It is high time we challenged the "control freakery" of the Treasury.
Secondly, I wonder whether the concentration on small firms ignores the root of the problem in Britain. It is now well known that for a company to prosper, it must be both enterprising and innovative. Spending on research and development provides a rough measure of innovative performance. The DTI makes it easy for us to examine the record of British companies by publishing annual league tables (we benchmark everything these days). They reveal a shocking record on the part of British business. There is only one industry--the pharmaceutical industry--which meets its competitors in terms of R&D spending. If we subtract that industry from the figures, British
The reason why this is such a worrying trend is that it is increasingly recognised that, in order to make use of the new, state-of-the-art technologies, companies must have within their research departments people who can understand and apply such leading edge techniques. The danger with cutting back and outsourcing R&D, as many of our major firms have been doing, is that they lock themselves out of the new technologies. They do not have the in-house capabilities to translate the new developments into applications.
I have no answer to the problem. I am appalled when I look at the R&D league tables and the patenting record of some of our major companies. They cannot hold their own in the global marketplace in which they have to operate. In the short run, acquisitions and mergers can hide such deficiencies. However, in the long run, they make companies vulnerable to take-over, which has happened. The evidence here is incontrovertible. Globalisation or non-globalisation, the fact remains that multinationals tend to keep R&D close to home. Sadly, foreign owners mean that we shall not be exploiting to the full one of Britain's greatest assets, its science base.
Enterprise is an important issue. I applaud the Government for their many initiatives aimed at promoting a more enterprising and entrepreneurial society. However, we should not kid ourselves that these will solve some of the more fundamental problems we face. I am not convinced that the Government have yet done enough to tackle some of the trickier and deeper problems.
Lord Bagri: My Lords, in addressing this House for the first time, and doing so during this debate on the subjects of industrial, social and economic affairs, where the expertise of Your Lordships is so justly renowned, I am profoundly conscious of the meaning of the word "daunting". I am grateful to those noble Lords who have given me encouragement, and I warmly thank the officials of the House for their unfailing courtesy and helpfulness.
The gracious Speech always contains proposals for legislative change. This year the sense of change seems more than ever in the air. In this House it is more acute than for many, many years. The whole country is more aware than usual of the change and new beginnings, as the century closes and the third millennium beckons.
Change is the currency of every-day life in business. Readiness to innovate and adapt are essential to success in international competition. The capacity to absorb and lead change has always been a strength of the City of London. It must always remain so.
My business life has largely revolved around metals. It was this country, with its trading and financial importance, that gave me the opportunities to build my career. The City of London offered me a base. The London Metal Exchange provided the cornerstone. The LME, which I am proud to have served as its chairman for some seven years, is pre-eminent in the world of non-ferrous metals. It is by far the largest metal futures exchange in the world. Every day its market provides prices that are relied upon globally. Its contracts help to reduce the risk of future price uncertainty. In terms of its influence and relevance to the underlying trade and industry, it is unique in the world.
I would like to suggest that the LME and some other leading markets in the City of London are an enormously valuable resource in this country. Such institutions are worth nurturing. It was authoritatively estimated earlier this year that the work of the LME alone contributes some £250 million to invisible earnings each year. This is why I regard my work with the London Metal Exchange as a privilege and a service.
In what is the most fiercely competitive environment I have seen for 40 years, we must not take it for granted that the City of London will automatically remain a world force in trade and commerce. That position has to be worked for every day. Each day we have to try, and we try hard.
That the City remains at the cutting edge of the global financial markets is due in great part to a high concentration of financial skills which need to be continuously augmented. Thus, our future increasingly rests on developing the talents of young people. It is profoundly important, therefore, to encourage them. That, and a determination to break down barriers, is why I devote some time, among other things, to the work of the School of Oriental and African Studies.
The openness of the young mind is a wonderful thing. Encouraging cross-cultural experience is a most potent weapon in attacking prejudice and breaking down barriers of fear and misunderstanding wherever they occur. In turn that is also beneficial for trade and commerce; a truly virtuous circle.
I am often asked about prejudice and discrimination. Of course, a certain degree of bigotry and prejudice exists everywhere. We have a share of it in this country. But, by and large, we live in a tolerant and caring society. I am extremely appreciative of all the courtesies I have received. I remember that when I first set up in London, the managing director of a large British company with interests in India greeted me. "Ah, Mr Bagri", he said, "you have come to drive us out of England". "No more", I replied, "than you are driving us out of India". I am still here. I am glad that they are still in India, and doing well. Such give and take--taken in good humour--is part of a tolerant and enlightened society. So I would like to say to young people of every background, "Persevere. Prove you have it in yourself to stand up and be counted".
There are a number of measures in the gracious Speech that will touch the life of the City of London. I am absolutely certain that good regulation is vital for good business. But it is essential that the regulatory and legal framework is right. I look forward, for example, to the detailed consideration of the Bill on electronic commerce. While the world is littered with the remains of fashion and fad, it is already clear that electronic trading has the potential to bring about enormous and beneficial change. We must be vigilant about abuse and fraud, but we must facilitate that change.
Catering for change is also a facet of the Financial Services and Markets Bill. I must declare a clear interest by virtue of my position at the London Metal Exchange. I strongly welcome the agreement of my honourable and noble friends and the Government that this complex legislation should be carried over. I believe it is vitally important that the FSA is put on a firm legal footing as soon as possible, and that the new regulatory framework is introduced speedily. Here I should like to pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the other members of his committee from this House and the other place who scrutinised this Bill in draft.
There are, of course, issues in the Bill which must be examined further in detail, particularly in the light of the government response to the recommendations. But that is for another time. I hope that I shall have an opportunity to contribute positively to that scrutiny in your Lordships' House.
In closing, I should like to thank your Lordships for your patience in hearing me out. This House has recently undergone dramatic change in many respects. I earnestly hope that the long-established tradition of courtesy in debate will remain intact. Today I have particular reason to be grateful for that.
Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bagri, on his maiden speech, which was so appropriate today given his distinguished background of a business career and his valuable public and social work, especially with young people. Having launched himself, I hope that he will share his experiences with us on many more occasions during our debates.
I want to speak in support of the Motion and against the amendment in the name of the Opposition, which could be judged ill informed were it not so blatantly party political, as the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, indicated in his speech. I want to concentrate on those aspects of the gracious Speech that are concerned with industry and enterprise.
A few days before Prorogation, the Secretary of State for the DTI spoke to the All-party Manufacturing Group. He recalled visiting a state-of-the-art factory in Rotherham--previously the heart of UK heavy industry--which was manufacturing mechanical pumps. He was amazed to find much of the business being conducted over the electronic wires in Japanese by local linguists. Last spring I was asked to
I do not share the pessimism of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in relation to today's factories. Those two factories have three things in common. First, they are the face of the new manufacturing industry and we should all adjust our minds to this new process of manufacturing, particularly parents, teachers and career officers who, in the past, have discouraged young people from taking up jobs in manufacturing. Secondly, no matter what they are manufacturing, they rely on up-to-the-minute technology and IT structures. Thirdly, those in turn rely on the teaching and research of our universities--a theme to which I shall return in a few minutes.
Chase Advanced Technologies has a high ratio of qualified staff--some linked with research within the university--but it also recruits and trains previously unqualified staff. The NVQs I awarded were at levels one, two and three. The training scheme was developed by the company in conjunction with Bradford Virtual College as a pilot training scheme in electronics for the University for Industry--and highly successful it has been, as the Minister for Science will know from his visit to Bradford. It demonstrates the value of incremental training, allowing individuals to advance at their own pace. I hope that it will be a valuable pilot for the projected training and skills councils outlined in the gracious Speech.
Bradford Virtual College is now a private company. It started out as a European-funded project three years ago with the support of the city council, the university and other partners in the city, to service the cluster of electronic factories in the Bradford district. It now markets its tailor-made training packages far and wide. Those two factories and the Virtual College are the kind of enterprises that will benefit from the new measures in the gracious Speech and from the fiscal measures outlined by the Chancellor in his pre-Budget Statement. I greatly welcome them.
The measures will also assist the regional development agencies to implement their strategies. For example, Yorkshire Forward's economic strategy for Yorkshire and the Humber includes among its priorities, first, developing an e-business region; secondly, creating new, lasting, competitive businesses through a business birth-rate strategy, including setting up centres of excellence clustered around the region's universities. Those priority areas are certainly in the centre of the Government's sights, but they are also relevant to my third theme; that is, the links between universities and industries, to which I shall now return.
The University of Bradford--I here declare an interest as chancellor--is hoping to support and help the RDA to carry out its strategies. In fact, one such centre of excellence already exists in the University of Bradford which, together with the Art and Design Faculty of Bradford College and the National
The demand for undergraduate places is very buoyant and cannot be satisfied. The programme is of world-class standard. I suggest that it needs to be recognised as part of a national, as well as of a regional, strategy. But it is in danger of being damaged by the difficulties in recruiting staff and developing postgraduate support. The head of department recently told me that very few of his students would stay on to do research because they can earn higher salaries--salaries higher than his own staff--at the age of 21, or they move to start up their own business. For example, a 1994 class student is already managing director of a leading Internet company and a major shareholder. Starting salaries for the students in this department at the age of 21 are £24,000 to £26,000 per annum, plus--bang in the middle of the lecturer scale which runs from £17,000 to £29,000 or the senior lecturer scale which is £30,000 to £34,000. An academic career, he says, is not even contemplated by 99 per cent of his students.
Without postgraduate students, there is no future research and we shall lose our current advantage. Without adequate teaching staff, the demand for undergraduate places cannot be met and the subsequent stream into industry will dry up. This is not just a Bradford problem; indeed, all universities face the same obstacles. A glance at advertisements for university appointments--today's Guardian provides examples--indicates that about one-third of the vacancies are for computing staff, with some institutions advertising for unprecedented numbers of six or even 10 posts. Many of those posts cannot be filled. There are neither applicants in sufficient quantity or of sufficient quality to do so; nor are those who are available prepared to stay for long for the rewards available in British higher education.
The problem is now reaching crisis dimensions. Unless something is done about it at national level, the enterprise and entrepreneurship which the Government are rightly seeking to promote and which the gracious Speech envisages will founder.
The Government's injection of new funding into science over the past two years has given great encouragement to universities, which had seen the science base and the unit of resource within the universities eroded during the period of the previous administration. The DTI and Treasury initiatives referred to by my noble friend Lord Sainsbury have also been welcomed by the universities and have prompted closer liaison with business. I would urge the Government to be equally generous in joining with the universities to tackle this desperate problem which carries such important implications for the future success of British industry.
My father first began working in your Lordships' House in the early 1930s. He told me that after the war the House was dying. Daily attendance was down to a handful of hereditary Peers. The Life Peerages Act did, indeed, introduce new life into the House. It is thanks to the introduction of these new life Peers that our country has developed an upper House which, if not widely understood by the public, is admired by those who are familiar with politics and can see how useful it is in using its threat of delay to oblige governments to think more carefully and produce better legislation.
Among the life Peers are secondary school teachers, social workers, Muslims, women, open homosexuals, Afro-Caribbeans and Asians--people from social groups whose experience had previously been poorly represented in your Lordships' House.
I feel passionately that, if we are to make a difference to the Asian boy sitting alone in the primary school classroom because he cannot communicate in English with his classmates; if we are to make a difference to the boy who has no father and is searching for a man to model himself upon; if we are to make a difference to the many children who have been sexually or physically abused or simply been neglected by their parents or guardians, those who legislate for them must have direct personal experience of their lives. I believe that this is the only way to ensure both that appropriate action is taken and that there is the will among legislators to see the resources made available for legislation to succeed.
Of course, legislators need also to be informed by thorough research. That is why the reports of the Social Exclusion Unit and the policy action teams, which this Government so wisely commissioned, are welcome. But these have to complement the experience born of working directly with the socially excluded and reflecting upon that experience. If we are not to go the way of the United States, our politicians need to set the example of engaging with those at the margins of society--not in a merely symbolic way, but by making a commitment of, say, at least six months of regular voluntary work with the same group of socially excluded people. If we can develop a culture of engagement between those with the most influence and those who are most powerless, then the good sought by this Government may continue for generations to come.
The years of abuse of those in local authority care shows us exactly what happens if we do not fully understand the needs of the vulnerable. The Government's proposed Bill to eliminate abuse by those who care for children away from home is very welcome. But it is overshadowed today by the imprisonment, for abusing children in his care, of Derek Brushett, formerly a respected member of the Social Services Inspectorate. An expert who began life
So I believe passionately in bringing relevant experience from the real world into your Lordships' House. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, that we should not overestimate the importance of Westminster. However, I also believe that if Westminster does not work it is the poorest and most vulnerable who will suffer the worst.
I hope that the noble Baroness will forgive me when I say that it is indeed ironic to be enjoined by her not to think too much of the upper House when threat of redundancy and the experience of mass redundancy among one's colleagues is so fresh. Relevant experience is to be valued. I do not think it too far fetched to imagine that a member of a family with several generations of experience in politics might have useful experience to offer Parliament. I think it a waste that so many experienced Peers have now been lost to the House--
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