Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: I hesitate to interrupt my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General, but it is very important that we do not swallow this idea of the level playing field, without recognising that there can never be a level playing field between the defence and Crown, because of the huge resources available to the state. The state has at its disposal the police, who can investigate and trace witnesses and have huge resources. Such a resource can never be balanced with that of the defence. That is why one takes account of that in the level of the disclosure expected of each side. That is why there is such difference.

We must also take account of the fact that the burden is on the state because it is able to punish at the end of the day. To talk about levelling the playing field is not reflecting the reality of the arms on either side.

Lord Goldsmith: I do not recall using the expression "levelling the playing field". I have not suggested that the defence obligation should be the same as prosecution obligations at all. I was making it clear that the sanction proposed—being able to invite the jury ultimately to draw an inference from a change of case—is modest. I challenge the proposition that the obligations placed on the defence are more onerous than those on the prosecution. They are plainly not.

What are the sanctions that may be imposed on the prosecution if it fails to give disclosure? I deal with this, despite what the noble Baroness said about my

14 Jul 2003 : Column 697

experience, every day of the week. Prosecutions are constantly in difficulties because a disclosure has not been made which, it is alleged, ought to have been made and an application is made for the trial judge to stop that case. Cases are being stopped completely. People are being acquitted because of a failure by the prosecution to give disclosure. Evidence is excluded on the grounds that there has not been proper disclosure by the prosecution and that therefore it should not be admitted. A strong sanction is placed on the prosecution; a much stronger sanction than that of inference.

Many people outside Parliament would say that it is common sense to draw an inference in appropriate cases that a person's defence is not to be believed because they first said one thing and then said something else. It is one of the tools by which we in everyday life judge the veracity of a person. If they first say that there was an accident and then they say, "I didn't do it at all", many would say that we ought to be able to take that into account. At the moment, judges would allow that to happen. I do not want to go further than is appropriate to deal with a particular clause.

Lord Ackner: I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General for allowing me to intervene. He criticised what is to be found in a memorandum deposited by the Lord Chief Justice, which is unfair. I stopped reading at paragraph 9 to avoid being told that I was extending my attempts to stop Clause 2 standing part of the Bill by going to other clauses. The memorandum points out that the balance is being pushed too far the other way with regard to Clauses 31 to 38. The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General did not read this part out. I did not read it either, but if he is going to criticise the statement deposited we should bear it in mind. The paragraph entitled "Experts" states:

    "The defence is required, not only to identify an expert who is to be called as a witness, but also an expert who has only been instructed. It is not clear what legitimate use can be made of the information about 'unused' experts that the defence is under an obligation to supply. This procedure must not be used as a backdoor way of obtaining privileged information. If the aim is to eliminate 'duff' experts, a much better way forward would be to pursue the accreditation proposals that have been put forward with the support of Judge Thorpe".

The report continues:

    "Again, this is an example of unequal treatment. If the prosecution go to four experts and only choose to call one they are not required to give that information to the defence, whereas the defence are required to provide such information. The question arises as to what use is to be made of the names of experts instructed by the defendants. Is it intended that they should be interviewed by the police? If so, this could be highly undesirable because, in order to instruct an expert, it is often the case that privileged information has to be given to the expert. Are questions to be asked at the hearing by the prosecution about experts instructed by the defence who are not called? If so, should not the defence be in a position to ask similar questions about the

14 Jul 2003 : Column 698

    prosecution's experts. The explanatory notes are silent as to the purpose of requiring a defendant to make disclosure as to experts instructed".

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Before the Attorney-General responds to that, perhaps it may be helpful to the Committee if I make clear that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, appears to have taken us forward into Clause 34 and to a further grouping of amendments that I have tabled, in which Amendment No. 133, in particular, is intended to address those issues. I shall save my remarks until we reach that point.

Lord Goldsmith: As I said earlier, I was trying to avoid drifting into other clauses, while understanding why noble Lords were referring to them generally to make their points. In response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, I was of course not criticising the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice or his statement. I was respectfully taking issue with the proposition that the obligations on the defence are more onerous than those on the prosecution—I respectfully submit that they plainly are not—and with the proposition that sanctions are included for non-compliance with defence obligations without any equivalent sanctions being referred to for the prosecution. I was saying that the sanctions by which the court can exclude evidence or stop a prosecution altogether and call for a defendant to be acquitted seem to me, with respect, to be powerful—and more powerful than those that we intend to allow a judge to impose, or to be imposed, for non-disclosure here.

Even in relation to the point about experts—although I do not want to trespass too far—with respect, the statement of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice suggests that the prosecution would be able to conceal the fact—of course, he does not use that language—that it has shopped around among experts. I respectfully beg to differ. If the prosecution has been to other experts and decides not to call them, it is highly likely that it will have to disclose not just the names of the experts but their reports as unused material, because they are likely to undermine the prosecution or assist the defence case. So, with respect, I do not accept that point.

I return to the fundamental point. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis talked about the need for a spirit of co-operation between the prosecution and defence. I agree. In paragraph 9, the Lord Chief Justice's statement ends by referring to the need for a spirit of co-operation between prosecution and defence. I respectfully agree.

Clause 32, with which we are concerned, imposes modest but important requirements on the defence to indicate the matters referred to. The sanctions to enforce that are modest; they are intended to make something work that has not worked since 1996. The Government's view is that the clause should be supported.

Lord Ackner: At this stage, I do not propose to divide the Committee, but I shall return to the matter

14 Jul 2003 : Column 699

on Report, unless we obtain some satisfactory resolution as a result of the debate on the objection to the next clause and the one thereafter standing part.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham: In moving that the House be now resumed, may I suggest that the Committee begin again not before twenty-six minutes before nine.

House resumed.

European Union: Information

7. 34 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon rose to ask Her Majesty's Government how much money (a) they and (b) the European Union spend each year in the United Kingdom on information about the European Union, and how these sums of money are split between (i) schools, (ii) universities and other further education establishments, and (iii) elsewhere.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, many people have been concerned about the intrusion into schools, universities, public libraries and the media of what can only be described as one-sided propaganda by the European Union to promote political integration, rather than to provide balanced and factual information about the European Union. The Bruges Group, of which I am an associate member, has conducted research into the matter and has produced a pretty comprehensive brief, which the Minister has seen, showing the extent to which the European Union propaganda machine has penetrated our schools, universities and other institutions. We should be grateful to it for having produced such in-depth research from its own resources.

Let me be clear. There can be no objection to the European Union or the Government providing impartial and unbiased information. What is objectionable—indeed, in some aspects, illegal—is that taxpayers' money should be used to promote European integration, which is a highly sensitive and contentious issue that divides people throughout the European Union, not simply in Britain. It is also objectionable that it should be used to promote one side of the argument about British membership of the euro.

It is little wonder that so many people are worried and outraged by the European Union's use of taxpayers' money to promote European integration, while the same time denigrating, insulting and subverting the nations of Europe and, in the case of the United Kingdom, promoting the abandonment of sterling. The European Union propaganda budget—which is large, about 105 million euros—is used to fund all sorts of organisations: youth organisations, women's groups, youth parliaments, Europe Day, television programmes, press contacts, campaigning in candidate countries for a yes vote—you name it, they do it.

One area of greatest concern is EU propaganda in the classroom, where both European integration and the euro are being promoted. Indeed, it is Commission

14 Jul 2003 : Column 700

policy to influence young minds. A paper endorsed by DG 22 welcomed the opportunity to implant the idea of European citizenship by placing the euro in its historic perspective and supports the use of teachers to inform children, so that they can be used as go-betweens to influence older generations to embrace the European ideal and, of course, the European currency.

To achieve its aims, the Commission has produced teaching aids and modules that are completely one-sided and made no attempt to achieve balance. One booklet, entitled Let's Draw Europe Together, designed for older primary school pupils, contains an opening section entitled, "My Country: Europe", implanting the idea in young minds that they are not British but European. The Government protest that they are in favour of a Europe of nation states—not a European superstate—yet, our children are being taught the reverse by the European Union and encouraged to turn their backs on Britain.

There is also the notorious European Union cartoon publication aimed at children called The Raspberry Ice Cream War. That nasty piece of propaganda so outraged British public by its one-sided and inaccurate portrayal of the European Union that it had to be withdrawn after only a handful of copies had been circulated in the United Kingdom. Another example of the misuse of taxpayers' money by the European Union is contained in the video for teachers entitled, Inside Europe. That video concludes by stressing the need for British pupils to think more in terms of Europe and less as an island race. No mention is made in the video of the great achievements of this island race: in science, industry, commerce, religion, culture, democracy at home and spreading it abroad, diplomacy—not to mention Britain's role in saving Europe from the clutches of a motley assortment of vicious dictators.

Every attempt is made by the European Union propaganda machine to make British children ashamed of their history and heritage rather than to be proud of it. I feel sure that I do not have to remind the Minister of Sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996, which make it illegal to promote political partisanship in the classroom. Section 406 states:

    "The local authority, governing body and head teacher shall forbid—

    (b) the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school",

while Section 407 states that pupils shall be,

    "offered a balanced presentation of opposing views".

I ask the Minister whether the Government will issue a circular to all school governing bodies and head teachers reminding them of their duty of political impartiality under Sections 406 and 407 of the 1996 Act, making it clear that they will take all necessary measures to see that the Act is complied with. Perhaps the Government will also inform the European Commission that some of its materials are complicit in breaking United Kingdom law in relation to political balance, and that it should withdraw any offending material.

14 Jul 2003 : Column 701

I turn now to the universities, where the Commission is setting out to extend its influence, and the promotion of integration through so-called research and development projects and the establishment of university departments of EU integration. In this connection, the Jean Monnet project of establishing chairs devoted entirely to European integration is a major problem in itself. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, who has taken a close interest in this subject, will deal with it in some detail when he comes to speak.

However, a host of other research and scholarly organisations are assisted through EU funding and, indeed, by the United Kingdom Government through matching funds over which they have no real control, with the object of promoting the European project and integration, and creating networks to assist in this process. Again, the research, all paid for with taxpayers' money, is often one-sided, although it is represented as being impartial. This ploy has certainly been used in relation to the highly political issue of scrapping the pound in favour of the euro when articles by academics in receipt of EU funding have been represented as coming from impartial sources.

In a short speech it is impossible to list all the examples of that dubious practice, but I intend to place a copy of the Bruges Group research paper in the Libraries of the House of Lords and the House of Commons so that information is made available to all Members of both Houses and their researchers. For those who do not have access to either of the Libraries, the Bruges Group website is

The tentacles of the Commission do not stop at schools and universities. They embrace public libraries, the press and the sound and vision media, especially the BBC. A one-sided Goebbelsesque picture is therefore being presented to British society and I ask the Government to take some remedial action. For example, they could require the European Commission to adopt guidelines similar to those of the United Kingdom, to include a commitment to impartiality and objectivity, and to prevent taxpayers' money being used to promote only one side of politically contentious issues.

In the United Kingdom, consideration should also be given to the appointment of a watchdog to monitor the European Commission's propaganda activities. In any event, the Commission should be told that its methods are unacceptable in any democratic society.

It has been a privilege to ask this Question in the House this evening and I look forward to hearing the contributions of other noble Lords. I shall listen with particular interest to the reply of the noble Baroness on the Front Bench. In conclusion, I thank all those who have taken the trouble to take part in this debate for their effort, kindness and consideration.

7.46 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for asking this hugely important Unstarred Question, which he

14 Jul 2003 : Column 702

introduced in his usual lucid and forceful style. Like him, some of my briefing comes from the Bruges Group which, as the noble Lord has said, is available for noble Lords to read. Also like the noble Lord, I suppose that I should declare some sort of interest in that I am one of the Bruges Group's patrons and occasionally one of its sponsors.

The general picture is very disturbing. There appears to be a wide, complex and well-funded network of EU propaganda at work in the education systems of all EU countries, and this country is no exception. I am aware of course that some noble Lords, and perhaps even the Minister herself, may take exception to my use of the word "propaganda"—which was also used by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart—but I fear, as we start examining what is going on, that the word may come to be seen as justified.

Because the subject is so wide, perhaps I may concentrate my few remarks on the Jean Monnet project, which is perhaps the principal mechanism for teaching "European integration issues" in our universities. I should remind your Lordships that I speak as one who spent 10 years on a voluntary basis in the British higher education system, from 1983 to 1992, when I represented commerce on the Council for National Academic Awards. The CNAA, as noble Lords may recall, was the validating and degree-awarding body for what was then the polytechnic sector; it held the Royal Charter for all the polytechnics and was abolished in 1992 when the polytechnics were miraculously and, in my view unwisely, metamorphosed into universities.

I was the honorary treasurer of the CNAA for five years between 1987 to 1992, and this experience gave me an unusual insight into the funding of higher education in general and into the attitudes of academics to such funding. I learnt, for instance, that students were known by senior academics as "units of resource". It took me quite some time to understand what that meant. I also learnt a good deal about academic freedom which, when properly pursued, is such a priceless asset in the culture of any free nation.

I learnt too that academic freedom carries with it the great responsibility to allow a genuine diversity of views to be expressed, especially at university level. Academic freedom does not grant a licence to push one-sided views or to present only one side of a political argument. Academic freedom can survive only in the absence of bias.

Another cherished feature of academic freedom when I was in the CNAA was that universities and polytechnics possessed the sole and unfettered right to appoint their professors and lecturers. The funding of the system was entirely separated from those appointments. I confess that I am a little out of touch with the university sector today, but I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that what I have said about academic freedom still applies today. If it does, the Jean Monnet programme appears to fail the test of academic freedom on both counts. The courses it funds appear to be largely, or even wholly, biased in

14 Jul 2003 : Column 703

favour of the European project and all its works, and the Jean Monnet professors have to be approved by the European Commission. If they are not approved, they do not get appointed. So in effect the Commission has the power of appointment.

I am sure that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I am relying on government Written Answers. For instance, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, answered a Written Question on 29th January 2001 from Lord Shore of Stepney in which she revealed that there were then 102 Jean Monnet Chairs in the United Kingdom: 87 Chairs and 15 Chairs Ad Personam. Also, there were 13 Jean Monnet European Centres of Excellence. The noble Baroness then listed the institutions concerned. She then stated:

    "(i) Projects are financed by the European Commission for the first three years; they must be taught for at least seven years;

    (ii) The Jean Monnet subsidy is given to the university (not to the professor); approval of choice of professor must be granted by the European Commission; should a professor leave the university, the Commission would need to approve the successor".

So it seems fairly clear that one of the central tenets of British academic freedom, if I have understood it correctly, is being breached by the Jean Monnet programme because the Commission appoints the professors or, through the power of veto, can whittle any number of professors down to the one it wants.

What about academic freedom? What about the lack of bias? Here again the reply of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is informative. In answer to the same Written Question she stated:

    "(iv) The majority of Jean Monnet Chairs correspond to the setting up of new teaching activities. A Chair Ad Personam allows Universities to allocate chairs to professors and senior lecturers who already devote 100 per cent of their teaching time to European integration issues, and would not therefore meet the criteria of providing new teaching activities".—[Official Report, 29/1/01; col. WA 28.]

That seems clear enough, but what are "European integration issues"? Do the courses which teach European integration put both the case for European integration and the case against it? Or do they put only the case in favour? I hope that the Minister will tell us of some of these courses which really do encourage both sides of the argument, where open and vigorous debate takes place among students, lecturers and professors—along the lines perhaps of the recent debate in your Lordships' House on 27th June and several other occasions. In that case, I hope that the Minister will feel able to name the courses and institutions in question—but I am advised that they will be very much in the minority if, indeed, any exist at all.

Looking beyond these shores, there is no doubt that the Jean Monnet project is a substantial weapon in the EU's attempt to create a European demos, to persuade the peoples of Europe of the benefits of integration under Brussels. I understand that there are now at least 1,500 professors teaching the benefits of European integration to more than 250,000 students across Europe. So the financial investment must be very substantial if these figures are anywhere near accurate.

14 Jul 2003 : Column 704

I have a feeling that this short debate may be the start of a much wider investigation. We can only scratch the surface tonight. For instance, I am told that colossal sums are spent on EU research budgets, mostly in academe, which may sound fair enough until one discerns that the underlying purpose of a substantial part of these funds is again to promote European integration—a kind of common European research policy. Some harrowing details of this aspect are to be found in the Bruges Group document referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart.

In conclusion, I note that the Question asks what sums are being spent by the Government and the EU on "information about the EU", and of course we look forward with anticipation to the Minister's reply. The trouble is, as far as I can see, that all so-called "information" put out by the Government and the EU about the EU exclusively extols its virtues—which some of us find very hard to identify—and never puts the alternative view. That alternative view is, of course, that the United Kingdom would be very much better off outside the European Union altogether, a view which is clearly held by a large proportion of the British electorate.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, I ask the Minister where is the balance in all this, especially in our education system? How much does this propaganda cost? I look forward with great interest to the Minister's reply.

7.55 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I start by declaring an interest. Until 2000 I was in receipt of an EU grant for research as an academic at the University of Sussex. I am also the co-author of what is probably one of the definitive texts on the science and technology policies of the European Union. The answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, about how much is spent on science and technology programmes is somewhere in the region of 2 billion a year, now spread between 26 countries because the aspirant countries are coming in as well. So it is quite widely spread and amounts to rather less than 0.1 per cent of the research budgets of most countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, cited the amount spent on information within the European Union as 105 million euros. That is about 70 million. I believe I am right in saying that Surrey County Council spends somewhere in the region of 5 million per year on promotions of one kind or another, ranging from talking about the rambles that take place in Surrey led by the countryside stewards to a great deal of information about various legislation, about schools, about youth groups and so on. If it is to do its job, any governmental organisation has to tell people what job it is doing.

The European Union now covers some 340 million people in 15 countries. Shortly there will be 25 countries in the European Union. It does a great deal. I know that the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart and Lord Pearson, regret this but it funds a large number of

14 Jul 2003 : Column 705

schemes in relation to small businesses, regional grants, local regeneration and so on, as well as trying to tell people what it does.

Is this information propaganda, information or advertising? Where is the line to be drawn? That is always a difficult question. Do we want our young people to know about the European Union at all? Is it a legitimate part of their history, current events, citizenship lessons? I would answer a big "yes". It should be a part of their history, of their learning about current affairs, of their learning about citizenship.

Let me illustrate this by recalling my experience at the University of Sussex, which I joined in 1981 as a lecturer/research fellow attached to the science policy research unit. The job I inherited included teaching science students about what was going on in Europe. In the mid-1970s, Sussex introduced a programme called "Science and European Studies" and made a considerable effort to ensure that it was not only science and French or science and German, but science and European studies. Besides studying the language, the students taking this course also had to learn about the cultural, economic and social contexts. The small part I taught them in this one-term course was about the European economy.

It was a challenging task. I had science students who had not taken history even at GCSE. In the 1980s I had to teach them about what was happening in relation to the Single European Act. Then we moved on to the 1990s.

I began with the Industrial Revolution and took the students through the two world wars, the great depression and the ups and downs of the 1950s. I talked to them about unemployment in the 1980s and why we had recessions. I talked to them about the single European Act. It was not focused on the European Union, but if one spoke about Europe in the post-war period one talked about the European Union. We talked about the Monnet project and his vision of building links between countries so that they did not go to war again and that the centuries of war were done away with. Bonds were made of cultural understanding and common economic and social desires so that one did not need to go to war again. We looked at the Soviet Union and the East and West divide. We had the exciting period of the early 1990s when the Soviet empire disintegrated.

As a teacher I found the material available to me from the Commission at that time extremely useful. There were maps which showed the countries that belonged and the enlargement of the European Union. There was material which provided information about the Single European Act and later what the Maastricht Treaty was about and the meaning of the single currency.

But these were supplemented. I hoped that in my own presentations I provided some balance. At the beginning of the 1990s I was strongly against the single European currency. I thought that it was a move too far and that Europe was not ready for it. I argued that case before my students. But they also had material

14 Jul 2003 : Column 706

showing the other side and that was right. I believe any self-respecting professional does that. One know that one's task is to present both sides of the question.

At the end of the day I was very proud to present the European project in which we were trying to build a partnership between countries so that they would not go to war again. One of the greatest compliments I received was from a fourth-year student who returned from a year abroad and said to me, "At the time, while I found your lectures interesting, I never really understood why you taught us all that stuff. It was only when I spent my year abroad that I realised how useful it was. I could keep up with my contemporaries. I knew what they were talking about". We called it the ERASMUS programme in which we encouraged our students to spend a year away from their university studies. In our Science in Europe programme Sussex was almost a precursor to it. We had physics, chemistry and biology students studying a language along with science and spending a year abroad.

Likewise, we had very many students come to Sussex from other countries. That is now being extended within the concept of the Bologna programme with the idea of reincarnating the medieval scholar who could move from European university to university and get the best out of them. I very much enjoyed having foreign students come to my classes. They often provided a spark and a catalyst in talking about ideas. Someone from a different culture does provide a degree of broadening to what is being talked about. They very much enjoyed coming to Britain because they had contact with senior members of staff. The concept of the tutorial system is totally alien to most European universities, where there are huge numbers at lectures. Libraries are totally inadequate and our libraries were an absolute joy for these students from abroad.

There were relatively small classes. When I began at Sussex University we had classes of four or five students to talk to, which is far from the Oxbridge notion of two people at a tutorial. In 1981 it was typically four or five people. When I left it was usually in the region of 15 to 17 students to a class. Nevertheless, there is a degree of personal contact even at that level.

I shall never forget the French student from Nantes saying to me, "Madame le professeur, you know that in France they even give separate staircases to the lecturers so that they do not have to rub shoulders with the students". That was the joy of being able to meet and talk with me about the essay she had written—an opportunity that she never got in France. She enjoyed it so much.

We should not forget that one of the great spin-offs, which the science, engineering and medical people tell you time and again, is that when they come to Britain and train on British equipment they return home and buy the same equipment, which is very useful.

What about the reverse, with students going to European universities and whether they are brainwashed? I do not know about that. Regrettably, we do not have nearly as many students going to other

14 Jul 2003 : Column 707

universities. There is an imbalance. We have more students coming this way than going to Europe because we do not have the linguistic skills. We should not be happy about that experience.

Having seen the students in their second year, I found that they had matured when they returned to the fourth year. They were a year older and wiser. But there is no doubt that they saw things differently after having been away. They were horrified by many of the universities. I shall never forget the students returning from Italy who had been at Bologna University. Nobody would take care of them. The concept of pastoral care is alien. They had to make do for themselves, but they did and learnt from it.

The students returned broadened in many senses. There had been a complete break. They returned proud of their British heritage, but they recognised their European heritage as well. They saw themselves as European citizens. I was glad that they saw themselves as such.

After centuries of conflict, I for one am of the opinion that it is splendid that our young people see themselves not as enemies of our partner countries in the European Union but as neighbours and friends. They are not, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, suggests, ashamed of their national history. They are proud that we as a country have played a part in putting this narrow nationalism aside and promoting instead a spirit of co-operation and collaboration between nations.

8.8 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, has made an interesting speech but I believe it has completely missed the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch. The two noble Lords who initiated this debate are particularly concerned about the European project that produces only one-sided information and uses taxpayers' money to do so. That was the essence of what they said. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, made an interesting speech, but she did not address that particular question.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch have posed many important questions and issues about which there is concern and which I hope the Minister will address when she comes to reply. There is an issue of information versus propaganda; information is one thing, but propaganda is another. A one-sided story about anything is propaganda, and can be regarded as such. The issue of bias versus balance has also been referred to, and again the noble Baroness has to reassure us that balance will prevail.

The two noble Lords, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch also asked about expenditure and I want to add to their questions. What is the quantum of expenditure? How is it distributed? Who determines the priorities?

Materials used for educational purposes are another issue. There are issues for discussion here. What about the authorship of these materials? What about

14 Jul 2003 : Column 708

editorial oversight? Who oversees editorial issues? In much of the materials that I have seen the content appears wholly devoid of the controversial nature of the subject of European union. It is irrefutable that it has a controversial nature. Young people at key stage 4, aged 14 to 16, sixth formers, aged 16 to 19, and indeed adults at university are capable of hearing the full story—all sides, all dimensions of this subject—and of making up their minds. It is patronising in the extreme to expect them to be "educated" by one view of the world from Europe.

I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, will forgive some of us for expressing some disquiet because there is evidence that some in the EU, in key positions, are unequivocal about the aim of spending so much money on education in schools, colleges and universities. The European Union is involved in a long-term project to shift the public's loyalties from the nation state to the European Union's institutions and to underpin the newly emerging European state. I resent being called a "Little Englander", because I am proud of my Britishness, I am proud of England being part of the United Kingdom. Simply because I take a rather healthy view of what is taught in schools, I think we owe it to our young people that bias is not part of that education.

Senior representatives of the European Commission admit that there is a campaign to educate the public about the advantages of EU membership. In an interview on the BBC's "Breakfast with Frost" programme, the former EC President Jacques Santer said:

    "We have as politicians to inform the population and train them in this direction".

Train them in this direction? The de Clercq report produced in 1993 said that:

    "European identity must be 'ingrained in people's minds' as a 'good product' using marketing techniques and that certain social categories, particularly 'women and youth', should be 'priority target groups'. More controversially, it suggested that newscasters and reporters must themselves be targeted, they must themselves be persuaded about European Union . . . so that they subsequently become enthusiastic supporters of the cause."

This is not education. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, referred to propaganda in the classroom. He referred to the publication Let's Draw Europe Together, the opening section of which is entitled "My country: Europe". The euro, which again we know is controversial, is talked about in glowing terms. The other notorious publication is, The Raspberry Ice Cream War, a comic for young people on a peaceful Europe without frontiers. The story involves schoolchildren falling into medieval times. They have to bribe their way past a border guard and explain to the king why the EU is such a wonderful place:

    "Frontiers and barriers everywhere, people fighting wars for the stupidest of reasons, that is exactly what it looks like here, kind of weird."

Young readers are also told,

    "We're even going to have the same currency soon as well. It's called the Euro and we won't have to change our money all the time".

14 Jul 2003 : Column 709

Thankfully, only a handful of the 75,000 copies were ever distributed in the UK. Public outrage led to the British Government agreeing that,

    "This undoubtedly was an ill-judged and, in part, factually incorrect publication".

Does Section 406 of the Education Act 1996 apply to this form of education? It states:

    "The local education authority, governing body and head teacher shall forbid...

    "(b) the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school".

Section 407 provides that all points of view get an airing, so that pupils,

    "are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views".

It is important that we have an answer to that.

Equally worrying is an article in The Times of 1st July 2002 entitled,

    "Economy 'has met Brown's five tests for joining euro'".

The article was based upon a study by Professor Iain Begg and co-written by Brian Ardy and Dermot Hodson. The study concludes that entering the euro would not be,

    "a costless exercise for the UK"

but that any negative consequences,

    "will be outweighed by the benefits".

With the authority of a leading newspaper, the report had the appearance of an impartial academic treatise. But Professor Begg writes pro-federalist reports for the European Parliament and the European Commission. He was an ex officio member of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies, which promotes a pro-European agenda via university courses. He was also a council member of the Federal Trust, a pro-European body which calls for the creation of a federal European state. Brian Ardy was a Jean Monnet professor. Dr Dermot Hodson was closely linked with the "One Europe or several?" project which is dedicated to producing academic evidence linked with federalisation. Hodson was also a former board member of the ESRC and spoke, along with Professor Begg, at the One Europe conference later in July.

Is the Minister justifying such bias? We all know that the Jean Monnet project is the mechanism for teaching European integration in universities. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has said, the projects involve full-time teaching posts entirely devoted to the teaching of European integration.

I declare an interest too. I have a son in academe who enjoyed a two-year joint European-Japanese scientific experience at Tokyo university. Thankfully, it did not involve any underlying European message. But the Jean Monnet project is entirely separate from the framework funding that is used for the political scientists and is the mechanism for teaching "European Integration in University Studies". It is managed by DG Education and Culture to facilitate,

    "the introduction of European integration studies in universities by means of start-up subsidies".

14 Jul 2003 : Column 710

Currently 7,000 universities are involved, with 1,500 professors teaching more than 250,000 students a year.

Another dimension of the European debate is the Convention on the Future of Europe. Can we have an assurance from the Minister that taxpayers' money will not be spent on the promotion of a way forward on the future of Europe, about which the British people will be denied by this Government the opportunity to have their own say via a referendum.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said at the outset of this debate, no one is arguing against impartial information and education in relation to European issues. Co-operation—even collaboration—between professionals and across educational establishments is one thing. However, to use taxpayers' moneys to press a one-sided message—one view of the world—without recognising other legitimately held opinions gives rise to the accusation of deliberate bias and even propaganda. Almost all the examples given by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, have happened since Adam was a boy. As I said, my son has enjoyed that kind of collaboration and many, many students have gone to European countries to take sandwich courses from which they have benefited. That is very different from the essence of this debate.

I hope the noble Baroness is able to answer the questions posed in this debate. Control over information versus propaganda, bias versus balance, the interaction and effectiveness of British law dealing with balanced teaching and the effectiveness of Section 406 of the Education Act. As for expenditure, what is the quantum, what is the allocation, what are the priorities and what is its justification?

Finally, I agree with the comment of my noble friend Lord Pearson. Academic freedom survives only when there is a lack of bias and when taxpayers' money is not used to support bias on the part of external bodies as powerful and all-embracing as the European Union.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for initiating this debate.

8.20 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for giving me the opportunity to speak about moves the Government have made to ensure that schools, universities and other educational establishments have access to impartial—a word upon which we would all agree—information about a range of European and wider international issues, many of which are a central part of the national curriculum. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, was good enough to send me the 58 pages of briefing from the Bruges group, much of which has been mentioned this evening. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to understand the background of the debate. Noble Lords may have disagreements in this House but we all stand proud in our heritage in this House when debating issues from positions which may be different but which, nonetheless, are equally valid.

14 Jul 2003 : Column 711

The Government's position is clear. Europe is changing rapidly and we are all living in an increasingly global society. It is important that our people, especially our young people, understand those changes. It is essential that young people are prepared for the world in which they live. That is why we ensured that citizenship within the national curriculum included a module on Europe. Moreover, the need for unbiased information and materials on Europe will increase now that EU enlargement approaches. It is important that young people receive information not simply concerning Europe but on all global issues. We must provide young people with the broadest possible knowledge about world affairs and the value of citizenship; and information on the European Union comprises an essential part of that process.

I give a simple example. All our young people need to understand the workings of the euro if they are to travel within Europe. They need to know what a euro note looks like to ensure that they receive the correct currency and understand how it is used. That would be true of all opportunities for young people to travel.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked me whether I thought a circular to all governing bodies was necessary. I shall come to Section 406, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, would expect.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page