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The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I am delighted to have this opportunity to express my thanks to the officers and staff of your Lordships' House for their care and kindness in my introduction. Having looked across the street at the Western Front of this House for the four years when I was living at the end of Little Cloister, where I could look out from my window at your Lordships coming to and fro, I have been delighted and grateful that, paradoxically, by moving to the other end of the country, I have now been invited to come inside here at last and that I have found such a warm welcome and ready help on all sides. Thank you.
I am particularly honoured to be able, along with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, to represent the north-east of England on this Bench. Being myself a native of Northumberland, part of the ancient palatinate of Durham, I share with the region as a whole a consciousness that goes back to the days of Cuthbert and Bede and which has been strikingly exhibited in the work of my predecessors over the past
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century and more; namely, that the Church is there with and for the whole people, not simply ministering to its own fully paid-up, regular attenders. It is in that connection of partnership that I want to take up two points in the gracious Speech concerning the work of volunteers and the funding of heritage and renewal.
I suspect that your Lordships all know well the breathtaking sight of Durham itself, whether seen from a passing train or enjoyed closer at hand. As your Lordships will know, the peninsula, comprising cathedral, castle and university, is itself a World Heritage site, displaying not only the massive magnificence of the Norman cathedral but also the minute gems of artifacts, such as the cross of St Cuthbert, a replica of which I am proud to wear, which take us straight back to the Anglo-Saxons. We are hoping that the wonderful Bede's World project in Jarrow may soon be granted similar recognition. Those are treasures not for a minority only, but for the whole community.
Similar things could be said, mutatis mutandis, about many of our other churches. Only recently, I installed a new vicar in Norton, on the outskirts of Stockton-on-Tees, where the ancient Saxon church stands on a site which had been used for religious worship for many previous centuries before its christianisation. The Regis Professor in Oxford, Oliver O'Donovan, recently argued forcefully that Western culture has almost entirely lost its sense of place. That loss is indeed grievous and culturally dangerous, but it is heartening to discover locally that a great many people still know in their bones that their ancient church buildings speak powerfully of a love and hope that has sustained them through many generations, and that they can look to those buildings and to those who worship and work there for help and support in good times and bad.
When I was Dean of Lichfield and now again as I work in Durham, I have been constantly delighted by the way in which the whole wider community, the county, district and city, look on their respective cathedrals both as symbols of their identity and as the one place for many miles around which can host gatherings of 1,000 and more, whether for an industrial or harvest festival, a sequence of concerts or mystery plays, a display of prison art and craft or yet another school celebration.
Indeed, cathedrals and churches are now routinely stitched extremely closely into the life of their local communities, not least with education and the young. I cherish a remark from a young boy stepping for the first time through the great west doors of Lichfield Cathedral. As his jaw dropped at that magnificent yet welcoming sight, he turned to his teacher and asked, "What's it for?" Great question. By the end of the day, he had found out the answer. But it is not just children who know it. A 2003 survey for the Church of England and English Heritage showed, remarkably in view of the impression we sometimes get from the media, that 86 per cent of those surveyed had been into a church or place of worship in the previous year, with 17 per cent going there for a concert or cultural event.
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It is therefore all the more important that we maintain and sustain that remarkable heritage for the benefit of the whole community. I was delighted to hear in the gracious Speech that the Government regard the voluntary sector as a great strength. In that connection, it is always worth drawing attention to the millions of volunteers who, through their work in and for the churches, contribute vastly to the cultural, educational and social as well as spiritual wellbeing of our country. They are willing, committed and energetic and they have achieved some remarkable things, but they face a continual uphill struggle.
Because of that, I would like also to highlight the Government's intention, as expressed in the gracious Speech, to consolidate the distribution of lottery money to good causes and express the hope that, within this natural and proper exercise, care will be taken to think through the support needed for those buildings which embody so much of our national heritage and ongoing multi-faceted community life.
The Church Heritage Forum's recent report, Building Faith in our Future, which underlines and gives examples of all that I have said, also makes it clear that the combined effort to maintain our heritage and make it work for the future good of the whole country will need renewed efforts in the days to come and greater partnership with a range of bodies. English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund have between them made major grants, for which we are grateful. In fact, since the Heritage Lottery Fund opened in 1995, it has given a total of £237 million to Christian places of worship in the UK, £167 million of which has been spent in England, with £23 million going to cathedrals.
That is impressive, but it is in fact only a small amount compared with the actual needs. English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund have set aside £25 million in the current year for the repair grant scheme that they run jointly, but that could be taken up immediately in projects in the dioceses of Chelmsford and Norwich alone, to say nothing of my own diocese. In 200304, English Heritage and the HLF received 489 applications from churches, but were able to offer grants to only 293some 60 per cent.
As the Government seek to consolidate distribution of funds, my episcopal colleagues and I hope that the good work already done will be enhanced and strengthened, not undermined. For instance, the HLF often helps with a long-term project for which significant sums need to be set aside for some while. That must not be pounced on by those who want only short-term solutions and statistics.
I have one further point. Ten years ago, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, chaired an excellent report on cathedrals entitled Heritage and Renewal. As with heritage, so with renewal: there are many projects of community renewal that have been launched jointly by the Church and local agencies and volunteers that have brought hope and light to many dark parts of our country. Such projects have often received short-term, start-up funding and have used it to marvellous effect.
I think, for instance, of the St Chad's Family Centre in Bensham, in Gateshead, which, in 2002, won the British Urban Regeneration Award and has also gained the
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Investors in Children Award and the higher Ofsted standard. But such projects are not and cannot be businesses. Start-up funding cannot in such cases be expected to produce long-term, self-funding enterprise. Tragedy then threatens when no one addresses the question of how to continue the funding of such established and proven projects. Whether in heritage or renewal, we must work together for the good of all.
From time to time, there is a lot of fuss in the press about establishment and disestablishment. Speaking from my experience in Lichfield, Westminster and Durham, I must say that what establishment actually means on the ground is not some high-flown theory, still less a secret plot for the Church to take over the state or vice versa. It is that rich, cheerful and many-sided partnership in heritage and renewal that has sustained this country for many centuries and, God willing, will do so for many more. I hope that the Government will be as happy to support and develop that partnership as we in the Church will be to work with them as they do so. I thank your Lordships once again for your gracious welcome.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, it is my privilege to welcome the right reverend Prelate on behalf of the whole House. This is not the first time that I have heard him speak; I have heard him on the radio. It was not a religious programme, it was on "The Brains Trust", and his warm personality and well informed views came across then, as they have this morning. We should not be surprised. The right reverend Prelate has been exposed to a large variety of faiths. After all, he has been a visiting professor at the Harvard Divinity School, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Gregorian University in Rome. If that is not versatility, what is? We thank him for his wise words about volunteering and the value of heritage and look forward to hearing from him many times in future.
The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, in her introductory speech, spoke about 15 regulations a day. She knows perfectly wellit has been pointed out to her several times in this Housethat most of those regulations are about such matters as holes in the road and bus timetables. They are minor administrative matters, which for legal reasons must be put down as regulations. Her figure is misleading; I am pleased to be able to point that out yet one more time.
However, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, asked for a government that deliver, and I agree. How will we deliver prosperity and growth when globalisation is moving jobs to India and China, as my noble friend told us in his opening speech; when the new European Union countries have even lower costs than ours and are educating yet more graduates; when we are becoming increasingly dependent on others for energy; and when our commitment to tackling climate change puts us at a disadvantage to those with less commitment than us? We can neither prevent nor shut out globalisation, rising standards, climate change and gas and oil depletion. We must respond by lifting our economy through enterprise
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and technology, by lifting our productivity through skills and innovation, and by lifting the added value of our products and services.
How do we achieve that? What are the practical issues about which the noble Baroness spoke? There are three main elements: trade in Europe, innovation through technology and science, and skills and enterprise. Getting these three elements right is the key to prosperity and the international competitiveness of our economy. Europe is our link with prosperity, simply because it is a market of 455 million customers. If we can liberalise and win in that market, the potential is enormous; then the rest of the world is our oyster. Thanks to the Lisbon agreement, there is a general wish to achieve that, but progress is patchy.
The House of Lords European Union Select Committee recently reported that if the gas market in the European Union were liberalised, the supply would be more certain and the price less volatile. That applies to not only energy but many other services and products. Liberalisation puts the customer first and creates proper competition. Competition forces existing firms to get their products and services right for people, and if they do not, new firms come into the market. Economists estimate that that process accounts for nearly half of the improvements in productivity. In addition, more liberalisation means less regulation, which itself stimulates greater productivity.
Thankfully, we are not alone in recognising the need for that. In a review of the Lisbon process last month, conducted by Mr Wim Kok, he suggested that there should be a league table of member states to name and shame countries delaying liberalisation. Chancellor Schroeder argued that the emphasis now should be on accelerating domestic reform in each member state. So we are not alone in recognising the link between liberalisation and prosperity. I hope that Tory dogma about the European Union will not stand in the way of those developments, which are being championed by the DTI, promoting trade.
On technology and scientific research, our already strong bases have been given a tremendous boost by the Chancellor's 10-year framework. There is a commitment to develop publicly funded science, at least in line with the trend growth rate of the economyabout 2.75 per cent in real terms. There is a goal to spend 2.5 per cent of our GDP on research. That framework has been welcomed by the entire science and research community: business, universities, charities and independent laboratories. The key concern for those organisations is whether the new programme would survive a change in government. Long-term stability is essential. Science and technology are a long-term business, so I hope that in their winding-up speech in this debate, noble Lords opposite will take this opportunity of confirming their commitment to the framework. Business would welcome a progressive consensus that will encourage the private sector to invest and participate in the framework.
The Minister spoke about science and the DTI. Some, in welcoming the framework, have observed that as a country we have not always been good at getting science out of the laboratory and into products
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and services. Consequently, one of the elements of the scheme is to strengthen and speed up the knowledge and information networks which carry new science to business and bring back to our laboratories the scientific needs of business. Those knowledge and information networks receive initial funding and encouragement from the DTI. Indeed, I am proud to declare an interest as the chairman of TechniTex, one such network. In this way we are committed to speeding up this whole process of innovation by transforming science and ideas into new services and products and thereby creating more jobs and prosperity for Britain.
This brings me to the third area where we must ensure our future prosperity: skills and enterprise. Instead of taking enterprise for granted, we now reward it and put few hurdles in its way. The OECD regularly puts us at the top of the league table for ease of starting businesses in Europe. We also take a much broader view of enterprise; it operates in the public and private sectors. Social enterprises now run some of our local public services. Indeed, the DTI has prepared legislation for a community-interest company, which is specifically designed for social enterprises that want to use their profits and assets for the public good. Not only are there special funds to help start social enterprises but also special skills and training are available.
The Minister spoke about skills. Skills training throughout business and industry, especially in the service sector, has come to mean much more than just plain ability; it has come to mean employability. That means that people can work more effectively in a knowledge economy and be enterprising in their own jobs and work. Employability enables people to get the best paid job for which they are capable. That is the best insurance against poverty. The good news is that more people are at work than in the past 30 years; the bad news is that there are still many unemployed because they lack the skills, and there are fewer and fewer jobs for the unskilled. Ensuring decent standards in the workplace and flexibility in the labour market means that we will use our human capital to the best effect. I welcome the efforts of the DTI to bring these benefits to all in our community: minorities, women and even those on disability allowance who still want to work.
Noble Lords will have noticed that all these taskstrade in Europe, technology and science, innovation, skills and enterpriseare centred on the DTI. Employers understand that. Digby Jones, of the CBI, asked that the DTI should have the resources that it needs to do the job. He said:
But what do noble Lords opposite want to do? The Liberal Democrats want to abolish the DTI and devolve its work to other departments. We all know what the result of that would be. Within months,
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business and industry would be clamouring for a one-stop shop and for it to be brought back. Business does not split up different elements in that way; it keeps them together so that they can work as a team, and so should government. So I hope that when winding up the Liberal Democrat spokesman will say that they are reconsidering that policy.
The Tories want to impose cuts on the DTI. I hope that their spokesman when winding up will say what those cuts will be and give an undertaking that the work I have outlined, which is so crucial to our prosperity, will not be cut.
Those policies for the DTI to shut up shop are small minded and inward looking. A more broad-minded outward-looking change would be to devolve some of these responsibilities for those activities to the regions. Indeed, that is beginning to happen. In that way, the RDAs can carry out their essential work for our future prosperity in ways which suit their local conditions. This devolution will widen success beyond our more prosperous regions.
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