Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I do agree, but I know that the noble Viscount already has a job that many of us would love to have ourselves.

21 Feb 2007 : Column 1068

However, if he is interested, I shall arrange for application forms to be sent to him and I will be one of the referees.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, if and when the new chairman is appointed, are the Government minded to improve the funding to English Heritage to enable it to carry out more of the activities that it would wish to carry out?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, English Heritage is well funded. With non-grant income, its total revenue this year is expected to be £165 million, which is a significant sum. There are enormous calls on its funds, but it is such an important organisation that it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that it is properly funded.

Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland: My Lords, can I remind my noble friend that many of us on this side are immensely proud of being British and are certainly not too proud to take a job for one day a week at the rate of £30,000 a year?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, it is a little more than one day a week, and I think the figure is £60,000.

Schools: GCSE History

3.22 pm

Lord Baker of Dorking asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): My Lords, for maintained mainstream secondary schools, the 2006 figure was 68 and in 1997 it was 94. There are 3,112 secondary schools in England, so I am glad to say that the proportion has declined by a third from 3 per cent to 2 per cent since 1997.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, is the Minister aware that figures given in the House of Commons in answer to that Question do not reflect what he has just said? They show that about a third of our secondary schools, covering a million pupils, do not offer history after the age of 14—just at the time when Gordon Brown is trying to identify Britishness, which depends upon a knowledge of and an interest in our history. Is the Minister aware that the only other country in Europe that allows history to be dropped at 14 is Albania? Will he ensure that history is restored to the national curriculum for all children up to the age of 16, as it was at the beginning?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Lord was the father of the national curriculum, and history was never a compulsory subject at key stage 4. I am sorry that he did not bring it in himself when he had

21 Feb 2007 : Column 1069

responsibility for these matters. He can hardly blame us for not having done so since, although in many areas we have tried to correct the errors of the previous regime. He may be misconstruing the figures given in the parliamentary Answer. The figure of 1,479 to which he referred does not, I stress, relate to one-third of mainstream secondary schools—only 2 per cent of mainstream secondary schools do not enter candidates for history GCSE. My view is that that is 2 per cent too many, but the figure is none the less 2 per cent. The figure of 1,479 includes 689 independent schools and 722 special schools, and the confusion in the press has come from conflating one figure with the other.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Chancellor has frequently insisted that history is the core of the citizenship agenda and it has been floated in the Ajegbo report and elsewhere that we should have a GCSE in citizenship—which I assume would further displace the GCSE in history. Given that, and the absence of any narrative content in history teaching in secondary schools—I heard Tristram Hunt refer the other day to secondary school history teaching as:

is it not time that there was a broader, independent inquiry on an all-party basis into how we might teach national and international history in our schools?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am glad to say that the number of entries for GCSE history is up from 189,000 in 1998 to 208,000 last year. As the noble Lord rightly says, we are seeking to make citizenship a full GCSE from being a half-GCSE at the moment, but there is no evidence whatever to suggest that that would depress history. On the contrary, I think it is much more likely to strengthen the teaching of history in schools. I should note that the half-GCSE in citizenship is the fastest-growing GCSE, at the same time as we have seen an increase in the number of entries for history GCSE. Being an optimist in these matters, I believe that citizenship and history can co-exist and one will reinforce the other.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, when will the Minister lend his support to what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said about teaching history in broader spans and not concentrating on tiny areas? For example, if you teach Hitler, you ought to teach something about Bismarck and the 19th-century history of Prussia. Without such spans, history is worthless.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I strongly agree with teaching the broad sweep of history and we encourage it. In respect of the almost obsessive teaching of the Third Reich in some history courses, we have, for example, worked with the German embassy very successfully to introduce new modules for teaching post-war German history. I do not believe that you just need to look back to the 19th century, which was not always a successful time in

21 Feb 2007 : Column 1070

that country’s history either. We can look at the much more successful and more recent periods, which are good to study as well.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the love of history is often stimulated when the child is young? Therefore, does he share my anxiety that many primary schools are deterred from educational enrichment and local history activities, such as visits to heritage sites and museums, because of the additional cost and sometimes the risk assessments involved in undertaking them?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we are mindful of the red-tape issues and have looked at them. We have simplified the forms and other administrative elements involved in school trips and the evidence is that the numbers of schools trips are rising, not falling. The museums, galleries and other institutions that schools seek to visit are now more proactive in their work with schools, which we think is good, too. We want to see this increase, not decrease, and our evidence is that it is doing so.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords—

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, could I ask the Minister—

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am afraid it is a Cross-Bench turn.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, does the Minister agree that issues such as the Holocaust, famine and slavery are proper ones to be investigated by history students in our schools? However, there is a danger of conflating history with an examination in citizenship. Is it not the case that only in this country would we turn something like community service into a punishment to be dispensed by the courts? We are in grave danger of doing the same thing to citizenship in schools.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I do not agree. The study of citizenship in schools has been an immensely positive and worthwhile activity. Sir Keith Ajegbo’s review, which has just been published, strengthens the arguments for it. It draws on the excellent practice of many schools in teaching citizenship where community engagement is part of what students do in their studies, so that it is a practical and not purely a theoretical exercise. I take a much more optimistic view of what is going on in schools and how citizenship is being deployed to strengthen, not weaken, community engagement.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, in 2003 there were just over 1,000 training places for teachers. This will fall to just over 500 by 2008. There is a crisis in some of our schools in trying to recruit history teachers. Does the noble Lord share my concern that soon we will not have the teachers available to ensure that all pupils have a sound knowledge of British values, traditions and history?



21 Feb 2007 : Column 1071

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the vacancy rate for history teachers is 0.4 per cent, which is down on the number five years ago. The number of training places has come down because of demographics—the number of teachers who will be needed to fill the posts with the declining secondary school rolls is fewer. Our job is to maintain supply so that it matches demand, and that is what is happening.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I would like to clarify a point. When the national curriculum was established there were subjects that went up to 16, as the noble Lord well knows, and they were dropped in the mid-1990s—by a Conservative Minister, because not all Conservatives are perfect. The disparity between the figures that the noble Lord has given today and the figures given to the House of Commons by his department is staggering. If he is trying to say that there is 100 per cent take-up of GCSE in secondary schools at 16, that cannot be the case. I think he will find that my figures are much more accurate.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord simply has to read the Answer that was given in the House of Commons. That makes it clear that the figure of 1,373 schools that do not do history includes special schools and independent schools. Sometimes Members simply need to read the words on the page to understand what is being said. It does not say, “One-third of mainstream secondary schools”, which was the point then made in the press; that was completely unfounded on the basis of the reply.

As for the noble Lord’s first point about what different Conservative Ministers do, I am afraid that I am not accountable for reversals and changes of policy on the part of different Conservative Ministers, but I look forward to him taking up that case with his successors. If they can come to a common view, we might be able to operate on the basis of it.

Planning-gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill

3.30 pm

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Income Tax Bill

Brought from the Commons endorsed with the certificate of the Speaker that the Bill is a money Bill, and read a first time.

Iraq and the Middle East

3.31 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, I would like to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:



21 Feb 2007 : Column 1072

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a Statement on recent developments in Iraq and across the Middle East. “Saddam Hussein was removed from power in May 2003. In June 2004, the UNSC passed a resolution setting out the support of the international community for the incoming Interim Government of Iraq, for a political process leading to full democratic elections overseen by the UN itself and for Iraq’s reconstruction and development after decades of oppression and impoverishment under Saddam’s dictatorship.“In January 2005, the first elections were held for a Transitional National Assembly. Seven million people voted. A new constitution was agreed. In December 2005, full parliamentary elections were held. Twelve million Iraqis voted and in May 2006 the first fully elected Government of Iraq were formed. They were expressly non-sectarian, including all the main elements of Iraqi society—Shia, Sunni and Kurdish. Throughout, there has been full UN backing for the political process and now for the Government of Prime Minister Maliki.“Successive UN resolutions have given explicit approval for the presence of the multinational force. The political process has thus continued through these years. For example, as we speak, the Iraqi Parliament is awaiting: the report on amending the constitution from its constitutional review committee; a draft law on de-Ba’athification, relaxing some of the restrictions on former Ba’ath Party members; and the new hydrocarbon legislation, which will attempt to spread fairly and evenly the proceeds of Iraq’s considerable oil wealth.“However, the political process, the reconstruction, the reconciliation and everything that the UN has set out as the will of the international community and for which Iraqis have voted has been thwarted or put at risk by the violence and terrorism that have beset the country and its people. From the appalling terrorist outrage in August 2003, which killed the UN Special Representative and many of his colleagues, to this day, Iraq—and Baghdad in particular—has been subject to a sickening level of carnage, some aimed at the multinational force but much aimed deliberately to provoke a sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shia. The bombing of the shrine at Samarra in February 2006 was designed precisely to provoke Shia death squads to retaliate against Sunni.“The violence comes from different sources. Some of it originates from former Saddamists and some from Sunnis who are worried that they will be excluded from the political future of Iraq. Much of the so-called ‘spectacular’ suicide bombings are the work of al-Qaeda, whose grisly presence in Iraq since 2002 has been part of its wider battle with the forces of progress across the world. Now Shia militant groups such as Jaish al-Mahdi—JAM—are responsible for the abduction and execution of innocent Sunni. These groups have different aims and different ideologies but one common purpose: to prevent Iraq’s democracy from working.“Throughout all the wretched and inexcusable bloodshed, one hope remains. Talk to anyone in

21 Feb 2007 : Column 1073

Iraq of whatever denomination, whether Iraqi or part of the multinational force, whether civilian or military, and they all say the same thing: the majority of Iraqis do not want it to be like this. They voted despite the violence. They know its purpose and its effect and they hate both. “There can be legitimate debate about what was right and what was wrong in respect of the original decision to remove Saddam. There can be no debate about the rights and wrongs of what is happening in Iraq today. The desire for democracy is good. The attempt to destroy it through terrorism is evil. Unfortunately that is not the question. The question is not should we, but can we defeat this evil; do we have a plan to succeed?“Since the outset, our plan, agreed by Iraq and the United Nations, has been to build up Iraqi capability in order to let Iraqis take control of their own destiny. As they would step up, we would, increasingly, step back. For three years, therefore, we have been working to create, train and equip Iraqi security forces capable of taking on the security of the country themselves. In normal circumstances, the progress would be considered remarkable. There are now 10 divisions of the Iraqi army, with over 130,000 soldiers who are able, in significant parts of the country, to provide order. There are 135,000 in the Iraqi police service. There the progress has been more constrained and is frequently hampered by corruption and sectarianism but, none the less, in normal circumstances it would, again, be considered a remarkable effort. The plan of General Petraeus—then an army commander in Iraq and now the head of the coalition forces there—which was conceived in 2004, has in its essential respects been put in place. “But these are not normal circumstances. The Iraqi forces have often proved valiant, but the various forces against them have also redoubled their efforts. In particular, in and around Baghdad, where 80 to 90 per cent of the violence is centred, they have engaged in a systematic attempt to bring the city to chaos. It is the capital of Iraq. Its strategic importance is fundamental. There has been an orgy of terrorism unleashed upon it in order to crush any possibility of it functioning. “It does not much matter if elsewhere in Iraq—not least in Basra—change is happening. If Baghdad cannot be secured, the future of the country is in peril. The enemies of Iraq understand that. We understand it. So, last year, in concert with our allies and the Iraqi Government, a new plan was formulated, and promulgated by President Bush in January of this year. The purpose is unchanged. There can be only one purpose in Iraq: to support the Government and people of the country to attain the necessary capability to run their own affairs as a sovereign, independent state. But the means of achieving the purpose were adjusted to meet the changing nature of the threat. The Baker-Hamilton report, to which I pay tribute, also informed the strategy.

21 Feb 2007 : Column 1074

“There are three elements to the plan. First, there is the Baghdad security initiative, drawn up by Prime Minister Maliki and currently under way. It aims, as the operation in Basra has done, to take the city, district by district, to drive out the extremists, to put the legitimate Iraqi forces in charge and then to make it fit for development, with a special fund in place able to deliver rapid improvement. It began last Tuesday. It is far too early to tell its results, although early indications are more promising than what was tried, unsuccessfully, some months back. In particular, there is no doubt of its welcome among ordinary people in Baghdad.“The second part of the plan is a massive effort to gear up the capability of the Iraqi forces and to plug any gaps in command, logistics, training and equipment. Thirdly, there is a new and far more focused effort on reconciliation, reconstruction and development. There are now talks between Iraqi officials and both Sunni and Shia elements that have been engaged in fighting. It is again too early to draw conclusions, but this is being given a wholly different priority within the Iraqi Government and by the multinational force. “In addition, there have been changes made by Prime Minister Maliki—to whose leadership I pay tribute—to the way in which economic development and reconstruction moneys are administered within the Iraqi Government, with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh being given specific responsibility. This will allow the disbursement of funds to be made and will allow, in Baghdad and elsewhere, development and reconstruction to follow closely on the heels of improved security. “The objective of all this is to show the terrorists that they cannot win; to show those who can be reconciled that they have a place in the new Iraq; and to show the Iraqi people that, however long it takes, the legitimate Iraqi Government, whom they elected and whom the international community supports, will prevail. “The aim of the additional US forces announced by President Bush is precisely to demonstrate that determination. If the plan succeeds, then, of course, the requirement for the multinational force reduces, including in Baghdad. It is important to show, and particularly to show the Iraqi people, that we do not desire our forces to remain any longer than they are needed; but, while they are needed, we will be at their side. “In this context, what is happening in Basra is of huge importance. Over the past months, we have been conducting an operation in Basra, with the 10th Division of the Iraqi army, to reach the stage where Basra can be secured by the Iraqis themselves. “The situation in Basra is very different from that in Baghdad. There is no Sunni insurgency; there is no al-Qaeda base; there is little Shia on Sunni violence; and the bulk of the attacks are on the multinational force. It has never presented anything like the challenge of Baghdad. That said, British

21 Feb 2007 : Column 1075

soldiers are under regular and often intense fire from extremist groups, notably elements of JAM. I would like, as I have often done in this House, to pay my profound respects to the British Armed Forces. Whatever views people have about Iraq, our forces are dedicated, professional, committed and brave beyond belief. This country can be immensely proud of them. We send again our wholehearted sympathy to the families of those who have fallen, and to the injured and their families. “As a result of this operation in Basra, which is now complete, the Iraqi forces now have the primary role for security in most parts of the city. It is still a difficult and sometimes dangerous place, but many extremists have been arrested or left the city. The reported levels of murder and kidnapping are significantly down. Surveys of Basrawis, after the operations had been conducted, show a much greater sense of security. Reconstruction is now happening in schools and health centres—in fact, around 300 projects altogether. “A few days ago, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh organised the Basra Development Forum. He announced a $200 million programme of development in infrastructure and public services. In addition, the international community—with Britain in the lead—has developed projects to increase power supply, put in place proper sewage systems and increased the supply of drinking water to thousands of homes. The plan to develop Basra port will be published later this year. The problems remain formidable, not least in providing work where, for decades, 50 per cent or more of the city has been unemployed. “In an extraordinary development, the Marsh Arabs, driven from one of the world’s foremost ecological sites by Saddam, have been able to resettle there. “What all this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be, but it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis. I have discussed this with Prime Minister Maliki and our proposals have his full support and, indeed, represent his wishes. “Already we have handed over prime responsibility for security to the Iraqi authorities in Al Muthanna and Dhi Qar. Now in Basra, over the coming months, we will transfer more of the responsibility directly to Iraqis. I should say that none of this will mean a diminution in our combat capability. The actual reduction in forces will be from the present 7,100—itself down from over 9,000 two years ago and 40,000 at the time of the conflict—to roughly 5,500. However, with the exception of forces that will remain at Basra Palace, the British forces will be located at Basra air base and will be in a support role. They will transfer Shaibah logistics base, the Old State Building and the Shaat Al’Arab Hotel to full Iraqi control. “The British forces who remain in Iraq will have the following tasks: training and support to Iraqi forces; securing the Iraq/Iran border; and securing supply routes. Above all, they will have the ability
Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page