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House of Lords

Thursday, 6 December 2007.

The House met at eleven o'clock: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.

Common Agricultural Policy: Single Farm Payment

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, the Rural Payments Agency’s aim in respect of the 2007 single payment system is to make more full payments to more farmers earlier than last year. However, the Government will not undermine the agency’s recovery, nor introduce unacceptable disallowance risks, by insisting on a particular start date for payments.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer but disappointed by it because it seems to me that what I suggested would have helped. Would Defra be willing to commission a thorough study into the full economic impact of animal disease outbreaks in order to establish a system which will respond quickly and sensitively to what I fear threaten to be increasingly frequent outbreaks?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for the right reverend Prelate’s acceptance of the Answer but the situation is a bit like last year. I shall not give any target start dates but we will make more payments to more farmers earlier than last year, which was a substantial improvement on the first year of the scheme in 2005. Defra is looking at the review of this year’s animal disease outbreaks, which have cost the industry an enormous amount. I have just spent three days in the north-west and I am well aware of the direct cost to the industry. They have also cost the taxpayer an absolute fortune. These matters are being reviewed so that we can learn lessons. We are still adding up the full cost as restrictions are still in place in respect of bluetongue, foot and mouth and avian influenza.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, does the Minister agree that this Question does not apply to farmers in Wales and Scotland because they will have received the payment in full? As I see it, the great disadvantage of the dynamic model is that it penalises both government

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through the excessive bureaucracy of the Rural Payments Agency and farmers through the £30 million it will cost in interest. Have the Government investigated the whole business of scrapping the dynamic model and reverting to a simpler system?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the answer to the last part of the question is yes. It was a non-runner to wipe the slate clean; it was not possible. It was looked at by myself and the former Secretary of State some months ago. While I was in the north-west, I met farmers from Wales and Scotland who did not waste any time other than saying, “Pleased to meet you. By the way, we’ve had our single farm payment”. I told them that the system in England was designed to be far more efficient than that in Scotland and Wales but that we had not yet been able to make such early payments. All I can say is that we will seek to pay the farmers a lot more money a lot quicker than we did last year.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, regrettably, due to earlier springs and warmer summers, bluetongue will be a presence not just this year but will be back next summer and the summer after that. I predict that it will become a permanent feature of animal disease in this country. What plans are the Government making to combat the permanent presence of this disease in UK agriculture?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. It will be very difficult to fight a disease transferred by the midge. At present, along with the industry, the decision has been taken to keep the bluetongue strategy at phase 1; to keep the restricted area and not go for the whole country being covered as a bluetongue zone. If—we expect it to be when—it comes back and hits us really badly, perhaps after a mild winter or if there is another plume from across the channel, clearly in terms of trade restrictions it would be a lot easier if the whole country was a bluetongue zone. By “the whole country” I mean GB, not just England. That is absolutely crucial but we have not yet got to that point. We are watching it carefully. By next spring and summer, we hope to have the vaccine available. All the tenders have been placed through the companies, and we will be working, as we are now, with industry on a bluetongue strategy on the assumption that it will hit us and become an endemic disease.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is there a rumour that the animal health budget is going to be cut? That would be disastrous and a great worry for many farmers.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Baroness says “the animal health budget”. Defra’s budget is always under threat. We are looking at the consequences of the Comprehensive Spending Review and of the outbreak of disease this year. We have to pay compensation on animals slaughtered. That is fine, and that is important to eradicate the disease. We have paid out compensation on animals that should not have been slaughtered but had to be because of poor biosecurity on the farms in question. That has

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cost the taxpayer an enormous amount of money. There is no budget for compensation for animal disease as such, but Animal Health has an overall budget of £400 million which is designed to help the taxpayer deal with animal disease. The consequences for the individual parts of the Defra budget will become known only when we have made the final decisions on the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, why do we need six centres?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, six centres for what?

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, for the Rural Payments Agency.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the Rural Payments Agency has five operational centres for making payments: in Exeter, Northallerton, Newcastle, Carlisle and Workington. The headquarters are at Reading. That is considerably fewer than the number of old MAFF offices. It could be that the number of offices will be reviewed but, given what the Rural Payments Agency has gone through with the single farm payment, the last thing that I have asked it to do is to start organising offices. I would rather get the payment system up and running well before it starts to look at these other issues.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the money for repairing and making absolutely perfect the laboratories whence came foot and mouth come out of the Defra budget?

Lord Rooker: No, my Lords, I do not think that it does, because it is not a Defra-run laboratory. It is not a government-run laboratory. Pirbright is the Institute for Animal Health, which is a charity. Defra is a customer of that laboratory, which is sponsored by one of the research science councils from where most of the funding comes. It obviously has commercial research contracts. To the best of my knowledge, we do not provide capital expenditure. There is a huge capital programme that Defra helps with, but the capital part of the Defra budget is not the difficult one, to be honest; it is the normal revenue spending budget.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, the Minister will know from his visit to the north-west that the industry there in the uplands has been devastated by what has happened in the past four months. Why is it that in Wales payment of three-quarters of single farm payments commenced on Monday whereas, for some reason or other, the Rural Payments Agency cannot replicate that in England?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is for reasons that I thought the noble Lord would have understood. The system is different. It is a hybrid system that is not the same as that in Wales. In four or five years’ time, some of the farmers in Wales will be complaining that their

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single farm payments are based on 10-year-old calculations of what they get in subsidies; whereas the English farmers—notwithstanding the present difficulties—will have a modern payments system relative to what they are doing now, not to what the historical level of payments was. I suspect that, in time—and I do not say this as a claim—Welsh and, indeed, Scottish farmers will see the benefits of the dynamic system. Its introduction has been fraught with difficulties—including the computer systems, the rush, some of the decisions on changing the system, mapping problems and all the other issues. It is taking time, and we did say that 2009 would probably be the first year in which the system was stable.

Sport: Women’s Football

11.15 am

Lord Rosser asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Bach: My Lords, women’s football is the fastest-growing female participation sport with, it is believed, more than 1.3 million women and girls playing some sort of football in the United Kingdom. We fully support the current reviews of the game by the Football Association and the women’s football task force. This is an excellent opportunity to capitalise on the performance of the England women’s team in China and it is important that the reviews lead to a significant improvement in women’s football, including ways of raising the profile and competitiveness of the domestic league.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that helpful reply. Players in the successful women’s team that reached the quarter finals of the World Cup in China this year apparently received just £40 per day for the five weeks’ unpaid leave that most of them had to take to represent their country. Does he agree that the priorities in the game are distorted, when the Football Association spends less on women’s football each year than the annual salary that a Premier League club pays to a single top male player? Will he tell the FA, the Premier League and the Football League to do more to ensure that the fast-growing women’s game is properly financed at all levels, including providing financial support for the England women’s team that is at least on a par with that received by other top national women’s teams?

Lord Bach: My Lords, first, I pay tribute to my noble friend’s long-standing expertise and passion for football and to his knowledge of grass-roots football. The Government share many of his concerns. We appreciate and thank the Football Association for its ongoing commitment to the game but, frankly, we want a lot more and we want it a lot faster. We agree particularly with my noble friend about the financial rewards, on which he made comparisons. The England players are realistic about the current status and financial position of the game and have not

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called for payments equal to those of their male colleagues; perhaps it is to be hoped that one day they will. Instead, their arguments have focused on the wider impact that the level of remuneration has on the game. The majority of players in the England women’s team took unpaid leave to take part in the World Cup, which meant that they lost wages and had to recoup their working hours. That severely limits the hours that they can train for club or country. The Government do not think that that is satisfactory.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is not right that the members of the England women’s team have been financially disadvantaged? If the FA will not do more in this case, could Sport England help, and help now, because the players are suffering real financial disadvantage?

Lord Bach: My Lords, as the noble Baroness will know, the Football Association is carrying out a number of investigations into women’s football. I say again that the Football Association, in the way in which it is reforming itself as a consequence of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, is putting much more emphasis on women’s football. We certainly want to encourage that, but there is no doubt at all that there is a huge way to go. The noble Baroness will know that a task force has been set up involving a range of members, including Sport England. We consider the task force to be very important in improving the women’s game.

Lord Addington: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport did not think that it should provide Olympic funding for football because there is so much money in the game? According to information that I have received, it believes that the Football Association should provide it. Given that, will the Government make every effort to ensure that the FA and the premiership dig into their pockets and at least provide a professional national team, which would provide the role models that are seen to be so important?

Lord Bach: My Lords, it is extremely sad that there will not be an England or Great Britain team at the 2008 Olympics. The home nations could not even offer an explanation of why they would not allow the women’s team to compete on behalf of Great Britain, and an explanation is important to us because we want to make sure that we understand the reasons. We understand that FIFA made assurances about the independence of the home nations in the wider football world, so the Government take the view that the home nations’ decision is appalling.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, has my noble friend visited the wonderful National Football Museum at Preston, which tells so well the story of women’s football in this country, including the women’s FA cup final in Preston in the 1920s, which attracted a crowd of 51,000? Will he note that the lack of women in football, especially at management level and in administration, could be remedied and that that

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would encourage women to participate? Will he consult the football unit of the economics department at Warwick University, which is concerned with that issue?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am afraid that I have not been able to go to Preston to see the museum, but I will. My noble friend will know that there were 24,000 people at the women’s cup final last year. The reward for that final was £5,000, whereas, for the men’s clubs, to be in the third round proper is worth £24,000, so we can begin to see where the problems are.

Community Relations: National Motto

11.22 am

Baroness Warsi asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Government have never proposed a British motto and, as announced in The Governance of Britain Green Paper, are focused on developing a question on whether a statement of British values would be useful.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. What is the basis of that consultation and is there evidence to suggest that a motto—that term has been used—or a statement of values would have a positive impact on community relations? If so and in light of the Minister’s experience in the area, could he give the House his motto, his six words, that would encapsulate this great nation?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, first, I express my warm appreciation to the noble Baroness and to my noble friend Lord Ahmed for their magnificent work in Sudan, which is appreciated by the whole House.

There is no suggestion by the Government for a motto. On a statement of values, I think that most of us would understand the core British values, yet there is an advantage in expressing them, so that all people in this country understand them, because they are so cherished by the nation. We can all come up with adjectives, such as justice, freedom, democracy and fair play, to describe what we sense it means to be a British citizen.

We think it is valuable, particularly in terms of community cohesion, in taking that work forward. There is much to be done over the next year, but I hope the noble Baroness will contribute her very great talents to that process.

As for a motto, I do not think I will go down that route, but I will say that the motto of Birmingham City Football Club is, “Keep right on till the end of the road”.

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Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it would be very easy to have the statement brought into schools so that all our children knew what our values were, including those who have recently come to this country?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Baroness put rather better than I could why this might be valuable to the country.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, if the Minister finds it difficult to provide a motto for the whole country, would he be prepared to consider a motto for your Lordships’ House: “Questions and Answers ought to be short”?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, yes.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, from these Benches, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, on her efforts last week. I have been acquainted with the noble Baroness for some years, and what she did was entirely characteristic of her. She is a credit both to the House and her community.

It is a relief to hear the Minister say that there are no plans for a motto, and that, under the Goldsmith review, his department will be examining the possibility of a British statement of values. Will the Minister confirm that, once the exercise is complete, the resources will be provided for this statement of values to be taken out both to newly arrived communities and existing communities? As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, has confirmed, social glue and a sense of identity need reinforcing all round.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am not convinced that it is a question of resources. It is best for us to get this right. We have the review of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, which runs in parallel. Clearly, if that comes to a successful conclusion, we will then need to look at how it may be promulgated among citizens of this country, whether new or those who have lived here all their lives. I certainly take the value of schools in that to heart.

Lord Trimble: My Lords, the notion of a statement of shared values is obviously of considerable importance. Equally important, however, is a shared historical experience. Obviously, with regard to those who have recently come to these shores, that will be limited. The thing to do there is to encourage them to integrate fully into our national life so that they can have a shared experience with us today.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am sure that that is right. The noble Lord implied an understanding of the history of this nation and its interrelationship with other countries. I strongly agree with and endorse that.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, in view of the splendidly robust answers from my noble friend Lord Bach to the previous Question, would not the most suitable six-word motto be “Play up, and play the game”?

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