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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, when we address ourselves to our next forecast, we will look at the latest figures, as the noble Lord identified. We take seriously the OECD forecasts, but they are forecasts in the same way as the Governments are. They send warning
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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, do the Government have a view on the investment of sovereign funds in the British economy? Today we have seen a big statement about a heavy investment from a sovereign fund in Barclays Bank. Do the Government think that this sort of thing is good or bad for our economy?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we live in a global economy and we are concerned to see inward investment. Indeed, the increased level of inward investment is one of the features of which we are proud in our record over the past decade. The noble Baroness is right to draw attention to the fact that certain kinds of investment may raise particular problems, but it is not for the Government to put constraints on them. It is for the Government to adjust their strategy in the light of the likely returns in taxation from such investment; the decisions themselves are matters for the private sector.
Lord Lang of Monkton: My Lords, it is not just the OECD that has been critical of Her Majestys Governments conduct of the economy; almost every respected international and national body that studies such matters has been equally critical, making unfavourable international comparisons. The Government have overshot their borrowing target in almost every year since they came into office. This year looks like being the worst yet, with the highest public sector deficit of any country in the industrialised world. Does the noble Lord not think that it is time for more candour and less complacency from the Government?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord should have regard to our record on public debt. The simple fact is that, because public debt is now at 5 per cent of GDP, down from 9 per cent when we came to office, we are in a position where we have to repay much less interest on that debt. If the noble Lord is quoting external sources, let me say to him that the International Monetary Fund has also commented on the British economy, stating in its Article IV consultation:
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, no hard data on the number of CCTV cameras operating in public places in the United Kingdom are currently held by the Home Office. The National CCTV Strategy recommends the development of a system of registration
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Lord Geddes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, albeit that it is somewhat inconclusive in its nature. Avoiding the increasing temptation to make a speech on these occasions, I have two questions for the Minister. First, can he advise the House, even in percentage terms, how many cameras are in the public sector and how many in the private? Secondly, does he agree with the recent estimate by the police authorities that the utility rate of such cameras is under 3 per cent?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, between 1999 and 2003 the Home Office invested some £170 million of capital funding into local authorities and public bodies for investment in public space CCTV. It is estimated that that delivered some 680 town centre CCTV systems, which is thought to be about 15 per cent of the total number of such systems in the United Kingdom. As for the 3 per cent figure referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, I have no information that that is correct in terms of detection. What we have found is that when CCTV was introduced in places such as Newcastle, for instance, there was a falling off of burglaries in the city centre by some 56 per cent, criminal damage by 34 per cent and theft by 11 per cent. That, and anecdotal evidence, suggests that CCTV systems are extremely good in preventing crime and, more importantly, detecting it.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, what is the Governments view on removing lumps in the road and replacing them with cameras? I am told that these lumps cause bad emissions from cars and that they are equally bad for the cars themselves. It would be a great benefit to Prince of Wales Drive in Battersea if only we could have cameras and not lumps.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I assume that the noble Baroness means speed humps. I have to confess that I have previously campaigned to have speed humps in my city. They have certainly ensured that traffic slows down, which probably saves both lives and injuries; there is certainly research on that. But I understand her point: the introduction of camera systems can assist in traffic management. They can be of considerable benefit.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, my noble friend cited Newcastle. Given the widespread use of these cameras, do the Government have a more national assessment of their effectiveness? In particular, do they reduce the level of crime or simply displace it?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, such studies as there are suggest that there is no displacement effect. However, there is clear evidence that they assist in the detection and prevention of crime. Figures suggest that between 2006-07 and 2007-08, more than 8,000 fewer offences of personal robbery were committed in London and detections increased significantly by 14 to 15 per cent.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, would the Minister be good enough to reconsider his being wedded to speed humps? They are the most unattractive things and, as my noble friend said, they produce an extra amount of exhaust. They also produce some pretty good expletives from the passengers who get thrown about. Does he also agree with my noble friend that cameras are a good thing? They are very invasive and we have too many of them.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not know that we have too many CCTV systems in the United Kingdom. Police forces up and down the country say that they do an extremely useful and valuable job in preventing and detecting crime. The case is also clear that road humps along with other methods of traffic management and control contribute significantly to reducing the number of people killed on our roads, especially in residential areas, where there is a particular problem, and the number of injuries that people suffer as a result of motor accidents and speeding.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I wonder if I could help the Minister. I have been advised that we have more CCTV cameras in the United Kingdom than they have in the United States, Italy, France, Germany and Spain combined. Would he care to comment on that?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: That is the truth, my Lords; these are matters for speculation. But there is no doubt that CCTV cameras make a significant impact in preventing and detecting crime. I always thought that the party opposite was concerned about those issues. This morning I am beginning to get a rather different view.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, I declare an interest as someone who chaired the New Deal for Communities programme in Liverpool, where CCTV has been part of the strategy for reducing crime. I would have thought that the Minister might be able to find some statistics from the New Deal programme. Could he make those statistics available to show what the reduction in crime has been in New Deal areas where those CCTV cameras have been put in place?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we are undertaking through the national strategy a number of studies on the impact of CCTV systems. When that information becomes available I shall be happy to share it with your Lordships House.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, because the Government were committing cash and investment into CCTV systems during the latter part of the 1990s a code of practice was developed which the data commissioner introduced in 1998. So there is already a code of good practice to ensure that information captured by CCTV systems cannot be abused and misused.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, what kind of accountability to Parliament is there for this monitoring? Is a report produced? Which organisation carries out the monitoring particularly of the private organisations that carry out surveillance on so many of us? It is said that in this city we are photographed 14 times a day. That is a matter of considerable concern.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there is accountability in the code of practice, the data commissioner, reporting to Parliament and the fact that Parliament debates these matters from time to time. There is little doubt that CCTV systems have a significant effect in tackling and preventing crime. We have all seen images on our TV screens of the product of CCTV in tackling terrorist offences and tracking down terrorists in this country. We should welcome the use of CCTV in ensuring that we are better protected and that our nation and our people are safer.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, with the leave of the House, two Statements will be repeated this afternoon after the debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Luce. The first Statement, entitled Equality Bill, will be repeated by my noble friend Lady Andrews; and the second, entitled Witness Anonymity will be repeated immediately afterwards by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I regret that taking two Statements means that we are unlikely to start the Committee stage of the Powers of Entry Bill until around 6.15 pm at the earliest. In order to meet our target rising time of 7 pm, the usual channels have therefore decided not to proceed with the second Private Members Bill scheduled for this afternoon, the House of Lords (Members Taxation Status) Bill. I take this opportunity to stress that the timings for both timed debates are extremely tight and I urge all noble Lords to keep well within their limits. I will ask my fellow Whips to ensure that the timings are adhered to.
Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Lord Luce set down for today shall be limited to three hours and that in the name of Lord Ramsbotham to two and a half hours.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is a privilege to open this debate. My purpose today is to paint a broader picture of the future direction of higher education as I see it. I am delighted that so many noble Lords, with their vast range of experiences in higher education,
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I declare an interest having been vice-chancellor of the independent University of Buckingham for five years in the 1990s. Since its foundation over 30 years ago, Buckingham has achieved much, in particular the two-year degree introduced by the first vice-chancellor, the late Lord Beloff. For two consecutive years the university has gained the highest rating for student satisfaction in a national student survey carried out by the Times Higher Education supplement. This reflects both the high motivation for students and the personal attention they receive with a staff-student ratio of 1:9. While I shall draw on my experience there, I must stress that, since Buckingham receives no taxpayers support, I am not advocating today that we follow that exact path.
I was lucky enough to have three years at Cambridge and a fourth at Oxford in the late 1950s, when only 4 per cent of my age group were able to be at university. Since then we have seen a welcome revolution in higher education. Today 43 per cent of 18 to 30 year-olds are at university and more than 2.25 million students in total are in higher education, served by nearly 170 institutions. Equally remarkable is the vast diversity in the provision of higher education to meet immense social changes; in particular, the emergence of the knowledge society and the fact that we can expect to change jobs several times in our career and need ever-changing new skills arising from the technological and communication revolution. This has created the concept of lifelong learning. We now have more than 900,000 students in part-time education. We can get on and off the ladder of education and training at any stage in our lives. To help us, we have a wide range of institutions providing infinite types of degree courses of varying lengths, ranging from the more academic to the more vocational, supported by some excellent teaching. Distance learning, as in the highly successful Open University, plays a significant part in this process.
I think these developments are excellent and exciting. I want everyone, from whatever background, who has the capacity to enjoy and value a university education to be able to do so. But inevitably changes of this scale produce new challenges. First, we need to revisit the question of what universities are for. In the 1850s Cardinal Newman in The Idea of a University provided answers which lasted until well into the 20th centurya liberal education, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, training the intellect, seeking truth and the facility of self-education all remain valuable criteria. But today's demands also include the flexibility to handle an ever-changing career and to develop employable skills. This becomes even more important in an increasingly competitive world. I agree with the view of the late Field Marshal Lord Slim who, as chancellor of an Australian university, said:
Secondly, as the number of students has increased, so the taxpayers support per student has declined. This has challenged the quality of higher education and led us to accept that the taxpayer will never be able to provide enough support for the student. This
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In the old days, when the name of universities was unknown, lectures were more frequent and there was more zeal for study. But now when you are invited into a university, lectures are rare, things are hurried and little is learned, the time taken for lectures being spent in meetings and discussions.
Thirdly, it is something of a truism that universities still do better for the middle classes than they do for less well-off socio-economic groups. This has led to a somewhat unsatisfactory debate, encapsulated as excellence versus equity. The problem is merely made worse by social engineering, and I have serious doubts about targets for student participation. The key to greater equity, surely, is to remove all the obstacles in the way of those who aspire or have been deterred from aspiring to a university education. I acknowledge that the Government are trying to tackle this through measures to improve educational opportunities for 14 to 19 year-olds, including the introduction of diplomas and the Education and Skills Bill. It is also singularly important to help improve links between universities and schools, a notable example of which has been Liverpool Universitys successful talent support initiative to increase the proportion of students from low participation neighbourhoods entering higher education.
This leads me to my fourth point. Non-completion rates have increased in recent years to about 22 per cent. Although not out of line with international levels, this is high for the United Kingdom, but we must acknowledge that rates vary widely between institutions. Targeted help at school should ensure that the student is on the right course at the right place. For others who drop out, the concept of lifelong learning provides a valuable second chance.
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