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My concern is that modern universities such as Glasgow Caledonian, which performs such a vital role through good quality teaching, will lose out to research-intensive universities in the allocation of future funding. The research assessment exercise, whose results will be published this month, carries a danger of ranking blue-sky research above the practical education that may be of more immediate benefit to students and to society in the hard times ahead.
In time of crisis, one of the few consolations is that it forces re-assessment of received wisdom and drives change. Having seen government policy change so purposively in other areas in recent times, I respectfully suggest that our present priority should not be a general switch of resources to allow an elite group of UK universities to compete globally. In Scotland, the research pulling initiative of the Scottish funding council has made a promising start and Glasgow Caledonian has played an active part. I trust that Scottish institutions with their distinctive practical traditions can, with the active support of the UK Government, establish an appropriate balance between research and the good quality teaching which is indispensable for the Governments skills agenda.
Turning to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Ofcom has just completed its consultation on phase two of its public service broadcasting review. I want to remind Ministers of the particular problems facing public service broadcasting in Scotland. Some of these problems are not new, as I know from experience. Before entering your Lordships House in 1998, I was chairman of Scottish Media Group which held the licences to broadcast on the ITV network in Scotland. During many years of producing programmes and broadcasting, my longest and least successful campaign was to get a fairer deal for viewers and programme makers north of the border. The same arguments hold for Wales and Northern Ireland.
Surely it is not right that, on the public service networks of the United Kingdom, the overwhelming majority of British programmes in the peak-time schedules are produced in England and sourced mainly from London. While viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make up about 17 per cent of television audiences in the United Kingdomand 17 per cent of BBC licence payersthe percentage of programming in the peak-time schedules is probably closer to 1 per cent than 17 per cent. In defence of this imbalance, defenders of the status quo often argue that these three home nations all broadcast more local programmes inside their borders than is the case for the regions of England. But surely that is to argue that while England broadcasts across the UK to the other nations, those nations should be happy just talking to themselves, sometimes in Welsh, very occasionally in Gaelic.
The big budget programming, the lavish dramas, ambitious documentary and current affairs series, are almost all produced in England across all the networks, BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV. I appreciate that yet again promises are being extracted from the BBC and Channel 4 to source more programmes from outside England and to make the marginalisation of the Celtic nations a little less blatant. Well, we shall see. We have been disappointed before. Little wonder, that after decades of lobbying and continual frustration, the Scottish Broadcasting Commission was set up in Edinburgh and recently recommended a raft of initiatives including the creation of a dedicated digital channel for Scotland.
Since my priority is still to make the UK network output a bit more British, I regret the commissions failure to propose positive options for Scottish television in the ITV networking arrangements. Having requested a debate on the future of public service broadcasting in Scotland, I hope your Lordships will have an opportunity to discuss early in 2009 the report of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission and indeed the future of PSB in Scotland.
However, my purpose today is to draw attention to immediate problems in the ITV network. Sadly, this once robust federal system of regional producers and broadcasters is now increasingly consolidated into one network company, ITV plc, based in London. Sharing the same Channel 3 network and still independent, but now on the margins of consolidated ITV, are Ulster Television, Scottish Television and Channel Television. There are inexorable commercial pressures reducing both the audiences and the advertising income of ITV. I do not underestimate the threat, and I applaud the efforts made by ITV to maintain its large output of British-made programming.
My concern is that the important national role played by Scottish Television should not be further impaired by attempts to address these, admittedly serious, difficulties at ITV. At a time of potential tension over the balance and fairness of current arrangements between Governments in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, I would ask Ofcom and the DCMS to be prepared to question ITV plcs demand for a single ITV brand covering all the UK. The interests of viewers in Scotland might well require dedicated programming and opt-outs from the network
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It would also be helpful to ensure continued STV access to the commissioning process for ITV network programming. Ten years ago, we had a thriving production business based in Glasgow, operating on commissions from the ITV Network CentreTaggart is perhaps the sole notable survivor. On the evidence of past ability to contribute useful shows to the network schedule, it is not asking much of ITV today that the door should at least be kept open.
Additionally, Ministers and Ofcom could use their good offices to encourage a further increase in Scotlands presence on UK screens. At present, STVs surviving production operation is constrained in bidding for commissions from the BBC and Channel 4 because of its link to a relatively small broadcaster parent. Redesignation as an independent producer would encourage the assembly of a critical mass of creative talent in Glasgow which might compete on even terms with the rest of the independent production sector based largely in London.
I conclude by inviting the Minister to agree that in an area of such cultural, social and political significance as television broadcasting the Government would welcome initiatives calculated to give programmes made in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland a proper place on UK screens.
Baroness Thomas of Winchester: My Lords, as the new welfare reform Bill is, we assume, to be published shortly and is one of the Governments flagship Bills, I make no apology for returning to this matter today after yesterday's Statement.
We on these Benches have supported the principle of those receiving working-age benefits being given as much help as possible to find work, with sanctions being imposed only as a last resort. However, it has been difficult to discern exactly the Governments overriding aim with the policy. Is it that unemployed people should no longer get benefits for doing nothing and will otherwise be financially penalised, or is it that people must be given more help than at present to find a job, with the penalties affecting only the few who are genuinely work-shy and refuse to co-operate? The emphasis seems to be different depending on the audience. I suppose that Ministers want to satisfy the red-tops need for a tough headline such as Time's up for those who sponge off the taxpayer, while sounding as reasonable as possible about extra help for jobseekers to their own supporters.
Why does this matter? One reason is that those of us who raise concerns about the policy are considered to be anti-reform, but I hope that the Minister will accept that that is far from the case. There must be proper debate and scrutiny of the detail of how the policy will work, particularly in the stormy weather into which the country is heading, where jobs will be much scarcer and unemployment is rising fast. Many people who find themselves visiting Jobcentre Plus offices against all their expectations may not have been factored into the DWP calculations. They will almost certainly include young people in their 20s or 30s who still have student debts to pay off, who are heavily mortgaged and who thought that they were in secure jobs but who are made redundant against all expectations. They are highly educated young people with good degrees. In the past, they would have found another job relatively easily, but in the present climate it may be much harder. It is not just young, highly educated people who will be hit but also professional people in their 40s and 50s who thought that they were in settled careers.
I listen to my noble friend Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay when he tells me that this recession will be much worse than that in the 1980s and will be more of a white- collar, southern recession. The recessions of both the 1980s and, much earlier, the 1930s were much worse in the old manufacturing regions. Now, the proportion of public sector jobs is much higher away from the south-east, so poorer regions are less vulnerable. I was interested to read in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday about the Government setting aside more than £100 million for universities and further education colleges to target unemployed professionals and offer them retraining or careers advice. Will the Minister tell us how this will work? How will those people be targeted? Will Jobcentre Plus offices have all the relevant details?
Will the Minister also tell us whether he considers that the number of extra staff in Jobcentre Plus offices around the country will be anywhere near enough to cope not just with, let us say, lone mothers looking for work for the first time but the range of the newly unemployed in all their diversity? Research by the Liberal Democrats shows that Jobcentre Plus is already failing to cope with an increase in the number of applications. Between June and September, the number of outstanding applications for jobseekers allowance was 44 per cent up on the same period last year. It did not help that Jobcentre Plus reduced its staff by 16,450 between 2004 and 2008. Do the Government think that the extra staff being taken on and trained for the increase in unemployment in the coming months will be adequate?
While I am on the subject of extra demand for services, I must mention the Winchester Citizens Advice Bureau, which says that, for Winchester, an area of high employment, its advice queries for employment issues have rocketed. It says that many individuals who have never been out of work are no longer able to find ongoing activity and that advisers are therefore seeing more clients in the middle-income bracket. It says also that many small businesses which over recent years have not had to dismiss staff now have to do so without realising that the law has changed and they
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I turn to the flexible New Deal under which those unemployed for more than a year will be referred to private or third-sector contractors to find a job. One might be forgiven for thinking that the scheme was already under way, but as it is not due to start until next October, there should be time for the Government to take on board some of the comments made by those studying the policy in detail, such as the Social Market Foundation and the Social Security Advisory Committee. The latter makes the key point that how the Government proceed in this area will determine what they achieve. The problem of cherry-picking the easiest clients to help was raised yesterday, but it was not mentioned that those furthest from the jobs market will be expensive to help. Private contractors involved in back-to-work support will need a lot of investment to ramp up their operation to help those furthest from the jobs market. I would be interested to hear how the Governmentwill ensure that the capital is available, given the reluctance of banks to lend at the moment.
Changing the subject now to that of the benefits system in general, we on these Benches are not the first to ask for the DWP and HMRC to work together to tackle the way that benefits and tax credits operate.
The new in and out of work processes for housing benefit and council tax benefit, which are to be phased in from December this year, are welcome and might pave the way for more joint working. The Minister will not be surprised to hear me ask about the progress of the knotty problem of service users and expenses, and whether the DWP is working with BERR to help to solve the problem; allowing disabled people to participate in helping to design services without losing their benefits if they accept expenses. While on the subject of benefits, the incapacity benefit system is now a nightmare of complexity because of the slightly different permitted work rules for incapacity benefit and the new employment and support allowance rules. Even many Jobcentre Plus staff do not appear to know the difference. Could not the rules for those benefits be aligned so that everyone knows where they are?
The changes in welfare benefits have been quite hard to follow in the past couple of years because of the way that policies are announced, then perhaps re-announced with a start date, then legislated on, with maybe the real start date enshrined eventually in a statutory instrument. Are we still expecting incapacity benefit claimants to be migrated on to ESA in April 2010, or will that process happen sooner? Will proper evaluations be carried out before this happens?
My last question about benefits concerns the effect of housing benefit on employment prospects. I note from the White Paper that the internal housing benefit review being conducted by the DWP and the Treasury is to be extended by an external consultation next year. When will the results of that review be published? The impact of housing benefits in places where rent is high, such as London, cannot be underestimated, and for many people affects the question of whether it always pays to work.
This has been a most interesting debate and I am pleased to have taken part in it. So many matters raised by other noble Lords link into each other, although they often seem so disparate. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, it would have been a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton. It is, however, equally a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester. I am even-handed in my views about party groupings. My speech will be brief, and in the brew of today's ingredients it will be cultural. Its brevity is occasioned by the decision of the Government to ditch all their anticipated primarily cultural measures from the Queen's Speech rather in the manner of Russian travellers ditching their baggage from sleighs when pursued by wolves through the forests, in prior centuriesthe sort of image that terrified me as a child. But the cultural ingredient obliges me to declare an interest as the president of the British Art Market Federation, a role that I have fulfilled since 1996, and for which, since entering your Lordships' House, I have received a retainer, recorded in the Register of Interests.
The first Bill to be discarded was the heritage protection Bill, which had appeared in draft, was widely welcomed in principle by interested parties and had been the beneficiary of a whole lustrum of preparation. It is a pity that, after such a gestation, the Government felt that the time required for its parliamentary passage implicitly stood between us and national recovery. To his considerable credit, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport issued an extremely prompt and comprehensive e-mail concerning this setback, although the hard copy which he promised would follow has not so far arrived. Perhaps the wolves have eaten it.
This was reinforced by a further helpful and comprehensive letter from Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, who is holding the fort as the acting chairman of English Heritage following the sad death of our much lamented colleague Sandy Bruce-Lockhart. Knowing how ill the latter was, I was deeply moved to receive a letter, personally topped and tailed by him, concerning the latest consultation on Stonehenge during the final month of his life.
We all know what happens when a Bill or part of a Bill, for whatever reason, is lost in Parliament. Ministers, who up to the moment of admitting defeat have been telling us how essential the Bill is, in whole or in part, somehow in the aftermath of defeat make a very good fist of achieving their legislative purposes by other means, and there seems good reason to suppose that the same running repairs can be applied to the vacuum of a Bill that has not yet arrived. We must all hope so.
The second relevant Bill to have fallen off the sleigh has been the draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill, which, like the draft Heritage Protection Bill, has been subject to scrutiny by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in the other place. Here, there is a genuine potential bonus from delay. There was a difference of opinion between the Select Committee
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On the Select Committees recommendations 8 and 9, concerning the acquisition or acceptance by dealers of items of cultural property exported from an occupied territory, when acceptance, if unlawful, is a criminal offence, the present delay could be profitably harnessed. It could provide time for discussion between the British Art Market Federation and the Bills promoters on the practical processes of due diligence through which dealers have to go and which invariably require a facility and ability to study the object close to. Of course, that discussion could also be done during the period of actual parliamentary scrutiny as the Bill goes through the House in due course, but it seems a lost opportunity not to get the drafting right in advance.
If the situation is ambiguous, few dealers will risk criminal prosecution by getting hold of the object; and in the general cultural interest, there seems more than a little virtue in due diligence being facilitated. Such co-operation between the federation over which I preside and the Bill's promoters, in the way that I envisage, worked very well on the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, and it seems reasonable to suppose that it would do so again.
There are implications for the historical environment in both the Marine and Coastal Access Bill and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill, but happily both those Bills are having an introduction to your Lordships' Houseindeed their Second Readings are due next week, so we shall return to those shortly. It is also possible that the draft floods and water Bill may have an impact on heritage.
Finally, in the DCMS pantheon there are still the Olympics. Three and a half years separate us from them but, other things being equal, another year will have passed before we get another Queen's Speech, and it seems worth taking this chance to identify one particular and significant opportunity cost that the Olympics are imposing on the elements of the DCMS acronym other than the S for sport. I allude to the planned restoration and exhibition space extension of the Sir John Soane's Museum, which is appealing for £6.3 million and has already secured £2 million by its own efforts. To quote the current edition of the Art Newspaper, an application for half the cost made earlier this year was deemed by the Heritage Lottery Fund as faultless and intelligent and high quality. This application failed only because the Heritage Lottery Funds limited funds of £7 million could not stretch that far. At the time of the application, 13 projects were asking for £35 million and only two got through. The situation for this sector of our economy is not
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Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, I shall refer to the Olympic Games, not in detail, but to raise the themes that Britain should present in the London Games. We all know that these Games are an excuse, as they are for every country, for dwelling on national qualities and achievements. We ought now, as there is plenty of time, to reflect on the achievements that we should emphasise, and the themes that the mayor, Minister or whoever should dwell on in London in 2012.
First, this is an important thing to reflect upon. After all, the Baron de Coubertin, the initiator of the modern Olympic Games, was a tremendous Anglophile. There is a moving passage in his autobiography discussing how he went to Rugby Chapel and sat in front of the tomb of Dr Thomas Arnold, whom he conceived of as the inspiration for the British sense of fair play and, indeed, the Games. To mention this is not, therefore, altogether irrelevant.
The mayor, the Minister or whoever it is should raise five questions, perhaps in this order. First, he should emphasise Britains greatest achievement: our literature, particularly our poetry. I once had the pleasure of sitting next to the mayor of Oaxaca in Mexico, who showed me the speech that he was planning to make at the end of lunch. It began, We in Mexico think of Britain, first, because of John Milton and, secondly, because of Portland cement. There is no doubt that John Milton and other great poets have been the ambassadors of this countrys cultural pre-eminence for many years. I do not know quite how a mayor or a Minister will emphasise that cultural contribution, but it should be done.
Secondly, there is our role as a democracy. For perhaps two centuries, our parliamentary life was a brilliant political work of art, beginning, let us say, in the middle of the 18th century, stretching on untilwell, perhaps it would be inappropriate to give a final date. Marvellous debates were held during many generations. They have inspired not only those concerned, but those reading about them afterwards. I was only recently reading how, after the first big debate on the abolition of the slave trade, Pitts speech in the early morning was so marvellous and striking that Fox, William Wyndham and somebody else, whose name I confess I have forgotten, walked across Parliament Square in the grey dawn and said that they had just heard one of the most astounding performances it had ever been their pleasure to listen to. There have been many such occasions, and perhaps there will be more in future.
Britains third contribution to international culture and civilisation is of course that of the scientific and industrial revolution. Matthew Boulton was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, in his admirable speech this afternoon. There is no doubt that many of the visitors to the London Olympic Games will know about Britains contribution in this area. It is not easy to distinguish where scientific and industrial contribution
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