Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

India has always held a special fascination for the English. I do not think that we, today, fully realise quite how much, in relatively recent times, India dominated the thoughts and aspirations of so many English men and women. India, with its huge diversity and its immense variety of scenery, culture and climate still retains its fascination—a fascination almost mesmerising, as one sees the country rising from nowhere to become one of the foremost economies in the world, as commented upon by many of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria.

Reforms in the 1980s and 1990s have allowed business the freedom to develop, and one can only stand in awe at the release of the energy and vitality of India's 1.2 billion inhabitants, which has driven the economy forward and enabled the development and manufacture of increasingly sophisticated goods. Anyone who revisits today one of the main Indian towns after a gap of as little as three or four years will hardly recognise the place. It is unquestionably an economy and a country in which British companies should be heavily involved. As well as an enormous and fast-growing market place, there are other advantages, such as no language barriers, a generally warm welcome to the English, a legal system which is at least comprehensible and a skilled workforce which grows in number on a daily basis.

Equally, we should welcome Indian investment in, and involvement with, the UK economy. Sadly, recent events have not shown Her Majesty's Government at their best. The Foreign Secretary's recent visit to India was not a success. It is a mystery to me how a Government such as the present one, with their record of failure, can have the temerity to start dictating to others how to run their affairs—especially a country like India which is currently demonstrating such success.

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC437

Closer to home, there is the case of Tata, owner of Jaguar Land Rover and other major investments in the UK. I read in the press that, because of the economic downturn, Tata is now seeking further working capital on normal commercial terms—although from banks; there would be government involvement. I am unable to comment on the merits or otherwise of this request, but I hope that Her Majesty's Government will bear in mind that Tata, as has been mentioned today, is a serious Indian company and not the sort of business out for the quick kill, but here for the long term. It is one of the largest and most highly respected companies in India and all the work of such organisations as UK Trade and Investment, and the other organisations that we have heard of in the debate today, will become pointless if Indian investors see that a company of the stature of Tata is not treated with respect and straight dealing.

I ask the Minister to help avoid creating an example to potential Indian investors as to why they should avoid the United Kingdom. There is great affection in India for this country, and it would be a pity for anything to damage that goodwill.

6.17 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, on securing parliamentary time for this important debate. I am glad to have the opportunity to discuss the issues that he and other Members of the Committee have raised this afternoon. It has been a wide-ranging and fascinating debate. I confess an interest in as much as I live in Southall, a centre for Indian businessmen, and have a love of Indian literature and culture.

This is a historic moment for India. Less than a month ago, we witnessed the conclusion of the elections in the world’s largest democracy, an election that has returned a Government with an increased mandate to drive forward economic reform—a point emphasised by the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Dholakia. I am confident that India’s commitment to the liberalisation of its economy can only be strengthened and will continue, because here is a Government who genuinely understand that opening up the economy will create a quantum leap in India’s ability to attract foreign investment, accelerate much needed infrastructure development and drive forward inclusive, sustainable growth.

India is not immune from the global downturn. It no longer remains on the sidelines of the crisis. Growth is likely to fall to 4.5 per cent in 2009 from the 8.5 per cent average of recent years. It is estimated that there will be an extra 9 to 12 million Indians living in poverty in 2009 as a result. While 6 per cent growth might seem high to us, for India to achieve its millennium development goals and lift the 456 million Indians who live on less than $1.25 a day out of poverty, it needs to deliver sustained growth of at least 9 per cent a year. Unlike in China, the population is getting younger, but India will be able to reap this demographic dividend only if it makes substantial investments in its physical and social infrastructure. UK companies have

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC438

much to offer in this respect, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, reminded us in relation to education, for example.

Since 1991, India’s gradual opening up to international trade has fuelled consistently high economic growth that has made a real and substantial impact on people’s lives in India. Now India is entering a new phase—it is moving up the value chain. Whereas the early years of its growth were fuelled by offshoring and low-cost, low-value service provision, the emphasis now is on value-added, R&D-rich, manufacturing and services—from ground breaking new oncology treatments in the pharmaceuticals sector, to highly sophisticated knowledge process outsourcing, to world-class, innovative production in sectors as diverse as nanotechnology, animation and renewable energy.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, remarked, we are witnessing the beginnings of a geographical shift to the tier 2 and tier 3 cities of India, where new clusters and new opportunities are emerging and where those who have not so far benefited from India’s awakening will have a chance to do so.

For UK companies to maximise their potential for success in India, they need to understand that the Indian market of today is not the same as it was 10 years ago, or even five years ago; the opportunities, the challenges, and the business environment have moved on, and so must the mindset of any UK entrepreneur seeking to engage with India. There is a critical need, therefore, to raise awareness in the UK of the new opportunities emerging in India so that our companies can maximise the potential from this challenging, exciting and important market. We were urged in that direction by everyone who contributed to this debate, especially the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. I am delighted, therefore, that on 9 June, during World Trade Week, my noble friend Lord Davies, Minister for Trade, Investment and Business, officiated at the UK India Business Council launch of a detailed report on the opportunities that exist in tier 2 cities in India. The UKIBC will now work in partnership with our UK trade and investment staff in India over the course of the coming year on outreach activities in these cities, aimed at alerting and demonstrating to British business the opportunities that they represent.

I have a couple of comments on UK social responsibility—an area that I declare an interest in as I am still the vice chair of the Ethical Trading Initiative. Benoy, an architecture firm based near Nottingham, builds retail malls in tier 2 cities in India. It is very successful. It built 50 houses for low-income families at the same time as building a mall. I was interested in the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, about the Tata approach on enterprise and the responsibility to community, and the Supreme Group and its eco-friendly bags. I was even more interested, as my young daughter is currently studying for a degree in paramedics, to hear about the Dial 1298 sustainable ambulance service. I would be fascinated to hear more about that. A point was also made about the opportunities for UK companies to engage with social enterprise.

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC439

If there was a difference in the analysis, I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, did not fully recognise the work going on by the UKTI network. We have 86 staff working in nine offices in India—an increase of 18 per cent over the last couple of years. These new staff include a financial services specialist seconded by the Treasury to the Deputy High Commission in Mumbai, and a new deputy director based in Delhi to oversee the UKTI network in India. The team has a real record of success, generating nearly £270,000 in chargeable services last year, providing support to nearly 3,000 British companies seeking to do business in India.

As a matter of interest, 90 per cent of UKTI customers are SMEs; 50 per cent of all Indian investments in the EU are in the UK. The British Chambers of Commerce work closely with the UK Indian Business Council and the UKTI to help SMEs to get into India. The UK Indian Business Council has a special programme called Next Generation, which helps new young entrepreneurs and SMEs break into Indian markets. I do not feel competent to comment on the rather complex rum deal in relation to—

Lord Dholakia: I was reflecting the views of those at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Those are the people at the other end who know precisely what is going on in relation to the business issues that I was talking about. It was their reflection and if they do not know, it is no good saying, “This is what we are doing”. It is about time those people at the other end are informed about the activities the British Government are undertaking in their country.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I will reply to the noble Lord on that point to ensure that we are doing as he says.

I will give a few examples of the recent successes that UKTI in India has been involved with in the last three months. It has helped Pavers Shoes, a Yorkshire-based family firm, with plans to set up a manufacturing facility in India and collaborate with local partners to set up 1,000 retail outlets across the country. It helped Sheffield Forgemasters to win a £30 million contract in March as part of a technology transfer deal with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited. In February, it supported Integrated Project Management Limited in winning the supervisory project contract for the expansion of Chennai airport. Of course, UKTI has been instrumental in supporting some of the biggest UK commercial deals in India, such as Cairn Energy’s oil project in Rajasthan, which will provide 20 per cent of all of India’s domestic oil production, and Vodafone’s $11billion acquisition of Hutch Essar, the biggest ever British investment in India.

It is through this commitment that UK exports to India in 2008—the latest year for which figures are available—were at £5.9 billion, an increase of 49 per cent on 2005. The UK is now the third biggest exporter to India. There is no room for complacency, but that is surely not a bad track record. We would all like to improve the situation, but on that basis I would rather see the glass half full than half empty, as it was in the assessment of the noble Lord, Lord Howard.

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC440

We can achieve far more in India. That is why, in 2007, in response to a recommendation by the Trade and Industry Committee, we decided to set up and fund a new organisation—the UK India Business Council. The UKIBC receives £1million of grant funding per year from UKTI and is on course to achieve full match funding from the private sector by the end of its third full year of operation. It plays an important role in supporting our efforts to raise awareness of the opportunities in India—something that all contributors to the debate have emphasised, and they are surely right.

The UKIBC’s programme plan for 2009-10 has an ambitious set of objectives. It aims to advise at least 800 UK companies through the course of the year, referring at least 400 of those to UKTI for specific, bespoke support. It will also continue to produce research and conduct awareness-raising events throughout the UK, support us on ministerial and other high-level visits and on the full range of bilateral trade issues that we address under the banner of the Joint Economic Trade Committee.

The UKIBC has a real asset in its board members, its staff and the networks of entrepreneurs and business leaders that it has created in order to capitalise on the opportunities of the new, emerging India. I would like specifically to mention the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, the chair of the UKIBC, whose visionary leadership, dynamism and passionate commitment has been instrumental in driving forward our relationship with India. He will step down as chair in July, and we sincerely thank him for his marvellous efforts. He will be succeeded by Patricia Hewitt. I am delighted, however, that he has decided to stay on as president of the UKIBC and will still be playing a role in the organisation in the years to come. We will only benefit from that experience.

The scope for increasing bilateral trade between the UK and India is limited by the fact that, despite 18 years of economic liberalisation, some key sectors in India remain closed or partially closed to foreign competition. There are regulatory hurdles and legislative barriers that prevent our banks, accountants, law firms, retailers, insurers and educational institutions, to name but a few sectors, from competing in the open market. The Joint Economic Trade Committee was launched in 2004 to address these market access issues so that both countries can benefit. They will benefit if there is more open trade.

When my noble friend Lord Mandelson co-chaired the last JETCO meeting in Delhi with Kamal Nath, the then Indian Commerce Minister, in January, he emphasised the advantages to the Indian economy of opening up to wider competition. He also stressed that UK companies were mindful of the perceptions that some in India had of the perceived threat to domestic concerns of market opening, and that is why we have factored these issues into our lobbying strategy. For example, my noble friend Lord Mandelson launched a financial inclusion strategy during his visit, the aim of which was to raise India’s awareness of the extent to which UK financial service companies are committed to participating in an inclusive growth agenda. Similarly,

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC441

the UK accountancy bodies have worked with their Indian counterparts on mutual recognition of qualifications.

I am conscious of the time, so I should like to end on inward investment. Around 600 Indian companies have a base in the UK, of which approximately two-thirds are in the ICT/software sector, the next significant knowledge sector being pharmaceuticals. Their investment is worth around £9 billion, and the UK attracts around 50 per cent of all Indian investment in Europe.

The success of Indian entrepreneurs in the UK is well known in India. India has entrepreneurial talent and is a priority market for UKTI’s Global Entrepreneur programme, supporting links between exceptionally talented entrepreneurs and their counterparts in the UK.

India is a young country; 40 per cent of the population is under 15. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, it has a young mindset. Challenges are huge as regards poverty, social exclusion and literacy but, if the economy opens up, UK companies have a lot of expertise to offer and can drive forward long-term, sustainable and inclusive growth. Once again, I thank noble Lords for the opportunity to debate this vital issue. If there are one or two points that we have not covered, we shall do that in writing.

Social Work

Question for Short Debate

6.31 pm

Tabled By The Earl of Listowel

The Earl of Listowel: I am grateful for this opportunity to hear from the Minister her examples of good practice in social work and residential childcare. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to other speakers present this evening and to those who have briefed us in the last few days.

Given the brief time available, I hope that I may be forgiven for reading from a script on this occasion. My noble and learned friend, Lady Butler-Sloss, regrets that she cannot take part. She asks that directors or children’s services and senior managers be required to carry a minimal caseload or spend a week at a duty desk so that they understand the pressure on the front line.

I declare my interests as a trustee of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust and the Michael Sieff Foundation. I have the honour of being vice-chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Children and Young People In and Leaving Care. I commend to your Lordships the work of Hackney and its reclaim social work model. I have no time to discuss that this evening, but it is well presented on pages 48 and 49 of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, The Protection of Children: a Progress Report.

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC442

We reap what we sow. When we fail to value our social workers and our residential childcare workers, we are responsible for what follows. For instance, when we point a finger at the principal social worker responsible for Victoria Climbié, three fingers point back at us, indicating our failures to provide the framework in which that social worker could succeed.

A fortnight ago, I received an e-mail from a recently qualified child and family social worker. It stated:

“Last week I happened to interview three newly qualified social workers working in child protection for my research project. The interviews were very hard as all the three social workers broke down and questioned why they were putting themselves through this; with one social worker telling me that the interview was the first time in months that she had a chance to reflect on her work and talk to someone about her practice and its emotional impact”.

When we neglect the people at the front line working with our most vulnerable and challenging children and families, we find ourselves with consequences unbearable to own, and rather than taking responsibility for our failures, we too often blame the staff or their managers.

I was prompted to table this debate in response to the death of Baby Peter. I was reminded that so few of us know what these practitioners do day by day. We all know teachers, doctors and nurses, but how many of us have spent time with a social worker or residential childcare worker or with their clients? I hope that this debate may increase awareness of the important, varied and challenging work that these professionals do. Will the Minister undertake to do all that she can to deepen understanding in Parliament of what they do? Without this understanding, I fear that we will never create the secure base that makes practice effective and safe.

I pay tribute to front-line child and family social workers for what they do. These professionals are the advocates for families with disabled children, helping the child with Down's syndrome to get the support he needs to enjoy life. They are the people who enter squalid flats, braving bull mastiffs and threatening language to check on a child's welfare. They are the ones who support the child in care, taking a consistent interest in their welfare, being at the end of the phone, sending Christmas and birthday cards. They are the ones with the judgment of Solomon, who decide whether a child is safe in their family, whether they should be placed with their grandmother or aunt or better placed in care. They are the ones requiring the judgment to weigh all the factors and make the best decision in the circumstances, a decision which may profoundly affect that child's whole life. Truly, we should value these people at least as highly as we do doctors or lawyers.

I now pay tribute to residential childcare workers. These are the staff who sit with an asylum-seeking child from Afghanistan and comfort her on the evening she hears that her parents' town is being shelled. They listen to the young woman from Sierra Leone as she weeps and tells of how her sister had her hand cut off by a militia man. They comfort the bulimic, the anorexic and the self-harmer. They have to respond to the child who absents himself from home overnight and the young woman who has been receiving gifts from men, possibly grooming her for prostitution. They befriend the children who have been abused, physically, sexually

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC443

or emotionally. They have sometimes to deal with children who set fires, steal or sexually abuse other children.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 68 per cent of children in residential care have a mental disorder. A psychiatrist observed to me that often the profile of the needs of children in a residential home is close to that in a psychiatric unit. In the latter, the carers are nurses and a doctor acts as manager. In children's homes, the staff are still often without a minimal qualification and managers are without a degree. Surely, we should value staff in children's homes as highly as doctors or nurses. When staff in children's homes can be paid less than those working at the check-out in a local supermarket and when newly qualified social workers can receive minimal support, as my noble friend Lord Laming's most recent report highlighted, are not we guilty of monstrous ingratitude for their work?

Carl Anselmo, a care leaver and current intern of David Kidney, MP for Stafford, spoke last week of what he had learnt in Parliament. He said that, most of all, he now recognised the need for parliamentarians to understand much better what social workers, foster carers and other front-line workers do. This is all the more important, I think, because of the tremendous progress that Her Majesty’s Government have made in recent years in beginning to address the needs of these practitioners. The Social Work Task Force, led by the respected Moira Gibb, chief executive of Camden local authority, is expected to report in the autumn. There is now the opportunity for the Government to do for social work what they have so successfully done for teachers: to raise the status of the profession and restore its standing. Yet Ms Moira Gibb has raised concerns that the recession may undo some of this tremendous progress. Many parliamentarians may soon, I regret, depart. How do we sustain the gains made? Surely, this legacy must not be lost. Will the Minister consider learning from business and the armed services as she thinks how to bring the experience of front-line social care more powerfully to the heart of Parliament?

The Industry and Parliament Trust provides fellowships in business for parliamentarians. Could this model be adapted for social care? Would the Minister consider offering hospitality to parliamentarians and front-line practitioners to make the work of the latter more vivid and present for us? I recognise the good work already done by the General Social Care Council and others in this regard. A health visitor’s representative recently advised me that there are four health visitors ready to take me or other parliamentarians on their visits to some of their clients. Would such an offer be impossible from social workers? Might Parliament not develop a corporate social responsibility policy involving visits to front-line practice? I recognise that many parliamentarians already take a great interest in this area.

I thank again all the child and family social workers and residential children’s work workers making a difference to the lives of their children. I look forward to the Minister’s response to this debate and to learning of examples of good practice. I repeat my sincere thanks to noble Lords who are to speak.

23 Jun 2009 : Column GC444

6.40 pm

Lord Judd: There is one principal reason why I want to intervene briefly in this debate. It is because I have unqualified respect for the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who always raises the standard of our debates on issues of this kind, not just because he speaks with passion and sincerity but because he speaks with experience of the subjects under consideration. He is a front-line worker. In the second Chamber of Parliament—and we all say that the great advantage of a place like this is that it brings so much experience together for our deliberations—we are short of people with front-line experience in this sphere of our national life. The suggestions that the noble Earl made about giving opportunities for parliamentarians to familiarise themselves with the realities of what this entails by spending real time with social workers in action in society are commendable. I hope that the Minister can endorse that suggestion and look at ways in which it can be furthered.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page