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House of Lords

Wednesday, 8 July 2009.

3 pm

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Exeter.

Charities: Appeals


3.06 pm

Asked By Baroness Trumpington

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, during this difficult time the Government are supporting the third sector's work in promoting best practice through the Institute of Fundraising's codes and self-regulation through the Fundraising Standards Board. The Codes of Fundraising Practice outlaws members from using direct mail enclosures, such as coins, that generate a guilt response. If self-regulation should fail, the Charities Act 2006 contains a reserve power for government to intervene.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, may I thank the Minister for that reply and say how nice it is to see the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, back? I wish her a long stay and short answers.

If the Government have the power to stop this objectionable practice, why do they not use it? Would it be legal for me to put money into an envelope and send it to people with a begging letter?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her kind welcome. I will try to be short on both counts. Would it be legal for her to send cash through the post with a begging letter? I would not advise her to do it, but it would not be illegal. I know that the noble Baroness is a national treasure, but she is not a national charity.

The noble Baroness is right on her second point: the clock is ticking for self-regulation on these annoying practices. Not enough charities are yet demonstrating best practice through becoming members of the Fundraising Standards Board, and if the Government have to bring in a reserve power in 2011, we may well do that.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend and assure her that we enjoy hearing her voice, for however long. Can she tell the House the estimated effect of the recession on charitable donations and resources?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend; it is wonderful to be back in the wacky world of the Whips' Office. The charities have been recently polled and 50 per cent said that they have felt the impact of the recession. At present, not enough consistent evidence is available to evaluate the impact of the downturn on the sector, but the Government

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take very seriously the difficulties that many third-sector organisations face during the recession. That is why we have come up with the £42.5 million package announced in Real Help for Communities.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, it is a privilege to come in on this Question. What steps were taken by the Government to meet the collapse of the Icelandic bank? We are told that around £100 million was invested by these charities in that particular bank. Will the Government help in any way?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, if charities were involved, I am sure that the Government's action would target those charities as a priority. On the details of the action taken with the Icelandic bank, I will certainly get back to the noble Lord.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, what pressure are Her Majesty's Government putting on the Charity Commission to oppose this procedure, as asked by my noble friend Lady Trumpington?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the Charity Commission is very much against the procedure that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has outlined and has advised charities not to do this. The practice of sending gifts or coins through the post is supposed to get a guilt response from people. It is a very annoying and frustrating way of going about building up a good name, as well as funds, for a charity. The commission, the Institute of Fundraising and the Fundraising Standards Board are all against it.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, nobody would deny that the recession is causing problems for charities, and the package which my noble friend mentioned, the action plan, was very much welcomed by charities. However, does she agree that many charities see the downturn as presenting them with opportunities; for example, some charities in the social enterprise sector and those which require more volunteers as, for all sorts of reasons, more people are available to do that work?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, volunteering is most important. Charities that offer services such as information and advice to vulnerable communities on employment and employability and health and well-being services would all benefit from having more volunteers.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, are there barriers to charities undertaking joint fundraising, and if so could the Government remove some of those? What is being done to encourage some of the small charities to consider merging when they are competing for funds, often in a very small pool in a small area where it is not cost-effective to have multiple charities operating?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I do not know the answer in detail to the noble Baroness's question. The Charity Commission's polling of charities' response to the downturn shows that only 6 per cent of UK charities polled-I think 1,000 charities were polled-said that they would consider a merger and collaboration. However, I will certainly get back to the noble Baroness on that.

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Lord Bates: My Lords, of the £42.5 million announced by Liam Byrne, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, in February to help charities deal with the effects of the recession, how much has so far been spent?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the Real Help for Communities project was broken down into four different funds. The targeted support funding opened for applications on 1 May. It received 70 applications and is now closed. The modernisation fund had 100 expressions of interest. I think that that is still open. In addition, the future jobs fund and the hardship fund are open for applications of interest. However, I will let the noble Lord know how many are up and running as regards the funding of individual charities.

Museums, Libraries and Archives Council


3.14 pm

Asked By Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare an interest as the remunerated president of the British Art Market Federation.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, following government reviews of public sector efficiency, including consideration of the benefits of relocating posts outside London and the south-east, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council agreed to reduce its posts in London to 25. The decision on which posts to relocate was taken by the MLA board.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. Is he aware that the DCMS in 2005 wrote to interested parties to say that the Export Licensing Unit would co-locate with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council somewhere within the capital from 2006? Is this move to Birmingham consistent with that undertaking?

Secondly, why is this move to Birmingham happening before the DCMS and the MLA have fulfilled their agreed obligation to introduce an electronic licence application form?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the agreement was from 2006, and that was, of course, honoured. This decision relates to this year and hereafter. The board processes within five days 95 per cent of all applications that it receives. It is quite confident that it can meet the same levels of efficiency with the relocation to Birmingham. The relocation is part of that broader strategy on which the board took its decision.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that Birmingham is, in fact, within the civilised world? Does he agree that the physical location

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of the unit would hardly matter if the processing of export licences for cultural objects could be transacted electronically? Is it still intended to pursue that possibility following the earlier pilot scheme? Meanwhile, can my noble friend assure the House that the officials responsible for the acceptance of the in lieu scheme, which is so important for the enhancement of our public collections, will be enabled to stay closely in touch with the art market in London?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I can be quite categorical on the last point and of course that is the intention of the unit. On the earlier points, I can confirm that Birmingham is a short distance from London. Of course, things will be effected more efficiently if we moved into the electronic age. The cost is £750,000, which is not a negligible cost. The suggestion from the MLA is that those who benefit from the process could usefully make a contribution to that and the suggestion has been made that it might look at this matter. Those discussions will continue. The Government are not prepared-nor is the board prepared from its budget-to sustain the full costs of going electronic. Meanwhile, I emphasise that the turnaround on licences is very rapid and very efficient. Some licences will continue to be issued, and requests responded to, on the same day.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, on the question of turnaround, could the Minister comment on the fact that the art market seems to be so anxious? I understand that, at the moment, almost all of these documents are handled and turned around within five days-and a very high proportion of them within 24 hours. Is the Minister satisfied that that will continue to be achieved when the move to Birmingham is made?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I can be absolutely categorical about that. I think the outstanding anxiety is where those licences are required within 24 hours-the same day-and this is the case in fewer than 1 per cent of cases. In those exceptional cases, it is anticipated that the office in Birmingham will be able to offer a service-while certainly a few hours longer than one based in London under any courier system-which will cope with same-day issuing.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the main reason why this move to the city of Birmingham was made is that it has one of the finest museums and art galleries in the country, and because it has more canals than Venice, which do not smell as bad?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, no, I cannot confirm that. The decision had nothing to do with the merits of Birmingham as the centre for the arts, although I am pleased, of course, to second the proposition that my noble friend has put forward about the glories of Birmingham. I recall that Birmingham art gallery was one of my earliest educational institutions.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, will this save money or increase spending?

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it will save money in due course, although I emphasise this: the move recommended by the Lyons report is not based on saving money but on a fairer sharing of the jobs in public employment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, is it not good to send a message that London does not have-and should not have-a monopoly on all things cultural? Is it not even more important to ensure that money is spent on the service, rather than on a centralised quango, wherever it is located?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I have indicated, this decision is not really about culture or the arts in that sense; it is about a licensing system. Therefore, this is rather a straightforward bureaucratic exercise. Those have been the priorities and the criteria attached to it. However, I am happy, of course, to agree with the noble Baroness that we have a rich distribution of the arts in the United Kingdom, and we should value that.

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, if the Minister is concerned about the cost of going electronic, why is the quango spending £400,000 on moving its centre away from where most of its activity takes place?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is because it meets other criteria, which I have identified. Also, costs will be reduced in the longer term. I have merely identified in the £750,000 the one obvious and straightforward way in which the service could be made even more efficient than it is-although it is highly efficient and is a source of very little in the way of criticism. It could be made more efficient with this extra deployment of resources, but the House might think it fair that the art industry and those concerned with this exercise, as well as the public purse, should make their contribution.

World Trade Organisation: Doha Round


3.22 pm

Asked By Baroness Rawlings

The First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council (Lord Mandelson): My Lords, the Government have worked hard towards and are fully committed to an ambitious, pro-development outcome to the Doha round. At the London summit, we secured renewed commitment from G20 leaders to concluding the Doha development agenda, based on progress made so far. We continue to work with the EU Trade Commissioner, other EU member states and WTO members to conclude the Doha round as early as possible through international meetings, particularly the G8 summit in L'Aquila this week, and through ongoing technical discussions in Geneva.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Secretary of State for his Answer. With trade on the agenda at the G8 summit in L'Aquila in Italy, will the Prime

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Minister be pressing there for the resumption of the Doha round talks? As a former commissioner, the noble Lord is well acquainted with the details, so can he say whether HMG will at the G8 this week support the new emerging architecture of global powers resisting development, supported by India, China and Brazil?

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, the Prime Minister most certainly will be pressing very hard for good, strong, positive conclusions at the G8 in favour of progress in the Doha round. Many of us have feared that in the Doha round there is a real risk of trade being put on to the second tier of global preoccupations, after international finance, regulatory changes to the banking system and climate change negotiations. All those things are important, but trade remains absolutely central to the growth of the global economy. A successfully negotiated world trade round would deliver a boost of something in the region of $150 billion a year to the global economy. We must of course in this context work very hard with countries such as China, India and Brazil. We have been doing so to date and we will continue to do so to enlist their full support for progressive moves in trade opening across the global economy.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the basic breakdown in the Doha round came because the United States refused to lower its extensive farm subsidies and India led a number of developing countries in sticking to proposals designed to safeguard the livelihoods of their poorest farmers? In the context of the Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, will the Minister expand on his meeting of 22 June with the relevant Indian Minister and indicate whether he got any commitment that India would withdraw its objection to a continuation of the Doha round?

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, I had a positive meeting with the new Commerce Minister, Mr Anand Sharma, and I was encouraged by his constructive statements. The proximate reasons why the ministerial talks failed last year were that India wanted higher, more special safeguards for its agriculture and the United States wanted lower protection for both agriculture and industrial goods among developing countries. There is plenty of room and scope for those positions to converge and for agreement to be found between the two. Since then, of course, the make-up of both the Indian and American Governments has changed, which presents an important opportunity to take forward what has already been agreed and to resolve the outstanding issues. The British Government will use every opportunity, international and otherwise, to encourage the parties to do exactly that.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, will the Minister give the Government's view on the idea that has surfaced recently in the US House of Representatives that there should be border taxes depending on the degree of commitment to an emissions control package in Copenhagen? Does he not think that, if that were pursued, it would drive a coach and horses through any chance of getting the Doha round resumed and that it is, in fact, the latest tool to come out of the protectionist toolbox?

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Lord Mandelson: My Lords, any such proposal needs to be treated with immense caution and circumspection. I would not be convinced that such a move would help any multilateral cause or negotiation currently under way.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, does the First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Council agree that, in a global recession, now more than ever is the time to champion a free and open trading system? Given all his experience in this area, what steps is he planning to take to give the process renewed impetus and to what timeline does he think that it is realistic to operate?

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, we would welcome strong statements of commitment coming not only out of the G8 this week but also from the Pittsburgh G20 summit in September. Very strong marching orders should be given by heads of government to Trade Ministers to resume their ministerial negotiations at the earliest opportunity and to concentrate their minds on securing full agreement to the world trade round by 2010. The global economy certainly needs that shot in the arm and that increase in confidence. That is what all our own efforts will be dedicated to achieving.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, the Secretary of State mentioned climate change as another priority, but is it not part of the same priority? Climate change represents a huge challenge and will involve a massive aid package, as we heard in the White Paper on Monday. What is the Government's thinking on climate change in relation to trade?

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, the Copenhagen meeting at the end of the year is extremely important to enable progress to be made in uniting the world in its fight against climate change. Continued disagreement and breakdown in the world trade talks will do nothing to assist agreement at Copenhagen. We need all multilateral negotiations to be strengthened, because they will boost the confidence of the negotiating parties to renew their efforts to search for and find agreement in each of the different sets of negotiations. Those negotiations reinforce each other, which is why the British Government are committed to success in all of them.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, is the world trade-

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we are in the 24th minute and ought to move on.

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