Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

In conclusion, the reforms set out in the gracious Speech will give more freedom to professionals to get on with doing their jobs unhampered by bureaucracy; more freedom for teachers; more freedom for doctors; more freedom for nurses; more control for people over their own healthcare; and greater incentives for people to work-in short, more trust to our professionals and more choice for our citizens. The principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility are principles greatly prized in this House. They are the principles which shape and inform the gracious Speech and the legislation I have set out today. I look forward to listening to the debate today on these important issues.

12.05 pm

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hill, on a tremendous maiden speech and welcoming him to this House. As he recognised, he joins a small but elite club of Peers who have made their maiden speeches from the Dispatch Box, such as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, to whom he very kindly and generously paid tribute. As a former chief political secretary to John Major, the noble Lord has some soul mates here-perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton, a great educationalist, and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who only a few moments ago was firmly planted on the noble Lord's own Front Bench. I would love to be a fly on the wall when these three get together to share a cup of tea, as is the tradition in your Lordships' House. But, truly, I welcome the noble Lord to our House. He brings with him a distinguished career in politics and business. He was educated at Highgate School and Trinity College, where he read history. As we have heard, he knows his way around Whitehall, having acted as an adviser to three government departments-employment, trade and industry and health-before joining No. 10, where he was political secretary. The noble Lord wrote an account of life at No. 10 at the time of the 1992 election entitled, Too Close to Call. Noble Lords should beware as there may be another one in the pipeline entitled, Coalitions and How They Fall.

It is a great honour to be a Member of your Lordships' House and a huge responsibility. I know that the noble Lord fully appreciates that responsibility. He has committed to listen to this House, which I welcome. In spite of the apparent age of its Members, this House cares very much about young people. We care particularly about vulnerable young people, children with special needs, children with no families of their own, young offenders and young people with no jobs. As the noble Lord is well aware, there is a great deal of wisdom in this House. I am glad to hear that he plans to make great use of it.

I, too, look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Hall of Birkenhead and Lord Kakkar, and of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. My noble friend Lady Thornton will address health and culture and I will focus on education. I will touch

3 Jun 2010 : Column 380

on welfare but my noble friend Lord McKenzie, who has much more expertise on this issue than I, will also focus on it.

I stress that Her Majesty's loyal Opposition have grave concerns about the coalition Government's welfare proposals. Given all the Government's talk about fairness and social mobility, it is breathtaking that one of the first things that the Tory-Lib Dem Government have announced is massive cuts to youth jobs programmes. Labour believes that it is vital to help young people into work, especially as we are facing such challenging economic times. It is extremely worrying that already we are seeing the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats breaking pre-election promises to keep up support for Labour's future jobs fund. Future jobs fund jobs are real jobs, paying at least the minimum wage and lasting at least six months. The Labour Government promised funding for 200,000 jobs through the future jobs fund. More than 118,000 of these jobs have been confirmed for individual organisations, with 80,000 more pledged and bids and plans under way.

In previous recessions under the Conservatives, youth unemployment continued to rise for years after the end of the recession, but it had already begun to fall under the Labour Government after this recession as a result of extra support, including the future jobs fund. When Labour left office, there were around 40 per cent fewer young people signing on than under the Conservatives in the recession of the 1990s, and well over half of young people on JSA are coming off within three months. This is something that the Government must support.

I agree with the Minister that driving up educational standards in schools is a goal that we can all share. While children and families may no longer be in the title of his department, I hope that the Minister will also commit himself to working to give every child the best start in life, and to break down all the barriers to the progress, safety and well-being of all children in this country. Where the coalition Government get it right and act to open up opportunities to do more and to drive up standards for all, they will have our support.

The most pressing question in our debate today is that of education funding, and the impact on schools and children's services of the Government's rush to cut the deficit. During the election campaign, it was clear that there were two different approaches. I admit that the children and teachers of our country have rather more to thank the Liberal Democrats for than they probably realise. Let us be clear that for the past two years, the Conservatives were unable, in opposition, to pledge to match Labour's commitment on education spending for 2010-11, let alone for future years. Only the NHS and international development were protected from the cuts planned for an incoming Conservative Government. I am reliably informed that it was only the intervention of the right honourable David Laws, in the days after the general election, which saved the day and secured ring-fencing for schools spending in 2010-11. However, with the shortest government honeymoon in history already over, and the right honourable David Laws no longer at the Treasury, will the Liberal Democrats continue to have the same impact on education spending that they promised? I hope that they will work hard for that.



3 Jun 2010 : Column 381

In office, the Labour Party achieved a great deal. The noble Lord was very generous about our achievement with academies, and I am sure that the Government will recognise this as they go forward. We doubled spending per pupil; recruited 42,000 more of the best teachers; launched the biggest school building programme since the Victorian era; and achieved the highest standards and best results ever in this country, with more young people going on to college, university or apprenticeships than ever before. It is a record of which we can be extremely proud. Even in the current tough financial climate, when we need to get the deficit down steadily, we made a commitment last December with the Treasury to raise spending above inflation for schools, Sure Start and 16 to 19 education, not just for one year but for three years to 2013. That was our commitment to education.

While we were in government, we were clear about our commitment to education, but so far the coalition has been rather silent on what will happen to schools funding next year and the year after, let alone how it will pay for the proposed pupil premium and its new academies and free schools. This is a real challenge for the coalition.

The key question for today is where the money is coming from. I do not see how the coalition can pay for its announcements of more free schools and more academies without cutting deep into the budgets of all other schools to pay for them. Even the settlement negotiated by my right honourable friend Ed Balls called for tough efficiency savings totalling more than £1 billion over the next three years simply to prevent the cuts to front-line services-and that was without thousands of new extra schools and academies and the many thousands of extra, surplus places that that will require. On top of that, the Government have to find money for the new pupil premium that they have promised.

Where will the money come from to pay for the policies set out in the gracious Speech? Already parents, teachers and pupils are being told that their long-awaited new school building may not come about. We are in the dark about the future of school-building projects around the country, many of which have had months of work done and thousands of pounds spent on them.

We have all heard the coalition Government's commitment to find £670 million of cuts from the Department for Education to help to reduce the deficit this year while protecting the front line only in 2010-11. Even here, there is no detail of where the money will come from. We made it clear that difficult decisions would have to be taken and set out in painstaking detail the first instalment of where those savings would be found, but we were given the impression by the incoming Government that they believed that the DCSF, as was, was teeming with so much waste that funding £670 million of cuts in the department would be painless. We need to know what those cuts will be, but the Government have still made no announcements to Parliament; they have just released a few select details to the Press Association, suggesting that school transport and one-to-one tuition may be for the chop.



3 Jun 2010 : Column 382

The Government have also given no clue about how the £1.2 billion of planned local government cuts will impact on children's services this year. What about social work reform? What about early intervention? What about safeguarding our children?

We need to know where these cuts will fall that are designed to reduce the deficit and pay for the pupil premium, the new free schools and the new academies over the next three years. Will the Government scrap the extension of free school meals? Will they scale back on one-to-one tuition and the Every Child a Reader programme? Will they cut education maintenance allowance? What about the budgets for disabled children, children in care, youth services, school sport and school music? Will the coalition scale back on the offer of 15 hours of free nursery education for two year-olds? We need answers and we need them soon.

We know that, on education policy, the Government have been divided right from the start. In April, Sarah Teather, the new Minister of State at the Department for Education, described the free schools policy as "a shambles". She went on to say:

"Unless you give local authorities that power to plan and unless you actually make sure that there is money available ... it's just a gimmick".

It is not just the new Minster of State who needs to be persuaded that the new schools policy is not an uncosted shambles. It will be no surprise to noble Lords to know that we on this side of the House have serious reservations about this Government's education policy. It is reported that the Secretary of State for Education has written to 2,600 outstanding schools inviting them to become what he calls academies. They are to be told that they will get extra money from the funds that are currently spent paying for special needs, school food and transport and shared facilities such as music lessons, libraries and sports facilities. There is a good argument for successful schools being given more managerial autonomy and flexibility, provided that that is on the basis of fair admissions, fair funding and a recognition of their wider school improvement responsibilities. However, at no point does the coalition explain the impact that this may have on the other local schools. Where our academy policy gave extra resources and flexibility to the lowest-performing schools, the new Government are proposing to give extra money to favoured schools by taking money away from the rest. Where our academies went ahead with the agreement of parents as well as local authorities, the new Government propose to abolish any obligation on schools to consult anyone at all-parents, local authorities or anyone else. Where we brought in new external sponsors including universities to raise aspirations, the new Government are abolishing the requirement to have a sponsor at all. Our academies were non-selective schools in the poorest communities. The new Government will, I suspect, end up with academies disproportionately in more affluent areas. For the first time, there will be selective academies.

This is not a progressive education policy for the 21st century. It will not break the link between poverty and deprivation but will entrench that unfairness even further, with extra resources and support going not to those who need them most but to those who are already ahead. My real fear, however, is that this will

3 Jun 2010 : Column 383

result not just in chaos and confusion, but in deep unfairness and a return to a two-tier education policy as the Government's chaotic free-market experiment unfolds.

I am not the only concerned person. Chair of the Local Government Association, Dame Margaret Eaton-soon to join the government Benches, I believe-has put on record her concern, saying:

"Safeguards will be needed to ensure a two-tier education system is not allowed to develop".

These concerns are widespread in local government and across the school system. We will return to these issues in greater detail in the coming weeks. Will schools that do not become academies pay financially for those that do? Will the admissions code apply to those new academies and be properly enforced? Will academies co-operate, as now, on behaviour policy, or will the Secretary of State allow higher performing schools to exclude pupils as a first resort? How, without any role for local authorities, Ofsted or children's trusts, will the Secretary of State step in if things go wrong in what will potentially be a massively centralised education system? Can we now be reassured that disadvantaged children will not lose out disproportionately by the resources from wider children's education services being transferred away from local authorities as high-performing schools opt out and take the money with them?

These are important questions, but I make it clear that we will be a constructive Opposition. We will probe, question and challenge, but I hope that we will also agree from time to time. As I said at the start, I welcome the Minister to his position and congratulate him on his maiden speech. There are so many questions yet to be answered, but the new coalition government education policy really has some way to go. Most importantly, how will it be paid for? I, with my opposition Front-Bench colleagues, very much look forward to debating with the Minister in the future.

12.23 pm

The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I echo the noble Baroness's welcome of the noble Lord, Lord Hill, to the House. I congratulate him on becoming a Minister and thank him for a fine and engaging maiden speech. We look forward to hearing much from him.

It is a fine aspiration to strengthen the voice of patients and the role of doctors in the National Health Service. On reflection, it may actually be two aspirations. It seems that a certain caution may be required when one reads that the National Health Service is to be both "patient led" and "led by clinical decision makers". It is important to ensure that these become, as a far as possible, a single aspiration rather than two competing aspirations.

The Government's background note suggests that the reference to doctors is shorthand for front-line medical staff more generally. It is good that the role of nurses is specifically mentioned. Less welcome, however, is the absence of a mention of other front-line health workers, whose increasing recognition as members of multidisciplinary teams has been a notable sign of the progress made over the past decade.



3 Jun 2010 : Column 384

Human health and well-being, including better clinical outcomes, require a whole approach in which doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, psychologists, chaplains and social workers all play key roles. The 1996 Department of Health document, Standards for Better Health, requires healthcare organisations to co-operate with other agencies to ensure that patients' individual requirements are taken into account and that,

are met. So we await with interest discussion and clarification of what is meant by, and who is included in, "front-line workers".

It may be worth pointing out that a chaplain often serves more patients directly each week than any other single healthcare professional working in a hospital. Although his or her role may not usually be immediately life-saving, neither is the everyday work of most doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. In any case, life-saving is not all that is meant by good-quality healthcare. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will assure us that chaplains are valued within the National Health Service as front-line staff.

In his preface to National Standards, Local Action, published in 2004, the then chief executive of the National Health Service and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, the noble Lord, Lord Crisp-Sir Nigel Crisp as he then was-wrote of the importance of,

He also quoted the striking expression the "expert patient" which had acquired considerable currency, and some criticism, since being coined I think by Sir Liam Donaldson some years previously.

Greater patient voice is obviously to be welcomed, provided it is recognised that it is not easy for all to have or find a voice-such as the unborn or those with severe learning difficulties, mental health problems or dementia. Just as strengthening the role of doctors must also mean strengthening the role of other front-line health workers, including chaplains, so too strengthening the voice of patients must imply allowing a wider advocacy on behalf of patients by family, friends and carers.

Of course, empowering patients and their advocates is meaningless unless they are enabled to make more informed judgments about their needs. I was very grateful for what the Minister said in answer to a question about dementia earlier. It is very important that the Government should explain carefully how genuine patient empowerment will be implemented. This must include not only giving people more say over their own treatment, but also recognising the contribution that those who are receiving or have received care through the National Health Service can make to the formulation of policy and the oversight of delivery at every level whether local or national.

It is also important to know how changing policies will impact on current inequalities in healthcare provision and outcomes, whether those inequalities are geographical or based on resources and wealth. Enthusiasm for local action must always be in the interests of the highest standards for all. At a time of financial stringency, it is also essential to ensure that those with the greatest

3 Jun 2010 : Column 385

need receive particular attention. Special care must be taken to avoid any suggestion that some people are less valuable than others or that the chronically or terminally ill, the disabled and the elderly are, or are ever allowed to feel that they are, a burden on the rest of us.

It is also important to avoid simplistic attacks on administrators, contrasting them unfavourably with front-line staff. Although the National Health Service, like many other institutions-dare I say the Church of England?-has often been over-administered, good management and administration are essential for any organisation. Serious consequences follow when those delivering services are undermined and undervalued. Pushing more and more management tasks on to front-line healthcare staff is dangerous. Not only are they not equipped for those tasks, but if much of their time and energy is spent on managing, that must detract from their ability to deliver front-line care. Managers are a very easy target, but a scattergun approach to management reform could lead to greater problems and greater inefficiencies within the National Health Service.

My final point concerns targets. Although some targets encourage a box-ticking culture and approach, others, if evidence-based and tested against outcomes, can undoubtedly contribute towards the health and well-being of the population-for example, those stipulating waiting times for appointments and treatment. Of course targets can be abused, but it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

12.30 pm

Lord Hall of Birkenhead: My Lords, it is an enormous privilege to be addressing your Lordships' House for the first time. I thank many Members of this House, especially the noble Baronesses, Lady D'Souza and Lady Young, and the staff here, for the warmth of their welcome and their patience in dealing with so many questions from me not just once but sometimes for a second or third time.

This moment has another significance for me. As a journalist with the BBC, one of my first tasks was working on the then experimental radio broadcast from here from both Houses of Parliament, sitting crammed in very hot Portakabins beneath Cromwell's statue. That experience gave me a genuine and long-lasting admiration for the quality of the work done in this House. I was therefore very proud that on my watch running the BBC's news services we were able to see the first television pictures of the business of Parliament come from this House. I was also delighted to establish BBC Parliament as a channel by which anyone, wherever they were, could watch, understand and feel a part of our democracy. When I look now at how that channel and the internet have developed, I am optimistic about the possibilities for engaging more people in the work that is done here-I do not need to tell anyone in this House just how important that is.

I have had the great good fortune not just to have had a career in broadcasting but also, for the past nine years, in the arts, working at the Royal Opera House and, for the past nine months or so, as the first chairman of the Cultural Olympiad board. The arts and, more broadly, the cultural sector in this country, are enormously successful. Just look at some of the

3 Jun 2010 : Column 386

numbers. The top eight tourist attractions in the UK are national museums and galleries. Heritage and arts are cited by more than eight out of 10 tourists as being the reason that they come to the UK. The Society of London Theatres announced box office receipts for last year topping £0.5 billion. That is a record number of people going to see plays, musicals, opera and dance. We see vibrant cultural landscapes all over the country in, for example, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Gateshead. There is now, perhaps more than ever before, a thirst and desire for culture and the arts. That is as we come out of a deep recession. Perhaps that is because we need what the arts and culture can give us even more when times are tough.

The financial investment which makes that extraordinary success in the arts and culture is relatively modest. The investment in the Arts Council, for example, is 0.07 per cent of total public spending. In other words, I have worked it out as being about 17p per week per person. That investment makes money too. To take my place of work, each £1 of public subsidy generates nearly £3 through ticket sales, sponsorship, commercial activities such as selling DVDs or relaying performances to cinemas. We are typical of arts organisations up and down the country. For example, the Manchester International Festival enjoys a public subsidy of £5 million, yet the value that it contributes to the economy of Manchester as a whole is more than £30 million. Look at plays such as "The History Boys", "War Horse" or "The Pitmen Painters", workshopped and created in our subsidised theatres and then taken out into the commercial world both here and overseas. Public investment is the seed corn, the risk capital, which allows that creativity to happen.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page