George Morgan Magan, Esquire, having been created Baron Magan of Castletown, of Kensington in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Northbrook and Lord Howard of Rising, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Michael Ian Grade, Esquire, CBE, having been created Baron Grade of Yarmouth, of Yarmouth in the County of Isle of Wight, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Sharples and Baroness Buscombe, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Anne Caroline Jenkin, having been created Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, of Hatfield Peverel in the County of Essex, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Jenkin of Roding and Baroness Shephard of Northwold, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): My Lords, no specific funding is set aside for disease outbreaks. However, we do a great deal of work preparing for disease outbreaks to prevent incursions and to minimise impact in the event of an outbreak.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he appreciate that this is the 10th year since the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001 and that Exercise Silver Birch seemed to demonstrate that we have not progressed much further with, for example, the validation of field gate tests and the acceptance of vaccination by abattoirs? The excuse given by the trade is, apparently, that the public do not like vaccination, but the public eat vaccinated meat all the time. What is being done to improve the validation of field-side tests, blood tests that distinguish between vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals and farm gate tests?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Countess for reminding us that it is only 10 years since the last major outbreak of foot and mouth, which she, I and many others remember well. I am also grateful to her for mentioning Exercise Silver Birch, which has recently concluded. It was a fairly major exercise organised by Defra, the devolved Administrations and many others, in which more than 600 people took part to look at how a foot and mouth outbreak might affect England, Scotland and Wales. The important thing to remember about it is that it will report in due course. I hope that lessons can be learnt from the report when it is published in, we hope, March of this year. That will probably be when I can comment in more detail on the further points that the noble Countess made, which are very valid at this stage.
Lord Plumb: Does the Minister agree that contingency planning and funding are becoming more important, as exotic diseases will probably come into this country through greater globalisation and climate change? Does he accept that, in the ongoing situation, there should be more contingency planning to deal with outbreaks of TB? We are still losing something like 100 cattle a day through tuberculosis. I accept that much is being done, but is Defra satisfied with the efficacy of the vaccine for badgers?
Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble friend is right to point to the importance of contingency planning, rather than contingency funding. The important thing is that we plan for these situations. I can give an assurance that Defra has planned and will continue to plan and test for all diseases. I also underline his point about the increasing risk of exotic diseases, which is one possible consequence of climate change. As regards his specific question about the efficacy of the badger vaccine, I can give an assurance that laboratory studies have demonstrated that the vaccination of badgers by injection with BCG significantly reduces the progression, severity and excretion of TB infection after experimental challenge. However, we still have a little way to go on these matters before we can make such vaccines more widely available.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is it not true that our reaction to the last foot and mouth outbreak was almost entirely dictated by Brussels? If the common agricultural policy still controls such matters, how can we make independent plans for any contingency funding?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am talking about contingency planning, rather than contingency funding. However, I give an assurance that Defra will continue to make the appropriate plans in these matters, on which we are not totally dictated to by the European Union, despite what the noble Lord says.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, I am pleased to hear the Minister speak about contingency planning, but clearly different diseases need different kinds of plans. I would like some assurance that the different plans for the different diseases will be sufficiently straightforward and easily implemented if they should be needed. Secondly, will there be sufficient funding to maintain UK-based food production, which is so vital, should there unfortunately be a disease outbreak disaster again in the future?
Lord Henley: I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. I remind him that planning is the most important thing, rather than funding. If funding is a problem, that would be an occasion, as I think all noble Lords know, when it might be appropriate to go to the Treasury to ask for more funds. I will not comment on that in advance. As regards his question about the possibility of food shortages, I do not think that that is a problem at this stage but, again, it is something that Defra will take into account.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, what arrangements have the Government made to recruit veterinary surgeons from private veterinary practice to undertake inspection and control work in the event of a major disease outbreak in this country? Would the Government offer contracts to those people who are willing to undertake such work?
Lord Grantchester: To build on the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, I should like to continue with the issue of the everyday challenge of TB in cattle. I declare my interest, having sold my dairy herd last year. From the recent business review within the noble Lord's department, the decision was taken to bring veterinary services back in house, rather than contract out to local vets. The lack of commercial flexibility in these new arrangements and a lack of local knowledge of farming clients have disrupted the concerted and co-ordinated efforts to minimise disease risk and to avoid disruption to trade from pre-movement testing and the six-day rule, to say nothing of the everyday challenges and redundancies brought to independent veterinary practices. Will the Minister ask his department to assess whether this policy is working effectively for disease control and livelihoods in the countryside?
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the United Kingdom has contributed to UN funding of the constitutional review process, with a referendum due to be held in the summer of this year. We are also working with international partners, particularly the Southern African Development Community, on a process to seek to ensure that elections, when held, will not see a repeat of the violence of 2008. The prospects for credible elections will be greater if sufficient time is allowed for important reforms to be implemented.
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Does he agree that, while there have been considerable advances in the revival of the economy in Zimbabwe, it is vital that there is, for the future sustainability of the country, a clearer political road map? In this regard, while I appreciate that there should be African solutions for African problems, does the Minister not agree that it is highly unlikely that there will be free and fair elections in the country until such time as the new constitution is agreed by referendum by the peoples of Zimbabwe, with a complete overhaul of the rigged voters' roll and, finally, a cessation of the ongoing intimidation tactics of the hard-line ZANU-PF supporters?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, I agree with the noble Lord's assessment. On the economic side, things are looking much better. There was 8 per cent growth last year, with a similar rate of growth or even higher this year, albeit from a very low base. On the political side, however, the progress has not been so good. Mr Mugabe seems to be pressing for early elections, but at the same time there is very clear evidence of intimidation and violence rising again. We strongly believe that, as the noble Lord has said, the constitutional process must be carried right through, with the support of SADC, with the new commissions being formed and a system being created in which elections can take place. Those, more properly, should be later on.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, what action is being taken by the AU, SADC or Mr Jacob Zuma about the growing violence and intimidation? Also, what action is SADC taking against the illegal diamond smuggling by the army into Mozambique, which is being carried out to fund the ZANU-PF campaign of violence?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Mr Jacob Zuma has said, while leading SADC's support programme, that he will take personal responsibility to see that the constitutional process goes forward and that the country is properly prepared for elections. We support him in those aims; that must be the right way forward. As to
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Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, I accept that the problems of Zimbabwe have to be solved within Africa itself, but is the noble Lord aware of the reports of violence and intimidation growing day by day? While it is right that President Zuma has accepted responsibility, does the Minister agree that there is an important role for the Commonwealth in this? What is he doing to pursue that?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I am indeed aware of the reports that there is, once again, growing violence. That is very disturbing indeed. Like the noble Lord, I am constantly raising the role of the Commonwealth. At the moment, SADC is leading in these matters but there is considerable Commonwealth interest and, if we are able to get some improvement not only on the economic side but on the political side, the Commonwealth could collectively play a much more forward role in the recovery of that great and potentially prosperous but sadly depleted country.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: Can the Minister kindly tell the House what technical assistance Her Majesty's Government are giving to the Electoral Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Media Commission in Zimbabwe?
Lord Howell of Guildford: There is a lot of assistance, although it is not, of course, to the Government of Zimbabwe-no assistance goes to them. However, considerable assistance goes through the UN and the non-governmental organisations. Indeed, our programme of aid for the kind of developments that the noble Lord has described is substantial; I think that it is in the region of £66 million in the past year. While I cannot go into the precise technical details of that now-I will certainly write to him with more information-the overall thrust of our aid is considerable and rightly focused on those kinds of improvements.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it is highly unlikely that Zimbabwe or, indeed, President Mugabe will issue an invitation to the European Union to observe any future election and that any such election, if and when it occurs, will be credible only if it involves having that EU observation mission there? Also, is the noble Lord aware that, in the forward planning that the EU has already done for 2011, Zimbabwe appears only as a country to follow?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I most certainly agree with the noble Baroness that there must be proper monitoring by the EU, and perhaps by other organisations as well, when these elections take place. The issue at
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Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Government have invited the South East Airports Taskforce to consider airports' contingency responses to last December's severe weather. The Government are also considering proposals, under a Bill to reform economic regulation of airports, for new licensing provisions to give the aviation regulator more flexibility, where appropriate, to strengthen airports' resilience to severe weather.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that. Does he agree that what happened at Heathrow last month represented a national humiliation, given that Heathrow was closed for far longer than other airports in other countries that suffered? Is not the problem that the British Airports Authority failed to learn the lessons of last winter and to invest in proper snow-clearing measures, with the result that the airlines, particularly British Airways, were out of pocket many times more than the cost of providing those measures?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I share the noble Lord's concern. It is important that we look at what happened, avoid a witch-hunt and make sure that BAA takes appropriate steps to avoid a repeat. It is important to remember that it cost BAA £24 million in lost revenue. It is also important to understand that, because of the situation that arose, there were 24 aircraft stands with an aircraft stuck on them and that it takes a very long time to clear a stand when the aircraft is standing on it.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, can my noble friend inform the House of the statistical and scientific evidence for the Met Office's estimate that there was only a one in 20 chance of a severe winter in 2010-11, an estimate on which the airports relied?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked Sir John Beddington to give him scientific advice on the likelihood of future
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: Does the Minister think that BAA and other airports might benefit from the experience of London Luton Airport, which this winter has lost just five hours of operations-that was due to closure of airspace by NATS-despite the fact that Luton experienced greater snowfall than Heathrow? Does he agree that this was down to good management and planning, involving investment in equipment and consumables, early rehearsals of runway closure procedures and co-ordination across the airport, particularly with handling agents?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord makes the important point that good planning can mitigate the effect, but Heathrow Airport experienced 16 centimetres of snow in one hour, which was far more than was reasonable to plan for.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: I am one of those who suffered and waited at Gatwick Airport. Is the Minister aware that Gatwick managed to get all its passengers off at least two or three days ahead of Heathrow, I think, despite the fact that it suffered a great deal more snow? Gatwick set an example in that respect. I gather that it is not owned by BAA.
Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, given that the Government understand the economic and social benefits attached to Heathrow and Gatwick, will they commission an independent investigation into the resources and procedures at those two airports to deal with snow and ice, compare those with what happens at New York and Boston Airports, and then publish the consequent report?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House will be reassured that the Government are taking some action in this area, because action is certainly needed. We are all aware of the great significance of Heathrow in terms of passenger and freight traffic and its importance to tourism in this country. When the reputation of Heathrow suffers, so does the whole country. Will the Minister take particular interest in the level of communication with passengers when there are difficulties because there is no doubt that people suffered unduly at Heathrow as they had no idea what was going on day after day after day? It is important that the airport addresses this.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an extremely important point. The point is applicable not just to Heathrow but to all transport modes. Noble Lords will remember the problems that we had with the railway industry, which struggled to cope with very difficult conditions but found it difficult to meet passengers' expectations about information.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, will the Minister ensure that BAA is required to explain why those whose flights did not depart within four hours were not permitted access to terminal 1 on 22 December but were left outside in subzero temperatures, despite the fact that the terminal was half empty?
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that those airport managers who do not maintain sufficient snow and ice-clearing equipment should be forced to describe their airports as being only seasonal?
Lord Browne of Ladyton: My Lords, the Minister will recollect that on the previous occasion that he answered questions on this issue in this House he made the very important point that part of the problem at Heathrow Airport, as we all know, is that it has no room for resilience because it operates at 98 per cent of its capacity day in and day out. When the weather changes or dramatic circumstances affect it, the airport has no flexibility. The answer to that lies either in increasing capacity or in reducing usage. Will this issue be addressed when resilience is being considered?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am sure that people will consider that, but it is important to remember that Charles de Gaulle Airport has four runways running at 75 per cent capacity but still experienced severe difficulties.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the intentional, unauthorised interception of communications in the course of their transmission is illegal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The police are responsible for the investigation of unlawful
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Lord Fowler: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does he remember the Watergate scandal, in which one brave newspaper protected the public interest? Has not exactly the opposite happened in the phone hacking scandal, in which one newspaper-and possibly others-has not exposed injustice but instead directly conspired against the public? Does he agree that after any further criminal proceedings there will be a need for a full-scale inquiry to ascertain what happened and how the public can be protected?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the House will appreciate that this is a topical Question that is almost too topical for me to be able to answer-I am up to date with the "Today" programme but not entirely up to date with what may or may not have happened since. Noble Lords will be aware that the Metropolitan Police announced yesterday that, in light of the fresh information supplied by the News of theWorld, the police will conduct a new investigation into phone hacking allegations. The investigation will be led by the specialist crime directorate, which is a different unit within the Metropolitan Police from that which carried out the original investigation. The investigation will be led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers. In addition, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced earlier this month that a comprehensive assessment of all the material in the possession of the police in relation to phone hacking would be carried out by an independent reviewer, Alison Levitt QC.
Lord Soley: Given that, as the Minister says, telephone hacking is unlawful and always has been, does he accept that there is an underlying problem here within the culture of journalism? This started with fishing expeditions to see whether any interesting stories could be pulled up, but these expeditions are also carried out in other ways, as was the case in the incident concerning Vince Cable MP. Bizarrely, the editor of that newspaper then tried to hush up the story because it was not its policy to draw attention to Rupert Murdoch's takeover of BSkyB. Will a major effort be made at some stage to get journalism to recognise that it has a cultural problem here, which the PCC is not addressing in the way that it should?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I think that we all understand that the press as a whole now faces a crisis of trust that is at least as great as the crisis of trust in politics, which we need to address. We look to the press to act up to its own responsibilities, which it is very clear many of its members have failed to do.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, will the Minister have a word with the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission on how it has addressed this issue? Will he further inquire how it intends to deal with such matters so that in future people's privacy is not breached?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it is evident that the role of the Press Complaints Commission and the extent to which its code of practice is observed and enforced are questions that we will have to address. While the Government believe that a press free of state intervention is fundamental to our democracy, there is no place for illegal activity.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it has taken the police five years to take this matter seriously. Is the noble Lord aware of the comments today from the former assistant commissioner Brian Paddick, who said that the reason for police inaction was fear of upsetting newspaper editors? Does that not argue for greater media plurality in this country? Why are the Government so reluctant to refer the proposed takeover by News Corporation of BSkyB to the Competition Commission?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are all aware that this raises large questions about the future of the press, the relationship between the press and the police and the role of a plural press in our democracy. We will return to these issues on a number of occasions. We will certainly return to the question of police accountability when we debate the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.
Lord Prescott: My Lords, now that the Government accept that this was a criminal act, do they also accept the excuse that was given that it was the work of a single rogue operator? That proposal was put forward by the Metropolitan Police, the newspaper editors, the Press Complaints Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service. After a number of inquiries, they still came to that conclusion. That is unacceptable. I ask the honourable, I mean noble, Lord-I knew that I would fall over-whether he accepts that these acts were commissioned to undermine the human rights of the individuals? In a debate in this House in July last year on the Defamation Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, the Government promised that they would investigate and bring in legislation to deal with defamation. Are they now prepared to consider how the conflict between Article 8 and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights works against the individual's rights? Will the Government put that in their promised consultation document or in a future Bill?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we all recognise that this goes very wide. I say to noble Lords opposite who tend to slip into saying "honourable Member" that one member of staff said to me the other day that they feared that the Benches in this Chamber were about to be reupholstered in green rather than red. We all understand why that is being said.
The serious questions of defamation and who should have been informed are very important. My understanding is that the police have informed all those about whom they have evidence that their phones were hacked. In addition, they have found a great many other names of people who were clearly targets of inquiry, but they do not have information on whether their phones were hacked. This is part of the ongoing and widening inquiry in which the police now have to be engaged.
Lord Myners: My Lords, as the economy is pushed back in the direction of recession, inflation surges and every day we read about more job losses, the House can only welcome the earliest possible opportunity to discuss the architecture of economic management.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I rise to call attention to the physical and mental rehabilitation of military veterans, and to issues of post-service welfare. I welcome this opportunity to bring before the House an issue on which I think every Member will share the wide public concern at the present time. I am grateful for the number of noble Lords who are determined to speak in the debate. I know that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, who takes a keen interest in these matters and speaks with great authority, cannot unfortunately be here. He has a cast-iron excuse; he has to appear before the Iraq inquiry today, so the House will realise why he cannot here. I have also received an apology from the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, who takes a keen interest in these matters because of his military background. He has duties to Her Majesty as a Lord in Waiting at an investiture, so he, too, cannot be here.
It is no secret that the issues that we discuss today are in the public mind overwhelmingly because of the consequences of Operations Telic and Herrick. These were the names given to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I make clear that my observations relate not just to the casualties of those conflicts. I include those who served in Korea in what was a particularly nasty war for many. Some of my contemporaries, and some who I expected to see at university, did not come back from that bloody encounter. The mass Chinese attacks in some ways resembled World War I. As a national serviceman, I saw active service at the time, and some of my colleagues still bear the scars. I include also the veterans of the Falklands. I have seen many who faced the consequences of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and of the brave work of our forces during that time. I include members of the security forces and of the RUC. Many noble Lords will recall that we are also approaching the 20th anniversary of the ending of the first Gulf War and the liberation of Kuwait. Many casualties occurred in that conflict.
I note one thing from recent discussion of these issues. I do not recall any discussion during my time as Secretary of State of the military covenant. It was taken for granted, it was implicit and, if pressed, people recognised that of course there were obligations. However, as the casualties and the challenges that we now face have grown, the importance of that implicit covenant being respected is now being put into written and public form. We now even have the niceties of deciding whether we have a no-disadvantage covenant or a citizen-plus covenant. These are the two alternatives: whether the objective should be that no one should suffer any disadvantage from their service, or whether the nation recognises that in some ways they should have enhanced recognition-citizen plus-for the service that they have given.
It is no secret that the pressure that we feel on this has to do with the length of the campaigns. I was involved in the first Gulf War, which was over almost in the twinkling of an eye. The build-up took months, but the whole campaign to liberate Kuwait took barely two months, with an air campaign and what was almost a five-day land campaign to free Kuwait from the Iraq invasion. Now we see that we have spent nearly 10 years in Afghanistan. We have been in Iraq for eight years. Will the Minister confirm the figure I heard that 180,000 service people are now veterans of either Iraq or Afghanistan? That is the scale of the challenge that we face. There is no question that while we very properly pay our respects, and the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and we in this House express our condolences to those who lose their lives, many of us recognise that the real and lasting tragedy is the scale of the appalling injuries that many come back with.
That is of course a consequence of the triumph of medical progress. I saw that in Northern Ireland; if we could get someone to hospital when they were still breathing, there was every chance that their lives could be saved. Many people who previously would never have survived are now coming back with appalling injuries, but medical triumphs ensure their survival.
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After the scratchiness of this House too often in recent days, I pay tribute to what the previous Government did. I do not admire the campaigns in which they got us involved, but I recognise that they introduced a number of helpful measures, and I am very pleased that the present coalition Government recognise the importance of carrying on that work. I pay tribute to the incredible skill and wonderful competence of the medical profession, all the way from the combat medics on every patrol to the helicopter that may convey them back to Camp Bastion, to Camp Bastion itself, and to the outstanding treatment that they receive on transfer by air transport back to this country, into Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and then on to Headley Court. This is a service and a quality. Someone can go out on patrol, and the next thing they know they are waking up 24 hours later in a hospital in Britain, getting the best medical attention that anyone could wish for.
Of course, that is when the challenge really develops. In this connection, there is no question that this is not just a job for the Government or the public services. One of the most moving things about recent events is the way in which charities have become such a key part of that activity. I doubt whether there is a single Member of your Lordships' House who has not had some contact with Help for Heroes, Combat Stress, ABF The Soldiers' Charity or the Royal British Legion. The Royal British Legion has just given its biggest donation in its history, £50 million over the next 10 years, to help some of those centres. Help for Heroes has made huge investments because of the response to its fundraising, which is recognition of public concern. I should declare an interest, because I am an ambassador for Alabaré Christian Care & Support, which has now established five homes for veterans. My sister happens to be the chairman of an organisation called the Community Self Build Agency. As part of a very enterprising idea, it is now getting self-build schemes going to help ex-servicemen veterans with housing, in which they do the building themselves and rebuild their life, their competence and confidence.
I am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, here. As we recognise the role of full-time servicemen, there is a particular challenge in this situation for reservists. They often come straight out of civilian life, they do not have the comfort and surroundings of the regimental family, and they are often scattered in different parts of the country. They come back from some of the most challenging combat situations and find themselves immediately back on civvie street among colleagues who do not understand anything of what they have been doing. We need to recognise their particular challenges.
We need to provide in so many ways, including financially. It is interesting that SSAFA and the Royal British Legion said that 60 per cent of the cases that they deal with are problems with debt management. In this connection, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, conducted an important review. I hope the Minister can confirm that the Government are carrying forward the Armed Forces compensation scheme review,
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The mental challenge will be with us for a long time. Although some physical injuries are all too apparent, the mental injuries may not be. We know that it may be 14 or 15 years before people become aware of them. The new provisions, which mean, as I understand them, that everyone is assessed on leaving the services for their mental health condition, are very important. We also need an outreach programme to check up on people. I commend Dr Liam Fox and Andrew Murrison, who both have the advantage of being doctors. They have for some time, when in opposition and now in government, taken a particular interest in mental stress. The point that Dr Liam Fox made in an article which some might have read in the Sun today is that people with mental health difficulties are the least likely to go to their doctors. We need to ensure that the Defence Medical Services give the NHS access to the records of patients who become patients of NHS doctors, so that they can be aware of some of the background. I pay tribute to the reservists who are doctors and who have already served in Afghanistan and Iraq, but doctors who have not served need help. I recognise the interest that the BMA is taking in that area to see how we can get more advice to doctors who have to deal with situations with which they have never previously had to deal with their civilian patients.
The issue is the strain that people face and the linkage between the Defence Medical Services and the health service, as the health service is now, impressively, gearing up to handle these situations. It is a matter of experience. It stretches all the way to the tragic shooting of the congressman in Tucson, Arizona. People said that her luck-and I hope that that luck will continue-was that one of the surgeons who treated her had experience of serious injuries in Afghanistan and knew the instant action that was needed. That has undoubtedly given her the chance that she has now, which she would not otherwise have enjoyed.
Yesterday we had a further reminder of the tragedy with the 350th fatality in Afghanistan and the name of the serviceman who had lost his life being announced. We do not publish in any great detail the number of those who are wounded, and do not draw attention to the severity of some of those injuries. The Ministry of Defence has invented the phrase "life-changing injuries", which, as we know, covers some very serious injuries indeed. Through-life support-not just support when there is public interest, as now, when we are very aware and when Wootton Bassett brings to people's attention so frequently the challenges that we face-is critical.
"Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices-including the ultimate sacrifice-in the service of the Nation. In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their
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Many have stood on Remembrance Day, as I have on many occasions, saying, "We will remember them". That, I think, should be our motto as we look at the through-life support that we owe those who have bravely served our country in appallingly difficult circumstances and who deserve nothing but our fullest support in the years ahead.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord King, for introducing this timely and very important debate. I do not pretend to speak from any great knowledge of the military. Although my uncle and grandfather were military men, they died when I was a child, and national service, which meant that most families knew someone close who was in the services, ended when I was a teenager. In other words, I am one of that greater part of British society who have had no exposure to, and little understanding of, military life or the commitment, loyalty and sacrifices that, today, our young women and men who join the armed services make on our behalf.
I have one redeeming feature that makes me want to take part today. I have a beloved god-daughter who chose the Navy as her career. Her experiences, commitment and enjoyment of the service, as well as the maturity and wisdom she has gained, made me realise how much I needed to learn. I have also had the great advantage of taking part in the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which aims to give parliamentarians such as me who have had little exposure to our armed services the chance to get some hands-on experience. I cannot commend the scheme too highly. It is run by the redoubtable Sir Neil Thorne, and it is a no-holds-barred opportunity to get under the skin of one of the services, as well as to gain an understanding of the generic issues that affect the Ministry of Defence and the services as a whole. I spent 22 days, over a year, with personnel at all levels and in a range of locations, including on board HMS "Liverpool" in the Falklands, listening and learning. I was impressed with the leadership, professionalism and care for the "Navy family" that I witnessed.
However, particular issues came to my attention that I feel are relevant to this debate. During that year, I was able to see for myself the reciprocal relationship that lies at the heart of the military covenant, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord King, and which I have no doubt will be explored in greater detail in a debate later today in your Lordships' House. Under the military covenant, the Government expect the Armed Forces to carry out their duties in defence of the state to the best of their ability, up to and including the possibility of death in action. In return, the Armed Forces expect that they and their immediate dependants will be cared for and supported both during and after service, and it is the importance of that two-way expectation and understanding which prompts my remarks today.
Given our country's continuing role in the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is right that there should be a high level of public, media and political interest in the welfare of both serving members and veterans of the Armed Forces. That interest is frequently focused on the level of support that many veterans receive for physical and mental health problems once they have left the services. While focusing in this debate on veterans, I pay tribute to those currently in the service who give so much of themselves on our behalf. Too often, we, the public, realise only in times of conflict what they do for us, yet I know from my talks with serving men and women how much they feel that out of sight means out of mind.
There are currently some 5 million veterans in the UK with 8 million dependants. Of the 24,000 servicemen who leave the Armed Forces each year, most transfer seamlessly to civilian life, but a significant minority do not. Common mental health problems affect about one in four service personnel and veterans; alcohol abuse affects about one in five; and post-traumatic stress disorder one in 20. Other problems follow from this. Estimates suggest that around one in 10 homeless people in the UK are former members of the Armed Forces. A 2008 Prison Officers' Association survey found that 8,500 veterans were in custody at any one time in the UK following conviction of a criminal offence. A further survey in 2009 found that 12,000 former armed services personnel were under the supervision of the probation service in England and Wales on either community sentences or parole. At that time, therefore, twice as many veterans-some 20,000-were in the criminal justice system as were serving in military operations in Afghanistan.
Noble Lords will be aware that many initiatives have been instigated to address these issues and to improve mental health services for our veterans. As the noble Lord, Lord King, affirmed, the previous Government had a strong track record, with the Armed Forces Bill in 2006, ensuring forces' pay increases and investing in rehabilitation facilities. There was the £2 million package of measures, announced in April last year, which included the employment of 15 community psychiatric nurses to work in mental health trusts alongside existing specialist teams, the creation of a 24-hour helpline, and improved education and training of GPs to help them to identify veterans suffering mental health problems.
These initiatives will involve the veterans' mental health charity, Combat Stress, and the Royal British Legion. I welcome these moves, which are clearly very much needed, and I express my admiration and support for the work already being done by these and other bodies, such as the Mental Health Foundation. I also warmly welcome the MoD's excellent 2010 Fighting Fit report on the provision of mental health services for veterans and service personnel. I welcome, too, the endorsement in the other place by the Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, of the report's key recommendations, including the creation of a Veterans Information Service to ensure follow-up of veterans after 12 months.
I refer also to the December 2010 report of the Taskforce on the Military Covenant. This comprehensive and eloquently argued document also supports the
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It is that last point that greatly concerns me. On leaving the services, the healthcare of veterans moves from being the responsibility of the MoD to that of the NHS, where they are treated alongside the rest of the UK population. However, many reports cite a lack of knowledge among GPs about the particular needs-especially the mental health needs-of our veterans, leading to a lack of referral to such specialist mental health services as are available. Can the Minister confirm to the House that the reorganisation plans for the NHS, which rely on GP decisions, will take this into account, as they must if veterans are to get proper treatment?
There is currently tremendous public sympathy for veterans who find themselves in difficulties in civilian life. As the Report of the Taskforce on the Military Covenant report suggests, it is vital that we turn that sympathy into empathy. Our service men and women have given their all for our country; it is only right that we should reciprocate that support and provide the services that they need. We must play our part to ensure that they do not fall between the gaps.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I apologise that this debate has been cut to two hours. Perhaps I may encourage all other Members to emulate the excellent example just set and sit down when the Clock is still saying seven minutes.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I shall bear that in mind. This is one of those debates in which everyone will have said everything about the subject before, but we need to say it again and again to remind people of the problems. It is also a debate in which, fortunately, we are able to have a degree of political unity.
The problems facing our military existed before the two most recent conflicts, but they had not forced their way into our attention in the same way. When they did surface, the previous Government reacted with surprising speed, considering the political process. They took the matter seriously and started to address it, and for that I thank them. However, the fact that they had to do so indicates that we had not addressed the problems correctly beforehand. Smaller conflicts involving less immediately politically sensitive issues and smaller numbers of people meant that the problems relating to the armed services had been ignored for a very long time, as had the need to prepare our personnel for life after the armed services. We must all take a degree of blame for that.
Basically, we take very young people and put them into the military preferably for fairly long periods-the British Army likes long-service troops. They are told what to do and we do not prepare them for life outside. That is becoming increasingly apparent. I do
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What can the military do? Its primary objective is to produce good service men and women and to make sure that they are ready to do that job. It is understandable that this issue has not been addressed properly. Taking on the idea of the military covenant, which has always been there, although I became aware of it only about a decade ago, we have to try to get involved in how we prepare people for life outside. Let us say that we have an 18 year-old young man, or possibly younger, almost fresh from school, who is placed in an environment where there is a structure. He is not expected to fill out forms or to decide things for himself and he is taken away from parents who could show him how to do that. He is trained for 12, 15 or whatever large number of years and we then we place him outside. Making sure that that transition is well managed will make everything else easier.
I come to the more obvious questions about those who have been severely injured and the more process-driven points, which I hope my noble friend will be able to answer fully, such as making sure that medical records are transferred more frequently and that doctors are more aware of mental health problems. I believe that doctors are now much more aware that there are different types of stress, but it is important to make sure that they can get to the expertise. We cannot expect the GP to do it all himself. If greater emphasis needs to be placed on different types of treatment, we must make sure that patients can be transferred quickly. Somebody who is not used to dealing with the outside world and whose treatment is delayed can be lost. It happens. If the transition is swifter and smoother, without form-filling or dozens of interviews, people will get to the right help quickly. I could carry on for a great deal of time on the transition phase, but I will just say that preparation for that transition will allow us to get the best out of what we are doing. That is surely the first step.
I ask my noble friend whether we have been able to identify the major bumps in the process. Where does the process break down when people do not get the best health and support? Have ways to avoid those problems been identified? Greater awareness is one and greater intervention would be another. Have we found out where they are most needed? We talked about pinch-points in defence recruitment and retention. Where are the pinch-points for services afterwards?
I shall curtail my remarks. I could have talked at considerable length about those who have lost limbs and the ongoing processes. Possibly, they will get a slightly better deal as they are more visible, because of their injuries, than those who have minor problems that manifest themselves later on. Can we have an assurance that we will keep this under review and that the Government will encourage all those who are involved in the political class to ensure regular reviews? This will go on beyond the life of this Parliament, and possibly the next two or three.
First, I declare an interest. I am the aunt of a young TA soldier who was 18 years old when he was seriously injured in Iraq in 2007. I know that it was the treatment that he received in the American military hospital in Basra, in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham and in the rehabilitation offered at Headley Court that gave him the life that he has today, as is the case for many others. I pay tribute to those working so valiantly to help the wounded and disabled, including the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association, Help for Heroes and the British Legion.
That is important, but equally important is the issue of mental health, on which all previous speakers have focused. I am talking about the mental health of veterans returning from conflict zones, whether or not they have been injured.
Provision for the care of veterans with mental health problems is fragmented and patchy. There have been various initiatives. In November 2006, the MoD launched the reserves mental health programme, but by 2008 84 per cent of GPs were unaware of its existence. It is of limited application and does not address all the needs. There are particular problems for the early service leavers who are discharged, for whatever reason, and who may carry the mental scars consequential on or consequent to their military experience into their civilian life. Those scars may have catastrophic consequences.
The Murrison report recommends an increase in the number of mental health professionals to one per two mental health trusts. Their role is only to identify cases and to refer them to veterans' organisations and other professionals. There is no evidence that such identification has been carried out effectively and we do not know the extent to which veterans who are identified as suffering from mental health problems actually receive the care that they need. They are a forgotten and, possibly in some people's minds, less important group. They do not carry the scars in the same way as those young men and women like my nephew, but the consequences can be equally life-limiting.
The maximum level of compensation for mental health disorders appears to be fixed under the review of Armed Forces compensation at £2,888. That is not a large sum for someone who may be incapable of permanent employment for the rest of their live. The report acknowledges the fact that mental health services do not always fully address the needs of veterans. Pilot schemes have been established, but there is simply neither the level nor the quality of mental health provision that is needed.
These issues have been thought about at length. There is clearly some recognition of the problems faced by veterans with mental health needs, but they
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We know that there are high levels of alcoholism, suicide and mental health problems. This is not unique to the UK, but it is a fact of military life. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon among those who have been affected in any way by conflict. The triggers can vary and the symptoms are now well identified. The triggers can be very simple. I think of the young man I know who was part of a patrol sent to search a village. Passing children playing on the road, they threw a bottle of water to a little girl of five who was waving to them. They accomplished their task and were driving home when they saw her little body hanging from a tree, her throat cut, a warning to others not to collaborate with the troops. I think of others who have seen their colleagues blown to bits or who have tried to carry out immediate first aid on colleagues who are suffering from major traumatic injuries and who have died. I think of those who should have been in the patrol that never came back but for some reason were not and who suffer survivors' guilt. I think of those who survived explosions, only to face the flashbacks, night terrors, sleeplessness and fear of crowds et cetera that are so symptomatic of trauma. Research also shows that subsequent traumatic experiences can cause flashbacks to the original experience, thus compounding the suffering.
PTSD and the various mental illnesses consequential on involvement in armed conflict are well identified. However, the reality on the ground is that people are naturally reluctant to present with mental health problems and may well delay until the condition becomes too serious. When they do present, the services are not as accessible or as available as they should be. It is not enough in many cases to take people in for a week's group and individual therapy and send them home. There is a well identified and serious risk that exposure to brief therapy can retraumatise the traumatised, leaving them to face their terrors alone.
What happens in reality is that people go into a lottery of available mental health care. People can often end up in psychiatric hospitals, heavily medicated to keep them compliant and hence unable to make any journey towards recovery from their trauma. There are limited services offering cognitive behavioural therapy or therapy for PTSD and they are often located at too
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My questions for the Government are: can we find out the extent and geographical incidence of mental ill health consequential on armed service? Can some more attention be paid to the difficulties faced by those with serious mental health problems in accessing treatment and to the fact that such treatment is so scarce?
One of the things about trauma is that it can lie dormant for 25 or 30 years and then manifest itself suddenly. As the noble Lord, Lord King, said, we are talking not just about Iraq and Afghanistan, but about Korea, Northern Ireland and all the other conflicts. The reality is that many of these people end up in prison. Veterans are disproportionately represented in the prison population. We do not need more research to tell us that there is a problem; we need more planning for a future in which those who are currently struggling can keep going. Many of those who will be afflicted by PTSD in the future will need care. Those who have served in locations as diverse as Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea and who subsequently suffer the trauma of mental ill health in its various manifestations deserve our care.
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, for having secured this important debate. I reiterate the important points that he made about the success that is currently achieved in the acute management of injured service personnel in the battlefield and their successful early rehabilitation, which has resulted in saving these complex-injured casualties.
I shall focus on two issues. The first is how we should go about commissioning the longer-term care of injured service personnel once they are discharged from the services and the second is how we can organise long-term prospective research cohorts for research studies to allow us to understand the long-term physical and mental health needs of these veterans.
Veterans leaving the services represent a broad spectrum of complexity in their healthcare needs, from the complex-injured multiple amputee, where some of the early needs after discharge are very obvious, to those with more subtle injuries and the very large number of veterans who are apparently healthy at the time that they are discharged from the services but who are at risk of deteriorating health in the years and decades that follow their discharge.
The provision of medical care for veterans after discharge is, at best, haphazard. The majority of NHS civilian personnel have no military experience. As the noble Lord identified, some NHS personnel have military experience, but they are quite few. Therefore, the majority of doctors and clinical staff who will take responsibility for the care of discharged veterans will have little insight into the experience of that patient population. Under those circumstances, they may not always be in the best position to understand these specific patients or to provide the care that is necessary.
There are also important concerns about the transfer of medical information from Defence Medical Services to the NHS. This is a serious problem. At the moment, a final medical examination occurs prior to discharge and an FMed 133 form, which provides, at best, rudimentary medical information, is completed to provide civilian medical practitioners in the NHS with any pertinent medical history during service in the armed services. At best, this information is rudimentary and very frequently it does not reach the NHS general practitioner. In these circumstances, early arrangements for medical care are going to be poor and, importantly, as time progresses, whatever information was available that might be pertinent to the long-term healthcare needs will be lost. Service personnel may not be able to recall all that information, putting themselves at a great disadvantage in their longer-term medical care. Is any work taking place on trying to understand how better the transfer of medical information can occur between Defence Medical Services and the NHS, with particular reference to the establishment of the electronic patient record to transfer as much information as possible to ensure that the medium-term and long-term care of veterans after discharge from the services can be best secured?
There is an important opportunity to improve the training for civilian NHS staff on some of the information skills and knowledge that they will need to deal with quite important numbers of veterans who will present with physical or mental health needs. At the moment, some 24,000 military personnel leave the services every year, and 10,000 of them have recent combat experience. There are about 32,000 GPs, which means that on average a general practitioner will see one new veteran every 16 months. GPs are not going to have a large volume of patients, so the training and experience that they need to develop have to be specifically tailored.
I turn to how we should commission services in future. The Health and Social Care Bill was presented last week and will begin its passage through the other place shortly. It recognises the need to change all commissioning services, with greater emphasis on primary care commissioning of the majority of services by general practitioners. It also recognises that there are certain patient populations with very complex needs, for which there should be more central commissioning of services-so-called specialist commissioning. Does the Minister agree that complex-injured veterans discharged from the services represent a population of patients with complex, long-term, ongoing healthcare needs that could be considered to fall into a specialist commissioning group where either the NHS board commissions services specifically for this population of veterans, based on advice that it receives from Defence Medical Services, or commissioning responsibility is transferred to Defence Medical Services so that the services can be provided in centres that have the opportunity to provide all the specialist requirements in a holistic fashion to achieve the best possible clinical outcomes?
I believe that there is also a need to initiate a programme of research to address four important questions with regard to the health of veterans. The first is to look at what the long-term, ongoing physical and mental health needs are. As has been identified in
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Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to my noble friend Lord King for raising this important issue. I certainly join with all those who pay tribute not only to the fortitude of those who are so grievously injured on operations but to their families, friends and the professionals who have the difficult task of supporting them on their return. I have various interests to declare. I was a member of the National Employer Advisory Board for the reserves of Britain's Armed Forces for 14 years, for seven of which I was its chairman. I have been honorary colonel of a Territorial Army hospital support medical regiment for 10 years and for six years, concurrently, I have been honorary air commodore of a Royal Auxiliary Air Force medical unit. These specialist medical units regularly provide individuals-or even many individuals-to reinforce, and to provide specialists for, both regular and reserve medical units that are deployed.
As I have had substantial contact with many doctors, nurses and others, such as from the professions allied to medicine, who have the initial and subsequent care of servicemen with profound physical and mental trauma as a result of operations, I should like to concentrate my remarks on the reserves, particularly the medical reserves. From what I know, it is clear that many people deployed on operations in the medical field are seeing the most dreadful trauma that only a couple of years ago would not have been survivable. They often witness what was described to me yesterday as the "ultimate" in terms of trauma that they will ever see. They see perhaps the most awful experiences of their professional lives. The degree of preparation that the United Kingdom armed services gives all those who are due to deploy might be a major factor in helping the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder remain at a low level. However, we cannot afford to be complacent and we cannot be sure when repeated deployments will begin to take their toll and very real long-term issues of mental illness, requiring long-term rehabilitation, will become evident.
So far as the Defence Medical Services are concerned, a large number of their strength is made up of reservists. Some of these reservists, largely from the TA, deploy as formed units-perhaps as a field hospital taking over the manning and the operation of the medical facilities at Kandahar, Camp Bastion or in forward
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Many of these staff, with wide experience in the NHS and the private health sector, are used to dealing with fairly horrific scenes-whether in an A&E department of a hospital or in the subsequent treatment of the sort of trauma that I described earlier-but, however professional or inured to witnessing the most distressing scenes these people are, there must be a real risk that the effect on the individual clinician might become cumulative. These clinicians are supremely professional, but they are human beings who are prone to the same emotions as any of us. One has to wonder whether there will come a time when continued regular exposure to the extreme horrors of war could lead to a substantial cumulative effect on the individuals, with worrying consequences for the future. Even the most experienced, hardened doctors who have been deployed many times often say that it takes a good three months to recover and to come to terms with what they have seen, and it takes much longer for those who are not so experienced. Can my noble friend say what steps are being taken within the MoD to be alert to this possibility? What steps might be taken to deal with that outcome should it occur?
The trauma facilities in Camp Bastion are absolutely first class-I saw them two years ago and I should like to see them again-and they have probably improved hugely since I last saw them. As the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, said, what is being achieved there in terms of the ability to treat trauma is quite astounding and, indeed, humbling. However, one cannot ignore the fact that, although the need to preserve life is a pre-eminent role of clinicians, there are huge, complex ethical issues involved, which can take their toll on even the most stoical and professional of clinicians. While our doctors and nurses are treating our own injured servicemen whom they know will have the very best clinical attention on their repatriation to the United Kingdom, they are also treating very seriously injured Afghan civilians and Afghan servicemen. In treating those people and saving their lives-however horrific their injuries and however limited might be their subsequent quality of life-one can all too readily understand that the clinicians face awful ethical and moral dilemma, because those people will not go back to the same sort of facilities that we have.
The British serviceman-man or woman-is an extraordinarily resilient being. One hears amazing stories of their sense of humour, their determination to overcome quite shocking injuries and their success in doing so. For those who can remain within the services while fulfilling other tasks, all is made easier by the sense of camaraderie that always prevails within the unit. I hope that the Government will accept that those who treat our servicemen may at some point also need special care and attention because of the effect of what they have had to deal with.
As my noble friend Lord King clearly stated, for reserve medical staff returning to their civilian places of work, however supportive and understanding senior
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The reserves of all three services make up a crucial element of the deployable Defence Medical Services. I would go so far as to say that operational deployment of any sort would be impossible without them. We must be alert to the risks of continued deployment which these very well meaning and extraordinarily professional clinicians face.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord King, on his choice of this topic. Much has changed and is still changing in the support and needs of military veterans. As I will describe, their expectations of support have changed greatly over the years. When I was commissioned into the Royal Air Force 60 years ago, the strength of the three Armed Forces was approaching 700,000-almost 10 times what we shall have as a result of the recent defence review-and the medical and dental services were scaled to match those numbers. In the 1950s, with many service hospitals in this country and overseas, it was normal for most of the clinical needs of veterans and their families to be met by the medical branches of the services. The NHS was in its infancy. The veterans-largely from the First and Second World Wars-would on average have been in their fifties or in their thirties, so few of that large number of veterans were yet senior citizens, with the illnesses and disabilities more associated with old age.
By the 1970s, with the end of national service and the much reduced size of the three services, a major review of the clinical support required for the Armed Forces led to the closure of a number of service hospitals and much reduced staffing of the medical branches. It was no longer feasible, except in overseas locations, to provide medical and dental care for families or any veterans, many of whom felt very let down as a result. However, the National Health Service, by then well established, was there to provide medical care to veterans and their families, so it was wrong for the Armed Forces medical branches, at a cost to the defence vote, to double up on what could be provided by the NHS.
By the 1990s, most of the veterans of World War One had died and the age of the majority of veterans had risen to the sixties and seventies. Life expectancy was greater than before, with more likelihood of illness due to increasing years. To the World War Two number could be added those who had done national service or who had been involved in the many insurgencies and other conflicts of the latter half of that century.
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A number of government responses have been made to these developments, such as: numerous ministerial Statements about the need to do more; the previous Government's Command Paper The National Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans; the introduction of a Minister in the MoD with specific responsibility for veterans; the setting up of a dedicated veterans agency; and improvements in the immediate medical support and care of veterans who had been injured and have not yet left their service at Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital near Selly Oak, Headley Court and elsewhere.
Backing up these efforts have been the activities and commitment of the service charities-I declare an interest as an officeholder in a number of these charities, as in my declaration of interests-which have, as always, been very proactive in the interests of veterans. Noble Lords should be aware of the Confederation of British Service and Ex-Service Organisations, whose membership consists of about 180 service and ex-service organisations, including 65 regimental associations. I should like to pay tribute to the able leadership of COBSEO's current chairman, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Stables, who has done much to motivate and co-ordinate the work of the organisation's membership in their help and support for veterans. He has been instrumental in winning lottery funding support for the Forces in Mind programme.
However, healthcare provision is but one of the potential needs of veterans, and poor psychiatric health is often associated with other problems of housing, welfare and finance. Important though the support and generosity of the service charities is, it is wrong for the Government to be overreliant on this sector. All should agree that the support of veterans-particularly those who have been injured physically or mentally in the course of their service for the Crown-is primarily the duty of Government. The current arrangements, while an improvement on what went before, still need further restructuring. The MoD, of course, has responsibility for the care and support of servicemen and women who are still on the active list, but with their transition to retired veterans, the link between them and the MoD is weakened and, with the passage of time, can be broken.
In the United States-admittedly with a much larger corps of veterans-a distinct and separate state department bears responsibility for veterans' affairs and is not an adjunct of the Department of Defense. Inevitably, inside our MoD there are bound to be conflicting pressures for resources and the needs of veterans, whether in pensions, compensation, health or other support, cannot be given the priority that is necessary to care for them properly. Building on the structure of Cm 7424 and its external reference group chaired by the Cabinet Office, could we not have a Minister for Senior Veterans, with the appropriate support and budget within the Cabinet Office? I fear
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With the average length of life increasing, the skills of modern medicine and surgery and the recognition that there will be some without physical signs of disablement who are nevertheless afflicted with mental illness arising from their experiences in operations, there are going to be veterans spread across the length and breadth of the country who will need ongoing medical and other attention. If the Government are serious in their stated intention to do better for veterans-the ones who fought at risk to their lives, but lived through the conflicts-a new approach at senior ministerial level with the right proactive support for veterans' needs should be found.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord King, on obtaining this important debate. I agree with a great deal of what he said, including his mention of Alabaré and other organisations, his question about the implementation of the Armed Forces compensation scheme and his mention of homelessness. He will remember that during the Options for Change exercise-when he was the Secretary of State and I was the Adjutant-General for the Army, responsible for planning and conducting the reduction in its size by a third over three years-the issue of homelessness came up. Looking back, I think we can say that we did better for families than for single people, and we would not be the only ones who would have to admit that. He will also remember the discussions on resettlement, which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, mentioned.
I declare two interests, one as the vice-president of the Centre for Mental Health, which in October last year produced a document entitled Across the Wire: Veterans, Mental Health and Vulnerability. I commend it to all those who have not seen it because it reflects a wealth of experience in the professional mental health community. I am also president of the Veterans in Prison Association, which I will come to in a moment.
I fully accept that later today we are to have a debate, sponsored by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield, on the Armed Forces covenant, but I make no apology for starting from the covenant, particularly from the point made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig about the post and position of a Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I have mentioned several times in this House that I do not think that the MoD is the right place for a Minister for Veterans' Affairs because all the veteran affairs with which he is meant to be dealing are conducted not by the MoD but by the other Ministries involved, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department
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I therefore recommend most strongly that the responsible Minister should not be a separate Minister in the Cabinet Office but that the veterans' portfolio should be added to that of the Minister for Civil Society, who already has cross-government responsibilities in this area. He or she would be supported by civil servants in the department. However, as has been recommended on more than one occasion, there should be a commissioner for veterans' affairs who is an independent, active participant in what is going on-an observer or ombudsman, if you like-and who has responsibility for overseeing the 24/7 operations in support of veterans and their families throughout the country. That job cannot be done by civil servants or by ministerial diktat. Unless someone is responsible and accountable for doing it, nothing will happen.
Other noble Lords have mentioned that many good things are happening. I have just seen a marvellous report, produced by the North East Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which has conducted a regional review in the north-east of the health of the ex-service community. Fourteen local councils came together to produce 47 recommendations. When you look through a list of those people who are involved in implementing those recommendations, you find local authorities, housing federations, homes and communities agencies, social landlords, Jobcentre Plus, career transition partnerships, masses of voluntary sector organisations-both military and otherwise, NHS commissioning boards, public health observatories, mental health bodies, primary care organisations, GP consortia and so on. The fact that these things are being thought about, with it being realised how many people must be brought together, is very useful for government, provided that they can pick it up and run with it. For example, the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership has drawn up very sensible recommendations for the implementation of the findings of the Murrison report, mention of which has been made today. If you go into that, you will find an enormous number of organisations that are required to do work.
Good things are happening-we have mentioned the physical and mental health problems that are being dealt with on the battlefield and immediately afterwards-but it is long-term, lifelong support that is needed. I am very glad that 12 mobile personal recovery units are now going round and helping to supervise people's recovery. There will be four personnel recovery centres-one in Edinburgh, one in Catterick, one in Colchester and one in Tidworth-which will provide one-stop welfare shops for ex-service people and their families. There will be welfare support, a prosthetic support clinic-which I mentioned in the House the other day-physical and psychological support and family support. That is fine; this is being funded by organisations such as Help for Heroes as well as by government, but if these things, which provide an
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I mentioned my involvement with prison. It is sad to find the increasing number of ex-military personnel who end up in the hands of the criminal justice system. When you go into the reasons for that, you see that they are complex. Many of the people concerned have unwillingly returned to their original background, yet the support mechanism is not in place to help them. Much mention has been made of PTSD, but if you look at their problems, you see that three things stand out: alcohol, depression and anxiety. The anxiety is linked with an inability to cope. All this says to me that not only must treatment for post-traumatic stress and post-battle disorders be provided but treatment must be provided that is provided normally throughout the community, with the supplements that form the Armed Forces covenant and are given because the individuals concerned have been members of the services.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater for securing this important debate. The state in which a number of our veterans find themselves on leaving service should fill us all with concern. These men and women demonstrate unparalleled bravery in their defence of our country. We should therefore put provisions in place that give our veterans who suffer from a physical injury or a mental health illness all the support that they require for their rehabilitation.
My contribution will focus mainly on the mental health challenges facing a number of our veterans. A recent report by the King's Centre for Military Health Research reveals that almost 25 per cent of Iraq war veterans are suffering from mental health-related illnesses. The King's Centre is of the view that of the 180,000 service men and women who have served or are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, 48,000 veterans may suffer from an illness of this nature. The research states that 9,000 service personnel are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition can lie dormant for a long period, yet its effects are terrible for those who suffer it. I welcome the Government's announcement to improve mental health services for veterans through the provision of 24-hour counselling, a support helpline and the introduction of 30 mental health nurses. Greater resources might be needed in areas that have a moderate-to-high percentage of veterans, as failure to do so might place a strain on local services. The coalition Government have doubled the operational service allowance, while amending the policy on rest and recuperation for service personnel deployed on operations. This, too, is welcome, as it will go towards addressing the impact of combat-related stress on our Armed Forces.
I fully support the provisions in the Armed Forces Bill that pertain to ensuring that the military covenant is honoured by government as a statutory duty. The Bill will also make it incumbent on the Secretary of State for Defence to report every year on steps that the Government are taking to support servicemen, veterans and their families. I look forward to debating the Bill when it reaches this House.
A more common mental health complaint among those who have served in the Armed Forces is depression. It has been found that those diagnosed with depression are more likely to be of lower rank or persons who are divorced or separated. One reason given for the prevalence of depression among veterans is a fear of not being able to secure a job on returning to civilian life, which in turn leads to a sense of despair. An unfortunate stigma is attached to mental health issues in our society. Regrettably, this is even worse among the Armed Forces.
It has been widely reported that many veterans who are suffering from mental health difficulties tend to hide their suffering. A number of service men and women have attributed this to the fact that they view acknowledgment of a mental health illness as a sign of weakness. In making the noble commitment to defend our nation, many of these brave men and women perhaps feel as though they are burdening their families and friends by sharing their mental trauma. I would be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships' House about any plans or campaigns that the Government will embark on to address this issue. Perhaps I may add that alcohol abuse among ex-members of the Armed Forces is double that among the British civilian population.
I was particularly heartened by the pledge in the SDSR to support ex-service personnel to enter tertiary education. This will provide those who have contributed so much to our national security with greater career choices on leaving the Army. I also take the opportunity to praise the decision to award scholarships to the children of service personnel who have lost their lives in active service since 1990. It will go towards expressing our gratitude to the children whose parents have made the ultimate sacrifice when defending our country.
I pay tribute to the excellent work undertaken by Combat Stress, the veterans' mental health charity, which provides veterans suffering from a mental health illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder with specialist care.
I praise the Big Lottery Fund for launching the Forces in Mind programme. This laudable initiative is aimed at supporting the psychological welfare of service personnel and ensuring that veterans are given all the required assistance in making the transition to civilian life.
I refer to a report produced by Dr Andrew Murrison MP, a man with strong credentials in medicine and in the Armed Forces. His report is entitled Fighting Fit, and has generated four principal recommendations. I ask the Minister to update your Lordships' House on the implementation of the recommendations suggested in that report. I understand that Dr Murrison is undertaking a review of prosthetic limbs, as it is important that a supply of limbs for those who need them is often inadequate in quantity and quality.
Our Armed Forces have played an important role in bringing stability to many regions around the world. Our servicemen perform a unique, challenging and selfless duty in protecting the civilians and citizens of this country who are supporting the Government's wider foreign policy objectives. The sacrifices of our Armed Forces, which are made to provide us with
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Finally, I take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Defence for establishing the Armed Forces Muslim Association. General Sir David Richards is the patron of the association, and I have rendered support to the association.
Viscount Slim: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, for a timely and pertinent debate. I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, who does much for recruiting what we call the ethnic minorities. As I move among them myself a lot, I tell a British Muslim, a British Hindu or a British Sikh that it is payback time-and that it is time that more of them joined the Reserve Forces and the Regular Forces.
I worked almost monthly with at least four Ministers for Veterans from the previous Administration, and I pay tribute to them because they did a tremendous job. They woke up, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, rather late-but when they woke up, great work was done. I particularly commend the veterans' badge which they instituted. I agree with the two noble and gallant Lords that the Minister for Veterans is in the wrong place; I have always felt this. I have also found that the weakness is in local government. I suggested to the previous Administration-and I nudge the Minister now-that although Governments do not like interfering with local government, one councillor should be deputised in each local government to take on veterans' affairs, particularly care of the wounded, both physically and mentally.
The Government talk about injury all the time, but when an overpaid soccer player gets a hack on the shins and rolls around as if he is in his last throes, he is injured. A serviceman is wounded. That word should be used more in the statistics and outpourings that our Government give. To be wounded is not much fun. However, it is a very proud thing for the individual to be wounded for his country. He is not given enough recognition today, as the noble Lord, Lord King, said, in our thinking and our daily workings. For those who are wounded, whether mentally or physically, a man or woman who takes a couple of bullets and a bunch of shrapnel or is blown up by an IED or wounded by a bit of cold steel when the fighting gets close, that is the most patriotic thing. I know that the word patriotism has not been a happy word lately in British jargon, but short of giving your life it is the next most patriotic action that you can take. We should look after these men and women.
I so agree with the two noble and gallant Lords that we need an organisation and a system-a fast track-to look after our veterans, and our wounded veterans in particular, as well as our widows. No one has mentioned widows today. I have 18,000 widows in the Burma Star Association, some of whom do not need any help but some of whom need a great deal. I understand-if I am wrong the Minister can put me right-that the Prime Minister said that he wants to look at the whole
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Overall, I agree with the noble and gallant Lords that great work is being done, but we need a system and an organisation. The two words are communication-because we must be able to order and run it-and organisation. We could go on talking, but I feel that enough has been said. I do not think that we give our wounded service men and women the honour that they deserve, and I believe that something should be done about it. I am rather encouraged by what has been said today.
Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, for securing this debate. I particularly thank him for his opening tribute to the previous Labour Government, which set the right tone for the debate. He had some thoughtful words about the covenant, particularly on mental health. While we have known about the problems of mental health in combat for many years, only now do we understand the depths of the problem.
The previous Government had a good record on the military covenant. We published the service personnel command paper-a first in government strategy-and made substantial investment in facilities such as Headley Court, including a new cognitive and mental health unit. We started community-based mental health pilots to provide veterans with expert assessment led by a community veterans' mental health therapist. We started a number of initiatives on mental health, particularly with New Horizons: A Shared Vision for Mental Health, published at the end of 2009, which contained seven action points for the MoD and the Department of Health, particularly to look after support for veterans.
We also made commitments during our election campaign to continue with those strategies, particularly on developing pilots to deal with combat stress, which we signed up to in January 2010. They would improve veterans' access to mental health facilities. If successful-and I hope they will be-we would have carried them forward. I hope that this Government will do so.
The interesting Fighting Fit report built upon New Horizons in its opening section and made 13 recommendations, of which only a couple have been clearly signposted and committed to. Perhaps we saw some progress today from Dr Liam Fox when writing in the Sun. He said he would be,
"Changes will be put into law next month to increase payment. They will nearly treble the maximum compensation for those suffering the severest mental health problems, and increase the amounts they are paid for life on leaving the forces".
I hope that the Minister can give us more detail on what that commitment in the Sun from Dr Liam Fox actually means and to whom it will apply. Can the noble Lord confirm that the provisions will be introduced next month, how much it will cost the MoD, how many people will receive these higher payments, and what the exact scheme payments are that are being increased?
This has been an important debate and the areas in which improvement is necessary are understood. The Government have made some commitments to make these improvements, but I really need to know what the pace and future commitments are. My knowledge might have been illuminated by an article in the News of the World, which I would like the Minister to confirm or not. Not everyone will have reached as far as page 36 of last Sunday's edition, but there was an interview with Mr Nicholas Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, by the paper's chief political editor. He reported:
"Nick Clegg is to spearhead a huge drive to give better care for troops traumatised by war. The Deputy PM will soon unveil a 'health for heroes' service ... Under the scheme, millions of pounds of extra money will be pumped into the NHS to fight battlefield stress. A new screening programme will identify victims ... family doctors will get special training while an army of therapists will be drafted into hospitals to spot post-traumatic stress disorders".
If all this is true, it is to be welcomed. However, it does not seem to relate to the more incremental and steady progress reported elsewhere. It has not been mentioned in Parliament and does not seem to accord with the plan in Fighting Fit. It is news to us and to the forces' charities. If the Minister is aware of the details of this programme, perhaps he could give us some indication of what extra money there is, where the millions of pounds will be spent, the timescale for implementation, and why it is to be announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, not the Secretary of State for Defence.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, we have had a very good debate and I thank my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater for raising the important subject of the physical and mental rehabilitation of military veterans.
I always listen to and greatly value my noble friend's informed views on all aspects of defence policy. While he was Northern Ireland Secretary and then Defence Secretary, our Armed Forces were deployed in Northern Ireland and the Gulf where, as my noble friend said, combat operations to liberate Kuwait from occupation by the forces of Saddam Hussein began 20 years ago last week. Then, as today in Afghanistan, we witnessed the professionalism, dedication and courage of our servicemen and women. We should be justifiably proud of what they do on our behalf.
During these past two decades, our Armed Forces have been deployed in the most demanding areas of conflict. They have always risen to the challenges they faced, and done their duty unflinchingly. For those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, our condolences and sympathies are with those families and friends left behind. However, as my noble friends Lord King and Lord Glenarthur, and the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, said, injuries that were once fatal can now be survived, which is testament to the skill of our medical services. Indeed, the expertise honed on the battlefield is now subject to research at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham to determine how best that expertise can be used in the healthcare of civilian society. Just last week, we opened a brand new, ground-breaking surgical reconstruction and microbiology research centre in Birmingham.
However, today's soldiers, sailors, airmen and women will one day become veterans. They will look at how the previous generation is being cared for and supported. If we are found to be wanting, it will be a question not only of moral failure, but of paying the price in recruitment and retention in our future Armed Forces. For some personnel who have been injured, a lifetime of care and treatment will be needed. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, pointed out, as a nation and a Government we have a moral responsibility to ensure that such injured personnel receive the care they deserve. As a Government we are committed to ensuring that they do. I reassure the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, that we will be honouring the covenant between the Armed Forces and the nation.
The Government share the concerns that have been expressed regarding the mental well-being of our former service personnel. We acknowledge that it can take many years for a psychological problem to manifest itself. In the most serious cases-and these are the minority-experiences on operations can result in post-traumatic stress disorder. We continue to work with Combat Stress in the fight against that most debilitating condition.
For other veterans, their mental health needs will continue to be met by the National Health Service, which should remain the main provider of healthcare for former service personnel. The NHS is working hard to develop the best models of care and support for the few with mental health problems. The MoD has contributed £500,000 towards six community-based NHS mental health pilot schemes for veterans in Stafford, Camden and Islington, Cardiff, Bishop Auckland, Plymouth and Edinburgh. They aim to make it easier for former service personnel to access help. I hope that that addresses the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar.
On 20 December, my right honourable friend, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, announced the publication of an independent evaluation into these pilot schemes, conducted by the University of Sheffield's Centre for Psychological Services Research. The report identifies key components of successful services and makes a number of recommendations about the future planning of NHS mental healthcare services for veterans. I would also like to highlight the Medical Assessment Programme at St Thomas's Hospital, which continues to provide specialist mental health assessment of former service men and women with mental health problems who have undertaken operational service since 1982.
The coalition agreement set out our intention to provide extra support for former members of the Armed Forces with mental health needs, including PTSD. As part of that undertaking, Dr Andrew Murrison MP, who served as a medical doctor in the Royal Navy, was asked by the Prime Minister to conduct a study into the health of both serving and ex-service personnel to see what more can be done to assess and meet these needs. In the light of that work, on 6 October, the Defence Secretary announced that there would be funding for a 24-hour helpline for veterans and for 30 extra mental health nurses in mental health trusts. To answer the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, my noble friend Lord Sheikh and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, we will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and others to work towards implementing all Dr Murrison's recommendations, as well as those produced in the evaluation of the pilot schemes, to consider how they can be taken forward to provide the best possible mental healthcare for former service personnel.
In terms of general welfare provision, there is a range of services that former Armed Forces personnel may need to call on during the course of their lives, provided by many different agencies. I assure my noble friend Lord Addington that these will be constantly reviewed. Some have argued that it would be more cost effective to provide services for veterans if these were brought together in a single administration. We do not agree. Where a service is already provided by one department for the majority of the population, there needs to be a very strong case to set up a separate organisation to do the same thing for any special interest group-even one held in such high regard as veterans who have served the nation so well. Former service personnel live among us; they are not separate from the community that they have served to protect. For the most part, their needs-whether healthcare, housing or benefits-are the same as those of their fellow citizens.
We must also recognise that some of the support for veterans comes not from government, but from the voluntary and community sector. I mentioned Combat Stress earlier and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Loan, in a well-researched speech, mentioned Help for Heroes. Sometimes, the service charities are described as filling in for what the Government should be doing. That does them a great disservice. It is not the place of the state to do everything. All of us have social responsibilities. The service charities are one of the best examples of
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The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, made important points about the position of the Minister for Veterans. Several formulae have been suggested over the years to strengthen the focus on veterans' issues. They range from the full-blown, US-style, Veterans Department, to more modest changes to government machinery. Some give a greater role to the Ministry of Defence, others look to central government departments to take on that responsibility. The creation of a Minister for Veterans was partly a response to that desire. The MoD's responsibility is finite. It can act as an advocate, or as an interlocutor, for ex-service personnel. But we do not want to tell the Department of Health and its devolved equivalents how best to deliver healthcare. Rather we want to see ex-service men and women treated correctly across government.
I want to mention briefly the role of the Medical Assessment Programme at St Thomas's Hospital. This is part of the MoD and provides free and confidential advice on a wide range of issues. This can be provided in the home of a veteran, or by telephone, and is given by trained welfare managers. The Veterans Welfare service undertakes some 12,000 visits to former service personnel each year and 95 per cent declare themselves to be very satisfied. The welfare managers work closely with service charities and other voluntary organisations, local authorities and the Department for Work and Pensions.
I will try to answer as many questions as possible. If I do not answer them all, I assure noble Lords that I will write. My noble friend Lord King mentioned a possible figure of 180,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. That is an old figure. The most recent figure, as at April 2010, is 236,000 service personnel who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both at least once.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, paid tribute to the Armed Forces parliamentary scheme and I also admire enormously the excellent work that Sir Neil Thorne and that organisation carries out. The noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Addington made some important points about the reorganisation of the National Health Service. We continue to work closely with the NHS. As for the transfer of medical records from the MoD to the NHS, a summary of each medical history while in the Armed Forces, including the results of the discharge medical, is recorded and given to the individual to pass on to their GP. The form also includes information on how the GP can gain access to the individual's complete service medical records if required. We are working to simplify the process and, where it is possible to do so, to enable medical records to be available to GPs electronically.
My noble friend Lord Glenarthur made some very important points about medical reserves. He raised concerns about the cumulative effects of continual exposure to really stressful situations. We are very alert to this, and the cutting-edge medical care that our service men and women receive in the front line is constantly being upgraded.
To answer my noble friend's question, in November 2006 the MoD launched a new initiative, the Reserves
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My noble friend Lord King asked about the review of the AFCS every five years. At this time we do not feel it necessary to conduct further reviews, but future changes will be considered by the Central Advisory Committee on Pensions and Compensation if the need arises.
I opened my speech by paying tribute to our Armed Forces. We ask them to do things on our behalf, and they do that willingly. We have a responsibility, not only as a Government but as a nation, to look after them. I hope that, by our explaining the Government's position on the important subjects of welfare and physical and mental care, noble Lords will accept that we take this responsibility very seriously.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I thank the Minister for, as ever, his most conscientious and scrupulous attention to the debate and for his reply. This debate has been of real quality. People who are really interested in the subject have contributed to it from their different backgrounds and experience. In our present difficult times, this is the sort of the debate that this House can do extremely well and which makes a valuable contribution.
Without wishing to single anyone out, I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, was impressive, drawing on his wide medical experience that is of such great interest. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, drew attention to the debt that we owe to the clinicians themselves who are facing appalling trauma situations and are willing to serve. Against that background, I am most grateful to all those who have taken part.
If there was one slightly contentious note that emerged among Members here today, it was this: we have made some progress in having a Veterans Minister, which we never had before, but now the issue is whether he is in the right place. I see the arguments about whether the Ministry of Defence is absolutely the right place. The only thing that I want to say is that plenty of people have got lost in the Cabinet Office before now, and putting a Minister of perhaps not the most senior rank in there might mean that they were never seen again. Whoever he is, and unless he is of Cabinet rank, he will need a sponsoring Cabinet Minister of some authority, and until someone can think of a better one, this is the answer. We have a Veterans Minister who has been a serving officer, which is a good start. I think that Andrew Robathan has plenty of energy, and now we must make sure that that energy is applied with plenty of forcefulness. He knows
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I shall add one point. Not every aspect has been covered, obviously, because of time reasons. There was one thing that did not come out in any speech. We use the word "veterans" as though they are all old men or women. A lot of so-called veterans now are extremely young, and one of the things that worries me, and I know that it worries the whole House, is the difficulty of employment opportunities for young people at this time. I know that my noble friend the Minister was not able to cover this in his speech, but I know the initiatives that are being made. I emphasise that giving these people self-respect is the best chance to recover from the difficulties and challenges that they may have faced, and opportunities of worthwhile employment are very high on that list.
I ended my earlier contribution by saying that many of us stand on Remembrance Day at war memorials up and down the country, and we say, "We will remember them". We say that we will remember the dead. The purpose of this debate was that we will remember the living as well, along with our duties and obligations to them. I am most grateful to all who have taken part. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to open this debate on the subject of tourism in the UK and its value and importance to the UK economy. The debate has attracted no fewer than six maiden speakers and I look forward in anticipation to hearing the contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, my noble friend Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham of Droxford, and my noble friends Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames and Lord Risby. I am delighted also to note the names of several distinguished Members of your Lordships' House down to speak. It is clearly a good day for Palmers and I look forward with interest to hearing from the other noble Lord, Lord Palmer, and from my noble friend Lord Lee of Trafford, a former Minister for Tourism.
Why do I think that this debate on tourism is important at this time? First, we in the United Kingdom are entering a busy and exciting period over the next two years when we will be welcoming many foreign visitors to our shores as a result of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the royal wedding and, of course, the Olympics in 2012. It is essential that we maximise this opportunity and make it an exceptionally fruitful period for the country, both in increasing our invisible earnings and
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Secondly, we must always remember that many UK nationals choose to holiday in this country. It is vital that people are encouraged to stay in the UK and made more aware of the benefits and pleasures of holidaying in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Of the total UK average household expenditure on holidays, only 36 per cent is spent in the UK. Yet the amount is not insignificant in monetary terms; in 2009, UK nationals spent 126 million nights away from home, which represented some £22 billion to the economy, primarily to the hotel and restaurant trade. There is clearly an opportunity to increase on this percentage expenditure.
Tourism is important at this time for a further reason. Your Lordships will hardly need reminding that we are enduring an unprecedented period of severe public sector cuts, as a result of having the largest deficit in the G20. This week's economic figures of near-zero growth for the final three months of last year confirm that our recovery is precarious, while the prospects for growth in early 2011 look less than encouraging. There are the added concerns of increasing energy costs and rising inflation.
Tourism provides an excellent opportunity to boost the economy. It is the third highest export earner for the UK, behind only the pharmaceuticals industry and the financial services sector. It generates £115 billion per year for the UK economy, which is equivalent to 8.9 per cent of UK gross domestic product, according to a recent Deloitte study. That breaks down between the UK's four countries as follows: England generates £96.7 billion, 8.6 per cent of GDP; Scotland £11.1 billion, 10.4 per cent; Wales £6.2 billion, 13.3 per cent; and Northern Ireland £1.5 billion, 4.9 per cent. Inbound tourists spend about £16 billion per year, thereby contributing £3 billion to the Exchequer.
Looking ahead, over the period 2010-20, the increased growth rate of visitors to the UK is expected to rise by 3.5 per cent per annum, which is ahead of the 2.9 per cent per annum on average forecast for the economy as a whole. Most importantly, there are some encouraging forecasts for employment. More than 250,000 jobs are expected to be created during this same period, to rise from 2.64 million to 2.89 million. Currently, one in 12 jobs in the UK is directly or indirectly supported by tourism. We can begin to see how tourism can play a vital role in rebalancing the economy. We cannot afford to miss that opportunity.
The tourism industry is often described in terms of the services and attractions offered to visitors-the product side. We know that there is great variety and that there are many exceptional, high-quality destinations in the UK, of which more later. However, are we doing enough as a kingdom to ask what the customer wants? The customer is, of course, the tourist-a generic term that describes anyone of any age, gender or nationality who is away from home or his native country, at leisure and willing to spend money. For example, I heard recently of an Asian delegation booked into a UK
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The tourist always has a choice. Competition is fierce, notably for those travelling to Europe, with a rich choice of countries. According to the latest figures, from 2009, the UK is the sixth most-visited destination by international tourists, with 28 million staying visits. France is number two with 74.2 million and Germany number eight with 24.2 million. Between 2000 and 2010, the UK's international visitors increased by 37.4 per cent but France and Germany are still ahead of us, at 49.7 per cent and 85.6 per cent respectively. Crucially, we are falling behind in attracting visitors from the key emerging markets. France attracted eight times more visitors from China last year than did the UK, and Germany six times more. Nearly four times more visitors from Brazil went to France than to the UK and about 30 per cent more Brazilians visited Germany than the UK. France attracted visitors from India at a factor of more than 50 per cent more than the UK.
In briefly outlining an audit of UK competitiveness, let me start with the challenges. Britain ranks 133rd out of 133 nations on the specific issue of the cost of travel to a holiday destination. For example, a UK short stay visa costs £70. If you are a visitor travelling to other European countries at the same time, where you can obtain a multi-country Schengen visa at £50, the bill rises to £120. Add on to that the increase in the air passenger duty and the costs are considerable before you have even booked your flight, accommodation and transport. On the ease of booking flights, although airline seat capacity for internationals visiting this country has increased by 2.9 per cent, it increased more for France at 6.3 per cent and Germany at 5.5 per cent. A comparative reduction of our inbound route capacity pushes up prices for the tourist choosing to come to the UK.
There are other challenges. The VAT increase to 20 per cent is a necessary move by this coalition Government, but it inevitably decreases the spending power of all tourists in the UK. By contrast, Germany and France have reduced VAT rates for the hotel and restaurant sector. Although the exchange rate remains in our favour for encouraging foreign visitors, excessive volatility means instability. At present, that is providing a brake for those UK nationals seeking holidays abroad, which is in our favour. Overall, it remains expensive to holiday in Britain in comparative terms.
A further challenge is to encourage tourists to go further than their single-destination city. I accept London's primacy as one of the key holiday destinations in the world, but as many as 48 per cent of all UK visitors spend time in London and do not go further afield, whereas only 12 per cent visit Paris without enjoying thereafter the pleasures of France. The same applies to 14 per cent of visitors to New York and 10 per cent of those to Berlin. London enjoyed 11 times more visitors
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On the positive side, what does the UK have to offer? Putting aside the small question of our weather, we are best placed, above all other countries, to offer a unique, varied and exciting opportunity that can be tailored for all visitors, with all vacation tastes, coming to the UK. There are quintessentially British festivals and events, from the highland games and county shows to cheese rolling and river dragon racing. There are theme parks and music festivals for the young. There is outstanding architecture, steeped in history, stretching back many centuries, from cathedrals to country churches. All these are accessible and appreciated over a particularly fertile landscape, from the north-west of Scotland-perhaps the last great wilderness in Europe-to Cornwall with its coves and beaches, Norfolk with its fascinating network of broads, the canals of Shropshire and Warwickshire, so enjoyed by American tourists, and, of course, Liverpool and Tyneside.
There are also many unseen treasures in the UK that can be exploited. For example, because of our geophysical make-up and our presence in the Gulf Stream, we have come to do gardens rather well, from Kent to Inverewe in Scotland and Cornwall. Even before the Eden Project, gardens in Cornwall alone generated more than a million visitors per year. I recently met a gentleman who had set up the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust. From initially identifying six gardens for development, within the first year of research he had identified a further 306, all for eventual public viewing.
We have our priceless museums, notably in London but also in such places as Portsmouth, which represents our colourful maritime history with the "Mary Rose" and HMS "Victory". There is also the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. It is, above all, through culture that the UK is perceived particularly to draw visitors and this gives us a competitive edge. The Nation Brands Index has indicated that Britain is ranked fourth out of 50 nations for having a vibrant and exciting contemporary culture; seventh as a nation with a rich cultural heritage; and eighth as a nation excelling in sport, with many foreign visitors coming to the UK for football alone. VisitBritain concludes that inbound tourist spending on our culture and heritage subsector is £4.5 billion. This alone supports more than 100,000 jobs in the UK. Overall, Britain is ranked fifth in terms of tourism. It must be perfectly possible to rise further in these rankings.
No stall for Britain can be set out without confidence in and scrutiny of the structure of tourism management in the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the Department for Culture, Media and Sport there is a Tourism Minister. VisitBritain, which was the British Tourist Authority, is now responsible for marketing Britain abroad, with a fund-matched £100 million partnership marketing fund earmarked
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It is as well to remember that the engine room of tourism works as a result of more than 125,000 privately owned businesses, 80 per cent of which have a turnover of less than £250,000 per year. The question that we have to ask is how best to help these local businesses, starting with more bank lending and greater tax incentives. I am sure that the Minister will refer to the imminent release of the Government's tourism strategy document. In the mean time, I trust that there is enough stimulus for debate.
Finally, I leave your Lordships with a creative idea, which is that if we were to switch to SDST-for the uninitiated, that is the single/double summer time, with its lighter evenings-it is estimated that we could create tourism growth of between £2.5 billion and £3.5 billion and between 60,000 and 80,000 extra jobs. I beg to move.
Lord Christopher: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Viscount and congratulate him on getting this debate on to the Order Paper. Unbeknown to him, it has provided me with an opportunity to raise the matter which was burning in my soul. He mentioned Cornwall, and Cornwall is part of it. I should also say that as it is a discrete matter, I thought it sensible to have a word with the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, yesterday to ensure that she, at least, was certainly not caught unawares on an apolitical matter.
It concerns the Isles of Scilly, which are a string of islands 37 miles by sea south-west of Penzance, five of which are inhabited. The population is around 2,000-it is probably on the low side rather than the higher-and tourism is the principal source of income. Almost all other sources have disappeared. The flowers have gone, either abroad or to Lincolnshire, and are a minimum part of their livelihood. The majority of the visitors go by sea. You can go by air and when I go, I usually try to do that, although you can be diverted to the ferry if it is too bad for planes to fly. However, the planes have to be small because the runway is short. There are also helicopters.
Two vessels ply between Penzance and Scilly, a passenger vessel and a freight vessel. They are owned by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which was set up in 1920. Prior to that, since 1859, all transport to the islands was undertaken by the Ministry of Shipping, which must have disappeared at some time in the past. The passenger ferry is the custom-built "Scillonian III", which will be 35 years old next year. The freighter, the "Gry Maritha", is over 30 years old and takes 95 per cent of the freight. As with many islands around our coast, the only way of getting anything from nails to door knockers is by sea. That freight vessel was in fact a Norwegian freighter. I will come back to that issue after getting around to the matter of the "Scillonian".
The "Scillonian" takes 90,000 passengers a year. It had a refit in 1999 but, despite that, it will not get a
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Essentially, there are two factors. The vessel has to have a draught of only three metres and it must be able to sit on the seabed, because the high tides literally leave little or no water in the harbour area. There have been consultations with the Department for Transport and with Cornwall Council, which led to revised plans that saved a good deal of money. For example, they changed the specification of the vessel, reducing its potential speed from 20 knots to 15, and they retendered. We are now left with a total cost, excluding the harbour works, of £62 million. Under the outcome of the discussions this is to be shared, with £10 million coming from Cornwall Council, £11.75 million from a European grant and £40.3 million from the Department for Transport. We expected an answer from the Department for Transport by the end of this month but it is clearly not going to come. I understand that it is not now likely to arrive before the end of February. I do not know the reasons for that. On 16 February, a finance meeting of Cornwall Council will take place. There is a very real risk that it will decide that, given present circumstances, it cannot come up with this money. If that happens, the vessel will not be ordered.
There is also a risk with the European grant which has gone on for so long. There is an end-date, of which I am not aware, but there is a risk that the money will go elsewhere. Many projects around the country are looking for money from Europe, so this service could end in 2012. If that happens, there will be a direct loss of 79 jobs on the ferry service itself. There are only 1,272 full-time jobs throughout these islands, 30 per cent of which are related to hotels and restaurants, so there is a total potential job loss of around 380. That is not the national figure of one in 12 which the noble Viscount mentioned but represents something like four in 12 of all the work opportunities on these islands. Seventy per cent of the 380 jobs are related to tourism. Therefore, we have a potential job loss approaching a third, plus, of course, marginal losses relating to tourist spending, which would substantially disappear. It would be a major tragedy if these islands were effectively lost to tourism.
I hope that the points I have raised will find support around the Chamber and that we can look to accelerate a positive decision on this matter. Delay is no longer a wise or safe option. I will seek to follow this up as the days go by.
Lord Wigley: My Lords, I hope that I am not being precocious in making my maiden speech so soon after being introduced to your Lordships' House. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so as I felt immensely frustrated yesterday in the debate on the parliamentary seats in Wales as I could not even thank noble Lords who were being kind to me. Today's Motion relating to tourism is important to Wales and is close to my heart.
Before addressing this subject, I thank colleagues and officers of your Lordships' House for the kindness that has been shown to me. I particularly thank my supporters on Monday, my noble friends Lord Elis-Thomas and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, who I am glad to see are both present, for all their help and encouragement over a protracted period. I also thank the Cross-Benchers for allowing me to join their ranks and for the help given by their staff. It has been a very great pleasure to meet so many former colleagues. The warmth of their welcome has been a moving experience.
When we were elected MPs in 1974, my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas and I were among the youngest Members of Parliament. It was once suggested that the two of us entered the place as revolutionaries and departed as mere reformers. But if the objectives which we then had, and to which I still aspire, of a new relationship between the nations of these islands can be achieved by reforming the structures of government, that is all to the good. Revolutions can be messy and painful. If the process of devolution allows Wales on matters such as tourism to take appropriate decisions on an-all Wales level, and to have its voice heard when other decisions are taken on a wider basis, that is also to the good.
I also thank those of all parties, and those of no party allegiance, who, while not necessarily agreeing with our politics, have supported Plaid Cymru's bid to have a formal presence in this Chamber. For many years my party did not seek a voice in your Lordships' House. It reconsidered its position after the Government of Wales Act 2006, which stipulated that our National Assembly could legislate in devolved matters such as tourism only with the agreement of both Chambers at Westminster. Many in my party felt that we should make our views known whenever and wherever the interests of Wales were at stake, on the basis of our country's long-standing commitment to social justice and our wish to shoulder our responsibilities towards a wider world.
We see Wales in an international context. That is relevant to today's debate. Tourism is a major industry in Wales. As we heard from the noble Viscount, it is worth £6 billion a year and generates almost 10 per cent of our jobs. My former constituency of Caernarfon contained the summit of Snowdon, the Menai Straits, the glorious Llyn peninsula, a phalanx of castles and several of the spectacular little trains of Wales. It is a Mecca for tourists. Wales's major events programme has succeeded in promoting Wales as an international tourism destination. We hosted the highly successful Ryder Cup last autumn, and an Ashes test the previous year. When people attend such events, they come not only to Wales but to other parts of Britain. International visitors to Wales may fly in via Manchester or London
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I imagine that public policy is geared to spreading the economic benefits of tourism around these islands. However, there is scope for improved signposting of such opportunities, so that visitors to Britain are aware of the wide variety of attractions across these islands. There is a huge opportunity to do this in the context of the forthcoming Olympic Games, and there is an onus on public bodies to co-operate. There is a need to use technology creatively to engage with potential visitors, providing reliable advance information online, not just about places but about activities.
We in Wales are particularly conscious of the contribution that cultural tourism can make to the economy. Music is a big attraction for overseas visitors. It is not just renowned institutions like the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod that attract people from around the globe. A valuable role is played by local festivals such as the Brecon jazz festival and the Green Man festival. I declare an interest in this context because my wife, son and daughter are all involved in such cultural events.
In 2011, Visit Wales will also support events such as the Glanusk international horse trials, the Heineken Cup final and the rugby league Millennium Magic weekend. Visit Wales has three EU tourism projects on stream with an investment of £53 million, together with a £19 million heritage tourism project, also supported by the EU. A VisitBritain survey of 10,000 potential overseas visitors identified Wales's historic castles as the top UK attraction, beating Buckingham Palace into second place.
Co-operation with UK agencies can maximise the benefit that we get from such visitors. One good example of co-operation between public bodies on an all-Wales and a UK level is that which has enabled sculptures from the Dazu world heritage site in China to feature in an exhibition that opened in Cardiff this week. It will only be seen in Wales and it is the first time that the exhibits have left China. This exciting development has been made possible by the co-operation between the Government of Wales, our National Museum and the Chongqing Culture Bureau through the British Council's Connections through Culture programme in China. In mentioning China, we must be aware of how the demographics of tourism are changing, with an increasing number of potential visitors with disposable income coming from China and other developing countries.
There are other opportunities to work together to attract major events to the UK, such as the WOMEX world music showcase. This exciting project will bring together to the UK, for three to five days, 2,700 delegates from 92 countries, mainly programmers of international festivals and venues worldwide, some 450 world music artists and crew and 400 journalists. Cardiff is one of the cities shortlisted for the next WOMEX in 2013, and there is already positive co-operation between various key bodies in Wales and on a UK level to turn this into reality.
In regarding tourism as a major plank of economic policy, we certainly have the enthusiastic support of the Welsh Government. It is worth noting that the Minister, Alun Ffred Jones AM, has responsibility for heritage, culture and sport and tourism. However, he will be able to play that much greater a role in developing international tourism if he can work hand in glove with the UK Minister in proposing or supporting initiatives.
I hope that in attacking the international markets, the diversity of the tourism product within the UK can be used as a positive feature on which to build. I was glad to note a key recommendation of the recent report of the British Hospitality Association entitled Creating Jobs in Britain, which many of your Lordships will have received. It stated:
should be a key objective. I am certain that the Welsh Minister for Tourism would endorse that; I have discussed the matter with him. He would welcome the chance to develop his ideas on a partnership basis.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, first, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions-40 of our major attractions, all of which get more than 1 million visitors a year. I am delighted to say that National Museum Wales is one of our members. I am also absolutely delighted that 17 Members of your Lordships' House are speaking today, including six who are delivering their maiden speech. I must say that this is far more than we normally get in a tourism debate; nor do we normally have the same number of Peers speaking as there are piers in the Weston-super-Mare constituency of our present Tourism Minister.
I pay particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for his maiden speech, which we all found fascinating. He and I spent many years together in the other place. He was hugely respected. He is a magnificent ambassador for Wales, and has done a huge amount for the disadvantaged and the disabled. We look forward to many excellent contributions from him over the years; from all sides of the House, we welcome him.
I also congratulate the noble Viscount on moving the debate. I had the privilege of serving under his father as a junior Minister in the Ministry of Defence. As a Minister, he commanded huge respect and was a gentleman in the very finest sense. I am delighted that his son is moving our debate today.
Tourism is probably the number one industry in more parliamentary constituencies than any other industry, yet previous Governments have paid little regard to it. It has hardly featured in party election manifestos. Over the years, there has been a steady reduction in the funding of our national tourist boards. Past Prime Ministers have not taken a great deal of interest. Gordon Brown could hardly be described as
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The Government regard the chair of our national tourist board, VisitBritain, as only a six-day-a-month job, which is frankly ridiculous given the scale of the industry, as we heard earlier. Of course, tourism is not in the title of its sponsoring Ministry, the DCMS. As we have heard, it is a huge wealth creator and, potentially, a huge jobs creator. We must all be conscious of the number of overseas people who provide most of the workforce in so many of our major hotels and restaurants. There surely must be great opportunities for many of those in the UK who are at present, sadly, unemployed.
Many people tend to denigrate tourism as a service industry, but of course there is a relationship between service and manufacture. When I was Tourism Minister in the 1980s, the largest steel contract at that time was placed by the Blackpool Pleasure Beach for one of its big new rides. A big hotel development programme is currently under way in London, as we will no doubt shortly hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine. Eighty per cent of the content of a new hotel used to be of UK-manufactured origin. As for our civil airline industry, we should think about how many of the aircraft carry tourists. Therefore, there is a relationship between service and manufacture.
Our domestic tourism industry is relatively buoyant at present. One has only to look at the number of people who increasingly caravan. The figures from the Caravan Club show an amazing growth in recent years. Of course, as was said a little earlier, we have a tremendous national heritage with our great museums and galleries, but they need extra resources. I ask the Minister whether the Treasury is making any progress in encouraging lifetime giving by those who are willing and have the resources to support many of our great heritage institutions.
As for the regions, there is considerable concern at the phasing out of the RDAs, which used to provide most of the funding for the destination management organisations. It is of considerable concern to read today that Visit Lincolnshire, the county council body that promotes Lincolnshire and tourism in that county, has been forced into administration after apparently losing £670,000 of funding.
However, the biggest single boost that the Government could give our tourism industry would be to support the Lighter Later campaign by altering the clocks and extending the useful hours of daylight. I was absolutely delighted that this was referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, who is a Scot, as it is of course from Scotland that historically the criticism of a possible change has come, so I am delighted to hear his support for this proposal.
There is huge potential in overseas markets; China has already been referred to by other speakers. The visa situation is particularly unsatisfactory, and I end by reading an e-mail that I received yesterday from the managing editor of China Ethos:
"The UK is a very attractive tourist destination to the Chinese people. However, their enthusiasm to holiday in the UK is dampened down by the inconvenience encountered in obtaining a separate
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The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, together with the noble Lord, Lord Lee, I am delighted to be able to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for his excellent maiden speech. I look forward not only to further speeches from him but to the other maiden speeches that follow. Perhaps none of us can compete with the beauty of the area in which the noble Lord had the privilege of representing the constituency.
The diocese of Hereford covers not only Herefordshire but south Shropshire, and I am told that the border country of the Wye Valley claims to have been the place where tourism began. Other noble Lords might wish to contest that, but that is what the people there say, and they do so on the basis that the Wye Valley attracted artists to the area in the 19th century.
I pick up the theme with which the noble Viscount began and others have continued: the opportunities for development and growth in tourism throughout the United Kingdom. Reference has already been made to the number of jobs that could be added-more than 200,000 are anticipated-and to the research; the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, referred to this. It will not surprise your Lordships that I want to connect it to visits to churches.
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