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Forty-five per cent of grade 1 listed buildings in England are churches. That is a staggering number. If any other organisation or institution, apart from the church, was responsible for quite that number, I have no doubt that it would receive more attention. It means, therefore, that we are in the unique position of being able to welcome, as we do, visitors to our churches throughout the country. In our diocese, 71 per cent of the churches I know stay open all the time. They are there to welcome visitors and, indeed, do so free of charge. I am told that more than 70 per cent of the population have visited churches during the past year. Obviously, many have done so for the primary reason of our existence, for worship, but not exclusively or only for that.
Visitors are welcome for all the different reasons why they come. Some come for the architecture, history, beauty and heritage that churches have; and an increasing number, which again will be no surprise, come to explore family history, which has become such an interest for so many. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said, we can host concerts and other cultural activities in our churches and church buildings in Wales. There is also nature and wildlife in our churchyards, and the opportunity that the undisturbed ground provides. The charity, Caring for God's Acre, which began in our area, stresses that and wants to encourage other churchyards to connect with the work that it does. Churches also provide a place for quiet or silent reflection, spirituality, sacred space, and so on.
In England there are 43 Anglican cathedrals, which between them attract nearly 10 million visitors a year. Again, that is a vast contribution. There are 16,000 Anglican churches in England and the welcome that they give. We do not have the particular statistics, but they are there to encourage visitors and connect with local communities. Again, in our own diocese we are privileged to have so many architectural gems, such as Kilpeck, Abbey Dore, Ludlow and, of course, our own cathedral, which has 200,000 visitors a year. It is more visited than anywhere else in Herefordshire, which in itself emphasises the importance of our churches and cathedrals within the realm of tourism. Perhaps the scope to develop and extend that work is neglected. A cathedral close project in Hereford is the biggest current tourism investment in the county; more than £5 million goes into that. Only last week the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, working with Durham diocese, put forward the twin monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow as the latest UK nomination for World Heritage status. There are nearly 30 World Heritage sites in the UK, four of which involve church buildings. That is yet another way of stressing the importance and contribution that they make.
As I conclude, I wish to emphasise not only the churches' potential for growth in this regard, as in so many other aspects of tourism in our nation. I imagine I was not alone in being concerned to hear from the noble Viscount how much we have fallen behind France and Germany in the development of tourism in the past few years. I shall therefore end with a question for Her Majesty's Government. How are we to see funding support for tourism in the future, particularly in the post-regional development agency era and without the contributions that it was able to make more locally? Partnership funding for a Herefordshire churches tourism project in my area, sadly, had to stop. That weakens the way in which we can work together so that an area such as this can grow. I would love those aspects to be reversed so that instead of getting weaker, we can not only get stronger but can work more fully in partnership and perhaps speed up the development and rate of growth of tourism in our own United Kingdom.
Baroness Wheatcroft: My Lords, I rise to make my maiden speech with some nervousness, particularly after hearing the eloquence of another newcomer, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, but that nervousness would be much worse had it not been for the extraordinarily generous welcome I have received from all sides of this House. Having been introduced almost three weeks ago, many noble Lords have been at pains and pained to say that it is not always like this here. Nevertheless, the warm reception for this one of very many newcomers has been hugely appreciated. I am delighted and honoured to be among you. I will always be grateful to my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, two genuine friends of very long standing, who introduced me in keeping with the coalition spirit. I add my tribute to the tolerance, good humour and unstinting helpfulness of the staff here. As we debate the importance of the tourism industry, I reflect on how some corners of that industry might benefit from
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I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie for initiating this important debate. My experience of working in the hospitality industry is limited to student spells behind a bar. Most of my career has been in journalism. It started when I replied to an advertisement in a daily newspaper, which stated: "Backdoor to Fleet Street". It was so far back that it was in Woolwich, but it fulfilled its promise and enabled me to build a long and highly enjoyable career in national newspapers, where I concentrated on business and finance. I spent nine years as business editor of the Times and left there to edit the Sunday Telegraph. I take this opportunity to apologise humbly to any of your Lordships to whom in that capacity I might have caused any offence. It was never personal. Most recently, I was editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal Europe, but before joining that paper I took the opportunity to see business from the inside and joined the boards of a property company and a bank, Barclays. As noble Lords will know, journalists vie only with MPs for rank in the public's estimation. My husband hoped that my standing might improve when I ventured into business, but unfortunately becoming a bank director did not provide that uplift. He is delighted with my new role and, in a brief Oscar moment, I thank him and our family for their support.
Over the years, I have chronicled the successes and failures of businesses and economic policies. I do not underestimate the difficulties of getting either right. However, as the UK seeks to regenerate its economy, I have no doubt that tourism has a vital role to play. This country has unique attractions. They draw visitors from around the globe, as we have heard, but they could, and should, draw more. I declare an interest here as I am lucky enough to be a trustee of the British Museum and the Royal Albert Hall, two very special-indeed, unique-institutions that both play almost to capacity, and on their behalf I join my noble friend Lord Lee in pleading for more help in encouraging philanthropy in this country.
If our tourism industry is to thrive, we need to nurture it. Noble Lords might not be surprised to hear that I believe that this is predominantly a job for the private sector and not for government. I fear that tourism, like so much of British business, might suffer from the short-termism that afflicts private sector investment today.
Tourism in this country is served by many small, striving businesses. Although it already accounts, as we have heard, for 8 per cent of total employment in the country, it has the scope to generate many more much needed new jobs. The development of a Disneyland, an Alton Towers or a major hotel complex requires long-term investment, not just in the physical structure but in seeing it through the planning process, the brand building and the employee training that tourist attractions need if they are to thrive. That is miles away from the short-term horizons that dominate much of today's investment industry.
Too much of the financial world has moved a long way from the concept of money being invested to build businesses and create jobs. The financial crisis
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We need to rekindle the appetite among investors for backing real businesses, not merely trading in stocks. A first step would be to encourage those whose money is in pension funds and savings plans to take a real interest in the way in which their cash is employed. Building successful businesses with long-term futures in many sectors, including the tourism sector, is in their best interests.
Finally, I echo the plea of my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie in asking that we consider resetting our clocks. Putting Britain's clocks on the same time as most of Europe could, so we are told, bolster spending by another £3.5 billion a year. Holidaymakers tend not to be early risers. Delaying dusk by an hour will apparently coax the pounds from their pockets. I trust that this is a topic to which this House will return, because as we strive to rebuild our economy, the potential return from just turning back the clocks looks like a sound investment.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, it is a great privilege to congratulate, on behalf of the whole House, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft on her excellent and delightful maiden speech, which she made with such humour and style. She has given us an insight into the qualities and experience that she brings to your Lordships' House. In testing times, her distinction and reputation in the front rank of journalism and her knowledge of the City and the financial sector will be invaluable. Her public service commitment as a trustee of the British Museum and the Royal Albert Hall could not be more appropriate for today's debate. We look forward to hearing from her often.
I also thank my noble friend Lord Younger for initiating this important debate and I very much look forward to the maiden speeches of my noble friends and other noble Lords. We have already heard two exceptional speeches. It is also a great pleasure to see the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, in his place on the Front Bench for the first time. As a Buckinghamshire man, I am delighted to see another.
Tourism is a big business in this country. The United Kingdom is the sixth most visited country in the world, with people coming to experience our culture and heritage and to visit locations that inspire democracy, industry and the arts. London is the number one most visited city in the world and is rightly famous for its museums, theatres and galleries. Indeed, in 2009 this Palace had nearly 1 million visitors. However, in 2006 only 20 per cent of visitors left London and the major cities. Therefore, many tourists are missing out on the British countryside, its county towns and villages, and the rural tourism industry is losing out on potential income.
Your Lordships would expect me, as a board member of the Countryside Alliance, to say that we should be encouraging more people to visit our most precious natural asset, which is our magnificent countryside, but Britain is ranked only 24th in the world in terms of natural beauty, behind countries such as Finland and Japan, and 12 places behind Ireland. As I reflect on that, are not all too many of our arterial routes strewn with litter, which is a disgrace to our country? I doubt that I am alone in expressing great embarrassment over just how filthy many of our roadsides currently are.
There are many beautiful parts of the world, but do they have the range-I emphasise that word-of landscapes that our comparatively small islands have to offer? The Lake District, Exmoor, the Chilterns, the Cotswolds, the Highlands, the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and the Giant's Causeway-to name but a few-provide astonishingly beautiful landscapes. It is encouraging that VisitEngland has identified that, in 2008-09, rural attractions reported a strong increase in visits, which were up by 7 per cent on the previous year, and we must build on this. I welcome the proposals that the Prime Minister laid out in his speech in August last year with the aim of invigorating tourism in the UK. The royal wedding, Her Majesty's diamond jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics will put the international spotlight firmly on London. There are great opportunities to promote visiting beyond the boundaries of the M25.
The good news is that the UK domestic tourism market has increased over the past few years. Last year, visitors from within the UK made 126 million overnight trips and spent £22 billion in the process-much of that in rural areas. In total, rural tourism in England and Wales generates at least £16 billion a year, which makes up a substantial part of the overall total of £73 billion. Tourism makes a significant contribution to the rural economy, supports village shops and services, jobs and businesses and is crucial to ensuring the long-term sustainability of our countryside. The jobs that are supported by rural tourism-380,000 in England alone-encourage people to live, work and bring up their families in rural communities.
Turning from the general to the particular, I want to focus on one part of the country, West Somerset, where a quarter of all jobs are in tourism. This is due in part to the good relationship between the private and public sectors and to the fact that the national parks work well with local hostelries and activity enterprises. A further reason behind the area's success is the draw of country sports enthusiasts from here and abroad to participate in hunting, shooting and fishing in the counties of Devon and Somerset. These pastimes are not only part of Exmoor's heritage but, as the Countryside Alliance has pointed out, account for 90 per cent of winter tourism in the area. They maintain employment in otherwise challenging circumstances and provide vital income in the winter months. Indeed, many would not survive without this trade.
Rural tourism playing its fullest part in the international market is a huge economic opportunity. Currently, we have 3.5 per cent of the world market in
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The noble Lord, Lord Lee, mentioned China. We must become a destination for more Chinese tourists. The UK has recently fallen from sixth to eleventh place in the World Economic Forum's travel and tourism competitive ratings. We are rated 14th out of 50 countries for the quality of our welcome. According to VisitBritain, foreigners view us as honest, funny, kind and efficient, but,
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has put aside £50 million to market Britain across the world, and the tourism industry has responded well to the challenge to match this with the same amount of private investment. These are exciting opportunities for us to grasp firmly. In the current economic climate, tourism is an area in which Britain could succeed. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will explore further the many areas in which Her Majesty's Government can assist in this partnership for success.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, for initiating this debate. I also thank the many noble Lords and officers and staff of the House who have befriended me since my introduction and made my first weeks in this illustrious House far less unnerving than they might have been. I thank particularly my two sponsors, my noble friends Lord Dholakia and Lord Carlile, for all their help and encouragement.
Nevertheless, it is with some trepidation-your Lordships can hear this from all the maiden speakers today-that I stand to speak before you today for my maiden speech. Could it be that Oscar Wilde was wrong when he said that politicians address all subjects with an open mouth? Even more difficult is the requirement to be uncontroversial-particularly for me-but I will do my best to be both uncontroversial and to the point.
When I stood as a Liberal candidate in school elections way back in the dark ages-it was a long time ago-I had no idea that I would one day be addressing this august body. My family background is a cocktail of nationalities. My late mother was Polish, and in the context of today being national Holocaust Memorial Day, I remember her mother and sister, my grandmother and aunt, who stayed in Poland and were never heard of again at the end of the Second World War. Today, we remember all those, not only in that Holocaust but everywhere else, who were not so lucky as my mother and sadly perished in those dreadful times.
By profession, I am a chartered accountant and spent my professional life as a partner and senior partner in firms of London-based chartered accountants. As an adult with a young family-I thank my wife Susette and my children for their wonderful support-I wanted to play my part in making my London borough a good place to live and work. As a borough councillor for the best part of 25 years, both in government and in opposition, that has been my aim.
As a councillor, one of my concerns was that of promoting the London Borough of Barnet. However, my interest in urban tourism was generated by chance. I was invited by a senior politician to hear a speech that he would be making at the English Tourist Board. As I had at that time no practical interest in tourism, he had to persuade me that I would enjoy his speech and, incidentally, the copious food and drink that would follow. He was right. As I walked, somewhat erratically, down Lower Regent Street following the event, I started to think about what I described as urban tourism. I realised that my borough, Barnet, like many towns and cities, had much to offer visitors. Lots of famous personalities lived or worked there-for example, Amy Johnson-and there were many places of real interest, one being the exceptional Royal Air Force Museum at Colindale, which has fascinating displays including a hands-on section for children.
Then there is the green belt surrounding Barnet with its rural parks and open spaces. We have heard about rural England from other speakers. Consulting with Barnet's local studies historian and archivist, I ascertained that there were many notable people and places of pilgrimage in our borough. William Wilberforce-he of the abolition of slavery-prayed at St Paul's church, while his friend Sir Stamford Raffles has a tomb at St Mary's Hendon. For those interested in church monuments, there are monumental brasses to be rubbed, notably at Finchley and Hadley. I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate for talking about the place that churches can play both in religion and in tourism. We are also in close proximity to the great estate of Kenwood, with its historic house and grounds.
I am sure that Barnet is not alone in having more to offer tourists than at first meets the eye. This situation probably applies to many towns and boroughs throughout Britain, which, if they look, will find sights and facilities to promote tourism. I was shocked when I was a council cabinet member I found find that managers of local hotels had little idea of the wealth of interest in the local area. However, once apprised of the possibilities, they were interested in taking them up.
In these difficult times, more conferences will be held outside central London, and our urban conurbations need to develop positive facilities for these and to promote places of interest for the non-attending partners of delegates.
What about the bikes for hire in London? Surely there is scope for rides through the Royal Parks, or guided bicycle tours of London's historic centre. More
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I have concentrated on London, but the same rationale can be applied to many places in Britain. For example, my children were at university in Manchester, which is another example of a large town with an industrial background where many visitors interested in industrial history, manufacturing and the growth of urban life will find sites of interest.
With the rise in the use of the internet and mobile phone apps, particularly among the young, promoting one's area on these media is essential for successful tourism. My plea is that tourism is not only for the headline-catching events, but these certainly have their place. We are starting a decade of major international sporting events hosted across Britain, with the Olympic Games. Our travel, hospitality and tourism industries have a wonderful opportunity to boost tourism, show the country's great attractions and increase and enhance Britain's popularity and reputation as a five-star tourist destination. We need to encourage everyone to enjoy seeing as much of our country as possible and to travel widely throughout our urban and rural landscapes, across the great diversity of interest and enjoyment that our country can provide.
Government can help. The noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, referred to a speech on tourism last year by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. I shall quote from that, because there was not a lot of quote in what the noble Lord said. The Prime Minister said that,
We are known as a country with a temperate climate-and reference has been made to our weather in this debate. It is interesting, at least. Our countryside ranges from pleasant to magnificent, but we should not forget our towns and suburbs, both ancient and modern, with much to offer the tourist. We had a lot of statistics from the noble Viscount, but I shall quote just one. Cultural tourism is Britain's fifth largest industry, our third largest export earner and worth about £115 billion a year. This is good, but it could be made even better and more versatile, and I welcome this debate.
In conclusion, I thank you all for your kindness in this my first-some would say unusual-week in your Lordships' House, and I hope to contribute to the civilised debate, for which this House is famous, for many useful years to come.
Lord Palmer: My Lords, I still find it a little strange no longer to be the only Lord Palmer in this House. I have never before received so many Christmas cards, but it gives me enormous pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord on his thought-provoking maiden speech, which was delivered with distinction and fluency. He
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I, too, congratulate the noble Viscount on introducing his first debate and for his comprehensive view of the United Kingdom's tourism industry. I concur with everything that he said. I also congratulate him on attracting a record number of maiden speakers, pro rata, in this debate, which only goes to show how strongly Members of this House feel about this subject. Back in 1995, I had the privilege to lead a debate on the arts and heritage, which then attracted a record number of maiden speakers, who included an Earl, a Viscount and a noble Lord from these Benches. Sadly, such an occasion is no longer possible.
I must declare an interest, because I open my home and gardens to the visiting public. As such, I am very dependent on a vibrant tourism industry. Sadly, our income from tourism has recently fallen drastically-20 years ago, I used to be relatively content with 12,000 visitors a year; last year we were lucky to attract a little more than 5,000. It does not take a financial genius to work out what a sizeable drop of income that represents. This affects not only our income but that of the local economy in the sparsely populated area of the Scottish borders, which during the summer and indeed the winter months-with shooting, for example-is so dependent on tourism. The noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, made that very point, particularly with regard to the West Country.
In my small capacity as a tourist attraction operator, I employ five full-time people and a further 15 part time. I believe that due to our repeat business which we are fortunate to experience, we have a product worth selling, but we are up against all the odds, not least of all the price of petrol, the increase in VAT and fierce competition from overseas. If one looks at the travel pages in the daily press, in theory-I emphasise, in theory-one can go to Malta, for example, for £299 per person, all inclusive. I repeat, all inclusive. That includes flights, board, lodging and all drinks for seven nights. A first-class open rail ticket from King's Cross to Edinburgh now costs nearly £400. That is simply for one journey.
I know of one noble Lord who visited my home, among others in the Scottish borders, whose total bill for the week was well over £2,000. I confirmed this with him only last night. How can visitor attractions in this country possibly compete with what is on offer overseas?
I wish to concentrate on the grotesquely unfair tax-air passenger duty or APD. It is an utter myth that this is an environmental tax, given that private planes and cargo planes are exempt. The one group of people who really could afford APD are those with the luxury of owning a private plane or a part-share in one. Holland and Belgium have recently abandoned their equivalent, realising the damage that APD has done to their economies. Meanwhile, in the past six years, APD in this country has risen by a staggering 325 per cent. London is far more of an expensive destination than all our rival European cities, especially for those coming from China, India, Australasia and
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Not unnaturally, more and more travellers living in the regions are increasingly choosing to fly long haul via Amsterdam, Paris or Frankfurt rather than Heathrow, in order to avoid this tax. Her Majesty's Government have announced that they are looking at APD and I sincerely believe that all these points must be taken on board and action must be taken as soon as possible.
One of my pet hates about tourism in the United Kingdom is the lengthy queues at immigration desks on entering this country, especially early in the morning when only a small number of desks appear open and a vast number of passengers are arriving after a long and exhausting overnight flight. That is so unwelcoming and surely it is a problem that could be so easily rectified. I urge the Minister to take this on board. The noble Viscount and others mentioned the forthcoming Royal wedding and next year's Olympic Games. The results of the review of the APD must be in place well before the first of those two important events.
Lord Stoneham of Droxford: My Lords, it is an honour and a privilege to speak to the House for the first time. I would like to thank the House and especially its staff for the welcome and support that I have experienced during my introduction and induction. It has been very much appreciated. Coming in as a long-time supporter of reform of this House, the warmth of my welcome has made me recall the advice of my former mentor, friend and colleague Roy Jenkins-a most distinguished past Member of this House-who, echoing the words of Adlai Stevenson, always advised us to be cautious. He said, "Enjoy the House of Lords, but don't inhale".
Like Roy Jenkins, I have been a long-standing European. I am a little sad that it was in my home village of Droxford in Hampshire, now associated with me in this House, that Churchill made his intemperate response to General de Gaulle that when it came to the point, he would always side with the USA against France. The fierce arguments two days before D-Day in June 1944 took place on a train on the sidings of Droxford station, now sadly closed. I like to think that the intemperate atmosphere that day was not helped by the tactless choice of Churchill to meet a French statesman in a railway carriage so soon after the French surrender at Compiègne. Anthony Eden and Ernest Bevin did their best to contradict the views of Churchill that day but Harold Macmillan sadly felt the consequences of this conversation 18 years later.
I have spent most of my business career in the newspaper industry, both in regional and national newspapers. For 10 years, I was based just over the downs from Droxford in Portsmouth. There I became firmly committed to the view that successful
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When I went to work in Portsmouth 21 years ago, it had unemployment of over 10 per cent. The naval dockyard was in severe decline. The community simply had to diversify from its overdependence on the Navy. Fortunately, Portsmouth had a vision of what needed to be done, and developing tourism lay at the heart of it. The Renaissance of Portsmouth Harbour partnership was formed, which I chaired. It involved the private, public and voluntary sectors to regenerate and restructure the whole Portsmouth harbour frontage into the world asset that it deserves to be. Funds came from private developers and were combined with lottery funding and other funds to link existing and new attractions on the harbour-side. Two million people have visited the Spinnaker Tower since it was built five years ago, and the city region now benefits from over £400 million in spending by 7.2 million visitors a year. As important as the new jobs and revenues, tourism has helped shape a new perception of Portsmouth so that it can attract new business and investment.
I like to think that the Portsmouth partnership will be seen as a forerunner of the local enterprise partnerships. They will have a major role to play in developing tourism. Portsmouth has joined the new Solent Partnership with its great rival Southampton and the Isle of Wight. There remain great opportunities for other regeneration work in the old dockyard. There is a new museum for the "Mary Rose" and the Royal Navy to come. Tourism will continue to be a strong source of jobs and economic growth. Portsmouth will not stand still. I am also glad that the Navy, despite its cutbacks, has found funds to keep HMS "Victory", the flagship of the Second Sea Lord, in her prime.
Tourism is one of our biggest business sectors in the UK and has great economic potential for the country. However, we cannot be complacent and just rely on our innate heritage, culture and countryside. In a very competitive global market, tourism needs renewal and investment. It will be an important outlet of jobs over the coming decade. It is a fact that the largest proportion of our young people get their first experience of work in the tourism and hospitality sectors. In terms of skill enhancement, the experience of work and confidence-building among young people, tourism has an important role to play. The Government can help with initiatives for employment training and work experience for those finding it difficult to enter the labour market.
It is essential that the Government set a stable and encouraging environment for tourism to develop. At a time when funds will be short, though, we should be looking again at a costless initiative to boost the tourism industry. I support the view expressed today by my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, who I worked with at the Times, that the Government, in their forthcoming review of tourism, should put the extension of British Summer Time back on the political agenda. That would directly benefit tourism in this country. I thank the House for listening to my views today.
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be able to congratulate my noble friend Lord Stoneham on an excellent maiden speech. He brings to this House a great deal of talent and a huge amount of experience. He told us some of the things that he has done in Portsmouth, and we all congratulate him on them, but he has done all sorts of other things too. He might well have enjoyed his time in the Labour Party but it could not have been a bundle of fun to be treasurer during the 1979 election for the campaign for Labour victory. He moved from there, however-he obviously did not inhale the Labour Party enough to satisfy himself-and, in a way, he became a maternity nurse because he oversaw the beginning of the Alliance. More recently, he was on the Alliance's merger committee, so he has had a wealth of experience in politics. He has stood for Parliament four times, and the other place's loss is our gain because it is a delight to welcome him here. I am also pleased that one of his interests is housing because the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and I have taken part in debates on that and welcome a new face in them. We look forward to hearing my noble friend a great deal more in future. I thank him for a very good speech.
I thank my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie, a fellow Scot, whose father was my first Secretary of State when I was a Whip for Scotland many blue moons ago. There is no doubt that my noble friend's late father would be immensely proud of what his son is doing in the House and of his introducing the debate today.
I declare my interest. I run a heritage visitor attraction in the north of Scotland, am a trustee and have involvement with other visitor attractions. I also take an active part in ancestral tourism. When I discussed this debate with a friend yesterday, he said, "Goodness, tourism is going so well that I would not spend any money on it". At first blush, he might be right. As my noble friend Lord Younger said, the picture is good. Tourism is Britain's fifth largest industry, its third largest export turnout and worth about £115 billion a year. Overseas visitors contribute some £3 billion to the Treasury every year. Tourism supports over 200,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and, according to the Nation Brands Index, in terms of culture the UK is fourth out of 50.
In Scotland-I will, not surprisingly, speak mostly about Scotland-tourism accounted for £11.1 billion of GDP, which is over 10 per cent, and over a quarter of a million jobs, again over 10 per cent of the total. A disproportionate number of those jobs are in the Highlands. Recently, the National Geographic Traveler included the Scottish Highlands as one of its 20 best trips of 2011. We welcome that greatly. I look forward to more visitors to the Highlands but it must be remembered that those visitors will also go through London and probably Edinburgh-or one of the two. Those cities will benefit and we in the Highlands tend not to get much back from them. Recent reports predict growth throughout the United Kingdom including the north of Scotland, so perhaps when I discussed that with my friend yesterday he was right.
Yet it is clear from the debate that not everything is rosy in the garden. We need to protect and enhance the jewel that we have in tourism. The Government need to recognise what it contributes to the country. I was interested by what my noble friend Lord Lee said on that, having been a Minister for Tourism. I know that it is not given the recognition that it deserves by government. We have no divine right to expect tourists to come here. We are losing our share of international tourism. In competitive terms, in 2009 the UK was down five places from where it was in 2008. It looks as if the goose that lays the golden eggs is being slowly strangled. There are warnings here for the national Government in Westminster and the regional Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
On the national Government, the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, mentioned inbound immigration costs. He will be horrified to know that the UK Border Agency aims for a 45-minute wait for those coming from outside Europe but fails to achieve this 30 per cent of the time. The cost of coming to the UK is horrific. It is ranked 133 out of 133 nations on price competitiveness. The ease of access of coming to the UK between 2006 and 2012, so far as airline seat capacity is concerned, has increased by only 2.9 per cent whereas the capacity of France is up 6.3 per cent while Germany has risen to 5 per cent. Those are not good trends. The red lights are flashing.
While on the cost of travel, I pick up again what the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, said on airport duty. Would the Minister spare time after this debate to look at the cost of booking a flight to Wick in July? She will find that the airport duty-tax and fees-alone is more than the entire cost of a flight, including taxes and fees, to either Milan or Malta on the same date. That is stupid. It is cutting our own throats and stops people wanting to come here.
As the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said in his excellent speech, tourism is a devolved matter. In Scotland we are lucky to have an agency such as VisitScotland that has such a good brand to sell. I said I was interested in ancestral tourism. In 2009 in Scotland we had the Homecoming, which was a major attraction throughout Scotland. The prime event was the Gathering in Edinburgh, which was organised by the private sector. My noble friend Lady Wheatcroft is absolutely right to say that the private sector should drive such things. Although it is disappointing that it lost money, it is worth reflecting on the figures. In the end, when all the costs were in, about 20 per cent of the budget came from public funding but the return on public funding as a result of the Gathering was 20:1. It produced something like £10.4 million for the Scottish economy and £8.8 million for Edinburgh. The projected rate of investment return was 8:1 but, as I said, it was 20:1. The Scottish Government are planning another Homecoming in 2014, when I hope there will be another Gathering. We have the blueprint and have learnt some lessons but there needs to be much better co-ordination and help across all sectors, including the Government and all agencies. However, it must be run by the private sector because it is the private sector that brings ancestral tourism back to this country.
That working relationship needs to be addressed in another area, too. It was quite right that the tourist boards were abolished; they were bureaucratic and not doing their job. The destination marketing organisations are a much better way forward. They need to be mean and lean and private sector-driven, but they do need the support of local government and its agencies. Local government and the agencies often think that they can do things better than the private sector, when they should be working in partnership.
I mention one thing that has not been mentioned so far: signage on roads. We have a five-star tourist attraction called Caithness Horizons in Thurso. It has been open for two and a half years but there is still no agreement between TranServ and Travel Scotland about signing it on the main trunk road to Thurso. It is ludicrous. How can visitors to the country begin to realise what we have and come to appreciate it?
I have mentioned what the Government should be doing and what the agencies should be doing but the private sector also needs to get its act together. We are not working in as united a way as possible. There are huge challenges ahead. We are subject to vast international competition. Visitors are even more demanding than they have been in the past. Unless we produce the right quality of visitor attraction and service in the hotel they will not come again. That is, without doubt, a very clear message. We have problems with the quality of staff. Getting the right quality of staff and retaining them when you have such a short tourist season as we have in the north of Scotland is a major problem. The private sector needs help on that.
One of my major concerns is the plethora of windmills that have appeared on skylines, and which are edging the beautiful light that we have in the countryside into a flickering light that will put off every tourist who comes near the place.
I will close on one thing that I was not going to mention but has been mentioned-that is, daylight saving. I know that all your Lordships would expect me, coming from the far north of Scotland, to be against daylight saving. I have not come across anybody in Caithness who does not want the change. We realise that farming methods have changed considerably. It was quite right that 20 years ago daylight saving would have been a huge disbenefit to us. Now it would be a benefit and I hope it is one of the things that the Government will introduce.
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, as I rise to speak here for the first time, I am deeply conscious of the privilege and honour of joining your Lordships' House. For me, as a lawyer, it is a particular privilege-and a daunting one-to be joining the substantial cohort of distinguished lawyers who sit on these Benches and across the whole House.
I start by thanking my two supporters. My noble friend Lord Goodhart is one of the most distinguished of those lawyers whom I mentioned and has been a
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I am also hugely grateful for the generosity of my welcome here across the House, both from my own party and from Peers of all parties and none. Before arriving here, I used to think that I had a good sense of direction-so good, in fact, that in common, I am told, with many of my gender I never needed to seek directions when lost. Here, however, I have been completely humbled by the layout of this Palace and, had it not been for the enormous help of the Doorkeepers and all the other staff, I would never have found my way anywhere at all. I thank all the amazing staff of this House for their constant help and kindness over the two weeks-two rather full weeks, I might add-since I arrived here.
As a barrister, I have practised in recent years mostly in the largely unrelated fields of commercial and family law, but for much of my career I have had a far wider general practice. I hope to put my experience at the Bar to good use in your Lordships' House. Politically, I chaired the Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association for six years and served, also for six years, on the party's federal policy committee. However, I come to this House with no previous parliamentary experience and was never a Member of the other place. That was not for want of trying, as in the 1980s I stood twice as a candidate for the House of Commons, first in Weston-super-Mare and then in Falmouth and Camborne. I also stood as a candidate for the European Parliament for Cornwall and Plymouth.
It was in connection with Cornwall in particular that I became interested in both the opportunities and the challenges offered by tourism, which was then and is now even more so Cornwall's principal industry. It is for that reason that I have chosen to speak in this debate. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie for bringing it to this House. For Cornwall, the challenge has been and remains to attract high-quality tourism that is not unduly dependent on the weather and that extends over a season beyond the traditional tourist summer months-and to do so in a sustainable way, where the demands of high tourist numbers do not damage the quality of the very environment that makes Cornwall unique.
Cornwall is of course blessed with a natural landscape of remarkable beauty, but it has also had great successes achieved by the imagination of a large number of people. They include, to name but a few, the development of the Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and a great many wonderful smaller private gardens, and the Tate at St Ives and the revival of interest in the Newlyn school of painting. However, one step that would, in my view, further assist Cornwall in particular and the tourist industry generally in Britain-this has been mentioned in a swelling chorus in this debate by the noble Viscount, in his opening speech, and by my
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I would also like to say a word or two about the Olympics and Paralympics in the context of tourism. My wife-I thank her and my family for their wonderful help and support-is Greek. We visit Athens regularly. In 2004, we attended a large number of events at the Athens Olympics. I think that there are lessons that we can learn. On the positive side, the organisers had recruited a veritable army of young people, who were there to give advice and help to visitors to the Games not only at the stadia but at metro, bus and tram stations across the city. For those young people, as well as for those whom they helped, this made a profound difference. There are no doubt many whose experience of the Games has built up their confidence and helped them in later life at a difficult time for Greece.
On the negative side, however, while the transport infrastructure built for the Games in Athens has survived and has given a substantial boost to the city's economy, the wonderful sports venues now lie forlorn and derelict, covered in graffiti and strewn with rubbish, maintained, or rather undermaintained, at a public cost of tens of millions of euros annually. It is vital that, following the 2012 Olympics, we ensure that the promise of a long-term legacy that we made in our bid for the Games is kept, so I hope that when the Olympic Park Legacy Company meets again to consider the rival bids for the Olympic stadium early next month it will look to enhance the future of athletics in this country and to take advantage of the regeneration in east London that the Olympics will bring about. That will be good both for the future of sport and for the future of tourism in Britain.
Finally, on the importance of sport to tourism, I mention my own home town, Henley-on-Thames, where I was brought up and where I live now. It has, since 1839, and without any commercial sponsorship or outside subsidy, hosted the Henley Royal Regatta, probably the world's greatest rowing event, which attracts teams and their supporters every year and in increasing numbers from all over the world, to the immeasurable benefit of the local economy of the town and of the wider area. It is a great example of what tourism already does for our economy locally and nationally, but there is a great deal more that we could do to foster and encourage the tourist industry to achieve its full potential. I hope that this debate plays some part in that endeavour and I am grateful for the part that I have been able to play in it.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, after nearly 48 years in this House, I wonder why I feel rather nervous today. I think that it is something to do with the word "maiden" or the fact that there are six maiden speakers in a small debate. When you come to this place, often you have many friends who try to advise you. One of these was the ninth Baron Hawke, who came from a great cricketing
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I should declare an interest in that I have spent much of my life as a business tourist. I like to go to places that I want to go to. I have spoken before on the subject of tourism. I declare first and foremost that I worked for a while with the Midland Bank group. We owned Thomas Cook, the first tour operator. I hate "ism" words. I do not like tourism, fundamentalism or any form of "ism". The tour was the original thing that Thomas Cook did. He set up a train that went from Leicester to Loughborough. Then another member of the family, Miss Jemima, set up the river boats on the Nile.
I will concentrate today on infrastructure. I went out to see why Thomas Cook was not doing very well on the Nile. I came back to my hotel one night and felt really ill. I realised that I had that classic disease known as gippy tummy, a cousin of Delhi belly. I wondered what the problem was and was told that it was the sewers. I went off and asked if we could rebuild the sewers. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, will understand this, because he is a specialist in the doubtful underground tunnelling machinery that I have used in my life. I came back and suggested that we should redo the sewers of Cairo. Before long, I was rather proud to tell my colleagues that I had won a contract to rebuild the sewers, because tourism was fading and it was disease that was killing it. Then in the Times-this was nothing to do with my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, whom I had not met at the time-I saw the headline, "UK Cashes in on His Lordship's Stomach". I was caught. What happened was that if you get the infrastructure right, suddenly things change. I use Egypt as a simple example. Its tourism industry is booming because there is no disease.
One of our problems in the United Kingdom may well be the lack of necessary infrastructure. I declare another interest. For six years I chaired the Greater London and South East Council for Sport and Recreation, responsible for planning sport and recreation in Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, so help me God. We had a team of 152. The Government thought that the more people one brought together to do things, the better. We had quite a lot of money to spend. However, I realised that we had something like 85 active sports. Now, if you want the British to do something, the best thing that you can do is to get them to enjoy it. We did not worry about trying to stop ILEA closing down playing fields for children. We set out to create fun. We
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I turn now to the infrastructure of tourism and the points that have been made so far. In order to attract people to the United Kingdom, we have to make it easy and economic to get here. However, we must not look solely at tourism, because we are looking to attract people to invest and build businesses here. I remember working with Peter Walker and the Welsh Development Agency. We created a wonderful network of new technology that went all the way down to Hereford, the Wye valley and beyond. It was the same with Silicon Glen in Glasgow and Scotland.
Attracting people here is important. It is an attractive place to be. When we were trying to get the Japanese firm Nissan to come here, the most important thing was whether they could be members of a golf club. We even put in a proposal for the creation of a new golf club. If one wants to attract tourists, one should think about the facilities and the infrastructure.
It is pretty pathetic that we had to shut our airports, that we could not keep them open this winter and that we were putting people off coming here. It is also disturbing that, as has been pointed out, the costs of coming to the United Kingdom from parts far away are so high. We have forgotten that there is in this world a kind of heritage. Every Commonwealth country has a heritage relationship with us. We know that when the Australians come they flood into Earls Court, kangaroo country. Others will go to different parts of England. It is those relationships that we need to build on, to make this place an attractive place to come to, a place where people want to work. We can look at the tourism-if we could use that word without the "ism", I would prefer it-of teaching people the language; we could look at schools, games and sports. There is the boom that may take place as we look towards not only the Olympics but Her Majesty's Jubilee year. Few of us will forget the time of the last Jubilee, when the whole of the Mall was crowded with the most amazingly mixed-culture group of people that you have ever seen, or the spirit of good will that was in the air.
I have envied the noble Lord, Lord Marks, for a long time. I had to take professional risks in the construction industry when we did not have the benefit of his advice. As he knows, he is in one of the oldest buildings in the world, which may well not conform to some of the high standards that he has been used to in his professional career. I regret that we have lost the Law Lords. We had 107 people to whom we could turn for free advice, but the addition of the noble Lord,
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Lord Risby: My Lords, I add my appreciation, as have so many who have made their maiden speeches this afternoon, for the real kindness and friendliness which has been shown to me. It is deeply appreciated and sincerely expressed. I also express my appreciation for the helpfulness and encouragement of the staff of the House of Lords. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Younger on introducing this debate in such a comprehensive way and putting it into such a good context.
I also take this opportunity to express my appreciation of my two supporters: first, my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden, whose work in Northern Ireland was hugely successful and greatly beneficial, as I saw for myself, and characterised by his immense modesty; and, secondly, my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever, whose good sense, wisdom and judgment I heard on many occasions in many meetings over the years.
In 1997, I became a shadow Minister for culture, media and sport, and enjoyed the tourism brief. I am pleased to say that today there is a dedicated tourism Minister. In those days of a somewhat passionate honeymoon for the incoming Government, it was not particularly easy to be an opposition spokesman, but it gave me a wonderful opportunity to travel to many parts of the country to meet people engaged in the tourism industry. I visited Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, where I had the opportunity to stay with the local Member of Parliament-a Liberal Democrat. At the time, one or two eyebrows were raised by local Conservatives at that act of minor political ecumenism, but I like to think that it was an act of prescience, even if it took 12 years to come to proper fruition.
Of course, we cannot account for our weather. It is eccentric and not predictable. People will travel abroad in their droves to go to sunnier climes where the weather is more predictable. However, the point about our tourist offer is that we have an astonishing variety of places to visit and activities in which to share.
There is something of the Heineken effect with the tourism industry, in that it spreads to all parts of the United Kingdom, but I want to talk about London for a moment. We have an incomparable cultural life in this city with our opera, ballet, music and galleries and, perhaps above all, our theatre, which really is the jewel in the crown. Year after year and decade after decade, we have playwrights, producers, directors, actors and actresses of the highest possible quality, and they thrill us with their performances. Of course, we are blessed to have the English language, which draws many people to this city. As one goes down the Thames, it is wonderful to see the juxtaposition of an ancient building such as the Tower of London set against the Gherkin. We are comfortable with all the architectural
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There has been a lot of discussion about the branding of tourism. I think that the Prime Minister got it right when he talked about there being a spectrum from Glyndebourne to Glastonbury. I know something about rock concerts and music festivals because my daughter would disappear for days on end and be totally incommunicado at such events. However, they are certainly a great draw for young people, particularly from China and south-east Asia. We also outclass other places in our exhibitions of fashion and design. Modernity and creativity are very much part of our national offering.
We ourselves are in an iconic building. Big Ben is something of a national symbol, and opposite is the London Eye-again, a perfect example of the juxtapositions that I am talking about. Of course, we are served very well in this country because there is nothing in the world comparable with the National Trust, English Heritage and the Historic Houses Association. What is so marvellous is that the people of this country really cherish the built architectural heritage and want to share it with others.
We have heard about some of the events that lie before us in tourist terms: the royal wedding, the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. Following their hosting of the Olympics, Barcelona and Sydney experienced an enormous increase in visitor numbers. I very much welcome the £100 million overseas marketing fund, which aims to deliver an additional 1 million visitors and £2 billion in extra revenues. Tourism contributes 8.7 per cent of our GDP, and that will undoubtedly be boosted by those events.
I live in a part of England which does not have hosts of golden daffodils by lakes-we do not have very much water in Suffolk. We have not mountains or soaring cliffs but a gentle landscape. However, we do have the music by people such as Benjamin Britten and the paintings of Constable which were inspired by that landscape. For 18 years, I represented a part of Suffolk in another place. I lived just outside a village called Risby, which was the epicentre of the area, and I saw the importance of the local attractions, whether it was the racecourse at Newmarket, Thetford Forest or the abbey at Bury St Edmunds. As our regional structures of governance are being changed, it is very important that the focus on the local market, and making people aware of that local market, is maintained. Today, we have country houses offering health hydros and wonderful restaurants. The standard of our food has increased enormously and, of course, the multi-ethnic nature of our population means that we have a huge variety on offer.
There has been a lively debate about the structures of tourism in this country, with VisitBritain promoting our country abroad. Of course, the economics are good and bad: we have a substantial trade imbalance
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I conclude by saying that what we offer is unique. It is vital that more people know about it. It is in our national economic interest that that should be the case. It is true that perhaps journalists, real estate agents and politicians may rank low in the esteem of the public. It was perhaps ever thus, but it may be worse than ever now. For myself, I consider it to be a great honour to be here and to be able to continue to play some small part in the public life of our wonderful country.
Baroness Valentine: I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, on securing this important debate. I also congratulate all those who have given their maiden speeches today, which have variously been insightful and humorous. In passing, I point out that London's innovative bike scheme, to which the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, referred, has been provided by a fellow maiden speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, through her position on the board of Barclays.
I also extend a personal welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, whom I have known and respected for many years. In particular, I extend a welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Risby, whose maiden contribution has demonstrated his grasp of the importance of tourism and culture to the UK. I note that he was born in South Africa, which, taken with his chairmanship of the British Ukrainian Society and involvement in the British Syrian Society, will provide a valuable international perspective to your Lordships' debates. His long experience in the other place will add further insight to your Lordships' scrutiny of legislation.
I declare that I am chief executive of London First, which is a not-for-profit business membership organisation that includes QEII, ExCeL, Tottenham Hotspur, AEG and Westfield among its many tourism-relevant members. Think London-London's inward investment agency-is also a separately managed subsidiary of London First. I have much to declare, but also, I hope, some insight to share.
I join the choir of honourable members singing the praises of our cherished heritage and outstanding arts and culture sectors. Annual tourism revenue is more than £100 billion, with some 2.5 million jobs in hospitality alone. The sector contributes more than £34 billion in gross tax revenue. On this scale, tourism can make a significant contribution to desperately sought economic growth. What is more, with our currently competitive exchange rate and with a bit of investment, it can make that contribution now.
The UK offers a tremendous package-Bath's Georgian delights, Shakespeare's Stratford, Edinburgh's Royal Mile, and the Brecon Beacons' natural splendour- but London is the gateway to the UK. Three-quarters
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As for the promotion of London, the deckchairs are moving. The mayor is bringing together Visit London, Think London and potentially Study London into a new, merged promotional agency. I look forward to that agency building on the Think London staff team's business ethos, which has ensured that London has remained the top destination for inward investment in Europe for many years. However, I regret that the funding for this agency was temporarily mislaid before Christmas. That seems extraordinary at a time when we are building up to the Olympics and suggests that somebody somewhere is not taking the role of promotion and tourism seriously, despite its-and London's-manifest contribution to economic growth and, indeed, the sector's tax contribution.
The new agency has an opportunity to address one of London's shortcomings. Business tourism already makes a contribution of over £24 billion each year to Britain's economy and accounts for about one in five overseas visitors, but it is unacceptable that London languishes at 16th place in the International Congress and Convention Association rankings. We need to co-ordinate, celebrate and sell London as a world business destination. Decades of debate about the merits of an international convention centre have been overtaken by events-if noble Lords will excuse the pun-as ExCeL now has 100,000 square metres of event space and is a world-class venue. However, the future of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre remains in question. With its unique Westminster location and some imaginative thinking from government, the QEII conference centre could also play its part in London's broad visitor offer.
The Olympics are an obvious opportunity to champion London and the UK to the world. Summer 2012 represents merely the tip of the iceberg. I would not dare opine on the merits of football versus athletics as a future use for the stadium. My plea to the Olympic Park Legacy Company is to dare to dream of a new visitor destination in east London-including the Olympic park itself and the area south to the O2, east to ExCeL and London City Airport and west to Canary Wharf-to create something fabulous for visitors, businesses and residents alike. The Mittal Orbit tower will be iconic, Westfield Stratford will be Europe's largest urban shopping centre and there will even be a river crossing-which the Mayor quips will be a tribute to the Business Secretary-by cable car. Most vital is the stadium's role in securing the overall vision of a dynamic east London. Alongside the iconic, we need the prosaic-business investment and jobs for local people.
Finally, may I nudge the Minister on two issues? First, as other noble Lords have suggested, will she consider making tourist visas less restrictive, time-consuming and expensive? Of the 2 million increasingly spendthrift Chinese visitors to Europe each year, only 5 per cent visit London. Taiwanese visitor numbers soared by 40 per cent when similar restrictions were
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I conclude by wishing all power to the Tourism Minister's elbow. She has a superministry wrapped up in a microministry-a big unpolished diamond that just needs a bit of burnishing to demonstrate its true value. For growth, balance of trade and jobs, tourism is the gift that keeps on giving.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, for securing this debate and for introducing it in such an interesting and informative way. He was able to draw out key points about the importance of tourism to our economy and illustrated them with some detailed factual information. A lot of the points that many other noble Lords picked up in their speeches make it clear that this is a vital part of our economy. He also pointed out the risks if we do not improve our offer. I cannot really agree with him about the clocks, although I know that that is not a very popular view, given that so many people have suggested that we should revisit this issue, because I come from Scotland, I lived through the earlier experiments and I did not like them. I encourage everyone to join the new campaign to bring back high tea, which is clearly the answer to a lot of our problems. The noble Viscount and I are on opposite sides of the debate today although, in truth, we are not really very far apart in what we say. We share other interests in Scotland and in Buckinghamshire and agree about the need to preserve the Chilterns, which I regard as a beautiful area of the country that currently has much to offer foreign and domestic tourists.
It speaks volumes for the topic selected by the noble Viscount for our short debate today that it has attracted a very high number of speakers, including an amazing six maiden speeches, and has prompted the addition of half an hour to the debate, something that I have not seen since I joined the House. I join other noble Lords in congratulating those who have made excellent maiden speeches today. Having only recently given my own maiden speech, I know all too well the heady mixture of exhilaration and sheer terror that accompanies that event. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said, it is a necessary part of the process. Indeed, once their maiden speech has been completed, noble Lords have access to all the important activities in the House in which they will play their part.
I enjoyed the use that the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, made of her journalistic background to inform the debate. Her experience of working in a pub will obviously play on some of the points made about employment and other things. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, opened our eyes to urban tourism, of which I had not heard. It is certainly interesting and, as he said, once one begins to dig into
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The noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, warned us not to inhale, but he also gave us important information about the new LEPs and their contribution to tourism. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, drew on his experience in Henley and Cornwall to bring out points about tourism. He made a valuable point about the dangers that will accompany the expenditure and support of the Olympic Games if the site is not maintained and carried forward. Those words were wisely made. The noble Lord, Lord Risby, told us-I think it was tongue in cheek, but we may never know-that as a result of a visit to the Isles of Scilly he might claim credit for starting the coalition, so we know who to blame.
In no sense do I want to diminish the debate for other noble Lords, but there were so many detailed points that I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not go through them one by one, but I will refer to them as I make the remainder of my remarks. The test of whether any debate in the Lords is a success is that, having read it, you feel that you have been informed and are up to date on every point that should bear on the issue in question. Today, we have amply exemplified that.
This has been a high-level debate with practitioners and two former Ministers, many of whom have direct experience of operating visitor attractions. It was good natured, good humoured, informative and competitive. I now have a long list of places that I really have to visit all around the United Kingdom, which have been compellingly argued for by noble Lords who have spoken. The debate was also celebratory of the best of Britain, which is what it should be.
Many noble Lords set out the key facts affecting the current economic contribution of tourism to the UK economy. I will not repeat them, but they are impressive. I should like to make two points about the way in which they have been brought out. First, on direct tourism, it is very interesting to reflect that the proportion of jobs in tourism varies across the United Kingdom. We find a far higher proportion of tourism-related jobs in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the periphery of England than we do in the centre.
Looking at the wider contribution that tourism makes to our economy, which many people have said is probably 8.9 per cent or 9 per cent of GDP, it is interesting that most of that seems to happen primarily, and has most effect, in rural areas. It employs a large number of part-time staff. Sometimes it is very difficult to find part-time work, which is often female dominated. It is often difficult for females to find jobs outside the city centres. It is also important that we should recognise that it encourages entrepreneurship through some 200,000 SMEs, although most of them have a very small turnover.
It is clearly an important industry with interesting characteristics. It has been described as invisible, which I hope will change now that the department has a Tourism Minister who clearly has the support of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. However, as several noble Lords have said, our tourism on offer
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Because international tourism is a very competitive business these days, we are not doing so well in overseas markets, particularly in Asia. European competitors seem to do much better, and we must get to the bottom of why that is. However, as I have said before and as many noble Lords have said, we have a great deal to offer. We should not be shy in that and should not pretend that we have any difficulty in what we offer to people when they come.
However, there are barriers and problems. The industry is fragmented and there might be some significant market failures in information flows, marketing spend and co-ordination. There is a honey-pot effect in that 20 per cent of attractions appear to receive about 80 per cent of visits. I think that that might have been one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, whose wonderful house I have visited and who said that he had seen a decline in numbers over time. However, other visitor attractions seem to be doing well. Tourism is an industry with low wages, particularly because of part-time jobs. It certainly has poor training, partly because of short-termism, partly because there are no major players and partly because of poor industrial co-ordination.
As has been mentioned, there have been substantial grant support cuts amounting to 15 per cent over four years in the arts and heritage sectors, which of course drive tourism. There are sharp cuts in funding for VisitBritain and VisitEngland; I think the figure is 34 per cent by 2014-15. As the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, said, the RDAs are being abolished, although there will be a regional growth fund worth £1.4 billion, which does have space for tourism and which the new local enterprise partnerships have to bid for.
In answer to a Question last year in this House, we were told that the Government estimated that the total spend on marketing in the tourism sector, both public and private, was around £240 million, although I expect it will be a lot less this year. Of course, this is an industry that has what is called the free rider effect. You cannot really expect so many local small businesses to do what is best funded and led by national or regional bodies.
There are opportunities. We have heard about the royal wedding, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games as part of the decade of sport, and they must offer a ray of hope. As a British tourism study says, all these events provide a global opportunity to invite the world to visit Britain, and the Olympic Games alone have a potential tourism benefit of around £2.1 billion between now and 2017. Clearly, all of us want to ensure that that is realised.
Currently, the Government say that they are formulating their tourism policy. When she responds, perhaps the Minister will give us at least a trailer about what is in store. Let me end by posing her some questions about that in the hope that they might draw her out. Can she share with us when we are likely to see the tourism strategy? I read in the Prime Minister's speech in August last year that it would be presented
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It sounds like a good idea, and if they are talking about £188 billion by 2020 and 250,000 new jobs, surely we want a share of that. It occurs to me that if there has to be a plan B for the economy, maybe the Minister and her department should make the case to the Chancellor that a slice of the £3 billion in tax receipts should be returned to her department as an investment fund that could then be deployed to support the tourism sector, something I am sure we would all support.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Younger for bringing this issue before the House. He spoke eloquently and gave a comprehensive overview of the value of tourism to the UK economy, its many possibilities and the challenges. I also take the opportunity to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, to his new role. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, and in particular add my congratulations to the six new Members who have made outstanding maiden speeches which have added to the quality of this debate and ensured that we will look forward to their future contributions in your Lordships' House.
We have heard today about the real contribution that tourism makes to our national and local economies. It can be an underestimated industry, but not for this Government; for us it is a priority. We heard the concerns from my noble friends Lord Lee, Lord Caithness and Lord Risby that it may not be given due regard, but the appointment of a designated tourism Minister is one of the aspects which shows our seriousness. Further, in his third month in office, the Prime Minister gave a keynote speech on tourism and spoke again in its support at the launch of the Government's major new marketing campaign for tourism, to which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, referred.
Tourism is our third highest export earner. It generates around £90 billion of direct business for the economy and more than £115 billion in indirect business, as well as being one of our largest employers. Of the 200,000 plus
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However, tourism has the capacity to achieve more and grow more, and the Government will help it to do so. It has been projected that tourism could generate 150,000 new jobs and an extra £34.5 billion for the economy by 2020 alone. We need to make sure that that potential becomes reality.
Let us just think of what this country has to offer-we have heard so many aspects today. We have breathtaking scenery-we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, about the importance of rural tourism and from the noble Lord, Lord Marks, about Cornwall and Henley. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, spoke about the glories of the urban scene, which I shall mention again shortly. We offer a range of hospitality, from bed-and-breakfast to internationally renowned hotels. We have great regional, national and international food and drink, and incomparable history and heritage-we heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford about the magnificent churches and cathedrals in our country, with which go the wonderful musical and other traditions associated with the church. We can boast culture, sport and forthcoming major events, including, as has been indicated, the royal wedding, Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympic Games and the Cultural Olympiad. The noble Lord, Lord Risby, mentioned the glories of our theatres and our buildings, and the treasures of the National Trust.
However, we need a new approach to maximise the industry's potential, to move Britain up the rankings as an international destination and to provide a real boost for domestic tourism. The Government aim to help the industry in three ways: by creating a sustained legacy from the 2012 Olympics and other major events that the UK is due to host over the next few years-we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and others of the importance of that Olympic legacy; by supporting and promoting domestic tourism and therefore boosting domestic visitor expenditure; and by helping to raise the sector's productivity and performance so that UK tourism can compete more effectively in an increasingly crowded international market. I shall say a little more about that later.
Over the next four years, the Government will invest nearly £130 million in VisitBritain and VisitEngland. The very necessary public sector savings that we are making must apply to tourism funding as well as to other areas, but we aim to protect our priority programmes and focus the cuts on administration. We recognise that it is vital that government and industry work more closely together to develop a robust and rational investment model for tourism. As has already been mentioned, we have challenged British business to come together with government to create the best-ever overseas tourism marketing campaign for Britain. I am pleased to say that a number of major companies have already pledged their support to help match the
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Through this campaign, we are aiming to deliver 1 million additional overseas visitors to the UK in each of the next four years and £2 billion in extra visitor spend. We can and will create a real legacy for tourism-more visitors, more income, more jobs. We want to attract a larger number of international visitors and we need to do more to encourage UK residents to spend more of their leisure time in this country. I was interested to hear my noble friend Lord Palmer of Childs Hill talk of urban tourism. If he will forgive me, I recall a wonderful sketch many years ago by Peter Sellers entitled "Balham, Gateway to the South". Although it was a spoof, there were grains of truth in its drawing attention to lesser-known attractions in our urban and suburban districts. My noble friend has made a much better fist of promoting Barnet as gateway to the north. As he said, it has a very wide range of history, buildings, culture, sports and parks, as have all the areas of London and further in the regions, to attract local residents as well as people from further afield.
The Government are also addressing the volume and complexity of regulation and the need to encourage tourist businesses through fiscal incentives by tackling that regulation and looking to simplify visa procedures. A number of contributions from your Lordships addressed that theme. We are currently looking at the customer experience at and through airports, and how that might be improved. It is evident from the contributions today that there is certainly room for improvement as part of an evolving strategy.
We have also been looking at visa procedures to try to simplify them and to see how far there is a deterrent effect in the complexity and the cost of having to apply in English, whereas other countries will often accept applications in other languages. Of course, we have to balance that with the elements of the security that our visa system gives us. The benefits, initiatives and marketing campaigns will be felt across all parts of the country, not just in London and other major cities but applied to our rural areas as well.
I turn to particular issues that arose. Noble Lords mentioned that we were not doing very well with India and China. We have recent news that applications for visitor visas from Chinese tourists rose by 40 per cent in the first six months of 2010, compared to last year, and more than 100,000 visa applications were received between January and July 2010-more than 50 per cent more than in the same period last year and way above what was expected. The noble Lords, Lord
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The question of daylight saving cropped up. The noble Viscount, Lord Younger, introduced it but then the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Marks, have all mentioned the issue. Last week there was a half-hour television programme on this. Having been in this House morning, noon and night, I have not had the opportunity to see television for a while, but I have been told that it is still going on out there and that there was a programme on daylight saving that raised the profile of this issue.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that it would be inappropriate to consider making changes in daylight saving unless there was consensus among the four nations of the United Kingdom. We are all agreed that the issue deserves more discussion. My right honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations made the offer during the Private Member's Bill currently going through the other place to publish a review of the evidence and to start a dialogue with the devolved Administrations, because there appears to be a growing body of opinion about daylight saving.
The noble Lord, Lord Christopher, mentioned the specific issue about the Scilly Isles. I looked into that and I understand that the Department for Transport is in receipt of a funding bid from Cornwall Council and will make a decision very soon. We appreciate how fundamentally important tourism is to the economy of the Scilly Isles and the importance of maintaining a ferry link, but I understand that there are also strong feelings about the terminal building and the harbour works, which also need to be resolved or taken into account by Ministers. But it is an ongoing consideration.
The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, and my noble friend Lord Caithness, mentioned the air passenger duty per plane. Of course, tax is a matter for the Chancellor and announcements are generally made on these issues at Budget times. The Government are exploring changes to the aviation tax system, which will be subject to consultation, but I certainly hear what noble Lords say about the costs of travel in this country. They gave some startling comparisons between costs-and the fact that you can take a package holiday abroad for the cost of a train fare within the UK.
My noble friends Lord Stoneham and Lord Marks commented on the opportunities for work experience of one sort or another provided by the Olympics. My noble friend Lord Stoneham mentioned particularly that the tourism and hospitality sectors were very often a source of first employment for young people. Those are areas that we will be taking forward in conjunction with the Department for Education and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, to ensure that there is a package of opportunities for work experience which will be afforded by the upcoming major events in this country.
My noble friend Lord Caithness mentioned the lack of signs on motorways and elsewhere to venues
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My noble friend Lord Selsdon mentioned the importance of fun in all these areas. It would be a mistake in any debate on tourism not to say how much sheer enjoyment is generated by this sector of industry.
The lack of internet connections and lack of technology in tourism cropped up in one or two speeches. Noble Lords may be interested to hear about one aspect of that; last year VisitBritain entered into a memorandum of understanding with Samsung, and there are other ongoing dialogues with the internet industry to try to ensure that we are fully covered for visitors who expect internet provision.
I am aware that I probably have not answered all the questions asked. This has been an extraordinarily rich and varied debate, with contributions from all around the House. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that we have so many opportunities to visit interesting and exciting places in this wonderful country of ours. I very much welcome all the contributions that have been made.
The tourism strategy is waiting to be revealed. My understanding is that it should be published next month. There are a great many strands to it, which my colleagues in DCMS have been trying to tie together. They are hoping for a comprehensive strategy to help move forward in all the ways that have been highlighted in this debate, and to show how our tourism sector deserves maximum support if it is to fulfil the great ambitions we have for it. As I have mentioned, the marketing and public relations campaign is well on target and the Government have been absolutely delighted with the response from a number of major industries on contributing to that campaign. The response from private individuals is also highly necessary if we are to make the most of all the treasures we have to offer in this country and attract people from overseas as well as domestic tourism.
In conclusion, tourism is a priority for government. This has, I hope, been demonstrated by the Prime Minister's public support for tourism, which has not always been the case in previous Administrations. This encouragement has come from the top, and repeatedly. We have secured public funding for tourism for the next four years, in spite of the fact that we live in hard times and there will inevitably be reductions in some areas. The Secretary of State has given backing for a sustainable tourism legacy. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Marks, referred to this important aspect, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, who is very much involved in this issue, and whose expertise we so much value, given all her dealings with London's involvement in the Olympics.
The forthcoming tourism strategy, which is confidently and breathlessly expected, will, I am sure, pull together a number of these issues. With constructive partnership between the industry and government, tourism will continue to play a key part in the UK's economic and fiscal recovery. We face an exciting decade for this vibrant industry. We have already heard the list of one-off events that are coming to this country in the
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If I have not answered any questions, I shall certainly attempt to write to noble Lords with answers. Finally, I thank all noble Lords for their creative and stimulating contributions. In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord Younger for securing the debate. I again congratulate noble Lords who made their maiden speeches.
Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I also thank all those who contributed to today's debate. I am particularly pleased that it struck a chord as being an important debate for the tourism sector and the country as a whole at this particular time.
I pay tribute to the six outstanding, different and thought-provoking maiden speeches. The other contributions were wide ranging and in some cases rather direct, which is no bad thing. I particularly point out the views that came from my noble friends Lord Caithness and Lord Palmer who highlighted the cost of travel within the UK. To conclude, I want to pick out three key themes that the debate brought out. I hope not to take too much of your Lordships' time.
The first theme, which may not surprise noble Lords, is funding. There is no doubt that there is a shortage and that funding is fragmented. I will pick up on a minor point made by the noble Lord, Lord Christopher, when he spoke about his project in Cornwall, which is that Europe is certainly not always forthcoming in producing funds. More importantly, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft correctly pointed out that there was far too much short-termism in investment. That was echoed by my noble friend Lord Stoneham of Droxford who said that there should be much more long-term investment in tourism and from the private sector.
Secondly, it is important that tourism is pushed up the political agenda. In the past, all Governments have not promoted tourism enough. That was pointed out eloquently by my noble friends Lord Lee of Trafford and Lord Caithness. Tourism needs to be in the manifestos of Governments. That is particularly important as there is such a strong link between tourism and job creation, especially at this time.
Thirdly, it is clear that there is a great need to market tourism within all areas of the UK. That was highlighted initially by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, when he spoke about Welsh castles. I think I am right in saying that Asian visitors like them the best. Also, my noble friend Lord Palmer of Childs Hill created an interesting and different angle to the debate when he focused on urban tourism speaking about Barnet and industrial Manchester, and it is right that we should focus on that.
I conclude by highlighting a degree of caution when we look at tourism statistics, because in undertaking research I discovered that there was certainly a need for a degree of consistency and simplification. That is a point for the industry and Government to note for the future. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity to introduce this Question for Short Debate. Well before the strategic defence and security review, Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty, was published, the Church of England already wanted to contribute to the wider debate on our national concern for global security. That was when I was asked, as someone with a background in foreign affairs-albeit mainly in ecclesiastical settings-to be a spokesperson for the church on defence and global security issues. We are also keen to reflect on the nature of the military covenant, whereby we underpin our commitment as a nation to those who risk their lives on our behalf. The impetus for this debate predates both the review and the Strachan report on the military covenant.
The response to the SDSR, when it was published, produced at least as much heat as it did light and, if it is not mixing metaphors too much, it was easy for that to cloud serious reflections on the issues at hand. In my own contribution to the debate on the review, I drew attention to what I believed to be a lack of any full narrative about the global role that we might expect Britain to play and the corresponding resources that might be needed to sustain this. I remain convinced that we should urgently return to that. Of course, the national security strategy has provided some of that narrative in terms of what we ought to be doing as a nation. It is still not clear, however, whether that yet dovetails with the answers that the SDSR gave about what is possible for us to do as a nation, given our finite resources.
We are all sharply aware of the financial restraints placed upon us following a serious global recession. That made the publication of the review a matter of urgency. Indeed, I noted in my reflections that the review had an interim feel to it. There is no time to be lost in making a realistic assessment of the resources available in this next decade and deciding how we might most profitably deploy them so as to make an effective and strategic contribution to global security. I hope that we shall return to a principled debate on strategy in the near future in this House and in the other place.
In preparing for this debate I have consulted a number of people who, from their experience as senior military personnel, have a better reservoir of knowledge than I could ever have. They have generously commented as well on aspects of the military covenant. I shall focus more immediately on the covenant itself, and I begin with a brief local vignette. Six months ago I presided at the service at Halifax Minster for the laying up of the colours of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. The regiment has now become a battalion within the Yorkshire Regiment.
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The stream of funerals at Wakefield Cathedral of service personnel from Afghanistan has been another sharp reminder of the cost of war and of what we expect of those who offer their lives for military service. There is no other role within society where the reality of giving one's life is so sharply within focus, or where the expectations of the role-that is, the covenant with servicepeople and their families-has quite the same edge. Death is one reality that cannot be ruled out, and the rawness of our emotions cannot be downplayed.
This short debate gives us an opportunity to look afresh at the military covenant and how it was covered by the SDSR. I shall focus on the welfare issues within the covenant, allowing others to focus elsewhere if they wish. We can do so, of course, alongside the recommendations of the Strachan report, on which I believe the Government should be duly congratulated. That task force has stimulated fresh ways of thinking about how the Government and society as a whole can fulfil their obligations to develop further the military covenant which, rather like our constitution, is unwritten and is perhaps best left in that form.
All in this House would doubtless agree that ensuring that the covenant is in robust health is as much a moral imperative as it is a strategic one. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those who have served and continue to serve in our Armed Forces. I have already alluded to the potential costs to individuals and families. I shall use this occasion also to pay particular tribute to the dedicated and loyal service provided by those who support them, including our military chaplains past and present. I also pay tribute to reservists, now numbering some 20,000 recently serving. I should say that that includes two clergy from our own diocese, who have been on active service in Iraq and Afghanistan in these past years.
That moves me on to ask some practical questions. First, what steps have been taken to update the existing package on terms and conditions of service, and what is the envisaged timeframe for the development of a new employment model? Alongside this, I am prompted to ask for some indicators in education. The Strachan report points to education throughout the service career as a priority and the SDSR highlights support to ex-service personnel to study at university. I have commented on the Browne report's impact in another debate in the Chamber and would welcome assurance that the changes in higher education funding will not delay the SDSR's recommendations in this area.
I revert to the excellent work of the Strachan task force. As I have hinted, the avoidance of semi-legal language is much to be welcomed. Those noble Lords who have sight of the more scurrilous of the tabloids will know that the Anglican Communion is itself struggling to put together a covenant. Similar issues of legalism or non-legalism have arisen there. I am sure that legalism is best avoided all round. Interestingly, the Old Testament is riven with a number of different models of covenant. The most attractive feature of all of them is an avoidance of a language which legislates. Instead, the model is one of gift. Each partner willingly gifts to the other. Here, we begin with a gift of military service and a paired gift is offered by the nation to all in military service. That gift is shared by government and the wider community. It is eloquently set out in the task force's document.
Within all that, however, we need confidence that such gifting is assured, especially from government. Here there are lacunae. In neither Strachan nor the SDSR is there an analysis of the welfare needs of serving personnel and veterans. Any research into that has been ad hoc and piecemeal. There are real questions about the ability of regiments and corps individually to look after families. There are also specific issues about the adequacy of support for reservists as they return to their normal work following the pressured extremes of military service. These issues argue for a permanent mechanism through which we can review the situation in the future. I realise that the question of how we assess the treatment of Armed Forces personnel has been raised in another place within the context of the Armed Forces Bill. As I understand it, the independent external reference group, which assesses annual progress against the service personnel Command Paper, is due to be phased out or brought in-house to the Ministry of Defence, where its independence is less assured. Could the Minister shed some light on the logic of that decision?
Finally, I accept that this time of financial stringency is hardly one in which to encourage the setting up of new posts and appointments, but ought there not to be someone who effectively acts as the reviewer of armed services welfare? That might be combined with other work while remaining a distinctive function. The reviewer would report to the Secretary of State for Defence perhaps once every four years. Such a statutory measure might help depoliticise our discussions on the military covenant and ensure that the sacrifices that I mentioned earlier are responded to by a proper sense of giftedness from the nation's side of the covenant. Without a clear assurance here, one cannot guarantee the relationship essential in a military covenant. Field Marshal Montgomery commented:
"Theological virtues amount to this: get your major purpose clear, take off your plate all which hinders that purpose and hold hard to all which helps it, and then go ahead with a clear conscience, courage, sincerity and selflessness".
Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield has done us all a service both by initiating this short debate and in his thoughtful and interesting speech. He has done so close on the heels of the debate earlier today held by my noble friend Lord King. I will again concentrate my remarks on the reserves of all three military services, to which the right reverend Prelate referred, and the relevance of the military covenant to them.
I have read the Report of the Task Force on the Military Covenant-the Strachan report-which was published in September. On page 19, paragraph 2.5 addresses the issues of reservists. I very much endorse what it says about the lack of on-base support, which is mostly available to regular service families. In particular, there are practical difficulties for reservists who return rapidly from deployments to their civilian occupations, far removed from military units. I dwelt on this in my noble friend's debate this morning. My interest in this lies, as my noble friend on the Front Bench knows, in my long-serving capacity as honorary colonel and honorary air commodore to medical reserve units.
I will highlight three of the report's policy options in relation to reservists. First, on recognised identity cards for reservists, I was astonished to discover from the report that not all reservists are regularly issued with identity cards. As the rubric at the bottom of the page says, some get them but some do not. Even I get one, much to my astonishment, as the honorary air commodore of a Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadron. What is being done to address this issue, which would perhaps allow such benefits as the practical opportunity to access the joint personnel administration system remotely? What can be done to help those who do not work with the reserves all the time but spend some of their time in civilian employment?
Secondly, there is the question of providing information to reservists' general practitioners. It seems bizarre that, evidently, there is currently no system to transfer an individual's Defence Medical Services records back to his or her GP after deployment. Having spent many years in health administration, I would say that this is extraordinarily poor clinical governance, which should be put right at once. There should also be help for GPs in making available help for reservists. My noble friend on the Front Bench made some encouraging remarks about this earlier. In the days of digital data transmission, I simply cannot believe that it is too complex an issue to administer. I would be very grateful if the Minister could write to me about it in greater detail.
Thirdly, support from employers is part of a theme that I and my colleagues on the National Employer Advisory Board addressed over many years. There should certainly be support from employers but there should also certainly be support for employers, so that they can more readily understand the nature of military service of any kind, but particularly reserve service. We used to have a scheme known as Employers Abroad, which the Americans and Australians call Boss Lift. It allowed employers to visit reservists on exercises and operations so that they experienced some of the activities, witnessed the camaraderie and sense of purpose that existed among their employees' service units and developed
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However, I understand that the Employers Abroad scheme was stopped, or at least put on hold, some six months ago, following a Cabinet Office directive to do with a freeze on marketing. Frankly, sometimes I despair. My colleagues and I have spent 10 years or more, during deployment on two huge operations, at the highest levels of the MoD, explaining the need to win and maintain the support of reservists' employers at a time when some 10 per cent-more than the 20,000 referred to by the right reverend Prelate-of reservists had been deployed. I hope that my noble friend will accept that it is wholly counterproductive in the longer term to diminish that effort and put at risk all the relationships that have been worked on so hard, particularly by SaBRE-Supporting Britain's Reservists and Employers-which has worked at the coal face on this with civilian communities up and down the country. As page 5 of the report on the military covenant says:
"Many people in Britain have little or no contact with the Armed Forces and have little understanding of military life. There is a need to build on public support to create a greater and more enduring understanding".
The right reverend Prelate referred in his comments-perhaps elliptically, although I know that he meant to refer to it-to something called defence career partnering, which is another issue that I was deeply involved with as chairman of the National Employer Advisory Board. It stemmed from a wish to see much more flexibility in the careers of individuals, whether regulars or reservists. However, as we have heard, it has recently developed legs, so to speak, and has produced innovative concepts, some of which are very relevant indeed to the military covenant. They could be helpful across a broad range of circumstances.
It was not always easy to advance the concept of defence career partnering. I spent two years or so as co-chairman of the MoD steering group on the subject. There were those who readily grasped the possibility of positive outcomes for the benefit of defence and industry, but some were not so easily convinced. What surprised me, however, was that there was a very real enthusiasm on the part of industry in many forms to find partnering opportunities, not just in terms of careers but in a much wider sense, so I am encouraged to begin to believe-perhaps my noble friend will confirm whether I am right-that, whereas defence career partnering is not a whole answer to many issues, it is at least part of the answer. The fact that it is owned now by the MoD, not by a single service, is of huge benefit. In some elements of it, I can well understand the complexities in terms of career planning, such as sorting out terms and conditions of service. Some of the issues are closely related to what the right reverend Prelate said about returning servicemen and so on.
We are talking about mutual benefit. If we are fully to grasp the notion of the big society, so strongly advocated by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, does my noble friend not agree that we have to be rather more broad-minded in what can be achieved through flexible and willing partnering relationships?
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Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, first, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on initiating this debate. I declare interests as vice-chairman of the All-Party Group on the Armed Forces and president of the relatively newly formed Liberal Democrat Friends of the Armed Forces.
In recent years, particularly during the conflict in Afghanistan, there has been a welcome upsurge in support for our Armed Forces: increasing support through the media; increasing support here in Parliament, welcoming the returning troops; and, of course, a much wider support among the general public. Prior to the 2010 election, both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats commissioned reports into the state of the military covenant. The Coalition: Our Programme for Government, published in May 2010, made a commitment to,
In June, the Prime Minister indicated that the military covenant would be enshrined in law for the first time. Then, in summer 2010, the coalition Government established a task force on the military covenant, chaired by Professor Hew Strachan, who was referred to earlier, to support taking that work forward.
"The Covenant represents a promise of fair treatment, on behalf of the nation, to ensure personnel are valued and respected as individuals and that they and their families will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service".
Fairness demands that we acknowledge some of the previous Government's achievements: doubling the compensation payments for the seriously injured; doubling the welfare grant for families of those on operations; giving better access to housing schemes and healthcare; giving free access to further education for service leavers with six years' service; and more phones and internet access for those deployed in Afghanistan.
The coalition Government started well, doubling the operational allowance for Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan and providing university and further education scholarships for children of those killed in action since 1990. However, I have to question some of the reductions in allowances that were announced last week. Taking away or reducing existing allowances can create disproportionate ill feeling and in my view should be contemplated only where allowances are grossly excessive or overgenerous. Changes have been
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In preparing for this debate, I carefully read Hansard covering the Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill on 10 January in the other place. Interestingly, virtually all the debate focused on covenant issues. The Secretary of State said that,
As regards service accommodation, we all know the financial pressures that the MoD faces but it is vital that necessary repairs and maintenance are carried out, otherwise a much greater liability develops. I wish to ask my noble friend one or two questions. What extra provision is being made to accommodate serving personnel and their families when they return from being based in Germany, as half will return by 2015 and the remaining half by 2020? The previous Government originally promised that all the proceeds from the sale of Chelsea Barracks would go back into Armed Forces accommodation. The site was sold for £959 million. How much of that was actually spent where it was intended to be spent? The previous Government said that the final £159 million of the proceeds would be subject to negotiation with the Treasury. Has the money definitely been spent on accommodation?
However, not everything can, or should, be done by Government. Charities such as Help for Heroes have achieved outstanding results, but there are also smaller, yet very successful, supportive specialised charities; for example, Tickets for Troops, a registered charity which provides free tickets to musical, sporting, entertainment and cultural events for members of our Armed Forces, and is led by the noble Lord, Lord Marland. This was launched in November 2009.
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Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I too congratulate the right reverend Prelate on obtaining this debate. Having spent many happy hours and days in Bishop's Lodge, Wakefield, when my father was the bishop, I am sure that under him it is in equally good hands.
Yesterday the Cross-Benchers had the great pleasure and privilege of having the Prime Minister address us for nearly an hour. I made a point of asking him what he meant by, and intended by, the Armed Forces covenant. He replied that it was a debt that the nation owed to the Armed Forces in return for them putting their lives on the line that amounted to a fair reward and lifelong support for them and their families. I cannot think of a better description.
I was extremely glad to note that the Armed Forces covenant was mentioned in the SDSR, which showed that, although a lot of it was about equipment, people have not forgotten that Armed Forces issues are essentially about people. However, I hope that nobody thinks that the Armed Forces covenant is merely an SDSR issue to be revisited in 2015. It is a living issue, today and every day. There is a particular purpose to it which I will come to.
As Professor Hew Strachan mentioned in his report on the Armed Forces covenant, commissioned by the Prime Minister, the covenant is not one covenant but three covenants in one. The first is between the Government and the Armed Forces. That essentially covers the care and support of members of the Armed Forces during and after their service. I make no apology for returning to an issue that I raised this morning in the debate secured by the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, namely the question of a Veterans Minister. I believe firmly that unless there is a named person responsible and accountable for overseeing the covenant, it will not happen.
The Minister took me to task because he thought that I was suggesting that there should be centralised control and direction. I was not saying that at all. I have said many times on the Floor of this House that there is "what" and "how" in making certain that things happen. The Government should deliver the "what" and the "how" should be left to local areas. This morning I quoted examples of local areas that are implementing this. The trouble is that recently people have been swamped with "how". We do not need it: we need "what", and somebody needs to be doing it.
The second part of the covenant is between the nation and the Armed Forces. The return from the nation is seen most obviously in the donations given to service charities, and in the use that the charities put them to.
The third part, which we must never forget, is within the command chain. My ancestor, Sir John Moore, laid down the ethos of the Rifle Brigade, the regiment that I joined. He said that it was a mutual bond of trust and affection between officers and riflemen, which the officers had to earn. That is very true: the mutual bond of trust and affection between the structure of the forces and the people serving is something that has to be earned. That structure includes government. There have been examples of where it has not been earned. The covenant is the most obvious demonstration that that trust is understood and is being earned.
I am very glad that the right reverend Prelate mentioned veterans, whom we discussed earlier. I will say something briefly about those who I am very worried might become veterans prematurely unless the full implications of the Armed Forces covenant are implemented and understood. I remember a black year in my service, 1977, when the Government of the time implemented what was known as the Irishman's pay rise, when the pay increase was less than the charges made on soldiers. I remember commanding officers resigning because they refused to stand up to tell their men that what was being offered was good, because they knew it to be bad. I am very concerned that the chain of command must be told the truth-not least at a time when we are asking enormous operational sacrifices by our men and women, as one can hear for oneself if one goes to talk to them.
So it was that last week, I saw allowances being cut. When I see all the heat being engendered by the Officers' Pensions Society over the reduction in pensions, I think back to that time and I am enormously worried about the trends that I see creeping into retention rates, particularly of experienced people, commanding officers and bright young people, before their service is ended. If ever there was a warning sign to the Government, that is it. Please, please, please do not tamper with the covenant. It means something. It means that the Armed Forces will be there on behalf of the nation to do what the nation expects them to do, as it has had so vividly and regularly illustrated over the years.
The themes of both the military covenant and the strategic defence and security review require of us an understanding and valuing of identity and role: our
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I can identify with my friend and colleague the right reverend Prelate about the military covenant being earthed in local communities. Your Lordships will not be surprised to learn that that is represented very strongly within Hereford diocese, with all our links with the Rifles and the Queen's Dragoon Guards. The regiment was given the honour and freedom of the city of Hereford and is held in such high esteem throughout the county-and, indeed, much more widely-as shown by the number of people who turned out in our streets to honour the servicemen on their return from Afghanistan, the numbers in attendance when the freedom of the city was given to the regiment a few years ago and the increasing number who are there on Remembrance Sunday as well as, tragically, when needed, on the occasion of funerals.
As we have been reminded, part of the military covenant is to provide care not just for our military personnel but for their families. I pay tribute to the introduction of the Elizabeth Cross and its recognition and valuing of the families of those killed in action. I know from first-hand experience how much that is appreciated and what a difference it makes to them.
I turn to the theme of the consequences of the cuts in allowances, which has just been mentioned by the noble Lord. I also express concern at the way in which the current salami-slicing weakens how our military personnel are valued. Sadly, I know of soldiers for whom that salami-slicing has become a tipping point for their leaving the armed services-just as we heard other accounts of that earlier. That lack of valuing leads potentially to a weakening of morale as well as to people leaving the services.
Perhaps I may also observe that military personnel may be lost easily but, as some noble Lords will know far better than me, replacing them takes much longer and is much more difficult. For example, it may take many years for the regiment near us in Hereford to replace or build up its numbers due to the length and demands of the training. That is a further reason why we should not take lightly the consequences of the recent reduction in allowances.
Care for military personnel once they finish their service is also a vital area, which was again referred to in our earlier debate. Once more, such care seems to be an area in which we need to improve as much as possible because that, too, is part of the covenant with our personnel. As noble Lords referred to earlier, there needs to be ongoing healthcare, both physical and mental, and we also need to ensure that we
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We were also reminded earlier by the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, that there is a special need to care for the families of wounded service men and women, including widows and widowers as I have already mentioned. Therefore, I add my voice to those calling for the utmost care to be taken in any reductions in allowances, given the potentially deleterious effect on reducing morale and weakening the covenant. There may also be consequences on the length of time and difficulty involved in recruiting new people if such salami-slicing does indeed become a tipping point for people leaving.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to a second debate on defence matters in your Lordships' House today. The subject that we are discussing now is as important as the topic of our earlier debate. The theme running through both is the duty that we, the nation, owe to those who risk their lives and serious injury for the sake of our security. I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield on providing the House with the opportunity to debate these vital issues.
The importance of the military covenant has attracted increasing focus in recent years, not least as the terrible suffering incurred by those who have served in military conflicts has become increasingly apparent. The first duty of government is to secure the defence of the realm, and undoubtedly the most vital asset in that endeavour is the people who undertake that task. That is the basis for the military covenant, and it is our obligation to ensure that we consider and address their needs. Unhappy service families can result only in unhappy service personnel, and that would represent a failure to meet the terms of the military covenant.
There has been much academic interest in and commentary on the various components of the strategic defence and security review. The themes of these commentaries have been included in the wider debates that we have had in your Lordships' House on defence matters, including our consideration of the strategic defence and security review in November last year. The strategic defence and security review contains much to be welcomed-not least that this was the first such review for 12 years. Much has changed in the nature of the threats that we face, in the nature of our Armed Forces and in public opinion over that period. To ensure that we continue to align effectively the changes with the requirements of the military covenant, I welcome the Government's commitment to make these reviews a regular occurrence.
However, it is important that we do not forget the context in which the review was conducted. Commitments and overspending on defence projects under the previous Government totalled some £36 billion-three times the annual defence budget. In that context the delivery of an 8 per cent reduction in the Ministry of Defence budget was an extreme challenge. We should not diminish the seriousness of the situation in which the strategic defence and security review was prepared and considered.
Those who serve our country have the right to expect that the Government will look after their well-being and the well-being of their families. Whatever the deficiencies of previous approaches, we must make sure that we live up to that ambition, and I believe that the Government have made a good start. However, they have started from a low base. The outcome of the Armed Force Continuous Attitudes Survey in May 2010 revealed that only 32 per cent of our Armed Forces felt valued. That should cause us all alarm and alert us that action needs to be taken.
An example of the Government's commitment to reverse this negativity can be seen in the decision to double the operational allowance. That, in the climate of wider fiscal tightening, is a sign of the priority that the Government attach to those serving in our Armed Forces in theatre. The Armed Forces Bill, which is currently under consideration in another place, contains provisions that will require the Secretary of State to produce an annual report to Parliament on the health of the military covenant. That is a bold and decisive step and will enable us to keep a much tighter, focused scrutiny on how the military covenant is being advanced. It is right that more rigorous attention should be paid to how the military covenant is being delivered and that the Government are able to explain how we are meeting our side of the bargain.
The decisions that had to be made in constructing the strategic defence and security review were undoubtedly complex. Balancing the nature of the threats that we must overcome with the horrific fiscal pressures that confront us as a nation in order to arrive at a balanced and coherent strategic posture is not simple. Undoubtedly, repairing the damage to the military covenant that has arisen in recent years cannot be done in a vacuum and the Minister has a difficult path to tread. In that context, I should be grateful if he could confirm that the Government's commitment to the military covenant is not conditional. I know that the Government have been working very hard to identify areas for savings and where better outcomes can be delivered most cost-effectively. In guiding his approach to the military covenant, I hope that the Minister can assure us that his focus will continue to be on the needs of those who serve in our Armed Forces, the needs of their families and the needs of those who are now veterans, and that the important measures contained in the strategic defence and security review will contribute to our efforts in restoring and then maintaining the military covenant. Our troops-present and past-deserve nothing less.
All jobs are important, but the military are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, so they are always a special case. There has to be a special arrangement to
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The previous Government got the balance between the public and private sectors completely wrong. I have said this before a number of times. Public spending went up to nearly 50 per cent of GDP when it should be nearly 40 per cent. As for the Armed Forces, we have got it the wrong way round. Public pay is not high enough, and we are making further cuts, as we have heard. Cuts worth £250 million are being made to servicemen's allowances. Surely these are the people who should suffer last at a time of economic austerity, given what they are sacrificing. We must view the NATO level of 2 per cent of GDP on defence expenditure as a base, not a ceiling. While defence expenditure is set to go up over the spending review period in cash terms, as a percentage of GDP it is actually going to go down. Over the past three decades, our defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP has halved from 5 per cent. In 2009, it was 2.5 per cent. We are at war at the moment and, if you do the sums, you could argue that we are already at 1.5 per cent of GDP.
Our Armed Forces are spread too thinly. The SDSR is all about means, it is not about ends. We have aircraft carriers without aircraft and nuclear submarines without AWACS, and I fear that that is where the covenant is heading. It is now written in law for the first time in the Armed Forces Bill, but there is little action to justify those words. I just heard first hand a story from my son at boarding school. His friend's uncle is a commanding officer and has recently had to use his own money to buy clothing and boots for his troops. Are we really stooping to this level? This parsimony reaches well beyond equipment. I am sure that most of us remember that in June 2008 the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dannatt, who is in his place, pointed out that the starting salary of a new recruit was, on average, £16,000 compared, at that time, with the basic salary of a traffic warden of over £20,000. The pay scale has risen, but in line with inflation. It has not risen in line with the level of sacrifice that these men and women are making.
This SDSR has been drafted in wartime. We have to keep in mind the future. People's memories can be short, especially when we enter a peacetime period. Our Armed Forces need to know that the covenant will be honoured in peace and in war. To protect the
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It is very good to hear that the Government plan to start to right the discrepancy between compensation for physical injuries and for mental illnesses. For too long, the mental stresses and strains of our servicemen have had to be endured. They have not been recognised and have been undercompensated. Just this month, a professor at the Department of Psychology, Harvard University, told me the harrowing fact that in January 2009, for example, more United States soldiers committed suicide after returning from the battlefield than were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
It is the people's promise to repay the tremendous debt of gratitude that this nation owes to its Armed Forces. We know that soldiers attempt to fulfil their duties, whatever the circumstances; it is the commitment that they have made. But soldiers' confidence and morale reaches much higher levels when they know that they have the support of the people back home, and the trust and support of the Government. They must know that the country can trust that the Government will take care of them while they are fighting, that they will take care of their families, that that is a priority, and that they will always show that commitment.
How can they feel that it is a priority when they see the way in which so many veterans are treated and some of the appalling accommodation that is available during peacetime and wartime? How can they feel that it is a priority when they are worried about the well-being of their families? In India, after my father died, my mother was, and still is, given the utmost level of care, affection and respect by the Indian Army. It is a lifetime commitment. We need to guarantee that veterans never feel as though their sacrifices have been forgotten.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, suggested that we should have an independent commissioner. I believe that we should have an independent veterans' commission. A veterans' commissioner would co-ordinate outside the MoD and look at pensions, social security, prisons, health and charities to ensure that our veterans are protected and cared for because of the incredible contribution that they have made. There needs to be a balance between the MoD and the Armed Forces. The NHS has scared me greatly because doctors and nurses are often overshadowed by NHS managerial staff. In the MoD and the Armed Forces, is the tail wagging the dog?
In conclusion, the services are called the services because they serve our country. The right reverend Prelate spoke about leadership. Last week, this was explained to me by Professor Ranjay Gulati at Harvard Business School as a tripos: logos-the knowledge
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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, many years ago the Times had a very influential leading article headed, "It is a Moral Issue". I was particularly glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield referred to the moral dimension of the military covenant. I believe that military service is a huge privilege for those who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve. My brief and wholly undistinguished national service in the Army, in which I never heard a shot fired in anger, has had a lifelong influence on me. Perhaps most of all, it has given me some understanding of the Armed Forces and certainly a lifelong interest in their welfare.
I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, refer to the Prime Minister's definition of the military covenant, which is clearly an extremely good one. In the short time we have to speak, I would like to explore some of the detail. First, we must never forget that the military covenant is of a higher order than the obligations of the Government towards any other people they employ. There are two reasons for that, the first being that people in the Armed Forces are less able to enforce or even advocate their own interests than any other employees of the state. The second reason is, of course, that they might die. If we try to analyse what the military covenant is all about, it is the obligation to ensure that our Armed Forces are given the resources and conditions with which to carry out the missions that are assigned to them. The first thing is indubitably obvious, but sadly in recent history it appears not to have been obvious. It is that the Government of the day must ensure that a proper analysis is made of the proposed commitment before any forces are committed to a theatre. We will not know for a few months yet exactly how that did or did not apply in the case of Iraq, but I am afraid it is clear that it was not properly worked out when it came to Afghanistan.
The individual components of the obligation are many, including the quality and quantity of equipment required, which means everything down to the fuel and the ammunition, along with the other supplies for that equipment. It includes adequate training of all personnel before they are committed to the field,
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I am afraid that there has been a lack of understanding of the Armed Forces at the highest levels of the Civil Service, particularly in the Cabinet Office, the Treasury and even the MoD. The Treasury seems to see the Armed Forces as a sponge to be squeezed. That is not a good attitude to take towards the Armed Forces, and we have been given some examples today of the attempts to squeeze the sponge. Part of the reason for this is the fact that probably no one in the Civil Service today has ever served in any of the forces. After all, National Service ended some 50 years ago in, I think, December 1960. Indeed, relatively few people in the other place have ever served, but there are some, including some very distinguished ones. It is particularly lucky that in the Ministry of Defence we have several Ministers who have served in Her Majesty's Forces. If we accept that there is a lack of understanding, experience and sympathy at the top of the Civil Service, it is absolutely crucial that our political leaders make up for it and ensure that what we call the military covenant is honoured.
It is crucial that the three service chiefs and the Chief of the Defence Staff continue to have direct access to the Prime Minister. That itself is part of the military covenant. If the covenant is not maintained, the supply of first-class people for our Armed Forces will diminish. That will be a betrayal of the crucial obligation of any Government: the defence of the realm.
Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank: My Lords, first, I declare two interests. I am president of the Army Benevolent Fund and colonel of a regiment, the Life Guards, which is currently serving in Afghanistan. Secondly, like other noble Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield for introducing this extremely important debate.
I am delighted that the Government are addressing seriously this very important subject, with the Prime Minister inviting Professor Hew Strachan to produce a report. Charities such as the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, SSAFA, the Army Benevolent Fund and many others have made very helpful contributions to the debate. By supporting the concept of a military covenant, much has been achieved by both the present and the previous Governments, particularly in the medical field; for example, treatment of the wounded at Selly Oak and Headley Court.
However, the Government need to realise just how difficult it will be to honour the covenant without continuous commitment to it. The need for that commitment is unlikely to go away in any of our lifetimes. The services have suffered for years from
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The last three commanding officers of 22 SAS, a regiment of which I have just ceased being colonel, have either left or are leaving the Army. They are worried about the future and the future of their families. The Army needs to hang on to such quality. I could give your Lordships other examples. Allowances are being changed. Soldiers largely accept this, but what really concerns them is the logic used to justify it. It is couched in terms that do not recognise the demands of military life. Continuity of education allowances is an example. They are not just a perk for officers; they affect all ranks. More stability may be promised, but if people want to be promoted, they will have to move to gain experience. If they do not do that, the services will be worse off.
Many service men and women are now worried about their pensions. They feel that the unique requirements of the Armed Forces are not being recognised in the review of public sector pensions. I suspect that one of the reasons that we are in this predicament is that the Ministry of Defence, although proclaiming the importance of people, does not always reflect that when allocating the defence budget. Accommodation, barracks, married quarters, education, pay and conditions of service have suffered when compared with expensive equipment programmes. When savings have to be made and made too quickly, too often the only way to get the money is to look at the MoD estates, people and conditions. Too often, unlike people, the equipment projects are protected by contracts, and I think that we have the balance rather wrong.
In sum, I hope that the Government realise just how difficult it will be to honour the covenant. Too many service men and women feel that the MoD, the Treasury and other departments of state and political leaders of all parties do not really understand the difference between the military and civilian life and that those who serve the Crown are not foremost in their thinking. The Government must acknowledge how serious the situation is today and must remain committed. If they do not remain committed, the services, which are almost on the point of haemorrhaging, will haemorrhage quickly, and we will damage one of the great departments and institutions of state.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield on securing this debate. He is an expert on the meaning
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We have the covenant for a number of reasons, not least because we recognise the role and duties of the Armed Forces in defence of the state and that carrying out such duties can result in serious injury or death in action for service personnel. We recognise their commitment and their courage and their devotion to duty and, as part of that, we recognise that we have a responsibility to support them and care for them and their immediate dependants during and after service.
a clear indication that at times, at least, that gentleman is not enamoured of the idea of maximising the extent to which a bipartisan approach to defence can be secured. He set up a task force to find,
It reported recently, and the Secretary of State committed to taking forward two recommendations. The first was an Armed Forces community covenant, encouraging volunteers to support their local forces, and the second a commendation scheme, thanking individuals or bodies who give support to the forces. The chairman of the Forces Pension Society described the task force proposals as, "incredibly wet and feeble", and added:
The Government have not yet given their response to all the task force proposals, and perhaps the Minister will be able to update us on that point and on the work being undertaken on the military covenant by the Ministry of Defence.
The Government plan to publish an annual Armed Forces covenant report which, if it is going to continue the previous Government's plans, will provide an annual assessment of the Government's progress in implementing commitments to strengthen the covenant. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that that is an issue that the Government's proposed annual Armed Forces covenant report will address.
One of the innovations we introduced in 2008 was the impartial oversight of the Government's progress at strengthening the military covenant. The External Reference Group, as the right reverend Prelate said when opening this debate, was set up as an independent monitor to be a check on the Government's implementation of the service personnel Command Paper, the first cross-government strategy on the welfare of Armed Forces personnel, which incorporated some significant improvements. It is essential that such reports
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These are obviously matters that would come within the ambit of the covenant. Can the Minister say when they intend to build on the improvements the previous Government made to service accommodation in the light of the strategic defence and security review, which appears to indicate that cost of accommodation is a target area for savings?
The Government have been criticised for their intention to scrap major reforms to the system of inquests into military deaths. The changes we legislated to introduce and were due to be implemented imminently were supported by service charities and families. The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 would have delivered a better inquest service and ensured that the coroner undertaking military inquests had the training necessary to conduct an effective investigation. It would also have created a system of appeals against a coroner's decisions. This has now been undone by the Government's intention to scrap the office of the chief coroner and abandon the reforms that families want. In view of the vote in your Lordships' House to save the office of the chief coroner, can the Minister tell the House whether the Government will now accept the outcome of that vote in the light of their commitment to the military covenant.
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