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We may have stayed out of the euro-and thank God we did-but we are a key integral player on the world stage and we will not be able to stay out of any forthcoming conflict. We have an Army now of fewer than 100,000. This is so short-sighted. We strive for peace, but, unfortunately, as the noble Lord, Lord Lee, said, conflict is inevitable whether we like it or not. The defence of our realm is the Government's No. 1 priority, and that rests entirely on the amazing sacrifices made by our Armed Forces. Last month, I chaired an event as president of the UK India Business Council on east and north-east India. It was attended by a senior Minister from Nagaland, where of course the famous Kohima epitaph reads:"When You Go Home Tell Them Of Us And Say'For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today'".
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich: My Lords, I would very much like to affirm from these Benches our support for what is expressed in the Motion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk. I, too, congratulate him on the way in which he introduced the debate. From these Benches, we are particularly conscious of all that is implied about the debt that we owe to the fallen, because the Church of England and the other churches and faith groups of this country are hugely involved in the services and acts of remembrance that will take place over the next few days.
I started in ministry in the Church of England 35 years ago. As an assistant curate in a parish in the north-east of England, I very well remember my first Remembrance Sunday service. It was an important occasion, but not one that was attended by exceptional numbers. In the second year, I remember, exactly as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, experienced, someone remarking that probably by the turn of the century we would not be holding such acts of remembrance. Clearly, it was not a person with the gift of prophecy.
Over these past 35 years, I have watched these acts of remembrance grow hugely. There was a significant time when the various important anniversaries of the Second World War-the 50 years after the beginning and end-were marked that you suddenly began to notice the change. However, the involvement of this country in recent conflicts has meant that those who assemble are now from across the age range. Acts of remembrance frequently take place at public war memorials, but they nearly always involve members of the clergy of all denominations leading acts of remembrance. As well as that, there are war memorials in churches throughout the land, and other services of remembrance will take place within those churches.
This keeping alive of an understanding of the debt we owe to people who have given their lives is something that the churches have been very diligent about. In recent times I have noticed that people are attempting to find ways to make sure that this is not just an exercise in history but to help people to understand
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As other noble Lords have already remarked, we are within three years of the centenary of the start of the First World War. I, too, was appalled by the acts of vandalism to war memorials involving the theft of metal plaques, but it is also the case that some of these memorials are not now in the best of condition, as time has inevitably caused deterioration. Is the Minister aware of any plans to survey the condition of those memorials during the next couple of years, so that they can be in as good a condition as possible for that significant centenary?
Part of acknowledging the debt to those who have given their lives is by continuing our responsibility for those who have survived the wars of recent years and who need support and for those who have given service in our Armed Forces. To that end, I, too, welcome the attention that this House gave to the military covenant in the Armed Forces Bill. It is vital to find ways whereby the military covenant has real meaning within the country and is more widely understood, without turning it into legal contract.
However, there is still some way to go to instil confidence within serving personnel that there really is going to be some form of change. I am privileged from time to time to be invited to visit various military units within my diocese, and there are quite a number. I did one such visit just last month. It included meeting a unit which is about to return to Afghanistan for another tour of duty early next year. It is a large establishment and it gave me the chance to meet people who had varying lengths of service. While I constantly found that the sense of pride in their unit and their professionalism were highly evident, it was noticeable that, when discussing what the military covenant might mean, there was some scepticism. Usually, this came about because personnel who have served in Afghanistan and met our American allies are well aware of very different arrangements within the United States for the care and support of veterans.
That having been said, they certainly welcomed the fact that efforts were being made to make sure that the military covenant was becoming more prominent. However, I guess that the quality of the first report on the covenant will have a great bearing on how the members of our Armed Forces react to it and the effect that it will have on their morale. I hope that it will demonstrate that all these matters are being taken extremely seriously.
It was very noticeable last week, and, indeed, this week, how many members of the current Armed Forces are on the streets selling poppies. I think that that is a demonstration of the current members of our Armed
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Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to follow the right reverend Prelate. It is extremely appropriate that he has taken part in this debate, because the church has such a part to play in the services of remembrance that we shall recognise on Sunday and on the other occasions associated with Remembrance Day. I join him in congratulating my noble friend Lord Selkirk on what I thought was an outstanding introduction to this debate. It set absolutely the tone that was needed.
I think that everybody in this House shares those experiences. I became a Member of Parliament in 1970. One stood on Remembrance Day at the war memorial in King Square in Bridgwater. Year after year, exactly as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said, one sensed a diminution of interest. A few survivors from the First World War were still there. I remember meeting Mr Harry Patch, who was the last survivor of the lot. Gradually, they faded away. Then the survivors of World War Two started to look pretty old as well. My noble friend Lady Trumpington is one of the survivors in this House of those who gave great service to their nation in the Second World War.
As we stood there, these memories moved on. And then, gradually, events came in. There was a feeling that this was an old ceremony to do with those wars. Korea had not made much impact, but then we had the Falklands and Northern Ireland. Then the message came round: "Shouldn't some names be added to these memorials?" One particular moment stands out for me. I remember standing in King Square in Bridgwater and then going into St Mary's church. Then, as I came out of St Mary's at the end of the service, one of my policemen gave me a message, telling me that my private secretary wanted to speak to me from Northern Ireland, to tell me that there had been a bomb at the Remembrance Day service at Enniskillen, and that a number of people had been killed or seriously injured. The shock of the desecration of that occasion went round the world. It was in fact enormously damaging to the reputation of the IRA and any latent sympathy
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This was coupled, as some may remember, with the extraordinary generosity of spirit of Mr Gordon Wilson, whose daughter was killed on that occasion. I remember standing in the shower in Admiralty House early the next morning, listening to him on the "Today" programme, before I had to make a Statement in the House. I remember the extraordinary way in which he was able, with that generosity of spirit, to speak as he did after losing his daughter in that tragic event.
I shall also never forget, and many noble Lords may remember, the extraordinary service we had two weeks later. The British Legion at Enniskillen were determined that they would still have their service, and British Legion standard bearers from all round the country were determined that they would attend that service as well. Rank upon rank of standard bearers gathered in the square in Enniskillen. I managed to persuade-she did not need much persuasion because she understood entirely-the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, to come with me to that service. The solidarity, right across parties, and right across the divisions that might otherwise exist in Northern Ireland, had an enormous impact on me.
After that, we moved on to the first Gulf War, and then more recently the Afghanistan campaign and the second Gulf War in Iraq. What one noticed in those early Remembrance Day services and parades was that very few servicemen standing there had any medals. Now you look at them and see the impact of more recent years and their activities. I am going to take part and help to conduct a service on Sunday in our local parish church with a very good friend of mine, a retired brigadier who served in the Parachute Regiment-a man who is very well known to the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. His son is serving in the Parachute Regiment, and is coming up for his third tour, I think, of Afghanistan. One realises the commitment and involvement that we now have.
What has really come across so clearly now is that, as it is said, war is the failure of politicians and rulers. Having had some responsibility in that area, I agree with that entirely. Take, for example, the Second World War: I am sure that Hitler did not actually think that England, in the end, would fight for Poland. President Galtieri thought he could grab the Falklands without any conflict and that Britain would think that it was too difficult to do anything about it. Mistakes by politicians, rulers and leaders lead us into those situations. Saddam Hussein was quite convinced, I think, that nobody would really mind about a silly place like Kuwait, which had caused a lot of trouble for some of its neighbours, and that nobody would rally to the cause of freedom, independence and freedom from aggression.
It is against that background that one has noticed how the mood has changed. In the early part of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a lot of people had reservations about the wisdom of those events. That in some part rubbed off on our Armed Forces, which were not held in sufficient respect-it was felt that
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It is against that background that I look at this occasion today and look at what our responsibilities are. I support the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. He raised the issue of housing. It is our duty now to remember those who have made the sacrifice. It is also our duty to remember their families and the suffering that they have and to see that the many organisations and charitable organisations, such as the British Legion, SSAFA and others that seek to help in this area, are supported. We also have a duty to those who have come back with quite appalling injuries. The wonders of modern medicine have now made possible their survival, but they are left with major challenges. This may all be lumped together in the military covenant. We have responsibilities to those who survive, to those who are injured and to their families at this time.
We need our Armed Forces. We face major challenges at the present time. If wars are the failures of politicians, the sad truth is that they will make mistakes again. It is against that background that we need to ensure, as a duty to those who have served and have made the ultimately sacrifice, that their survivors and their successors are properly equipped and properly maintained to continue the sacred task of defending our nation's interests.
This subject raises two questions. First, does the nation really owe a debt to those who have sacrificed their lives in defence of the realm? Secondly, how should that debt be repaid? I shall take these two questions in turn.
The first question looks simple, and its answer appears self-evident: of course we do. This is the assumption made in almost all the speeches that have been made so far. This is also the assumption which underlies the report of the task force on the military covenant, and the review by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
Imagine how somebody might argue against this. In the standard neoliberal fashion, it might be argued that, unless the Armed Force are conscripted-in which case, of course, a different moral logic applies-they are volunteers. They know what they are doing when they join the Armed Forces. They accept a job for which they are paid. It is a contract of employment that is voluntarily entered into, and is no different
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It might also be argued that sacrifice of lives and limbs is not unique to the Armed Forces. The police, miners and firemen all risk their lives: why should we single out the Armed Forces? When we do, are we treating them in some privileged manner which is founded on emotions or romantic glorification of war rather than on solid rational grounds? I suggest that there are solid rational grounds for privileging the Armed Forces, and these are fourfold.
First, they are the only group who explicitly commit themselves to the sacrifice of their lives. Unlike firemen and miners, or even the police, they are not employed to do other things which incidentally might involve loss of lives; rather, willingness to risk the loss of life is the very raison d'être of the job.
Secondly, the Armed Forces incur loss or temporary surrender of basic democratic and civil freedoms that no other occupation shares. Members of the Armed Forces may not join a trade union, they may not openly dissent from or criticise the Government and they may not question operational decisions made by their superiors. The standard democratic freedom that every other employee enjoys is denied to members of the Armed Forces.
Thirdly, the Armed Forces act on behalf of the nation in a way that no other occupation does. They swear their loyalty to the nation, place their well-being in the nation's charge and render the most essential service of preserving the integrity of the country.
Finally, the fourth reason why there is good moral logic in privileging the Armed Forces over other occupations is that very high-indeed higher-professional ethics is required of them. Greater mutual loyalty is required of them; greater courage and bravery as well as a greater willingness to risk their lives for the sake of their comrades. They are also expected to show greater commitment to the collective ethos and to subordinate their personal security to the security of the country at large.
My answer to the first question is that yes, of course, there is every reason to argue that the nation owes a debt to the Armed Forces. That raises the next question: what form should the repayment of that debt take? Since the Armed Forces have offered to risk and lay down their lives on behalf of and in the interests of the country, the country obviously incurs several obligations. I want to mention three, only one of which has been heavily emphasised in the debate so far.
First, the nation has an obligation to remember them with gratitude, and honour their memory in appropriate ways. No financial compensation can adequately measure up to the way of remembering and cherishing people and fulfilling the dreams that their sadly truncated lives have not been able to realise. We remember, honour and cherish their memories by constructing memorials, national Remembrance Day and telling stories about their deeds in our text-books. In telling those stories and constructing memorials, we not only redeem the tragic dimension of their death
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The second obligation we have is to look after the dependants of those who have died and to attend to the needs of those who have suffered grave injuries and disabilities. This calls for generous compensation schemes, pensions, rehabilitation, integration into normal life and other forms of support. The task force on the military covenant and the Boyce report make excellent suggestions and I wholeheartedly endorse them.
However, there is a third obligation, which is in danger of being neglected. The nation incurs a profound obligation to ensure that the wars in which the Armed Forces are engaged and in which they may have to sacrifice their lives are fully justified, either in terms of the interests of the country or in the wider interests of humanity at large. Since the Armed Forces are expected to obey the civilian authorities and are politically neutral, the civil authorities that decide for them often have a tendency to take them for granted and to think that the military machine can be deployed for any purposes that their masters choose. Wars are therefore declared sometimes without much forethought, because they distract attention from domestic problems or because they are politically convenient and give the halo of glory to otherwise mediocre politicians. It is precisely because the Armed Forces are expected to be uncritically loyal that the Government must think 10 times before sending them to an almost certain death. Iraq and Afghanistan do not meet this test, as I have argued before your Lordships in the past; nor, I think, did Suez or Vietnam. It becomes morally hypocritical to send young people with promising lives to ill conceived deaths and to compensate them with offers of payments, as if a promising life is worth a lump sum of so much money.
Every death is a tragedy. It should be an occasion for critical national self-reflection on how to improve the way in which we take momentous decisions involving war. The Armed Forces trust the nation to value their lives and to demand sacrifices only when they are fully justified. The nation must prove itself worthy of the trust that the Armed Forces put in it.
Lord Walker of Aldringham: My Lords, I, too, thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, on giving us this opportunity to reflect on the eve of our remembrance commemorations. It is gratifying, too, to behold the degree of regard in which our society holds our Armed Forces across the country and which so powerfully helps to sustain our men and women when they are serving overseas. However, that regard-as the noble Lord, Lord King, has already said-cannot be taken for granted. In the 1990s, we
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That gave rise to clarion calls from all sorts of people -not least the Chiefs of Staff-raising the profile of the issue. They raised the issues, as we have heard, about equipment, medical treatment, accommodation, medals, education, pay and allowances, and homecoming parades. That was not only to bring pressure to bear on the Government but to bring to the notice of our society as a whole that they needed to help make this new covenant manifest.
Your Lordships will know that our society has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. We have been able to live in peace and go about our daily business without much concern for our own safety or that of our families, even though of course there have been some pretty appalling terrorist incidents. As a society, we have very little understanding of the horrors of war. At the same time, we are increasingly affluent, middle class and liberal, with high expectations of rewards and gains. We exhibit increasing educational standards but a lower level of physical fitness. We seek greater variety and choice and have an interest in leisure risk but not real risk. We have changing organisational structures, increasing public accountability and transparency, and fluctuating economies. We are a litigious society and seek compensation at every turn. We demand flexibility in a high-tech world and often give minority groups more face time than the silent majority. The trouble is that our enemies-the terrorists, the dictators and the ethnic cleansers-are not suffering from mid-life crises and taking court action. They are out there, and if anything, they are consistent.
Those 16,000 names on the national memorial at Alrewas, listing those who have died in service since the end of the Second World War, bear witness of the extent to which we as a nation have used our Armed Forces in that time. It is not just those who make the sacrifice, as we have already heard. All who serve on operations put their lives at risk, whether they die or whether they are injured. Countless numbers have been wounded, while many others have been psychologically damaged, which comes out only later in their lives. Behind every one of those names on the war memorial there are wives, husbands, partners, parents, children and colleagues who loved them and who live with the pain and consequences of their loss every day.
How are we doing as a society, looking after this thing called a covenant? Are we playing our several parts? The charities, in my view, are doing well, although their window of opportunity may close as we pull out of Afghanistan and come off the headlines. The services-related charities have managed to hold up well in terms of donations from the public, and I pay tribute to Help for Heroes for the way in which it helped raise the profile of the services' needs to their current level.
Our people are doing well, too, from small groups of determined men and women undertaking amazing physical feats to the generosity of individual donations on the one hand, through the warmness of the welcomes received at homecoming parades to the compassion and respect demonstrated at events such as those held at Royal Wootton Bassett on the other. I feel genuinely that the majority of our citizens recognise the price that has been paid, and continues to be paid, by our soldiers to enable them to enjoy the freedoms that they have.
One area in which I do not think we are doing as well is in the Government's implementation of the covenant, although I recognise that much work has gone into it. We must remember that this is a contract under which, in return for the sacrifice made by those in the forces, the Government will ensure they are equipped properly, trained, given the best possible care if they become casualties, and are treated fairly.
Although I believe there are several areas in which we are failing to meet this fundamental requirement for fairness, I will mention only three. Before I identify them, I should remind your Lordships of what our service men and women do for all of us. I spent some time last week talking to one of the brigade commanders, who was, in the distant past, my military assistant. I asked him how he was finding it there. He replied, "I follow the policy of reverse vertigo". I said, "What is that?". He said, "I dare not look up. If I look down, it is fine; when I look up, it is not". Although I talked about a changing society earlier, perhaps the one constant that we would all recognise is the soldier himself. He is a remarkable individual who never ceases to amaze all of us with his achievements. Henry Kissinger once said that the Brits are the only people left on earth who love to fight. Well, we have certainly kept our eye in, and we should be thankful for it.
These are young men and women called upon to put the needs of the nation before their own and who, as we have already heard, forgo some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. We ask them to operate along the roughest edges of humanity while observing the civilised norms of the society from which they are drawn. That is not an easy task. They face an unprecedented degree of public scrutiny and analysis. Of course, they still live in a hard, frightening and dangerous world. The miracles of modern transport do not absolve them from moving great distances on their feet carrying heavy loads. Snazzy new kit does not stop the bullet from killing them or the bomb from maiming them. The state of their digestion is a matter of public interest. The days are still hot and the nights dark and cold. While there may come a time when technology transforms the world, we are not there yet. So it is down to these young men and women, in their fragile human form, to defend our freedoms. We must not forget that they find themselves in these circumstances because of the decisions taken by our political masters.
I will now speak about the three areas in which I believe we are failing them and which it would be perfectly possible to put right and affordable even in the current economic climate, given due priority. First, as I have said before, I do not believe that the third sector should be exploited to fund men and women
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Secondly, as others have said far more eloquently than I, there is a compelling case for the retention of the chief coroner. We owe this much to all bereaved families, whether in the services or not. For those who have lost a soldier son, father, mother or daughter in some far-off and unimaginable war, the ramifications of not retaining such a post are extreme.
Thirdly, in no way is it morally defensible to make compulsorily redundant those who have so recently fought for their country. We are not talking about a situation of demobilisation after a major war, as the circumstances are entirely different; nor are we talking about large numbers. As it is likely that the majority of the redundancies from the Armed Forces following the SDSR will be voluntary, we are probably talking about a few thousand being made compulsorily redundant. It is difficult to imagine how these people will feel, having volunteered to fight for their country and having been sent to do so, often several times. Having survived life-threatening battles with their enemies, they return home, keen to remain in service, only to find that an ungrateful Government are kicking them out. This is not the way to show that the nation values such people.
Lord Walker of Aldringham: I will finish by saying that the Prime Minister has said that the military covenant has been put at the heart of our national life. Because the principles of the covenant are now part of the law of our land, we have not only an opportunity at this time of remembrance to put these matters right but, I believe, a duty to do so.
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I believe that this House is hugely indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, for securing this debate and for the quite outstanding way in which he introduced it-emotional but also factual.
I declare an interest as vice-president of the War Widows' Association, which held a service in Westminster Abbey this morning, supported yet again, as it has been year on year, by the Duke of Edinburgh attending and laying a memorial in the abbey. The members of the association are quite elderly, some of them very elderly, but they were joined today by widows who are very young and have young families. That is a result of the operations with which we in Britain have been faced.
Remembrance and debt are met in a number of ways. We meet them this weekend as a nation in the services that we hold. However, there are a number of other ways. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, year on year, is meeting the debt that we
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The military covenant, on which I congratulate the Government, is another way of meeting our debt to those who have sacrificed their lives, those whom they left behind and those who will come after them as well. If the Armed Forces are anything, they are a family; a family of young men and women working, serving their nation together and acting as a family looking after each other in the bad times as well as the good times.
Another way that various Governments have sought to meet the debt that we owe is through the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body. The debate that we are having today is, in many ways, very sombre and respectful, but it is also looking backwards. I think we have to look forwards because you cannot wheel out debt and remembrance once a year every November and come back to it the following November. It is as ongoing as the service that our young men and women give to this nation when they sign up, knowing that they may have to pay the ultimate price-indeed, so many of them have paid it and continue to do so. There has only been one year since the end of the Second World War when our service people have not been somewhere in the world on operations in the name of this country. The role that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body carries out is part of the commitment that we give to our young service men and women. It is independent, and it carries out its work, I would suggest, in a very fair way. I was honoured and privileged to be the chairman of the review body.
The problem that we have with the Armed Forces is that decisions that we reach today impact on their lives year on year, not only when they are in the service but when they are out of it and when they retire. I am looking at the overall terms and conditions under which we recognise part of their contribution-it can only be part of it. I was appointed chairman of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body in 1997. I came to it following two or three successive years when their annual pay award had been staged. Noble Lords might think that is rather mercenary in this debate. It is not, because the cutback in the pay that they had under the then Tory Government meant that at the end of their service their pension was going to be affected every single year until they died. That has a major impact on the pensions of Armed Forces personnel. If they are lucky, they leave the service in their 50s and that is the point at which their pension is based. They come out at a time when it is quite often difficult for them to get another job. Even if the economy is buoyant, they are at an age where, in this so-called ageless society, age is a factor. The pension impact is very important.
Last year, I was not only shocked but appalled to learn of two contradictory statements from the Government about the measures that we are taking as
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Not only that, but this year any member of the Armed Forces earning more than £21,000 per annum received no pay award, which means that we have young lads and women in Afghanistan risking their lives being told that they will not get a pay award. It does not impact on them individually but on their families. Most of those personnel will have young families on whom the impact is substantial. Accommodation has been mentioned. It has been, and still is, an ongoing sore not only in this Government but in the previous Labour Government.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, that we each have eight minutes in which to speak. Pensions and pay are two important factors, which impact on our service men and women. In the past year, we have seen a breach of what is referred to as "family harmony" in the Army, but not in the other two services, of just over 10 per cent. That cannot be helpful.
"We are seriously concerned about the cumulative impact of the overall changes in prospect. Inflation is higher than was expected when the pay freeze was announced, allowances have been cut, and the change in pensions indexation reduces the value of the pension more than other public sector groups. Taken together, these changes pose considerable risks to morale and potentially to recruitment and retention".
In replying, will the Minister give a commitment to urge the Government to lift the pay freeze and to make sure that we honour the commitment we give to our Armed Forces personnel in regard to their pensions?
Lord Loomba: My Lords, I wear my poppy with pride, as do many in your Lordships' House. This weekend, the entire country will observe Remembrance Day and there will be silence for those who gave their lives in the two world wars. Therefore, today's debate on the eve of Remembrance Day is very important. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, on securing this debate.
It is imperative not only to remember those who sacrificed their own lives to allow us to live in a world of democracy but to teach current and forthcoming generations about this tribulation. Generations have grown up in a country and they do not know its past. They remain unaware that the basic human rights that they expect today are as a result of those who have lost their lives fighting for our rights. History must never be forgotten in case it repeats itself. It should be enshrined for all of us, and we should always remember, that the fruits we enjoy today are products of the selflessness of the millions who gave their lives.
Key issues such as human rights, justice, education and poverty are all deeply connected to our democratic values. However, we must always take the time to
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Unfortunately, war and conflict are not only deeply rooted in the world's history but are ongoing in our present. The Rwanda and Burundi war literally wiped out hundreds of thousands of people. The international armed conflict in Bosnia took the lives of more than 2 million people, thus making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II. The Democratic Congo Republic, as with events in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, paid a heavy price in efforts to remove dictatorships.
The war in Afghanistan has created more than 2 million widows in a country with a population of only 30 million. After 30 years of civil war, Afghanistan has one of the highest percentages of widows in the world. A very high percentage of these widows are young, illiterate and have children to support. Providing for their children is a daily struggle, and they are forced into begging and prostitution. With the death of their husband diminishing their economic security, they are placed at the lowest level of society and their human rights are eroded.
The children of widows are invariably forced into the workplace at an early age to help support their mothers. These working children are denied their right to an education. Many are forced to beg like their mothers or to work in factories where child labour abuse is common practice. In some cases, girls are forced into marriage at a young age so that they are no longer a burden on their mothers.
I declare my interest as a founder chairman trustee of my charity, the Loomba Foundation, which has been working for more than a decade to raise awareness of the plight of widows around the world who have lost their husbands through conflict. There are more than 245 million widows and 500 million children-one section of the world's population-who suffer in silence due to their loss. More than 100 million widows live in poverty and struggle to survive, and are often soft targets for murder, rape, prostitution, forced marriage, property theft, eviction and social isolation, as well as physical and emotional abuse. Their children do a lot worse. Statistics show that about 1.5 million children of widows worldwide do not live past their fifth birthday.
The Loomba Foundation is proud that last year the United Nations declared 23 June as International Widows Day, which was initially established by the foundation in 2005. I should like to ask the Minister if the British Government would support International Widows Day and pay our debts to war widows.
It is clear that wars are very destructive. We owe it to those who lost their lives fighting for our rights that their memories are not lost, and we should work
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Baroness Fookes: My Lords, my noble friend has spoken very eloquently of the plight of widows worldwide. My own focus, I confess, has been much narrower, as president of the War Widows' Association of Great Britain, a post I am very proud and privileged to occupy.
This morning, I went to the opening of the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey. That brought home the poignancy of loss. All those plots organised by different organisations, with little crosses stuck in-each representing one lost life. I planted two crosses on behalf of two of my organisation's members, too frail now in their 80s to come and do this themselves. It was a humbling experience.
During my time as president, I have heard innumerable stories of the difficulties that have faced the widows, who are very often extremely young with young children. They suffer all the emotional havoc that comes from losing a husband or a partner and all the difficulties of bringing up children on one's own, probably with very little money. That was certainly the experience of many of the women in the Second World War to whom I have spoken.
We have to look long term. I agree that we cannot simply have a November remembrance service and then forget it the rest of the time. It is like those who go to church on Sunday then behave abominably for the next six days. We need to get away from that syndrome completely.
I served on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for 10 years. Like others have mentioned, the sight of all those rows of graves is very intimidating, although they are beautifully kept. One of the great joys of serving on the Commission was seeing how it kept the standards going under all kinds of difficulties, such as modern wars, the encroachment of cities into the former countryside, earthquakes, floods-you name it, all kinds of things which would interfere with the good upkeep of this as a remembrance. The Commission does a wonderful job and it was a wonderful post which I greatly enjoyed occupying.
I thoroughly applaud one of the things it did during my time there. It started to put up plaques showing the historical context in which one was viewing the graves. That was important, as it explains to succeeding generations, for whom this is history, what the graves are doing there. To have some context, I think, is extremely important and fits in with all the other ways in which we can teach young people in succeeding generations about what occurred and how important it is to remember. So I applaud all those who try to make it alive and real for youngsters. I hope very much that the various bodies who are involved in charitable work in any way whatever try to take the message into schools, where people will perhaps understand more readily what is involved in war.
There are also those who are not of the armed services as such, but whom I think we ought to remember. I think of the merchant seamen who often risked their
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We of course have an immense responsibility, as others have indicated already, towards those who survive war but with great difficulty. I think particularly of those whose minds are shattered by war as well as their limbs. I believe that organisations such as Combat Stress do a great deal of work. We are also much more aware of the long-term difficulties that can be experienced. This is something that I hope the Government will take on board because the symptoms very often do not show themselves immediately. Therefore we need to look long term, as we do for physical injuries. Many people now survive who simply would not have done so but for very advanced medical techniques. I suspect this is a worry that we are going to have for 50 years and more. It is very easy to forget about once the main dangers are over so we need to have a long-term commitment, I think that this is extremely important.
For the last part of my contribution, I should like to consider a rather sore point, touched upon by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker-the issue of the chief coroner. My noble friend the Minister will recall that when we were in opposition, we worked together in order to ensure that such a post existed. There is a certain irony, shall we say, in the present position. I want to believe that we can manage without him and that the kind of work that we expected him to do can be done by other people. But I have a very real worry that if his duties are distributed among others, then it will be nobody's job. We need a person in this role. If we cannot have a chief coroner, which I would still like, then we need at least a person of repute and sufficient seniority to carry weight. I think that is extremely important and I urge that upon my noble friend. He will recall that one of the reasons why I and those involved in the services wanted this measure, was that military inquests are of a different order from normal inquests. They require a degree of sophistication and an understanding of military facts and ethos. That was developed slowly and painfully for the families of those who had died, but then we had a few coroners with that expertise. I did not want to see that lost, and that was the view of many others involved. Therefore it was felt essential to have a chief coroner with direct responsibility for the training of all coroners, particularly those needing expertise in military inquests.
I continue to think that that is the case. I am hoping for a crumb or two of comfort from my noble friend on this issue. I live in hopes. I think I see a shaking of the head in front of me. Oh, it is a nodding. I will wait eagerly to see what my noble friend says at the conclusion of this debate. I also thank my noble friend Lord Selkirk for giving us this wonderful opportunity to pay tribute, on behalf of the nation, for the wonderful service rendered by our Armed Forces.
Baroness Flather: I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, as well. It is an opportunity for all of us to express our feelings about this occasion. It is a wonderful thing to be able to do that, we very rarely get a chance. My only sadness was that he did not mention the Indians-more than 4 million of them-who served with the British in two world wars. Since we are remembering people, and thinking of those people who were there with the British in two world wars, we might have thought of the Indians because they were crucial.
I should declare an interest. I am an Indian. I wanted to tell noble Lords about something that happened to me when I was a mayor in 1986. During my mayoral year, I was at the wreath-laying ceremony on Remembrance Day and afterwards somebody asked me, "Does Remembrance Sunday mean anything to you?". I was very shocked by that. It was the first time that a seed was planted that made me think that people have to be informed of what the Indian role was in the two world wars.
Not only that-my father was a student here during the Great War, and Gandhiji said to the Indian students, "By all means help the war effort but don't kill people". So my father became a stretcher-bearer and spent the Great War in Mesopotamia. He never talked about it; my brothers, who were older, tried to ask him questions, but he never wanted to talk about it. I think he had such an appalling time that he did not want to recall it, as many prisoners of war did not. But in view of that, it was even more awful to be asked such a question.
Gandhiji also said, in the Second World War-and this has sometimes not been put across correctly-that we must help the British win the war, because then we will get our freedom. He said that if the British did not win the war, we would not know where we would be. So he actually encouraged Indians to volunteer in the Armed Services during the Second World War.
In the first year there were something like 1.5 million Indians. In fact, it was very interesting because India had a standing army of 150,000. When the British expeditionary force went to France it was outnumbered; it was when the Indian standing army started to come across and join the British that things started to change in France. So it is quite strange to know that India had a standing army of 150,000, and they were sent over as soon as possible to fight in France. Also, there were Indians in Palestine in the First World War.
In the Second World War, Indians were much more important. There were 2.6 million to 2.8 million Indians-there are no clear figures-who volunteered. There are very few veterans left now, but I have spoken to them and they said that when officers came to recruit to the villages, they said, "Join the armed services and you will get your freedom". This was a great draw for them to join. Some people think that the Indians joined the armed services because of poverty. I am sure that was a factor, but I am pleased to say that it was not the only factor. Their contribution in the Second World War was absolutely crucial. North Africa was the first turning point of the war, and there were huge numbers
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The Burma campaign speaks for itself, as 1,250,000 were got together by Field Marshal Slim of whom two-thirds were Indians. I really hope that these things will not be forgotten totally, at least in your Lordships' House, because you care about these matters.
Because of all these things that people did not remember or know, as these memories get older and older, I really wanted to see a memorial to the Indians-but also to the Africans and West Indians. It should really pull at the heartstrings, the fact that West Indians-Jamaicans-were at the Somme. They came all the way to die at the Somme; not only that, but it took them six months to get permission to join the British Army and serve. These are things that we should know about, because the whole immigration after the war is rooted in the war. People forget to connect it. Who came here first? It was the people who had served in the Air Force and the Army.
There were two tyre factories in Southall and, as ever, the managers could not get any British workers. So they went back to the villages where their men had come from in the Punjab and recruited there specifically to work in those tyre factories. It is from that the migration to Southall started-and Southall, as noble Lords know, was full of Sikh people.
Sadly, I do not know whether most of your Lordships have seen the memorial. I hope they have. It is on Constitution Hill, not far from here. The names of the winners of the Victoria Cross and the George Cross are in the pavilion next to the memorial. I hope that people go and look at it and do not just pass through it, as they often do. The sad thing for me has been that we have never had a Prime Minister or a senior Cabinet Minister or anybody come to that memorial. The Queen inaugurated it but, even on that occasion, nobody from the then Government of any seniority came. It is quite interesting that when the Australian memorial was inaugurated, the Prime Minister went. One begins to wonder whether it is a question of kith and kin after all. We all remember the Anzacs and all the dominions, but do we remember the former colonies, which gave a great contribution? I am not sure that we remember them in the same way.
I also just mention that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, is the only person who has helped and supported us. She honoured us with a dinner, at which we raised quite a lot of money, and she has been twice to the memorial at the ceremony. But nobody else of any note has yet been there, and I invite all of you to visit.
Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, every year we cherish a number of bank holidays, whether Christmas, Easter, St George's Day or May Day. They all have different meanings for people and, for some, little meaning at all. They are viewed with varying degrees
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The emphasis on recognising the debt we owe to the fallen, like shifting sands, is moving from a focus on the world wars to more recent conflicts. The Wootton Bassett corteges are tangible evidence of the increased poignancy and recognition in the public consciousness of this.
I therefore thank my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas for securing this debate. It is timely to allow us to reflect this year on the mostly positive news to highlight how we recognise the debt owed to the fallen, but also on seeking to look after-better-those who have been left behind and those who continue to serve. It provides an opportunity today to corral and re-emphasise some key points that have arisen from related debates during this year.
By tradition, a Sunday in November provides a formal period of reflective ceremony for families and friends to remember those they knew so intimately who gave their lives for their country. More tangibly, for those directly affected, it is a time also perhaps for a grim but dignified reflection of their changed lives-on family life which might have been, with absent fathers never bringing up children and wives having to cope with overwhelming challenges. More indirectly, we pause and think of those we never knew, from all conflict zones going back several decades, represented by countless names written in bold black letters, hewn in stone on memorials in the UK and around the world.
In June 2011 the War Widows Association marked the 40th anniversary of its foundation, as has already been mentioned. A moving service held in London allowed those present to honour the fallen and their spouses, and reflect on their bereavements, which have happened not just in the heat of war zones but too often from tragic incidents such as friendly fire or accidents in service. It was also an opportunity, collectively, for the war widows, of whom there are over 30,000 in the UK, to quietly reflect on their successes, including the fight over many years for a pension 100 per cent free of tax.
A debate on the subject of the war widows that same day last June highlighted the need for further improvements to their care and welfare. This included the need for a change to data protection laws, still outstanding, to make it easier for the Ministry of Defence to transfer war widows' personal information directly to the association. Current registered numbers are low, at just over 3,000 people. The debate further highlighted the need to protect fully a widow's pension. There remains a legacy issue affecting potentially over 4,000 people. If the death of a spouse fell between 1973 and 2005, after which the Armed Forces pension scheme came into force, and the widow subsequently remarries or co-habits, her pension is withdrawn.
Above all, 2011 has seen the contrast between the war in Afghanistan and civilian life at home highlighted in sharp relief. As the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, has already mentioned, the Armed Forces covenant, presented this May and enshrined in the Bill, emphasised the
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In return to those serving, to servicemen and their families, the state commits to deliver on a number of important social, welfare and health principles, with quality benchmarks to include equipment for fighting, family support, housing, education for children and recognition, to name just a few. In stark contrast with these principles, the riots that this country suffered from earlier this year demonstrated the moral and social bankruptcy seen in some parts of our society. People, mainly young, beyond the control of their parents or authority, were wantonly stealing goods from shops because they were tempting and available, all gained under a cloak of protest at government policy. To echo the words of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, I find it quite extraordinary that soldiers, some of whom may have come from the same cities and not dissimilar backgrounds to the rioters, have continued to serve in highly dangerous conditions against this background at home but remaining as professional, as focused and as brave as ever. It adds further weight to the debt owed not just to the fallen but to the seriously wounded and to those continuing to place themselves in danger. It is also a testament to the highest quality of selection, training and discipline within our UK Armed Forces. There is progress in tackling these legacy challenges at home-which were partly responsible for the riots-and I applaud the Government for taking strong action in working to effect societal change, including the increase of personal responsibility and the reduction of welfare dependency.
Education also has a role in helping us to understand the debt; my noble friend Lady Fookes has already spoken about this. The sacrifices made are more easily understood in society and in communities and passed down through the generations if history is given a greater priority in schools and is better taught, so that it is more interesting and meaningful. Improved teacher training is under way, placing a greater focus on the background to conflicts and on the linkage to related events. This will help pupils to establish a greater perspective to their place in the world and, we hope, will lead to the engendering of a greater purpose to and responsibility in their lives. As my noble friend Lord Lee of Trafford has highlighted, schools should be encouraged to take an interest in adopting local war memorials, to teach pupils about the sacrifices within their communities.
It is hoped that a greater awareness of conflict and the reasons behind conflict, with tangible improvements in our moral standards, in encouraging greater self-help and in giving more help for our fellow human beings in society, will help begin to repay the debt which we will be remembering again in depth on Sunday.
Lord Glasman: My Lords, I also echo the thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, for a beautiful speech and particularly for the beautiful words in relation to memory from Abraham Lincoln. That was beautifully chosen. This is only the third time I have spoken in the House; that is because I am extremely nervous, and because of my incredible sense of gratitude at being able to speak in a free institution in a free country. This is a marvel to behold. I was in a Select Committee this week on a Private Member's Bill on pedlary. It was said that while the concept of the pedlar may go back to the 13th century, it is not really compliant with EU directives. I wondered what it would be like to subject the House to such a directive. It is wonderful that we have kept the particularity of our traditions and can speak freely on these matters.
We have just had 5 November and Guy Fawkes's night. That is an example of statecraft, of an attack on the realm that was turned into great political memory. A link was established between the monarchy, Parliament and Protestantism that has lasted for hundreds of years. It seems to me that we have not grasped how to preserve our memory in this country-how to give flesh to the covenant. The covenant is not a contract. The noble Lord, Lord King, spoke of something sacred in the obligation that we owe. This is the third time I have spoken and the second time that I have spoken on the concept of remembrance. The last time I spoke was about Remembrance Sunday, suggesting, with the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and my noble friend Lord Davies, that we need a day that we can establish a tradition within. The noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, told a beautiful story about tending the graves of the neglected dead; that could be a beautiful tradition to establish on Remembrance Sunday.
It is also the concept of the generations. I am from a Jewish background: I owe my life to your parents and grandparents. It is not just the people who fought; it is the people who lost family and loved ones, and the way that that has to be endured. They should also be remembered when we think of the defence of the realm. We should have one day a year and use our imaginations as the Tudors and Stuarts used theirs, to create some national memory. Could not schoolchildren visit grandparents? Could not some link be established, so that we can remember our obligations to previous generations and, as my noble friend Lady Dean said, look to the future? If we have no way of remembering the sacrifices, we will lose the memory. Just having a moment of reflection by the cheese counter in Sainsbury's is not as good as we can do. That is why we should return to the idea of a genuine holiday on Remembrance Sunday, so that we can have a day where we can establish traditions like fireworks night-some way of remembering the sacrifices made in this country and the fact that, alone in the world for a while, we preserved democracy and liberty, against extraordinary odds.
I am something of a radical traditionalist, as some noble Lords may know. I say to the right reverend Prelate that it took a few days for the church to remember what St Paul's Cathedral meant, but I am very glad that it did. It was completely by chance that
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This country is a marvel, and it is full of miracles. We need to preserve our institutions and have days and commemorations when we can remember all that is best about our country and that in difficult times we cared for each other, looked out for each other and were prepared to make quiet sacrifices.
I support what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, said about the coroner. The matter of the coroner is of concern to grieving families, and just to put it into the accounting system would be too petty.
In remembering people's sacrifice, we as a House need to be much more imaginative in thinking of a day when we can remember and the sorts of traditions that we want to see. Fireworks night is now a tradition but it was instituted by Members of this House in order to remember the institution of this House. I urge all of us to think of ways in which we could put aside a day and develop traditions whereby we can remember the enormous sacrifices made not merely by the dead but by their loved ones.
Lord Bew: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, for securing this debate and for his moving opening speech. I echo his words that it is a privilege to speak in a debate of this sort in this House.
My remarks will follow partly in the spirit of my noble friend Lady Flather. I make the point before I start that it is enormously important to acknowledge the varied nature of the sacrifice that has been made in the struggle to maintain freedom in this country, and that full acknowledgment of that is part of ensuring better relations between different groups in our society.
Ireland provides a striking example. I remind noble Lords that in the case of Ireland there was no conscription in either the First World War or Second World War, so all the sacrifice that was made by Irish people of different traditions was entirely voluntary. In the First World War, nearly 135,000 Irishmen volunteered, in addition to the 50,000 who were already serving with the regular Army and in the reserves in August 1914. Within a few weeks of the outbreak of war, no fewer than three Irish divisions-the 10th (Irish), the 16th (Irish) and the 36th (Ulster)-were formed from Irishmen, Catholic and Protestant, who responded to the call to arms. An estimated 35,000 Irish-born soldiers were killed before the armistice in November 1918. Over 4,000 of those died in the 16th Irish Division.
We have grown increasingly free in recent years of that version of the relationship between the two countries in which the only important military event was the Easter Rising, in which 450 people died. I am increasingly aware of the other important context of the sacrifice of Irishmen of both traditions in the First World War. I should add that, in the Second World War, 170,000 Irishmen again volunteered freely in the Allied cause. It is important, and no accident, that the increase in
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I shall say a few words about the Irish who died in the First World War. The first Member of Parliament to die was Arthur Bruce O'Neill, the Unionist MP for Mid-Antrim, who died within a few weeks of the war starting, on 6 November 1914. He had four children and his wife was expecting another. That other child was Terence O'Neill, who became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and a Member of this House. I also happily report that another kinswoman of Arthur O'Neill, the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill of Bengarve, is in her place. This House has intimate connections with the case of the very first Member of Parliament who died in arms in the First World War.
However, this is not a question of unionist sacrifice alone. Several Irish Party MPs joined up in the First World War. One of the most moving moments in that war was the speech made in June 1917 by Captain Willie Redmond, the brother of the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, who had cheated on his age to get in and serve but at the age of 55 spoke to Parliament about what was happening at the Front, in one of the most dramatic speeches in uniform ever given in the other place. He was killed at Messines in 1917. A number of other Irish nationalist MPs-most recently, I think, Stephen Gwynn, who is the subject of a biography published this week by Colin Reid-also served in that war.
These remarks about Ireland, on the importance of acknowledging the importance of mutual sacrifice and the positive role that that has played in recent years, do not apply only to Ireland. That is why the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, were so important. An important book by Shiraz Maher has just been published, Ties that Bind. It reminds us of the sacrifice of Muslims in the First and Second World Wars as they fought alongside the other Imperial and Commonwealth forces. About 65,000 Muslims were killed in Flanders and Mesopotamia alone in the First World War. Similar Muslim sacrifices were recorded in Burma, Italy and north Africa in the Second World War.
The noble Baroness has already referred to the beautiful set of Portland stone gates installed in 2002 on Constitution Hill that acknowledge that sacrifice alongside that of other Commonwealth soldiers. I support the noble Baroness's words. It is a reasonable request on her part that senior members of the Government should consider attending that place and marking in some way the importance of that sacrifice. She has made a tremendously important point and I support it as strongly as I possibly can.
Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, at this time of national remembrance, I would like to use my time to talk about a national loss of memory, rather than of memory. It is a matter of great concern to me because
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After Wilberforce's moment of triumph in this House in 1806, there followed a 54-year campaign for suppression. The whole burden fell on the forces of the Navy and the rapidly-developing Marines, who had ceased to be sailing soldiers and at that time were beginning to be proper amphibian forces. Suppressing the slave trade required massive intervention on the waterways surrounding the coast of Africa. There was a terrible lack of accurate intelligence about where they should be and what they should do; and they had no shallow-draught boats with which to fight this battle.
Having won the Battle of Trafalgar, there were no enemies left for the Navy, so nobody was spending any money on it. They were certainly not going to build a fleet of shallow-draught boats to fight with. They were told to take what craft they could get from the southern ports of England, sail out and suppress the slave trade. In the course of doing so, they lost 23,000 people through fatality. For every one killed in battle, another three were lost to the diseases that beset the troops, who had no protection against them.
A total of 23,000 died in a fighting force engaged over 54 years. In doing so, they succeeded in suppressing the slave trade, but they got no help from anybody, least of all from many of the vested interests in Britain. They had to fight in dreadful conditions in shallow water and in villages where local tribes and their leaders wanted the slave trade to continue because they made a fortune. The slavers themselves would wait for the flotillas from England to arrive, then come in behind them and try to attack and kill our forces, because they wanted their vested interest in slavery to continue.
Only after six years did the Navy bother to send out a couple of frigates to try to cure that process, but in the first five years a total of 1,580 flotillas were sent out, of which not one returned intact. The total number of deaths in the first five years alone was just over 11,000. It was an appalling slaughter. Worse still, because it has never been categorised as a campaign, the Admiralty and Government would acknowledge no obligation whatever to the widows and families of the fallen, who became a complete burden on society and were left to drift for the rest of their life-as far as they could eke it out. There was no money spent on equipment and nothing on welfare. If that sounds surprising for 204 years ago, we have a few more recent episodes that could remind us of the same today.
The noble Lord, Lord Soley, has invited me to join forces with him in forming a committee to erect a monument to the heroes of that campaign and I have happily agreed to do so. He is committed to raising a
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As we stand today, we need a statue and I have a clear view in my mind about what it should look like. It should obviously carry the image of a heroic warrior at the front, but behind him I want the bodies of a dead wife and children. It would serve as a great reminder to the generations today of the sacrifice that has to be honoured as an obligation. In the immortal words of Nelson, they are a "bequest to the nation" which we must never fail. I am concerned that we do fail, and I have been delighted to hear the comments made on their behalf today. However, we are still not doing enough and I hope that a statue in those graphic terms might help to advance this cause.
Lord Soley: My Lords, it is a delight to follow the noble Lord, Lord James. He is absolutely right. We have discussed this at some length and I will touch on that in a moment. One thing that I would add, and what is often forgotten about the loss of life, is that in that campaign more than 200,000 slaves were released and often taken back to Africa when possible. So it is a far more important campaign than people realise.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, and thank him for the help he has given me on the Arctic convoys, which I will talk about in a moment. What I really want to mention are memorials. We think of them as remembering individuals, as they do and should. However, they are also-this is where my views have changed, or developed, over the past 20 or 30 years-an educational process. They teach us about our history-not just the history of Britain but of the world. I will return to that in a moment. It has been touched on to some extent by others.
I want to mention the Arctic convoys because I frequently go to the west coast of Scotland. I have always known about the Arctic convoys and the dreadful conditions in which sailors from both the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy served. Not only were there constant air and naval attacks on them, but if the ice built up to a certain extent on merchant ships they simply turned over. If your ship turned over in that sea, you would die very quickly. I said that there ought to be a museum since there was not one and many people thought that there should be. I was proud to attend recently the 70th anniversary of the Arctic convoys at Loch Ewe on the west coast. I was delighted to learn that people were now trying to fund a convoy museum. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lee, and my noble friend Lord West, who have both indicated that they will in some way assist, if only in publicity or by lending their names to this group.
Jock Dempster, who is one of the veterans and chairman of the Russian Arctic Convoy Club, was presented with a medal by the Russians who were present. Americans and Canadians were present, as
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There is now a charity that has been set up to build a Russian Arctic convoy museum. If anyone is interested in supporting it, they should look at the website. It is certainly something that I want to support and I have lent my name to it as a patron. It is very important that we remember the Arctic convoys. The charity would also like a medal to be struck for the Arctic convoys. I say to the Minister that I understand the problem of having separate medals for separate parts of a campaign. There is, after all, the Atlantic Star. However, I cannot believe that it is beyond our ability to come up with some additional way to recognise specific campaigns within a larger strategic area, such as the Battle of the Atlantic. The circumstances of the Arctic convoys were quite exceptional and brutal. I ask the Minister to look at ways of recognising that particularly heroic time.
The noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, has anticipated me. I was going to say a bit about the need for something on the slave trade. He talked about the loss of life; I have mentioned the number of slaves who were released. It is important because, as I have said before in this House, it is probably the world's first example of a humanitarian intervention. As I have also said before in this House, when people rather loosely-and, in my view, foolishly-throw around claims about illegal wars, we must remember that several captains in the Royal Navy were brought before the court, as the noble Lord, Lord James, will know. Appeals were heard in this House, and they were charged with interfering with trade on the high seas and fined for it. That is an indication of how attitudes move. You have to say, "Thank heavens they continued". That is an interesting aside on our history.
The noble Lord, Lord James, also mentioned the last charity that I want to mention. I declare an interest as unpaid chairman of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, which has been part of my educational process. Back in the 1970s, I was asked by some of the Caribbean people in my then constituency of Hammersmith to help to identify the grave, which had been overgrown, in Kensal Green Cemetery where Mary Seacole was buried. I knew about her background as a Crimean War nurse who was also greatly appreciated in Central America. There were no nurses, as such, then. Florence Nightingale put the nursing profession on the map but it is impossible to see Mary Seacole as anything other than a battlefield nurse. She went out on to the battlefield and looked after the wounded. She was a remarkable woman, who ended up being so popular in the United Kingdom when she returned from the Crimea bankrupt-because she had funded herself by running what was called the British Hotel there-that the troops here held concerts for three days to raise money for her. Troops do not do that
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If you walk out into the Royal Gallery, look at Daniel Maclise's picture of Nelson dying on the flagship and you will see a black sailor pointing up at the Frenchman who shot him. Look to the left of it and you will see what we would then have called Lascar seamen and women tending to the wounded and doing other tasks. The Royal Navy tells me that close to 200 sailors at Trafalgar were of African origin and that 20 per cent of those on Nelson's flagship were non-British.
The values we defend and fight for are about freedom, democracy and the rule of law and the educational role here of all these things is important. If I succeed in raising funds for the Mary Seacole memorial it will be the first memorial to a black woman in Britain. That is also important. What she did for the military was profoundly important but what she did and still does today in the school curriculum is remind people that our history is not a narrow one, built just in this island alone; it is literally an international history and we rely on that to convey the message about freedom, democracy and the rule of law. I would ask Members to bear this in mind when they look at these charities. They are not just monuments of stone; they are monuments of feeling, of history and of thought.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I, too, begin by thanking and congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, on obtaining this timely and important debate and on his masterly and moving introduction. In the wording of his debate, he has provided a possible let-out for the Government to extract themselves from an unfortunate position with regard to the Armed Forces covenant, to which I shall return.
Tomorrow uniquely, at 11/11/11/11, like many others I shall be remembering the sacrifice made and the recognition of it not only by citizens in the UK but in other parts of the world. I would like to draw attention to four of those places.
One lovely morning in early January in 1966, with the remainder of B Company The Rifle Brigade, I went to pay my last respects to the five members of my company who had died or been killed in Borneo and would not be coming back to the United Kingdom with us, knowing that they would be looked after by the Singaporean gardeners from that incomparable organisation, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This has, in fact, happened.
Moving further west, I sometimes lecture at the battlefield of Gallipoli; a place of terrible beauty but also a place of extraordinary magnanimity which I can illustrate by two of the memorials. One witnessed by Lord Casey, later Governor-General of Australia, of a Turkish soldier carrying in a wounded Australian to the Australian lines. Secondly, a monolith beside that extraordinary Anzac Cove, a strip of sand on which the Anzac Corp was landed in error, containing the words of Kemal Atatürk, president of Turkey, who himself gained fame there."Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives,You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country,Therefore rest in peace.There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets,To us, where they lie side by side, here in this country of ours.You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries,Wipe away your tears.Your sons are now lying in our bosom, and are in peace.After having lost their lives on this land,They have become our sons as well."
They are wonderfully magnanimous words. And then I move further west to Hermanville in Normandy, where every year there is a ceremony, started by the French in 1946, with the 3rd Division which landed there on D-day. After has boat has gone into the sea and thrown out a wreath, and the French flags are lowered, a party led by the mayor and the general march to the village, where they are joined by the schoolchildren. In the cemetery, after the British flags have been lowered, the schoolchildren put flowers on every one of the 3rd Division graves. They have done that since 1946.
Finally, I move further west to Ocracoke Island on the coast of North Carolina, where I once went for a memorable weekend. My wife and I thought we had found a snow storm on the ground, but it was in fact a cloud of snow geese in migration. There, when having breakfast before going fishing, the man running the restaurant said, "Have you come to see our cemetery?". I asked, "What cemetery?". There are four graves of sailors from HMS "Bedfordshire", which was a trawler sunk in May 1942, that are looked after every year by the United States Coast Guard; and Her Majesty the Queen is sending a new British flag this year to mark the anniversary.
Those examples show that our dead are acknowledged and recognised all over the world. The Armed Forces community this year was given a huge boost by the announcement of the Armed Forces covenant-an enduring covenant between the people of the United Kingdom, Her Majesty's Government and all those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces of the Crown, and their families. This covenant is based on trust and goodwill. Each of those three partners has obligations. Among those laid on the Government is,
The despicable defiance of the covenants by the metal thieves has been referred to by many noble Lords during this debate. However, to me, much more serious is the continued defiance of the covenant by the Government and, in particular, I name the Secretary of State for Justice in his refusal to appoint a chief coroner-as mentioned by my noble and gallant friend Lord Walker, the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, and
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I am saying this not just because this is the eve of Remembrance Day, but because I believe that it would be a tragedy if the Armed Forces covenant was discredited before it was introduced. There is great danger of that happening over the issue of the chief coroner. I ask the Minister to say to the Secretary of State for Justice that it is not too late for him to reflect on the devotion of the Singaporean gardeners, the words of Kemal Atatürk, the actions of the schoolchildren in Hermanville and those of the US Coast Guard in Ocracoke. He should draw back before 23 November, recognising the damage that might be done to the trust in the Government's honouring of the obligation that they owe to those who pay the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of this great realm of ours.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, it is always a privilege to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and it is a privilege to follow him in this debate, which was so eloquently and movingly introduced by my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas.
When I went to the Printed Paper Office to obtain the list of speakers, I saw that I was the final Member to speak from the Back Benches, and I wondered whether there would be anything left to say. However, as I have listened to every word in this debate, certain themes have come through.
I could not help but reflect, as I listened-particularly to the speeches of my noble friend Lord James and the noble Lord, Lord Soley-on the historic nature of this place. It was in this Chamber that Winston Churchill made almost all of his great wartime speeches, the Chamber of the House of Commons having been destroyed. As he made those speeches, I know that from time to time he looked up at the statues of the Barons of Runnymede, still above us as we speak today. The historical perspective brought to this debate, especially by the speeches of my noble friend Lord James and the noble Lord, Lord Soley, made me realise that although of course we have focused particularly on the sacrifices of the First and Second World Wars, there have throughout the ages been those who have defended the realm and the liberties of Magna Carta, the very foundation of the freedoms that we enjoy in this country today.
One has only to go to the Royal Gallery-the noble Lord, Lord Soley, talked about this-to see not only the wonderful Maclise mural of Trafalgar but, opposite
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All that, I hope, gives us a sense of belonging to an institution which is the ultimate bulwark of our freedoms. The noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, and others have rightly talked about the sacrifices made in more recent conflicts. I shall be, God willing, at a remembrance service in Lincoln Cathedral on Sunday-the first time that I have not been in my little village church in Staffordshire, which I left recently-remembering the fallen. In Lincolnshire, we remember particularly the heroes of the RAF, and we shall be remembering two from the Royal Air Force who have recently given their lives, not in conflict but in perfecting their skills.
All of us have our individual and personal memories, which bring alive to us the sacrifices that we are seeking to underline in this Chamber today. I think of a trunk that I opened when my dear late mother died in 2000 at the age of 90 and discovering for the first time that she lost six of her cousins in the First World War-all of her male cousins, I believe. I think, too, of the services that we have had in the village of Enville, where I lived for well over 35 years, where, every Remembrance Day, the roll of honour is read. The Royal British Legion assembles from Enville and the neighbouring, rather larger village of Kinver, and it takes more than five minutes to read the names of those who fell, a number of them from specific families.
All that, as has been emphasised today in notable speeches by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, and others, underlines the debt that we collectively owe and the obligation that we collectively have. I am so glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, in his place, because he made a brief but moving speech. He referred to one thing that I specifically want to talk about now. Earlier this year, we had a Second Reading of the Remembrance Sunday Bill promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity. It is a Bill which I introduced in the House of Commons shortly before I left that House in May last year. I was sad that the then Government obstructed its speedy passage on to the statute book, as I made plain in my speech to this place earlier this year. I was sad, too, that I did not get a more encouraging response from my noble friend who was replying from the Dispatch Box. It seems to me that giving Remembrance Sunday a status equivalent to Christmas Day and Easter Day as a day when the tills stop ringing, when people have a chance to pause and remember, and when, as the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, said, they can be with their families, can do only good. It is a very little thing that we are asking for. It is an extremely modest measure but one that would mean a very great deal to war widows, about whom the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, and my noble
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Finally, we have recently touched on the encampment at St Paul's. I do not want to go into all the details now, as there is not time. There is not a Member in this House who does not defend the right to free speech and free protest, but I say this to those encamped at St Paul's. Remembrance Sunday is but three days away. Remember that you are not there because of your own actions; you have the freedom to be there because of what generations of men and women have done in the service of their country. Therefore, I hope that, if you cannot pack up your tents and go-which is something that I should like to see-you will at least watch reverently and attentively and do nothing to disturb the solemnity of the day.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I have listened very carefully to all the very wise words that have been spoken in all the speeches and I agree with much of what has been said. I have been wondering whether, at my great age of 89, I am the only person in this Chamber who was alive and had a job during the time that we have in mind.
I should like to pay a heartfelt tribute and express immense gratitude to the staff of the Royal Star & Garter home who looked after my wounded husband until his death. I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Their work, thank goodness, continues.
Perhaps I may also mention members of the Home Guard. I particularly do so because my father, who won an MC in the First World War, commanded the Marylebone branch, which included the BBC, Harley Street, Oxford Street and the Windmill Theatre.
The Marylebone area was very heavily bombed and many of my father's comrades were casualties. Indeed, there were casualties among the Home Guard throughout the war. Its members did a wonderful job; they were brave men.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, thanks have already been expressed a number of times to the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, for securing this debate and for his opening contribution. Nevertheless, I still wish to take this opportunity to add my own. It is only appropriate that we should be having this debate close to Remembrance Sunday, which the nation observes in the middle of this month because it was on 11 November 1918 that the guns finally fell silent on the western
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Remembrance Day enables us to commemorate in a very visible and dignified manner the sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, made in our name by our Armed Forces, both in years gone by and currently by those on active service at home and abroad. In your Lordships' House, we admire their commitment, their patriotism and their courage, just as do the overwhelming majority of the people of this country. That feeling is reflected, as has already been said, by, for example, the people of Royal Wootton Bassett and in another way by the determination of the Football Association to ensure that the England team should be able to wear poppies during their match this weekend. This feeling is not reflected in the sickening actions of a handful of people who think it appropriate to strip the metal plates from war memorials with the names of those who have given their lives. I share the hope expressed by my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester and the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, that action-if necessary new legislation-will be taken very soon to assist in bringing this despicable practice to an end. This practice is particularly abhorrent to the All-Party Parliamentary War Heritage Group, which does such important and invaluable work in remembering those who have fallen by promoting and supporting the protection, conservation and interpretation of war graves, war memorials and battle sites.
We know that other countries are planning to commemorate the centenary in 2014 of the outbreak of the First World War. I hope that the Government will also be commemorating the centenary in an appropriate and fulsome manner which reflects the significance of the Great War in the history of our nation and the enormous sacrifice that was made by so many. In that regard, I welcome the appointment of Dr Andrew Murrison MP as the Prime Minister's co-ordinator of the centenary commemoration.
We tend even today to think in terms of men when we talk about the courage and commitment of our Armed Forces. We do not always recognise the major role that women play and have played in the service of our country, a point of which we were reminded in a debate in your Lordships' House last June initiated by my noble friend Lady Crawley. She asked what steps the Government were taking to recognise the contribution made by women put on active service by the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War. As my noble friend said in that debate, and as the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, reiterated today, the women concerned served in occupied France, acting as couriers, wireless operators and saboteurs, working with the resistance movements to disrupt the occupation and clear the path for the allied advance. Needless to say, many of these brave women never returned. For that reason alone, they must never be forgotten.
In the past day or so, we have read in the press about an apparent suicide pact between an Army veteran and his wife who, among other things, were, it appears, struggling financially with very little to live on. Something in that case-for whatever reason-would appear to have gone tragically wrong. However, that is
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The welfare of our Armed Forces, as well as the adequate equipping and training of our Armed Forces, is of paramount importance. The previous Government published a Service Personnel Command Paper which was the first cross-governmental strategy on the welfare of Armed Forces personnel, putting the welfare of our Armed Forces as a mainstream policy commitment through all government departments. Among other things, it doubled compensation payments for the most serious injuries; it doubled the welfare grant for the families of those on operations; and, since housing is an issue that has been mentioned today, it led to increased investment in service accommodation. We now have, after a campaign by the Royal British Legion and a political row, the military covenant enshrined in law to ensure that no disadvantage arises from service. I do not doubt that it is the Government's intention to seek to adhere to the principles of the military covenant, but it will be through their actions, not their intentions, that they will be judged.
There are three issues to which I should like to refer and which I hope the Government will address. The first concerns the Office of the Chief Coroner, to which a number of your Lordships, including my noble friend Lord Glasman, have already referred. The office of the chief coroner has been legislated for, yet it is being abolished by the Government. The Government say that they are concerned about the cost, but arguments that it can be implemented at lower cost have been consistently and resolutely ignored. All bereaved families, and not least bereaved service families, deserve an expert independent coronial system at the most difficult time.
In a letter some 10 days ago to the Minister concerned, the Royal British Legion said that it was mystified by some statements that he had made in the other place some three days earlier. The letter went on to say:
"At this poignant time of year when the Nation pauses to remember, it seems incredible that the Ministry of Justice should be in such a determined rush to take away from those brave families the support they desperately need and so deserve-the Chief Coroner which Parliament, with cross-party support, promised them less than two years ago".
The second issue is military pensions, which have already been referred to by my noble friend Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde. The permanent change to a lower rate of indexation will significantly reduce
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The third issue relates to cuts in personnel. In October 2010, when the SDSR was published, we were told that 17,000 personnel would have to go across the three services. As of July 2011, however, we were told that 22,000 would have to go. We need to end the uncertainty about the future size of our Armed Forces and we need to know exactly how many redundancies there will be and where. Uncertainty over cuts and the threat of redundancy does not help morale, and service personnel deserve clear answers to enable them to plan for their own and their families' futures.
Service personnel make many sacrifices, as my noble friend Lord Parekh pointed out. They are often separated from their families for long periods. They often work in extremely dangerous conditions and situations, risking their lives or facing the prospect of suffering life-changing injuries whether physical or mental. Neither are they able to have the same political or contractual rights that apply in other occupations. For those reasons, they should not be treated like other public sector workers but instead deserve special recognition.
Our nation comes together at this time of year in particular to show its respect and solidarity for and with those who serve and have served, and in particular those who have sacrificed their lives. The noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, has also given your Lordships' House the opportunity to do just that. I hope that the noble Lord will feel that today's debate, which I know will be further enhanced by the Minister's speech, has achieved the objective for which he hoped.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Selkirk on proposing this debate and on his very moving speech.
Tomorrow, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month-and, for the first time, of the 11th year-we shall mark the moment when the guns fell silent at the end of the First World War. I wonder whether our forebears, when they first introduced this mark of respect in 1919, believed that it would last this long, or that a second world war and countless other smaller conflicts would be added to the ledger of remembrance. Indeed, it is hard for us to put ourselves in their place-not just to grasp the sheer horror of the conflict which had just ended, but to appreciate their hope that they had at least witnessed the war to end all wars.
The last survivors of the trenches have passed away, and we know to our cost that war continues to tear nations and families apart. Yet I believe that we still
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Remembrance Day is not just about the First World War, nor even about the two world wars. It marks the loss and debt we feel to all those who have died in the service of their country. Sadly, since the last time the guns fired to mark Remembrance Sunday, we have lost 35 brave personnel in Afghanistan. The world has changed enormously since the trenches of the First World War, and so has this country, and so have its Armed Forces.
What have not changed are the spirit and dedication which characterise our soldiers, sailors and airmen in all that they undertake. This past year, in Afghanistan and over Libya, countering piracy in the Indian Ocean or even walking to the North Pole, they have again acted with courage, professionalism and commitment, and I pay tribute to them.
Remembrance unites our country. The ceremonies at the Cenotaph are impressive and moving, bringing together Her Majesty the Queen and members of the Royal Family, the heads of the political parties, military leaders and Commonwealth ambassadors with thousands of the men and women who took part in the conflicts of the recent and more distant past.
That is only a part of what is happening. Up and down the nation, ceremonies will be taking place and wreaths will be laid, to commemorate local sacrifices and local heroes. In Afghanistan, services will be held, to remember not only the many who have given their lives in the past, but friends and colleagues whose memory is still very real. From the youngest recruit to the oldest veteran, their faces will show the mixture of sadness and pride that sums up the spirit of these ceremonies: sadness that they gave their lives, but pride that they did so in the performance of their duty and in the service of their country.
The poppy is the enduring symbol of this act of remembrance. It symbolises hope as well as memory. Every poppy seller, and every poppy buyer, is doing their bit to ensure that we remember the sacrifices our Armed Forces have made to make a better world, and that we do not forget. This is the season when the work of the Royal British Legion is particularly prominent, but that vital work carries on, every day of the year, to support the living.
The legion and its fellow service and ex-service charities are the channel through which the people of this country express their gratitude and respect for the men and women who have fought for them. The volunteers who form the backbone of these charities deserve our special thanks at this time of year.
As my noble friend Lord Selkirk points out, remembrance of sacrifice is not some optional extra, which is a good thing to do, if we have time. It is a debt, an obligation on all of us, whatever our age and whatever our political persuasion. That is why it is so repulsive to read of war memorials being vandalised to sell for scrap metal. A number of noble Lords mentioned this, including my noble friend Lord Selkirk, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester-to whom I pay tribute for the really important work he does as
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"We are working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to put in place an action plan to deal with this, which will involve looking again at the whole regulation of scrap metal dealers. We are determined to do that to put a stop to this appalling crime".-[Official Report, Commons, 2/11/11; col. 918.]
My noble friend Lord Lee made an excellent suggestion that schools might adopt their local war memorials. As part of their service to the community, members of all Ministry of Defence-sponsored cadet forces are being encouraged to take part in the In Memoriam 2014 project. This involves the locating and logging of the thousands of war memorials across the United Kingdom and marking then with smart water, which enables the metal components to be forensically tracked should they be stolen. It is therefore both helping to tackle the problem and raising awareness of the sacrifices that have been made.
It is also objectionable when groups seek to exploit this solemn occasion to further their own agendas. That is why it is so distressing to read of thoughtless actions, which lead to poppy sellers being treated as a nuisance or a health and safety hazard.
I will say a little about what the Government have done to honour the debt. It takes many forms, but starts from the moment that those who have given their lives arrive back in the UK. This year has seen the return of repatriation flights to RAF Brize Norton, after several years of flying in to RAF Lyneham. During those years, we have seen something quite extraordinary, as the people of Wootton Bassett have come together to show respect for the fallen, in a dignified and solemn way. They never looked for any recognition. However, I was delighted that Her Majesty the Queen was pleased to bestow the title of Royal Wootton Bassett on the town, as a permanent reminder of when it stood for all of us.
The example set by the people of Wootton Bassett placed a spotlight on the new arrangements for RAF Brize Norton. Quite rightly, the nation was concerned that we should get this right. I believe that we have done so. The new purpose-built facilities on the base give the deceased and their families the dignity they deserve. Oxfordshire County Council and the Thames Valley Police have sought to ensure that the route which the hearse takes after it leaves Brize Norton is both suitable for the cortege and gives an opportunity for members of the public to pay their own tribute.
Each death leaves behind a grieving family. Another part of our debt to the fallen is that we should support their loved ones to the best of our ability. Last month, when your Lordships were debating the Armed Forces Bill, we recognised the importance of the inquest process as part of that support. The inquest has a crucial role to play in helping families understand
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Several noble Lords have mentioned the position of the chief coroner. This will of course be debated in this House on 23 November. However, I can address the nugget put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean. The Government are clear that urgent reform is required to ensure that the coronial system offers a much better service to the bereaved families of service personnel. That is why we are ensuring that coroners conducting military inquests can access proper, specialist military training and that inquests can be transferred to locations close to the homes of bereaved families. We are also introducing a new charter to set out the clear, enforceable standards that everyone should expect at an inquest. We are appointing a Minister, supported by representative bereaved families, to be in charge of driving and monitoring these much needed changes.
The inquest should and does help bereaved families to come to terms with their grief, but the loss that they have suffered is permanent, with the greatest impact perhaps on children. That is why it is so important that we have introduced scholarships for the children of those who die in active service to enable them to go on to further and higher education.
Honouring the debt to the fallen is the sum total of a host of small actions. It is honoured when SSAFA organises support groups for the bereaved. It is honoured when regimental associations make sure that they keep in touch with the families of the deceased. It is honoured when the Ministry of Defence and other agencies of the Government conduct their dealings in a sensitive and respectful fashion.
Last week the Armed Forces Act 2011 received Royal Assent, and the Armed Forces covenant is recognised in law for the first time. It has signalled the Government's determination to rebuild the covenant. The debt that we owe to the fallen is an important part of that wider moral obligation to recognise what our Armed Forces do for us, and we will not neglect it.
In this debate about remembrance, it is fitting that I should again draw attention to the contributions of the War Widows Association, as many other noble Lords have done. Of course, my noble friend Lady Fookes is president of the association and the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, is vice-president. We had an opportunity to debate its work on its 40th anniversary on 8 June. It campaigns tirelessly and effectively for the widows and widowers of all conflicts, who occupy a special place in our thoughts. I am always impressed by how those who have suffered such a tragic loss are able to turn that loss into such a positive force for good, and I pay tribute to them.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, paid tribute to the work of Help for Heroes, and I echo what he said. My noble friend Lady Fookes pointed out the wonderful work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. My noble friend Lady Trumpington paid tribute to the Star and Garter and the Home
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My noble friend Lord Lee asked whether the Royal British Legion visits schools and can sell poppies. I understand that the Royal British Legion is active in a number of ways to engage with children and schools on remembrance issues. For example, it produces a learning pack that schools can download from its website. It also offers specialist tours to battlefields and cemeteries and its members visit schools.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, asked about the appointment of Dr Murrison, which he welcomed. My honourable friend the Member for South West Wiltshire, Dr Murrison, will act as the Prime Minister's special representative and co-ordinator for events commemorating World War I. We are aware that a number of Governments, including France, Belgium and, most notably, Australia, are quite well advanced in their thinking. As our own plans develop, we will ensure the proper engagement of all interested parties in the UK and overseas. I very much look forward to keeping in touch with the noble Lord on this important issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, who of course is a commissioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the FIFA compromise to let England wear poppies on their armbands on Saturday, which we feel is a very sensible way forward. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, also asked about ID cards. We are working to incorporate a veterans card as part of a new contract for the defence discount scheme. Rollout is planned during next year, but I should make it clear that these will not be formal identity cards.
My noble friend Lord Lee mentioned the National Memorial Arboretum. There is no intention to reduce the current MoD grant in aid to the arboretum. Although it is independent of the Government, we provide it with a grant in aid to defray the costs of maintaining it as a place of national importance of commemoration.
My noble friend Lord Cormack, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, in, if I may say, an excellent speech, raised the Bill to extend Christmas Day and Easter Day restrictions to Remembrance Sunday. I can assure my noble friend that we are consulting with other departments on this issue and within the department.
The noble Lord, Lord Soley, asked about the Arctic convoy medal. The Government have agreed that there should be a fresh review of the rules governing the award of military medals. This will be conducted by an independent reviewer with full consultation with interested parties. The scope of the review and who is to lead it are expected to be announced shortly. This will include the issues surrounding Arctic convoy veterans.
The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, raised Armed Forces pensions. Specific proposals from the Armed Forces have not yet been formulated. Consequently, it is too early to inform service personnel of what the changes will mean for individuals. It is clear that a new pension scheme must be acceptable to service personnel, highly competitive in relation to other schemes in recognition of the unique commitment of the Armed Forces, retention positive in pulling personnel through to key career points and aligned with the development of the new employment model.
On the third point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, personnel preparing for, deployed on or recovering from operations, such as Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, will be exempt from selection for redundancy unless they apply for it.
Concerns have been expressed by noble Lords about the position of widows who lose their pension on remarriage or cohabitation because they fall into the gap between 1973 and 2005. This reflects the fact that pensions paid to widows under the 1975 Armed Forces pension scheme, where the death was not due to service, cease upon remarriage or cohabitation. This is not the case for survivors' pensions paid under the 2005 scheme, which are paid for life. I fully understand why this difference appears to be unfair. Nevertheless, successive Governments have maintained the principle that improvements to public service pensions should not be applied retrospectively. Addressing one issue would increase the pressure to address the legacy issues in all public sector pension schemes. This would have huge financial implications and is simply unaffordable.
Remembrance is not just about passive contemplation or private grief. It is about public action-action to look after the living who have suffered as a result of sacrifice, action to ensure that our young people understand their history, action to treasure the values which so many have fought and died for. In the moment of calm when the minute's silence falls across the nation tomorrow, we should all bear that in mind.
Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for giving reassurances on many of the subjects which have been raised today, particularly that the matter of the desecration of war memorials will be followed up with vigour in due course.
On the issue of protecting a war widow's pension, I sense that the mood of the House is very sympathetic to the Minister doing everything he can within the framework of what is possible. On the chief coroner question, it might be a great help if the attention of the relevant Secretary of State could be drawn to what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said.
In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, who made an excellent speech, I very much hope that the memorial gates at Hyde Park Corner commemorate appropriately all those from India who played such a role in the last century-India being the world's largest democracy today.
The suppression of the slave trade, which the noble Lord, Lord James, spoke about, went on for a very long time. When I was a small boy, I was told that my grandfather, who was a midshipman, had to play a very small role in that. I think that story should be better known because the British and the Commonwealth have been involved in humanitarian projects and objectives on many occasions in the past.
The noble Lord, Lord Soley spoke very well about the commemoration of the Arctic convoys, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lee, on the need for a memorial for RAF Bomber Command, which I hope will be opened before very long.
Remembrance is very important for the families of all those who fell in battle. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, touched upon the role of women. The best way I can illustrate the importance of remembrance is by quoting a very few words claimed to have been used by Leo Marks to contact Violette Szabo, to whom I have already paid tribute, in a wartime code. Violette Szabo's husband Etienne had been killed during the battle for El Alamein. Violette herself later worked behind enemy lines. In the film "Carve her Name with Pride", the words were used to symbolise the wartime love and loss experienced by a warrior for a married partner who had been killed. It is really remarkable for its shortness and simplicity. It reads as follows:
Baroness Young of Hornsey: My Lords, as London and the UK gear up for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and with the EU year of active ageing rapidly approaching, the publication of the EU Committee's report, Grassroots Sport and the European Union, makes this debate timely. When the Social Policies and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee, which I chair, began its inquiry at the beginning of this year, it was not immediately obvious to all of us that the EU had any specific locus in the sporting arena. Your Lordships may be aware, however, that the Lisbon treaty, which entered into force at the end of 2009, granted the EU a
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The report considered how the new competence could best be used to support grass-roots sport by extending the benefits of participation to individuals, teams and communities. It focused on grass roots rather than on professional sport in light of the fact that one of the reasons for developing an EU sports policy and therefore introducing a competence was recognition of the social significance of sport. While it is fair to say that there was a degree of scepticism among some members of the committee at the start of the inquiry, we heard powerful evidence from a range of stakeholders that convinced the committee at an early stage that sport can make a valuable contribution to policy areas in which the EU has a stake. For example, we heard from volunteers of Street Games who run sports projects in disadvantaged communities where they have reduced anti-social behaviour and brought together diverse or fragmented communities. As part of its inquiry, the committee visited Swiss Cottage School in Camden to learn first hand how disabled children and young people in the area are benefiting from being involved in grass-roots sports. In addition, we heard about projects that are helping people into education, employment and training by developing skills such as team work, as well as confidence, and other initiatives that aim to reduce social isolation among elderly and migrant communities.
Sport alone will obviously not solve these complex social problems, but the committee became convinced that it is a powerful tool which policy-makers should use. The committee's report recommends ways in which the EU and the UK can exploit the full potential offered by a sport through mainstreaming it into their policy-making and using it to deliver their objectives in a broad range of areas, including health, education, social inclusion and equalities. Increasing the participation of underrepresented groups such as older people, the unemployed, disabled people, migrant communities and other disadvantaged groups, should be a particular priority, as well as recognising the importance of recruiting and retaining volunteers.
The EU can also affect sport in a number of less obvious ways, and it is here that the committee considered that the new competence could be particularly helpful in ensuring that sport is taken into account. For example, EU legislation on the single market and intellectual property can ultimately affect the amount of money available for grass-roots sports projects. Our reports suggested ways in which the EU can avoid placing unnecessary regulatory or legislative burdens on sport, particularly when they affect volunteers, who are essential to grass-roots activity. In this respect, we recommended a review of EU legislation by the Commission, similar to that recently undertaken in the UK to identify regulatory burdens and ideally remove them in due course.
Although there have been signs that the Commission is starting to integrate sport into policy-making and funding programmes, we did not consider that it was taking place consistently enough. We considered that the EU could adopt a more focused role through the Commission's sport unit in making a more compelling case for the integration of sport in a wider range of policy initiatives. This could be effected through data collection and research, for example, particularly with regard to the evidence base for the social outcomes that sport can facilitate, through improving mechanisms by which member states and grass-roots organisations can share best practice, making funding available through truly transnational projects via a dedicated sports programme and through recognising that more general EU funding streams, such as the structural funds, can also offer significant potential to grass-roots sports. While we accept that resources for any funding streams specific to sport are likely to be small, we are still hopeful that the matter will receive the attention that it deserves during the current negotiations in Brussels regarding the next multi-annual financial framework for the period 2014-20.
The redistributed revenues from the broadcasting of professional sport also provide a significant source of funding for grass-roots sport. The treaty now allows for the specific nature of sport to be taken into account in the assessment of commercial arrangements, such as collective selling and territoriality, that had previously come under scrutiny for their compliance with EU competition and internal market legislation. We welcome the Commission's recognition of the benefits to be derived from collective selling. However, the uncertainty over what the specific nature of sport entails has been a long-standing concern of stakeholders.
Your Lordships may be aware that this matter received media coverage last month as a result of court action taken by a UK publican, Karen Murphy, who has been fighting for the right to air Premier League games using a Greek TV decoder. The European Court of Justice, which took note of the new article in the treaty and the requirement to recognise the specificity of sport, ruled that national laws which prohibited the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards were contrary to the freedom to provide service. While not providing an absolute green light for publicans across the land, especially regarding copyright issues, this decision could nevertheless have major implications for the Premier League and lead to cheaper viewing arrangements for foreign broadcasts. The implications for the funding of grass-roots sport from broadcasting revenues are far from clear, particularly as lower subscriptions may, of course, increase the volume of subscribers.
Digital piracy of sporting events is another issue of increasing concern, and our report recommended that sport be included in the Commission's work on the digital agenda. Similarly, we recommended that any work resulting from the Commission's Green Paper on online gambling takes sport into account. We heard divergent evidence on whether the gambling industry should be required to pay a fair return for the use of sport's intellectual property. This is a complex issue, and we recommended that the Government and the Commission analyse the French levy and consult more widely on the issue.
Lastly, we concluded that the Commission needed to do more to ensure that the voice of grass-roots sport is sufficiently heard. Dialogue between the Commission and sports stakeholders is currently dominated by professional sport, particularly football, and is therefore not truly representative. Our report recommended that the Commission should put in place enhanced measures to inform grass-roots organisations about work being undertaken at the EU level and the opportunities available to them. The EU Sports Platform, as chaired by the ex-Taoiseach John Bruton, should help with this.
We also suggested ways in which the EU working groups, which progress many of the EU's initiatives in this area, could be more productive and focused, including making use of smaller grass-roots organisations with expertise in specific areas where appropriate. In the UK context, we considered that Sport Northern Ireland, sportscotland and Sport Wales should be invited to join the DCMS EU Sport Stakeholder Group, which is currently only attended by Sport England.
Hugh Robertson MP, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, wrote to us on 22 May this year to set out the Government's response. There is clearly a lot of common ground between our views and those of the Government on the issues we dealt with in the report. We welcome in particular their commitment to ensuring that the contribution of sport to other EU policy areas, including the Europe 2020 objectives, is recognised in the work plan for sport for 2011-14, as well as being mainstream throughout the EU's broader activities. We also welcome their commitment to increased participation, including through volunteering, and in line with their London 2012 Singapore promise across government departments and building on their existing engagement with the devolved Administrations.
The Government were less persuaded of the committee's recommendation to establish an EU sport programme as a specific funding stream under the next multi-annual financial framework, which we note does not form part of the Commission's recent proposals in this respect. However, the Government did support the committee's recommendation that sport should be mainstreamed through other funding instruments, including the structural funds, and they undertook to promote such opportunities to the UK sports bodies. However, the Government did not indicate whether that policy would be integrated into the UK's negotiation stance in the next round of structural funds. We look to the Minister to tell us more about the Government's intentions in that regard.
The Government also supported the committee's recommendations on the need to address the digital piracy of sporting events in work on the digital agenda, as well as accepting the committee's conclusion that too often EU legislation in unrelated areas unintentionally adversely impacts upon sport, particularly on volunteers. They also accept that there needs to be better vigilance and better use made of the impact assessment process. The EU's impact on grass-roots sport would surely pass unnoticed without adequate dialogue between the Commission and the sports organisations on the ground. In this respect, the Government support our recommendations on the need for such dialogue to be more representative and outcome-based and for the
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We also received a response to our report from the European Commission in September this year. We were encouraged to read that the Commission was largely supportive of our report's conclusions and recommendations, although it also suggested that financial constraints may prevent certain measures being adopted to improve dialogue between it and sports organisations.
The committee understands that the Council will adopt further conclusions on the role of voluntary activities in sport in promoting active citizenship and, in the wake of the recent international cricketing no-ball controversy, on combating match-fixing and promoting good governance in sport more generally. In similar vein, the Commission is currently developing its approach to online gambling following the publication of its Green Paper, and the committee will look forward to considering any proposals that may result from that process.
Since the responses from the Government and Commission were received, I have also had the pleasure of giving an address about our report to a conference in London that was organised by one of our main witnesses during the inquiry, the Sport and Recreation Alliance. The Commission and the European Parliament were also involved in that event, so it provided an excellent opportunity to make the committee's views known on this matter.
I hope that my remarks today have demonstrated that the EU's new competence potentially offers real benefit to sport and the millions of people who enjoy participating in it across Europe. The committee is hopeful that the competence will be used to ensure that even more people can reap the benefits of doing so, and we expect that the EU's work in this area will only develop further over time. As sport is truly international, it seemed only reasonable that the EU should have a strong role in that context, as long as grass-roots activities at the local level continue to receive the support that they require and deserve. In that respect, we are hopeful that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will provide a lasting sporting legacy without taking much needed funds away from grass-roots sports. I look forward to hearing from other noble Lords, and of course from the Minister on behalf of the Government, regarding this important matter. I beg to move.
The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, this is a fascinating report and a particularly worthwhile subject to investigate. Sub-Committee G has produced a paper to the expected high standard, ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey. I should add that while I am a member of the committee now, I was not in place during the course of the report.
The committee has looked at a subject that requires, and has been given, in-depth investigation. I look forward to the response from the Minister, particularly in response to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The European Union has the ability to develop and make a difference to the success of grass-roots
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The great benefits of grass-roots sport and taking part stand repetition. As the noble Baroness mentioned, sport is good for health and education. With regard to health, as we all know, we are in the midst of a massive obesity epidemic in this country that is creating a population with a high incidence of type 2 diabetes. This, I might add, is costing the British taxpayer almost £1 million an hour. I am not, of course, saying that grass-roots sport is a cure-all for all things obese, but it can certainly help. I also mentioned education. There is the physical side, including fitness and skills, and there are the social skills. Something that is often forgotten in competitive sport is that playing as part of a team is a great thing for the young of this country to take part in.
We cannot look at grass-roots sport without also looking at major sporting events. It would be difficult for one to exist without the other. Major events rely on the grass roots to buy tickets, shirts, scarves and other goods; and to watch pay-to-view terrestrial or satellite television. The grass roots also rely on funding gained from these major events. This is particularly poignant at the moment when we look at the enormous sums of money that have been mentioned in some sports, such as salaries and transfer fees. Money can trickle down to grass-roots events. The holy grail, though, is the sporting legacy from these major events. This is also the basis on which competing nations have won the right to hold events such as a world cup, championship or the Olympic Games. This is an area that appears to be difficult to achieve; therefore co-oordination from the European Union can possibly help to extend this sporting legacy further.
A study from the University of Kent was highlighted in the Guardian about six months ago. It looked at the sporting legacy from the Greek Games held in 2004. It found that there was a short-lived boost in sporting activity of 6 per cent in 2003-04. Five years later this dropped by 13 per cent. What made this more depressing was that over the same time Greece won the European football championship, so there was a big push on sport in that country. The legacy is not there now. The data and the study show that a broader strategy on active lifestyles must be implemented when these major events take place. I hope that the European Union will help to put that in place. This of course can be implemented on a pan-European basis.
Two countries with a sporting heritage, admittedly outside the European Union, are Australia and New Zealand. Australia held the Sydney Olympic Games, which were another successful major event. Once again, no noticeable legacy was found. More recently, we have had the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. We have yet to see what the sporting legacy will be from that, but in a country of 4 million, with every one of them wearing an All Black shirt, there were 120,000 visitors to the country and 1 million tickets were sold.
When the Rugby World Cup comes to England in 2015, I understand that we aim to sell 3 million tickets. Let us hope that it will produce a pan-European
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So now we look to 2012 and how the sporting legacy will be achieved. We have the capital projects, the creation and improvement of stadia that will be used for the event, and the upgrading of thousands of local sports clubs and facilities. We should also not forget the protection and improving of sports fields across the country. These will have a long-lasting use after the event has ended, but we must ensure the legacy also brings more people to take part in sport.
The European Union has the opportunity to co-ordinate and to oversee progress. However, I make a sincere plea, along with the noble Baroness, not to overregulate areas where it is not required. This is so important. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.
Baroness Billingham: My Lords, the European Union Committee and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, are to be warmly congratulated on producing this excellent report. Not only does it inform and update us on the role of sport in the EU, but it points the way to the future, where grass-roots sport can take its place at the centre of people's lives.
It is a particular pleasure for me to talk about sport in such a context. In the 1990s, when I was a Member of the European Parliament, I wrote and spoke constantly of the need to reflect the importance of sport in member states, and urged the Commission to provide legislation to reflect that. I was secretary and, later, president of the European all-party committee on sport, which undertook numerous reports and hearings that provided an opportunity for important debates. None was more so than when a Belgian footballer made his way to my office in Brussels to explain his predicament and his dispute with the football club for which he played. I almost said "which owned him", since that was the nub of the case.
Little did I realise at that first meeting that the Bosman case, as it became known, would have such a fundamental effect, not only on football but on all professional sport. It changed for ever the rights and entitlements of individual players. I well remember telling the player that his case, within the existing legislation of the single market, was strong. I urged him to take it forward; he did and the rest is sporting history. Despite this and other controversial cases, the Commission refused to incorporate sport into EU legislation. Therefore, its inclusion in the most recent treaty-the Lisbon treaty-is welcome, if long overdue; sport is now recognised.
As with many good ideas, timing is everything. With economic chaos across Europe, the likelihood of generous funding-a strong, separate budget line-would appear to be a forlorn hope. What is to be achieved in the current situation? The report gives us good pointers. It reminds us of the scope of sport within society, notably in health, social and educational spheres. It highlights the role of volunteering, which is so crucial to both professional and amateur sport, and asks for recognition of this. Here in the UK we are focusing on
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By taking evidence from a wide range of sources, the EU Committee provides us with an excellent overview of where we are now and where we can be in the future. Not only does it look at the implications of the single market, it focuses strongly on intellectual property rights-all of which is aimed at protecting sport from negative factors and promoting good practice. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, the failure to take sport into account in the formation of legislation has caused significant problems.
What, in reality, can we hope for in the future? The Commission is now a paid-up member of the sports lobby, promising to include sport in all future policy areas and quite rightly granting it its proper status. The benefits for member states are highlighted in the EU work plan for sport. With better EU data collection, member states will be able to measure themselves against others. There are huge discrepancies, so the comparative performance data will enable member states to learn from each other, stimulating Governments to match up, either through better funding or better structures. No sporting body ever wants to be at the bottom of the league table.
The breadth and sources of submissions to the EU Committee are impressive. The Sport and Recreation Alliance made a strong case for the benefits of participation and the active notion of sport for all ages and standards, which is of course the hallmark of grass-roots sport. It also reminded us that sport and physical activity have a positive impact on educational attainment-a fact which sadly seems to have eluded Mr Gove with his dispiriting educational proposals. The point was strongly made that sport must be mainstreamed in structural funds if disadvantaged and unrepresented groups are to be helped.
Sport England highlighted a number of concerns, not least the sadly small number of women participating in sport compared to the number of men. Oh, for some form of Title IX across Europe-the USA really did get that right in the 1980s and Europe should be encouraged to follow suit.
My suggestion for enhancing sport in an economic downturn is based on co-operation. My inspiration comes from comedian and writer Tony Hawks, a committed and, indeed, good tennis player, who for the past seven years has founded and promoted Tennis For Free. For most of that time I have encouraged and supported him and lobbied for him with the LTA and with governments, until recently with scant success. His formula is simple. A charity, Tennis For Free, uses his local park courts at the Joseph Hood Recreation Ground in Merton, for a weekly free coaching programme on Saturday mornings. It is amazing. The courts, though pretty rundown, are packed, with mums, dads and kids all being coached, provided with racquets and balls and coming back week after week. It is all made possible by the far-sighted Merton Council, which has decided that the court should be free all week and the pay-and-play charges have been removed.
Now Tony has moved further. Councils up and down the country-most of them cash-strapped-have signed up for a similar package. There is no requirement
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This I believe is a formula that could work for most sports: a charity employing coaches, a local authority giving its facilities free of charge and seed-corn funding from the Sports Council. It is a formula that could be used across all member states.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, on 22 November I shall be taking over as chair of the Volunteering Development Council, following in the footsteps of my noble friend Lady Hanham. It is a great honour to have been asked to chair the council, because it represents the opinions and interests of the millions of people throughout this country who contribute to the daily life of our nation by volunteering. I would like to use today's debate as an opportunity to say a few words about the relationship between the EU and grass-roots sports and volunteering.
First, may I place on record my appreciation of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and her chairmanship of EU Sub-Committee G. She combines incisiveness and understanding of whatever subject is in hand with great good humour and a collegiate approach, and it is genuinely a pleasure to serve on the sub-committee. We are also, as ever, served very well by the staff of this House and in the case of this inquiry by the specialist adviser, Professor Richard Parrish.
Our report highlights the importance of volunteers in sporting activity and notes that, for example, the average football club will involve some 21 volunteers. Indeed, the Football Association estimates that there are more than 400,000 volunteers involved in footballing activities alone.
Why do they do this? For some, it is the love of a particular sport that stays with them throughout their lives. For others, it is drawn from a commitment to their local area and the role sport can play in cementing that sense of local community. My home town of Needham Market has a thriving and very successful football club that was first established in 1919. It has a number of teams and a record of success that is the envy of far larger towns. Over the 30 years that I have lived in Needham Market, I have seen hundreds of young people commit their time and energy to the club. There are currently some 130 young people active in football in the town, which has a population of only 4,500.
Other people become drawn to volunteering in sporting activities because of the many benefits that sport can bring to people who are disadvantaged in some way. We had powerful evidence from Street Games and the Prince's Trust, among others, about the role that sport can play, not just in providing
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All these activities depend on volunteers, and one of the great things is that much of the interaction goes across the generations in a way that few other activities do. Volunteering of any kind is and should remain essentially a local activity with support from local councils and national Governments. The European Union-level dimension to grass-roots sport and volunteering is hard to establish at first sight. Indeed, a very recent communication from the Commission spoke about having a legal framework for volunteering. Even as a Europhile, I would need some convincing of the need for that.
However, as our inquiry went on, it became clear to me that there is a role for the EU in grass-roots sport, although it is limited. First, many witnesses highlighted regulatory burdens as one of the great barriers to volunteering. The experience of the English Federation of Disability Sport was that,
While I accept that it is often difficult to sort out the truth from myth about EU regulation, I would support the Sport and Recreation Alliance in its call for a review of EU regulation as it impacts on volunteers. A number of witnesses told us that both sport and volunteering are vulnerable to the law of unintended consequences as a result of EU legislation in other areas. The Sport and Recreation Alliance told us how regulations about working at height and on the use of open water had had serious adverse impacts on climbing and water sports. With the coalition Government committed to reviewing domestic regulatory burdens, perhaps it would be a good idea, before we end the EU Year of Volunteering, to begin to carry out a parallel exercise in EU law.
In an ideal world, impacts on volunteers would be considered pre-legislatively, rather than afterwards. Our evidence suggests that despite the coming into force of Article 165 of the Lisbon treaty, which, as we have heard, has given the EU a legal competence in sport, the procedures within the Commission are not giving sufficient weight to the opinions of the sport unit when looking at how other policy decisions might impact. There are certainly many formal channels for dialogue between policy-makers and sporting organisations, but our evidence suggests that these are dominated by elite sport and big money, especially in football. An MEP who is an expert in this field highlighted the lack of a real grass-roots voice in EU policy-making in sport.
We definitely detected among our witnesses a real appetite for the strengthening of pan-European networks between grass-roots organisations, especially for using the benefits of modern technology in the exchange of best practice. I note that the Minister was reticent about this, but both Street Games and the Football
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Marginalisation of grass-roots sports organisations extends to the funding programmes. The chief executive of Street Games told us that the application procedures are simply too complex and bureaucratic for small organisations. At this morning's sub-committee meeting, we looked at a mid-term evaluation of the Europe for Citizens programme, and it is shown that of the €215 million budget for its projects only €1.16 million has come to the UK. This is a significant under- representation in a programme that ought to be of great interest to the UK, and which includes sport.
Although it is tempting just to blame the bureaucracy, the fact that other countries are finding a way to get through the bureaucracy suggests that we have a particular issue. I certainly undertake to work with the current Government, if they wish, and with the volunteer sector to find out exactly why we are so poor at accessing this money. I look forward to the Minister's response.
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