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I have a friend whose business is helping people into self-employment and who stated that women do not borrow as much as men, or as easily. She puts this down to women being risk-averse. She does not feel that men have a monopoly on good ideas, nor are they better at running a business or putting their backs into hard work. We need economic growth. If a major factor stopping women from starting a business is that finance is so difficult, I hope that the Minister will look at ways in which we can help women in future.

2.08 pm

Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill: Today we look forward to International Women's Day on 8 March and the contribution of women to economic growth. I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for this opportunity.

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures". The most important message we can give girls is that we support their hopes and aspirations, even at this time of mass youth unemployment, not only because achieving their ambitions will bring them a decent job and with it independence and, one hopes, a feeling of self-fulfilment, but because the future of our economy depends on women's intelligence, skills and creativity. Women are vital for economic growth. They are the key to growing our way out of the recession.

One of the most extraordinary changes in women's lives in the past few decades that I have witnessed has been the growth in educational and career opportunities. In 1971, women's employment rate was 56 per cent; by 2008, it had risen to 74.7 per cent. As the Resolution Foundation has argued, the rise in living standards among low to medium-income families over the past decade is due to women's employment. The statistics prove the point. In 1968, 86 per cent of household gross employment income came from men and 14 per cent from women. In 2008-09, 63 per cent came from

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men and 37 per cent from women. As the Resolution Foundation warns, the future prospects of millions of families now rest heavily on what happens to women's employment, but the future does not look promising. After such an extraordinary period of change in women's lives, women are in danger of seeing that progress seep away. A combination of forces is making it much more difficult for women to raise a family and contribute to its economic survival.

The Government's austerity programme will shed 710,000 jobs in the public sector by 2015. Women make up 65 per cent of the workforce in the public sector, rising to 75 per cent in local government, according to the TUC. Job losses will fall disproportionately on women, particularly older women, many of whom are already caring for children, grandchildren and elderly parents. This level of redundancies is about much more than the public sector; it cuts to the heart of the employment system in the UK. Public sector job losses will have a major impact on the private sector and on demand in the economy. Growth in the British economy is led by wages, so the recovery will be led by wage growth. The loss of women's spending power will not only drag thousands of households to the brink of poverty but slow down the rate of growth when the upturn begins.

The emerging markets in health, leisure, education, childcare and eldercare, are the sectors which employ large numbers of women. They are the vital parts of the infrastructure we will need to develop our economy and a civilised caring society. Women in Britain deserve better. Young girls deserve a future. If we want to see a society that is moral as well as efficient and wealth-creating then we will need to invest in women's emotional and intellectual skills, and build a new infrastructure that supports people and develops social capital. We need to develop a properly paid, well educated female workforce delivering dependable, resilient and high-quality services in the markets of the future, but we cannot achieve that without developing a better, more affordable system of childcare.

One of the most important reforms Labour made in office was to double the number of childcare places, but now this trend is being reversed. According to Aviva, more than 30,000 women have given up their jobs because childcare and other costs mean they cannot afford to work. We need to learn lessons from our European counterparts. In Norway, parents can access childcare from birth to age five at a cost that is half the OECD average. In Denmark, childcare is free to the lowest income families. Denmark and Norway have 10 per cent more women in work than the UK.

Here in the UK, it is estimated that parents with young children pay on average £100 a week for childcare, a huge pressure on household budgets for all but the most affluent families. For many, the increasing high cost of childcare prevents parents, mostly mothers, returning to employment. Research for the Department for Work and Pensions found that almost six in 10 mothers with young children who had not gone back to work cited a lack of childcare or flexible working as the reasons.

This country needs to make progress towards a system of universal childcare that we can be proud of. The IPPR has argued that a higher employment rate is

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an absolutely essential foundation for long-term fiscal sustainability and the only way we will be able to afford a strong welfare state and good public services in the years ahead. Combined with a return to sustained growth, moving towards a system of universal childcare would make a real contribution to that effort. It would mean women in this country had something really to celebrate on International Women's Day.

2.14 pm

Lord Lexden: My Lords, during our debate a year ago to mark International Women's Day, we were reminded most powerfully by my noble friend Lady Verma that,

We were also eloquently reminded by her that,

One year on, we must step up our efforts to tap that resource to the full.

The wealth of modern Britain, permitting increased investment in our public services, has enabled women to make huge advances. In education, the gender gap has swung decisively in their favour. Last year, 61.9 per cent of girls achieved five A* to C grade GCSEs or their equivalents, including English and mathematics, compared with 54.6 per cent of boys. At A-level, girls had higher average point scores than boys. Of course major gender issues remain in education, notably the lack of young women studying sciences, mathematics and engineering. As every shred of evidence shows, this is not due to any lack of ability.

When we look across a sample of countries at varying levels of economic development, as the World Bank has done in the Gender Equality and Developmentsection of its latest World Development Report, we find that outdated social attitudes towards so-called men's and women's jobs persist in rich countries with large service economies-economies in which it makes no sense to think in such terms. Nowhere have attitudes changed more markedly recently than in the leadership of the Conservative Party. There is much work for that modernised leadership to do, as the issues identified in the World Bank's report and other issues raised in this debate so clearly show.

I turn to the part of the country which is closest to my heart, Northern Ireland, and the impressive role that women are already playing in its economy, as well as the precious potential that remains to be unlocked there. As the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency has recently noted, women's employment rates remain-as they always have been-high in Northern Ireland and the female employment rate has actually increased by two percentage points during the past year, in contrast to a slight fall here. Prospects for the future are in many respects extremely encouraging. In higher education, 80 per cent of first-year undergraduates in medicine, dentistry and subjects allied to them are women, as are over half of first-degree graduates in physical and mathematical sciences. Alas, some outdated stereotypes still persist. The subjects with the lowest

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proportion of women are computer science, architecture and engineering. The progress made in the Province so far needs to be taken considerably further.

Women are central to the fundamental change that the Northern Ireland economy needs: its rebalancing to end its excessive reliance on the public sector and to raise up fresh sources of wealth in thriving businesses. Progress towards a rebalanced economy is one of the principal objectives of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Success in this important endeavour will transform the Province's economic fortunes. Above all, a renewed spirit of enterprise is required.

Entrepreneurship is deeply entrenched by history in Northern Ireland, but for too long has been at a low ebb. Its revival today is being powerfully assisted by women. Programmes backed firmly by the Northern Ireland Executive such as Women into Work, established in 2008, are pointing the way to a better future. In its initial phase, its target for the number of women it could help either to get back onto the career ladder or to start their own businesses was exceeded by more than 200 per cent. Targets were raised; again, they were exceeded. The strength and success of this programme is becoming ever clearer as the number of women interested in starting their own small businesses increases. Already, the proportion is up by 15 per cent. Successful young women entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland have at their disposal the advice and support of Northern Ireland's Women in Business network, whose chief executive Roseann Kelly has attracted much praise. The network's main focus is on the self-employed and women in senior managerial positions throughout the Province, on whom so much depends.

The Northern Ireland Executive's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has as its Minister one of the Province's leading women politicians, my good friend Arlene Foster. She has the task of delivering many of the key changes needed in the economy, and under her leadership the department has women at the heart of its agenda. The Executive's gender equality strategy sets out a vision for a future Northern Ireland in which men and women are equally respected and valued as individuals in all our multiple identities, sharing equality of opportunity, rights and responsibilities in all aspects of our lives. All friends of Northern Ireland will be united in hoping that the Executive achieve that goal.

2.20 pm

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I follow on from my noble friend Lady Gale's greetings from Wales and say to noble Lords: Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus i chi gyd. I thank the Minister for introducing the debate, which is proving to be wide-ranging and excellent.

The women who took part in the first International Women's Day demanded better conditions at work, the rights to vote and to hold office and to be equal partners with men. Those wonderful women would view today with a mixture of disappointment and satisfaction. There has, of course, been significant advancement of women's legal rights and entitlements,

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as noble Lords have pointed out. A hundred years ago, only two countries allowed women to vote, but now women lead Governments on every continent and have roles and positions in professions from which they were previously excluded. Not so long ago, violence was seen as a private matter-a "domestic", in the language of common usage. Now two-thirds of countries recognise and punish domestic violence, and the UN system now recognises sexual violence as a weapon of war, although clearly violence remains one of the most pervasive violations of women's rights and one of the least prosecuted crimes.

Despite the advances, however, real equality is far from a reality for most of the 3.5 billion women who make up 50 per cent of the world's population. Some 70 per cent of illiterate adults are women, a figure that has barely changed in 20 years. Fewer than 10 per cent of countries have female heads of state. Only 19 per cent of the world's parliamentarians are women. Girls are far less likely to be in school, and more likely to drop out of school, than boys. Every 90 minutes a women dies in pregnancy or due to childbirth-related complications, nearly all preventable. Fewer than 3 per cent of signatories to peace agreements are women. Women are the primary carers and farmers, but much of their work is not valued by economists, pundits, popular culture or government leaders. Women's rights are fundamental human rights, and the challenge is to understand that those human rights are global. That is the reality that must dominate our thinking, whether the issue is climate change, the transition to democracy in the Arab world or advancing peace, security and justice.

As many noble Lords have said, education is fundamental to all progress. When women are educated they improve their rights in all areas, including property rights, and are more free to work outside the home, to find decent work and to earn an independent income. As a result, the life chances of whole families, communities and countries can be improved. We should recognise, too, that meeting a woman's need for health and reproductive health services increases her chances of finishing her education, breaking out of poverty and contributing directly to growth and sustained prosperity.

Helen Clark, the head of the UNDP, speaks regularly of the multiplier effect that investing in girls and women can have. That includes reductions in population growth and mortality, increases in school participation and achievement, raised levels of women's activity and confidence in exercising their rights. Figures consistently show that mothers who have been educated are more likely to give birth in health facilities. The reality is that every child from a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive past the age of five if the mother is educated. On that basis, in sub-Saharan Africa 1.8 million children's lives would be saved every year if their mothers had some secondary education. In addition, educated girls are more likely to resist early marriage, have fewer and healthier children and are less likely to resign themselves to unpaid work. Girls with post-primary education are five times more likely to be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS than illiterate women.

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How much further proof is needed that education is the key to advancing women's rights? How much more evidence is needed to demonstrate that cultural, economic and social factors must never be accepted as any justification for denying women their basic rights? When we know the realities, there can be no excuse for not being active in all the campaigns calling for change. More than 30 million more girls than boys are out of school. One of the main reasons for that, especially in rural areas, is that school fees are being charged and it is often the case that priority is given to keeping boys in school. Removing school fees and providing financial incentives for girls to attend school have proved to be very effective.

Those ruinous realities are not going to change unless there is strong and sustained support for public education, not by using aid to expand choice and competition in education through vouchers and low-fee providers, solutions that are favoured by the UK Government. As the Gender and Development Network has pointed out in relation to such policies, empowering women and achieving gender equality is a difficult and slow process that entails shifting attitudes, beliefs, traditions, norms and practices, as well as bringing changes to long-standing institutions and systems such as the market, the state and the family.

2.26 pm

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I have loved every minute of this debate and learnt so much across a wide range of issues that affect women in our society. Like all in this House, though, I have not agreed with everything. There were some comments about women on boards that particularly troubled me, and I shall address them briefly.

My noble friend Lady Bottomley suggested that a lot of work has gone on to get women on to boards, and now it is time to switch the energy and start looking at women in executive roles. Of course it is important to have women in executive roles, but so often when we start to make progress we stop way before we have won the prize, and I would be sad to see that happen here. It is perhaps the strongest promotion of women in executive roles to see those women sitting in non-executive slots, which then prompts the question of why they are not also filling the CEO's seat and the other executive seats around the table.

The benefit that women are bringing to boards is real diversity and challenge. That challenge is partly because women are coming from non-traditional backgrounds, and in this House we see the benefit that comes when you get that challenge. If you want to see the effect of cosy consensus in the boardroom, you have only to look at the recent banking crisis to see what happens when challenge is absent.

I was rather more concerned by the comments from both my noble friend Lady Bottomley and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch, on quotas. I give huge credit to the noble Lord for the work that he has done in changing the whole atmosphere of women's appointments to boards in the UK, particularly to FTSE 100 companies, but I suggest that his powers of advocacy, persuasion and PR have been very much helped because companies have known that the threat

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of quotas sits in the back pocket and that, if change does not take place, politicians have seemed willing and inclined to carry out that threat.

I myself am in effect a beneficiary of something like quotas. I got my first banking job because I was a woman. I regard that as no shame: you get the job and then you prove yourself. However, I lived for years with that banking institution saying to me on so many occasions, "Isn't it amazing that just when there were legal pressures forcing us to take women, capable women like you came forward?". That is such a deeply embedded attitude that we should not be afraid to use the mechanisms that conventional wisdom says are in some way shameful or unacceptable or demean women. They do not demean women; we prove ourselves when we have opportunities.

The issue that I want very briefly to address is the role of women with small businesses. It is a rather troubling area, which does not get a great deal of attention, although the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, addressed it and it was certainly mentioned on the Floor today. Around 15 per cent of businesses in this country are women-owned and managed. The equivalent in the United States is roughly 30 per cent. Small businesses are defined rather differently there so the figure is probably higher than that. That troubles me hugely because there is no cultural difference that explains that difference in performance. Enterprising Women has done some very useful work and its survey suggests that women who start businesses find themselves locked in at the start-up level. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, suggested that finance was a problem.

However, with that differential, I suspect that the problem is bigger than that. The Government have tried to put in place support and advisory programmes. There are certainly very effective routes such as Women in Business, but we are not getting to the bottom of this. Enterprising Women proposed in its work that if the full potential of just the women-owned businesses in place today was released, we would create more jobs than the Government's whole regional growth programme. It is an absolutely crucial area and something that we have to get to the bottom of quickly.

It is interesting to look at this issue from an international perspective. The World Economic Forum's 2011 report on the global gender gap found in its surveys that the biggest barriers to women's access to leadership positions-which wraps in this and many other issues-are the general norms and practices in their country, masculine or patriarchal corporate culture and a lack of role models. It struck me that they apply as much here as they do anywhere in the developing world, to which we so often look with all these suggestions of how women can make a difference. We have to start taking some of that on board.

I believe that it ties back to the issue of women on boards. If we have those role models in place, we start to change the culture. The need for growth means that we need new women-run small businesses and the jobs that come from them. It seems to me that the whole change loops together in a fairly complex but significant package. I hope that we in this House and the other place can begin to make a real difference on these issues.

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2.32 pm

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, in this welcome celebration of International Women's Day, we should take note of women's contribution to society as well as the economy, particularly the large amount of unpaid care work that women still contribute, which underpins the economy and should be counted as such, as already stated by my noble friends Lady Pitkeathley and Lady Kinnock. Nevertheless, following the theme of the debate, I will focus on the obstacles that women and mothers face in contributing to economic growth through paid work.

The significance of women's paid work to economic prosperity was brought out in a recent Resolution Foundation report, which has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lady Healy of Primrose Hill. However, it also points out that, compared to the better and best-performing countries, around 1 million women could be considered missing from the UK workplace. I want briefly to discuss three policy areas.

The first is the gendered division of labour. In my academic work on feminist perspectives on citizenship, I identify who does what in the private sphere of the home as critical to women's opportunities for citizenship in the public sphere of the labour market and politics. As women still take the main responsibility for care and housework in the domestic economy, many make their contribution to the wider economy with one hand tied behind them, as the suffragette Hannah Mitchell put it so well many years ago. The Resolution Foundation argues that couples in the UK continue to adopt unusually unequal caring and working roles within the household, and would prefer to adopt more equal roles. It says that there is an opportunity for public policy to raise female employment by freeing couples to share roles in the home.

I suggest that public policy can help through the regulation of working time. A long-hours culture for men is harmful to gender equality for those with family responsibilities. A shorter full-time working week, combined with a range of flexible working opportunities and better pay and conditions for part-time workers would help. So, too, would a reformed parental leave system that followed the Nordic model-which appears so fashionable at present-of earmarking a period of parental leave for fathers on a "use it or lose it" basis without penalising mothers. This, which is often called the "daddy quota", is typically leave of one or two months. Cross-national analysis suggests that Nordic fathers typically spend more time on childcare than other fathers. While we cannot be sure that that is attributable to parental leave, there is Nordic research that indicates that male use of parental leave has a positive effect on the gendered division of labour and the father's subsequent involvement in childcare. This also relates to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, about men's involvement in primary schools. Therefore, I very much welcome the Government's support for the idea of a daddy quota in their consultation on modern workplaces. I hope they will not be discouraged from pursuing it by those who argue that it would somehow be detrimental to business.

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The second related obstacle is childcare, already discussed by my noble friends Lady Healy and Lord Davies of Abersoch. The OECD has highlighted the extent to which unusually high childcare costs represent a barrier to dual-earner families in the UK and, of course, to lone parents. Unfortunately, the cut in help with childcare costs through the tax credit system, at a time when the Daycare Trust shows that these costs are spiralling, raises the barrier further, despite the welcome planned extension to those doing mini-jobs.

Thirdly and finally, the cutback in support for childcare contributes to a deterioration in work incentives for second earners, the majority of whom are women. In low-income households, second earners' work incentives will also be badly hit by the introduction of universal credit. It is supposed to improve work incentives, yet the policy briefing of the Department for Work and Pensions shows how, even without taking account of childcare costs, most second earners on universal credit will face a reduced incentive to take or stay in paid work, and about three-quarters will face a reduced incentive to improve their earnings once in work. We raised this issue in the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill, pointing out that universal credit could mean a shift back to a more traditional male-breadwinner model and weaken the labour market position of women. As the Women's Budget Group has pointed out, even a fairly short period out of the labour market can mean the depreciation of women's human capital and future earning power. The noble Lord, Lord Freud, acknowledged the importance of the issue but said that it was not a priority. Therefore, I hope that the Minister might talk to him about how the impact of universal credit on second earners might be monitored.

To conclude, I suggest that there is no point in your Lordships' House taking note of women's contribution to economic growth if we do not also identify the obstacles to that contribution and how they might be overcome. This has implications for a number of government departments and I hope that the Minister will pass on the message as well as the many powerful messages that have come from noble sisters and brothers today.

2.38 pm

Baroness Browning: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I congratulate my dear noble friend Lady Verma on initiating today's debate. In her opening remarks, she spoke about entrepreneurs. Her own experience is as an entrepreneur and it is on that subject that I should like to pick up on points that have already been raised today by other colleagues.

I sometimes have a sense of déjà vu. I have now spent 20 years in politics and before that I spent 20 years in business-10 years working for a market leader in manufacturing in the UK and the following 10 years running my own business. At that time, I was involved in advising the then Government on women's employment, particularly from the perspective of women who wanted to set up and run their own businesses. I also chaired Women into Business for many years. When I look back on the issues on which we lobbied

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the Government and sought to put to the forefront of the agenda in those days-that is some time ago-it is almost as though we have come full circle and are still talking about the same issues. Three of the key issues affecting women running businesses and wanting to start up businesses-they have all been mentioned-are childcare, access to capital and the whole area of supporting, encouraging, training and persuading them that they can take the big step of going into business. Somehow we seem to have come full circle. A lot has been achieved and we all know very successful people who have been there, done it, put themselves on the line and made their mark, but clearly we have more to do.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, 29 per cent of entrepreneurs are women. If women set up businesses in the UK at the same rate that men do, we would have 150,000 more businesses every year. That is a phenomenal amount. If we are serious about setting up real businesses-I am talking about real businesses, not paying hobbies which sometimes get confused with real businesses-we have to look at how you grow businesses. It is not enough to say, "Start up a business". Some businesses go very well from day one and are exceptionally successful in a very short order. The challenge for those businesses-this applies to men as well as women-is to grow the successful business while still having the working capital which will allow you to start taking on staff, perhaps move to larger premises and develop ranges of products rather than just one, as that is often a danger area. All that needs support, and I am not just talking about financial support.

I hope that the Government will look at this potential for women in the economy and will go further than the measures we have heard about today. I would like to make some suggestions to my noble friend. One follows a suggestion of the Federation of Small Businesses, which I think is absolutely spot on, and that is that Jobcentre Plus and its devolved equivalent should forge better links with established women's business networks in the locality, such as Every Woman and the other business networks that we know of, and promote mentoring as part of continuing discussions about employment for women. People in Jobcentre Plus should know as much about the opportunities and local support for people wanting to start a business as about the vacancies listed on the computer.

The other thing that I would also like my noble friend to take forward are business angels. Although I am totally supportive of mentoring and role models-they have a part to play, certainly in changing culture-it is inspirational for women to listen to other women who have been successful in business and to see that it can be done. It is a bit like politics: when you want to go into politics-into the other place, as I did what seems like a lifetime ago now-you are encouraged by the examples set by others. Looking round this Chamber, I see women on both sides of the House. My dear friend Lady Miller was one of the women who encouraged women of my generation to take that step and told us that we could do it. However, we come up with 100 reasons why we should not do so. It is a bit like the situation in business. Is that not just typical of women? We have an

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idea, we think we can do something, we know that we can and then we think of a dozen reasons why we should not do so.

If I was asked to describe myself, I would say that I am a feminist but I also believe that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, if that does not sound like a contradiction in terms. Although I am passionate about equality between men and women-men and women running businesses are often affected by the same things, of course-you have to turn your attention to aspects that specifically affect women running businesses. It is not enough to have role models; they need people alongside them who are able to go through the business plan, marketing plan and product development with them. They need people on whom they can call to give that advice. Years ago banks gave that advice; today they just want to sell you insurance. I ask my noble friend to ensure that there are more business angels in the small business sector to help these women entrepreneurs, not just because of the finance that the business angels might put into these businesses but for the real hands-on business experience they have, as opposed to people who put themselves forward to undertake this mentoring but have never actually run a business themselves.

2.44 pm

Baroness Nye: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for introducing the debate and for her acknowledgement of the work of the previous Labour Government. I also thank my noble friend Lady Thornton for reminding us of the parlous state of women's representation in Parliament. Every member of the Labour Party to whom I have ever spoken has always said that there should be more women MPs, but nothing was ever done until we decided to take some positive action. Now women constitute 30 per cent of the parliamentary Labour Party, which is double the number in the Conservative Party. It is examples such as that, and those which the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, mentioned, that have convinced me that quotas for women on boards are necessary. I am afraid that my vote and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, would cancel each other out if that issue were put to a vote. The Davies report's voluntary target of 25 per cent female representation by 2015 is very modest as it is considerably lower than the figure in those countries that have opted for legislation and quotas, and much lower than the figures that are being looked at by the European Commission.

I know that the steering group and my noble friend are adamantly opposed to the imposition of formal quotas for female directors, opting for informal targets instead. However, I believe that this may prove to be mistaken. I obviously hope that the targets are met, as my noble friend Lord Davies of Abersoch, indicated. However, Cranfield University, which conducted a review of the response to the Davies report, showed that many companies were adopting a wait-and-see response. It said that only a third of FTSE 100 companies have set targets for the percentage of women on their boards, and nearly half of the FTSE 250 still have all-male boards. It is a positive development that

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two-thirds of the women appointed had no prior FTSE 100 or 250 experience, showing that there is a wider pool of talent out there to draw upon.

However, the evidence also shows that it is the companies that have already shown a willingness to address this issue that are prepared to commit to a target. There are simply too many companies out there that still just do not get it, even though studies in the US and Europe have found that the companies with the greater number of women on their senior management teams get higher returns, and that a more diverse board prevents a "group think" mentality. Following a recent consultation, the Financial Reporting Council announced that it would amend its code and encourage companies to implement this measure voluntarily, but with immediate effect. However, I believe that it did so only because quotas were threatened.

Unless we get a faster pace, it will take another century to get gender equality in the boardroom. Quotas could prove to be the only way to achieve what everyone agrees makes good business sense. I, like most women, am a great believer in the compilation of lists because, like the noble Lord Davies of Abersoch, I believe that what gets measured gets done. I therefore hope that the Government are willing to adopt quotas if the self-governing approach fails. As has been said, there is strong evidence that quotas have worked. The most significant result was in Norway. After legislation was passed there, the number of women directors has risen to 45 per cent of the total. To tackle the accusation of tokenism and quality, a Female Future programme was undertaken to ensure that the female candidates had the necessary expertise and experience. The Australian Institute of Company Directors has been instrumental in setting up a similar scheme. With or without quotas, I think we should do that.

France and Spain have also adopted a 40 per cent quota. We should also consider adopting Spain's policy of giving priority status to firms that meet this target in the awarding of government contracts. I was very pleased that the Prime Minister attended the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm this month to discuss how to get more women to start their own businesses and take on leading positions in companies, and his acknowledgement that there is,

It was also heartening that the Prime Minister told journalists that the option of quotas should never be ruled out. It was not so heartening that, sadly, the next day No. 10 seemed to contradict him, but we will watch that space with interest. Perhaps he also saw in Stockholm that weakening action on the gender pay gap, cutting support for childcare and exploring options for weaker maternity rights make it harder for all women to get promoted throughout their lives. As has been said, lack of affordable childcare is among the biggest problems facing families here. The recent research by the Daycare Trust says that spiralling childcare costs, patchy provision and changes to the tax credit system are creating serious difficulties for working parents.

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However, I would like to end on a more positive note with an example of where deciding to make diversity important has made a difference in one of the most difficult areas facing women. When the UK won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics in London, diversity was one of the key elements of that bid. In fact, women hold 30 per cent of the senior management posts on the Olympic Delivery Authority.

As we know, women make up 45 per cent of the workforce but only 12 per cent of women are in science, engineering and technology occupations, and only 1 per cent in SET skilled trades. Through its procurement and use of contractors, the ODA has been able to influence wider employment practices by adopting an evaluation scorecard, which meant that contractors had to address equality and diversity issues. The ODA also started the Women in Construction project, which has successfully helped women access training and employment opportunities on the Olympic Park. This has meant that 1,000 women have worked on the construction of the Olympic Park and athletics village. Women have been trained across the whole spectrum of construction trades to become electricians, bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers or engineers-all non-traditional female roles.

The successful Women in Construction model should be used on other major construction sites, and I hope that the Government will look into this. That really would be an enduring legacy of the 2012 Olympics in London. Britain will show that it can lead the world when the Olympics start on 27 July, but it must no longer lag behind in the role it accords to women in our economy.

2.50 pm

Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Verma on securing this debate. Her record of service to this cause, both in this House and outside, is greatly distinguished, as her leadership in today's debate today shows. I want principally to concentrate on issues facing women in the developing world, and I should therefore note my interest as chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union.

I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me if I say that I feel a little like a preacher in seeking to take a text for my remarks, the third of the millennium development goals, which is to:

"Promote gender equality and empower women ... Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015".

That is a fine aspiration that goes to the very root of this debate but, deeply regrettably, its achievement seems as far away as ever.

As we mark this day, we should remember some of the hard facts of life for women in the developing world: the fact that in many countries, violence against women is routine and often condoned; in Saudi Arabia, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said, a woman was beheaded in December for "sorcery"-one of five women put to death there past year; in the Yemen in October, government-sponsored thugs set viciously about a group of women celebrating the Nobel Peace Prize win of Tawakkol Karman, and stoned them; in

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Guatemala, the number of women being killed as a result of a culture of impunity for perpetrators of violence against women remains at an appalling level; the fact that 100,000 illegally immigrated prostitutes are working in the United States; Russia, some states in eastern Europe and Turkey all have high levels of sex slavery, while conservative figures put the number of children worldwide involved in the sex trade at about a million; the fact that a pregnant woman in Africa is 180 times more likely to die of pregnancy complications than here in western Europe; and the fact that women, mostly in rural areas in developing countries, represent more than two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, mentioned. When considering those facts, we should hear the words,

"Promote gender equality and empower women"

ringing in our ears.

What of those aims in a developed world context? The gender gap may be narrower, but it still exists. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report showed that while considerable progress has been made in recent years, some countries here in Europe still perform badly, including Switzerland and Italy; while Brazil, India and Pakistan, despite being countries that have had women Heads of Government, occupy the lowest ranks.

This debate highlights the role of women in promoting economic growth, and rightly so. In the developing world, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, women should be its driving force. However, the main point I want to make today is that in far too many countries women are unable to deliver their full economic potential because HIV and AIDS are still on the rampage. In many emerging economic powers in particular, including Russia and China, women with HIV and indeed other diseases of poverty and deprivation are unable significantly to contribute to the economic growth of those nations because they are too sick to do so. In Kenya, there are 760,000 women living with HIV and AIDS, and 1.2 million orphans. In Mozambique, there is a similar number. In Nigeria, 1.7 million women live with the virus. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the figure is more than 12 million.

These are human tragedies, each of them. They are depriving children of mothers and, in the context of the debate today, they are depriving economies of those who should, in good health, be powering economic growth. That has to change; and change can only come not simply as a result of medical advances and the increased use of contraception but by breaking down the stigma and discrimination that is rife in these countries, forcing HIV and AIDS underground and cutting too short the life of too many women. Poverty, too, plays its part in a cycle of desperation, causing more rapid and more significant deterioration in the health of someone with HIV because of inadequate nutrition, housing and healthcare. Unless there is a concerted effort to deal with this dreadful situation, the attainment of the third millennium goal will remain a pipe dream.

Lest anyone thinks that the problem of stigma faced by women with HIV exists just in the developing world, I should add that it exists here too. I commend a report from the Health Foundation and the Terrence

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Higgins Trust, among others, about the experience of women with HIV in the UK entitled, My Heart is Loaded, which sets out some terrible tales of women living here in London who have been victims of discrimination, stigma and abuse. It highlights in particular the link between poverty and HIV, and the dependence on public services of many women with the virus. At a time of massive organisational change within the NHS and serious pressure on resources, I ask the Government to ensure that local authorities take account of the social care needs of women living with HIV, including the children they look after. One such practical example is ensuring that formula milk remains available for women with HIV who have just given birth.

We have heard today stories of success, progress and hope, but we must remember those in the developing world in particular. Many are still stigmatised or marginalised, or appalling acts of violence are committed against them, blunting their ability to play their full economic role in society. When we meet next year to mark International Women's Day, let us hope that there has been some progress in turning those tides.

2.56 pm

Lord Mitchell: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. It has been a stunning debate so far, and she deserves every credit for introducing it. I want to talk about an organisation called Women for Women International. Here, I have to declare an interest because my wife sits on the international board. Indeed, I go with her to several countries and I am the unpaid bag carrier.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who is not in her place, told us about Nepal, from which she has just returned. We returned from Rwanda last month. That visit was a very moving experience, certainly for me. There were 20 women and me, and I managed to survive the experience-in fact, it was very rewarding. We all know about Rwanda, where there was a genocide in which 1 million people were hacked to death in 90 days. You visit a country such as that with your heart sinking-worried that it will be absolutely ghastly. Actually, it is a very uplifting country. It seems to have got itself together and is moving forward with a vision-perhaps the subject of another debate. It is a country with hope but, of course, with terrible memories.

I have visited Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda. In Rwanda, it can be argued that 1 million people would not have died had the United Nations taken action, with 5,000 troops who were close to stopping it happen. You can go to Bosnia and Srebrenica and see that 9,000 men might not have been killed, again had the United Nations not stood by. I have to say that a lot of people like the United Nations; I have mixed feelings about it.

Anyway, we are not talking about the UN, but about women. I want to mention a particular woman, Zainab Salbi. Her father was Saddam Hussein's private pilot, and when she was in her teenage years, her mother, seeing the writing on the wall, got her out to live in the United States. As Zainab was growing up and she saw what was happening in Bosnia, she went to Sarajevo and saw all the activities taking place there. This was in the country of ethnic cleansing and

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war by rape. As a result, Women for Women International has been set up; today, it has a budget of $30 million and 320,000 women have been through its programme.

The organisation operates in post-conflict zones in eight countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria. It does amazing work in some very dangerous places. Its mission is to make women who have been through the most terrible experiences contributors to society-and economic contributors. It does that in two ways, which is unique. First, it has set up a mechanism of sister to sister relationships. A sister will be a woman living in the western world who contributes $30 a month to another person, a sister, in Afghanistan, Bosnia, or wherever it happens to be. The money goes directly to those women. In addition, the sisters have to write to each other. I must say that I was a bit sceptical about all that, but when I have seen sisters meeting sisters, as we did in Rwanda, the tremendous empathy between those two sets of women was magnificent.

The charity also does training on the job. Women will come in for a year's training and learn about their civil rights, inheritance, hygiene, safe sex, nutrition and even stress management. Most of all, they learn about setting up small businesses. That is where the economic side comes in. Some of them are given micro-loans; some are not. We saw an example in Bosnia where women had set up chicken farms or were growing tomatoes. In Kosovo, we saw an amazing woman who was in beekeeping. With a small loan, she had set up three hives and had expanded the business to the extent that there were now 50 hives. Her family was enjoying €5,000 a year by way of income. Not only that, that woman was now teaching other women how to keep bees. In Rwanda, we visited co-operatives. I was weeding in a maize field under the blazing sun just outside Kigali.

I shall rapidly give a few statistics before I finish. A survey was conducted of 20,000 people: 81 per cent of the women were earning an income; 84 per cent were saving money; 92 per cent had gained skills; 97 per cent fully understood hygiene; 93 per cent family planning; and 95 per cent nutrition. Many of those women are now involved in their community. The amazing statistic is that 12 per cent of them are running for political office in their communities.

Women for Women International is a highly inspirational organisation. It is no-nonsense, it is doing good, and I love being a bag carrier.

3.02 pm

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I am happy to contribute to this impressive debate and I thank the noble Baroness for introducing it. On occasions like this, I often think of the generations of women whose self-sacrifice and commitment produced the rights that many of us in this country now take for granted. The past century saw truly amazing advances in rights for women. At the beginning, women were second or third-class citizens, without the right to vote or to have improved education. Job prospects were limited. Marriage meant immediate job loss. Equal pay was a remote

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dream. There were no rights, even over one's own body: access to birth control knowledge was limited and abortion illegal.

We still have much to complain about-this will become apparent during the debate-but the rights we now take for granted came about only because of the committed campaigning of previous generations of women, who collectively combined in feminist organisations and unions to force improvements on an often unwilling political establishment. The first Equal Pay Act came about following a strike of women engineering workers. Maternity leave arose as a result of union campaigns. Without equality law, we would certainly not be celebrating today women's contribution to our economy.

Unfortunately, there are many parts of the world where women are still very much repressed-largely where the more extremist forms of religion are in control. That has become clear to us from the repression imposed here in some of our immigrant communities. Although it is perfectly right, in my view, to insist on religious and cultural freedom, that should certainly not include the right within such communities and families to deny women members the rights that should be theirs under our law. Forced marriage and domestic violence are not acceptable in this country, and neither is the extreme form of domestic violence known as female genital mutilation. That is against UK law, and anyone assisting in its application can be jailed for 14 years. The police know that it goes on, but have difficulty in tracking it down because of the family secrecy surrounding it. That is an extreme form of female repression and must be eradicated.

In the past year, we have seen apparently populist risings against dictatorships, mostly in Arab countries. Many of us have welcomed what seemed to be genuinely democratic movements against authoritarian rulers, but it is not yet clear what kind of regimes will take the place of those that are disappearing. We should make it clear that regimes in which women continue to be repressed cannot be regarded as democratic. International Women's Day gives us the opportunity to make that completely unambiguous statement.

To return to our situation in the UK, we are facing extreme problems as a result of the economic situation. Unfortunately, that seems also to apply across Europe-what we know as the western world. Unemployment now stands at 8.4 per cent, the highest level for 16 years. The latest figures indicate that women are more affected than men. Many women work in the public sector; 700,000 workers are expected to be made redundant there over the next five years; 80 per cent of them will be women. Moreover, because of the high costs of childcare, many women have given up work and are now dependent on benefits. We have recently been discussing the Welfare Reform Bill. We sought to achieve some amendments. We did not quite achieve what we wanted to, but we tried to improve the provisions for women and poorer people in general. We must not allow what previous generations achieved to be undermined by government policies designed to deal with the economic crisis.

Other legislative changes are also likely to impact disproportionately on women. The legal aid Bill is

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designed to limit the amount spent on legal aid, which will make it more difficult to take cases in the family courts, and in personal injury and employment cases, the impact is likely to be heavily against women. Then, of course, there is the NHS with the Health and Social Care Bill and, later, more employment legislation making it more difficult to claim unfair dismissal. All that legislation is likely to have an impact on women's rights, because women are more dependent on public provision, and the Government aim to make drastic cuts in that area.

On this, International Women's Day, a great deal more needs to be done and in the same way as has been successful in the past: through collective organisation and political campaigning. Many of us in this House will be willing to do whatever we can to assist.

3.08 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: My Lords, like a number of other noble sisters, I made my maiden speech during this debate last year, and I am glad that my heart is not pounding quite as fast as it was on that occasion. Preparing for today's debate has given me an opportunity for reflection. I take this opportunity to thank many noble Lords on all sides of the House for their welcome, advice and friendship over the past year in helping this new girl to find her way.

Unlike many noble Lords, I did not come here with a particular focus, background or expertise, which meant that I have had the chance to develop my own interests. I am honoured to be chair of the new Conservative Friends of International Development. From the successful launch and subsequent activity of that group, I have started to learn more about where our international efforts should be focused. Everyone in this Chamber knows that empowering women is a top priority for DfID. To quote the Secretary of State:

"Educating girls, along with vaccinating children, are two of the most decisive interventions you can make in development".

As we have discussed, educating girls has the chance over a generation completely to transform societies. There are 3 million girls in school in Afghanistan today, where there were none 10 years ago.

Today is the 101st International Women's Day. Let us take a brief look, with the glass half full, at our own country's successes. As I have mentioned previously, every party increased its number of women MPs at the last election. As co-chair of women2win, I assure my noble sister Lady Thornton that our eyes are firmly fixed on ensuring that we increase our numbers in the next one, but I am not going to reveal how. Twenty-one new women have been appointed to FTSE 100 boards since the report of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was published last year. The 30 Percent Club is also doing excellent work in raising awareness, transparency and accountability for gender representation in the private sector. As the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, mentioned, the work conducted at Cranfield University in creating the female FTSE to assess and urge boards to act has been vital. Its report has proved crucial in identifying solid reasons to have women on boards-and putting to task those companies which have failed to act.

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We also use today to celebrate what now seem to be the milestones of generations gone by: a woman's right to vote and my right to speak in this very Chamber. However, we also recognise that these rights are still denied to millions of women who are nowhere near equality as we know it here. As long as these women are struggling, we should continue to focus our thoughts on them on International Women's Day, so that, by the 110th International Women's Day celebrations, issues such as representation will have been resolved.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and others have mentioned, the past year has been a milestone for democracy as we have watched the populations of Middle Eastern and north African countries rise against their authoritarian leaders. On our televisions screens, we have seen men and women stand side by side in their fight for democracy. These women must be allowed to do more than protest. They must be given an opportunity to become active participants in the new Governments. All the statistics show that, by empowering women, countries grow and become more stable.

But we now know that empowering women is not just about doing what is considered "right". By engaging in paid work, women become economic actors, not only improving their own families' quality of life but giving them the opportunity to send their children to school. By simply investing in sexual and maternal health, which we all take for granted, a woman's life can be transformed. A thousand women die giving birth every single day and these deaths globally cost $15 billion each year. With the correct access to information, family planning and maternity care, these women can take charge of their own lives.

Let us take a look at some specific examples where women are making progress. In India, 94 per cent of women are in the unorganised sector, earning a living through their own labour or small businesses. However, their work is not counted and hence remains invisible. The Self Employed Women's Association is a unique example of support for women led from within-more than 100,000 Indian women are now members of SEWA and campaign to address problems they experience with self-employment. Their campaigning has led to many improvements within India for women.

Let us take a look at opportunities for women to start up businesses and some practical ways in which we in the West can support them. Other noble Lords have mentioned microfinance, but one example of an inspirational organisation is Kiva, a non-profit organisation with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. Once the business starts growing with sustainable revenues, the loan is paid back and is in turn reinvested in the next start-up. The Conservative supporters of Kiva alone have lent $11,000 in start-up funding. From providing loans to farmers and shopkeepers to helping meet the cost of buying a taxi, the Conservative Kiva Group has helped many women increase their quality of life. Such women are far more likely to pass on this knowledge to their children while contributing to the economies of their country.

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I would like to draw your Lordships' attention to the launch next week here in Parliament of the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index. Largely developed at the University of Oxford, the index will bring science and rigour to the measurement of empowerment in agriculture. By identifying where and for what reason women are being excluded, and by analysing their inclusion in decision-making, involvement in production and control over income, the index brings us closer to knowing how truly to tackle the problems that lie ahead in terms of bringing equality to women.

Encouraging and financing women's business potential, letting women have control and choice over their family lives, as well as increasing access to education and full employment, will help further to empower women.

3.14 pm

Baroness Wall of New Barnet: My Lords, I have been sitting her for I-do-not-know-how-many hours wondering whether it is easier to be first or last in these debates, and I have come to the conclusion that it is probably first-it has been quite nerve-racking waiting. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for initiating this debate and, even more so, for her typically generous comments in opening it.

We have heard from noble Lords-I think Peers is a very good collective noun-about the experiences of some highly skilled women and of small-business women, and some really traumatic, heart-warming stories. I am probably renowned in this House for being very practical, because that is the way I am. My experience and my efforts, for many years now, have been in working with women, employers and government to recognise that if women receive an opportunity to gain skills, they, too, can achieve recognition for the added value, both culturally and economically, that they bring to the organisation. I was moved to hear my noble friend talk at the very beginning of her speech about exactly the same statement being made in the 1930s. I thought, "My goodness, we are still at it".

I have with my noble friend Lady Prosser, who is tied up today and would have been here otherwise, worked with many sector skills councils to encourage and support them in government-funded women and work programmes. The women and work skills programme initiative arose out of a recommendation of the 2006 report from the Women and Work Commission, of which my noble friend Lady Prosser was chair for many years and did a magnificent job which in many cases led to life-changing opportunities for women. That recommendation called for a £20 million budget to be ring-fenced to ensure that it was dedicated solely for women's training. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, allocated £40 million, a true reflection of the commitment of my Government to this important work. The Women and Work Commission's report was designed to assist women to reach their potential and thereby work towards closing the pay gap between men and women carrying out roles of equal responsibility. My noble friend Lady Turner referred to that in describing the work that she has done in the union to which we both belong.

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My Government introduced this superb initiative and I am delighted to say that the coalition has continued to support it. However, it is funding it in a different way in that the funding is now achieved by sector skills councils bidding for specific money against designated work programmes. This process is supported by many of us involved in the women and work activities, as it ensures value for money but it also clearly identifies the value of the skills training and mentoring support that each woman receives by going through the programme. An example of how well this is done can be seen in the findings of the Leeds Metropolitan University report, which covers 2008-10. This is a substantial piece of work and it gives glowing accounts of the value of the scheme to employers and employees.

Many of the women who have participated have benefited greatly from this programme. All the women participating have to be workplace-based-that is an important issue for us to think about-and they have to have the co-operation of their managers, which binds the employer with the individual in ensuring that the programme is meaningful. However, many women become involved because they have worked in the same workplace for many years, doing a good job, but have been unable to progress in that workplace. This may be due to the culture that often prevails. There may be a male-dominated workforce, which regrettably sometimes from top to bottom either does not recognise the contribution made by women or-even more commonly, I have been told-holds them back from progressing, saying, "We can't move Tilly. Nobody would know where anything was in this place if she moved on, so she can't do that". Women then come to the conclusion that they have reached their potential and stay. However, the women and work programme has encouraged those women to look again at the skills that they have.

There are many statistics on the effects and benefits of the women and work programme but I am anxious to move on from those and give some typical examples. Beyond those statistics are many thousands of women who need the opportunity to step up. Even by writing their CVs, they discover how many skills they have. BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines, for example, worked with the Semta sector skills council. Although BAE has a male-dominated workplace, the women and work programme showed it the confidence and tools that women have to excel beyond their current state of employment. The same applies to Atkins, the largest engineering consultancy in the UK. It has reported that of the 50-plus women who participated in its women and work scheme, many have gone on not only to be promoted but to act as mentors for other women coming into the workplace. Those are all very good examples of what we can do to support women and what women can do to raise their value, which is always important. It can also be seen that greater job satisfaction for women comes from making an economic difference.

3.21 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is a real pleasure to participate in this debate to celebrate International Women's Day in this Diamond Jubilee

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year and also to celebrate the contribution of women to economic growth. There has been a stellar cast and it is a particular delight to have the participation of so many men, including my noble friend Lord Davies of Abersoch, to whom we are grateful for championing the cause of women on boards. It was also a joy to see the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, on her feet.

It has been a truly wide-ranging debate and I am grateful to the Minister for her generous words at the beginning. Of course, I acknowledge the real contribution that many women on the coalition Benches have made to progress in our own country and other countries. I have learnt a huge amount and I am enthused by the many initiatives that I have heard about today, including Women for Women, WiRE and the fine example of the achievements in the training and employment of women on the Olympics site. I was not aware of that before, so I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Nye, and I am sure that we have much for which to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ford. I have to say that I do not envy the Minister the task of answering all the questions and points that have been raised.

On all sides of the Chamber we are united in our view of the precious and vital roles that women fulfil in all societies and of the importance of their economic contribution in developed and developing countries and in rural and urban areas. However, there are disparate views about what is happening to women in our own country. As noble Lords would expect, I share the concerns that have been expressed on my own Benches. We in this Chamber are privileged, being sheltered from many of the daily anxieties that affect women's lives, but life out there is tough. It is not just that women are being hit hard by cuts to benefits and services that are too deep and too fast, and that women are suffering disproportionately from unemployment, with two out of three jobs in the public sector held, and lost, by women. It is women who usually have to do the juggling. It is the women in families, of whatever shape, who have to paddle beneath the surface to keep their heads above water, all the time feeling worried sick about the loss of a job, the future for their children and, often, care for their elderly parents. All the time, women's talents are being wasted and our economy suffers as a consequence.

I recently read a magazine article stating that some women now recognise that they cannot have it all-that is to say, a family and a career. I salute those women who choose to stay at home to be full-time mums, and I salute the jugglers who have chosen to have families and careers, often, like me, supported by a wonderful man. The truth is that most women do not have the choice. Most single mums do not have a choice but neither do many women who have husbands or partners. They depend on two incomes, not because they are profligate but because food, heating and childcare bills are rising while incomes are falling and they have to make ends meet. Poor people in the squeezed middle are not just financially squeezed; they are squeezed by the competing, costly and exhausting demands of children and parents. This week there were reports that childcare costs have reached an all-time high, with the average annual cost of care for a child under two being more than £5,000 a year. As

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we would all agree, without accessible, affordable childcare, women are not able to work even if the jobs were available.

The Labour Government understood the importance of childcare and, with childcare subsidy as well as tax credits, child benefit, and jobs in the public sector, more women were able to work, helping to reduce child poverty and stimulate the economy. Of course, I well understand that we are now in very different economic circumstances and that we have to deal with the deficit but there is also a question of priorities. Since the Coalition came to power, the Government have cut local council budgets by a third, and adult social care, which is around 40 per cent of local council budgets, is their biggest discretionary spend. Many local councils are now providing care only for those with substantial or critical needs. Countless day centres for disabled people and the elderly are closing, meaning that the burdens on this country's 6.4 million unpaid carers are growing. The vast majority of carers are women-one out of five who used to be able to work as well as being a carer now has to give up her job because the right services and support are not available. So, women who previously made a contribution to economic growth are no longer able to do so.

Some of the services which were provided by social services are now provided by charities and voluntary organisations. I pay tribute to the thousands of volunteers without whom our society would crumble and our financial situation would worsen. They make a fantastic contribution to our economy by the giving of their time and energy. I have to say, however, that while a thriving voluntary sector is good for society and communities, it cannot and should not be expected to replace the role of the state. A healthy society is one in which there are strong partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary sector. Earlier this week I was privileged to attend a reception for the WRVS, which now has 40,000 volunteers but needs more. When one thinks of the WRVS, meals on wheels and hospital cafes and trolleys come to mind. These are important tasks but the WRVS does so much more to help older people stay independent at home and active in their community.

I have no doubt that many volunteers up and down the country are war widows and members of the excellent War Widows Association GB which has done so much to improve the conditions of war widows and their dependants in Great Britain. These women have given so much for our country, yet I do not believe that we are treating them with the dignity that they deserve. On other occasions, I have raised the issue of the Government's change to link pensions to CPI rather than RPI permanently, which will severely affect war widows' pensions. Estimates suggest that the 34 year-old wife of a staff sergeant killed in Afghanistan would be almost £750,000 worse off over her lifetime. Following the end of our proceedings on the Welfare Reform Bill last night, I think it is right to point out that war widows will also lose out owing to the Government's bedroom tax.

Mention has been made of the importance of sustaining our fight against domestic violence and I, too, pay tribute to my noble and learned friend Lady

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Scotland who has achieved a huge amount. However, there are other less obvious policies that have an impact on women's safety, such as the reported switch-off of 500,000 street lights by cash-strapped local authorities. I have talked to women both in Stevenage and Swindon who feel that their sense of safety and security is being threatened. This makes life particularly difficult for elderly people and for young women returning home in the evenings, and for women working night shifts who are forced to walk home in the streets in darkness.

Last December, I tabled amendments to the Protection of Freedoms Bill to replicate Scottish legislation which introduced a specific offence of stalking. That legislation has significantly improved the lives of women victims and ensured their safety. Last month a cross-party group of MPs and Peers published an excellent report representing months of painstaking evidence from victims and experts within the criminal justice system, and I commend the Members of this House for their work on the panel. The Minister mentioned that the Government's own consultation on stalking closed on 5 February. I hope that in her response to this debate the noble Baroness will confirm that we will have the Government's response not just soon but in time for the Third Reading of the Protection of Freedoms Bill. I also ask for her assurance that the Government will then introduce the requisite amendments to the Bill so that we can demonstrate to the thousands of women affected by this devastating crime that action is being taken to recognise stalking in law. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many victims of stalking who are campaigning for a change in the law, and to John and Penny Clough who, following the murder of their daughter, Jane, by her partner who was out on bail, have succeeded in their campaign to secure agreement to an amendment of the bail laws.

Finally, I, too, will speak of women's representation. We are in the mother of Parliaments in the 21st century, with 84 years of women's suffrage behind us. We have made huge progress-as the noble Baronesses, Lady Bottomley and Lady Jenkin, said-yet the shameful fact is that only 19.4 per cent of our MPs and only 22 per cent of Members of this House are women. Thirty-one per cent of local councillors are women, and 22 per cent of UK Cabinet Ministers. Of the 96 other paid ministerial positions, only 14 are held by women-a 14-year low. I am always stunned by the fact that since Margaret Bondfield was appointed to the Cabinet in 1929-another Labour first-there have been only 31 other women in the Cabinet. This is extraordinary, and indicative of the fact that women in Britain still lack powerful platforms.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, the appalling lack of women representatives in our democratic system cannot be right. I regret that I still have heated discussions with some men-and some women-who argue against all-women shortlists. The fact is that they work and are still needed. If we increase women's parliamentary representation, that will extend their representation in government. I was pleased to note what the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, said about her determination to increase the number of Conservative women MPs at the next election. Of course, I want more Labour MPs-but I would like to see more Conservative women.

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As I go around the country speaking to young people about youth policies and asking what makes politics count for them, I am always told that a major reason they do not want to get engaged is that politicians do not look or sound like them. They always say that there are not enough elected representatives from black and ethnic minorities, not enough young people and not enough women. How right they are. So as well as the democratic deficit, the waste of women's talents by not selecting and electing them, and the impact that this has on policy-making, we are also failing to make politics attractive to young people. This is not healthy for democracy, which is nurtured by participation. I think that it was Hillary Clinton who said that there cannot be true democracy unless women's voices are heard. We should learn from the fine example of Wales that was given by my noble friend Lady Gale.

We might not yet be elected-although if and when we are, I trust that there will be proper female representation-but as parliamentarians we have a duty to work with our parties and other organisations to ensure that more women are selected and elected to Parliament and local councils. It is clear from everything that we heard this afternoon that women throughout the world make a huge economic contribution. However, there is so much more potential-and not just in developing countries where access to health and education will make an exponential difference. Women are so often the drivers of economic growth. In our own country we need more women to be in positions where they can influence and make decisions: in boardrooms, on public bodies, in the professions, in local and national government, in trade unions-and, yes, on the Bishops' Benches. It is these fora that make economic decisions. As my noble friend Lord Davies of Abersoch said, it is a question not simply of gender equality and diversity but of performance.

Most importantly in the current economic turbulence, we must do everything possible to provide women with employment and the infrastructure that will enable them to work: low-cost and accessible childcare, and support if they are carers. To date, the Government's policies have moved in the other direction. I strongly urge them to make this a priority, so that when we celebrate International Women's Day in 2013 there will be an even better story to tell.

3.33 pm

Baroness Verma: My Lords, it has been a privilege to sit and listen to a debate that has encapsulated a huge range of topics and themes. Each contribution has provided the House with the richness, expertise, passion, compassion and humility for which your Lordships' House is so proudly known. The debate marked the 101st International Women's Day and I join my noble friend Lady Seccombe in celebrating safer motherhood.

Before I respond to the many questions and points raised by noble Lords, I will speak about how the Government are supporting women in developing countries with economic progress, through our DfID programmes and our support of the new UN Women agency. On taking office as Secretary of State for International Development, my right honourable friend Andrew Mitchell made it a priority to put girls and

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women at the heart of DfID programmes. Through both bilateral and multilateral reviews, he identified programmes that delivered and also those that failed to produce positive outcomes.

DfID's strategic vision for women and girls is guided by four pillars for effective action. Delaying pregnancies among females in developing countries-as many have spoken of today-and encouraging greater participation in education and employment enables women and girls to have better health outcomes for themselves and for their children. Evidence has shown that improving access to economic assets for women could see increases in output of between 2.5 per cent and 4 per cent. Increasing women's control over household income has a more positive impact on children as mothers tend to invest back more into their households and in the welfare of their children. Providing women with the means, through microfinance or tangible assistance such as seeds or livestock, has seen economic growth in developing countries, adding to women's ability to harness change and transform their communities.

We know that women make up 51 per cent of the world's population and that they produce 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the world's agricultural goods. However, they own less than 5 per cent of the world's titled land. The Government, through DfID, have set ambitious targets to help 18 million women to access financial services and 4.5 million women to strengthen their property rights by 2014. Economic empowerment increases people's access to and control over economic resources, financial services, property and other assets.

DfID's rationale for focusing on economic development of women and girls was reinforced by the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development, which highlighted the importance of closing earnings and productivity gaps and improving access to productive resources such as water, electricity and childcare. DfID currently has over 20 programmes in 15 countries, delivering direct assets to women and girls across Asia and Africa, but we recognise that just transferring economic assets is not enough. We need to help change discriminatory social norms and laws.

Whether it is in developing countries or here in the UK, changing attitudes, mindsets and culture takes a long time, as many of us are so aware, as we continue in our sophisticated democracy to struggle with many of the issues that we see widely rampant across the globe. Noble Lords have mentioned violence against women, forced marriages, "honour"-based crime, female genital mutilation and human trafficking, alongside parity in pay and representation in both civic and political life. That is why these debates are so important.

The Government strongly supported the establishment of UN Women, which was formally launched in February last year; I had the privilege of attending that launch. It has a strong programme to support action to increase women's leadership and participation in the decisions that affect their lives; to increase economic empowerment; to prevent violence against women and girls and expand victim/survivor services; to increase women's leadership in peace, security and humanitarian response to conflict and crisis situations; and to ensure that a comprehensive set of global norms, policies and standards on gender equality and women's empowerment are in place.

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Noble Lords are aware of our international champion to eliminate violence against women and girls, Lynne Featherstone. She is currently in New York attending the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women and will raise the issue of body confidence among young girls and women, a topic that the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, alluded to. She has received strong support at the UN summit from many countries. She is working closely with all parts of the media and with business and has received active support from them.

I turn now to points raised by noble Lords. I have kept my own remarks brief because I think many of them will be covered in my responses. However, because there are so many responses, I will say from the outset that if I do not deliver all the responses in the time allocated, I will undertake to write and have a copy placed in the Library.

I felt that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, was slightly disingenuous in her start. This debate has recognised a lot of the good things that were done by the previous Government and on which we are working. However, we inherited a deficit. We are struggling to ensure that we restore the economy. We know that difficult decisions have to be made and the noble Baroness is aware of that. We are protecting the lowest-paid. Our changes to taxation will lift 1.1 million people out of income tax, some 58 per cent of whom will be women. We are also providing families with more support for childcare costs.

My noble friend Lord Smith spoke of quotas. I, like the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch, and my noble friend Lady Bottomley, do not like quotas. We think that it is wrong to make an artificial imposition when we want to ensure that those who take up positions are well supported, well qualified and able to do them. We want to make sure that the means to get into such positions are in place. That is the work that the noble Lord has done. The work is re-educating about and making people rethink how to get people placed on boards. Dare I say that for far too long-I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, mentioned it-boards have had very much a group-think mentality and have carried on in the same way that they have known for years. It is great that they have been shaken up to have a rethink about how their boards and their businesses look. My noble friend is wrong. Research from Norway has found that there is a connection between the introduction of quotas and an underperformance of companies.

Lord Smith of Clifton: I thank the noble Baroness for referring to my point on quotas. Does she recall that studies have shown that at the present rate of progress it will be 100 years before we get 25 per cent female representation on boards?

Baroness Verma: That would be if we allow it to stay the way it is. Through active engagement we are making progress. We have made 2 per cent progress in a short period of time. I am perhaps not as pessimistic as my noble friend.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, spoke about women in the developing world and early marriage, and the education of girls. The UK's development

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programme has put girls at its heart. We know that investing in girls at an earlier stage better helps to break the cycle of poverty between the generations. DfID is working with adolescent girls and communities to end early marriage. For example, in Ethiopia, we are supporting the scale-up of a pilot programme which will delay marriage for 200,000 girls. During the pilot, none of the girls married and all of them stayed in school.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, also talked about forced marriage, a subject on which I am intensely passionate. I know this topic inside out. Unfortunately, the culture from which I come still has the attitude that there is a very fine line between consent and forced marriage. We are working sensitively but vigorously to ensure that no longer in this country at least should we tolerate any form of forced marriage. When victims-that is what they are-want support, we want to be there to provide them with that support, which is why the police, the CPS and other agencies have been given guidance to ensure that they too respond in a reflective manner.

What can I say about my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon? She is at the heart of what most of us look for in a mentor, friend and role model for politics. I know she went completely off-key in her speech, but she did not need it. She is what I would call the friendly face and the friendly hand that comes into politics-someone who, when everything is going wrong, will tell you that it is going to be all right. The organisation of which she was a founding member actually transformed the perception of people who actively wanted to engage in politics and decision-making. My noble friend has a great deal of respect for her husband and values his support, as do I. It is when both men and women are totally engaged that the changes will be brought about. When my noble friend talks about her husband, I talk about my Ashok, because without him we would never have made this journey.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, wanted to know about adult social care. The Government are putting in an extra £7.2 billion over the next four years of the spending review to support adult social care, and that comes in the context of a challenging settlement for local government. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that I have personal experience of the care sector because for over a decade my businesses have been in that sector. I agree with absolutely every word she said about the contribution, both informal and formal, made by carers. I wish that at some point we would have a complete attitude change in this country in how we look at those who actually do some of the most downtrodden jobs for the least thanks. We see the bad headlines, but we do not see that many good care workers do an excellent job on a daily basis.

The noble Baroness also talked about flexible working. We are trying to introduce the extension of such working to all employees to ensure that the benefit is available as widely as possible, including to individuals in the wider caring structure and those who wish to play a more active role in the community or undertake voluntary work. The extension will also change the perception that flexible working can harm career

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progression. It will encourage more fathers to request flexible working in order to take on a greater share of childcare responsibilities. Someone mentioned something about fathers, and we agree that the workplace has changed. Many more fathers want to be at home spending time with their children. Flexible working is positive for business because it enables it to draw on a much wider pool of skills and talents in the workplace, along with improved recruitment and retention rates. It increases staff morale and productivity. The evidence is also clear that flexible working arrangements benefit women by helping them to balance their caring responsibilities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gale, highlighted the great benefit of strong Welsh women, and I agree with her. We have a lesson to learn from the Welsh Assembly and I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and I were thinking, "How do we manage this for our next elections?". What I would like to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, is this: we are a stronger nation for having Wales as part of it, and as a good neighbour we will take lessons and look carefully at how Wales is doing.

The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, talked about the important role played by her mother. I heard "Hear, hear" across the Chamber when she said that. Mothers are so important in shaping our ambitions. My mother, like the noble Baroness's mother, was, is, and I suspect will always remain my greatest inspiration. Again, if I reflect only on my own culture where girls are seen as a bit of a burden-and if you are a girl with a darker skin than the other girls growing up around you, you are a bigger burden-I can tell noble Lords that it is usually the mum who tells you that it is going to be okay.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, talked about legal aid reform and expressed her concerns about women losing out on vital legal aid. The Bill is currently in the House and there will be, I am sure, energetic discussion on it. However, I can reassure the noble Baroness that we are retaining legal aid in key areas impacting on women-in particular injunctions to protect victims from domestic abuse and in private family law cases where domestic violence is a feature.

The noble Baroness also referred to human trafficking. The Government published a human trafficking strategy last July which focused on: improving identification, care of victims, enhancing our ability to act early before the victims reach here, smarter action at the borders and much more co-ordination of law enforcement in the UK. We are also tackling trafficking through our international work. DfID supports projects which are specifically designed to prevent trafficking-for example, the Malawi anti-child trafficking project run by the Salvation Army to improve knowledge of, and access to, rights for children in Malawi who are vulnerable to being trafficked; and in Bangladesh DfID has supported the establishment in the police of a specialised unit for human trafficking.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, asked whether I agreed with not only the outstanding sacrifices but the work of the suffragettes. Absolutely. Had they not done what they did then, we would be fighting this battle at a much later stage than we are now. The

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suffragettes put into motion what we have to continue. The work is far from done but I agree with the noble Baroness that it took some outstanding women to stand up at a time when it was very difficult to do so..

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked about DfID's work with girls and women. I have spoken about that but I shall read out my note because it is important to repeat a good message. I am delighted that he welcomed our strategic vision for girls and women and that he cited the compelling evidence upon which that strategic vision is based. Investing in the poorest girls and women is good for them, their families, societies and economies. I am pleased that DfID is scaling up and prioritising resources to support girls and women in all 28 of its bilateral programmes and international organisations such as UN Women, to which the UK is the second largest donor.

I have been told that I have a couple of minutes left and so I shall quickly ramble through.

My noble friend Lady Seccombe spoke about apprenticeships in non-traditional roles. Working with the National Apprenticeship Service to run a series of diversity pilots we are looking at increasing diversity in apprenticeships. My noble friend pointed out how it can actually transform the culture of both men and women's thinking by taking on usually non-traditional female apprenticeships. Overall, there are more female apprentices than male, particularly in advanced and higher apprenticeships. However, of course, there is always room for improvement.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, referred to childcare and how there needs to be a major review. The Government are committed to investment in childcare. We are extending free childcare to the most disadvantaged two year-olds and, through the universal credit, we are providing an extra £300 million of support for women working less than 16 hours.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, mentioned grannies, an issue on which we need to focus more. They form a huge part of our population and are a huge resource of not only experience and knowledge but patience. I know, for instance, that my daughter much prefers my mother's company to mine. She thinks my mother is far trendier than I am-probably because my mother does not say no to her as much as I do. However, the noble Baroness is right. We are doing many more things. For instance, we are working on pensions to make sure that women's basic state pension outcomes rapidly catch up with those of men and continue to improve. Around 80 per cent of women reaching state pension age since April of last year will be entitled to a full basic state pension and projections are that that will rise to 90 per cent in 2018.

The noble Lord, Lord Bach, and I have Leicester in common and agree that cities such as Leicester have so much to offer economically. However, we have to make sure that people in those cities are able to access services and jobs at local authority level, where we have very poor representation both for females and for BMEs. The noble Lord also talked about the legal aid Bill. As I said to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, we will leave that until we discuss and debate it in the House.

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The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, talked about women, peace and security. Women have a crucial role to play in resolving conflict. The FCO is working with DfID, the MoD and the Stabilisation Unit and is committed to ensuring that the promotion of women's participation in conflict resolution is an integral part of an overseas conflict policy-not only because the principles of equality and justice underpin our values but because the effective participation of women helps to secure more sustainable peace, which is vital to our security interests. He also champions the role of women, on which I heartily congratulate him.

My noble friend Lady Morris of Bolton spoke about women in the Middle East. The recent uprisings in the Middle East have led to concerns about women's rights in the context of political instability and conflict. They are at their lowest in fragile and conflict-affected areas such as Yemen, Iraq, and the West Bank and Gaza. Heightened instability in the region could see a further deterioration in women's participation. However, I also congratulate my noble friend on the work she does to make sure we have a wider understanding of what is going on in that region.

The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, spoke about body image. I agree with almost everything the noble Lord said-we need to tackle the way that women are portrayed in the media so that girls have positive role models and are not under pressure to conform to looking, or behaving in, a certain way. We have launched the body confidence campaign to reduce the burdens that popular culture places on an individual's well-being and self-esteem.

The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, asked whether I would relay a message to the Colombian Government through the FCO. The Government are firmly committed to working with countries such as Colombia to uphold and protect women's rights but I will write to Jeremy Browne at the FCO, who is the ministerial lead on this area, and raise the issues with him.

The noble Baroness, Lady Healy, asked me about universal childcare-which I think I have mentioned-as well as free education for disadvantaged two year-olds.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, noted that deaths in childbirth are too high around the world and asked what we are doing to help. As I have said, DfID, through its strategic vision for girls and women, has set out our commitment to improve reproductive and maternal health for women in the poorest countries as a priority. By 2015, the UK will have helped save the lives of at least 50,000 women during pregnancy and childbirth, and those of 250,000 newborn babies. It will also ensure at least 2 million safe deliveries with long-lasting improvements and access to quality maternity services.

I still have many more responses to deliver so I will ask your Lordships' indulgence and write to them. I will just conclude with these remarks. We have taken our domestic and international issues very seriously. I have spent the past year or so travelling around the world doing round-table discussions and asking women in the UK what is important to them. That direct contact has benefited us greatly; we are feeding into our departments some of the main issues that women have.

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Someone asked me some time ago what inspired me to get up and carry on the fight that sometimes seems hopeless. I said that as a kid I heard Dr Martin Luther King's speech, "I have a dream". While there is so much to do, ordinary people are doing extraordinary things, and that inspires me. We have made progress, but we have so much to do, and this Government are determined that we will not shy away from taking difficult decisions.

BBC Governance and Regulation: Communications Committee Report

Copy of the Report

Motion to Take Note

4 pm

Moved by Lord Inglewood

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, in opening this debate, before introducing the Communication Committee's report on the governance and regulation of the BBC, I pay tribute to my predecessor chairman of the committee, Lord Onslow, who died on 14 May last year during the report's preparation. Michael William Coplestone Dillon Onslow, 11th Baronet of West Clandon, 7th Earl of Onslow, Viscount Cranley, 10th Baron Onslow and Baron Cranley, was the kind of Member of this House that we no longer get these days. But he always made a contribution and added to the gaiety of life in doing it. His work on the Communications Committee was no exception, and I doubt that we shall see his like again here.

Why did the Select Committee on Communications decide to inquire into the regulation and governance of the BBC? There were two main reasons. First, we consider it part of our purpose to assist the House in advance of the plethora of policy initiatives and legislative and regulatory changes that we are going to see in the next few years as a result of the technological revolution currently under way across the media, which is radically changing the world in which we live. Secondly, 12 months ago the BBC was acquiring a new chairman, and we hoped that our work would be of help to the new incumbent, the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, whom I am delighted to see here this afternoon. He will no doubt advise us on whether we have been successful, and we certainly welcome some of the changes that he has brought about.

It was also five years since the last review of the charter and the establishment of the BBC Trust, so the moment was timely to consider some of changes that have ensued. However, it is disappointing that it has taken nearly nine months for the report to be debated when at least some of its topicality has been lost. After all, relevance should be a crucial aspect of the House's work.

The report itself comprises a number of distinct recommendations which group into a number of general categories. The first consists of those that relate to the

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internal workings of the corporation. The second relates to its outward-looking relationships with the Government, Parliament and the licence-fee payers, who are defined somewhat more widely than the literal meaning of the words might suggest. The third is much more general and relates to the wider changes going on in and around the media, to which I have already alluded.

I turn to those aspects that principally relate to the BBC's own modus operandi. We concluded that one of the biggest practical shortcomings of the way in which the BBC conducted itself was in respect of complaints, both internally and as regards the overlap between itself and Ofcom. It was overly complicated and convoluted. During the 15 years preceding our inquiry, four pieces of legislation have been passed that had implications for the handling of complaints about BBC programmes and services, and new regulatory bodies had been given different and sometimes overlapping tasks. This resulted in a system described by the noble Lord, Lord Grade, as "absolutely hopeless". The complication and confusion surrounding the complaints process was such that it took the committee and its advisers a considerable effort fully to understand it and, in an attempt to make it clearer, it was set out in one chart, which was published in our report, with possible options for complaining about the BBC. The result is startling and shows how confusing and complicated the complaints process has become. We believe that this is probably the first time that the entire complaints system has been documented for public use on a single page.

We then moved on to examine how current systems could be improved in a short time without amending the charter or existing legislation. We recommended the creation of a one-stop shop within the BBC where complaints could be registered and either dealt with directly or passed on to the relevant department.

We encouraged the BBC executive, BBC Trust and Ofcom to work together to ensure that people wishing to complain about a BBC television or radio service understood the process through which their complaint was to be handled. Furthermore, we recommended the drawing up of a new memorandum of understanding between the BBC and Ofcom, which would require that all complaints about BBC programmes and services should first be considered by the BBC, using an improved version of the existing internal process. In its response, Ofcom explained that it did not think it would be appropriate to oblige audiences to contact the BBC first, or to reject or transfer complaints without investigation. This is because, in line with its statutory duty, Ofcom treats complaints about the BBC under the same established procedure as for all other broadcasters.

However, Ofcom informed the committee that in the light of the report it had begun working with the trust to ensure that complaints to either body have consistent advice and guidance on the current process and options available. It is difficult to judge the effect of this work that Ofcom and the BBC have done together, because we have no concrete examples of exactly what has been achieved, but the committee welcomes any work that will make the complaints process more efficient and user-friendly.

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While not addressing these recommendations specifically, the BBC Trust response to the report explained that it was sympathetic to many of our recommendations in this area, and announced the appointment of a chief complaints editor. In an update sent on 22 February this year, the BBC Trust said:

"After a significant amount of work over the last few months with colleagues in the BBC Executive, the Trust has recently approved the proposals for changes to the BBC's complaints processes that it believes will bring about improvements. It is a requirement that we consult the public on these changes and the Trust will launch this consultation in early March. Many of the specific changes your Committee suggested-including a single-page guide to complaints, and more systematic recording of complaints-are being progressed as part of this work. We hope that once this consultation launches that your Committee will agree that good progress is being made in this area".

We very much welcome this. We will no doubt have a close look at what transpires.

The final issue relating to complaints that I wish to mention is that of complaints relating to impartiality and accuracy. This is the sole remaining major area of BBC UK television and radio content which is not subject to external regulation, and we judged it to be inappropriate that the BBC should remain its own judge and jury in these matters. The trust told the committee in its response that it did not believe that the current situation was inappropriate, arguing that having the trust as sole regulator was fundamental to securing the independence of the BBC. In its response, Ofcom said that giving Ofcom responsibility to consider impartiality and accuracy complaints would require changes to the agreement between the Secretary of State and the BBC. Ofcom therefore could not take this recommendation forward without the Secretary of State changing the agreement first.

In his response, the Secretary of State said that the Government were not seeking to change the existing allocation of regulatory responsibilities between the BBC and Ofcom, although no reason is given for reaching this conclusion. Notwithstanding this response we remain of the view, expressed in our report, that the Secretary of State and the BBC should consider granting Ofcom the right to regulate the BBC in respect of impartiality and accuracy. We would therefore be grateful if the Minister would explain the Government's thinking about this matter, and request that it be reviewed.

All content produced by the BBC must comply with the editorial guidelines. Concerns were raised by the committee that the attempt to ensure that the BBC meets the highest standards in adhering to the rules on issues such as impartiality, accuracy, fairness, harm and offence has led to the growth of a compliance culture which is endangering the creativity of its employees and stifling innovation. This is a delicate balancing act between ensuring on the one hand that what Sir Michael Lyons, the predecessor of the noble Lord, Lord Patten, described in his farewell public speech as "memorable cock-ups" do not happen, and on the other ensuring both that BBC staff understand the compliance system and that the system is as light-touch and minimally bureaucratic as it can be.

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The BBC's original response to our report informed the committee that the trust was assured by the director-general that this issue was being tackled, and that the trust had confidence that a sensible solution would be found which ensured that the editorial compliance process could be simplified while retaining integrity. Subsequently, it was explained that the aim of this exercise was to find the right balance between ensuring that the BBC meets the highest editorial standards expected by licence-fee payers and ensuring that the compliance process in place does not unnecessarily impede creativity.

It is reported that progress has been made on this front. Since last year the BBC has been piloting new compliance procedures throughout the organisation that are simpler and place clearer responsibilities on editorial leaders. The pilots, which are overseen by the BBC executive, are being spread to other parts of the organisation, and where appropriate will be rolled out permanently. Again, we very much welcome this and will watch developments with interest.

The committee also considered the issue of non-executive directors on the BBC executive board. We were concerned that the fact that executives had senior City and business roles might inflate the level of salaries awarded by the non-executives to BBC staff. We concluded that where possible candidates from the public and third sectors should also be considered alongside senior business figures when vacancies occur. Furthermore, we believe that the non-executives should be regarded predominantly as advisers on corporate and management responsibilities, advising on business or organisational issues and supporting the corporation's public service remit on issues such as IT, project management, market conditions, facilities and human resources.

In its response to our report, the BBC confirmed its intention that future appointments to these roles would include candidates from the public and third sectors. Furthermore, in its update it says that since the committee's report the BBC has made three non-executive director appointments to the executive board; that the non-executives now have clearer roles and responsibilities and are working with their executive colleagues to oversee the delivery of BBC services and operations on the executive board; and that it has cemented this new direction by publishing its expectations of those non-executive directors in a revised protocol that is available on its website. Again, we welcome that.

In 2007, public value tests, or PVTs as they are known, were introduced as a way for the trust to evaluate BBC proposals for new services or significant changes to existing services, to ensure the propriety of what is being proposed. The committee welcomed this mechanism in principle, but some witnesses explained to us that there is a lack of clarity about what constitutes a service and should therefore be subject to a PVT. That confusion arises because a decision about what constitutes a service remains at the discretion of the BBC Trust. We suggested that the trust and Ofcom should work together to agree on a suitable definition of a BBC service. In its response, the BBC told us that it was discussing with Ofcom ways in which it could assist the trust in deciding whether a potential change was significant, and pointed out that in particular

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there was probably scope for Ofcom to provide advice to the trust on the factors that it should take into account when considering the impact on third parties of change to a service or non-service.

In its response to us, the BBC accepted that it could be clearer when the BBC will apply the public interest test, and in its most recent update it has told us that the trust agrees with the committee's view that the dividing line between what constitutes a service and other activity classed as a non-service activity was not clear, and that to avoid future confusion the trust has decided that it should simply seek to apply the PVT to non-service activities as well as to services. Here, the determining factor for the trust in deciding whether or not to conduct a committee is the significance of the proposal, not the question of whether or not it is technically a service or a non-service. That approach provides certainty and clarity, both within the BBC and to its external stakeholders.

The trust has now put in place all the new arrangements to secure independent advice from Ofcom on the potential significance of BBC plans from a market perspective, and now seeks this advice as a matter of course when considering the significance of proposals in order to decide whether to apply the PVT. The change was implemented in time to apply to the plans under consideration by the trust as part of the Delivering Quality First initiative, and already several elements of that initiative have been submitted to Ofcom for its advice. Once again, we welcome this change.

We then turned our attention to the licence-fee settlements, and concluded that under the recent settlement money from the licence fee is going to be used to fund important activities such as the BBC World Service, S4C and Broadband Delivery UK, which sit outside the BBC's core activities. It was therefore necessary that the trust worked together with the relevant bodies in order to identify a governance framework through which the bodies overseeing these activities, particularly BDUK, would be accountable for the way in which they used this money. We welcome the BBC's response that the trust was sorting through some of the issues at the time that it advised us of this. We also welcome its agreement with this recommendation and the fact that it is making progress in this area, including through a formal amendment to the BBC's agreement with the Secretary of State. Again, I would be grateful if the Minister could advise us of exactly what progress has been made in this regard.

We also looked at the current relationship between the BBC and the National Audit Office, which can be succinctly summarised roughly as follows. Under the current arrangements, agreed between the trust, the NAO and the Government, the NAO conducts reviews of BBC services as requested by the BBC Trust, although it is not the BBC's auditor. The BBC Trust is responsible for determining which areas the NAO should investigate and the NAO then reports its findings directly to the trust, which adds its own and the executive's comments to the report before presenting it to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which in turn then lays the report before Parliament. This is a different process from the NAO's dealings with most other publicly funded organisations. Its rationale was to safeguard

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the BBC's editorial independence but, at the same time, to ensure parliamentary scrutiny of the spending of public money.

In its report, the committee recommended reform of these arrangements. We think that the NAO should agree on a work plan with the BBC Trust in advance. This is the case with many other organisations that are audited by the NAO. The period to which these work plans apply and the extent to which there are opportunities for work-plan review are matters to be agreed between the trust, the Government and the NAO. The BBC accepted that the NAO's work plan should be set in advance. The Government told us that they were committed to ensuring that the NAO had full access to the BBC's books in order to ensure greater transparency. They told us that they were in discussion with the BBC and the NAO about the detail of how this commitment could be achieved, and that the revised arrangements were to be implemented by November last year.

On 15 September last year, the Secretary of State for Culture, the Olympics, Media and Sport and the BBC agreed arrangements for the NAO's work at the BBC so that the Controller and Auditor-General will now have discretion over the subject matter of the reviews that the NAO undertakes. These reviews will continue to be reported to the BBC Trust, which is responsible for the BBC's accountability to licence-fee payers. We welcome this development.

In our call for evidence, we signalled our interest in the issue that underlies the governance and regulation of the BBC-the accountability of the BBC in general and the BBC Trust in particular. Therefore, we examined and explored what are regarded as the basic tenets of the BBC: the significance of licence-fee payers, the supremacy of the royal charter and the BBC's independence from the Government. We discovered that all three are more complex than is commonly understood. We concluded that, while the BBC Trust cannot be directly accountable to individual licence-fee payers, it should continue to consider how it might provide further transparency and continue to consult viewers, listeners and users of BBC services. The aim of this should be to ensure that those who pay for and use the BBC have more of a voice on the sort of services that it provides and its strategy for the future.

Secondly, since the BBC spends public money, Parliament-particularly the House of Commons-should have oversight and be able to scrutinise that expenditure from a value-for-money perspective. That process must not intrude on the BBC's editorial and journalistic independence. From time to time, Members of both Houses express concerns about aspects of the BBC's output. It is obviously open to them to express their opinions but the way to approach any specific concern must be through the complaints procedures that are in place for everyone.

Equally, as the events of the past decade have shown, the relationship with the Government of the day can be fraught with danger and tension. This is probably unavoidable in a free society but the Government must be clear as to the distinction between their role as midwife to the corporation and the financial arrangements surrounding it, where they have a legitimate locus

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standi to intervene, and the BBC's obligation to editorial and journalistic independence, where they cannot do so.

For the relationship that has evolved between the BBC, the Government, the licence-fee payers and Parliament to be sustained, all involved must understand and adhere to these basic underlying principles, which maintain a degree of balance and equilibrium between them. These relationships and the balance inherent in them are an almost archetypal British compromise. Nobody would design a system like this but it has evolved and it more or less works much, if not all, of the time. As a result, it is tinkered with at our peril. Above all, it is part of the law of the land.

One of the curiosities of the BBC is that it has its own legal code within English law. That is not unique but it is most unusual. During its deliberations the committee wondered, like many before it, whether this legal idiosyncrasy was actually justified. We recognise that the existing arrangements work but are unconvinced by some of the arguments advanced to support them. We therefore feel that the Government should look carefully at the legal structure of the BBC before their proposals for the next charter and agreement are brought forward, and do so from the perspective of whether these are the best arrangements for an independent national broadcaster paid for from public money. We very much hope that the noble Baroness will be able to confirm that this will occur.

At the start of my remarks I commented that the committee sees an important part of its role as assisting the House in the work it is shortly going to have to undertake in response to the policy initiatives and legal and regulatory change that the next few years are going to bring. Therefore, in conclusion, I reiterate paragraph 136 of our report:

"We welcome the Government's consultation as the 'first step' to the communications bill and support the wide-ranging review ahead of the Green Paper which is due to be published later this year".

That means last year; it has not yet been published. The paragraph continues:

"We see this as a useful start to discussions on the content of a future communications bill. We invite everyone in the industry and in particular the BBC Trust to respond to this review. We encourage the Government to conduct a comprehensive overview of the broadcasting industry to link the preparation of the next communications bill to the renewal of the Channel 3 and channel 5 licences in 2014 and the expiry of the current BBC Charter in 2016. Unless this is done the sector risks additional complexity and confusion".

As your Lordships will know, since then the entire media world has been shaken by the hacking scandal, which in turn, in the era of convergence, will bring about further legal and regulatory change which certainly will not be confined to the printed word but extend across the entire sector. When to this is added the ceaseless flow of innovative and technological development currently taking place, the immediate future threatens to be one of almost permanent revolution. This is an enormous challenge.

Finally, I thank our specialist adviser, Professor Stewart Purvis, for his wide-ranging and significant help, and Audrey Nelson and Emily Davidson, clerk and policy analyst respectively, both of whom have moved on to pastures new.

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4.22 pm

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am pleased to have been a member of the Select Committee on Communications, which produced such a timely and, I believe, influential report on the governance and regulation of the BBC. I thank our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for guiding us towards recommendations that he summarised very cogently. Those recommendations have been uncommonly well received. The report was welcomed by the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the regulator, Ofcom. The noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, also thanked us for the constructive way in which our committee had engaged with the BBC, and described our recommendations as "considered and helpful" to the review of BBC governance that he was conducting as the incoming chairman of the BBC Trust.

I take the positive view that the reforms subsequently initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, align well with our committee's recommendations. For instance, as noble Lords have heard, we expressed concern about how the BBC dealt with complaints. The trust has now approved proposals to make the BBC's complaints process faster, simpler and easier to understand. Our committee was also concerned that BBC compliance procedures were too complicated and overcautious. As we heard, the BBC is now piloting new systems to simplify and clarify programme compliance.

Looking at the trust's regulatory responsibilities, we thought that the processes for approving changes to core BBC services were uncertain. Again, the trust has moved to reduce uncertainty in this commercially sensitive area and has also put new arrangements in place to consult with Ofcom, thereby reducing the possibility of regulatory clash. Our committee was concerned about the confusion surrounding the advisory roles of non-executive directors on the BBC executive board chaired by the director-general, and whether this might undermine the role of the board of trustees now chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes. Once again, action has been taken and the authority of the trust has been made clearer in a revised protocol.

As noble Lords will see from our report, the committee was divided on how best to regulate the requirement for impartiality and accuracy in BBC output. The majority of my colleagues, concerned that the BBC was currently its own judge and jury in such matters, proposed giving final responsibility to Ofcom. However, as our chairman has said, the noble Lord, Lord Patten, in his response to our report, stated that maintaining the trust as sole regulator over these matters was fundamental to securing the independence of the BBC. Given the singular importance of impartiality to the public service delivered by the BBC, the trust is right to reserve its power of regulation in this area.

Of course, it is now eight months since our report was published. In that time, the revelations about the activities of national newspapers have put in context our rather technical concerns about standards in public service broadcasting. We now hear far fewer accusations that the BBC's rigorous compliance with standards of accuracy demonstrates a loss of nerve in its current

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affairs. On the contrary, a reinvigorated BBC Trust is now playing a positive role in defining programme priorities in television and radio.

As the director-general and his executives identify candidates for budget cuts, the trust has asked them to rethink their proposals for news and current affairs, saying-rightly in my view:

"We regard the BBC's journalism ... as the single most important priority for the BBC, and the core of the BBC's public service remit".

The budget of the flagship series "Panorama" will be protected, and funds earmarked for in-depth investigations have been increased. The trust has also emphasised the importance of investigative current affairs at regional level-an area of public service broadcasting not well served by other channels.

The noble Lord, Lord Patten, says he does not see the BBC Trust primarily as a regulator of the BBC, or as its cheerleader, but more as its conscience; and he thinks that the BBC should be less apologetic. For me, that holds out the promise that under the noble Lord's stewardship the BBC will also be more confident in countering attacks from commercial rivals. His wide experience in politics and public life should also enable him to see off the ideological attacks on public service broadcasting that will inevitably resurface. However, as we may hear later in this debate, there is continuing scepticism about whether the present trust structure is the best way to govern the BBC. In the second half of this charter period to 2016, the noble Lord must persuade the critics it can be made to work well. I certainly hope that he does.

With the Leveson inquiry by the day making the case for media reform, with Ofcom soon to report on media plurality, with the relicensing of channels 3 and 5 in prospect, then a new communications Act, followed by proposals for a new BBC Charter, Parliament will have a lot to say about the media in the years ahead. I therefore simply cannot understand why, at such a time, it should now be proposed-as I hear is the case-that your Lordships' Select Committee on Communications be disestablished. I trust that noble Lords agree that our report on BBC governance proves our worth and that we can count on your future support.

4.28 pm

Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Inglewood for securing this important debate, and I declare an interest as a children's presenter for the past 36 years, as an independent producer, and as a past member of the Ofcom Content Board. I congratulate the Communications Committee on an excellent and comprehensive report, and on all the work that the committee has done in general.

In my speech, I should like to focus on the important role BBC governance has played in maintaining high-quality children's output and the relevance it has to the lives of children and young people. I also take this opportunity to congratulate the BBC on the 10th anniversary of the launch of its two dedicated children's channels-CBeebies for children under six, and CBBC for six to 12 year-olds. Happy birthday to you, and

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what a success story it has been for the channels. For a decade now, each channel has shown high-quality, commercial-free programming designed to inform, educate and entertain all children across the UK, regardless of culture, background or circumstance. In a world of overwhelming media choice and of powerful global brands competing for children's attention, CBeebies and CBBC have grown to become this country's most popular children's channels, are watched and adored by millions of children, and valued by parents, grandparents, carers and teachers. The channels have become the number one viewing choices for most children.

That is a remarkable achievement for the BBC, which goes to the very heart of public service broadcasting, as it sets a world standard for the creation and broadcast of high-quality content for children. CBeebies and CBBC have shown mostly British-made programmes, which help children understand themselves, the world around them, their place in it, how they can help to make the world a better place and how they can make a difference and change the world's thinking. Their programmes promote tolerance and diversity. There is more diversity within children's programmes than in any other genre across broadcasting. The channels broadcast programmes which teach music, history and science and programmes which give our youngest citizens a much needed voice. Last, but certainly not least, they broadcast programmes which make them laugh, relax and enjoy their childhood.

As a children's producer and presenter myself, I know from experience that such programmes are not easy to make, as the budgets are a mere fraction of those for programmes produced for adults. The BBC children's programmes are built on a tradition which goes back almost 90 years to the first ever children's programme broadcast on the BBC, in 1922, in which "Uncle Thompson" made broadcast history when he presented a few minutes' entertainment on BBC radio just for children. From that moment on, children's programmes never left the BBC. Today's programmes are made by a band of creative individuals who are all passionate about doing their best for children and dedicated to making the world a better place for our youngest citizens. Whether on television or online, the BBC supports an industry of in-house and independent creative talent dedicated to young audiences. I congratulate them all on their vision, commitment and dedication in a world in which funding for children's programmes is under the greatest pressure. I commend the BBC for recognising the importance of that part of its output.

I have campaigned for more than 25 years for broadcasters to maintain high-quality British-made programmes, as I, like many others, recognised that there was a real danger that children's home-grown UK productions were becoming extinct on the commercial channels. At present, only 1 per cent of children's programmes is made in this country, mainly by the BBC, with commercial broadcasters now making a concerted effort and commitment to produce British-made productions for children, which is wonderful and most encouraging. I have also campaigned for the BBC's children's budget to be ring-fenced. Thankfully, last year, it was. I hope that it will remain that way for many years to come.

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At this point, I make a plea to the Government for the Chancellor in his Budget later this month to consider giving tax credits to the animation sector to ensure our talented animators continue to work in this country, because work is now being given to other countries which give favourable tax incentives for animation, which is a big part of our children's entertainment.

I am sure that many of us in this House have fond memories of classic children's programmes such as "Play School", "Blue Peter", "Jackanory", and "Saturday Superstore", to mention just a few. I want today's children to grow up with fond memories of British-made programmes, too, which will stay with them long into the future. Childhood lasts a lifetime, and programmes will influence them. Programmes will inspire them to become teachers, doctors, scientists, writers, entertainers- and even, perhaps, producers of children's programmes.

CBeebies and CBBC are not a luxury to be taken for granted and should continue to be supported, as they are an important part of our country's cultural, creative and social heritage, a fundamental pillar of public service broadcasting. They are simply indispensable and, in my view, serve the most important citizens in our society. Once again, I applaud the BBC for maintaining and upholding that vital part of public service broadcasting. The BBC children's mission has always been,

Long may it continue to do so; our children deserve it.

4.35 pm

Lord Hall of Birkenhead: My Lords, I, too, am pleased that we have secured this debate today. I should declare two interests: I am deputy chairman of Channel 4 and, for more than a decade, I ran BBC News. I want to make two points about this important report; first, on impartiality and, secondly, on compliance and its effect on creativity within the BBC.

I am really glad that the report re-emphasises the importance of impartiality as a core BBC value, and BBC News is at the core of the BBC. As the report says, how to regulate and, equally importantly, how to nurture impartiality is critical. The danger in the broader media environment is that it could begin to feel like a rather old-fashioned value which may not seem so important now that one has news from so many different sources-from broadcast, from the web, from bloggers and so on. It is not like the old days, when one got one's news from one source or maybe a second.

Yet impartiality is even more important as the noise around events in the world increases and 24-hour news coverage makes it more difficult to work out the truth of what is going on. I remember standing in the news gallery-the control room of BBC News-during the first Gulf War when reports were coming in of chemical attacks on various parts of the Middle East-which we now know were not true. I remember talking to Charles Wheeler, an impeccable journalist, who went into the studio and said, "Let's be absolutely clear about what we know is true and what is not". That dedication to truth and impartiality is phenomenally important.

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Impartiality is not a passive value, as John Bridcut made clear in his very impressive report on the BBC and impartiality, From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel. He said that impartiality,

I agree with the conclusion of the report that impartiality should remain the hallmark of the BBC and a source of pride.

That is why it is important, as this report maintains, that the BBC Trust and Ofcom work together to resolve the regulation of impartiality. But of the three options that are put forward, which to choose? I can see the value of Ofcom being given the final responsibility for regulating impartiality. I can see how being both judge and jury is not good for the BBC or its audiences, but I must confess, having thought about it a lot, that I am with some on the committee-a minority, I know-who believe that impartiality is so important to the BBC that it should remain with it.

My argument is that, however infuriating some critics of the BBC may at times find it, the BBC thinks about and debates impartiality more coherently and convincingly than any other organisation I know. It has expended an enormous amount of time and effort on commissioning reports on the very real difficulties of applying the doctrine of impartiality to some very tricky areas, such as Middle East coverage, or science coverage, or commissioning the Bridcut report on impartiality itself.

There is a body of thinking and experience in the BBC that is second to none. I can tell your Lordships from my experience in BBC journalism that there is much more agonising and worrying about the impact of what it is doing, about impartiality and about getting things right than may be apparent to people watching from outside.

Another issue affecting impartiality is speed. With news and current affairs, and the issues of impartiality that arise from that, you need to respond fast, to make adjustments and correct coverage as you go, to apologise rapidly-that is really important-for demonstrable failure, and to defend journalists when necessary. All this is better done by the BBC Trust working with the executive than by involving a third party. This is not any criticism of Ofcom, which I believe could do an excellent job, but I am thinking of the journalists, editors and programme-makers to whom clarity is crucial, sometimes in very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

My second point is about compliance and the danger of it stifling creativity or bold editorial judgments. The report talks interestingly about the need for the trust to find ways of minimising the compliance culture, which a lot of people find inhibiting. I completely agree with that, but let us just think about it-it is more complex than that, as the report makes clear. It is inevitable that, with each crisis and difficulty, new mechanisms grow up to stop it happening again. Organisations think about what they have done and want to learn from that. That is especially so at the BBC, where compliance is rightly held by everyone to the very highest standards. I have been in positions where compliance or checking your facts and being

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certain has delayed the transmission of programmes. This was not always without controversy-nor did it make me very popular at times-but it was vital because the programmes that went out were stronger and editorially more robust.

In my view, the key here is not just the rules, which of course are vital, but the people who help the programme-makers with them. The key is to have lawyers and others who want to get programmes out. However, as the report makes absolutely clear, it must be right for the BBC to keep looking for ways to ensure that the culture is one of wanting to make bold, brave editorial judgments, and to reduce levels of bureaucracy not just in compliance but in commissioning.

The BBC is so important to our democracy. It is also the biggest cultural force in this country, and the values it stands for and shows us day after day are vital to every one of us.

4.40 pm

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, the privilege of serving on the Select Committee on Communications lay very much in seeing the experience and expertise of its members engaging with the expert witnesses who gave evidence.

The BBC royal charter describes the role of the BBC Trust and uses, I believe, a significant word to describe the relationship of the trust to the licence fee and to the public interest. The trust is cast in the role of-and this is the word-guardian. In a positive sense, the trust is the guardian of the interests of the licence-fee payer, ensuring the delivery of high-quality information, entertainment and education.

Further, the trust is clearly the guardian of the values of the BBC, in that it holds the executive to account. However, as well as being a guardian for, it is also, I think, a guardian against-against political interference to ensure its international reputation for independence. I believe that the noble role of guardian, which implicates the trust in the character of the institution and in the content of its output, means that it cannot be its regulator. Any failure of an institution is a failure of its guardian. Furthermore, if the chair of the trust develops a role and relationship with the director-general akin to that between a chair and a chief executive, as cited in the report, I think that it becomes impossible for the trustees and their chair to act as some appellate body detached from the workings of the organisation.

I am persuaded that if there is an unresolved issue between the BBC and its audience, the complaint must ultimately be dealt with by an external body. Nobody can deny the enormous power of the BBC. Even its greatest admirers, such as myself, recognise that its charter and its funding place it in a unique and privileged position among broadcasters. The exercise of this power requires the greatest integrity and the closest scrutiny. As we have already been told, we are seeing through the Leveson inquiry examples of media power and media abuse, and how individuals are highly vulnerable before such power.

The committee, by a majority, favours the regulating of the BBC going to Ofcom. I was one of the minority

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who favoured creating an independent adjudicator. I can see the arguments for Ofcom being the overall regulator for the whole media platform. For example, during a recent bout of convalescence, I found myself watching more than my fair share of TV soap operas. While watching these programmes, I became very concerned about, for example, the exposure of babies, infants and children to very highly charged emotional scenes. Any such concern clearly should be aired before a regulator which can regulate such a point across all the platforms.

However, my fear about giving Ofcom the responsibility of regulating the BBC is simply the scale of the task and being able to do justice to that task. From the Secretary of State downwards, people recognise that the BBC represents the gold standard of broadcasting. It is in a league of its own among its competitors. You could argue that putting it with other broadcasters under the common regulation of Ofcom would raise the standard across the board, raising the bar for all broadcasters. My concern is that the opposite will happen and the excellence of the BBC will be compromised by being judged alongside inferior output, so that the BBC's famous gold standard will eventually slip to silver and bronze. The power and the privileged position of the BBC requires unique regulation to maintain its gold standard. We must raise the bar, not risk lowering it.

The report also looks into the auditing of the BBC and records a very interesting exchange with the National Audit Office in paragraph 113. Basically, the NAO says that it concerns itself with money and not with programme content. On the surface that seems an important distinction, especially for those who are worried about any interference in the editorial independence of the BBC. On reflection, surely that answer is less than satisfactory. Can you really separate programme content from programme cost? How can you decide whether the six o'clock news or "Today" are value for money without regard to the programme content? For example, a single voice on the "Today" programme for three hours would be much cheaper, but boring, as I think we would all agree. The only way to judge value for money, surely, is to have regard to the content of the programme and the size of the audience.

The impossibility of divorcing content from cost leads me to believe that alongside setting up an independent adjudicator we should establish an independent auditor with the specialist skills of being able to audit the BBC away from any political interference. The report identifies concerns about the complaints procedures at the BBC, as we have already heard, and the compliance culture within the corporation. Surely, complaints and compliance are two sides of the one coin-namely, the relationship between the BBC and its audience. Perhaps the reason the complaint procedure is so obscure-or has been in the past-and the compliance is so oppressive is because there is no independence of adjudication and auditing. The BBC should be allowed to be as creative as possible to stimulate and to provoke its audience. It should be freed from the shackles of trying to regulate itself. It should be free to do what it does best-inform, educate and entertain. The trust should be the guardian of the

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gold standard of public service broadcasting at every level-international, national, regional and local. That local dimension is ever more important as the Government, in pursuit of localism, devolve power to elected mayors and elected police commissioners. Local media become indispensable public fora for local democracy.

In conclusion, I believe that a stable society is one that is in conversation with its different parts, and with the wider world. I believe that the BBC Trust should be the guardian of the BBC's unique role in facilitating that national and international conversation.

4.48 pm

Lord Fowler: My Lords, I agree with a vast amount of what the right reverend Prelate said, particularly about the gold standard with regard to BBC reporting.

First, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Inglewood and the committee on the report. Like him, I remember with affection Lord Onslow, who was such a great character in this House. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patten, on his appointment, which is excellent. He is already becoming the amiable face of the BBC. I used to be Secretary of State for Transport, and he reminds me rather of Peter Parker, who as head of British Rail had a very big public relations value with the railways. I know that the noble Lord will understand if I say that although I have the greatest admiration for the standards of the BBC, I do not regard it as our function here simply to be corporation cheerleaders. Nor is that the function of the Select Committee.

In the report, the committee asked questions about the positions of the charter and the trust that are fundamental but too often ignored. First, as a former chairman I will say a word about the importance of the committee, which is now so ably chaired by my noble friend. The committee was not the brainchild of the two Front Benches; they fought against its establishment. However, this House exercised its will and judgment and decided that a committee should be formed. This has proved to be a triumphant piece of good judgment by the House, for we are now living through the most tumultuous period in media history in modern memory. The past months have brought revelations of newspaper phone hacking, involving breaches of the rights of hundreds of citizens; arrests of newspaper executives-the 23rd arrest by officers working on Operation Elveden came just today; corrupt payments to the police and public officials; the revelation that the Press Complaints Commission is a toothless puppy; and, only yesterday, the resignation of James Murdoch from News International.

Much of this came from the inquiry that the Government eventually set up. I say "eventually" because, as the House may remember, for months previously I had been told by Ministers on the Floor of the House that it was far too early to talk about an inquiry, and that it was the joint view of the Department for Culture and the Home Office that the case for it had not been made. That has proved not to be the case. What it showed me was that we would be very foolish to expect a Government of either party to uphold the public interest when it comes to the media. In past

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years Governments have been far more concerned about upholding their own interests. That is why the committee is of such importance.

I fear that the risk now will be that Ministers will say, "We have had an inquiry and no more is necessary". I profoundly disagree. The implementation of reforms in the post-Murdoch era will be of vital public interest, and the Select Committee will have a vital part to play in proposing and scrutinising plans. Therefore, if there is any proposal from the Government to the Liaison Committee to downgrade this committee, I would strongly oppose it, and I think that they would have a fight on their hands in this House. I cannot think of a worse time for the House to stand back from its scrutinising role. It would be an utterly wrong step to take.

The report demonstrates that nothing is more important than the continuing scrutiny of the BBC. The report touches on the charter of the BBC. The prevailing official view has been that it should not be changed and that the BBC should not be put on a statutory basis. The result is that the charter is a straight deal between whoever happens to be Culture Secretary and whoever happens to be in charge of the BBC at the time. Much was made of the so-called consultation, but frankly it meant very little. A prime example is that the last consultation came out strongly against a separate BBC trust to replace the board of governors, which had been the position from 1927 to 2007, as the Select Committee pointed out-so of course a separate trust was chosen.

In other areas one might say that there was a democratic deficit. However, the then Government had their way because they were irritated to apoplexy by one report about Iraq on the "Today" programme. Something had to be done, and that something was the setting up of the BBC Trust, and also the arrangement whereby non-executives sit on an executive board, which I believe is almost unique in corporate governance.

My views are very clear. First, the trust should be abolished and the noble Lord, Lord Patten, should be made chairman of the BBC Board, with a proper board of directors or governors, or however you wish to describe them. Secondly, the BBC should be put on a proper statutory basis, even if you want to call it the BBC charter Act. The idea of making an arrangement intended to last unchanged for 10 years is totally out of date. First, it does not happen in any event. The licence fee has been frozen, the overseas service has been cut back, and various other changes have already taken place. Secondly, in the fast moving area of the media, it is fairly comical to think you can make an arrangement that lasts unchanged for 10 years.

My last point is that we are now entering the post-Murdoch age, and this has a number of consequences for the BBC. First, it is essential that the standards of the BBC are maintained. We can point to the BBC as being very much typical of British journalism and very much more typical of British journalism than the phone-hackers and the lawbreakers. I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Hall, said in this regard about impartiality.

I say in parenthesis that it is not just the BBC. We saw with the terrible and tragic death of Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times an example of an outstanding

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British journalist and outstanding British journalism. However, the BBC has a major part to play in demonstrating the true strength of British journalism. It already has outstanding overseas journalists like John Simpson and Jeremy Bowen, and its political coverage-in spite of all the sniping that takes place-is first class, as is some of its home reporting such as health. I note that over 25 years of covering HIV/AIDS, the BBC has been outstanding in both objectivity and accuracy.

I do not always think that the BBC gets its judgments right. I read that one or two football commentators now have earnings from the BBC of over £1 million a year. I guarantee that that is not the rate paid to the brave reporters who risk their lives trying to tell the world about what is happening in Syria.

The more profound issue is that of ownership in the new media landscape. It is not fanciful to believe that one of the underlying problems with News International was the belief in its power. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Patten, will remember the headline after the 1992 election:

"It's the Sun wot won it".

Then you had politicians beating a path to the Murdoch door. That can easily become a belief that normal restrictions do not apply. All that has come to an end-and if it has not, we must ensure that it does-symbolised by the resignation of James Murdoch, and who knows what the future of the News International newspapers in the UK is going to be?

The lesson of this is not just to rejoice but to ask how we can prevent any other organisation obtaining that kind of disproportionate power. Whether it likes it or not, the BBC is part of that debate. It has a plethora of outlets and channels. As far as television is concerned, there is a multitude of competition, but what about national radio? Too often the debate is whether John Humphrys is being too aggressive in his interviews on the "Today" programme and the continual and irritating apology that they are afraid that they have not got much time for a particular item. But the real debate is not that; the real debate is what is the alternative to "Today", "The World at One" or "PM"? All those are opinion-forming radio programmes. The trouble is that to start a commercial channel in competition is practically impossible, as I think Channel 4 has found out to its cost. It is simply because the advertising is not there. It can probably be done only by the licence fee, as are all BBC programmes.

One option is to make some part of the licence fee open for bids from the likes of ITN and Channel 4 for new, alternative programmes on a new national radio channel. That is not intended to be a hostile move against the BBC. It is intended to do what we should be doing in all areas of the media; namely, to ensure that there is as much competition as possible.

Having said that, I agree enthusiastically that the BBC is one of the outstanding broadcasting organisations in the world. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Patten, the best of fortune in maintaining that legacy. I say to my noble friend on the Front Bench that the Communications Select Committee has an invaluable role at this time.

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Frankly, it would be madness to try to alter it. I congratulate my noble friend and the members of the Select Committee on their report.

5.01 pm

Baroness Bakewell: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and the Select Committee on the valiant work that they have done and the excellent report that they have produced. I wish to address two issues in this report. But first I declare an interest: I first worked for the BBC in 1955; I last worked for it last week. Between those dates, I have had a freelance relationship with both BBC television and radio, and, occasionally, the World Service. I have never held any post as director, editor, producer or other member of the hierarchy. My sole BBC experience has been as relating to the viewer and the listener directly. My contribution should be understood as something of a report from the coalface.

I want to address the matter of the current internal compliance regime. The landmark catastrophe in the BBC's history was the Andrew Gilligan and the so-called dodgy dossier affair, which led to the Hutton inquiry and the resignations of the director-general and the chairman. For broadcasters, things have never been the same since. More trivial matters, such as the idiocy of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand affair, have further tightened the controls exercised within the BBC on the freedom of its broadcasters. Some of this may well indeed be appropriate but it is certainly a fact that the compliance process now in place is cumbersome, excessive and inhibiting of the trust placed in experienced broadcasters to comply with the BBC guidelines.

I will give a recent example. Last week, as part of the BBC Radio 3 series "Belief", I interviewed at length the writer and poet John Burnside who is this year's winner of the TS Eliot prize. Burnside has written at length in his autobiographical A Lie about My Father of his personal involvement with heavy drinking and drug taking. This featured in the interview. I put it to him that he did not so much struggle against drink and drugs as embrace them deliberately-with which he agreed. We went on to discuss the mind-altering consequences of each. I had already been forewarned by my producer that this would be a difficult topic. She had already been alerted by her editor to "Tell Joan that this would indeed be a difficult topic". Therefore, in the middle of our discussion, I interjected, "This being the BBC, we must of course state that heavy drinking and drug taking are bad for you". Burnside agreed. I understand from my producer that this exchange will now be entered on the compliance document to signal alert about the content. This will be referred to my producer, then to her superior up the BBC ladder of authority, to decide whether it can indeed be broadcast at all.

The effects of such compliance rigmarole are threefold. First, it deskills the broadcaster. I must just as well have asked Burnside, "Tell us what fun it is to take LSD", knowing that I could trust to the safeguards higher up the system to impose its own censorship and relieve me of any judgment of my own. Secondly, it risks creating sameness about programming in which everyone self-censors and creates an anodyne sort of discourse. Thirdly, it consumes layers of bureaucracy's

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time and attention, not to say ever-mounting reams of paper. The report's recommendation urging the BBC Trust to reconsider the existing compliance culture will, I believe, have the hearty support of the creative community.

Now to the issue of how the BBC deals with complaints. As I was thinking about what to say on this, I received a letter in this place from a viewer. The letter she enclosed is from the BBC Trust which summarises her dealings with it. It goes like this: "You wrote to the BBC complaints department on 12 April. BBC Audience Services replied on 21 April. You wrote again on 10 May. The executive producer of the programme replied on 11 June. You wrote again to the Editorial Complaints Unit. Alison Wilson, the complaints manager of the unit, replied on 2 August. You have now written to the BBC on 31 October". There is no answer to this complaint, and I will explain why. The writer who sent her letter to me ends with this statement, written in capital letters: "The BBC is a corrupt institution. Evolution is the greatest hoax ever known to man. To God be the glory". Such complaints can have as many replies as you wish, but they will not solve the problem.

In the report discussion of how complaint procedures are shared between Ofcom and the BBC, one platform available to the BBC was not discussed. By that I mean the transmission times available to it on both radio and television. Back in the 1960s when television was still seen as a new and exciting medium, I had the good fortune to be part of a radical programme enterprise. It was called "Late Night Line-Up", a programme that went out every day of the year, bar Christmas day, and whose remit was to discuss the nature, range, style and structure of television itself. Every night we would broadcast critiques of programmes, analysis of what had been good or bad, and what was right or wrong about facts, policies and practice. We gave a platform to a vast range of critical voices. Even at a time when the BBC informally sought to keep Mrs Whitehouse off its screens, we went out of our way to give her a voice. In fact, we asked her to review "Oh, Calcutta!".

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