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House of Lords

Tuesday, 14 May 2013.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells.



2.36 pm

Asked by Lord Lucas

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of arrangements whereby local authorities require bailiffs to pay them part of the fees that bailiffs have charged to debtors.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): My Lords, under the provisions of the council tax regulations, local authorities are entitled to make charges to cover the costs of actions that bailiffs are taking. Those charges belong to the local authority. How those are then divided between the local authority and the bailiffs is a matter for them. Following the Transforming Bailiff Action consultation, the Government are currently implementing proposals to introduce a new, clear fee structure for bailiff action, which will be applicable across all debt areas.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I very much look forward to the introduction of the new system but, even in these hard times, should we not discourage local authorities from adding to the costs borne by the poorest members of society? If local authorities need to raise money, should it not rather be from the richer?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the noble Lord knows very well, because he takes a deep interest in these matters, that there has been great concern about the fees charged by and the arrangements made with bailiffs. The consultation, which has now finished, will result in a clear description of what the fee structure should be, how local authorities are to charge for it and what will be the open and clear arrangements between local authorities, bailiffs and the debtors in question.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, may I make a wider point? Can the noble Baroness assure the House that when court bailiffs are appointed they are appointed by circuit judges and are enjoined to discharge their duties with humanity and courtesy? Should not the same precept apply exactly to bailiffs acting for local authorities?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, it is extremely important that bailiffs are under no illusion about how they should behave when they have to take on a debt. As the noble Lord says, they should be courteous and caring, and that will be in the guidelines, which are

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being produced as we speak and are almost ready. They will give clear guidance as to how bailiffs should behave and operate.

Lord Shipley: My Lords, will those guidelines explain why some local authorities are considering implementing a charging regime and taking part of the bailiff’s gross fees? Is there not a clear conflict of interest when a local authority appoints a bailiff, supervises a bailiff and then shares in the gross fees of that bailiff?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, as I said initially, the local authority is entitled to come to arrangements with bailiffs on fees and whatever charges are made. The guidance will make clear what local authorities can do, but I agree with the noble Lord that anything that looks like a cosy arrangement between the bailiffs employed and local authorities is thoroughly undesirable.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Can we be assured that the fee structure would preclude the local authority making any profit?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the local authority’s responsibility is to retrieve the debt in any way it can. I think the noble Lord is referring back to the Question about what arrangements are made with the debtors who are going to collect those debts, financially. I have said pretty clearly that there will be very clear guidance on what they can and cannot do, and that cosy business arrangements are thoroughly unsatisfactory.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of the consequences, including the use of bailiffs, of increased indebtedness to local authorities arising from the localisation of council tax benefit with the 10% funding cut?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the burden on local authorities for collecting any debt is something that they will have to work out for themselves. I do not think any assessment has been made of any additional burdens from the council tax support system, which is what the noble Lord is asking about. Again, it will be up to local authorities to make their own arrangements.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, my noble friend will know that when the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, moved an amendment earlier this year the House voted decisively on this issue of bailiffs. Can my noble friend assure me that the noble Baroness, and others who led this campaign, are being consulted on these guidelines?

Baroness Hanham: Absolutely, my Lords. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, came to see me a little while ago with the chief executive of an organisation called Zacchaeus, which is deeply involved in this. We have made sure that it has been consulted and have kept closely in touch with it over the guidelines. Therefore, I can be sure that when the guidelines are produced, it will be done with the support of those who were concerned about what was happening.

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Lord Laming: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House, following the question of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that the part of the fee that goes to the local authority will in no case exceed the cost to the local authority of calling in bailiffs?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the guidance on the fees will make that pretty clear.

Lord Christopher: My Lords, the first Question from the Minister’s own Benches was very apt. The Financial Times reported a couple of days ago that there had already been a significant rise in the scale of unpaid rent to local authorities because of the changes in housing benefit. What advice will the Government give to local authorities, since if bailiffs turn up people will not only have no home but no furniture either?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the changes to housing benefit are relatively new so I am not sure what the article was about. I can say no more, other than that local authorities will be expected to work closely and sensibly with bailiffs in a proper way.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, if local authorities are to pay commission to bailiffs, is there not a very real concern that those same local authorities will act more aggressively in enforcement than they might otherwise do?

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, local authorities enable bailiffs to charge fees; that is the financial arrangement between them. On the question of the debt that is owed to the local authority, it will collect that in whatever way it can, but the fees charged are the bailiff’s concern.

Environment: Plastic Bags


2.44 pm

Asked by Baroness Parminter

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are considering a levy on single-use plastic bags in England.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): My Lords, we are monitoring the charging scheme in Wales, data from the first year of which will not be available until the summer. The Northern Ireland scheme began last month. The Scottish consultation response on the charge is expected in due course. We are considering these schemes and the available evidence carefully so that we can make a fully informed decision on a possible charge for England.

Baroness Parminter: I thank my noble friend for that response. Are the Government aware of the substantial hidden costs that English consumers bear from retailers buying and storing and local authorities disposing of plastic bags? Will the Government therefore introduce a small levy to cut those costs and, crucially, to protect our environment and wildlife?

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Lord De Mauley: My Lords, my noble friend works tirelessly on this subject. I acknowledge the thrust of her question, although I am not aware of any evidence from Wales that any such savings are being passed on to consumers through lower prices, but we will continue to monitor the situation there. Retailers operate in a competitive environment, and consumers can choose to shop around. Indeed, evidence shows this is a growing trend.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the pilot scheme in Wales has lasted for several years. Will the Minister spell out very clearly the objections to the implementation of the scheme in England?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, as I just said, we are monitoring the charging scheme in Wales and data from the first year will not be available until the summer. I understand that unintended consequences in the Republic of Ireland included an increase in sales of bin liners because consumers no longer used free carrier bags to line their bins. The production of bin liners has a bigger environmental impact than single-use carrier bags. In addition, following the introduction of the charge in Wales there was an increase in sales of bags for life. As the aim of a charge is to reduce use, it could result in a worse environmental outcome if they are used only once or twice, because they need to be used at least four times to have a lower carbon footprint than single-use carrier bags. We need to consider all the impacts in the round, and we will consider very carefully instituting a charge.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the evidence from Wales suggests an indicative reduction in the use of bags of up to 90%, that there is a benefit for good causes from the 5p charge, which provides worthwhile sums, and that there has been a noticeable reduction in the number of bags lodged in hedgerows around Wales? Does this not add up to a very convincing case?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I acknowledge what the noble Lord says. As I have said, we are watching closely. There is a lot of evidence coming in, and we will make a decision in due course.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, may I put in a good word for single-use plastic bags? How else am I going to get the loose grapes I have bought home without ruining my clothes and a few other things? Equally, how would I get rid of all the weeds that I pick up as I go around my garden with a little plastic bag that I can then transfer to a big bag? Will the Minister support me in my hour of need?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I will always do my best to support my noble friend. There is no question of a ban. What I think noble Lords on all sides are suggesting is a charge, so my noble friend will be able to pay a modest sum for her bag if a charge does eventuate.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I recycle food waste in a recyclable bag which East Devon provides. Why can we not move into recyclable bags in the supermarkets?

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Lord De Mauley:The noble and learned Baroness raises an important question. It is one that we are considering. At the moment, we have not been able to find a bag that is of sufficient strength to do the job, but it is a very important subject and we are looking at it closely.

Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, the noble Lord said that it will take until the middle of this year before he gets the data for the first year’s operation of the scheme in Wales. Will he give us a timeline for how long it will take him to assess that data so we know when he will make a decision? Will it take him a year?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, we will get on with this expeditiously. There is a lot of action already. I understand that retailers including Marks & Spencer, WHSmith and Lidl have instituted voluntary charges. Sainsbury, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and Co-operative Food have put carrier bag recycling facilities at the front of their stores. We are providing funding for various projects in the marine environment, where the problem is often at its starkest. Keep Britain Tidy operates the Love Where You Live education and information programme. As I said, we are actively considering a charge on carrier bags based on the experience in the devolved Administrations.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what is happening on the other side of the channel in Europe? I know that a number of countries have banned single-use plastic bags, but I wonder whether any other country is using a form of levy.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I am aware that there is action in countries on the other side of the channel such as France, Spain and Italy. It is worth saying that in 2011 the Commission consulted on a number of possible options for reducing the use of plastic carrier bags. We responded to the consultation and encouraged the Commission to undertake a full cost-benefit analysis as part of the development of options. It has published a response to the consultation and is currently considering its options.

Baroness Golding: Is the Minister aware that in some parts of Wales the charge for a plastic bag is 10p, in other parts 5p and in other parts 3p—and that if you know the shopkeeper, it is nothing? Is he also aware that the charge is supposed to be for charity, but I often see the money going into the shop’s till? Is he aware that this is happening in Wales?

Lord De Mauley: The noble Baroness points out an extremely good reason why we should look very carefully at what is happening in Wales before we act. I thank her for that.

Lord Kilclooney: Will the Minister confirm that paper bags will not be included?

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, as I said, we are considering options. As yet there is no proposal on the table. Paper as a material does not lend itself readily to reuse unless combined with other materials, which makes its recycling very difficult. All bags have an

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environmental impact. While paper bags are derived from a renewable resource, they are heavier than plastic bags and it can take more energy to produce and transport them.

Child Poverty


2.52 pm

Asked by Lord Dubs

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on child poverty in the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My Lords, the IFS report is an interesting addition to the work on tackling child poverty in the UK, but the Government do not believe that it is possible to predict poverty levels with any certainty so far away. Poverty figures rely on the performance of the economy, on people’s behaviours and on government policy. As the report acknowledges, these cannot be predicted effectively over this timescale.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, it is disappointing that the Minister chose to brush aside a very sound piece of work, which I am sure he has read and looked at in great detail—or his officials have. Is it not alarming that a reputable organisation with sound analytical methods has predicted that child poverty is likely to increase by 1 million by 2020? Even if the figures are a bit out, the fact is that they are going up alarmingly, and child poverty is such a damaging blight on our society.

Lord Freud: My Lords, I have read the report with great interest and not relied on my officials. There are a lot of very valuable things in it. One of the most interesting things, as the noble Lord will be aware, is the uncertainty caused by the way in which absolute poverty is measured. The report says that because the rather unreliable RPI measure is used, the figure is 10 percentage points higher, whereas if the CPI measure were used it would be only 1.5 percentage points higher. The report states that we should look at that very closely, which we are doing.

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, notwithstanding the Minister’s scepticism about the report, would he be kind enough to tell us about some of the ways in which he and the Government are considering substantive measures to close the gap and reduce child poverty if the report’s predictions are proved right?

Lord Freud: My Lords, we are currently consulting on child poverty and we are committed to the Child Poverty Act and the targets in it, but we are looking at better measures for tackling it. The academic research tells us that the best predictors of poverty are worklessness in parents and low educational attainment, and that one of the most effective ways of getting out of poverty for those children is for them to achieve a better educational outcome.

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Lord Kinnock: After the last two answers, is not the Minister going to conclude that he has been taking refuge in statistics and semantics rather than addressing the fundamental question raised by my noble friend, which relates to the level of child poverty in this relatively affluent country? Is it not clear that, even if the institute’s calculations were significantly wrong, we would still be talking about a rise of more than 500,000 in the number of children in poor families in the foreseeable future in the 21st century? Can the Minister give us his own objective view of whether that is morally, socially and economically acceptable, or whether it is appalling?

Lord Freud: What is vital with child poverty is that we decide on how to tackle it. Under the last Government, we found that enormous amounts of money were spent on tackling it without hardly moving a figure. In the last few years of that Government, it hardly shifted. The noble Lord can look at the figures himself. We spend 3.6% of GDP on children and families; we are the second highest in the UNICEF measures, and we get precious little bang for our buck. We end up well down the table in performance for how children do. We need to work out how to solve child poverty and not worry about income transfers, which do not achieve the outcome.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords—

Lord Flight: My Lords—

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords—

Lord Hill of Oareford: We have just had a Labour question, so it is this side.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: Is the Minister aware that child poverty and poverty generally are not evenly spread across the United Kingdom? We have areas that are totally desperate. For instance, the south Wales valleys have twice the level of poverty than other places in the UK. What are the Minister and the Government doing to bridge that gap and somehow even out the issue of child poverty and other poverty in the United Kingdom?

Lord Freud: Yes, my Lords, there is a lot of variation around the country on child poverty. Again, I go back to the UNICEF report, which came out recently and which I found fascinating. Finland, which spends only 2.5% of its GNP on children and families, comes out very near the top. One thing that is so special about Finland is the emphasis that it puts on early years education, which seems to have a big impact there. We have to get to the causes of poverty and not just look at the pure measure.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, is the Minister aware, having quoted the recent UNICEF report, that other recent reports, including from UNICEF, concluded that under the last Government child well-being increased substantially? It is very worrying that more recent reports and evidence now suggest that, under this Government, child deprivation is increasing dramatically. Is it not a concern to him that jeopardising the chances of children is a serious matter?

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Lord Freud: My Lords, I could not agree more. One of the most dismaying things that I have ever read is the 2007 UNICEF report that put us right at the bottom in terms of child well-being. The latest report from 2011 shows us crawling up four places, but we have a long way to go and we need to find the right ways in which to help children genuinely to get out of poverty.

Lord Flight: My Lords, is not the related problem of feral children who engage in gang warfare and drug dealing and whose parents are not parenting properly even more serious? The solution to that is shown to be provided increasingly by the new technical colleges which motivate such children and teach them a skill. They then start to want to learn generally. That is the sort of measure that really addresses our problems rather than just giving out money.

Lord Freud: My Lords, we are in the middle of a genuine consultation on how to tackle child poverty. Maintaining the income measure so that we know what is happening but getting at the measures that will make a real underlying difference to entrenched poverty is absolutely vital in that exercise.

Security: Fake Bomb Detectors


3 pm

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will initiate an inquiry into the military and security implications of the failure of statutory safeguards concerning the sale and exports of false bomb detectors in the case of James McCormick.

Lord Popat: My Lords, there was no failure of statutory controls as these objects were not subject to export control because they did not contain controlled materials and/or technology. The previous Government introduced a control on the export of these devices to Iraq and Afghanistan in January 2010 in response to concerns about the risk to the security of UK personnel through the use of these devices in Iraq. This is essentially a case of fraud and is subject to legal proceedings.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I am grateful, if somewhat surprised, by the Minister’s Answer. This was a fraud that went on over four years at a cost of about £60 million. To the mind of many of us, it was not fraud: rather, it was treachery, treason and potential manslaughter. Does the Minister agree that there is a stench of conspiracy or corruption, or is it merely incompetence? If so, what had military intelligence, MI5, MI6, export control and all the other agencies to do with that? This con trick could have cost the lives of our soldiers. Does that concern the Government? If the Minister does not feel that he can give me a full answer now, will he perhaps write to me and place a copy of that fuller response in the Library?

Lord Popat: My Lords, the noble Lord asked a number of questions. I will try to answer as many as I can. Failing that, I would be very happy to write to the noble Lord. The UK defence industry contributes

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£35 billion to our wider economy, provides more than 300,000 jobs and makes a contribution of about £2 billion to our Exchequer. It is a crucial industry. With regard to the defence industry being corrupt, the defence industry, like many other industries, makes a very valuable contribution to the British economy, particularly through its export of defence equipment. This issue cropped up in mid-2009—that is when the department became aware of it—and hence we brought in the control in January 2010.

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope: My Lords, is not the most worrying thing about this the fact that these “magic wands” are still in use today? I was in Baghdad in a vehicle approaching the Iraqi Parliament a week ago today and was screened by one of these fraudulent devices. It is a serious matter and we should say to our Iraqi friends that it is not only a question of protecting life but, if these devices are not withdrawn, it will reflect so poorly on the professionalism of the Iraqi security forces that it will deter people from visiting Iraq in future.

Lord Popat: My Lords, the noble Lord raises a very important issue. Yes, this equipment was fraudulent and was sold to Iraq. We have notified not just Iraq but all the respective Governments through our Foreign and Commonwealth Office and embassies that this equipment is not effective and will not serve the purpose for which it was bought.

Lord Clark of Windermere: Will the Minister clarify a very simple and specific point: were these fraudulent bomb detectors given approval by any British government agency such as DSO?

Lord Popat: My Lords, to the best of my knowledge no such approval was given. Most of our export is done through UKTI, which normally does not endorse the sale from this country of items of that nature. However, we have now brought in a policy within BIS to make sure that UKTI gets disclaimers signed by people who sell such equipment.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I had not intended to speak but that answer rather worried me. If UKTI were happy to give authority for these completely ludicrous bits of kit that do nothing whatever, it does not reflect well on our nation. As noble Lords have said, it was dangerous for people in-country. Is it not extremely worrying if UKTI gave some sort of approval, even just by saying, “Yes, we’re happy for this to happen”?

Lord Popat: The noble Lord raises a very important issue but I think he misunderstood my answer. UKTI plays an important role within our department to promote exports world wide. It has exhibitions and trade shows. It does not endorse the sale of such items.

Lord Mitchell: My Lords, is it just me, or is there a sense of complacency in the replies that we are getting? This is a very serious issue. With the benefit of hindsight, I accept that it would have been difficult to prevent such a despicable act. However, now that this has happened, what steps are being taken by the Government

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to ensure that safety equipment that is not classified as military equipment or subject to the same export restrictions has adequate checks?

Lord Popat: My Lords, in February 2010 when this matter came to our attention, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office informed all diplomatic posts of the UK Government of the concern about the effectiveness of certain hand-held bomb detectors and asked posts to share this concern with host Governments. This happened during the time of the noble Lord’s Government. Therefore, everything was done from the time it came to our attention to the time we put the controls in place.

Health and Social Care (Amendment) (Food Standards Bill) [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to make provision for the regulation of food standards in hospitals.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Cumberlege, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Dholakia, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Unsolicited Telephone Communications Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to amend the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Selsdon, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Online Safety Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.08 pm

A Bill to make provision about the promotion of online safety, to require internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide a service that excludes adult content, to require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering content, and for parents to be educated about online safety.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Howe of Idlicote, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

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Arbitration and Mediation (Equality) Services Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.08 pm

A Bill to make further provision about arbitration and mediation services and the application of equality legislation to such services, to make provision about the protection of victims of domestic abuse, and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Cox, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Prisoner Voting Committee

Membership Motion

3.09 pm

Moved by The Chairman of Committees

That the Commons message of 22 April be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill presented to both Houses on 22 November 2012 (Cm 8499) and that the committee should report on the draft Bill by 31 October 2013;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:

L Dholakia , B Gibson of Market Rasen, B Noakes, L Norton of Louth, L Peston, L Phillips of Worth Matravers.

That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;

That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the report of the Committee shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House; and

That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published.

Motion agreed, and a message was sent to the Commons.

Soft Power Committee

Motion to Approve

3.09 pm

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

That it is desirable that a Select Committee be appointed to examine the use of soft power in furthering the United Kingdom’s global influence and interests, and to make recommendations, and that the Committee do report by 14 March 2014.

Motion agreed.

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Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee

Motion to Approve

3.09 pm

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

That it is desirable that a Select Committee be appointed to consider the strategic issues for regeneration and sporting legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to make recommendations, and that the Committee do report by 15 November 2013.

Motion agreed.

Mental Capacity Act 2005 Committee

Motion to Approve

3.09 pm

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

That it is desirable that a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report on the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and that the Committee do report by 28 February 2014.

Motion agreed.

Inquiries Act 2005 Committee

Motion to Approve

3.10 pm

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

That it is desirable that a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report on the law and practice relating to inquiries into matters of public concern, in particular the Inquiries Act 2005, and that the Committee do report by 28 February 2014.

Motion agreed.

Queen’s Speech

Debate (4th Day)

3.10 pm

Moved on Wednesday 8 May by Lord Lang of Monkton

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My Lords, it is a privilege to open this debate today, the fourth day of the debate on the gracious Speech.

I am delighted to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester to this debate. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to their maiden speeches today.

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I am also pleased to welcome my noble friend Lord Howe, who will be responding to the many views, proposals and reflections that we will hear today.

The gracious Speech sets out the Government’s dedication to delivering positive change to the United Kingdom. We set out our commitment to landmark reform on social care and pensions, which will reward those who work hard. We look to improve services for vulnerable children and support strong families. The gracious Speech also covered the topics of culture, agriculture, and energy: we put the consumer first while taking decisive action to deliver economic growth.

This Government are committed to reforming the welfare system so that it is fair and affordable while ensuring that the most vulnerable get the support they need. With major reforms such as universal credit, the Work Programme and the personal independence payment already under way, we are helping people to find work, making sure that work pays and focusing support on those with the greatest need.

We now look to the Pensions Bill to apply the principles of modernisation to state pensions, providing a system fit for the 21st century. The Bill, introduced last week, contains provisions to set up the single-tier state pension—a simple flat-rate state pension for future pensioners that is set above the basic level of means-tested support. This will provide the clarity that is needed to help people to plan and save for their retirement. We will create a state pension system that reflects the lives and contributions of today’s working-age people.

Indeed, those who have historically done poorly in the current system—for example, people with caring responsibilities or those with broken work histories—will benefit. In the first 10 years, more than 700,000 women should receive, on average, £9 a week more in state pension through the single-tier valuation.

As life expectancy continues to increase, we are taking action to ensure that the state pension system remains sustainable over the long term. The Pensions Bill will bring forward the increase in state pension age to 67 by eight years, so that it gradually increases from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028. The Bill contains provision for a regular review of the state pension age, so that this issue is considered every Parliament. This will ensure that the state pension age remains sustainable and fair between the generations.

The Pensions Bill also contains a number of measures to strengthen private pensions. We estimate that the introduction of automatic enrolment into workplace pension schemes will result in between 6 million and 9 million people either saving for the first time or saving more into workplace pensions. However, without further reform, automatic enrolment will create more dormant pension pots as people move jobs. Therefore, we are legislating to introduce a system of automatic transfers of small pension pots. This will help consolidate pension savings into an individual’s current employer’s scheme, making it easier for people to keep track of their pensions saving, plan for retirement and secure a better retirement income. Finally, the Pensions Bill will make provision for the introduction of the bereavement support payment. This will simplify the

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current system by moving to a single benefit, with support focused on the period immediately following bereavement.

Continuing on the theme of support, the Government recognise that today’s care and support system often fails to live up to the expectations of those who rely on it. Many have good experiences, but the system can often be confusing, disempowering and not flexible enough to fit around individuals’ lives. The Care Bill takes forward our commitments to reform social care. This will make a reality of our vision for a modern system which promotes people’s well-being. Critically, the Bill will reform care and support funding by creating a cap on care costs, giving people peace of mind by protecting them from catastrophic costs. In providing a new right to deferred payment of care costs, it will also ensure that people do not have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for residential care

We will refocus the law around the person, not the service, empowering people to take control over their care and support, and to understand their entitlements. We will strengthen the rights of carers to access support and we will introduce a new adult safeguarding framework. We will deliver a number of crucial elements in our response to the findings of the Francis inquiry, which identified failures across the health and care system that must never happen again. We will introduce a ratings system for hospitals and care homes, and a single failure regime, and we will make it a criminal offence for providers to provide false or misleading information.

Therefore, this Bill is vital in delivering our commitment to ensure that patients are,

“the first and foremost consideration of the system and everyone who works in it”.

I am pleased that public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny has demonstrated widespread support for the principles and approach to law reform in adult care and support. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Howe and I are very grateful to those present who have already provided helpful and detailed scrutiny in draft through a Joint Committee of both Houses.

I turn to legislation with which I am personally involved. I am delighted that the Mesothelioma Bill was introduced in this House last week. Diffuse mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdomen caused by exposure to asbestos. The Government will act in the interest of people with diffuse mesothelioma and will set up a payment scheme for eligible people who can show that they were negligently exposed to asbestos by their employer and cannot trace an employer and insurer. It will be funded via a levy imposed on insurers currently selling employers’ liability insurance.

I shall now refer to the remaining subjects to be covered in today’s debate on culture, agriculture, energy and education. The gracious Speech outlined measures that will contribute to the economic growth of the nation while also putting the consumer at the heart of what we do. I shall therefore begin with the water Bill. I am pleased that my noble friend Lord De Mauley will be taking this important matter through the House. The water Bill will help us to achieve a future where water is always available to supply households and

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businesses without damaging the environment. We seek reform that will offer choice and flexibility to customers and help to keep bills affordable. That is essential for our economy.

The water Bill will also contribute to economic growth by encouraging the water sector to become more efficient, creating employment for new entrants to the industry and driving innovation. All business customers will be able to switch their water supplier so that they can achieve the best service and tariff. We will make it easier for water companies to buy and sell water from and to each other. New businesses will find it easier to enter the water market to provide new sources of water or sewerage treatment services, known as “upstream” services. Developers will also find it easier to connect new developments to the water mains and sewerage systems. We believe that this Bill is also the best vehicle for taking measures to address the availability and affordability of flood insurance.

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill will enhance protection for consumers. An estimated 80% of remote gambling activity by British consumers takes place with operators that the Gambling Commission does not regulate. The Bill will change this. All operators selling or advertising into the British market, whether from here or abroad, will be required to hold a UK Gambling Commission licence. Under the new regime, all remote gambling operators will be subject to the robust and consistent regulation required to support action against illegal activity and corruption in sport. They will be required to contribute to research, education and treatment in relation to British problem gambling and to comply with licence conditions that protect children and vulnerable adults.

I turn now to children and education. The Children and Families Bill will continue its journey through Parliament, taking forward the Government’s commitments to improve services for vulnerable children and support strong families. It takes forward critical reforms to our adoption, family justice and special educational needs systems. It will support improved educational attainment for looked-after children and strengthen the role of the Children’s Commissioner so that children have a strong and independent advocate for their rights. It introduces a new system of shared leave for new mothers and fathers and contains measures to encourage growth in the childcare sector. I am grateful to noble Lords on the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Select Committee on Adoption Legislation for the important contribution they have already made during pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. It is currently receiving thorough scrutiny in the House of Commons and we look forward to many expert contributions from across this House when it reaches us.

In addition, I am pleased that paving legislation will be introduced through this Bill to enable HMRC to develop the new tax-free childcare scheme that was announced by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in March. This will provide up to £1,200 per child. A further £200 million will be made available for those receiving universal credit, which is equivalent to covering 85% of childcare costs for

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households qualifying for the universal credit childcare element where the lone parent or both earners in a couple pay income tax.

Lastly, the Energy Bill will also be carried into the 2013-14 Session. This Bill will generate the biggest change to the electricity market since privatisation. It will deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity and ensure that prices are fair. It will attract the £110 billion investment that we need in this decade alone to replace our ageing energy infrastructure with a more diverse and low-carbon energy mix and respond to an increased risk to security of electricity supplies as a large proportion of our existing capacity comes offline.

Investment in new low-carbon generation and reliable capacity will significantly boost economic growth, generating skills and expertise and supporting up to 250,000 jobs across the energy sector, while also helping us to meet our ambitious climate and renewable targets to build a cleaner energy future for Britain and the world. These reforms will work with the market and encourage competition to minimise costs to consumers and deliver the investment the UK needs. We are also using the Energy Bill to ensure that all households get the best deal for their gas and electricity, putting consumers in the driving seat, giving them clear choices, and incentivising companies to compete hard for their custom.

I believe that the measures I have discussed today make a real contribution to delivering positive change and boosting economic growth. I look forward to the balanced and informed debates that will take place over the coming months on this legislative programme, alongside the wisdom and experience that will be shared today. I welcome the contributions of all who are to take part in this debate.

3.25 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to our debate and, like him, I welcome our maiden speakers, who we all look forward to listening to later. I also refer noble Lords to my health interests as set out in the register.

With the country facing so many formidable challenges, last Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech was an opportunity for the Government to outline a positive agenda for jobs and growth, and to help hard-pressed families cope with the drastic fall in living standards, but positive change it was not. Instead, we were treated to a desperately disappointing and dispiriting programme from a Government who are out of touch, out of ideas, and out of support from a significant number of their own MPs. Nowhere is that more evident than in the subjects we are covering today: in welfare, where the welfare bill continues to rise, the universal benefits scheme is in trouble, and the Work Programme simply is not getting the long-term unemployed into work; in energy, where the dithering and discord between the Treasury and the Department for Energy and Climate Change is putting our energy supply at risk and investment in renewable and nuclear energy in jeopardy; in the environment, where the Prime Minister’s claim to lead the greenest Government ever lies in tatters; in agriculture, where the water Bill is effectively only half a Bill that fails to deal with public affordability; in culture, media

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and sport, where we have no communications Bill and our wonderful Olympic legacy has been squandered as schools sport provision has been woefully undermined by Mr Gove; and in education, with no plans for vocational education and the Government’s lamentable plan to weaken early years childcare ratios in total chaos.

However, nowhere is the Government’s stewardship so much in evidence in terms of failure than in the field of health and social care. The Government’s backtracking on public health is but one example. The noble Earl who is to wind up our debate later will know that the scale of health inequalities in the UK is formidable. He also knows that smoking is one of the most important contributors to ill health and early death. That is why there was such a warm welcome when reports emanated from Whitehall in the spring promising legislation to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes. Why was there no mention of the Bill in the Queen’s Speech, and why no Bill to set a minimum price for alcohol? Does the noble Earl agree with his colleague, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, who has said that a U-turn on plain packaging would send a message that public health has been completely abandoned by the coalition?

I would also like to ask the noble Earl about the establishment of Health Education England, which is set out in the Care Bill. I note Schedule 5 to the Bill regarding the make-up of its board and would ask him whether he will ensure that there is a balance of non-executives in terms of gender and diversity. I ask him that because I was astounded to learn that all of the non-executives on the advisory board of Public Health England are men, including the chairman. I am equally astounded that my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen, having gone through all due process, was vetoed by Ministers from joining the board. Why was that so?

We then come to the health implications of the Government’s immigration measures. They have made much of their proposals to ensure that only NHS patients who properly qualify for the NHS should get free treatment. No one would quarrel with that as a proposition, but it is clear that the Government do not have a clue how to implement their proposals, apart from forcing GPs into the role of immigration officers. The existing guidance produced by the Government on the charging of overseas patients is 90 pages long. It is one of the most incomprehensible pieces of draftsmanship that I have ever seen.

The highly respected Nuffield Trust showed in 2011 that immigrants are far less likely to use hospital services than the general population. On the Francis report and the legislation contained in the Care Bill, I certainly look forward to debating Ofsted-style ratings for NHS hospitals and I support the intention to make it a criminal offence for NHS and social care organisations to provide false or misleading information about their performance. But why is the duty of candour restricted to hospitals and other service providers? Why should commissioning bodies such as clinical commissioning groups and NHS England not have a similar duty apply to them? Mr Robert Francis called today for more honesty from the NHS. However, that means all

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of the NHS. I also echo some questions asked by Mr Francis. Why are the Government not providing for the ability to prosecute individual staff in the case of serious patient neglect? Why are the Government refusing to merge CQC and Monitor into a single organisation? What response does the noble Earl have to Mr Francis, who warns of the potential of a communications failure between the two organisations?

The Government claim that the Care Bill, which is probably one of the most important Bills that this House will debate in the next few weeks, will reform the way long-term care is paid for to ensure that the elderly do not have to sell their homes to meet their care bills. The Bill builds on many of the recommendations of the Law Commission’s review of adult social care legislation initiated by the previous Government and on the proposals in Labour’s White Paper before the last election. The Bill may well be a step towards a better system but the key question I put to the noble Earl is this: where is the funding to implement it? On its own, the Bill will not go anywhere near far enough in tackling the crisis that is now engulfing health and social care, openly acknowledged by the Secretary of State. We have hospitals full to bursting, discharge is becoming ever more difficult, and handovers to social services are slower and subject to more disputes. Social care and the voluntary sector are struggling to fulfil demands placed on them. On the front line, thousands of nursing posts have been lost and many services are under pressure. In social care, the recent report of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services laid bare the scale and severity of the financial squeeze on councils: £2.7 billion stripped from adult social care services since 2010, equivalent to 20% of their care budgets, even as demand for those services continues to rise.

Ministers have today been forced to announce new measures to get the NHS and social care working together in integrated teams. However, the whole reform programme of enforced marketisation has actually encouraged the opposite—the fragmentation of services. At national level there is utter confusion as to who is in charge. We have even had NHS England arguing with the Secretary of State over the release of money to help hard-pressed accident and emergency services. The Secretary of State has finally grasped that the A&E crisis is a crisis of the whole system but NHS England persists in its foolish approach of blaming everyone but itself. How else to explain the bullying of clinical commissioning groups to fine those very same hard-pressed A&E and ambulance services? The Secretary of State itches to intervene, but his powers are limited because his predecessor and the noble Earl were adamant that they wanted to hand powers over to a quango, NHS England. No wonder Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust Network, described the Government’s response to the A&E problems as an “omnishambles”.

The Care Bill may well be a step towards a better system but new rights to services and support risk being meaningless as council budgets are cut to the bone and people are faced with spiralling charges. Many searching questions remain to be asked about the Government’s proposals. Can the noble Earl confirm that Andrew Dilnot warned that anything above a

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£50,000 cap on care costs would not provide enough protection to people with low incomes and wealth? Can he explain the rationale of persisting with a £72,000 cap? Has the noble Earl seen a paper published today by the LSE and the University of East Anglia which points out that the government proposals will provide greater benefit to relatively better off older people? What will the Government do to provide help for those of relatively low to modest means?

Dilnot hoped that the capping of care costs would lead to appropriate private insurance packages coming on to the market. Can the noble Earl tell us what discussions he has had with the ABI to stimulate such a market? Will he confirm that the cap on care payments does not include the hotel costs that a care home will charge, and that people in residential care will still need to pay up to £12,000 a year to fund their accommodation and living expenses?

Does the noble Earl accept that the national eligibility scheme will not work if it acts to restrict services for many people? Can he respond to the comments made by Age UK, which said that in the majority of councils only those assessed as having “substantial” care needs are now able to access the current system? It says that unless the Government set the proposed national eligibility criteria at the equivalent of “moderate”, hundreds of thousands of people who cannot carry out tasks such as washing, getting dressed and preparing food and laundry will be left without any help.

The contribution of carers to our society can never be overestimated. Why are there no provisions in the Bill for adults caring for children, and young carers? As Barnardo’s says, young carers represent a uniquely valuable group of people whom the Government should be ensuring receive help to address the very serious effects that caring has on their lives.

I would also welcome the noble Earl’s response to the point made by the Joint Committee in its scrutiny of the draft Bill, when it said:

“The introduction of a capped cost scheme, which will result in many more people”—

including self-funders—

“being assessed and entitled to a personal budget is likely to lead to an increase in disputes and legal challenges”.

The committee was,

“not confident that Ministers have yet fully thought through the implications for local authorities of these changes”.

Can the Minister comment?

Of course, we will explore these issues in greater detail in Committee, but however much we scrutinise the Bill it looks set to do little to help those who currently face a daily struggle to get the support they need. This is echoed by the Joint Committee, which said that,

“care and support have increasingly been rationed and restricted to those with the highest levels of need. This is ultimately self-defeating—shunting costs and reinforcing the dominance of crisis and acute care over approaches that prevent and postpone the need for formal care and support”.

The Government say they are acting to help people with care costs but the reality behind the spin is that under this Government people’s savings are being

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washed away. Ministers are promising to give a little in the future with one hand, while social care provision is collapsing in the other.

Above all, we need a genuinely integrated NHS and social care system, which helps older people stay healthy and live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. That is why Labour’s proposals for whole-person care are so important. This is surely one of society’s greatest challenges, which we need to tackle with urgency. In the absence of any such vision in the Queen’s Speech, it will be Labour’s mission to achieve this after the next election.

3.38 pm

Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freud, for introducing this debate and giving the House a concise breakdown of the legislation. I also note with interest the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and I am sure we shall return them in due course.

I will talk briefly about public health and then spend time on parts of the Care Bill, but not in any great detail, because that is for Second Reading next week. The coalition Government’s mid-term review commits to “reducing preventable early death” as a key priority. Nothing would do more to reduce the number of preventable early deaths than dissuading children from drinking or smoking.

Aside from the cost to our economy of policing drunken young people, and later the NHS looking after their liver diseases or offering a diagnosis of cancer to those who are too young to hear it, we owe it to society to do whatever it takes to stop young people killing themselves early with too much alcohol or too much tobacco.

Her Majesty said in her speech:

“Other measures will be laid before you”.

I sincerely hope that as soon as the Government have finished their consultation they heed the advice of the Minister for Public Health and that of the chief executive of Public Health England and bring before Parliament measures to standardises cigarette and tobacco packaging and introduce minimum alcohol pricing.

Those of us who have sat through debates in the past couple of years know that the legal provisions relating to adult social care in England have been scattered over many Acts during the post-war period. Those of us who have caring responsibilities know what a quagmire the current system is. It lacks cohesion and a common purpose; there is no recognition of the role of carers or provision for them; it is a postcode lottery.

There have been plenty of well argued reports during the past 20 years, but it has to be said that successive Governments have put all this in the too-hard-to-deal-with box. The issue of funding catastrophic care costs was parked and the care of the most vulnerable was ducked for decades. However, a Liberal Democrat Minister of State was intent on rectifying that. I am proud that my honourable friend Paul Burstow, as Care Minister, persuaded his colleagues in the Department of Health to consult on these issues, resulting in the White Paper Caring for our Future. Furthermore, in line with the coalition agreement, the Department of Health asked Andrew Dilnot to chair a commission, with commissioners

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the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and Dame Jo Williams, to examine the funding of adult social care.

The Dilnot-led commission—we have already heard of it today—developed an elegant model leading to a solution for the affordability of catastrophic care costs. Implementation of the report was made tougher by the emerging reality of the recession. It was welcomed by the sector but it was several months before it gained Cabinet approval. I commend those from all Benches in your Lordships’ House who used all avenues of communication to influence that decision.

Based on the White Paper and the Law Commission report on social care, last summer my honourable friend Paul Burstow published the draft Care Bill. Health Bills seem to come along quite often, but social care Bills are few and far between, so the outcome had to be right. The decision was taken to put it before a joint scrutiny committee. I had the privilege to sit on this along with some of Parliament’s acknowledged experts in the field. We took some considerable time taking evidence from those in the sector, supplemented by a public consultation, and a report was produced with nearly 100 recommendations.

A Bill was published last week to reform the law relating to care and support for adults and the law relating to support for carers. It puts the individual’s well-being at the heart of decision-making and gives carers new legal rights to services. It places duties on councils and the NHS to work together, defines a single, streamlined assessment and eligibility framework, and, for the first time, gives adult safeguarding boards a statutory footing. All the legislation of past decades has been updated and put into a single Bill.

When we visualise a carer, what do we see our mind’s eye? Do we see one in the mirror every morning? Do we think of someone our own age, a neighbour or relative? I expect that very few think of a child, yet a BBC survey in 2010 showed that there are 700,000 young carers in the UK, many of whom care for more than 50 hours a week, and they go to school, too. They care for parents, siblings and sometimes grandparents.

In this legislation, I fear a lacuna. In general, issues surrounding children are dealt with by the Department for Education. It is imperative that children have the same rights as an adult carer or an adult carer caring for a child, so there must be adequate cross-referencing of the Care Bill and the Children and Families Bill to make sure that that is the case. My noble friend Lady Tyler of Enfield is not in her place today, but I am sure that many others will join her in making sure that this is achieved.

It is worth remembering that this Bill is for adult social care. Many assume that it is solely to address the care of those who are old, but we have to remember that the Bill applies equally to adults of working age and those who have care needs as a result of disability, long-term mental health problems or enduring illnesses.

This Bill championed by one Lib Dem Care Minister is being delivered by another. They share a Liberal perspective of fairness, guided by principles for social care set out in a 2010 Lib Dem policy paper: partnership, personalisation, prevention, protection, performance and productivity—I apologise for the alliteration. Some may say, “Bring it on”.

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3.44 pm

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Freud indicated that one of the subjects for debate this afternoon is energy. Her Majesty’s Speech said that the Government will continue with legislation to update energy infrastructure. That is a short description of what will be a pretty long Bill when we receive it from the other place. I will come to that in a moment.

Before I refer to the Energy Bill, I want to say how much I admired the speech made on Thursday by my noble friend Lord Fowler. It was superb and I agreed with every word of it. It was of course about the implementation of the Leveson report. Like my noble friend, I hope that the Government will stand firm with their royal charter on press regulation, which was agreed at the end of the previous Session by the leaders of the three main parties represented in Parliament. At the moment we are witnessing some newspaper groups seeking to substitute their own, much weaker charter. That is no less than a very blatant attempt by those newspapers and their proprietors to keep their status in society as over-mighty subjects. Previous Governments have had to deal with over-mighty subjects. They had to face the Whig aristocracy in the 18th century, the Tory mill and factory owners in the 19th century and the trade unions in the 20th century. The Leveson report exposed the press as the over-mighty subjects of the 21st century, believing, like their predecessors, that they were above the law and outwith the surveillance of Parliament. That can be acceptable to no democratic Government. Some newspapers may dislike intensely the prospect of tougher regulation but the way that they are fighting their case is not a pretty sight. I condemn them and hope that the Government will stand firm on that.

Turning to energy, I want to raise three issues. First, I express dismay at the long delay in the negotiations between EDF and the Government on the terms of the proposed contract for difference and strike price. This was supposed to have been announced before Christmas and here we are, half way through May, and as yet nothing. This is the first test of the Government’s proposals for electricity market reform. It is being watched very carefully by not only the participants in the industry but by a number of other countries that are interested in the model that the Government put forward. A failure to agree would be a severe blow to investor confidence and create a real risk of undermining the central objectives of the Energy Bill. It would also strike a serious blow to the Government’s desire to stimulate growth in the economy and create more jobs through a major infrastructure project. I cannot stress too highly the need for an agreement to be reached and announced very soon, the consequences of which would be wholly beneficial.

Secondly, I was dismayed, as many noble Lords were, when in January Cumbria County Council refused to allow the negotiations with local authorities to host a geological disposal facility for nuclear waste to proceed to the next stage. The two district councils, Copeland and Allerdale, agreed to do that but the county council—far away in Carlisle—refused and the Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Ed Davey, said that that ended the negotiations.

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Yesterday, DECC announced a new open consultation and has called for evidence on the whole siting process. I welcome that, because what it was doing before has clearly gone seriously wrong. In my view, the main reason for the failure of the negotiations in Cumbria was that nobody—not DECC, not Defra, not the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, not the Sellafield authorities—seemed to have any duty to counteract the wave of malicious anti-nuclear propaganda that swamped the county in the three months before the decision to withdraw was made. I cannot believe that that is the right way to approach such major infrastructure problems. There needs to be a system of instant rebuttal for every erroneous statement made. Otherwise, the people who come to make the decisions are left with only half the information that they need. It is very sad that it was no one’s job to do that.

My third point is that on 18 February, the regulator, Ofgem, sent a very long letter to all the parties interested in the electricity market—the system operators, the transmission system owners, the generators, the suppliers, the traders and representatives of customers—proposing a new process to review what it described as future trading arrangements, or FTAs. At the end of the letter, it posed three questions: do you agree that Ofgem should launch a project to create a high-level design for the future electricity trading arrangements; what key issues should be examined as part of the work stream in that arrangement; and what form should the process take?

I see that opening up the prospect of a much more effective competition regime in an industry that has become a bit sclerotic and, in some respects, monopolistic in its habits. I am told that the indications are that the big six generators and distributors, who totally dominate the market, oppose that proposal. They fear that it will lead to tougher competition for generating capacity and access to the consumer markets. The new players, whom the Government are anxious to attract into the industry—I have met some of them—are likely to support it, as it could lead to opening up markets to them that have hitherto been the almost exclusive preserve of the big six.

My question to the Government is simple: they have a stated aim of increasing competition in the electricity generation and distribution market. If the big six are opposing a new structure and the new players are supporting it, where do the Government stand? What is the DECC attitude to that? I have heard nothing about that. I cannot reasonably expect answers from my noble friend Lord Howe at the end of the debate, but I hope that what I have said might be studied. I am grateful to see my noble friend Lady Verma on the Front Bench. I hope that it may be drawn to the attention of those concerned with those issues.

3.53 pm

Lord Berkeley of Knighton: My Lords, my introduction to this place was prefaced with the most pleasant prophecies: that I would be given a very warm welcome; that the staff would go to great pains to help with everything from map reading, with which I still struggle, to paper procurement. So it has been. In addition to

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being both humbled and honoured to be here, I feel hugely grateful for all the kindness and help that I have experienced.

It is for me also rather extraordinary as a composer to be following in the footsteps of musicians such as Lord Menuhin of Stoke D’Abernon and my godfather, Lord Britten of Aldeburgh, whose centenary the world of music is currently celebrating. As a young chorister at Westminster Cathedral, I sang in the first performance of the Britten “Missa Brevis” and accompanied my father, Lennox, to rehearsals of his violin concerto with Menuhin. I know that both Benjamin Britten and Yehudi Menuhin would passionately endorse the sentiments I am about to embrace. The gracious Speech touched on culture, education and aspiration; speaking about music and the arts is indeed a theme I would like to explore.

First, let me take your Lordships to the Welsh Marches, that beautiful, wild but lyrical countryside so loved by Kilvert and Housman that forms the border between England and Wales and where, for the past 35 years, I have naturally and gradually build up a small farm near the town of Knighton. I have seen this community severely challenged in recent years by job losses and the difficulties that farmers have faced, not least in the recent snow. Yet despite these tribulations, there is always a smile on local faces. There certainly was a smile when, many years ago, we bought our first sheep at auction. The late and much lamented Nora Ephron, writer of “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally”, who was staying with us at the time, got so excited by the bidding that she waved happily across the ring to my wife, who waved back. This was much to the delight of the auctioneer, who treated these exuberant celebrations as a portent of an early Christmas and as further bids. Our first sheep were therefore the most expensive we have ever bought.

More seriously, current concerns in this part of the world concentrate on maintaining the important tourism that so feeds an area rich in wonderful walking. The spine of Offa’s Dyke runs through the town. In many ways, communities like this present a microcosm of the conundrums with which your Lordships and the Government have to wrestle. For instance, because of the stunning landscape and the tourism it attracts there is considerable concern over the prospect of many marching pylons and huge wind turbines bespotting the horizon. The balance between the need for renewable energy and the preservation of a landscape of great cultural significance is as problematic as the balance between the Government’s desire to see more localism and their overruling of local opinion in matters of planning.

Just over the hill from Knighton lies the town of Presteigne, which, astonishingly, boasts a successful annual festival of largely contemporary music. This organisation operates on the breadline, and sometimes below it, yet the need—the hunger—for cultural nourishment could not be more manifest, especially at times like this. In great art, as, for many, in religion, we find comfort and solace but also the means to see ourselves and inside ourselves more clearly. On my travels around the world, I got to know this refrain well: “We envy you your National Health Service and

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the BBC”—for whom, by the way, I have broadcast for some 40 years. But now a third cause of envy is cited: the thrilling cultural experiences that this country offers.

Recently, the Culture Secretary told us that we must celebrate the money-spinning success of our cultural organisations. I agree with her that for too long we have failed to spell out just what a good investment the arts are. For much less than 0.1% of government expenditure the arts return 0.4% of GDP, according to recent statistics from the Centre for Economics and Business Research. That is a £7 return for every £1 invested. If the Chancellor, or indeed us lesser mortals, the ordinary savers, could reap this kind of return in all our dealings, we would be rushing to invest. The creative economy employs 2.5 million people and growth in this sector runs at four times the national average.

While this fiscal approach might be encouraging, there is another unquantifiable but even more important return on investment in the arts and arts education: the social dividend that leads to a more civilised and cohesive society. Aspiration cannot be realised without education, and education can be effective only if supported by opportunity. You cannot teach someone to play the violin without a violin. Some years ago, I helped to organise what we call an amnesty on instruments. The idea was that parents and friends would search their cupboards not for unwanted knives and weapons but for unwanted or unused musical instruments and hand them into their local school. As a result, I had a letter from a small girl aged about eight who said that now she had her violin she no longer got into a rage because she could talk through and to her violin. Her teachers confirmed that her ferocious tantrums had almost entirely disappeared.

Noble Lords may know of the work of the Koestler Trust, which provides artistic opportunities for prisoners, be it drawing, writing, painting or music. When I was a trustee of this admirable organisation, I had a letter from a man who wrote to thank us for providing a guitar. His final sentences really shook me. “The guitar, and learning to play it, has transformed my life. If I had had this instrument when I was a teenager, and the means it gives me to express myself, I very much doubt that I would now be doing life for murder”.

Your Lordships may have seen the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Ballet Hoo! project on television three or four years ago in which disadvantaged children and teenagers in Birmingham took part in a production of “Romeo and Juliet”. Having initially been somewhat contemptuous of the notion of ballet, these kids, many in minor trouble with the police, found themselves in awe of the athleticism and fitness of the dancers and responded obsessively and proudly to the rigours of a disciplined rehearsal timetable. You could see that they really meant it when they described it as a life-changing experience. I know that this is probably an impossible vision, but I dream of a world where every child has the opportunity to find self-expression through music, writing and the visual and dramatic arts.

Another problem with confining oneself to the financial rewards of cultural investment is that we tend to focus on the big players, great though they are. The National Theatre, Tate Modern, the Royal Opera

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House, for example, are precisely the institutions that can bolster their state support with philanthropic gifts, but the area I am worried about is the seedbed for those institutions: regional and small-scale theatre, dance and music organisations, where young talent can be fostered before it takes to the main stage, and the colleges that train the orchestras and soloists, the dancers, actors, composers and artists of tomorrow. This is also the place, as Sir Nicholas Hytner has pointed out, where experiment and risk take place. When a highly acclaimed chamber group such as the Nash Ensemble is unable to find money for commissioning new music, we must acknowledge that there is a vacuum in the system, especially for composers.

So while there is much to celebrate, there is also much to do. Indeed, speaking as a composer, I would say that one of the most important aspects of creativity is self-criticism, careful and honest analysis, so that one constantly seeks to improve. In relation to the work of Parliament, that is surely the great role of this House, a role I have been privileged and impressed to observe. Now that I have concluded my maiden speech, it is my aspiration to contribute to that role in as many ways as possible.

4.03 pm

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port: My Lords, I suspect that we all knew that it would be an honour and a privilege to hear the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, but I would like to say that, at least in my case, it has also been a pleasure. The creative arts will indeed find a noble spokesperson for their cause and the voice of culture will be heard in a focused way because of his presence among us. His achievements in the world of music are truly prodigious: orchestral and chamber music; music for woodwind and strings; music for guitar and keyboard; and music for oratorio, ballet and film. You name it, and he seems to have done it. We salute him for his achievements, but we delight ourselves in the wisdom of those who bring him into our company so that we may benefit from them.

By happy coincidence, I am reading and reviewing at the moment a book about the poet RS Thomas. During the time he lived at Manafon, which is not far from Knighton, he wrote his first collection of poetry. The key poem in the volume is called, Out of the Hills. Since the noble Lord said that hill farming was one of his preoccupations, perhaps the same hills produced music in his case and poetry in the case of Thomas. I cannot forbear to read three lines of Out ofthe Hills; I know that noble Lords will tolerate this.

“Dreams clustering thick on his sallow skull”—

I had rather hoped that there would be a few more curls on the noble Lord’s head than there proved to be.

“Dreams clustering thick on his sallow skull,

Dark as curls, he comes, ambling with his cattle

From the starved pastures. He has shaken from off his shoulders

The weight of the sky, and the lash of the wind’s sharpness

Is healing already under the medicinal sun”.

I would love to quote the whole poem but I suspect that patience will run out. It is a joy, when we are preoccupied with finance, matters to do with the economy,

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politics and all the rest of it, that we shall have this other side of our being well represented by the presence of the noble Lord.

I suspect that his godfather would provide a mutual friend whom unwittingly we both might claim: a man called Osian Ellis, a professor of harp at the Royal Academy and a good friend of mine, now retired to the Llyn peninsula in north Wales. I remember talking to him about the art of harp playing and asking what pleasure he took from the fact that he had formed so many harpists in the course of his career and saved the art of harp playing for posterity. He said, “Ah, great pleasure. They are breathtakingly brilliant, but I have learnt to make the distinction between those who find the notes and those who find the music”. I suspect that in the case of the noble Lord we will hear both the notes played with great skill and the music beguiling us perhaps into wiser decisions than we would otherwise have made.

I can find a very easy jumping-off point from the preoccupations of the noble Lord to the subject on which I wish to entertain your Lordships for just a few minutes, which is education. I would hate to be the Cinderella in the discussions that we are going to have for the rest of the day. Education, education, education: the mantra is well known to all of us. In the gracious Speech to which we are replying, the first item states that,

“my government’s legislative programme will continue to focus on building a stronger economy so that the United Kingdom can compete and succeed in the world”.

I suggest that education, if it were properly viewed as an investment instead of a drain on our resources, would indeed be part of what builds a stronger economy. I would like to see education viewed in that way, rather than as something that costs a lot of money and has to be trimmed and cut back with greater and greater fierceness.

In the first couple of years of the present Administration a couple of Bills were railroaded through Parliament that gave impetus to the already existent and established academies. I have nothing against academies and I am strongly in favour of choice. My disaffection with the impetus to have more academies lies in the fact that it is sometimes at the expense of choice. Not all schools want to become academies. Why should they not choose not to become academies if in their view that is in their best interests? I am the chairperson of the Central Foundation schools of London. Neither of them is an academy and I promise noble Lords that both schools welcome their association with local authority wisdom. As more and more responsibility gets passed to governors, they find that they need the wisdom, experience and skill that they can call upon in the governance they are expected to provide.

The two schools in question are simply brilliant. When the national average last year for GCSE A* to C lay at 58%, these two inner-city schools provided 66% and 67% pass rates, without any of the so-called advantages of being academies. Yet they are in the poorest parts of the inner city of London. In Islington and Tower Hamlets we have two schools where over

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70% of the pupils are on free school meals and where there are dozens and dozens of ethnic backgrounds—in the case of the boys’ school, not a single one constituting more than 25% of the population of the school, while in the girls’ school 80% are from Bangladeshi families and are all Muslims. We have this mixture of types, we are in the inner city, we are happy not to be academies and we are achieving extraordinarily well. Sometimes I think that we should salute those schools that do that.

Mossbourne academy is always held up as the example that we must all aim at reaching. We are told that it,

“is a model for 21st century education, pioneering opportunity, social mobility and the reinvention of the inner-city comprehensive”.

I promise your Lordships that the inner-city comprehensive is being reinvented furiously and wonderfully in the schools where I work without them having academy status at all.

So let there be choice. It is just sad that the market place is dominating the way in which schools are proliferating in the inner city. At 500 metres from the boys’ school, where we have just seen the doubling of the sixth form and with good results to match, a free school has been started where one is not needed. Islington has an over-provision of places at sixth-form level for its pupils, yet here we have a free school—to meet what demand? The school has also filched the head of the sixth-form consortium in Islington to be the head of the new free school. This is simply mad.

We must encourage the development of education without the red tape and control from the centre which, despite the rhetoric, suggesting a laying off of schools from that point of view, is actually increasing the amount of paperwork that head teachers have to cope with. We must go on asking ourselves whether we have got it right. Indeed, in the realm of education, where “further measures” are threatened in the Queen’s Speech—I dread those words, “further measures”—we simply have to recognise that sometimes we get the notes but that we do not always get the music.

4.12 pm

Lord Storey: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, on his witty, excellent and informative speech. I very much agree with his comments about the importance of regional arts organisations, not just as a seed bed for national organisations but for success and outstanding contributions in their own right.

Almost a century ago, Lloyd George’s coalition Government of 1918 had the foresight to legislate for the establishment of nursery schools. Fast forward to the present, and this Government are making one of the biggest measures ever introduced to help parents with childcare costs, providing almost £1 billion in extra support for families. Today, we are about to witness this coalition Government bring about significant changes in early-years education, as outlined in the consultative document, More Great Childcare. These policies will make significant improvements to enhance the quality of childcare and early-years provision. But of course, as is always the case when a report is published for consultation, we all home in on one aspect of that report—in this case, the staff-to-child

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ratios. In the clamour to be heard, other important proposals in the document seem to be lost. Indeed, we reached the absurd situation where it was even suggested that opposition to enlarged ratios was in fact about leadership battles and not about sound educational and early-years development. I believe that I heard the phrase “showing a bit of leg” had been used.

The childcare report has picked up on many of the recommendations in Professor Nutbrown’s excellent independent review, Foundations for Quality, published last summer. Almost a year later, the Government are responding to that report. Raising the status and quality of early-years provision is one of the most important educational developments we can undertake.

I personally have never been comfortable with the term “childminder”. Childcare is not about minding children, it is about providing qualified people to deliver opportunities for young people to explore, play and learn. In medieval times, when agricultural workers went out to work in the fields, they were provided with a basket in which to place the baby and a peg from which to hang it. Childcare is not a peg on which to mind a child: rather, it is an opportunity to provide education while parents and guardians are at work.

In this way, the question of ratios should be discussed and considered in a rational manner, with decisions being made on an educational basis. I have learnt that so far the majority of the responses to the consultation from individuals and the main professional organisations say how important it is educationally to preserve the status quo in terms of existing ratio structures. In my view, just as class sizes improve learning, child ratios in early years and childcare improve the quality of that provision. I am not interested in league tables which show what other countries do; I am more interested in what is best for our children. Improving quality education does not come from increasing ratios. In a pre-school or nursery setting, you only have to have one child with special needs or special learning difficulties for the staffing ratios to become very apparent.

The Children and Families Bill will come to your Lordships’ House in the next few weeks. Again, this is a hugely important piece of legislation. Indeed, it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deal with a number of important issues. I congratulate the Government on bringing forward the Bill. I particularly praise the former Minister of State for Children and Families, Sarah Teather, who did much of the spadework when she was the responsible Minister. The Bill will have a huge impact on improving the lives of children and families from adoption to flexible working and special educational needs provision.

Turning to mainstream schooling, the public consultation on the draft national curriculum has been completed and we await the outcome of that process. For me, any national curriculum must ensure first and foremost that children and young people are numerate and literate. Yes, children must learn to spell correctly from an early age and, yes, grammar is important. In mathematics, children must know their number bonds and their times tables—yes, even up to the 12 times table. A love of language and literature has to be nurtured. Guess what? Surprise, surprise, a recent study on children’s reading found that early readers are always a level higher in their overall schooling.

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I welcome a slimmed-down national curriculum as it means that teachers and schools can respond with their professional expertise and pupils’ interests can be nurtured. We are forever quoting international league tables for literacy and numeracy, but we ought to look also at league tables showing how our pupils develop creatively. Schools should be working to get the best from all pupils: we need to be pupil-driven, not target-driven. The issue with our national curriculum is that everyone wants it slimmed down, but, of course, every subject interest group then wants to fill it up again. We have trumpeted the fact that our academies have the freedom to diverge from the national curriculum, but it is not very “national” if increasing numbers of schools are not required to follow it by law.

My own view is that a national curriculum should be as it says on the label—truly national, and should apply to every school in the country. A slimmed-down curriculum will give schools the time and space to pursue their own priorities. On these Benches, we appreciate that every child deserves an education tailored to their abilities and interests. We need to identify barriers to learning at an early age, then intervene to put those things right.

As a House, we showed our concern for personal, social, health and economic education to be maintained as part of the national curriculum. Indeed, during a very important debate initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, Members from across the Chamber spoke of its importance for young people on a host of issues. We highlighted how important sex education is as part of PSHE. Members spoke with great knowledge and passion. I am happy that PSHE is to be retained as part of the national curriculum, yet as things stand, PSHE in general, and sex education in particular, do not have to be taught by academies.

The Government have put education at the core of their programme. The pupil premium, which currently stands at £900 per lower-income pupil, has been a game-changer for schools and pupils. As I have said on many occasions, the most important resource in education and schooling is the quality of the teacher. Maybe the time is right to look at a royal college for teachers, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said when he was talking about the demise of the General Teaching Council. I would be interested to know what the Minister thinks.

Teachers should be well trained and highly motivated, regarded and respected. Every pupil has the right to be taught by a qualified teacher. I find it regrettable that, in some of our settings, we allow unqualified teachers responsibility for our children’s education. Sadly, this is an increasing reality.

Every child should receive an excellent education from an excellent teacher. We want to unlock children’s potential and ensure that they can succeed in life. I hope that we go some way in this Session to doing so.

4.20 pm

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we have had an outstanding maiden speech. We have two more to come, and I am sure that they will enrich this debate and the House, for which we are grateful.

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In the Queen’s Speech we were promised both a health and social care Bill and a new single state pension. Why does this new single state pension matter so much? It matters because private occupational pensions do not really work for those with few other assets, the low paid, the self-employed, part-time workers, those with caring responsibilities and, above all, women. Think about it. To get a useful occupational pension, you start contributing young. You and your employer contribute enough throughout your working life. You stay in full-time work for 40 years, you gain from tax relief, you can manage investment and disinvestment strategies and DC schemes, and you do not need to touch your pension savings because you can access other savings. Not one of those propositions fits most women or, indeed, many low-paid men. You could not devise a worse fit for women if you tried.

A woman’s earnings are interrupted by childcare from her late 20s and elder care from her 50s. Work is part-time, low-paid and unpensioned. There is little or no gain from tax relief and little or no ability to manage DC investment. There are little or no other savings, so if she faces divorce, debt or disability, she cannot access her own pension savings; she can access only the moneylender, at higher cost. None of it works for her. That is because pensions were built by men for men to smooth the income from work into retirement. Yet for most women, their working life needs more smoothing than the move into older age. Therefore, they will always need a decent state pension, which is why I welcome the new single state pension so much.

The new single state pension will do five key things. First, as it is not dependent on waged work, it can credit in women’s hugely valuable caring work, around which our society pivots and which occupational pensions can never support. It therefore strengthens the contributory principle on which a decent social security system rests.

Secondly, it will offer a more adequate platform for retirement. A couple—he on average wage, she in part-time work—might bring home, say, £30,000 a year. With a combined new state pension of £15,000, and perhaps his small pension of £5,000, so £20,000 in total, they will have an earnings replacement of two-thirds before you count in the savings from no work-related costs. That is adequate.

Thirdly, the previous Government significantly reduced pensioner poverty. However, while means-tested pension credit lifted significant numbers of elderly poor pensioners out of poverty, it had the perverse incentive of discouraging future pensioners from saving. The new state pension, because it is above the means-tested benefit level, will make it safe to save. Every penny the woman hairdresser or the shop assistant puts away in a NEST, she will gain in full.

Fourthly, people will be able to plan for their retirement, knowing what they can rely on from the state in their older age—a simple, predictable, risk-free and adequate foundation pension. It will be genuinely transforming for many women and low-paid people in the future.

Finally, there is much talk about increased life expectancy—one year more for every five—but, on a point to which I shall return, for most people those

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extra years will not be years of good health. However, a good state pension, money, will do much to help stave off disability. It will buy heating, better food, cleaning and taxis—all to be welcomed.

I will say a word or so about universal pensioner benefits. Do not touch bus passes, which address the issue of pensioner isolation. Do not means test because a third of pensioners do not claim means-tested benefits, and the whole point of the new single state pension is to get rid of means-testing. You could tax, but, particularly with winter fuel benefits, which are expensive, you would get in very little—I calculate that it would be about £100 million. Instead, given the new state pension in 2016, we could postpone winter fuel payments alongside TV licences for that generation and for future new pensioners until they reach 75. Age is quite a good proxy for need—older pensioners are poorer pensioners, such as elderly widows whose husbands have died and whose occupational pensions have died with them—and I calculate that within about five years we would save about £1 billion a year and upwards. It is only a thought, but it would be simple, universal, targeted, fair and affordable.

However, if you really wanted to save on the pensions bill while increasing fairness, you would seek to tackle tax relief. It costs nearly £40 billion a year, of which two-thirds goes to the wealthiest. It is a shadow welfare state costing almost as much as the basic state pension itself. Given tax relief and national insurance, which should be levied on those of us who work beyond state pension age; given that we have an upper earnings limit at all, which is not defensible at all, which makes national insurance regressive and whose abolition would bring in £11 billion; given equity release—more than £1 trillion is locked away in housing equity and only between £0.5 billion and £1 billion is released every year; we have plenty of resource both for adequate state pensions and for social care if we seek to address and distribute the resources that we already have.

I make one final point. We need to think differently about life after 65. Increased life expectancy is not, for the most part, increased healthy life expectancy. The extra years are largely years of poor health. Most of us can expect three stages of older age: a decade or so of healthy life, and the number of healthy years is not really increasing by much, except for the better off; a decade of some limiting disability, such as a lack of mobility, the inability to reach or difficulty in hearing, but with care needs sufficiently modest that, along with telecare, they can normally be met at home; and between two and five years of frail dependency, including dementia, during which substantial personal care is needed.

It is the second stage—a limiting disability—that in my view, from all the research that I have studied, is lengthening with increased longevity. Funding and supporting that stage is not actually expensive, especially given that half the growth in the number of older people is the result of increased longevity and half is from a bulge in the number of older people coming through from the baby boom. When that is played through in the next 50 years or so, we will have just about the best worker to pensioner ratio in Europe.

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When we hear all those siren calls to raise the state pension age in line with increased longevity, we should pause.

In Norwich, the difference in life expectancy between the poorest and richest ward in my city is 11 years. The gap in healthy life expectancy between those two wards is 15 years and widening. Eight in 10 better-off men but only three in 10 poorer-off men will survive to 80. Therefore, in all fairness, the state pension age should rise only with any rise in the years of healthy life expectancy, not with any overall increase in longevity, which is mostly disability-accompanied, otherwise the years of healthy retirement for half the population—the poorer part—as a proportion of their adult life will actually shrink: a profoundly unfair outcome for profoundly unfair lives. We can all do better than that.

4.30 pm

Viscount Ridley: My Lords, I wish to speak on the subject of energy and, in response to the prominent references in the gracious Speech, on the importance of economic competitiveness. However, as this is my first time speaking in the House, I hope that noble Lords will indulge me in a few preliminary remarks.

It is an enormous privilege and a daunting responsibility to speak in this House for the first time. I know that it is customary on such occasions to pay thanks to the staff but I have to say that I have been genuinely overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of all the staff since I have come here.

I have also been touched by the warmth of the welcome that I have had from noble Lords on all sides of the House. I particularly thank my noble friends Lady Seccombe and Lord Henley, who have mentored me in my early weeks.

Listening to debates over the past few weeks, it has become clear to me that this is a House that not only respects but expects knowledge and expertise. This is something that my father made clear to me when he was enjoying a long and distinguished career in this House, but he would speak only on subjects that he knew something about—in his case, particularly the Territorial Army, the north-east of England and local government. When I spoke to the hustings a few weeks ago before being elected here, I said that if elected I would speak on three main issues: the north-east of England, science and technology, and enterprise and innovation.

I am here to fill the vacancy caused by the sad death of Lord Ferrers, and I pay tribute to that giant of a parliamentarian, who was on the Front Bench under no fewer than five Prime Ministers. I may hope to match his long legs but I do not expect to match his length of service.

I am that strange chimera—an elected hereditary Peer. As a result, I am acutely aware that I am here thanks at least as much to the efforts of my ancestors as to my own. I would not be human if I did not feel a smidgen of pride in being the ninth Matthew Ridley in direct succession to sit in one of the Houses of Parliament since the son of a buccaneering Newcastle coal merchant was elected to the other place in 1747. That brings me to the subject of my speech.

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In 1713, exactly 300 years ago, the Newcomen steam engine was just coming into use all over the north of England. One of the very first was commissioned at Byker on the north bank of the Tyne by my buccaneering ancestor, Richard Ridley, in 1713. Within 20 years, more than 100 of these great clanking monsters were transforming the coal industry by pumping water from deep mines and vastly increasing productivity.

The effect of that innovation was momentous and global. By lowering the cost of energy and raising the wages of labour, it set in train a whole series of events, including the mechanisation of industry and the increase in demand for the products of that industry, and so the great flywheel of the industrial revolution began to turn. For the first time, an economy grew not through an increase in land or labour but through an increase in energy, because mineral energy from beneath the ground showed an unusual property that had not been shown by wood, wind and water or by oxen or people—that is, it did not show diminishing returns; the more of it you dug up, the cheaper it got.

At this point, I should like to declare an interest because I am still in the coal-mining business, albeit indirectly. However, my aim here is not to praise any particular kind of energy but to praise the cheapness of energy.

Today, an average British family uses as much energy as if it had 1,200 people in the back room on exercise bicycles pedalling away on eight-hour shifts. It is worth remembering that when people talk about how many jobs can be created in any particular sector of energy. We could create a lot more jobs by making energy on treadmills. What counts is not the jobs we create in producing energy but the jobs we create in consuming energy if we make it affordable—or, indeed, the number that could be lost if we make it unaffordable.

One reason why we in this country are falling behind the growth of the rest of the world is that in recent years we have had a policy of deliberately driving up the price of energy. To quote a recent report from the Institute of Directors:

“The UK’s energy and climate policies are adding more to industrial electricity prices than comparable programmes in competitor countries, putting UK industry at a disadvantage and making a rebalancing of the economy more difficult”.

Household energy costs have doubled in the past 15 years. In the US, where gas prices used to be the same as they are here, they are now one-quarter or one-fifth of the level here. That is an enormous competitive advantage to the US and a disadvantage to us. The chemical industry, as a result, is very keen to move to the United States, and other industries, including the cement industry, are feeling the pinch from high energy costs. Near where I live at Lynemouth on the north-east coast, the country’s largest aluminium smelter recently closed with the loss of 515 jobs, largely due to the rising cost of energy.

A nation can compete on the basis of cheap labour or cheap energy but if it has neither then it is likely to be in trouble. Surely these are not controversial remarks. I know that I am not supposed to be controversial in a maiden speech so, lest I go too far, I will now revert to talking about the north-east of England.

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It is worth noting that the north-east is the only region of England with a trade surplus with the world, something to which the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, drew attention in his recent report on the region. We are also a region with strong offshore engineering capability, and I think that the north-east could once again steal a march on the world and deliver competitive energy to the rest of the world. There are 3,000 billion tonnes of coal under the British sector of the North Sea and, thanks to pioneering work at Newcastle University and elsewhere, the technology now exists to gasify this coal, getting carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane from it and putting carbon dioxide back in. If this technology can be made to work then we can bring plenty of jobs not only to the region but, more importantly, to the whole economy by lowering the price of energy. There is enormous entrepreneurial spirit in our regions but it is held back by the high cost of energy.

So, for the sake of pensioners in fuel poverty, for the sake of small businesses struggling to meet their energy bills and for the sake of large businesses all too ready to leave these shores, let us repeat what our ancestors did in the early 18th century and drive down the costs of energy so that we can drive up living standards.

4.37 pm

Lord Patel: My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to be asked to speak after the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. Most noble Lords may not know that this is his third attempt to make his maiden speech. It is also the third time that I have been placed to speak after him. On the previous two occasions, the debates were cancelled. Therefore, he is lucky today and we are lucky to hear him.

Today, the noble Viscount spoke about energy but he could have spoken equally well on literature, political philosophy, the economy, science and even banking. Of course, he is the latest recruit to the Eton and Oxford club, which is growing in the Houses of Parliament. However, to me he is well known for the books that he has written, including those on science, particularly genomics. He has produced well written theses on genes and chromosomes, which people can follow easily.

The noble Viscount’s books have sold millions of copies and have been translated into 30 languages. They have won many awards, including the New York Times award for the 10 best books of the year. So far his TED lecture has had more than 2 million followers. It beats the records of other lecturers such as Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall and many Nobel Prize winners. I wonder why his TED lecture has had more than 2 million followers. The subject of his lecture was “When ideas have sex”; I wonder if it is the word “sex” that is attracting them.

We look forward to many more contributions from the noble Viscount. It was a pleasure to listen to him and I congratulate him on his maiden speech.

I turn now to my meagre contribution to the debate on the gracious Speech and I will briefly speak about the Care Bill. I congratulate the Government on bringing

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it forward, on their ambition to create a system in which everyone can get the care they need and on including in the Bill rights for carers. It is landmark legislation on the path to a fairer system. I say “on the path to a fairer system” because the proposals alone will not solve the serious challenges of funding social care and the growing gap between funding and increased demand. Similarly, I wonder whether the Government think that the £150 million allocated to support the rights of carers is likely to meet their needs.

There is also a need to address a gap in the support that currently exists, for instance, for patients with cancers. While the Bill places a duty, and quite rightly so, on local authorities to identify the needs of carers, for cancer patients such responsibility also needs to include health bodies, both to meet the needs of carers and to achieve integrated care, which I know is the Government’s ambition. I ask the Minister whether it remains the Government’s commitment to implement free social care at the end of life, a time that a person with cancer is most aware of. While they need healthcare, they also need social care but are not themselves aware of which care they need. Healthcare is free while social care has to be paid for. Any assessment that a person is required to undergo will cause delay and therefore deny them the care. No doubt, as we enter the legislative period next week on the Care Bill, we will have an opportunity to debate and discuss these and other issues. I look forward to that.

I now turn briefly to my disappointment at what is not in the gracious Speech. As other noble Lords have mentioned, the Government have missed an opportunity to introduce legislation on public health issues, particularly in relation to the plain packaging of cigarettes and tobacco material and the minimum pricing of alcohol. I add to that any strategy for the reduction of obesity. One-third of children in our country under the age of nine are now obese, and nearly a quarter of adults are obese. We need a strategy, including for food labelling, that will reduce the consumption of sugar, fat and salt. I am disappointed that there is no strategy in any legislation referred to in the gracious Speech on public health matters. Can the Minister say whether the Government intend to bring forward legislation relating to public health issues in the future?

4.45 pm

Baroness Wheeler: My Lords, I should like to speak on the Care Bill, which, as my noble friend Lord Hunt has stressed, is recognised as an important step towards providing a consolidated legislative framework for our social care system based on the excellent report from the Law Commission, which we established to streamline and unify social care law. The Bill implements 66 of the commission’s 77 recommendations, refocusing care and support on more patient-centred services that are better suited to people’s lives and needs, with well-being as the guiding principle. We strongly support this; it takes forward our work on patient choice and control and builds on the progress we made in key areas such as prevention, personalisation of services, carer recognition and support in our landmark National Carers Strategy. It also addresses many of the “unfinished business” issues that we proposed in our 2009 national care service White Paper.

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Like other noble Lords. I commend the pre-legislative scrutiny work of the Joint Committee. The Bill, as seen in the stakeholder evidence to the committee, enjoys considerable support among patients, carer organisations, staff, service users and providers, with, of course, the key proviso that major improvements are needed to address what the committee itself identified as the “gaps” and “risks of unintended consequences”, and the wider issues relating to both the NHS and social care. For all the widespread support, however, the gentle language of a cross-party report expressing the committee’s concern that the Government,

“has not yet fully assessed the scale of change the Bill will bring about”,

speaks volumes. It is a message that we on these Benches, along with care and support organisations across the statutory, private and voluntary sectors, have been trying to hammer home since the draft Bill was introduced. It is not just about the “new costs” impacts of the Bill itself that were cited by the committee, such as those resulting from the huge increase in the number of care assessments under the new capped system; the Government also need to recognise the scale and urgency of the current care crisis and that their proposed Dilnot solutions need to extend to self-funders, the millions of people with limited means and those who are unable to pay for adequate care and support.

The Government know that the proposals will not stop people having to sell their homes to pay for care, will not cap the costs that elderly people pay for residential care, and will not mean that pensioners get their care for free if they have income or assets worth up to £123,000. From the outset, we have underlined our concerns that unless the new legal framework is introduced in the context of also addressing the current and future social care funding problems, it runs the danger of raising expectations and demand that cannot be met, and will be ineffective and inoperable. This view is underlined by leading stakeholders, including Age UK and the Care and Support Alliance. Council care budgets are being cut to the bone, with the latest figures from ADASS identifying a further £800 million squeeze on social care budgets over the next year. I know that the noble Earl insists, despite all the evidence, that local authorities have sufficient funds to meet the current demand, but this is just not so.

London Councils is a cross-party organisation representing 33 London authorities. Its recent report, A Case for Sustainable Funding for Adult Social Care, based on financial modelling by Ernst & Young, researched the scale of savings that could be achieved through greater efficiencies such as integrating services, implementing alternative delivery models and making major changes to care delivery and procurement. Even with maximum savings and before the introduction of any form of Dilnot implementation, the Government would still need to increase London’s adult social care budget by potentially £1.1 billion to meet increased demand. Labour supports the principle of capping care costs, but we stress that a bigger and bolder response is needed by the Government to meet the challenges of our ageing population. Whole-person care is our vision for a 21st century health and care system that brings together physical health, mental

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health and social care in a single service to meet all a person’s care needs. Our independent commission has already started its work on looking at how health and social care services’ budgets can be brought together so that integrated services do not mean just a series of area or service-specific initiatives and pilots, but a way of working for a whole service. We have a major task ahead of us to improve the Bill, and Labour pledges its commitment to work hard to make sure that older and disabled people and their families get the best possible deal.

On carers, the House should note that the need to ensure their well-being is particularly underlined in the report of the Royal College of General Practitioners, which was published this weekend. It finds that 40% of carers are at risk of depression and should be regularly screened for this to ensure that their health needs are not neglected. We see a similar picture in the recent survey by the Stroke Association, Feeling Overwhelmed, which shows the potentially huge emotional impact of stroke on both survivors and their carers. The Bill is an important step forward in the development of carers’ rights, their recognition and the support they need, which we strongly support. In the coming weeks, it will be important to keep in mind just what demands we already make on carers. Some 7 million people currently provide carer support to a disabled or sick child or adult who otherwise could not live independently in the community.

As a carer myself, I am about to go through, with my partner, the final push under Surrey Council to convert all social care clients with long-term health conditions to self-directed support. We have a 46-page assessment form to complete, a host of supporting leaflets and briefings to read and absorb and, of course, a website, which I am sure will make us even more confused. This considerable task and commitment is the same for both self-funders and people receiving local authority support. Most frequently, it will probably be the carer who has to do most of the work, bear most of the responsibility and, probably, be most aware of and concerned about the potential effects if services and care packages are changed or, worse, withdrawn. That is certainly true for carers such as me, caring for a stroke survivor whose aphasia makes it difficult for him to read and understand forms and documents, and impossible for him to complete them himself.

Having said that, and to end on a positive note, the good news is that my experience so far is overwhelmingly that self-directed, personalised support and this approach to identifying future care needs for the cared-for and the carer is the right one. We need to ensure, as we work our way through the Bill, that the focus of the assessment is on well-being and support, and not on cutting back care packages that are generally working well and have taken many months and years of persistent effort to build up.

4.51 pm

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the welcome that I have received in this House. Members, officials and staff have been most kind and I look forward to getting to know people better.

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There is a delightful railway in Hampshire called the Watercress Line, which offers trips for tourists and steam enthusiasts. The line enabled watercress, freshly plucked from the beds in Alresford, to be transported to the morning markets of London. It is known for its challenging climb over the “Hampshire Alps”, which required much of the drover, stoker and engine. Sadly, the line no longer carries watercress and stops at Alton, long before London. Hampshire might now be thought of as a place for tourists to ride on steam engines that no longer connect with today’s modern world, yet the county that used to put iron in the diet and tang in the palate of Londoners still contributes to both the heritage and commercial life of the nation. Today, the equivalent of the Watercress Line is the A31-M3 corridor from Bournemouth to Basingstoke and then on into London, connecting along the way with Southampton and Winchester. From the sea to the city, the diocese of Winchester envelopes this corridor with farmland, scattered villages and small market towns. The city of Winchester claims to be the birthplace of the English nation. It is where Alfred put iron in the soul of the Anglo-Saxons, by building a new society based on Christian values and good administration. I believe that this vision of a society based on Christian values and good administration is not just heritage but has present currency. My predecessor as Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, was well known for his values-based advocacy across a range of issues. He remains much the same in retirement, although his activities have been restricted by a nasty stroke, from which he is making a steady recovery. I pass on his thanks for your prayers and best wishes. I know that he counted it a great privilege to participate in the work of this House, as, indeed, do I.

Prior to my coming to the diocese, I served as the general secretary of the Church Mission Society for 12 years. CMS is one of those Anglican mission societies that not only shared the gospel and planted the church around the world, but also laid the foundations for what we now call international development. Many schools, colleges, hospitals and agricultural and industrial training centres were established over its 200-year history. As I have visited these institutions across the world, in over 25 countries, I have been amazed by the vitality of the Christian faith and its contribution to the common good. Another former general secretary of CMS, John Taylor, also became the Bishop of Winchester. Like him, I come with hope and values generated by a truly global faith. Religion is a factor that we all have to take into account, even if we do not participate in religious communities ourselves. Values and spirituality really matter.

The diocese of Winchester has more than 100 Church of England schools; the Anglican University of Winchester, originally founded by the bishop as King Alfred’s College; plus hundreds of other schools, further education institutions and four more universities. The older tradition of education associated with Bishop Wykeham, Winchester College and New College, Oxford, gives depth to this dimension of diocesan life. I will be taking a keen interest in how the Government intend to further develop their schools-based and school-led approach to education, particularly the way in which higher education institutions contribute to this development.

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Within the Anglican Communion is a network of old and new colleges and universities in which I have participated for a number of years and to which I contributed when working as a college principal based in Nairobi. The indication in the gracious Speech of changes in the national curriculum is also of great interest to me. Hampshire has a unique approach to religious education, which offers an excellent introduction to this crucial domain of social and international life. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education has very recently reported that apparently unconnected changes to qualifications, assessment and teacher education have had a negative impact on religious education. I urge the Department for Education to review the arrangements for RE in a parallel process to developing the national curriculum. The direction of travel in exam reform is welcome. The Church of England Board of Education stands ready to be fully involved in the revision of the RE GCSE and any new A-level in theology.

I shall also seek to contribute to our understanding of faith communities in the local life of our nations. Faith communities are those spaces that allow us to explore what it means to take equality and difference seriously. Increasingly, it is the question of social purpose, rather than just good social process, which will build our common life. Our pluralist society needs more than public rhetoric or agreed social processes if we are, as the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, says, to “build a home together”. It is in this endeavour that our values become clear. We need to articulate those values if we are to recover from an economic crisis that has challenged the basis of our commitment to the common good—a home built together.

The thrift of austerity needs to be matched by a determined compassion. The Treloar School and College near Alton, for children and students with disabilities, is like home, where many find a new social purpose. But it is also an eye-opener to the very difficult decisions that will be made up and down the country about the cost of caring. One way to articulate this is in terms of a social covenant in which we recognise each other’s humanity and our interdependence. A social covenant suggests that co-operation as well as competition is important for economic resilience. Our educational institutions need to prepare students for both co-operation and competition if we are to build societies that have social purpose.

Lastly, I shall be taking an interest in agriculture and the environment; 70% of the diocese is rural and thousands are employed in the challenging industry of farming. The basic need for food and our dependency on the environment have been highlighted to us in new ways as we contemplate food security and the long-term challenge of global warming. Food banks are as much a necessity in Hampshire as elsewhere, and the growing need to care for the environment is a Hampshire County Council priority. We may well be turning to our agricultural colleges, such as Sparsholt near Winchester, for more than basic training. Such institutions might become places for vision-casting for the future.

We need a new generation of those who understand the global trends of agriculture in relation to ecology. For this generation, co-operation will be as important as competition, as we all seek to preserve our common

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global future. At a simple level, this comes down to what we eat. Today, we celebrate St Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot. We are told that the text on his tomb says:

“Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters”.

I cast no aspersions on noble Lords, but I am among the meat-eaters. My daughter’s vegetarian diet is a daily challenge to reflect on sustainable food production.

I have the pleasure to live in a diocese that acts as a regional barometer for national life outside London, from the international language schools in Bournemouth to the container port in Southampton, then on to the historic city of Winchester and through to the entrepreneurial centre of Basingstoke. In this vibrant region, I serve Christ by serving others. In that spirit, I offer my service to the work and life of this House.

5.01 pm

Lord Oxburgh: My Lords, there are some cultures that believe that good things come in threes. Those who subscribe to this view need look no further than today. We have had three maiden speeches—very different but all distinguished.

It is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate, who will undoubtedly make a major contribution to our discussions here. He was born in east Africa of missionary parents and his early life was there. As he touched on briefly, he returned to east Africa and put in seven years’ service as a very distinguished principal of Carlile College, which taught not only theology but business studies as well. I think that we can expect quite a broad contribution from him.

He has pointed out those areas which he is particularly interested in contributing to in our House, but I would be surprised if his understanding of Africa and the developing world was not also an important aspect of that contribution. Certainly, Africa has played an increasing role in our discussions as a developing continent which has yet to realise its full potential. The right reverend Prelate has indicated that he will use his educational experience and his experience of his local situation in Hampshire and around Winchester to elevate our discussions of agriculture and related topics. We very much look forward to those contributions and are delighted to welcome him to this House.

I turn to the somewhat different topic of energy. An Energy Bill will be coming to us shortly and that will be the time to discuss its detail, but I wish today to discuss the background to the Bill, the serious difficulties in which we now find ourselves and how in future we might avoid them.

I declare an interest as the honorary president of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association and as a director of two small companies, Green Energy Options and 2OC, the former being concerned with better energy management and the latter with renewable energy.

How has a situation arisen in which the shortly-to-retire director of Ofgem, our energy regulator, commented that energy supplies are on a “roller-coaster” heading “downhill—fast”? With hardly any new power stations being built, he warned that there is a serious danger of electricity shortages. Our respite arising from reduced energy demand during the recession is temporary.

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The first point to make is that our predicament was entirely predictable. It has long been apparent that much of our electricity-generating capacity would have to be renewed this decade. It has also been apparent that this would be constrained by international agreements on greenhouse emissions. Furthermore, it was clear that North Sea gas would peak around the turn of the century, after which we would be increasingly dependent on imports. There were no surprises. I have a pile of reports, published or commissioned by DECC and others, that must be over half a metre high. The trouble is that action arising from these reports has been half-hearted, late or non-existent. Something like the present Energy Bill should have been introduced in the previous Parliament and the negotiations that are under way at present for the replacement of nuclear power stations should have begun at least two years ago.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that successive Governments have simply not taken energy policy seriously and that many decisions have been ill-considered, or made ad hoc—in some cases as knee-jerk responses to pressure groups, and in others on the basis of prejudice for or against particular energy sources. In so far as it was policy to promote renewable energy, we had a support regime that in effect could support only wind and did nothing for waves, currents or tides—some of the UK’s most important energy assets. Another key element of successive Governments’ policy was carbon capture and storage. This was the subject of a disastrously failed competition and is years behind where it should be.

Although energy market reform has been trailed for years, there is still virtually no investment in new generating plant because investors do not know under what market arrangements they will trade. Energy markets and energy transmission, fossil fuel reserves and electricity generation technologies are extremely complex. Under-informed decisions have legacies that are generations long. In this most complex and technical area, there have been more than 20 changes of Energy Minister in the past 15 years. I estimate that only a handful of those had either the time in post or the background to make a serious contribution to policy. It seems that when some tried to, they were overruled, moved or sacked. It is physically impossible for energy infrastructure to change rapidly and decisions being made today will take years to implement and will influence our energy supply for decades. Continuity and a long view are essential.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that at Cabinet level, in so far as any thought was given to energy, there was a Micawberesque hope that somehow something would turn up—but something has not turned up. It appears that the only certain outcome is, at best, unnecessarily high energy prices. Ministers and senior officials have seriously lacked experience and in particular a realistic understanding of timescales: how long it takes to negotiate agreements, obtain planning consents, or design and build a power station. There was also a lack of understanding of markets and experience to judge how investment could be attracted on reasonable terms. It is against this background that we are embarked on a fundamental reform of our energy market and we are doing it in a rush.

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The existing arrangements have demonstrably failed. The present situation might have been avoided if we had had some kind of high level, non-political, expert advisory group overseeing all aspects of energy policy with the status and authority to hold the Government to account if they failed to take timely or appropriate action. I believe that an energy strategy committee should be established by Parliament. It would comprise people with experience of different aspects of the energy industry, finance and energy policy. They would serve for relatively long terms on a board that could be chaired by a Minister. Acting within high level policy guidance from Government, the role of the committee would be to propose a long-term energy strategy and to advise the relevant departments on the timescales and practicalities of achieving it. Because of the fundamental and long-term nature of energy investment, the energy strategy committee should report to Parliament and the minutes of its meetings should be published.

Such a committee would embrace not only electricity generation but gas storage, transmission of electricity and gas, interconnectors with other countries and other related matters. At present, there seems to be no forum in which those closely related topics are considered together. If established by amendment of the current Energy Bill, it could provide considerable help with the implementation of electricity market reform, many details of which remain to be settled. It is to be hoped that the long-term national strategic importance of energy would attract cross-party support for such a committee. Its influence would stem from the standing of its members and the requirement to report annually to Parliament. Clearly, it would still be possible for Governments to ignore the advice of the committee, but it would not be easy, and they would be obliged to do so in a more public fashion.

The present arrangements for determining energy strategy have not worked. It is time to do things differently.

5.11 pm

Lord Plumb: My Lords, I am sure that we all enjoyed listening to three such eloquent and informative maiden speeches. It was a particular pleasure for me to hear each of them declare their interest in agriculture in one form or another.

British agriculture was not mentioned in the gracious Speech as such, but it is an industry that covers culture, education, energy, health and welfare, all subjects for this debate. I declare my interest as a farmer, a former leader of the National Farmers’ Union, a member of so many other farm organisations, and for 20 years I served in the European Parliament and had the pleasure and privilege of presiding over that Parliament for two and a half years from 1987 to 1990.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and how it arrives on their plates. They often feel disconnected from its origins, and scandals surrounding horsemeat, mad cow disease, bovine TB, foot and mouth disease—I could go on—and animal welfare cause a lot of concern. Demand still increases for the introduction of a new food labelling system, and some research shows clearly that the

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shorter the journey from production to consumption, the better the quality. Obviously, the key is better marketing.

To achieve food security, we need growth, and we only have to travel north, south, east or west across Britain to witness fallow fields, winter crop failures and hills with fewer sheep, following a year which Her Majesty might describe as an annus horribilis.

We are continually reminded that the economic crisis continues and that household debt as a percentage of disposable income increases. Less than 10% of the weekly budget for a family is spent on food. Agriculture must play a major part in economic growth, and I could give many examples of the excellence of growth in production and productivity, from food research through practice with science and a remarkable change in farm structure and technology.

So what now? Our starting point follows such a difficult year that it seems the nation will need this year to import millions of tonnes of wheat. We are also now importing £1 billion of dairy products, and three dairy farmers a week are still leaving the dairy industry. It should be other way around. Globally, it is estimated that by 2020 the world will need 70% more food to be produced, but to increase production we need investment. I welcome the Government’s Autumn Statement on the increase in the annual investment allowance. It would help if we had reinvestment in the building allowance too, which would greatly enable farmers’ further investment. Buildings for stock housing particularly depreciate, with a limited economic lifespan similar to that of plant and machinery.

However, the Government and Defra have respected the Conservative manifesto promises in respect of several issues. The pilot TB wildlife control measures are about to commence. We still slaughtered, this past year, 38,000 cattle in this country with TB. We have seen the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board and the introduction of the groceries code adjudicator to see fair play in a competitive market. The review of the Environment Agency and Natural England is taking place. The Macdonald red tape review, dealing with some of the gold-plating of European legislation, is also taking place, albeit far too slowly.

Energy infrastructure is another area where farmers are well placed to capture renewable energy flows while maintaining their traditional role as food producers. They can contribute to domestic supply, supporting rural diversification and jobs creation, and help with sound environmental management and the use of waste products. Biofuels offer huge potential for combating climate change and increasing fuel security. In growth and development, all this calls for agriculture, and the horticultural industry in particular, to employ 50,000 to 60,000 new entrants over the next decade, closing the skills gap for a modern and progressive industry that looks to the future and places an onus on the continuous acquisition and improvement of skills.

It is not often understood or appreciated that the food and farming business employs some 445,000 people. Many more than that are in the background, involved in research. As a farmer, I have received a lot of requests over many years from people saying, “My third child is not quite as bright as the first two. Can

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you find them a job on your farm?”. My reply has always been: “I employ only young people who have at least four A-levels”. Defra, which serves the AgriSkills Forum, has to make the forum the first point of call on all skills issues. We are fortunate to have the finest agricultural colleges and training facilities to encourage new entrants into farming. The right reverend Prelate mentioned those earlier and one in particular. They serve not just farming but rural interests generally. Many charitable trusts and foundations are now also seeking young recruits. The passion is there; the universities and colleges are full of young people who want to work in the countryside.

Looking ahead, I see other issues looming right before us. An important issue is how the Government are going to implement the proposals for CAP reform. It is of course essential to get a fair deal across borders, but because of the voluntary modulation being proposed and a poor historical allocation in the United Kingdom from the budget, English farm payments are already well below our principal competitors’, so there is a move towards more greening issues. One can understand that, from an environmental point of view, greening may be seen as a preservation tactic to justify a larger European Union CAP budget rather than helping farming to become more competitive or to respond to the growth that is needed.

For the first time, the European Parliament has joint responsibility for co-decision. When our Prime Minister has declared his determination to renegotiate on issues that are of a concern to our country, calls for bringing forward a referendum on our future in Europe are, to me and to many of us, irresponsible. We need a more market-orientated European Union, fewer regulations, less red tape and the freedom to get on with the job that we know best how to do. If the Prime Minister does not succeed in his efforts, so be it, but we should hold fast until we know. One thing he should have on the agenda for decision is the seat of the Parliament, which is something I have argued for over many years. It costs the European taxpayer £200 million to transport people and goods around three places, and it is estimated that it causes 20,000 tonnes of CO2 gas. That is food for thought and, I hope, for action.

5.21 pm

Lord Puttnam: My Lords, I associate myself with those who have congratulated the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Ridley, on their maiden speeches. I can still remember the cold sweat pouring down my neck prior to my maiden speech. It will never feel quite as bad again.

I also associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, said about the speed with which the royal charter implementing some of the Leveson proposals is to be brought in. I cannot have been the only person in your Lordships’ House who was struck by the very respectful coverage given to the State Opening of Parliament last week by the same newspapers that are attempting to face down Parliament while we attempt to impose some form of order.

I am not going to talk about the creative industries because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, who follows me, will do it more ably than I can, and I

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associate myself entirely with his concerns. I am going to stick with education simply because if one looks at the list of concerns in the Queen’s Speech it is clear that every one of them is connected in one way or another to a successful education.

I have now worked in this field for 20 years, and the one absolute truism is that no system of education can ever be better than the quality of its teachers. That is true the world over. Therefore the statement in the Queen’s Speech:

“Measures will be taken to improve the quality of education for young people”,

fills me with delight. Last Saturday, I had the honour of giving the commencement address to the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. I was struck by the fact that whereas in the UK only between 6% and 7% of teachers have a second degree, over 80% of American teachers have master’s degrees. That is quite extraordinary. It does not mean that the American education system is in any way perfect, but it shows a commitment by their learning profession to the concept of learning. We have not reached that point. At Question Time today, the noble Lord, Lord Freud, complimented Finland, quite rightly, on being best in class in early years, in reduction in child poverty and in the quality of its education system. The answer is very simple: it has the best qualified and best trained teachers and educators in the world, and it is reaping the rewards it deserves.

The Queen’s Speech also stated that the Government intend to work to promote,

“a fairer society that rewards people who work hard”.

Having visited more than 400 schools in the past 15 years, I can assure noble Lords that no one in this country works harder than the nation’s teachers, but in order to do so, they need to be encouraged. In 1997, when I went to work for the Government, I encountered a—to put it politely—demoralised workforce. I was quite shocked by the state of the staff rooms and the general attitude of teachers, in many cases to each other. I genuinely believe—this is not a party-political point—that over a period of 10 years things significantly improved. Therefore, it grieves me to have to report, as I continue to go around schools and speak at education conferences, that the situation in the past year is as bad in terms of demoralisation as the situation that I encountered in 1997, if not worse. It is very bad indeed. The idea that the Government’s aspirations for education can somehow be achieved with a demoralised workforce that does not believe it is being led at all is pure fantasy.

I was very struck yesterday by the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, who is not in her place. She said something particularly important, which was:

“We must not create a two-tier society but aspire to a universality of digital skills. We must make sure that the potential of all our citizens is unlocked”.—[Official Report, 13/5/13; col. 160.]

I cannot say that the way things are going at present we are unlocking the potential or the skills of our young people, and it worries me greatly.

While I was in the United States at the weekend, I turned on the television and watched Bill Gates being

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interviewed on CBS’s “60 Minutes”. He was talking about the late Steve Jobs. I jotted down what he said. He said:

“When he was sick I was able to spend time with him. We talked about what we’d learned—about families, everything. He was not being melancholy, it was very forward-looking, saying that we haven't really improved education with technology”.

They were entirely right, but the important thing is that the fault lies not with technology but with the extraordinary way in which we have not taken advantage of the opportunities available to us.

I have the pleasure of chairing the Times Educational Supplement advisory board, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, and my noble friends Lord Adonis and Lord Knight. It is a marvellous board to sit on. I would like to trot out a few statistics. I have mentioned them in Committee but I am not sure that they were fully understood. It is not a lack of ambition that the nation’s teachers are suffering from; they are ambitious to do better for themselves and for their pupils. At the TES we have a social media site. It is called TES Connect and it is free. The 100 million teacher downloads last year from that site indicate that teachers want better lesson plans. On one day, 8 January this year, there were 669,000 downloads by teachers looking for better lesson plans and ideas to bring to their classrooms. This year we anticipate 130 million teacher downloads. In addition, 600,000 teaching assets have been uploaded, 71% by teachers in Britain. This is a very active community that is looking for leadership, catalysation and someone to take advantage of its ambitions to improve.