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House of Lords

Monday, 9 December 2013.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Truro.

Nelson Mandela


2.37 pm

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Hill of Oareford) (Con): My Lords, 50 years ago, almost to the day, this House met to pay tribute to a foreign statesman. Then, our tributes were for President Kennedy, a man seen to embody hope and change but whose life was cut short, his promise unfulfilled. Today, we pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, another man who epitomised hope and change but whose life was long and whose promise, towards the end of that long life, was triumphantly fulfilled. Although we are here to pay tribute to his achievements, I know that the whole House will want to send its deepest condolences to Mr Mandela’s family and friends, as well as to the people of South Africa, who have lost their leading light.

The story of Mr Mandela’s life—from herding cattle, to study, to struggle, to setback, to imprisonment and finally to victory—is so like a fable that it is easy to think that there was always bound to be a happy ending. That was not so. For 27 long years in prison, the struggle must have seemed endless and, at times, without hope. However, Mr Mandela did not give up, nor did he compromise his principles, even when release from prison was dangled in front of him. In his resistance, he was supported by many in this country and, indeed, in this House, most notably by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe. To their great credit, trade unionists, academics, journalists, politicians and people up and down the country campaigned tirelessly for his release. That came in 1990. Elected president of the ANC the following year, he, along with FW de Klerk, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Then, in South Africa’s first universal and non-racial elections, he became president in 1994. Macmillan’s winds of change had at last blown through South Africa.

If Mr Mandela’s first historic achievement was the moral leadership that he provided in the overthrow of apartheid, his second was the extraordinary way in which he brought about reconciliation and led his country away from violence and civil war. On his release from prison, he was passionate, not angry, and magnanimous, not bitter. How many of us, if we had been kept in prison for 27 years and been prevented from attending the funerals of our own mother and son, would have had the moral strength and political wisdom to forgive our enemies? That South Africa at last respected the political destinies of free men and did so without a violent revolution was undoubtedly due in large part to Mr Mandela’s extraordinary grace as a human being after his release from prison.

Having become president, Mr Mandela then stood down after just one term—a rarity among leaders

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from any country. However, the end of his presidency did not signal the end of his work to create a better South Africa. He campaigned tirelessly for more research into HIV and AIDS and for better education and treatment. He named his HIV and AIDS fundraising campaign after his Robben Island prison number and made a huge impact by announcing to the world that his own son had died of AIDS. He used his moral authority on the world stage to persuade other leaders to take action on AIDS, leaving a legacy that will be felt by generations to come.

Mr Mandela’s statue rightly stands next to Abraham Lincoln’s in Parliament Square. He wears a free-flowing shirt; his arm is raised in oratory and open welcome. His connection with this Building is a real one. In 1996, he addressed both Houses during a state visit as president, making a passionate plea for people around the world to work together to build a new Africa; and, in 2000, he returned to be made an honorary Queen’s Counsel under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, as Lord Chancellor.

It would be easy to slip into hagiography in talking about Nelson Mandela, but we do not have to pretend that he was a saint to recognise his achievements and his extraordinary power over the imagination of the world. In his inaugural address as President of South Africa, Mr Mandela said:

“Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement”—

a fitting epitaph for the life of Nelson Mandela himself.

2 .45 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, it is a real privilege to lead my Benches in paying tribute to the most extraordinary man, Nelson Mandela, a humble giant with indomitable courage who provided a moral compass for his country, his continent and our world. Today we celebrate his life but, like the noble Lord the Leader of the House, I send our condolences to the family and friends of Nelson Mandela.

There are few people of whom it can truly be said that their life had an impact on the world, but such was the life of this brave man who, through oppression, understood that evil must never be accommodated or accepted; rather, it must be resisted and overcome. His belief in democracy and a free society was so strong that he was prepared to die for it. Since the announcement of his death, and, indeed, since he guided the South African people to freedom and democracy, the world has rightly revered Mandela, whose dignity, compassion, generosity and power of forgiveness knew no bounds. However, in remembering the peace and reconciliation which became a model for the world, we should not forget the struggle which went before, when he was fighting for the liberation of his people who lived with the evil of apartheid, which crushed “non-violent struggle” with “naked force”. As he said, however, he was fighting not people but principles. In doing so, as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday:

“He faced the insult of being labelled a terrorist”.

The struggle led to 27 dark years in jail, 18 of them under the brutal regime of Robben Island, but a place where thanks to his leadership there was comradeship

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and a thirst for education, football for fitness and team building, and the vision of a new South Africa was born.

It is almost beyond belief that when free from prison at the age of 71, he embraced the colossal task of building a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, would be able to walk tall, without fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity—a rainbow nation at peace with itself in the world. The way in which he did this, with magnanimity, love and understanding of his fellow human beings, as well as with idealism and courage, seemed to show the world that love is stronger than hate and that the human spirit can triumph over inhumanity.

There are many behind me who are far, far better qualified than me to speak about Nelson Mandela. I am very proud of their actions, but also of my party’s relationship with the ANC in exile, its support for the Anti-Apartheid Movement and its support for political activists and their families through international defence and aid. My noble friend Lord Joffe was a defence lawyer at the Rivonia trial, and who, the accused said after the trial,

“has understood and accepted that, above all else, we would not compromise our belief or consciences for legal advantage and in that understanding he has advised us along a course which we fully believe to have been politically correct, and legally as well”.

My noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside, who cannot be in his place today, was the energetic chair of the Anti-Apartheid Movement for 20 years and was instrumental in increasing its support and focusing its activities in the 1980s, leading the campaign against the Government’s refusal to impose sanctions against South Africa and helping to bring about the end of apartheid.

My noble friend Lady Kinnock was a tireless fundraiser and supporter of the families of political prisoners, as well as a friend to many in exile. My noble friend Lord Healey introduced Mandela to Hugh Gaitskell in 1962, and later visited him in his cell on Robben Island. My noble friend Lord Boateng was high commissioner in South Africa, which must have been a joy after a lifetime campaigning for justice. Many of my noble friends who worked in trade unions did everything possible to show solidarity with the oppressed workers in South Africa. Other noble friends worked with their churches to bring about change and I know that the vast majority of my colleagues were members of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and that makes me proud.

My noble friend Lord Kinnock, when leader of the Opposition in the 1980s, was unwavering in his support for Nelson Mandela and the struggle against apartheid. It was when I worked for my noble friend that I had the honour of meeting this legend, when I made and served him tea. As for so many noble Lords, the Anti-Apartheid Movement was part of my political life—indeed, my family’s life: the marches and demonstrations, latterly with children in pushchairs, the careful weekly shop to ensure that nothing from South Africa found its way into the shopping basket—and I played a small part in organising the 1988 Mandela 70th birthday concert at Wembley.

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It was therefore the most enormous pleasure and privilege to shake his hand when he came to meet my noble friend and the shadow Cabinet. I was reminded by Richard Caborn, who in 1990 was an MP and treasurer of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, that at the time Mandela was still deemed by Parliament to be a terrorist and he was unable to book a Committee Room for a meeting with MPs.

Nelson Mandela was not a saint, he was an exceptional human being who started life in a hut and, like 80% of his fellow South Africans, suffered oppression because of the colour of his skin. His thirst for justice was the catalyst for his training as a lawyer; his hunger for freedom and his passion for equality of opportunity drove him to fight against the evil of apartheid; his empathy and personality enabled him to work with President FW de Klerk, to bring democracy to South Africa; his belief in the power of peace and reconciliation enabled him to lead the citizens of his country to the birth of a new South Africa.

On Robben Island, the prisoners had a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, which they called the Bible. Each prisoner marked their favourite passage. Mandela’s was from “Julius Caesar”:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come”.

It is clear that Nelson Mandela died only once. There are many apposite quotations from Shakespeare, but I will end with Ben Jonson’s words about Shakespeare, which sum up the truly great but humble and compassionate Mandela. His genius,

“was not of an age, but for all time”.

2.49 pm

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, I associate those of us on the Liberal Democrat Benches with the condolences expressed by the Leader and shadow Leader of the House to the family of Nelson Mandela and to the people of South Africa.

It is a reflection of the stature of Nelson Mandela, of a life conspicuous for the breadth of his humanity, and the profundity of his messages of reconciliation and inspirational hope, that tributes such as this will be being paid in parliaments and assemblies on every continent. But more than that, as befits a man who radiated such humility, tributes and prayers have been said not just by Prime Ministers and Presidents, but by ordinary people of every colour and creed.

I never had the honour of meeting Mr Mandela, but as he was leaving Westminster Hall after addressing both Houses of Parliament in 1996, he stopped at the end of the row I was sitting in to talk to two young children. I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, remembers that he stopped at the end of many rows. I cannot put adequately into words the experience. Yes, it was his humanity; maybe, too, it was the proximity of someone who had endured so much and subsequently achieved so much for his people and his country; maybe it was his challenging

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words still ringing in my ears; but to say that his presence was magnetic would barely start to describe the aura of the man.

However, on the one occasion in my political life when my responsibilities brought me into Nelson Mandela’s orbit, I confess that I had to dare to disagree. Although he had wished a court in a neutral country with international judges to try the two men accused of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, President Mandela’s initiative eventually led to the handing over of the two men and their trial in the Scottish court in the Netherlands. In 2002, he visited the one man convicted, Abdelbaset al Megrahi, in Barlinnie prison. The BBC’s “Reporting Scotland” that night had an interview with Mr Mandela calling for Mr Megrahi’s removal to a prison in a Muslim country such as Egypt or Tunisia to serve out his sentence. This was followed by an interview with me, as Scottish Justice Minister, saying that the Scottish Government’s view was that we should abide by the UN resolution establishing the process, whereby any sentence would be served in a Scottish prison. Watching the programme at home in Orkney, my teenage daughter asked my wife, “So does that mean Nelson Mandela’s criticising my dad?”. When Rosie replied, “Probably, yes”, Clare thought for a moment and said, “Now that’s cool”.

That underlines the point that Nelson Mandela’s legendary status was understood and recognised across the generations as well as across continents. Young people who could not possibly remember his walk from prison, or the crowds waiting to vote in South Africa’s first properly democratic elections, nevertheless recognise that they have been alive during the lifetime of such a towering figure. And just as we, today, revere names of past generations such as Lincoln, Wilberforce, Gandhi, who championed the struggle for freedom, so too will future generations revere the name of Nelson Mandela—a man who transcended generations just as he bridged cultures and healed divisions; and just as he did when he addressed us in 1996. He did not shy away from reminding us of our colonial record or the dismissive response given by our forebears in the early years of the last century, when, as he said, his,

“predecessors in the leadership of the African National Congress came to these venerable Houses to say to the government and the legislators of the time that they, the patricians, should come to the aid of the poor citizens”.

But consistent with his powerful message of reconciliation at home, he talked to us about “closing the circle”, and said:

“Despite that rebuff and the terrible cost we had to bear as a consequence, we return to this honoured place neither with pikes, nor a desire for revenge, nor, even, a plea to your distinguished selves to assuage our hunger for bread. We come to you as friends”.

He concluded by challenging us:

“To close the circle, let our peoples, the ones formerly poor citizens and the others good patricians—politicians, business people, educators, health workers, scientists, engineers and technicians, sports people and entertainers, activists for charitable relief—join hands to build on what we have achieved together and help construct a humane African world, whose emergence will say a new universal order is born in which we are each our brother’s, or sister’s, keeper … and herald the advent of a glorious summer of a partnership for freedom, peace, prosperity and friendship”.

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Our lasting tribute to Nelson Mandela is to take that challenge to our hearts, and respond with our actions.

2.54 pm

Lord Laming (CB): My Lords, on behalf of my colleagues in the Cross-Bench group, may I be associated with the moving and well earned tributes to the life of Mr Nelson Mandela, who was such a towering person? We send our condolences to his family. I did not have the honour to meet Mr Mandela so, like many others, my regard for him and all that he stood for stems from his speeches and writings and from the reports of his actions.

It is impossible even to attempt to record all that Mr Mandela gave, not just to his country or to the continent of Africa, but indeed to the whole world. That so many people from across the world, be they rich or poor, powerful or weak, high or lowly, now hold him in such amazingly high regard, even though he did not attain public office until he was well into his 70s and was in office for only one term, speaks volumes about his personal greatness. Others have portrayed the life of Mr Mandela with greater eloquence than I can, but I will simply try to highlight four qualities of his that I am sure will endure.

First, he demonstrated over and over again his faithfulness to his beliefs. He had the courage, determination and discipline to stand firm, even if it meant spending many years in prison and separation from his family. As an aside, I suggest that Governments across the whole world should learn from his life: while oppression may appear to succeed for a time, the human spirit of brave people like Nelson Mandela will never be crushed. Secondly, wherever he was, he accorded to each his genuine belief in their unique, individual quality. He was always able to treat each one of his fellow human beings as being on life’s journey, whatever their role or status. Thirdly, he conveyed an inner sincerity and humility that made him really want to learn from others, even his jailers, irrespective of colour, creed or nationality. He was at heart someone who loved and respected his fellow human beings, and it showed. Fourthly, he had a lifetime commitment to unity; we all know that conflict is commonplace and often the easy option, whereas bridge-building, reconciliation and harmony are very much harder won. Nelson Mandela was at heart a unifier. The world needs more people with his special qualities.

What is the legacy that he has left for us and future generations? I suggest that over and above his intellectual qualities, his legal skills and his political instincts, he had one quality that found expression in everything and that will remain a challenge to us all: his generosity of spirit that he accorded to friend and foe alike. He had an inner generosity that enabled him to treat everyone, whatever their beliefs, with a pervasive dignity. We may not achieve the higher human qualities that characterised Nelson Mandela, but surely it is no defence if we fail to strive to emulate what he was able to achieve.

In the final paragraph of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mr Mandela wrote:

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“I have walked that long walk to freedom. … But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended”.

This part of his long walk has ended. He has left the world a better place and his achievements will endure. May Nelson Mandela now rest in peace.

3 pm

The Lord Bishop of Truro: My Lords, I am keen to associate myself and all my colleagues who sit on these Benches with the tributes paid to Mr Mandela here and throughout the world. The focus on one man is extraordinary, but it is entirely right, for he was extraordinary. My thoughts and prayers go to all his family and friends and indeed to everyone in the whole country of South Africa, who have lost a father.

Two words have been repeated many times in the millions of words spoken about him: humility and dignity. In matters of faith, although he was baptised into the Methodist Church and went to a Christian school, he believed that religion was a deeply personal and private affair, yet the way that he lived out his faith by challenging unjust structures, and then through public service, was an example to all of us. He believed in the old African proverb that we are people through other people and that only by recognising the humanity in others do we ourselves become truly human. It was this reconciling message that Mandela lived out daily.

A priceless gift that Nelson Mandela gave us was helping us to understand forgiveness and healing through truth and reconciliation, thus enabling both the victim and the oppressor to progress. He fought a racist power structure but, when he gained legitimate political power, he did not answer racism with racism. He said, “We are not anti-white but against white supremacy”. He was a living testament to integrity and dignity—a courageous man who sacrificed his freedom for the elimination of racial oppression.

As well as prayers being said for Nelson Mandela and South Africa in churches up and down the country yesterday, as I am sure noble Lords are well aware, readings from the Old Testament prophets, and in particular yesterday readings from the New Testament featuring John the Baptist, will have been heard during services on the second Sunday in Advent. It strikes me as entirely appropriate that we should consider prophecy and prophets as we pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, who was himself a prophet.

Like most of us, I suspect, I am surprised at how someone who suffered as he did and was brought up under such circumstances as he was maintained his humility and dignity and ensured the downfall of an unjust regime. As we pay tribute to such an extraordinary man, it is far too early to talk properly of legacy, yet I wonder whether one reflection for all of us is what injustices and evils we are in danger of being comfortable with and complacent about in our time.

Prophets surprise and challenge us; so did Nelson Mandela. I find it hard to believe that I could survive and remain as humble and as dignified as he did if I had experienced circumstances similar to his. For me, the key question is: am I listening to the prophets, who are now pointing me to the issues about which I am in

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danger of being blind and deaf? How might we ensure that our fellow human beings are properly surprised and so change their way of life? May he, Nelson Mandela, rest in peace and may his prophetic humility and dignity, and that strong smile, continue to affect each and every one of us in our long walk to freedom.

3.04 pm

Lord Joffe (Lab): My Lords, on Monday, 24 April 1964, Nelson Mandela, on trial for his life for planning a revolution to replace the apartheid Government, delivered his historic speech from the dock at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria. He ended with the words:

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

We, his lawyers, had advised him to delete the “prepared to die” sentence, because it could be construed by the judge as an invitation to hang him. His response to our advice was that it was necessary for him to make that declaration, so that his people would understand that no sacrifice was too great in the battle for freedom. This would inspire them to carry on the battle when he was no longer there to lead them.

It was this indomitable courage which was the hallmark of Nelson Mandela. As a leader he epitomised leadership, political genius, integrity, justice, forgiveness, generosity and humility. As an individual he was warm and friendly, with a natural charm, keen sense of humour and an infectious laugh. He treated everyone as equals and with warmth and respect. For all these qualities to come together in one human being, to such great purpose, is unique.

Understandably, Nelson Mandela is revered and adored by all in South Africa, and beyond. He will endure as the inspiration for all their hopes for the future. It is a great privilege for me to pay tribute to the most revered and loved statesman of his time, and to be able to do this in your Lordships’ House. He always valued the support of the British people in the fight against apartheid and was a great admirer of our Parliament and this House. When I last met him about three years ago in his home in Johannesburg, he was sitting on a low sofa in his living room. Being quite frail, he struggled to rise. I said, “Madiba, please do not get up for me”, and he, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, replied as he rose, “I always stand up for a member of the House of Lords”.

3.07 pm

Baroness Boothroyd (CB): My Lords, rightly, much has been said about Nelson Mandela’s genius at forging friendships across the divide of politics and creating unity out of discord. I saw him demonstrate this skill during his state visit to Britain in 1996. It is among my most treasured memories. He was undoubtedly the greatest statesman to visit Westminster in my lifetime.

I witnessed his self-discipline and professionalism when he made his memorable address, void of all bitterness, to the joint session of Parliament in Westminster Hall. I was worried about him negotiating the narrow steps of that hall, worn by a thousand years of history.

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I had warned him about them at the state banquet in Buckingham Palace the night before and I did so again next morning. “Don’t worry, Madam Speaker”, he said, when we met at St Stephen’s entrance. “I came to look at them at 6 o’clock this morning”. What a man he was. The trumpets sounded and with that he took my hand and we mounted the steps of St Stephen’s and into great Westminster Hall. He was then 78 years old. After the ceremony he made straight for Margaret Thatcher, who was in the audience, smiling happily, hand outstretched. She had branded him and the African National Congress as terrorists and she had resisted punitive sanctions against apartheid. But Mandela held no grudges. He said he hated apartheid—not white people.

Naturally, he will be remembered as South Africa’s first black president. But that was only half his achievement. What matters perhaps even more is that he was South Africa’s first democratic president—the first, we hope, in a long line of democratic leaders who will safeguard his legacy.

I was Chancellor of the Open University when we last met. I went to Cape Town to present him with the OU’s honorary doctorate. He was very fragile even at that stage, but he was gracious and as modest as ever. “I’m all right”, he told the press at a press conference afterwards, “Don’t worry, I’m all right”. He said, “I will tell you one thing. As soon as I get to those pearly gates you can be sure that I shall join the local branch of the ANC”.

There was no artifice about him. He believed in old-fashioned courtesies, tolerance and conciliation—qualities our own political leaders would do well to try sometime. But he was no stranger to discord. Mandela held the moral high ground and he created a rainbow nation shorn of the colour bar.

Much remains to be done in South Africa but his achievement set him apart among world leaders. He dispelled the racial prejudices that oppressed his people, disgraced its perpetrators and held his country back. He believed that the point of freedom was to make others free.

Goodbye Madiba, may we follow where you led.

3.11 pm

Lord Howe of Aberavon (Con): My Lords, very briefly, perhaps I may add to the impressive tributes that have been paid by noble Lords on all sides of the House and reflect on the period, almost 30 years ago, when the Commonwealth was taking action as widely as it could to try to secure improvements in conditions in South Africa. It commissioned a group of wise men, who were sent out there to see what could be done at a time when Nelson Mandela had already spent 27 years on Robben Island. When the two selected—Tony Barber, a former Minister in this country, and Malcolm Fraser, a former Australian Prime Minister—went in to see Nelson Mandela, his first, most impressive, question was, “Can you tell me, is Don Bradman still alive?”. What more could he have said, even there, to those two in the prison and to the rest of us back here in Britain, to underline his qualification as something more than a citizen of South Africa—as

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a citizen of the world indeed? On that basis, I am sure that he deserved the support that he was already enjoying at that time.

3.13 pm

Lord Kinnock (Lab): My Lords, for 50 years since I first campaigned against apartheid in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre, Nelson Mandela has been a supreme inspiration to me. He showed unsurpassed bravery and endurance in his fight against oppression and unequalled humanity in his guidance to South Africa and the world. He had the strength to be merciful, the wisdom to be gentle and generous. I salute those qualities of truly great leadership. It was a marvellous privilege to meet Mandela the hero, a delight to know Nelson the man. I cherish memories of times together, of his mischievous humour and of his dazzling smile. To be called “comrade” by such a man was an irreducible honour. I join with countless others, here and across the world, in offering my affection and deepest sympathy to Graça, his widow, and to their family.

Nelson Mandela never forgot the past of hatred and bigotry, of searing injustice and violence, but from the outset his political life was resolutely committed to plotting, planning and building for a different future with his people. It was that which drove him to take up arms. It was that which gave him the resilience to withstand captivity and its dreadful indignities and tragedies. It was his fixation with the future that could be created which, in the late 1980s, made him withstand the proffered comforts of compromise and instead gain the courageous agreement of FW de Klerk to release him unconditionally and to prepare for non-racial democracy. It was Mandela’s dedication to the future which, above all, made him exert his full authority as a warrior, a convict and a leader to compel reconciliation when vengeful reprisal could have brought remorseless racial civil war and desolated South Africa.

As we pay tribute to Mandela’s determined and valorous idealism, we must do him the justice of recognising his daring realism. In this House, evolved through centuries of conquest and preferment, I would not lecture the leadership of a 19 year-old democracy about its conscience or its duty. I do not need to. In the most explicit terms, Mandela himself charted the course that must be followed. At the Rivonia trial, at which my noble friend Lord Joffe played a brave and distinguished part, when Nelson and his comrades were faced with the lethal probability of execution, he said in plain, provocative words which have resonated through the decades, as we have already heard from my noble friend:

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and see realised. But, my Lord, if it need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

He did live for that ideal, but did not see it realised. But he dedicated his life to securing the conditions in which it could be fulfilled by free people, governed by mortals who apply a measure of the integrity, dignity, bravery and sagacity that were central to Nelson Mandela’s being.

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That was his true legacy. Honouring it must now surely propel the current leadership of the ANC into embracing reform and transparency, strengthening accountability and combating the self-indulgence and corruption which so retard Mandela’s beloved country and its people. If that course is not taken, Nelson Mandela will be their brilliant, brave, but unrequited dead hero. If it is taken, as he would have wanted, he will have a fitting, enduring, living memorial of full freedom in South Africa. He deserves that and South Africa sorely needs it.

3.18 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, in 1990 I was in South Africa with my husband, doing something that Mandela had asked others to do, namely beginning the training of young Africans to fill places in the civil service, which they would have to do almost immediately if there was truly to be a rainbow nation and truly to be a South Africa that both administratively and politically represented all the peoples of that great republic.

We were in South Africa at the time Mandela came out of prison. I remember watching the march as he removed himself from the terrible, hellish place in which he had been, and recognising that there was the sense that day that the sun had risen over South Africa—a wonderful moment. I would like also to pay great tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, who was indeed a crucial part of the construction of a democratic South Africa.

One other thing which is important is that one of the very closest friends that Nelson Mandela had was the famous white South African, Helen Suzman. I mention her because he was extremely close to her and because some of us remember two things. First, there was never a month that passed in which she did not visit Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, against all the opposition that the Administration of white South Africa could produce. Secondly, and at least as importantly, we should remember on this occasion that from 1961 to 1974—13 bitter years—Helen Suzman was the only opponent in that Parliament of every aspect of apartheid. That meant that she was spurned, abused and, in some cases, threatened. Yet, day after day, her courage did not fail and she matched that of her dear friend and much beloved leader, Nelson Mandela. So on this occasion, as we celebrate that great man, I hope that we will celebrate also those men and women of all races who had the courage and strength to support him in what he did and who will be, in many ways, part of his lasting memorial.

3.21 pm

Lord St John of Bletso (CB): My Lords, I wish to add a few words of tribute as one who lived in South Africa for 28 years of the 40-year apartheid regime and one who had the good fortune of getting to know Nelson Mandela, known to us all as Madiba, over many occasions. I shall remember him for his charming and engaging smile, his empathy and humility, his

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magnanimity, his vast self-confidence and pragmatic approach to life as well as, most importantly, his forgiveness and mantra of inclusivity.

There is no doubt that Madiba will be remembered as one of the most important and distinguished politicians of the past century. He will be remembered as a universal icon for his lack of bitterness, after 27 years of incarceration, and for his incredible negotiating skills in achieving peace and reconciliation in a country where most of us believed that civil war would be inevitable. One of the most remarkable achievements in South Africa was for him to persuade the Afrikaners to agree to a peaceful settlement. It is well known that in his last five years in prison, he had no fewer than 70 secret meetings with Kobie Coetsee, the Minister of Justice, and Niel Barnard, the national intelligence chief, to explore the possibility of a political accommodation between blacks and whites.

After his release, his agile negotiations on the national anthem and his support for Francois Pienaar ahead of the Rugby World Cup changed the minds of everyone in South Africa, both black and white, and created unity in what was, no doubt, the most racially divided country in the world. His death has further inspired the youth and forces for positive change in South Africa to achieve the rainbow nation and follow his legacy.

3.23 pm

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, I was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela on several occasions. On each occasion, I was inspired by him and marvelled at his strength and courage. I am also proud to report that he poured me a cup of tea at his home in Soweto, soon after his release; indeed, I can boast that I have been hugged by him.

From the 1960s until the end of the 1980s, in the anti-apartheid movement we struggled with the idea that apartheid could be overcome peacefully, but we knew that it would eventually end as a political system, leaving in its wake the misery and suffering that it had created. We watched from afar those barricades of burning tyres and the street battles fought in the townships by unarmed youngsters against a well armed and brutal police force set upon destroying black opposition. In desperation, Nelson Mandela advocated and engaged in the armed resistance in the early 1960s, but it was he who insisted upon peace and reconciliation when the white minority eased its grip on power 30 years later.

Like others here today, I joined the anti-apartheid movement in the 1960s and can confirm that that wonderful solidarity movement, through every form of persuasion—from letters to newspapers, mass picketing and demonstrations to rugby and cricket pitch invasions—was able to play a part in shifting public opinion and in exposing the apartheid regime as an international pariah. It is, indeed, regrettable that the anti-apartheid movement did not enjoy the support of the Government or the Prime Minister of the day. However, I believe that the world is a better place because of the solidarity that was shown in those dark days, with South Africans seeking justice and freedom.

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Nelson Mandela publicly emphasised the contribution made by those efforts in the United Kingdom to isolate the apartheid state.

Now we mourn the man who achieved so much, who challenged the might of white minority apartheid and who forged a new rainbow nation after 27 years in prison. In the last few days we have realised how much he meant to us and how much respect and affection he has earned across the world. He was loved and he will be missed, not least by his beloved wife, Graca Machel. I can only imagine her great sadness at her loss. It was she who gave him love, trust and real happiness. Nelson famously said that Graca made him “bloom like a flower”; we know that she will be feeling deeply her loss at this time.

Other noble Lords have mentioned Nelson Mandela’s visit as the first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa to speak to the joint Houses of Parliament in 1996. He said:

“We are in the Houses in which Harold Macmillan worked: he who spoke in our own Houses of Parliament in Cape Town in 1960, shortly before the infamous Sharpeville Massacre, and warned a stubborn and race-blinded white oligarchy in our country that,

‘the wind of change is blowing through the continent’;

he to whom a South African cartoonist paid tribute by having him recite other Shakespearean words,

‘Oh, pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth,

That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!’”.

Then he said:

“We have come as friends to all the people of the native land of the Archbishop Trevor Huddleston”—

a great friend and comrade to Madiba—

“who in his gentle compassion for the victim, resolved to give no quarter to any butcher”.

He went on to emphasise the nature of the relationship between South Africa and Britain, which was,

“not one between poor citizens on the one hand and good patricians on the other, but one underwritten by our common humanity and our human capacity to touch one another’s hearts across the oceans”.

No one could have articulated the great cause of liberty and solidarity better; and no one did.

3.28 pm

Lord Bilimoria (CB): My Lords, I returned today from India, having attended the UK-India Round Table. We started our meeting on 6 December with two minutes’ silence for Nelson Mandela. In fact, India has declared state mourning for five days. We could not even consume alcohol at the meeting.

I was born and brought up in India and married my South African wife a year after Mandela was freed in 1990. When I first visited the Free State she came from, my family there told me, “If you had come just a few months earlier, no Indian was allowed to spend the night in the Free State”. An Indian whose car broke down on the way from Johannesburg to Durban would report to the police and invariably would have to spend the night in jail. Things have changed, thanks to Nelson Mandela and President F W de Klerk.

One individual who has not been mentioned in these amazing tributes is Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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He is the one who has spoken about the word “ubuntu”, which anyone who has been to South Africa knows about. The person who personified ubuntu was Nelson Mandela himself. As he said, ubuntu is about not enriching oneself but putting back into the community with human kindness. We can see that in his lack of bitterness, his ability to forgive and that saying of his:

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.

What about Mahatma Gandhi? Nelson Mandela was a huge admirer of Gandhi. In fact, he said:

“India is Gandhi’s country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both an Indian and a South African citizen”.

He also said:

“Both Gandhi and I suffered colonial oppression, and both of us mobilized our respective peoples against governments that violated our freedoms”.

Is it not amazing that these two men had difficulties with our two great Prime Ministers—Mahatma Gandhi with Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela with Lady Thatcher?

The noble Lord, Lord St John, mentioned the great rugby victory. In prison on Robben Island, Mandela would often quote the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, and its last lines:

“I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul”.

Mahatma Gandhi’s most famous saying applies better to no one else—ever, ever—than Nelson Mandela. I will paraphrase it: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits form your character and your character determines your destiny”. Mandela has been an inspiration not just to his country, the world or this generation but for ever more.

3.31 pm

Lord Morris of Handsworth (Lab): My Lords, today we have heard about Mandela the great world leader and Mandela the statesman. I take the opportunity to share my experience of Mandela the ordinary man, whom I had the privilege of meeting on four separate occasions.

On the first occasion, I was in my office and the telephone rang. It was the leader of the Labour Party, the late John Smith. He said, “Can you come to the office? There is someone here I would like you to meet”. I walked in, Mandela was sitting there and I did a double-take. The conversation developed around the question of how we could shape a political party on the basis of equity of all the constituents—the people who matter. At that time, my party was debating one person’s shortlist and how we could bring more women within the context of our party’s leadership. John Smith turned to Mandela and said, “Nelson, our research tells us that within the ANC constitution there is equity. But we also researched your office and we note that there is a preponderance of women against men in the presidential secretariat. How did you cope with all that?” Nelson said: “It was worse than being in Robben Island”.

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My second experience was when I led a delegation on behalf of my union to South Africa. Naturally, we went to Johannesburg and it was all set up for me to meet Mandela. I met him on time and he signed a copy of his autobiography, The Long Walk To Freedom. After about 20 minutes or half an hour, he said, “I am very sorry but I must curtail this discussion, interesting as it is, because I have to get down to Cape Town. I have a very important statement to make to Parliament”. We said our goodbyes. I noted on the evening news that it was the day that he advised Parliament that the relationship with Winnie had come to an end and she would play no further official role within the spheres of government.

My last meeting was as a member of the receiving delegation at Brixton. I was standing in the line. He came up to me and said, “You are the man who nearly made me miss my plane”. He did not miss his plane, but the world will certainly miss him.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): My Lords, we have had remarkable tributes, very much like the man himself. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, has been waiting to contribute for some time and has graciously given way to other Peers. I feel that the mood of the House is to wish to hear from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, and then perhaps to move on to the Orders of the Day.

3.35 pm

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Lab): My Lords, I thank the House for tolerating one last speech. As a child of the 1960s, I was much influenced by the events in South Africa, events that struck me at such a tender age as being pivotal to my upbringing. Apartheid robbed people, both black and white, of their humanity, because it damaged the souls of those who inflicted it on others as much as it damaged those men and women who suffered from it. It was extraordinary that although many people feared that South Africa would be robbed of its humanity for all time, apartheid did not rob Nelson Mandela—Madiba—of his humanity. Throughout all the stress, the strain and the pressure of those years, he remained quintessentially human, kind and loving.

That love spread right across the world and allowed young people like me to think that it was possible to join the legal profession, possible to become part of the rule of law and possible to facilitate change. That change was fundamental not only to South Africa but to our country, the United Kingdom. How many people in the 1960s would have thought that one day we would have a black, female Attorney-General? But we did, because our humanity has changed and Nelson Mandela helped us to make that change.

We have also benefited from the jurists who came from South Africa to help us here, not just my noble friend Lord Joffe, but also the noble and learned Lords, Lord Scott of Foscote and Lord Steyn, whom I see on the Bench. Those eminent South African jurists ran from South Africa and from apartheid, but they enriched our humanity by enriching our jurisprudence. I give thanks to South Africa for them, and I give

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thanks for the life of Nelson Mandela. To those who loved him he was Madiba, and all those who knew him were among that number.

One of the most special things about him was that he did not differentiate between men and women, and from my experience he loved women very much. I am not at all surprised that he showed the good judgment to surround himself with women at all times, to give him counsel, to add to his wisdom, to enrich his life and to make sure that he kept on the straight and narrow path. I join my voice with all those who say that we not only greatly enjoyed his presence but deeply loved and appreciated what he did for his country and what he did for each of us.



3.39 pm

Asked by Baroness Cox

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of recent developments in Burma with regard to the situation of the ethnic national groups, in particular the Kachin, Shan and Rohingya peoples.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, we welcome continuing talks between the Burmese Government and ethnic groups, including the Kachin and Shan, towards a nationwide ceasefire and political settlement. We are, however, concerned by recent reports of fighting in Kachin state and continue to argue for full humanitarian access. We continue to monitor tensions in Rakhine state and press for improved security and accountability, better co-ordination of humanitarian assistance and a solution to the question of Rohingya citizenship.

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I thank the Minister for her encouraging and helpful reply. Is she aware that I have visited Kachin and Shan states, where I have seen massive civilian displacement, widespread suffering caused by the Burmese army’s continuing military offensive and violations of human rights? Therefore, the proposed engagement of the British Army with the Burmese army is causing such anxiety that ethnic national leaders have written a letter highlighting their concerns. What assurance can the Minister give that this co-operation will provide no enhancement of Burmese military capacity for further assaults on its civilians but will be conditional on progress on the protection of human rights and a genuine peace process?

Baroness Warsi: As ever, my Lords, the noble Baroness comes to Question Time with the most up-to-date information, and I very much value her input. As she will be aware, the Burmese military is a core political force in Burma. It is therefore important that professionalism and human rights as an essential element of the work they do is part and parcel of their training.

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The focus of our defence engagement in Burma is on adherence to the core principles of democratic accountability, international law and human rights. We have been delivering a course—a course which has been delivered in many other parts of the world—that specifically focuses on the professionalisation of the work that the army does. The Chief of the Defence Staff visited Burma earlier this year to deepen that engagement. I can assure the noble Baroness and other noble Lords that we will not be involved in the sale or transfer of arms or military equipment or play a part in military combat. We are involved in the professionalisation and accountability that the Burmese army needs to be aware of when conducting operations.

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, Aung San Suu Kyi stated that Nelson Mandela made us all understand that nobody should be penalised for the colour of his skin or the circumstances into which he was born. Sadly, the Rohingya Muslims are still being persecuted on grounds of their race, ethnicity and religion. What representations are Her Majesty’s Government making to the Burmese Government that they should sign up swiftly to the basic international norms in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? Without such a commitment, how can the Minister assure the UK taxpayer that our aid is being distributed without discrimination?

Baroness Warsi: The discrimination against the Rohingya community and, indeed, against Muslims in other parts of Burma, is a matter of huge concern. It was raised at the highest level by the Prime Minister in discussions with President Thein Sein when he visited earlier this year. It is important for us to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground in relation to the Rohingya community and to deal with the long-term issue of citizenship. My noble friend has made an incredibly important point. The basis of the argument used by the Minister who raised the issue with me was that the Rohingya were not really members of the Burmese community because they looked different, they had not been in the country long enough and they were from a different religion. I am sure that the irony of that was lost on the Burmese Minister when he was talking to me.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, a national census is due to take place in Burma in 2014, as I am sure the noble Baroness knows. It has largely been funded by the United Nations and, as I understand it, the UK will contribute $16 million. In view of the appalling levels of religious and ethnic discrimination in Burma, does the Minister anticipate that the Rohingya—who are not officially recognised, as we have heard, as one of the country’s ethnic groups—will be included on equal terms in that census? In view of that reality, how do our Government intend to ensure that the UN guarantees a complete count of the population of Burma?

Baroness Warsi: This is a hugely controversial issue in Burma. There are concerns about the way in which the Government would like to define the Rohingya

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community, not so much as Rohingya but as Bangladeshis—I think that they want to define them as Bengalis. We have raised this issue. Some recommendations were made in the internal report that was done, and the President made some positive comments. We have also put forward evidence that shows the length of time that the Rohingya community has lived in Burma. I am not sure that I can give the noble Baroness a specific answer but I will write to her with further details.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, given that my noble friend has mentioned humanitarian assistance, can she tell us what discussions the Government are having with Burma’s neighbours about the people from all the tribes that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, mentioned, who are displaced across Burma’s boundaries? Particularly in light of the forthcoming census, are the Government supporting efforts to identify those who should rightly be identified as Burmese but are displaced externally?

Baroness Warsi: We have of course had discussions not just within Burma but with the Thai authorities. I had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Bangladeshis and, indeed, had an opportunity to visit Cox’s Bazar, where there are large numbers of the displaced community. We have committed £180 million up to 2015, which is specifically humanitarian assistance. Some of that is for use in relation to individual communities, such as the Kachin and the Rohingya, within Burma, but some is for peacebuilding and support along the Thai-Burmese border. I am not sure that I caught all of my noble friend’s question because of the noise but I hope that that answers it.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, has the noble Baroness had the opportunity to look at the Human Rights Watch report that has categorised what is happening to the Rohingya people as genocide, and said that what is happening in Kachin state amounts to war crimes in the perfectly technical sense, not just in the rhetorical sense? Given those allegations, can she tell us what the Government are doing about raising that issue, particularly in the Security Council? Does she accept the underlying point that the ethnic minorities in Burma are in grave danger of being exploited more and more as the country opens up, and that more needs to be done to protect them during this process of opening up?

Baroness Warsi:Yes, I amfamiliar with the report; and alongside that report we have our own disturbing and specific allegations which have been backed up by comprehensive evidence. However, at this stage we feel that rather than a UN-mandated inquiry, it would be better and probably more likely to be effective if it were done internally by the Burmese, and we have been encouraging them to go down that route. The noble Lord will also be aware that the Burmese Government have agreed to open up an OHCHR office. The President made a commitment to an office with a full mandate but it has not at this stage been fulfilled. The noble Lord may also be aware of a recent

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UN Third Committee resolution which focuses on concerns about the delay to the opening of that office. We think that the opening of an office with a full mandate is one of the ways in which we could take forward some of these concerns.

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Funding


3.47 pm

Asked by Baroness Prosser

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s proposed programme bids will be funded; and, for those that will not be funded, why not.

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, the process for the commission to access additional programme funding is set out in its framework document. The Government have now approved, in whole or in part, more than half of the bids submitted by the EHRC under this facility. The main reason that the remaining bids were not approved was concern over their value for money.

Baroness Prosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for that reply. In light of the Government’s recent successful application for membership of the UN Human Rights Council, could she explain how she hopes the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is recognised by the UN as the independent watchdog for human rights in Britain, will work with civil society to monitor our compliance with the human rights treaties to which the Government are a signatory? Will the Government, as they indicated in their application to the UN, actively support the commission in this work and thereby reconsider the decision not to allocate funds for capacity-building in NGOs around UN treaty monitoring?

Baroness Northover: I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for the work that she has done in this area. As she knows, the EHRC has its core funding for its core responsibilities and, obviously, in relation to the UN Human Rights Council, that is part of what it is doing. The grants that were rejected were rejected because they either duplicated what others were doing or were regarded as poor value for money. On building capacity for NGOs to contribute to UN treaty monitoring, there was a concern about duplication because many of the bid’s constituent parts may already be provided by others, including the voluntary sector.

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): My Lords, under Article 33 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Government are obliged to fund disabled people and organisations that support them. Is this still the case, given the changes that have recently been made?

Baroness Northover: We are very much committed to working with disabled people and their organisations. As I said, the EHRC has some core responsibilities; as regards those grants, we are talking about additional

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areas for which the EHRC put in bids. I can assure my noble friend that the EHRC plays an important part in the independent mechanism for monitoring the convention. A number of the EHRC’s bids for additional funding have not been approved in this instance because of the concern about value for money. However, that does not affect the EHRC’s core budget and its responsibilities.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, the Minister says that only half the bids have been agreed to, which I understand. What plans, if any, are being made for the money that has not been allocated? What do the Government propose to do with it?

Baroness Northover: I do not have any information about what would happen to money that has not been allocated. Nine bids were submitted and five of them have been approved. One of them was somewhat contingent on the progress made within that bid, after which further money will be brought in if it goes well. However, I do not have any information about the money that is left over.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, we are told that core funding is okay because that is a totally separate question. However, one’s impression is that we passed legislation with a need to implement it through secondary legislation, and the EHRC has many times been given the responsibility to monitor and implement that secondary legislation. Is the Minister saying that the core funding is keeping pace with all the extra secondary legislation that we are asking the EHRC to implement?

Baroness Northover: I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, will come and tell us one way or the other. However, my understanding is that the Ministers responsible are working very closely with the EHRC—I am very glad to see the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, nodding—to ensure that it can focus on those core responsibilities. There was, as the noble Lord will probably remember, a previous concern—for example, from the National Audit Office—that some of the extraneous activities around the edge were taking away from those core responsibilities. The bids here do not relate at all to the monitoring of how statutory instruments and so on might operate. That would all be part of the core responsibilities. To come back to the previous question, neither would one assume that all bids would automatically be approved—to do so would be fallacious. Just because the EHRC put in bids for the amount up to the limit of what might have been available, that should not indicate that it will all be allocated if all those bids do not pass the same tests as those that were accepted.

Visas: Artists and Entertainers


3.54 pm

Asked by The Earl of Clancarty

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to improve the official information available, including on the United Kingdom Border Agency

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website, for long- and short-term visitors to the United Kingdom, and in particular artists and entertainers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, on 21 November Visa4UK, the UK’s online visa application system for overseas customers, was upgraded to make applications easier to complete. The content of the former UKBA’s website will be transferred to gov.uk by the end of March 2014. Those measures will make immediate improvements to the online customer experience for all users, including the artists and entertainers mentioned by the noble Earl in his Question.

The Earl of Clancarty (CB): I thank the Minister for that helpful reply but does he realise that the official artists and entertainers information is out of date and does not include the permitted paid engagements scheme the Government introduced to improve the system? Can something be done more quickly to ensure that those planning to visit this country have access to the most up-to-date information at all times? They cannot wait on UKBA reorganisation.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this is well recognised by us and we regret that the publication of the revised leaflet, of which the noble Earl will be well aware, has been delayed. We plan to publish the revised leaflet in the next few weeks on the existing website. It will move in due course to gov.uk as part of the wider web content migration. We are grateful for the contribution made by the noble Earl and representatives of the arts sector in developing the leaflet and for their helpful feedback on immigration systems for artists and entertainers.

Lord Clement-Jones (LD): My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware of the case of the singer and composer Pamela Z, who came from San Francisco on a PPE visa on the invitation of Sussex University and City University, London? She was held by UKBA at Gatwick for more than three hours and eventually allowed to enter only on the extraordinary condition that she could teach at Sussex but not perform at City University. Can my noble friend clarify whether non-EU performing artists invited on these visas by higher education institutes can both teach and perform? Indeed, perhaps he can tell us how to distinguish between the two on every occasion.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My noble friend makes a very good point. In fact, I have had some briefing on this incident and I am grateful that it has been drawn to our attention. We suspect that a deficiency in the guidance of the operation of the rules rather than the rules themselves led to this incident. I do not want to go into a lot of detail about a particular circumstance but my noble friend’s comments have not gone unnoticed.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, this is a bit of a shambles and it is also becoming highly embarrassing for the UK. Towards the end of last week a London concert by the Pakistani Sachal Jazz Ensemble was cancelled because of visa problems. The residents of New York had enjoyed packed performances

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at the Lincoln Center just the week before but the musicians had problems getting visas to come to the UK. A Home Office statement today says:

“Britain is open for business and genuine visitors and tourists coming here to enjoy our world class attractions, study or do business are always welcome”.

It does not appear like that to those artists and performers who are having great problems getting to this country to perform, so our citizens are denied the opportunity to see them whereas American citizens have not been. Can the noble Lord give this urgent attention? I am sorry to say that his answers so far sound slightly complacent.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I hope the noble Baroness will never assume that I am complacent about anything. I am well briefed on this subject too and this incident. It is part of our commitment to work with those putting on concerts and international events to ensure that they are aware of the visa application process. However, the responsibility to have the correct visas rests with people coming here and guidance is available on the website to help them before they travel. As with any other visitors to the UK, we expect individuals to meet our entry requirements. I can say no more than that.

The Lord Bishop of Truro: My Lords, I do not wish to argue that all clergy are entertainers as that would not be true in my experience. But can the Minister comment on the frustration felt again and again by Christian people—clergy and others, especially from Africa—who are invited by dioceses in this country with expenses guaranteed? They have to travel long distances and are not always able to access websites to apply for a visa and are then faced with delay or refusal based on the assumption that they will not return home to their families and responsibilities.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am sure the right reverend Prelate will be aware of the responsibility on all Border Agency staff to deal judiciously with these matters. However, they can act only on the information that they have when people present themselves for entry. I hope that the new website will make it much easier for everybody to come here. If anybody is organising an event which involves people coming from overseas, they have an opportunity, in a spirit of partnership, to make sure that everybody is aware of the documentation they require. There is no difficulty getting that documentation provided the application is made.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe (CB): My Lords, will the Minister take a look at the Russian situation? Next year—2014—is designated the UK-Russia Year of Culture. At the first meeting of the joint Russian-British committee, we were informed by the Russian ambassador that considerable trouble and expense are involved in getting Russian artists over here to perform. As we are about to embark on a joint year of culture, as I said, perhaps he will be kind enough to look at this.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am very happy to pass that message on within the Home Office. I recognise the importance of Russian art and culture in many art forms, not least music. We have made enormous strides

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in our relationship with China, another country with a large number of potential visitors, and we hope that that will set a useful precedent for arrangements we can make with Russia.

Energy: Prices


4.01 pm

Tabled by Lord Kennedy of Southwark

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the impact of recent energy price rises on local authorities in financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17, compared to a price freeze.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark, and with his consent, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): My Lords, the Government are helping local authorities with their energy bills. The Salix Finance public sector energy efficiency loan scheme provides interest-free loans to public sector organisations, including local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. Last week we announced an additional £90 million of funding to help improve the energy efficiency of public sector buildings. The Government Procurement Service purchases energy on behalf of many public sector organisations, including local authorities, resulting in lower energy costs for the public sector.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, we know that local authority budgets are being cut to the bone and many local authorities are already struggling to meet their statutory obligations to vulnerable people. Notwithstanding what the Minister has said, does she agree that, by ruling out price freezes, households are faced with a double challenge of rising energy prices at home and further cuts to vital local authority services on which so many depend?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, although the Government cannot, of course, control wholesale prices, in our announcement last week we put forward a package of measures which should help local authorities and consumers. The noble Lord will be aware that only today the OECD said that if it were to follow the noble Lord’s party’s plans on an energy price freeze, there would be underinvestment as investment would be frightened off coming to the UK. I am sure that is not what the noble Lord or his party want, but, sadly, that is what would happen. The noble Lord will also be aware of the complete drop in share prices across energy companies following the statement made by the leader of his party in September.

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Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, as part of their localism agenda, the Government have removed many restrictions on local authorities, one of which is the ability to generate electricity from their own resources. Will my noble friend the Minister remind us what income this initiative has generated for the benefit of council tax payers?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. This initiative is of great benefit to local communities and allows local authorities to look at how community-based renewable energy schemes can not just benefit local communities but help local consumers reduce their energy costs.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, my right honourable friend Ed Miliband is certainly leading the country in many ways and forcing many U-turns on the Government, but it would be extraordinary if the leader of the Opposition were to have such an impact on the share prices of energy companies 18 months away from a general election. That said, I note what the noble Baroness said about new measures which she believes will have a beneficial impact on local authorities. Have calculations been made about the rise in energy prices for hospitals, health centres and health in general in this country?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, the noble Baroness is being incredibly complacent if she thinks that making a statement would not have an impact on share prices across the country. Of course, it undermines investor confidence. We need to make sure that people wishing to invest in the energy infrastructure of this country are confident that we will have a stable set of measurements. That gives confidence to investors rather than deters them from coming here. The noble Baroness asked a number of questions about what we are doing to help. We have done an awful lot to help consumers get through the difficult period. Through ECO we have put in many measures to help 230,000 of our most vulnerable households. There are cold weather payments and there will be warm house discounts to help them see out cold winters. This Government are doing a lot to ensure that those who need help will receive it.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, is the Minister telling the House that the Government believe that those people with shares in energy companies are right to be confident that Labour will win the next general election? That is the implication of what she is saying. However, I do not expect a detailed answer to that point. Will the Minister say what she thinks will be the impact on police budgets of rising energy costs and whether this will further add to the loss of local neighbourhood policing in various parts of the country?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, on the noble Lord’s first question, no, I do not expect his party to win. In fact, I am trying to point out that he and his party ought to be very careful that we do not undermine this

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country’s great strength in attracting inward investment. Making complacent statements that have no substance puts investors off.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con): Does my noble friend think that I am being too optimistic in believing that my Centrica shares will start going up again as we approach the next election and the chances of the Conservatives winning it will increase?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, as long as we have a Conservative Government in place, I am sure that we will all benefit.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the politics are very interesting, but the noble Baroness has been asked two questions—one about the impact of energy price rises on hospitals and the health community in this country and the second about the impact on police forces and policing. If the noble Baroness is not able to reply to these questions today, will she write with the requisite information?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, I do not wish to avoid answering any questions but, given the time, I have to answer as much as I can of the questions that I am given. The Government Procurement Service purchases energy on behalf of many public sector organisations, including, I am sure, the organisations to which the noble Baroness refers. Harnessing that collective purchasing power and buying directly on the wholesale market results in lower energy costs.

Baroness Maddock (LD): My Lords, does my noble friend remember, like me, that the present leader of the Labour Party was once the Secretary of State for Energy? Does she also remember that, far from increasing competition in the market, which is the one way that we will drive down prices, we saw competition decrease on his watch?

Baroness Verma: My noble friend is absolutely right. When the party opposite came to power, there were 14 energy companies. When it left, there were six. I am glad to announce that since then eight independent generators have come on the scene.

European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Colombia and Peru Trade Agreement) Order 2013

Motion to Approve

4.09 pm

Moved by Lord Popat

That the draft Order laid before the House on 21 October be approved.

Relevant documents: 13th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 2 December.

Motion agreed.

9 Dec 2013 : Column 590

Infrastructure Planning (Business or Commercial Projects) Regulations 2013

Motion to Approve

4.09 pm

Moved by Lord Popat

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 31 October be approved.

Relevant documents:13th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 18th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, considered in Grand Committee on 2 December.

Motion agreed.

Children and Families Bill

Report (1st Day)

4.10 pm

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Nash

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Contact between prescribed persons and adopted person’s relatives

(1) In section 98 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (pre-commencement adoptions: information), after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) Regulations under section 9 may make provision for the purpose of facilitating contact between persons with a prescribed relationship to a person adopted before the appointed day and that person’s relatives.”

(2) In each of subsections (2) and (3) of that section, for “that purpose” substitute “a purpose within subsection (1) or (1A)”.

(3) In subsection (7) of that section, after the definition of “appointed day” insert—

““prescribed” means prescribed by regulations under section 9;”.”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): My Lords, I am delighted to be starting the Report stage of the Children and Families Bill. I know that we are all hoping to make significant progress through the Bill this afternoon and evening, but before I speak to my first amendment, I hope noble Lords will allow me to share a few words of thanks.

We had some very good debates in Committee over 12 days and I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to those debates and to those who came to the many meetings we had during Committee and since on specific issues. I found the debates and those meetings extremely helpful, and I have tried hard on those relatively few matters where we do not have a consensus really to understand both sides of the argument. I am grateful for the patience and expertise of all noble Lords who have taken time to talk to me and I have shared those discussions with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and my honourable friend the Minister for Children and Families—noble Lords will realise, I am sure, that they have been supporting me on a learning curve which has been, at times, almost vertical.

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I am also grateful to noble Lords for tolerating the large volume of paper that I and the Bill team have been sending their way. Some people have been kind enough to say that our meetings and correspondence have been helpful, and I very much hope that has truly been the case. We have now shared improved indicative statutory guidance on adoption, sibling contact for children in care, care leavers’ access to records and support for care leavers aged between 21 and 24 who are not in education, training or employment. We have also shared information on new regulations and guidance on support for trafficked children. Copies of that information are in the Printed Paper Office if noble Lords do not already have them. Some of the guidance addresses issues that we will continue to discuss today; in other areas, I am pleased that we have been able already to make progress towards addressing the issues that your Lordships have raised.

A number of noble Lords were kind enough to join me in a discussion with our new chief social worker, Isabelle Trowler. Isabelle was inspirational in her account of the reforms she is helping the Government to drive to improve the confidence, professional skills and quality of social workers. Achieving that will do more than any primary or secondary legislation or statutory guidance can do on its own to secure the step change we all want to see in support for our most vulnerable children.

There are also some issues on which we have been persuaded that legislation is the answer. Noble Lords will see further evidence of this when I table amendments to Part 3 of the Bill later this week. If we proceed at pace tonight, we will be able to speak about the Government’s commitment to use this Bill to legislate on “staying put” arrangements for care leavers in foster care.

Returning to the matter in hand, however, let me thank my noble friend Lady Hamwee and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for helping me to understand the initially confusing issue of access to intermediary services for the descendants of adopted people. There was one debate in Committee in which I felt we were operating in two completely parallel universes and there was also a moment in the debate when I felt there was an anomaly which could not possibly be as simple and straightforward as was being proposed. However, on investigation afterwards and following an extremely helpful meeting with my noble friend Lady Hamwee, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and a number of people who are experts in the field, it became clear that there was an anomaly that we needed to rectify. I am therefore delighted to be putting forward an amendment today that addresses this.

Under the current law as it applies to adoptions that took place before 30 December 2005, both the adopted person and the adopted person’s birth relatives are able to make use of an intermediary service to facilitate contact between them, but the children of the adopted person are not able to do so. My noble friend Lady Hamwee and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, have set out very clearly that this anomaly leaves a number of people in the dark about their family history. The proposed new clause will correct this anomaly. It will enable regulations to be

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made that will extend access to intermediary services to those who have a prescribed relationship with the adopted person. I should be clear that the reason that the proposed new clause does not apply to adoptions that took place after 30

December 2005 is because information about these adoptions is held and accessible under a different legal framework, which does not distinguish between descendants and other relatives.

Noble Lords may wonder why the wording of the new clause refers to “persons with a prescribed relationship” rather than “descendants”. Were we to put “descendants” on the face of the Bill, we believe that the extended access would be limited to children and grandchildren of the adopted person. While it is our intention that the regulations will, at a minimum, include the children and grandchildren of the adopted person, we also wish to consult on whether it is appropriate for others, such as spouses and siblings of the adopted person, to be able to access the same services.

With the help of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, the Government have explored the implications of this reform with the Law Commission and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and are confident that this new clause will close the current gap in the law. I hope that your Lordships agree that this amendment is necessary and I urge noble Lords to accept it. I thank again my noble friend Lady Hamwee and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for bringing this important matter to our attention. I am very glad to be able to rectify the problem. I beg to move.

4.15 pm

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I start where my noble friend the Minister started by referring to the series of meetings that he and his colleagues arranged as well as the many papers—I cannot remember what term he used, but it was a lot of paper, which was welcome—that we received during the period starting before the end of Committee. I do not think that I have ever known so many meetings as he was able to arrange, but they have been extremely helpful. Because we are on the first day of another stage of the Bill, I need to declare interests as patron of the Intercountry Adoption Centre and of PAC and as a president of London Councils.

It will not be a surprise that I support and welcome this amendment. I thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, for their support in Committee, the officials who struggled with the technicalities of the not-very-easy current provisions and, most of all, the Minister, who dealt with the matter with care and, if I may say so, very effective pragmatism. I know that I pass on the thanks of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and the Law Commission, both of which were involved, and of the individuals who have campaigned for this change. I have been able to show to the Bill team the very grateful and excited emails that I have had from the lady who has led the campaign. She and those with whom she is in touch can see that they will be able to answer questions about their own heritage, medical issues and indeed their very identity.

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I understand the Government’s caution to ensure that the extent of the new rights is appropriate, and the Minister has given us an assurance as to children and grandchildren being the minimum within the prescribed relationships. I hope that he can assure the House that the consultation on this will take place very soon after Royal Assent and that the necessary regulations are expected to follow very speedily so that the anomaly that has been identified can be corrected with the minimum of delay. I thank him and his colleagues very much indeed.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, I declare an interest at the beginning of the Report stage as a governor of Coram and as a patron of, among others, BAAF, PAC and Childhood First.

I start by saying that I think that this is a good Bill, though it needs some improvements. What is absolutely splendid is that in certain places the Minister has listened with great care and, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I am extremely grateful to him, not only for a number of very useful meetings on this particular amendment and indeed others, but also for the outcome. I am really very grateful indeed and look forward to that being a source of relief to a number of families.

Lord Nash: My Lords, I assure my noble friend Lady Hamwee that we will consult on this immediately after Royal Assent. I thank both her and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for their comments.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Clause 2: Repeal of requirement to give due consideration to ethnicity: England

Amendment 2

Moved by Baroness Butler-Sloss

2: Clause 2, page 2, line 12, at end insert—

“( ) In subsection (4)(d) (matters to which court or adoption agency must have regard), after “the child’s age, sex, background” insert “and (except in relation to an adoption agency in Wales, to which subsection (5) applies) religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.”

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I said that this was a good Bill; none the less, there are certain aspects of it with which, respectfully, I do not agree.

This amendment relates to comments at the beginning of the pre-legislative scrutiny report by the Select Committee on Adoption Legislation, which I had the honour of chairing. It was the unanimous view of the members of that committee that, compared with the previous position, the Government had gone too far in the opposite direction. Section 1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 lists eight considerations applying to the exercise of powers. The previous Government had included subsection (5) as a separate subsection. It reads:

“In placing the child for adoption, the adoption agency must give due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.

Instead of being one of a number of considerations, that was out front. The result was that social workers, who were dealing with what is properly called the “ethnicity question” up front, were refusing to place

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children for adoption with parents who were not of the same colour, the same persuasion or whatever, and this was impeding the very natural and highly to be commended desire of this Government for adoption to move speedily.

The Government therefore decided to take Section 1(5) out of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. So far, so good, but now they have gone too far the other way because it does not appear anywhere. The nearest you get to it is Section 1(4)(d) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which reads,

“the child’s age, sex, background and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant”.

The Government’s view is that that covers the ethnicity point but I do not share that view. The evidence that the Select Committee received was that, whereas social workers paid too much attention to that consideration when it appeared as a separate subsection, there was now a very real danger that they would not pay any attention to it at all. Matters which are of considerable importance to a child—their religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background—have to be taken into account. They must not be permitted to frustrate a proper adoption if the circumstances of the adoption come outside one of those matters but they must be included in the checklist of the various points to which the social workers, the adoption agency—but usually the social workers—and the court must have regard, and removing them presents a problem.

I have had various meetings with the Minister and I even gave him a cup of tea this afternoon before we embarked on what is going to be a very long evening. However, I am afraid that I am not persuaded by his suggestion that there should be statutory guidance. Having it on the face of the legislation means that it has “an importance” but not “the importance”, whereas we all know that, although statutory guidance is important, it may not necessarily be read as carefully as it might be. However, it cannot be entirely ignored if it is in primary legislation. I share the Select Committee’s thought, which was to tuck it in neatly into subsection (4)(d), so you would read it as,

“the child’s age, sex, background and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant”.

This would then include,

“religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.”

It would not be too prominent, but it would be there. For those reasons I wish to pursue this amendment, and I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have the other amendment in this group. Like the other members of the Select Committee, I agreed that certain characteristics of a child for whom adoption was sought should not be highlighted as if they overrode everything else. Like the other members, as the noble and learned Baroness has said, I was concerned that the wrong message might be taken from new legislation. In taking out a provision for due consideration—because that is all it is, not an overriding consideration—to be given to the child’s,

“religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”,

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Parliament would be saying that no consideration should be given. Like the noble and learned Baroness, I fear that guidance would not be enough in that situation.

I do not think we said this in Select Committee, but I am fearful about this. England would not be in the same situation as Wales. Wales will be keeping this wording. The fact that adoption is a devolved matter does not answer the concerns that I have. It would be seen as a very significant distinction. This swinging political pendulum has got to end up in the middle. As the noble and learned Baroness has said, it is not an overriding issue, nor something to be entirely discounted. In Committee I said there had been oversensitivity to what some parts of the media regard as political correctness. I know that the Minister’s concern is that minority-ethnic children are being short-changed. Sadly, the cohort that is being short-changed is the many children from all sorts of backgrounds who are waiting for adoption. The problem is the imbalance between their numbers and the numbers of prospective adopters. To adopt, one needs to be sensitive—to be understanding of the importance of religion, of racial origin, of cultural and linguistic background. It is not a matter of “being the same as”. People who are the same may not understand, and may not be sensitive enough. But that sensitivity, that openness, addressing issues which may arise—that is the matching which is important, not the direct same characteristics.

As the Government were not been persuaded in Committee, a different approach might appeal. My amendments would take out the references to age and sex so that the court and the agency should have regard to the child’s background and characteristics, because those cover everything. The Minister has said that background and characteristics must include ethnicity. He said that is a matter of plain English. Age and sex are also characteristics, so I hope that my plain English amendment might be helpful.

Baroness Perry of Southwark (Con): My Lords, pendulums do swing; it is very difficult to find a middle way. We are all agreed that it was wrong that for a period of time there was too much emphasis given to a child’s racial and religious background, as the noble and learned Baroness has said. That has resulted in appalling waiting times for children of some ethnic-minority backgrounds, who wait to be adopted for three or four times longer than white children—their contemporaries—do. That is not acceptable in our society. But we are in danger of swinging the pendulum a little bit back in the wrong direction by trying to put in the words of,

“religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.

I am of the view, which I understand is also the Minister’s view, that any sensible person trying to interpret the “background” would include racial, religious, cultural and linguistic origins. There is no way that you can look at someone’s background without taking those into account, otherwise the word “background” is meaningless. What else could it possibly mean?

I turn to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I have a lot of sympathy with her wishing to take out the racial, cultural and linguistic

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elements as put forward by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, but I wonder whether we have not taken too much out there. It is a question of the pendulum swinging in all directions. Given all the various views that there are here, it seems to me that we all want the same thing: we want children of ethnic-minority backgrounds to be able to be adopted as quickly as their contemporaries; and we also want all their background to be taken fully into account. Given the efforts we are making to get the pendulum to hang in the middle, I think the Government have got it just about right.

4.30 pm

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, my name is attached to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Our intention in paring this down to background and characteristics is to force people to look at the guidance. The Government tell us that they are strengthening the guidance considerably and will emphasise the need to understand that a child’s ethnicity is an important aspect of their identity. What concerns me particularly about taking ethnicity out altogether is that we will continue to have a large number of trans-racial adoptions. Hurrah to that, I say, as long as the child is going to a family who can love them, bring them up in a caring way and, if there are differences in background, ethnicity, culture and so on, understand how that affects the child. Whether through the Bill or in the guidance, we need to ensure that local authorities, when dealing with prospective parents, are able to investigate whether they are the kind of parents who would understand the importance of that characteristic of the children. I fear that taking “ethnicity” out will not fix the problem.

As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, there is a mismatch between the cohort of children waiting for adoption and the size of the cohort of parents prepared to adopt them. There is also a difference in the ethnicity of those two groups and that is why, until we can balance the ethnicity of the one group and the other, there will continue to be those trans-racial adoptions. That is why we need to make quite sure that, among all the other wonderful characteristics of those prepared to take the step and adopt a child who needs a home, there is that sensitivity and understanding of the child’s ethnic background. Whichever way we do it, it has got to be done well.

Baroness Whitaker (Lab): My Lords, following the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, with which I agree absolutely, I warmly support the amendment in the names of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and my noble friends on the Front Bench.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has unrivalled expertise. I have only personal experience—I am speaking as the parent of an adoptive child of Asian background—and it is my conviction that any child of a different racial background from the parents is deprived if it cannot identify easily, almost unconsciously, with someone close to it in the way children do. A baby first learns visually to recognise faces. A teenager depends very much on confirmation of his or her identity to develop confidence. A loving

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home is, of course, all important. I am speaking not only as a parent, but as a member of a support group for adoptive parents, so I am also aware of their experiences. You impose a burden and a cause of stress on a child if ethnicity—as far as is possible—is not respected.

Children survive all sorts of things and I hope we have had a happy family. But that in no way alters my conviction that the Government should pay attention to this need of children and accept this amendment.

Baroness Eaton (Con): My Lords, some interesting points have been made by the previous speakers, but one of the things none of us has mentioned so far is the valuable and important role of social workers in this exercise of matching children with appropriate, loving parents.

I worry that by being as prescriptive as putting something like this on the face of the Bill or making guidance hugely prescriptive, we are limiting the opportunities of social workers to be flexible and professional about their assessment. If we need to do anything, perhaps it is strengthening that kind of perception and understanding within social worker training. I have confidence that, if the Government choose to remove this, it does not mean that social workers will not look at each child’s background very fully; and not just the backgrounds of children who are easily identified as from a minority. The assumption that all Caucasian children, for instance, have no difference in their needs is quite ridiculous.

If we are prescriptive about applying considerations to do with parental connections only to the lives of children from ethnic minorities, we are not giving social workers the right to make the proper professional judgments. For example, if a Quaker family adopts a child from a Catholic background, it is just as important for them as it is for people of mixed ethnicity. I am concerned that if we are prescriptive and put something on the face of the Bill and are also prescriptive in the statutory guidance, we may make the situation worse in some cases.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, in Committee I spoke in support of Amendment 2. I quoted the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, in its legislative scrutiny report. This led to some debate about the implications of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for this clause.

I want to read from the letter that the chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights wrote to the Minister following our debate in Committee. He expresses disappointment at the Government’s refusal to accept the amendment. He writes: “In your response”—to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss—

“you said that ‘the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child does not require children to be placed with someone who shares exactly the same ethnicity but someone who respects it.’ That is correct, but what the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child does expressly require, in Article 20(3), is that ‘when considering solutions, due regard shall be paid … to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background’. Removing the statutory provision which gives effect to that obligation, without retaining those considerations in the welfare checklist, is incompatible with that provision of the Convention.

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Unless the Government accepts the amendment when it is brought back at Report stage, it seems to us to be inevitable that this aspect of the Bill will be the subject of criticism by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Government is currently finalising its Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, for submission in January 2014. My Committee will ensure that the issue is brought to the attention of the Committee when it examines the UK’s Report”.

Would it not make sense to listen to experts such as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the NSPCC? It has said that the amendment would,

“ensure that reference to ethnicity in the Adoption and Children Act is better balanced rather than it being given prominence in its current standalone form, and that it is appropriately recognised given its significance. We welcome the updating of statutory guidance … and are keen to work with DfE to input into this. However, while the detail of the guidance is certainly important it will only go so far in ensuring this is appropriately taken into account and could send a contradictory message as to its importance having removed this from primary legislation”.

That is one of the concerns—that having expressly taken this out of the legislation, and if nothing is put back, it will send out a message that whatever the statutory guidance says, this is not important. But it is important, and I really hope the Minister will think again. I know that his reading of the UN convention is different, but the Joint Committee on Human Rights is expressly given the duty to advise Parliament on the human rights implications of legislation. I hope the Minister will take seriously this rather strong advice given by the Joint Committee.

Baroness Meacher (CB): My Lords, I was not planning to speak in this debate at all but I feel strongly that we need to support my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss. I want to mention only one case—that of a really superb set of parents who adopted two children across the racial barrier; that is, two African children. You could not find better parents. They were both involved in the mental health services and were devoted to these two girls. It seemed that the thing was perfect. But both those girls committed suicide in their late teens. If we are to neglect the advice of the UN convention, we need to beware. It is no accident that these issues are emphasised so clearly, and no accident that our extremely experienced noble and learned friend, Lady Butler-Sloss, has tabled this amendment. We should support it.

Baroness Young of Hornsey (CB): My Lords, I support my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss on this amendment, as I did in Grand Committee. I do not want to repeat what other noble Lords have said, but I support very much what the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and my noble friend Lady Meacher said. The noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, said that she thought it would be restrictive to put these words back into the Bill. However, to urge people to have regard is perhaps not as restrictive as she thinks. The agencies from which I have received briefings and with which I have had round-table discussions, along with other discussions over a long period, also support the amendment tabled by my noble and learned friend.

That is not to say that everybody has a kind of purist, essentialist view on who should be adopting who, but to recognise that there are many other factors

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regarding black and mixed-race heritage children, and children with disabilities. Children with those kinds of backgrounds have experienced delays in the system for all kinds of reasons, not simply because of previous legislation. There are lots of different ways of supporting those children, too, which can be long-term. Fostering can provide long-term stability in lots of different ways. So, as I say, I support my noble and learned friend.

Baroness Morris of Yardley (Lab): My Lords, I support Amendment 2 and should like to comment briefly. What is strange is that it seems we are all in agreement. On the substance of the matter, there is not as much disagreement in this debate as I thought there would be when the Bill was published, which is interesting. To some extent, what we seem to be debating this evening is: what is the best way in legislation to give that message to people whose lives will be affected by what we decide?

4.45 pm

I want to add two points to that. The first is about perception. Throughout the implementation of this Bill, one problem will be not so much with the legislation but with how it is seen out there by people who have to interpret it. This is about changing culture. As far as this matter is concerned, the perception of people outside this Chamber is not that there is wide agreement across the political spectrum about the need to take these matters into account, but that this legislation intends to move the position to the other end from where it has been in the past. For me, the challenge is: how do we have something in law that clearly gives the message that it is all right to take into account a child’s ethnic background? Many people out there think that what this legislation is about is that it is not all right to consider a child’s ethnic and cultural background when making a decision on adoption.

I ask myself which of the two alternatives available to us—statutory guidance or something in primary legislation—will most strongly give the message about where this House wants to have the legislation. It has to be in the Bill; that is my non-expert interpretation. It would be unwise not to take the advice of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who is paramount in her expertise in this area. If I have to come down on one side or the other, I will go for that of the noble and learned Baroness, not the Minister. In the run-up to the Bill, the spin that the Government gave was that they were moving away from taking into account a child’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic background. That is where people in the wider world think they are. To get the pendulum back to the middle, we clearly need something in the Bill, and so far I have heard nothing that argues against that. To give that message and to get this new legislation to have a fair and good start is better served by putting it in the Bill. I support Amendment 2.

Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, I rise to speak with no real expertise on this matter, although, as it happens, my father was an adopted child. It is interesting that there has been a 20% increase in the number of looked-after children since 2009. I suspect that there is a

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perception that if you do not ethnically match, children will be hanging around waiting for a loving, caring family. I am not sure that that is the case. We all want the same thing, do we not? We all want to make sure that children are adopted by the right families, in all sorts of ways. I rarely disagree with my noble friend Lady Eaton, but if there is statutory guidance—and there will be—it is hugely important that the religious, heritage, cultural and ethnic issues are clearly spelt out. Presumably it is called “statutory” because it is backed by the full weight of the law. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will spell out how important that statutory guidance is.

I suspect that, for all sorts of reasons, we are at a bit of an impasse because of views shared by other people who are not in this Chamber. I understand that. Clearly, however, there has been real movement by the Government to have statutory guidance. I do not think that I would ever dare to disagree with the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. However, I think that social workers do take note, and will have to take note, of that statutory guidance, given that it is enshrined in law. They will know clearly what the thinking is. When the statutory guidance is put together, organisations such as the NSPCC will play a prominent part in making sure that it is fit for purpose and delivers what we all want.

Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, I learnt one lesson at the Home Office where I legislated for some years. When you make a list, the longer it is the more that considerations which are not on the list are excluded. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius: if you have a list of what must be done, the inference is that the rest does not have to be done. Therefore, if you are going to have a list, let it be complete.

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for listening to concerns raised in Grand Committee and for the many meetings with all interested parties over the past few weeks to find ways to move forward in dealing with adoption issues.

With regard to Clause 2, I acknowledge the Government’s argument for removing the requirement in primary legislation to have particular regard to,

“religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”,

as it has become evident that in some cases the current legislation of due consideration has been interpreted too bluntly, with some social workers giving undue regard to racial characteristics and seeking perfect ethnic matches. There is a need to find ways to avoid that happening—to find a balance. Statutory guidance could be the answer if it is fully thought through and applied. However, as we have already heard, there are concerns that the removal of the express requirement to give,

“due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”,

when matching a child with prospective adopters might increase the risk that a child’s racial origin will be completely ignored in matching decisions.

I would appreciate it if the Minister could tell the House what the Government propose should happen when a child is adopted by a family of different race,

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heritage or religion. How will the guidance ensure that those families are given help to understand, appreciate and engage with the background and culture of the children placed with them? How will the statutory guidance address identity, background and heritage issues that will almost certainly need to be dealt with at different times in a child’s life as, getting older, they grapple to understand their identity? As we have heard, some find it very difficult if they are not exposed to those issues. In short, how will adopters of a different background and ethnicity access additional training and support to help them understand issues their child might have to face, such as racism and identity crisis as well as religious and cultural differences?

I have spoken to both the NSPCC and CCS Adoption based in Bristol. I declare an interest as I am a patron of the latter. Both believe that a stronger case needs to be made before the removal of due consideration of race and ethnicity when a child is adopted. Some people have asked why we cannot simply amend the welfare checklist specifically to include ethnicity. Can the Minister explain the Government’s reasoning behind the decision not to do this?

One of CCS Adoption’s concerns is that guidance might be considered discretionary and is more likely not to be adhered to or might even be ignored. Just last week it was advised by its local authority that it was not the authority’s policy to undertake life story work with children or to produce a life story book for a child. In the local authority’s view, these tasks should be done by the adopters. Would statutory guidance make this clearly the responsibility of the local authority, as it holds the child’s key information? The life story workbook is key to any child coming through the care system in helping to preserve and develop their identity. To try to delegate these responsibilities to adopters when all the key information is held by the local authority is unacceptable as it does not ensure that the best interests of a child are met. Will this practice be addressed and enshrined in statutory guidance?

As we have heard, the NSPCC welcomes the updating of statutory guidance in relation to this issue and is keen to work with the department to input into this. However, it feels that this is work in progress and that at this stage it cannot commit wholeheartedly to endorsing the guidance. It and others have asked a number of questions to seek reassurance. What impact will the statutory guidance have and how will it be implemented? Aside from whether the guidance is statutory, as the Government are proposing to remove “due consideration” from primary legislation, do they think that stating this in guidance is contradictory and could lead to confusion among social workers as to whether it is a priority issue for consideration? How will the guidance ensure that all families are given help to understand, appreciate and engage with the background and culture of children placed with them? How will the Government ensure that local authorities actively recruit more adoptive parents from a range of ethnic backgrounds?

I believe that when a child is adopted by a family of different race, heritage or religion, that family must fully understand the child’s background and help the child to cherish their birth heritage. Adopters do not have to share the same ethnicity, but they must be able to respect the child’s background. They must be able

9 Dec 2013 : Column 602

to help the child to identify with their birth heritage and to be well prepared for issues that may arise as the child develops into a teenager and beyond. These adopters therefore need to be supported and helped by appropriate training to strengthen their skills together with their knowledge and understanding of the child's birth heritage, so that they can meet these needs.

This will undoubtedly avoid situations like the one I was made aware of recently by a young mixed race girl. She wrote:

“Growing up in a completely white family meant I didn’t get a taste of my heritage and not knowing my father meant that I wasn’t introduced to my black heritage until my teens. I feel strongly about this topic as I used to be picked on when I was younger and called an ‘Oreo’ (black on the outside, white on the inside) purely because I didn’t know or understand my black heritage”.

Over the years I have heard many similar stories.

Every child needs a loving and stable home, but they also need to be confident about their identity in order to face the world. We all agree that children must not suffer as a consequence of our decisions. So if we end up with statutory guidance, we must all work diligently to ensure that it is clear and understandable to all and not open to misinterpretation. As I always say, childhood lasts a lifetime and a child’s experiences shape their adulthood. So let us get this one right. I am happy to work with the Minister to do just that. In the mean time, I look forward to hearing how the Minister believes the Government can achieve this.

Viscount Eccles (Con): My Lords, these are complicated matters. We need to come down on one side of the fence. Can primary legislation cope with these matters, or are there so many variables that we have to rely on guidance? Guidance would allow more judgment than could be exercised if faced with a section in an Act of Parliament. My perception is that we would be better advised to rely on statutory guidance. If we do not like it or do not think it deals adequately with all the variations that have been talked about today, we can debate it in Parliament and ask the Government to think again. However, trying to cover what has been talked about today in a clause in a Bill which becomes an Act of Parliament will not work. Therefore we have to rely to a much greater extent on the development of confidence and judgment within the system operated by the courts, local authorities, social services and voluntary agencies. That is the way we should go.

5 pm

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, I speak in favour of Amendment 2, to which my name has been added, and very much support the arguments that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has put forward this afternoon.

Noble Lords who were in Committee will recall that we debated this in depth. It is fair to say that there was widespread sympathy for the point of view that the noble and learned Baroness has put forward this afternoon. There was a sense that we wanted to get the balance right—not overstating their importance, but recognising that ethnicity, culture, language and heritage

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are all factors that make up a child’s identity, which any prospective adopter should be able to respect and value. The challenge for us is how to get it right and achieve that.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, explained that this issue was dealt with in some detail by the adoption pre-legislative scrutiny committee last year, which took evidence from a number of the major players in the adoption sector, including Coram and Barnardo’s. We continue to believe that that is an authoritative piece of work. While no one wants children to be disadvantaged by delays being caused by the search for the perfect match, the evidence of the adoption committee seemed to show that while there are some pockets of poor practice, it is no longer a widespread issue. For example, Barnardo’s believed that the current legislation was adequate and Coram argued that while this might have been a problem in the past, the situation was improving rapidly. The committee also identified that there were several other factors affecting the placement of BME children, including having fewer prospective adopters and a failure by social workers to promote their availability. The truth is that there remains a paucity of evidence that BME children are waiting longer for placements because of the current wording on ethnicity.

In his response in Committee, the Minister referred to two pieces of research, which I have now had a chance to look at. The first is by Julie Selwyn and commenced in 2005, which is some time ago. Even so, the study did not find systematic bias or mishandling of minority ethnic children by children’s services. The second piece of research, which was by Professor Elaine Farmer, was also carried out some time ago. It commenced in 2007. It was also interesting reading, but it covered a limited sample and, as she acknowledged, it was impossible to draw definitive findings because local authority practice was changing at the very time that the research was taking place. I believe that the latest research carried out by the adoption Select Committee is probably a better reflection of what is currently happening in adoption practice rather than research carried out six or seven years ago.

While there is, no doubt, scope for further definitive research, we should in the mean time be cautious about driving major change in this area. This is why we believe that putting these factors in the welfare checklist along with other considerations strikes the right and proportionate balance in addressing this issue. It would require agencies to have regard to these factors, but they would not be paramount.

The Minister argued that, if references to ethnicity and culture were removed, they would nevertheless remain as a silent, unspoken part of the children’s characteristics and would still need to be taken into account. A similar argument was put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in her amendment. The Minister also referred to the fact that indicative statutory guidance is being prepared, which we welcome. But putting those two things together, I do not think they are good enough. By removing the references to ethnicity, religion, culture and language from the Bill, the Government plan to send a deliberate message to courts and social workers. Why else would they do it?

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We believe that that message is disproportionate and misguided and will be interpreted in the wrong way.

As we discussed in Committee, any change in the law in this area would also be in direct contradiction to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in particular Article 20, which states:

“Children who cannot be looked after by their own family have a right to special care and must be looked after properly by people who respect their ethnic group, religion, culture and language”.

I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Lister for updating us on the continued concerns of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in this regard. We continue to share those concerns. We think it is important that parents understand the identity of the child and are able to help them feel at ease with that identity. We cannot be blind or neutral to these considerations.

For all these reasons, we urge the Government, even at this stage, to agree to the amendment. We all want what is in the best interests of the child, which in this case is to have their identity respected and nurtured. We believe that our amendment sends the right message to the sector, building on their developing good practice and helping to speed up placements. I therefore urge noble Lords to support the amendment.

Lord Nash: My Lords, it seems ironic that, on a day when we have been paying tribute to probably the greatest force for racial reconciliation ever, we are having a debate about a matter relating to race. However, I am encouraged by today’s debate. It is absolutely clear that we are really not very far apart; we are all trying to achieve the same thing—the question is just how. Perhaps I could try and outline, at some length if I may, how I and the Government see the matter, our motivation, and where I believe there is considerable common ground.

The fact is that it takes two years and seven months for a child from entering the care system to be formally adopted, but for a black child it is 13 months longer—nearly four years. It takes one year and seven months for a child to be placed with his or her proposed adopters, but for a black child it takes 13 months, or 70%, longer. Of course, this conceals the fact that many children never get adopted. This is completely unacceptable and upsets me now as much as it did when I first heard about it three and a half years ago. This is not a question of the pendulum having swung too far. The pendulum has swung off the scale.

I have since I started working with children and young people felt very strongly that we need to ensure not just that the life chances of all young children are substantially improved but particularly those of the BME community, and in particular the black community, because it seems to me that we need more successful black people and more successful black role models. It defines our society to have a balance of successful people. I look forward greatly to the day when there are many more Baroness Youngs and Baroness Benjamins. Although I was scribbling some of the time, I think I agreed with everything the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, had to say.

There is unequivocal evidence on the negative impact of delay on children’s development and well-being. Children need to form secure and stable attachments,

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with one or two main carers in order to develop physically, emotionally and intellectually. Therefore, what can we do about the appalling fact that it takes black children, and other children from other minority ethnic groups, so long to be adopted? First, we are taking great steps on a number of fronts to improve the speed at which children are adopted generally. Secondly, we must seek to recruit more adopters and BME adopters and, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, we need to open up the system on a more national basis so that there is more scope for making the right matches. However, our research still reveals that in too many cases social workers try for too long to make a perfect match.

I have reflected deeply on this clause since Grand Committee. When children are being matched, consideration of their background and heritage plays a critical part. It is an integral part of a child’s identity and their new parents must be able to support them as they grow up. In Committee, there were moving testimonies from my noble friend Lady Perry, who spoke about Marrianna, the little girl of the Kindertransport, for whom her parents cared, ensuring that they learned about Jewish religious tradition so they could help Marrianna cherish her religious identity.

My noble friend Lady Walmsley spoke about her granddaughter Cathryn, of Chinese heritage, whose parents are learning about her heritage so they can support her. Clearly, with the right awareness and commitment, mixed-race adoptive families can be very happy and successful ones. What is crucial to making effective matching happen is good social work practice and support for adoptive parents so they can support their children, not just at the point of adoption but beyond, as the child grows into a young adult. I do not think that the blunt wording of the Adoption and Children Act—however well-intentioned and wherever it is placed—can secure that.

I am delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady King, here this afternoon. I had the great pleasure of meeting her now probably eight week-old son the other day, and one could not wish to see a more charming baby. Perhaps the whole House can join me in congratulating her on the birth of Tullio.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord Nash: Under the Government’s proposal, courts and adoption agencies will continue to have to have regard to,

“the child’s age, sex, background and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant”,

as set out in the welfare checklist. The Government take a strong view that that must include the child’s ethnicity. We therefore believe that the amendment is not necessary, as that aspect of a child’s identity will form part of an agency’s, or court’s, considerations in deciding the most appropriate match for a child. It is not in the nature of social workers to ignore ethnicity. That has been confirmed by discussions I have had with practitioners, to which I will refer shortly.

On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, on the JCHR, we do not agree with the Joint Committee that the clause is incompatible with the United Nations convention. We are satisfied that the requirement in the welfare checklist to have regard to

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the child’s background and characteristics includes ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background. There is also a risk that to place the requirement in the welfare checklist as the amendment proposes will have the effect of giving this aspect of a child’s identity more significance than other equally important characteristics such as disability.

Due to the current wording, some local authorities have paid undue rather than due regard to ethnicity in some cases, at the expense of other needs of the child, as most noble Lords have acknowledged. Since Committee, I have spoken with several directors of children’s services about our proposals. I will share with noble Lords what those who are willing to be quoted told me, and why they support our clause. Ade Adetosoye is Director of Community and Children’s Services, City of London, and spent seven years as the director of social care at Lambeth Council, during which time his leadership helped transform practice. He told me:

“Changing the legislation to remove this explicit requirement is a positive thing—it will not change the good work of many local authorities who already look for the best placements rather than the perfect match. However, poorer performing local authorities do sometimes look too hard for the perfect match to the detriment of the child”.

Andrew Christie, Executive Director of Children’s Services for Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea, said:

“I fully support the government’s plans not to have ethnicity on the face of the Bill and the welfare checklist because there is evidence that suggests that this leads to some social workers trying too hard to make the perfect match which can result in the child taking a very long time to be adopted, or in some cases never being adopted at all. In my authorities we have a strong focus on people realising that the crucial thing for the child is that the clock is ticking”.

Tim Coulson, Director for Commissioning: Education and Lifelong Learning, Essex, who has himself adopted a child of a different race, said:

“We agree with the Government’s proposal to remove the requirement in legislation to give due consideration to ‘a child’s religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background’ because we think that this requirement makes some social workers look too long for an ideal match based on these factors”.

Those are practitioners at the coal face.

I think we all agree that we therefore need to change the behaviour and culture of some social workers. We think that the right way to do this is through considerably enhanced guidance, so we have been spending a great deal of time talking to the NSPCC and others about this. I have also had the opportunity to talk to the marvellous charity Hope and Homes for Children, which specialises in going into conflict-torn areas—it started in Bosnia—and placing children in adoptive-type arrangements. It has considerable experience of making cross-race placements, including of Roma children—there is a massive shortage of Roma adopters—and emphasised strongly to me in some detail the importance of training and advice for adopters in that situation.

The debates with noble Lords have made us look closely at the guidance on this issue. We need to underpin practice with nuanced statutory guidance and will continue to work with the NSPCC and others. We intend that the revised statutory—not discretionary—guidance on which we will consult in the new year, and

9 Dec 2013 : Column 607

on which I would welcome noble Lords’ comments, will build on the existing draft. It will add that identity, background and heritage are issues that may need to be addressed at different times in a child’s life so that they understand their identity within the family and wider society, particularly as the child reaches adulthood. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, spoke convincingly and passionately from personal experience about the importance of this.

5.15 pm

Baroness Whitaker: I am grateful to the Minister for understanding my convictions, but I was attempting to argue against his proposal that these characteristics should not appear in the Bill. It seems to me imperative that they are there as a signpost. I hope he can acknowledge that.

Lord Nash: I am grateful. I understand entirely the noble Baroness’s position. The guidance will also state that adopters of a different background/ethnicity may need additional training and support to help them support their child. This will include how to identify and deal with racism. On the matching process, it will ensure that the adopters can engage with the cultural background, heritage and ethnicity of the child. We will take my noble friend Lady Benjamin’s point about the importance of the child’s life story—the life book—and ensure that this point is in the statutory guidance. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Eccles for his support for this approach.

We do not think that having ethnicity in guidance but not in legislation is confusing and we are funding the British Association for Adoption and Fostering to provide training seminars for all local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies on this matter and the rest of the adoption reform programme. Training to support ethnicity issues will be part of the 2014-15 sessions and places at these sessions are free. Of course, good matching is important for all children and all adoptive families need access to adoption support at different stages of childhood. We are addressing these issues for all adoptive families and the guidance will reflect that. We will also add other issues that may arise in our discussions with the NSPCC and other experts. During the consultation I will put a copy of the consultation document in the House Library and send a copy to former members of the Select Committee. I hope that many of you will respond. To make that as easy as possible we would be delighted to host a round-table discussion with Peers about the guidance.

However, improving outcomes for black children is not only about adoption. For many, fostering will be more appropriate: three-quarters of all looked-after children are in foster care. For others, it will be special guardianship with a relative or former foster carer. Where adoption is the right outcome for black children, we must do better to find them families as quickly as we do for other children. For those children for whom adoption is the right permanent outcome we need action on several fronts. This includes recruiting more adopters generally, including from minority ethnic communities. This year we have given £150 million to local authorities through the adoption reform grant to

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help boost adopter recruitment and £16 million for the voluntary adoption agencies to help recruit more adopters who can meet the needs of children needing adoption. For example, Southwark has come up with innovative ways of recruiting adopters from the black community.

There will be better training for professionals. We have appointed BAAF to provide training on a range of issues, which next year will include ethnicity. Places are free for all local authority and voluntary adoption agencies. There will be better adoption support. We know how important this is, not only when the child is first placed with the family, but also later on, perhaps when they are dealing with the trials of adolescence and maybe, as my noble friend Lady Benjamin alluded to in one particularly moving case, questioning their identity. In September 2013 we announced a new fund with a contribution of nearly £20 million to help adoptive parents access the best possible support to meet their children’s needs. This fund will be rolled out nationally from 2015 but will be trialled from next year. The investment will make a difference to adopters in providing the support they need and better guidance, and I have explained the steps we are taking here.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said so incisively, we have, I believe, complete consensus right up to, and including, the point of diagnosing the problem. The issue is precisely how we change a culture of behaviour, but we have no intention of moving away from the importance of the child’s cultural and ethnic background. It is imperative that these are taken into account on every front.

I hope that we do not vote on this matter. That would be unfortunate given the nature of the matter that we are dealing with. I am personally committed to spending as much time as possible with my officials, the NSPCC, noble Lords and other interested parties to ensure that we get appropriate guidance in place to enable this matter to be handled in a way that takes into account the best interests of the children so that, on the one hand, their ethnicity is fully taken into account in all placing and matching decisions and, on the other, they are not left on the shelf and short-changed by the system, as many are now.

I hope noble Lords will agree that we are all very much in the same place and that statutory guidance gives us the scope to steer social work practice in a more nuanced way than through blunt statements in the Bill. On that basis, I hope the noble and learned Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

I now turn to the amendment in the names of my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lady Walmsley. I am grateful to my noble friends for their innovative thinking on this matter, proposing to remove references to age and sex from Section 1(4)(d) of the relevant Act. I understand the thinking behind the amendment, which I believe is designed to remove from legislation any of the specific characteristics about a child, and rely wholly on the phrase,

“the child’s background and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant”.

After careful reflection, I do not propose to follow this line of thinking at present. This is because there is no evidence that there is an issue with the way that the courts or adoption agencies are interpreting the words

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“age and sex”. There is a fairly technical issue at play here. Clause 2 seeks to remove subsection (5) of Section 1 of the 2002 Act. This is a requirement which applies only to adoption agencies—that is, local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies—when placing a child for adoption. Subsection (4) of Section 1—what is known as “the welfare checklist”—applies to the court as well as to adoption agencies, so seeking to amend this suggests a change for the courts as well as for adoption agencies.

In addition, this provision in the welfare checklist reflects an identical requirement on the courts in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 when considering orders under that Act. Therefore, if we were to change the wording in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 in the way suggested by removing the reference to age and sex, that would send a strange signal to the court as it would suggest a different decision-making process under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 from that under the Children Act 1989.

However, in the end I come back to the very serious issue we want to address: the delay that black children and other ethnic minority children experience while waiting for adoption. As I said at the beginning, we have today paid tribute to one of the greatest advocates of racial equality ever. I listen frequently to the wonderful speech given by the other great advocate, Martin Luther King, which in my view is the greatest speech ever made. It is not the “I Have a Dream” speech, which everyone thinks of, but the one he made two months before that at Cobo Hall in Detroit in June 1963, which was then the centre of popular music, in which he used that wonderful musical analogy that all God’s children, from base black to treble white, are equally important in God’s world and on God’s keyboard. However, that does not seem to be the result in terms of the outcomes for black children in our adoption system, and this Government are determined to change that.

It is the requirement on local authorities and other adoption agencies at Section 1(5) in the Adoption and Children Act which—albeit it was placed there with the best of motives—I believe has contributed to the delays that black children face, as I think all noble Lords have acknowledged. The statutory guidance gives us the opportunity to provide much more nuanced advice and guidelines which will benefit all children being adopted, not just those who are visibly different from prospective families. For this reason, I urge the noble and learned Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I thank all those who have spoken on what in my view is an important issue, although it may be, as several have said, a question of balance and degree. I will start by answering some of the Minister’s points. As a former judge who tried adoption cases, I am well aware of the unacceptable delays that there have been in adoptions of non-white children and children from other cultural backgrounds. I believe that Section 1(5), requiring social workers and the courts to pay particular regard to ethnicity, was wrong and I am happy that the Government wish to remove Section 1(5) from the Adoption and Children

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Act 2002. However, I do not believe that putting these words into the checklist would have the effect that the Minister says.

The Government are putting forward a number of extremely sensible suggestions, many of them coming from the important reports that have been published. I hope that these will lead to far better adoption situations, and for all children who should be adopted to be adopted more quickly. Therefore, I very much appreciate the work the Government are doing. It is interesting that agencies remain unconvinced by the Government’s arguments, although they are, like the NSPCC, willing to work with Government to improve the statutory guidance if this amendment does not go through. I very much support any sort of enhanced guidance and training, but I am afraid that this is not enough.

I was probably wrong in my opening remarks to your Lordships in concentrating on ethnicity, because the words that I proposed should go into the checklist are four factors:

“religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.

They are all equally important and I was at fault for concentrating on ethnicity. It was a shorthand version and probably misleading.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, about statutory guidance being good enough, but I ask him: if statutory guidance is good enough, why do we have the checklist? Surely the checklist could equally well go into statutory guidance. The checklist in Section 1(4) of the Adoption and Children Act has six paragraphs, (a) to (e), and three sub-paragraphs, (i) to (iii), and it is thought necessary to include them in the checklist, not just in statutory guidance. So why are the other factors in the 2002 Act so much more important than these four points that I have just set out, which I propose should be slipped neatly in with the rest of the checklist?

It has been suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, that the words “have regard” might be seen as prescriptive, but sitting as I did as a judge, to “have regard” to something is not in the least prescriptive. One can have regard to it and then disregard it. One does not have to keep on regarding it. I certainly had no problem in the Children Act and the Adoption Act in having regard to something, then discarding it. There is nothing at all prescriptive about “having regard”. However, a checklist is a reminder to social workers and judges that they must not ignore it. To take it out altogether, which the adoption agencies are concerned about, is to swing that pendulum too far the other way, because it is not then anywhere.

It is suggested that the words “background” and “characteristics” are clear, as the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said, and one does not need anything else. If I may respectfully disagree with her, I actually think that you do. You need a bit of a jolt. What do “background” and “characteristics” mean? They have to include certain points that I am not certain every social worker, however senior, might necessarily have in mind unless they were there. I say again that statutory guidance is not quite as good as having a checklist in primary legislation. The pendulum should be in the middle, and the middle means putting it in somewhere,

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but not making it too important. That is what I would like to see with this amendment, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

5.30 pm

Division on Amendment 2

Contents 216; Not-Contents 233.

Amendment 2 disagreed.

Division No.  1


Aberdare, L.

Adonis, L.

Ahmed, L.

Allenby of Megiddo, V.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Andrews, B.

Armstrong of Hill Top, B.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L.

Beecham, L.

Berkeley, L.

Best, L.

Bichard, L.

Billingham, B.

Birt, L.

Blood, B.

Brennan, L.

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.

Brookman, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Browne of Belmont, L.

Browne of Ladyton, L.

Butler-Sloss, B. [Teller]

Campbell-Savours, L.

Chandos, V.

Christopher, L.

Clancarty, E.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Cobbold, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Colville of Culross, V.

Coussins, B.

Cox, B.

Craigavon, V.

Crawley, B.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Davies of Stamford, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

Donaghy, B.

Donoughue, L.

Drake, B.

Dubs, L.

Eatwell, L.

Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Evans of Temple Guiting, L.

Evans of Watford, L.

Falkland, V.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Finlay of Llandaff, B.

Foster of Bishop Auckland, L.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Gibson of Market Rasen, B.

Giddens, L.

Golding, B.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Goudie, B.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Grantchester, L.

Greengross, B.

Greenway, L.

Grenfell, L.

Griffiths of Burry Port, L.

Grocott, L.

Hanworth, V.

Hardie, L.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Harrison, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haskel, L.

Haskins, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Hollick, L.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Hope of Craighead, L.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hughes of Stretford, B.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hunt of Kings Heath, L.

Hylton, L.

Irvine of Lairg, L.

Joffe, L.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jones, L.

Jordan, L.

Judd, L.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kerr of Kinlochard, L.

Kestenbaum, L.

Kidron, B.

Kilclooney, L.

King of Bow, B.

Kingsmill, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Kinnock, L.

Kirkhill, L.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Krebs, L.

Laming, L.

Lane-Fox of Soho, B.

Lawrence of Clarendon, B.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Liddell of Coatdyke, B.

Liddle, L.

Lipsey, L.

9 Dec 2013 : Column 612

Lister of Burtersett, B.

Low of Dalston, L.

Luce, L.

McConnell of Glenscorrodale, L.

McDonagh, B.

Macdonald of Tradeston, L.