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Grand Committee

Thursday, 20 March 2014.

Health: Women and Low-income Groups

Question for Short Debate

2 pm

Asked by Baroness Manzoor

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce inequalities in health affecting women and low-income groups.

Baroness Manzoor (LD): My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce today’s debate. I am also delighted that the subject has attracted such expert speakers and I very much look forward to hearing your Lordships’ contributions.

There have been three key reports on inequalities in health: the Black report back in 1980; the Acheson report in 1998; and, more recently, the Marmot review in 2010. Clearly, health is a key part of social mobility and, although the population has access to the NHS, there is a huge inconsistency in the problems faced by low-income and high-income groups, between men and women, and across ethnic groups. It is often said in international development circles that health is a human right. It is critical to income growth and poverty eradication. That applies just as much in inner-city Birmingham as it does in rural India. Health underpins access to employment, education, engagement with economic activity and quality of life. Low-income groups often report barriers to accessing health services, which drives poor health outcomes. Although life expectancy is going up, so too, unfortunately, is the gap between the rich and poor. The distribution of health and disabling health conditions across the population of England has been shown to follow a sizeable, persistent and incremental pattern: health outcomes generally worsen in line with greater levels of socioeconomic disadvantage.

An analysis by the Equality Trust has found that in the past 20 years alone, the gap in life expectancy for those in different local authority areas has increased by 41% for men and a staggering 73% for women. For example, there is now an 18-year difference in healthy life expectancy between women living in Richmond, where it is 72 years, and Tower Hamlets, where it is 54 years. This has real policy implications for fair and reasonable pensionable ages. Evidence also shows that women suffer more from poverty, gender inequality, gender-based violence and mental health problems.

Investment decisions based on women’s specific health needs are a practical and cost-effective way of delivering the NHS social inclusion agenda. For example, the cost to the NHS of violence against women and girls is estimated to be around £1.2 billion a year. Domestic abuse alone costs a further £176 million a year in mental health services. The return on investment in prevention is therefore significant. I would welcome the Minister supporting investment in the scale-up of dedicated outreach services for marginalised, low-income

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and hard-to-reach populations in the UK. Charities such as Find and Treat are excellent examples of organisations providing such services.

Reducing health inequalities is one of the NHS’s top five priorities, and rightly so. I welcome health organisations now having a statutory duty to have regard to the need to reduce health inequalities, and congratulate the Government on this. Therefore, health improvement is no longer the only success criterion; reducing differences in health between populations is also a welcome policy objective for NHS England and Public Health England. Not only does economic inequality affect health, but more unequal societies are more likely to experience poorer literacy rates, higher incidence of drug addiction and greater exposure to diseases.

Due to time constraints, I shall briefly touch on three issues: coronary heart disease, drugs and TB. I turn first to coronary heart disease. Collectively, as we know, heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK. Rates of premature death have been declining since the 1970s but this decline has not been reflected equally in all parts of our society. Tackling inequalities in heart disease should be hard-wired into the performance measures of the NHS and explicitly reflected in the quality and outcomes framework and the payment-by-results scheme for GPs, and should highlight gender differences in risk factors, screening and treatment needs. There is not sufficient evidence that this is being done.

Secondly, 1.2 million people are affected by drug addiction in their families, mostly in poor communities. The annual cost to society of drug addiction is £15.4 billion and this does not take into account the huge cost to families and end-users in their personal lives. An estimated 250,000 to 350,000 children who are affected by parental substance abuse face additional risk and harm, including neglect, being taken into care, involvement in drug abuse and poor mental health. Drug prevention can therefore be a mechanism for reducing inequalities and social exclusion. Drug treatment is an essential part of a successful drug policy and of reducing inequalities. However, evidence from the recent European Quality Audit of Opioid Treatment suggests that NICE and Department of Health guidance is not being fully implemented. The survey found that, although patients are ill informed of their treatment options, choice of treatment is often driven by patients. The UK has the second highest reported rate of patient relapse. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many patients may be relapsing and then re-entering the same treatment. Can the Minister say how the Department of Health and NICE guidelines are being implemented and evaluated, and whether that information is being disseminated to clinical commissioning groups?

My third and last area of health inequality is TB, which is a global disease of poverty. TB has killed more people than any other infectious disease in history. It remains the second deadliest infectious disease in the world, claiming 1.3 million lives each year. TB is airborne and infectious; in a world of globalised travel, it is no surprise that nearly every country in the world has TB. London has the highest rates of any capital city in western Europe. In 2012 there were nearly 9,000 cases of TB, nearly 10% of which came from just

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three London boroughs: Newham, Brent and Ealing. The first two of these are the London boroughs with the worst rates of overcrowded and temporary accommodation. This is not a coincidence. Although the number of cases has stabilised, rates in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are steadily rising. This is not a coincidence either. These groups are often marginalised and report barriers to accessing healthcare. TB in the UK is far from being under control and health inequalities are driving it forward.

Many poor people around the world suffer and die because they cannot afford to buy advanced medicines that are still under patent and often sold at a 50-fold, or even a 100-fold, mark-up. The NHS spends an estimated £8 billion every year on patented drugs. There are merits in other ways of incentivising important pharmaceutical innovations, such as a health impact fund, which Germany is actively considering. Would the Minister consider meeting the architects of the fund to see what benefits the UK could derive from it?

I end with five key points. First, it is time for action. How are the Government implementing the recommendations of the Marmot review? Secondly, there should be a joint narrative between the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England on what they are doing together to tackle inequalities and who is accountable for what. Like the King’s Fund, I believe that local authorities have a critical role to play, through their new public health duties, but the reduction in health inequalities cannot be delivered solely by them. Thirdly, Public Health England should show leadership and visibility by showing how it is supporting and, where necessary, challenging other government departments. Fourthly, all new government policies and services should be subject to health equality impact assessments, requiring policymakers and service providers explicitly to take health inequalities into account. Finally, I totally agree with the British Heart Foundation when it states that each of the four Governments in the UK should appoint a senior Minister with cross-cutting responsibility for tackling health inequalities and each government department should have an objective to reduce health and social inequalities.

2.10 pm

Baroness Hayman (CB): My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, has given us the opportunity to cover a very wide canvas this afternoon on an issue that is so deeply rooted in deprivation and its results that it is difficult to do it justice in the course of an hour. I fear that I shall make the problem even greater by dealing predominantly not with inequalities in the UK but with those across the world, because some of the most stark and striking inequalities in health, particularly women’s health, occur globally. I should perhaps reassure the Minister that I will not expect a fully fledged, all-singing, all-dancing DfID response from her today. However, I would be grateful if she could pass on these comments to colleagues.

Whichever society one is dealing with and wherever in the world, ill health is both the outcome of deprivation—social, economic and educational—and

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itself a cause of deprivation. At its most stark, it is illustrated in life expectancy: there are those figures that the noble Baroness gave us of a healthy life expectancy for a woman in the UK varying from 54.1 years in Tower Hamlets to 72.1 years in Richmond-upon-Thames. There is a great deal to discuss but I shall concentrate on women’s health and those areas specific to women, pregnancy and childbirth, where men do not risk morbidity and mortality at all. We should remember that gender-specific risk starts early. For some, it starts with selective infanticide, while there is female genital mutilation and child marriage, which is not just a social ill but a health threat as well. A girl who gives birth while aged under 15 is five times more likely to die than one who is over 15, and so are her babies.

I should declare some interests. My international development interests are as in the register but, particularly, I am chair of the external advisory group at the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and, in the UK, a member of the General Medical Council. I am also grateful to Professor Gwyneth Lewis of the UCL Institute for Women’s Health, who has done so much work on maternal mortality in this country and abroad.

Maternal death rates illustrate the inequalities that exist in world health and between women all over the world today. In 2010—I think all my figures are from that year—287,000 women died in childbirth. One woman dies in childbirth every two minutes across the world. In the UK, where the maternal mortality rate of deaths per 100,000 is 11, every one of those deaths would be subject to a confidential maternal death inquiry. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the MMR is 500 deaths in every 100,000, that inquiry would be considered completely inappropriate and impossible to carry out. Many of those deaths may not even be officially recorded. The lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy is one in 20,000 in the United Kingdom; in Sierra Leone, it is one in seven.

Of course, these deaths are not the only consequence. For every woman who dies, perhaps 15 suffer morbidity. Neonatal rates are absolutely related to maternal deaths and yet perhaps 80% of maternal and perinatal deaths are preventable. It was said by Mahmoud Fathalla in 1988:

“Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving”.

We can see in our international development programme that there are programmes that work, that are sustainable and that bring skilled birth attendance—perhaps the single thing that makes the difference to maternal mortality. Across countries in Africa, the Making It Happen programme, led by Nynke Van den Broek of Liverpool, is providing sustainable training and support for the maternity services so that they can improve their death rates. I very much hope that in the response to come from DfID we will get continuing commitment to such programmes.

Returning to this country, where we have one of the lowest death rates in the world, considering how good our recording is, poverty and deprivation still make it more dangerous to give birth in this country if you are

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from a lower social class or have less education. The statistic that stands out to me is that women, single or in partnership, in a family with no wage income are 10 times more likely to die or suffer complications in childbirth—10 times. The link between poverty and health continues in this country, as it does between countries.

2.16 pm

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, for introducing this debate on this challenging issue. We know from the NHS, the Office for National Statistics and elsewhere that poorer people live shorter lives and that they live more of their lives with limiting illnesses. The Marmot review in 2010 highlighted the seven-year gap in life expectancy and the 17-year gap in disability-free life expectancy between those on the lowest incomes and those on the highest.

We also know that there is a significant difference in rate of diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for the five biggest killers depending on where you live. Last month, the ONS published its analysis of the health deprivation divide using the 2011 census and found that men and women aged 40 to 44 living in the most deprived areas are about four times more likely to have “not good” health compared to their equivalent in the least deprived areas.

In terms of gender, the most recent ONS figures, published at the weekend, show that women in the most advantaged areas can expect to live 20 years longer in good health than those in the least advantaged areas. Poor women spend only 66% of their lives in good health, compared to 83% of the richest. The richest women live nearly seven years longer than the poorest. Although women have historically enjoyed longer life expectancy and more prolonged health than men, that gender advantage is almost entirely eroded by social inequalities.

The Marmot review, Fair Society, Healthy Lives, made the simple point that reducing health inequalities is a matter of fairness and social justice, but tackling those inequalities and injustices is neither simple nor straightforward. Health inequalities result from social inequalities, so any action on health inequalities requires action across all the social determinants of health.

The Marmot review’s first and highest priority for action was giving every child the best start in life. I have spoken on this before, but it is a subject that I feel very strongly about. The evidence is overwhelming that investing in the pre-school years pays most dividends for health and well-being in later life. What happens during early years, starting even in the womb, has lifelong effects on everything from obesity, heart disease and mental health to educational achievement and economic status. That is why it is so important that we provide more parenting support programmes and that we have a well-trained early years workforce and high-quality early years care.

I will not dwell on that point but want instead to look at where we are four years on from the Marmot review. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 places a duty on the Secretary of State, NHS England and clinical commissioning groups to have due regard to

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reducing inequalities, and there have been some successes. The widespread adoption of high-impact interventions, such as prescribing cholesterol-reducing drugs and drugs to control blood pressure, and increases in stop-smoking services, have all shown an impact.

However, this sort of success has been uneven. A King’s Fund report tells us that the overall proportion of the population that engages in three or four of the four main areas of unhealthy behaviour has declined significantly, from around 33% of the population in 2003 to around 25% by 2008. However, people with no qualifications were more than five times as likely as those with higher education to engage in all four poor behaviours in 2008, compared with being only three times as likely in 2003.

So far, policy has focused on tackling individual lifestyle risks one at a time but this ignores the distribution of these behaviours. We need a more holistic approach to policy and practice that addresses the lifestyles of people showing multiple unhealthy behaviours. When your future prospects look hopeless and your life is lonely and miserable, there is little reason to make changes to your behaviour now in order to add years later. Will the Minister tell us what is being done to ensure a more integrated approach to behaviour change, which links to inequalities policy and focuses more directly on the Government’s stated goal to,

“improve the health of the poorest, fastest”?

Michael Marmot recently returned to the fray: last month he alerted us that the ONS plans to reduce the amount of data it collects which highlight the differences within local authority areas. My borough of Kensington and Chelsea has the highest average life expectancy in the country but there are pockets of extreme deprivation. One ward has a life expectancy of 71 years, whereas it is 92 in Knightsbridge. These are the data that should inform the commissioning of services. I hope that the Minister can reassure the House that these data will continue to be collected.

I welcome the recent launch by Public Health England of a national conversation on health inequalities. However, this conversation needs to take place at rather a higher volume than it appears to have done so far. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, I ask the Minister what the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England are doing together to tackle inequalities. They need to be heard telling us how they will use their powers, not just calling the rest of us to action. We need a joint commitment. As NHS England is now the monopoly buyer of primary care, it needs to use that power to reduce health inequalities. Public Health England should share its expertise in health impact assessment with other departments so that they are able to take into account the health inequalities impacts of one potential decision versus another.

The task of reducing health inequalities cannot be left to local authorities to deliver solely through their new public health duties. We need to ensure that local authorities invest money and expertise to ensure long-term reductions in health inequalities. One of the values at the heart of the NHS constitution is that “everyone counts”. Our resources must be maximised for the benefit of the whole community and we must make sure that nobody is left behind.

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2.22 pm

Baroness Suttie (LD): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Manzoor for instigating this debate. It is a hugely important subject. I will concentrate most of my remarks on the growing problem of TB and, in particular, drug-resistant TB.

Overcrowding is perhaps the biggest risk factor for the transmission of TB. Anyone who has TB and is not treated will remain infectious, potentially passing the disease on to those who live with them. For those in temporary accommodation, TB is a threat to keeping their accommodation. TB is infectious and difficult to treat, and patients are often scared of losing their accommodation if they admit to having TB.

People with lower incomes are statistically more likely to experience drug or alcohol abuse problems, which reduce their immune response and heighten their risk of contracting TB and other infectious diseases. Cases in the UK are centred around big cities. London has an average rate of 42 cases per 100,000. As my noble friend Lady Manzoor has already remarked, two of the boroughs with the most severe problems with overcrowding and temporary accommodation, Brent and Newham, are also those with the highest rates of TB in the UK.

The problem becomes even more severe among the homeless population. The disease attacks people with reduced immune systems, so the impact of rough sleeping, poor nutrition and other factors associated with the chaotic lifestyles of the homeless can increase their chances of developing TB in the first place. In addition, the homeless community is less likely to present to primary healthcare when experiencing symptoms of TB or any other disease. That increases their likelihood of remaining infectious and transmitting the disease to others. It also increases the likelihood of them developing more severe and difficult-to-treat symptoms, due to the opportunity for the disease to progress further.

Homelessness was also found to increase the likelihood of developing drug-resistant strains of TB, including a much greater risk of developing multi-drug-resistant TB. It was also found that homeless people are a dozen times more likely not to adhere to treatment, which puts them at even greater risk of developing, and transmitting, infectious TB.

The central thread running through all this is a critical problem with housing. Once admitted, hospitals cannot discharge people without a home address. If the disease is not advanced and they have no other health complications, most patients will not be admitted. TB treatment is extremely long: the average treatment duration is 220 days and the average cost of a bed per night is £500. A patient who cannot be discharged can cost the NHS £110,000 in bed fees alone. Specialist hostel accommodation is available and needs supporting. One project that I visited just two weeks ago in Euston costs £60 to £80 a day, including all food, a room, training, language skills and social support for TB treatment.

Does my noble friend the Minister agree that a holistic package of care, if widely adopted by the NHS in high-risk TB areas, could save taxpayers millions and greatly improve treatment outcomes, as well as reduce the spread of the disease?

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2.26 pm

Lord Crisp (CB): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness on securing this debate, and on the excellent way in which she laid out the issues at the beginning. These are important themes, which go beyond health and beyond the UK. I will not talk about international development, although I will say in passing that I identify completely with everything my noble friend Lady Hayman said on that issue.

I was interested to note recently that the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System, which advises all the parts of the European Union, has identified inequality as the most significant long-term challenge now facing Europe. As recovery is now under-way, there is what it describes as a “trend break” in inclusive growth; in other words, growth that is taking everyone with us. It is interesting that in our international development world we talk about no one being left behind in health, but we are not doing very well at that ourselves.

That report goes on to talk about the most vulnerable, the growth in unemployed youth and the so-called lost generation, and the impact on the most vulnerable and the ill of the reduction of public services, all of it indicating that we are building up health problems for ourselves for the future.

That theme of inequality is one that we will have to keep coming back to, and it is important that we do so. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, that we need to increase the volume. Not only does the Department of Health need to do that, but we all need to keep pressing the points that I suspect we all understand very well, and make sure that they are turned into reality.

We in the UK understand those issues better than most. We have had a great tradition of research into and evidence of the relationship between health and income since the Whitehall study, which was begun in 1967. It shows the clear relationship between them; within that, it also notes that while women have longer life expectancy, as we have already heard, low income can affect them worse, and that there is a greater discrepancy in the length of healthy lives. Therefore in a quarter of the boroughs in the UK, men have longer healthy life expectancy than women do. We also know that people from black and minority ethnic communities are particularly affected, because they are overrepresented in low-income groups and face some specific health threats. Therefore we know what the problem is.

The relationship between health and income is complex, and has at least four components, all of which have to be addressed. The first component is simply the material one: whether people are able to buy better health with better food, gym membership and so on. Then there is the psychosocial: we now know the biological mechanisms that show the way in which stress impacts on the body and affects health. We also know that there are links between people in low-income groups and risky life behaviours, as we have already heard from a number of noble Lords. The reverse is also true: poor health can cause low income and reinforce the whole cycle. All these issues affect women, but for women there is a double impact, because many of them are carers or involved in bringing up children, and the health of women affects other people profoundly.

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The way to deal with this is equally complex. The WHO study on social determinants, already referred to, stressed the importance of taking a life-course approach to health inequalities, with interventions at every stage from birth to old age, while the study from Europe that I mentioned emphasised investing in citizens and having a focus on promoting well-being.

We have in this country many good specific examples, of which I will name just one: in Lewisham, where they are targeting women’s inequality and picking up across the entire borough the sort of issues that I am talking of. But we need strategic impact, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, said; she described it in relation to coronary heart disease, drugs and TB. We need a much more strategic and followed-through approach at a higher volume than is the case at the moment.

I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s response to the noble Baroness’s questions. I suspect that she will tell us that the ideas outlined here and in what other people have said are central to the Government’s policies. However, I hope that she will not just spell out the Government’s hopes for their policies but point to particular examples where those policies are in reality reducing inequalities and having a positive impact on health. We all understand that there needs to be a cross-government approach; health by itself cannot achieve many of the things that we are talking about. Could the Minister also therefore give us good examples of where this approach is happening; for example, where education is working with health to develop health literacy among children?

Finally, the reverse of this is also true: some government policies from other departments may have adverse effects on equality and on health. Can the Minister therefore tell us what the health department is doing to assess the impact of policy from other departments on health and reassure us that the Department of Health can intervene, and indeed has intervened, where there is a potentially negative impact?

2.32 pm

Baroness Flather (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, for giving us this opportunity to express our views, which is very welcome. I turned 80 last month and I feel that I am on the last lap of life. I have only one passion, which is for poor women, mainly in Africa and India, who get forgotten. There are 1 billion women altogether in Africa and India and what their lives are like we cannot even imagine unless we have gone there and seen it for ourselves. I am not going to talk about that, because it is a huge subject and I have views on what we can do about it, but I just want to tell your Lordships one little story.

I have a Nigerian friend who is from a village in the middle of Nigeria. She said to me that when a woman in her village reaches the age of 40, they have a street party. It is a great thing to reach the age of 40. What does that make us feel? I shall give another, recent example. I had an Indian maid. She does not work for me any more, but she comes to me. She says that I am her mother. I keep telling her that she is not my daughter, but it does not seem to have any effect. She

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came to me in a terrible worry about some medication that she had been given for her blood pressure. She said, “Oh, it’s not the same as what I had before. I don’t know what they’ve given me. What is it going to do to me?”. So I just read the leaflet. It was blood pressure medication. It was not the same packaging—there are so many different ones.

I want first to say, therefore, that I am much more concerned with ethnic minority women. Secondly, I want to mention a big problem, which is ignorance. Obviously, not everything is available to everyone—we know that—but unfortunately we are not doing anything about improving the awareness and understanding of what is available. A lot of ethnic minority women do not know what is available. They do not understand it. What they can have has not been explained to them.

A report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK, launched in 2012, showed the differences in the availability of help in different boroughs of London. The differences were huge. Every woman has the right to have access to family planning, not only for herself—because it affects her health, her thinking and her feelings—but for the children she produces. If you have too many children, you cannot give them the attention they need.

We also do not do anything in schools. We are ambivalent about sex education. We do not teach our children what they need to know about their own bodies and needs. People say, “Oh, they will become more promiscuous”. Well, they will be promiscuous if they want to be promiscuous, whether we teach them or not. Maybe they will be more careful; maybe they will use condoms. Let us do that; let us work towards trying to bring in proper sex education in this country, because that will help the next generation.

We have heard about TB and things like that. There should really be a testing process before people come here. Most countries have testing processes for illness. If you know that somebody has TB, you can still let them come but then you give them treatment right away. You do not wait for them to spread the TB around to other people.

The other thing that is specific to ethnic minority women is depression. They suffer hugely from depression. There was a Chinese Peer called Lord Chan who set up a group, of which I was a member, to look at suicides among ethnic minority women. We have the need for family planning. We have mental health problems in minority groups. People are not trained well enough to manage the bicultural aspect. We need to be aware of that. It is very difficult to treat somebody with mental health problems via an interpreter.

There are so many issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, quoted Dr Fathalla. Actually, it was in the 1970s, earlier than she said, that he said that we do not treat women—not because we cannot but because we do not think they are worth treating. He was saying how bad it was; he was not saying it for himself. It is true. If you go to African countries, women’s health is right down the agenda. Nobody cares.

FGM was mentioned. Do noble Lords know that if a girl has been cut, the family gets more money for her? We should bear that in mind because quite often

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some of these ills are perpetrated for financial reasons; child marriage as well—they sell the girl. I said to my friend from Nigeria, “Two goats will buy you a girl of 12”. She said, “No, one goat”. This is the kind of world we are living in and this is the kind of treatment women are getting, so let us not do it here.

2.38 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, following on from the noble Baroness, it is my fervent hope that before I die PSHE will be a core part of the curriculum in every school in this country. That is what we must fight for. I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, for enabling us to have this important and wide-ranging debate. The speeches have given us terrific—and horrific—facts and figures, and much food for thought.

Like other noble Lords, I woke on Monday morning to read articles about the report from Oxfam, A Tale of Two Britains, which showed that the richest five families are worth more than the poorest 20% of people in this country—that is, 12.6 million people, almost the same as the number who live below the poverty line. These figures are deeply shocking and proof of the profound inequalities in our society. The report also said that, for the first time, more working households were in poverty than non-working ones and predicted that the number of children living below the poverty line could increase by 800,000 by 2020.

We know that there is a direct correlation between health inequalities and poverty. Many of the solutions to health inequalities lie outside the health sector—for example, with housing, good employment and security. As in so many areas, it is women who suffer most from health inequalities, not just personally but because they have responsibility for the health of children, partners and elderly parents. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation comments:

“Health and poverty are intertwined—being trapped in poverty piles on stress that perpetuates the cycle and worsens health further”.

I know that the Government will say they have taken action in the Budget to reduce poverty, but it is the reality for millions of people in this country. Next month, when last year’s Budget adjustments are made, they will still be living in poverty while millionaires are thousands of pounds better off.

Housing has a huge influence over people’s health: temporary accommodation; overcrowded rooms; damp walls; inadequate cooking facilities in B&B accommodation; cold homes because there is not enough money for the meter; and the stresses and strains of struggling to pay exorbitant rents. The Government will also say that they are taking steps to make affordable housing more accessible with schemes such as Help to Buy. Those schemes may well help some people and I am glad, but they do nothing to help people who are desperate to rent affordable homes, either from the public or the private sector; they merely create the potential for a housing bubble.

I am sure that we all agree with the conclusions of Sir Michael Marmot’s review on health inequalities, one of which is to ensure a healthy standard of living

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for all. Yet obesity is the plague of our era, first because of lack of activity and secondly because of poor diet: 26% of adults and 30% of children are classified as obese, the fourth highest level in the world. In a terrific debate last night on the report of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee, speaker after speaker spoke with concern about the need for greater emphasis on PE in the school day and how high-quality PE and sports programmes can boost school attendance, challenge anti-social behaviour, improve academic performance and, of course, make children healthier now and improve their future health. What are the Government going to do about this issue, which is inextricably linked to health inequalities? Last year, the National Children’s Bureau found that children living in deprived areas are nine times less likely than those living in affluent areas to have access to green space and places to play and to live in environments with better air quality.

Alongside exercise, a healthy and balanced diet is also essential but, given that Britain has some of the highest and most volatile food prices in western Europe, this is becoming harder and harder for people struggling with the squeeze on their household budget. Poverty means that, even though parents might know that fresh food is healthier than processed food, tinned and frozen food is often cheaper and, if you live in a B&B with a single gas ring or you are simply exhausted because of the stresses and strains of life, fast food looks like the only option. The health of many women often suffers because they regularly deprive themselves of food when the choice is between feeding themselves or their children. Yes, they can resort to food banks but only on three occasions can they suffer that indignity. I was extremely disappointed by the complacent and patronising response from the Government at Question Time today. It demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the realities of life for so many people. My noble friend Lady Whitaker, who is in her place, said that since food banks got going at their present scale hospital admissions for malnutrition have increased by 74%. In answer, the Minister said,

“we are working with business and others to encourage people to adopt a healthier diet”.

That is not the appropriate answer. It demonstrated no grasp at all and a total lack of empathy, as did the continued emphasis on charitable giving. I celebrate the work of charities; food banks do a fantastic job, but I abhor the poverty that drives people to them.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of spending a few hours with a young woman whom I first met when she was an inmate in HMP Eastwood Park. Thanks to her own resilience and work in the soap enterprise in the prison, of which I am the proud patron, she has turned her life around and is now in employment and caring for her children. We talked about inequalities and the problems that lead to women’s imprisonment, as well as their health problems, specifically mental health problems. The figures are stark: 70% of female sentenced prisoners suffer from two or more mental health disorders, yet, as in the general population, there is no parity between mental and physical health care. She suggested that, in order to help the women avoid problems following sentencing and to reduce consequential costs, every woman should have a mental

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health assessment before beginning her sentence. This seems an excellent idea and I would be grateful if I could discuss it further with the Minister together with Maria Thomas of the Shaw Trust, who has done a lot of work on this. I look forward to the responses from the Minister to the excellent questions raised today.

2.45 pm

Baroness Jolly (LD): My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lady Manzoor for initiating this important debate. I thank all noble Lords for their excellent and informed contributions. I agree with the noble Lord who said that an hour is just not enough to do justice to the huge canvas of inequalities that there are not only in the UK but across the world. I regret, too, that in the time available I will not be able to answer all queries from noble Lords. I promise to write to all who have taken part in this debate to answer their queries and, I hope, to make them feel more reassured.

Health inequalities are a priority that is shared by this Government and Health Ministers across the whole UK. Worldwide, concern is high on DfID’s agenda and it has been very busy over the past few years implementing millennium development goals and thinking about what should follow on from them, particularly those areas surrounding women and children. For too long, health inequalities have denied many children a good start in life, prevented people realising their full potential and weakened communities. They are deeply rooted and a scourge on society, which is unacceptable. However, the tragedy is that, for the most part, they are avoidable. As the Secretary of State has said, we want to make them a thing of the past.

Health inequalities and the poor health outcomes that result are a focus for the health system, working with Public Health England and NHS England, and backed by new health inequalities duties under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The Department of Health is ensuring that these bodies work together to overcome these inequalities. However, I have to give a warning that successes in any of these areas are not overnight. We have to be in this for the long haul, which is why strategy is so important. These organisations are barely a year old.

Our strategic approach is underpinned by the evidence in the Marmot review. The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, was the first of several noble Lords to highlight the importance of the 2010 report, Fair Society, Healthy Lives. It highlighted that life expectancy is spread across a social gradient, a point highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall; namely, that the lower a person’s position, the worse his or her health. It recommended that action should be proportionate to the level of disadvantage.

Following on from that paper, our public health White Paper, Healthy Lives, Healthy People, accepted the review’s recommendations and we are sponsoring the UCL Institute of Health Equity, led by Sir Michael Marmot, to help implement them. We have adopted its approach. For example, on maternal and child health we are increasing by 50% the number of health

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visitors by 2015 and more than doubling the number of places on the family nurse partnership programme, which supports vulnerable, first-time young mothers.

Reducing health inequalities is a core Public Health England activity. It will be set out in its business plan to be published shortly, and its health and well-being framework in June. It will identify the action that many stakeholders—notably local government—can take. NHS England set out its proposed priorities in its December board paper Promoting Equality and Tackling Health Inequalities. In addition, NICE continues to provide evidence-based guidance, and the ONS will continue to publish much important data to support our efforts in reducing health inequalities. When I sum up, I will pick up on the issues around data mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe.

The noble Baroness will know of the importance of good health for women during and after pregnancy from her time at Bradford as a previous chair of Bradford Health Authority. Bradford is second only to Birmingham in the number of infant deaths. Responding to that challenge, Bradford established an infant mortality commission, drawing together partners from all corners of the city. Action in Bradford and elsewhere has had a national impact. The health gap in infant mortality was halved between 2004-06 and 2009-11, between the routine and manual group and the whole population, which shows that local focused action can reduce inequalities.

Different communities face different health needs, and it is for local areas to identify those needs. We have sought to empower local areas by transferring public health to local government, giving £5.46 billion of funding over two years. We have made it clear that local areas must take account of health inequalities as a condition of that funding.

Some of the most extreme health inequalities are found among the most vulnerable and socially excluded women, such as street-based sex workers. Open Doors, a Hackney organisation, and the TB team at Homerton Hospital carry out late-night outreach among these women looking for cases of TB and HIV—a fatal combination—and to provide support and care for them. The Homerton TB team also provides housing for homeless people with TB for the duration of their treatment because, as my noble friend Lady Suttie has said, homelessness helps spread TB. The £10 million Homeless Hospital Discharge Fund seeks to ensure safe discharge from hospital and to break the cycle of poor health and homelessness. Public Health England is leading on developing a national TB strategy, including tackling drug resistance.

The NHS is providing a hepatitis information and testing programme in Sheffield, which offers screening for at-risk communities, including the Roma communities, and in Leeds it is seeking to establish the needs of those communities and to improve access to their services. In Salford, the NHS is working with different groups to improve the uptake of vaccines such as MMR, focusing on BME groups where the uptake is low. In Hillingdon, a specialist health visitor and trained volunteers support Afghan and Tamil women on a range of physical and mental health needs, including domestic violence.

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As noble Lords will know, access to services is crucial. Women living in deprived areas are less likely to attend for breast cancer screening or present with early symptoms, which leads to lower survival rates. We cannot meet our cancer objectives without reducing these inequalities through programmes such as the National Cancer Equality Initiative, and the work of local areas such as Southwark and Lewisham in reducing inequalities in breast cancer care, and Walsall and the Isle of Wight in promoting cervical cancer screening.

Obesity has a strong social gradient among women. We are encouraging and promoting action on obesity and better nutrition through the responsibility deal and through Change4Life. There is a threefold difference in smoking in pregnancy rates between London and the north-east. Sunderland and other north-east communities, Blackpool and Dudley have responded to these inequalities and are contributing to our national ambition of reducing smoking in pregnancy rates among all women from 15%—where it is now—to 11% by 2015.

We work—with Public Health England—across government to reinvigorate action on child poverty, raise educational attainment, support families and promote work as a route out of poverty. To pick up a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, a study by the Institute of Health Equity has shown that one of the best things that you can do for a child is to read to them daily. Not only does that raise their educational outcomes but it also raises their cognitive ability from a very early age.

Baroness Flather: There are many parents who cannot read.

Baroness Jolly: I understand that. I am sure that there are adult education programmes across the country. The noble Baroness shakes her head. Perhaps we can have a conversation about that outside the debate.

We have focused on outcomes rather than on targets to promote action and measure progress, including through the public health outcomes framework, in line with the Marmot review proposal for a national framework of indicators for local areas to draw on to meet their own needs. This strategic approach to reducing health inequalities will help guide local action that is practical, joined up across the causes of ill health, and delivered at a scale to make a difference and improve health outcomes for all our people.

In what time I have, I shall run through points that noble Lords have raised that I have not covered. The noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, asked about cardiovascular disease, which we know affects millions of people and is one of the largest causes of death and disability in this country. The previous Government made huge strides in this area which this Government have carried on. During the past decade, there has been a 40% reduction in under-75 mortality rates, with a narrowing in the difference between the most deprived and the least deprived areas of England.

Domestic violence is one aspect of violence against women and girls; others include sexual violence, abuse and gang violence. We also heard today at Question Time about FGM, and the Government are working on that issue.

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On international health inequalities, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the approach to tackling health inequalities in England is recognised internationally as leading edge. Professor Sir Michael Marmot has chaired the World Health Organisation’s commission on the social determinants of health. Based on the interim analyses of the first phase of this programme, it is estimated that, during the lifetime of the project, more than 9,500 maternal lives will be saved, more than 190,000 maternal disabilities will be avoided, nearly 10,500 new-borns will be saved and more than 12,500 stillbirths will be averted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, asked about the gap of 20 years in healthy life expectancy. I mentioned earlier that local authorities have been given a £5.4 billion budget to press on that.

I have been informed that I am out of time. I am sorry. I flagged up that I doubted that I would get through all your Lordships’ points during the debate, but I will certainly write to you and answer any outstanding queries.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: Before the Minister sits down, it would just be quite nice to have a reassurance about the data.

Baroness Jolly: Yes.

UN: Technical Agencies

Question for Short Debate

3 pm

Asked by Lord Hunt of Chesterton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the key objectives of United Kingdom delegations attending United Nations technical agencies in 2014; and whether they will report back to Parliament after the meetings.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton (Lab): My Lords, United Nations agencies are responsible to national Governments, who are their members and funders. These organisations with specialised purposes, from health to meteorology to communications, were formed even before the League of Nations and United Nations were. In the United Kingdom, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has an overall brief to ensure that the delegations to these agencies from various UK government departments and their semi-independent agencies represent UK interests effectively. Despite the strong and effective participation of the UK in these agencies, there is general concern that their profile in Whitehall and Westminster is not as high as it should be. It is obviously much lower than that of foreign affairs and international crises.

The United Nations Association, the voluntary body that supports the UN in the UK, works hard to raise the profile of UN bodies. These agencies have a vital role for key aspects of all countries of the world, both developed and developing; for example on health warnings, food safety, communications, aviation, weather forecasting and intellectual property. Sometimes Ministers attend

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the meetings of the UN agencies but fewer do from the UK than from other countries. I recall my noble kinsman Lady Bottomley attending the WHO meetings when she was Minister of Health, while Mr Meacher at Defra was an assiduous attendee of meetings at UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme.

My first point is that the agencies need reviewing from time to time, in the light of urgent issues, but while the UN and national Governments always look at efficiency in these reviews, they seem reluctant to look at the fundamentals of their operation and the budgets allocated in relation to the urgency of the problem. I am pleased that the UK contribution to UN agencies is not dependent on its policies or particular decisions; nor is it subject to lobbying by commercial or political organisations, as US contributions are. My noble friend Lord Rea will talk about the WHO; yesterday I learnt that there are threats to the WHO from the United States about its policy that sugar levels should be dropped to the equivalent of one glass of Coca-Cola per day.

Water resources are currently critical but the United Nations programmes—for example in UNESCO and the World Meteorological Organisation, which is also responsible for hydrology—have very small budgets. In the case of the World Meteorological Organisation, it is less than 5% of the total while 95% is for meteorology. Although availability of water is one of the key objectives of DfID, this is a surprising situation. Sometimes new agencies are needed, as happened in the 1980s when the United Nations Environment Programme was initiated. UNEP did a good job on the ozone hole but it is not being directed in an effective way by member countries to co-ordinate and publicise the national, regional and global problems associated with atmospheric and marine pollution. That is of course very topical at the moment, particularly in Asia. Marine pollution is in fact to some extent a responsibility of the International Maritime Organisation, based across the river here in London, but it plays a limited role. Is Defra considering stronger co-ordination by UNEP in this general area of pollution, since UNEP is probably the UN body with the biggest responsibility?

My next point is that the United Nations bodies are generally open in their communications. They are not secret; all their minutes are published before and afterwards and the communications between the members are open. However, it is very important that the recent exposure of certain Governments spying on the confidential communications of diplomats from other Governments and non-governmental organisations does not lead to a loss of trust between countries and agencies working in the UN.

I tabled a Parliamentary Question and was told, more or less, “We’re not going to answer that question because we do not talk about those things”. The fact is that they exist and this is a real issue. I hope that the Minister, in replying, will provide something more than I got in response to my PQ.

My next point is that the Government review agencies, but in doing that they should also consider the benefits to the UK: for example, in dealing with flooding, where other countries have developed useful approaches

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and, in some cases, have better research facilities. The Food and Agriculture Organisation studies of GMOs in agriculture are surely important. The recent reviews by United Nations bodies of the UK’s health and housing are very useful, although they were very controversial and the Government were not very happy with them. That is the kind of UN activity that is really impacting on us in the UK, which we therefore need to consider in reviewing those agencies.

One way to ensure improved benefits to the UK from our membership of the UN is to involve UK stakeholders, in which I include parliamentarians, to a greater extent in UN agencies; for example, through regular pre-meetings, report-back meetings and wider participation of UK delegations as observers. I am president of an NGO, ACOPS. We have observer status at the International Maritime Organisation and the London dumping convention, and we can provide some expertise. For example, there are now regular consultations between the Met Office and certain parts of the private sector, which are very welcome.

However, generally, the United States is stronger in that respect and positively ruthless in using its delegations to promote US technology. They have told me that they will vote or not vote because they were told by their industry to vote for this or not vote for that. That is highly directed to promoting US technology and US business. The Chancellor was calling yesterday in his speech for the UK to have higher exports. Perhaps he might talk to the Foreign Office UN department to see whether it could be of some help in that direction. At the executive level, there are now excellent relations between some UN agencies and NGOs, of which GLOBE is an example on issues connected with climate and the environment.

My third main point is that the United Nations as a whole has broad targets. I believe that the millennium development goals were a tremendous step forward for the whole UN movement, understood at the level of the sustainability commission in New York and the General Assembly. That brought together lots of activities. There have also been the broad goals of reducing carbon emissions. I believe that there could be more specific targets for agencies or groups of agencies—for example, I just mentioned pollution. Those targets could be openly discussed by parliaments as stakeholders and progress or regress towards achieving them should be openly reviewed.

Of course, targets require data, which remains a great weakness of the UN system and, indeed, the international system. UN bodies could urge countries to be more systematic in gathering data and more open with them. For example, sometimes even the most basic data are not available in some countries, such as whether there is or is not a sewage plant in the capital city of an African country. In the case in point, the answer was no. A study in another African country showed that several organisations are collecting very useful environmental and health data which are not well co-ordinated. The study, in collaboration with those organisations, recommended the use of data centres. The whole world would benefit from that. DfID does not seem to understand or support that view very strongly.

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In closing, which goals and targets should be emphasised and publicised? They should relate to recent crises. One of the greatest crises at the moment is the Syrian and, earlier, Iraq conflict. Surely we should be thinking more about technical methods of identifying combatants and their weapons, as happened last year with the question of gases. We must consider how we can provide improved humanitarian aid. Those are technical and organisational questions and we should have targets for them.

The Bangladesh factory collapse last year led to the deaths of many hundreds of people. There should now be improved targets for the International Labour Organisation on factory health and safety. After the floods in Europe and Pakistan and the droughts in California, the water programmes need more technical focus and bigger budgets, as I have already mentioned. We could also have targets to help co-ordinate international and regional programmes for pollution episodes.

We could have improved warnings and assistance before, during and after natural and artificial disasters. The United Nations organisation for disasters, the ISDR, co-ordinates but with more funds it could have more ambitious targets. For example, should we not have a target that, say, 30 years from now we should finally be able to detect earthquakes? There is a good deal of research going on—big objectives are appropriate. A meeting in Parliament this morning showed the need for FAO studies of future food and fish stocks, and how they are in danger from exploitation, pollution and climate change, to be more widely understood by world leaders. We need some clarity in this area.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to the issues raised. I declare my interest as a former permanent representative for the UK at the World Meteorological Organisation, when I was head of the Met Office; president of an NGO; and vice-chair of GLOBE, working with UN agencies.

3.11 pm

Lord Rea (Lab): My Lords, this short debate covers a very wide-ranging subject but it is regrettable that there are only three speakers. Perhaps this is something to do with it being on Thursday afternoon, but it is surprising. There are many people who are far more expert on the United Nations and the World Health Organisation—about which I shall speak—than I am. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, may be relieved that she has to answer only three speakers when the United Nations covers such a huge range of subjects.

In my short contribution, I will concentrate on the World Health Organisation, which is just one of some 20 United Nations agencies. Its membership covers every single country in the United Nations—194 at my last count—and it has representatives in 140 of them, collaborating with national health ministries. In some developing countries, a WHO team helps with developing the governance and administration of health services in various ways. Although the WHO has been criticised as cumbersome—even sclerotic—it has had some very able directors-general who have pulled it into better

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shape. The WHO has some significant successes to its credit, the best known being the elimination of smallpox and the near-elimination of poliomyelitis. It has had many more quiet successes, many of which are still going on, concerned largely with monitoring disease levels, particularly epidemic outbreaks. Until recently WHO has concentrated on infectious, rather than non-communicable, diseases but there has been increasing interest in looking at the origins and handling of the latter since Gro Brundtland’s reign as director-general. This is appropriate, since they now make up half the diseases affecting the developing world as well as nearly all the serious diseases affecting the developed world.

In the area of infectious diseases, the WHO collaborates with a number of other agencies. Some of these are its own offspring but receive separate funding and have devolved or different administration. I am thinking of UNAIDS or the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. So in its governance it retains a considerable degree of democracy and accountability through its committee structure at different levels, with representation from member states meeting regularly. My noble friend mentioned the regular attendance of at least two of our Ministers.

Some of the most useful work of the World Health Organisation is done by its many expert committees, some of which are standing committees meeting regularly with permanent staff on subjects such as essential medicines and biological standards. There is one group that regularly reviews the guidelines the WHO issues fairly regularly on a variety of topics. My noble friend mentioned perhaps the most recent, which was on sugar intake and has ruffled some feathers in the food industry. Other expert committees are ad hoc on topical subjects and may meet only a few times, but the members of these committees are all internationally recognised authorities in their chosen field. They are selected from panels of experts held by the WHO. A sizeable proportion of these experts is from the United Kingdom. Will the Minister describe the process by which they are selected? When they are selected, do they make a declaration of interest before they are appointed?

Reports from these committees are widely respected, although not always welcomed by Governments, which is as it should be. Progress in public health often involves controversial measures not welcomed by vested interests making profits from the activity or product concerned which is deleterious to health.

I shall make a very few remarks on drugs. The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs has rather laid down the approach internationally to the control of drugs. The emphasis has largely been on curbing supply with a prohibitionist stance. The director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has said that it is time for the UN’s stance on drugs to change from having a largely prohibitionist role to one more focused on the health impact of drugs and on reducing the harm they cause. Will the Minister say whether the Government have moved even a little in that direction?

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3.19 pm

Lord Bach (Lab):My Lords, we should congratulate my noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton not only on securing this short debate but on once again, and single-handedly, raising the important issues surrounding United Nations agencies. I agree with the comment by my noble friend Lord Rea that it is a pity that there are not more speakers in this debate.

The truth is that this crucial part of UN activity is not discussed enough in either House of Parliament, and when it is discussed in your Lordships’ House it seems always to be at the instigation of my noble friend. Thanks are due to the House of Lords Library, which has prepared a briefing pack for today’s debate. In that we can read the Hansard for the debate on 22 November 2011, almost precisely 28 months ago, and be reminded of Parliamentary Questions that have been asked in both Houses and answered by various Ministers. These are of course helpful but I will ask some questions about how Her Majesty’s Government organise themselves in relation to UN agencies, about where costs fall between the FCO and other departments and whether there is enough ministerial oversight and parliamentary engagement with this issue.

Of course, in general terms, like the Government, the Opposition support the UK’s membership of, involvement in and activity in these agencies. As befits a country which played a leading part in the setting up of the United Nations, we are right to engage in the multilateral activity that is the basis for the running of and results from the agencies. Whether we serve on the executive of a given agency or attend its congress, there is obviously a need to be able to act as a team player and, at the same time, to look after British interests. No one has ever said or suggested that this is easy or necessarily comfortable at all times, but we strongly believe that the need for multilateralism in foreign affairs has never been greater; a statement of the obvious, perhaps, but worth putting on the record.

My understanding is that the FCO has a small section that oversees our membership of these agencies, but that individual departments with their own technical skills are involved in the UK involvement with the relevant agencies. I am delighted that the Minister is in fact the Minister in the FCO for the United Nations and thus for these agencies. I note that the questions that were asked in the other place over the course of the past year have been answered by various Ministers, which is no doubt the common way in which it is done.

My questions are not meant to be unduly critical, but are really for information and for Parliament. Does the Minister believe that she has satisfactory oversight of how any individual agency is functioning? Or is that responsibility passed on to, perhaps, another Minister in another government department that deals with day-to-day activity with that agency? Generally, is there sufficient ministerial oversight in any event? Or is there a danger that Ministers, whether in the FCO or elsewhere in Whitehall, with their heavy workloads, have really been forced to make this rather less of a priority than it should be?

What is the actual cost to the Government overall of our membership and participation in these UN

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agencies? How much of that total cost does the FCO contribute, and how much do other departments contribute? That leads on to the question of parliamentary engagement—reporting back to Parliament after meetings —which is one of those which my noble friend, in raising this issue today, is particularly concerned about: it is in the Question. Does the Minister believe that there is room for improvement in reporting back to Parliament? If there is, how could it be improved?

In the debate some two and a quarter years ago, to which I referred, mention was made of a possible ad hoc committee on international organisations. The Minister who responded on that occasion, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, talked about an ad hoc committee,

“which might look at the how Britain relates to international agencies and which ones provide us with the best value for money”.—[

Official Report

, 22/11/11; col. 1039.]

Clearly, the 2011 multilateral aid review, the MAR, and its update in December last year are very good starting points for parliamentarians, as they are for the ordinary citizen outside. However, it is perhaps right to now look at whether Parliament should play a slightly more important role in looking at what these individual agencies actually achieve for this country and, of course, for the world.

I repeat that none of the questions I pose today is meant to be unduly critical. I do not think there is very much between the Government’s attitude to this issue and our attitude to it. However, I am sure the noble Baroness will agree that if improvements can be made, they should be. If the Minister would like some time to consider her answer to the questions I have put today, I am more than happy to receive a letter in due course. Meanwhile, I look forward to what she has to say in her reply to my noble friend’s speech.

3.26 pm

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, first, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for securing this afternoon’s debate. All too often, issues in relation to the United Nations—certainly in this House but in the other place as well—focus on the headline-grabbing situations, where there is a crisis around the world and we are talking about Security Council resolutions. As the Minister for the UN, I have found that one of the areas of the job that is least publicised is the day-to-day meetings that we have with UN officials, whether in New York or when they are visiting here, about UN reform. As the noble Lord will be aware from his own experience, it is like an oil tanker in terms of changing some of what are seen as perceived norms, certainly within the UN system, which appear even more so when you look at the specialised agencies within the UN.

It is therefore important, certainly for me as Minister with responsibility for the UN, to make sure that we do not lose sight of how these particular specialised agencies benefit the United Kingdom and, indeed, the wider international world. They are vital, as the noble Lord said, for the smooth running of everyday things that our globalised society and economy depends on—everything from shipping to telecommunications.

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As the noble Lord mentioned, these agencies also play an important role in the greatest challenges facing us all, such as climate change, in providing aid to the victims of natural disasters and in the prevention of global pandemics. They therefore have an impact on almost all government departments across Whitehall.

The noble Lord, Lord Bach, asked about the organisation of UN agency responsibilities. The FCO has oversight of budgetary policy and of management reform for these agencies, but we co-ordinate UK positions with the lead policy departments depending on which specialist agency we are dealing with. We take the lead in co-ordinating the various government departments and agencies. Over the past 18 months, for example, we have hosted a quarterly UN reform group meeting which brings together all those officials across Whitehall from the different departments who represent the UK in the UN and we run workshops, seminars and more formal training to make sure that we all get the best out of what can sometimes seem like quite an opaque and difficult system.

We have also set up a dedicated web platform to provide officials with a virtual space where they can share knowledge, expertise and best practice in dealing with the UN’s specialised agencies. We continue to explore other, more innovative ways to ensure that the UK is even more co-ordinated, coherent and consistent in its dealings. Do we have enough oversight? Do I, as a Minister, have enough? The noble Lord was right to ask that question. The important decisions on the agencies are referred to Ministers. An example of that is that Ministers would be involved when dealing with the election of the agencies’ executive heads.

Another question that was raised was about where the costs fall in all this. The FCO pays the costs of the assessed contributions to the core UN budgets. Other government departments fund assessed contributions of specialised agencies according to their respective areas of activity.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked about the Government’s plans to report to Parliament on the outcome of meetings. As I said to the noble Lord in reply to a Question in January last year, it is for the lead department in each case to report on such meetings. The issues handled by the agencies are usually quite highly technical in nature, so it is the responsibility of each department that engages with them and that sits with the experts across Whitehall to report on them. I know that many departments already publish information about this work in their annual departmental reports or in thematic reports on specific policy areas.

Alongside government reports, UN bodies also publish a wealth of information about their work online, and I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that UK delegations enjoy positive relationships with agencies which are willing to share their knowledge and listen to our views. However, UN agencies need to get better at talking to each other, and the challenge of co-ordinating system-wide action will become even more important, for example, when the UN grapples with setting the sustainable development goals as a follow-up to the MDGs.

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I hope I can deal with a couple of the areas that were raised today on the key objectives for the specialised agencies. The International Telecommunication Union and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will pursue the goal of bringing the whole world online and enabling everyone to access the benefits of information and communications technologies. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, made an excellent point about the running of collaboration between government, the private sector and civil society to reap the full benefits from UN agencies. The DCMS has created a partnership with UK businesses, including BT and Vodafone, academics and NGOs for that purpose. The ITU is an outstanding example of where open decision-making and bringing together 700 people from all sectors makes for better decision-making.

The Met Office was also referred to in the debate. It works with the World Meteorological Organisation to ensure that there is appropriate international infrastructure to support our national capability. It will also use international collaborations, commitments and relationships through the WMO to enable the delivery of the national capability in the most cost-effective way.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, also talked about DfID’s engagement. As the FCO Minister with responsibility for, among other areas, Bangladesh, I am especially pleased that DfID is contributing £4.8 million to the ILO to support improving fire safety and structural integrity, especially after the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, and I hope that that kind of work will prevent the kind of tragedy we saw with the collapse of Rana Plaza and other buildings. The Government are also working with the ILO to make it more efficient and effective in offering country-specific solutions to employment challenges. I know it has worked on, for example, cotton picking in some central Asian countries.

This brings me to the FCO’s key objective for the UN agencies, and I feel it is right to push for a more joined-up UN system that delivers better outcomes for its member states and better value for money for the taxpayer when many Governments, including our own, are asking for more to be done with less funds. The UK and our international partners have strongly supported the efforts of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to strengthen the UN. Mr Ban has made some progress—for example, the new Department for Field Support, the creation of UN Women and the global field support strategy—but still more needs to be done. I spend quite a lot of time working with officials to try to work out what are our key priorities where we could support the Secretary-General and where we feel some progress could be made rather than just grandstanding statements.

On containing UN budgets, improving budgets by linking funding to results, prioritising mandates, effectively improving performance management and the better use of IT to streamline some of the back-office work which at the moment appears to be done in so many different ways in different organisations, I have opened up a dialogue with the Secretary-General and the executive heads of all UN bodies to seek their co-operation on these UK priorities, and we are currently considering

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a number of actions to take forward the UK’s agenda for change. I have formally written to the Secretary-General and the heads of the UN agencies. My officials will continue to work closely with the different government departments and agencies that represent the UK at the specialised agencies to ensure that they are giving the same clear and consistent measures that we are giving in terms of UN reform in general.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, asked specifically about the World Health Organisation. We have a good relationship with WHO and work closely with the organisation on a broad range of public health and development issues. The Department for International Development’s multilateral aid review assessed WHO as being critical to the delivery of UK international objectives; for example, around polio and maternal health. The UK is the second largest contributing member state to WHO after the US, with an investment of about £220 million over the two years 2012 and 2013. The Department of Health leads on that relationship, and the UK will become an executive member of the WHO board from May of this year for three years. That will enable us to work even more closely.

The UK does not provide significant funding for HIV/AIDS. However, we contribute to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which covers some of the areas that the noble Lord spoke about. The Department for International Development announced last September that the UK would contribute £1 billion to the Global Fund for 2014, 2015 and 2016. The UK also contributes about £50 million a year of core funding to the UNAIDS programme. In addition, the UK sits on the executive body of the global fund and UNAIDS.

The noble Lord asked how our experts to WHO are selected. I do not have that information, but I will certainly write to the noble Lord to give it to him. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will probably be disappointed by my response to his question on spying in the specialist agencies. He and other noble Lords are probably aware about long-standing HMG policy on such matters. Rather than provide him with a stock response, I am just going to say that I am unable to provide him with any more information than I have already provided in the PQ.

It would have been great to see more noble Lords taking part in this debate. This can sometimes be seen, certainly in my role, as a dry aspect of what usually happens at the UN. It is not the General Assembly; it is not the Security Council; it is not responding at times of urgency; but it puts in place the bricks and mortar for us to make a better world. It was therefore important that this debate should take place today and I thank the noble Lord for calling it.

The Government will continue to work closely with our international partners and civil society to ensure that the UN specialised agencies contribute to our work on key issues like development, prosperity and management reforms. Once again, I am grateful to the noble Lord for providing an opportunity to discuss these important issues.

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3.37 pm

Sitting suspended.

Economy: Creative Sector

Question for Short Debate

4 pm

Asked by Baroness Andrews

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to promote the role of the creative skills sector in the United Kingdom economy.

Baroness Andrews (Lab): My Lords, I am delighted that so many noble Lords have joined me in this debate today. I am very grateful, especially since it is a Thursday afternoon and it is late—so thank you so much.

The skills policy has been described by one of the leading policymakers as “impenetrable” to the outside. Quite so. Given the complexity around the creative skills sector, I thought it wise this afternoon for me to focus on the creative and cultural sector and leave other experts to talk about digital and media. I shall also focus on just a few challenges in the short time that we have.

My long-term concern is about our entrenched failure as a country to commit to high status vocational training and skills or to understand the importance of creativity in the school curriculum, converged in the exam question that I was set recently by the Government of Wales. This was to make a report to the Welsh Government that would establish how the arts, culture and heritage, working collaboratively, could make a greater impact on reducing poverty and raising ambitions in Wales. It was not so much about new resources as about new ways of thinking. In fact, Wales is well ahead of the game in asking this question and in putting culture at the heart of the search for economic and social solutions to poverty, inequality and unemployment.

It is a hugely complex question, and there are no simplistic answers—but in the report that we launched last week I put forward some basic propositions as to how young people could better access the skills and jobs driven by the knowledge economy and the experience economy. That was a new term to me; by “experience economy” is meant the demand for cultural and performance goods. Among the recommendations that I gave some priority to was the need for a richer arts and cultural provision inside and outside school, joined to community provision as well as better training of teachers, so that they understand how engagement with the arts lifts and accelerates learning. We also need shared policy-making between culture, welfare and employment agencies and an all-Wales strategy for volunteering and apprenticeships across the creative and cultural sector.

The report is packed with examples of the different experiences of young people across Wales—whether they are working backstage or front of house for the

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National Theatre or an opera company—and how they are finding their own vision and voice as artists and musicians, taking over the museums and working with archives while developing the skills concomitant with that. In that context, I am very happy to pay tribute to the work of Creative and Cultural Skills in Wales, which has placed about 140 creative apprenticeships so far, helped by the very successful young recruits programme. It is more successful, I should say, than the Work Programme in England. The success of that programme shows that there is a buoyant demand for people who can run visitor operations, arts management, technical theatre and much more.

That confirms what the trend of the UK statistics shows—that the creative sector is growing at double the rate of other sectors, and there are persistent skill gaps. Indeed, according to CCS UK, some skill gaps are actually intensifying, not least due to the speed of digital change but also in areas such as management, marketing, sales, technical and craft-specific skills. So the demand for specialist and general skills can only grow. Equally importantly, the skills that are needed go far beyond the creative economy itself; they actually spread into and serve the entire economy because essentially they are about talent and capabilities. What is exciting about this is that, especially in areas of high youth unemployment, there is a greater opportunity in some ways for the non-graduate and the accomplished technician than there is for the graduate.

Getting skills training right across the sector is, as every noble Lord here knows, very challenging. The sector almost defies definition because it is so dynamic and diverse. We have about 30 idiosyncratic industries covering everything from fashion to special effects, and it is bound to be difficult to articulate common or even coherent structures, content, accreditation and qualifications. The Minister and I met a group of music industry apprentices the other day. I was struck by the fact that each of them had negotiated their own FE and employer training. In fact, many of them were engaged in business management law and marketing rather than music-making. The fundamental and urgent challenge now seems to be that although we know that the creative industries generate billions of pounds in added value and exports, the infrastructure is lagging light years behind our ability to take advantage of it. Putting the right levers in place is more difficult because neither the SMEs, which dominate the private sector, nor the cash-strapped public sector can plan strategically or to scale for skills training.

In addition, we have a labyrinthine architecture: two skills sector councils and each country in the UK doing things slightly differently. Having to negotiate and navigate that is proving incredibly complicated for everybody. There is good news. A lot is happening. Our Creative and Cultural Skills Council has placed 3,500 apprentices since 2009. It continues to articulate clearer vocational routes. It has created the National Academy for Creative and Cultural Skills as its delivery method and its programme, Creative Choices, has reached more than 1 million people. In the past year

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or two we have had the creative skill set, identifying 17 recommendations to boost skills. Recently, we have had the creation of the Creative Industries Council.

My first question for the Minister is: can he update us on the impact of that range of developments? What are the Government doing to support and incentivise those efforts? So far, so good, but it is not good enough, because throughout the system there is clearly a need for greater collaboration and dialogue, particularly in relation to education and employment. One sector leader put it to me that the cultural sector has always been perceived as marginal to education and skills policy-makers because there have not been any traditional non-graduate ways into work, so jobcentres and careers advisers are mystified by the sector. That is absolutely what I have found in Wales.

The priority is to demystify the sector and enable greater collaboration, to close the gaps which stop information about careers in the creative sector reaching teachers, parents, young people, careers advice programmes and employment strategies. Of course, we have to start with schools. An arts-rich curriculum can give young people the real skills that they need to get on in any situation: resourcefulness, thoughtfulness, fast and flexible thinking. Teachers as professionals need to know more about how engagement with the arts and culture accelerates learning, sustains motivation and opens up new choices and careers. We need them to be able to access that information because they are the most powerful advocates and agents to help young people into those career choices. Would that every teacher could visit Singapore to see how an arts-rich curriculum drives an economy.

I ask the Minister to report progress on the Henley report and to update us on discussions about the arts and the EBacc. Secondly, the dismantling of the Careers Service has been catastrophic. Careers advisers do not themselves always know how to go about getting never mind giving advice, because many of those careers are portfolio-based. How are the Government addressing that problem? How is the Work Programme being advised about the possibilities?

Thirdly, the Government need to address what I see as the failure of both leadership and policy integration. Neither the DCMS nor the UK Arts Council sees skills as its direct responsibility. The cultural sector has not historically engaged with FE. There needs to be a much better fit between employers, HE and FE providers, BIS and DCMS. They should all have an equal role in that because, frankly, there is no point in the Secretary of State for Culture banging on about how important culture is to the economy if DCMS takes no responsibility for the skills to sustain that. This is more urgent because the new Euro programmes make it imperative that the cultural sector engages with the need to drive up work opportunities for young people. Perhaps the Minister could take that message back to DCMS and tell us more about what is planned to make sure that we take advantage of the new Euro framework programmes.

Fourthly, the SMEs need more support to navigate complex funding systems without being overwhelmed. I am delighted to say that CCS again is showing real leadership and is looking at how best to bring together

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schools and careers advice with industry engagement, training and work experience. It is planning a place-based series of innovative and exemplary skills hubs set up around the CCS base in Thurrock, which are intended to form networks, pool resources and offer greater sustainability for small businesses. It is an excellent local model for local delivery, which is what we need to see to make clear how everything joins up in principle and practice. I hope that the Minister will lead a delegation to see how it is working.

Finally, the growth review included digital and creative industries as one of its six priority growth areas with justified and prioritised actions to support future growth. Surely that should include a more coherent and vigorous approach to skills training across the sector.

4.10 pm

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for this debate. I think that we all agree that the UK’s creative industries are one of our greatest assets. An IPPR report published last month states:

“The creative industries survive or fall on innovation and the discovery of new talent, so skills are critical”.

As the noble Baroness said, in this area we do not face a jobs problem but a skills problem. However, work is being done.

As the noble Baroness also mentioned, BIS and DCMS have established the Creative Industries Council, on which I sit. It is a joint forum attended by practitioners and government. It is an attempt to corral the very disparate members of the creative industries sector and focuses on areas where barriers to growth face the sector. We are hard at work on a soon-to-be-launched creative industries strategy, at the heart of which is establishing an education and careers system that inspires and supports the next creative generation.

In 2011, Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope published the Next Gen. report, which argued that our education system was not keeping up with the times, in particular the way in which ICT was being taught. The coalition Government listened and a programme of study for ICT including computer programming and a GCSE in computer science were introduced this year. Computer science is now part of the EBacc’s science strand.

Before the last election the Lib Dems produced The Power of Creativity in which we pledged to enable businesses to offer more apprenticeships. We have achieved that. A record number in the creative industries are now being government funded. In the Budget yesterday, funding was provided for more than 100,000 additional incentive payments under the apprenticeship grants for employers scheme and we hope that large numbers of these will be creative. According to Arts Council England, 81% of those surveyed who had taken up an apprenticeship are now employed in the creative industries. It is estimated that the 2011-12 apprenticeships will deliver net gains of £2.4 million to the UK economy.

I am sorry if I am speaking rather fast but I want to get to what I really want to talk about; namely, that it is clearly money well spent but that there is a major

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problem in the area of diversity. Last week Lenny Henry gave the BAFTA TV lecture. What he had to say was horrifying. He told us:

“Between 2006 and 2012, the number of BAME’s working in the UK TV industry has declined by 30.9 per cent. Creative Skillset conducted a census that shows quite clearly that Black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in the creative industries in 2012 was just 5.4 per cent—its lowest point since they started taking the census”.

As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, will know as well as me, when it comes to the performing arts we should not be worried about just the lack of “front of camera”, it is the producers, the directors, commissioners and board members who set the scene. How is this for a fact? Of the key PSB bodies—Ofcom, BBC Trust, ITV and Channel 4—where the Government have some influence, 42 board seats are available, of which just one, a BBC trustee, is not white. All 15 seats on the BSkyB board are filled by white appointees. ACE and the BFI have just one non-white board member each.

The DCMS Minister Ed Vaizey has recognised the problem and set up a group, of which I am a member, alongside the noble Baronesses, Lady King and Lady Benjamin, and representatives from the industry, which meets monthly. We are determined not to be just a talking shop. Action is required and one of our priorities is data. To make people accountable, you need detailed and timely data.

What a waste. It is essential that the creative industries reflect the 21st-century UK: our vibrant, creative and multicultural country that attracts so many people from overseas because it is just that. The most important thing, as this debate highlights, is to ensure that we continue to create the creators, and in doing so we must stop excluding so much potential.

4.15 pm

Baroness Young of Hornsey (CB): My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate secured by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, whose remarks I endorse—apart from the fact that actually we have masses of data about this issue, which has been campaigned on for 50 years. It is time for real action, again.

I do not wish to rehearse the facts of the contribution of the creative industries to the UK economy, although I will point out that if the fashion industry were a country, it would be seventh on the table of global GDP and about the same size as the economy of Canada. That is how big it is, so I am going to focus on the fashion industry again. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for taking this opportunity to shift the focus from some of the more established notions of skills training and gaps on to creative skills and sustainability. This is timely as we approach the first anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh on 24 April. It is perhaps also worth noting that we are in the final year of the UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

Since the exposure of the realities of not only building collapses but issues such as landfill and other forms of environmental degradation, more and more people are calling for a fashion revolution. Yet my

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sense is that the training and education of those who design, produce and sell garments has not really kept up with that kind of movement. The more we think about the challenges in producing fashion that retains its sense of fun, enables us to present our sense of identity, et cetera, the more important it becomes to make values and ethics explicit components of the training and education of creatives and makers in the fashion industry. Just as we train and teach our students and apprentices how to develop their craft and skills to produce high-quality creative content, so we should be teaching innovative approaches to internal and external threats, problems and opportunities, such as the environment and sustainability.

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion is, along with MADE-BY, among the leaders of the drive to ensure that students develop their creative skills and innovative talents in conjunction with an understanding of the need to develop different ways of working which emphasise that good fashion should also be sustainable. The centre’s staff provide the secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, which I chair—my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, is also a member of that group.

As the world faces environmental and social challenges, there is a greater need for innovation and creativity based not on single disciplines but on inter- and multidisciplinarity. Future creative graduates are going to need the skills to address sustainability and ethical challenges, which means that they must have the opportunity to engage with these issues throughout their education. I have used fashion as an example but the arts, cultural and creative sector as a whole has to develop much more sustainable practices and much more rapidly.

Currently the creative industries are not leading the charge on sustainability, which I feel is a missed trick, especially given the ability of the sector to engage with such a wide range of people in a fun and interesting way. Given the ability of these sectors to generate debate, joy, contemplation, reflection and so on, and given their highly developed creativity, I hope that the creative skills training bodies will make a decisive push in this direction, encouraged by leadership from the Government. Creative practitioners have the potential to make a real difference in the way that society as a whole faces these issues.

4.19 pm

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I am glad to join in this debate and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for bringing this matter to our attention. I want to focus on a much more limited area this afternoon, if I may, by thinking a little about education and about the role that voluntary organisations play in this area. I shall use some illustrations from schools, colleges and universities and say something about the small role that the church plays in trying to do some of this.

On Tuesday morning, I made one of my regular visits to a school. I went to Sutton Church of England school near Biggleswade. It is a tiny rural school led by an excellent head teacher, Sarah Stevens, and it has been classed by Ofsted as outstanding. As I was taken

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around, I found myself in a corridor where a girl who was receiving a violin lesson gave me an impromptu concert. She was delighted and we all clapped. I noted that it was taking place in a corridor because there was nowhere else for it to happen but creativity was a key part of that village school. Indeed, many children there are learning musical instruments. Yet when I go into schools, I hear again and again about the pressure on the curriculum which is squeezing out some of the things that teachers would like to do creatively, which is surely one of the most important things.

I would guess that your Lordships, like me, can think back to their own schooling and to one of those inspirational teachers who not only spotted creativity but learnt how to draw it out. They helped the child believe that they could do something creative and offer it to others. Well, we have lots of very good schools which are working on that. I think, for example, in my own patch of Wootton Upper School and Arts College and Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. There are also excellent performing arts departments in the two local universities, which I know very well, of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. However, we need to find ways to recognise and celebrate what they are doing. They are providing the actors, producers and everybody else for the future of our theatres.

Britain also has a wonderful tradition of musical performance and singing. We play a little part in that with our heritage of music in our cathedrals, collegiate institutions and some parish churches. It is there that many of these young people discover not only that they have a voice but how to train it. This has nothing to do with schools or with government. Many professional singers started off in precisely these places and are now singing either in the classical repertoire or in popular music. I am thinking of Charlotte Church, Aled Jones and Gareth Gates, all of whom have made a real contribution to the economy. The recent “Sing Up” initiative by the Government has helped to reverse the decline of singing among children and cathedrals have been active in it. In my own cathedral, we have choristers taking part in the termly chorister outreach concerts organised by the Hertfordshire Music Service. Since 2008, we have welcomed 48 schools and nearly 4,000 children have been learning together and performing. This is at the point when they begin to grasp the idea of a creative way of living.

With relatively little extra financial help, much more could be achieved. For example it was in one of my parishes, South Oxhey, which is in a relatively poor area near Watford, that the local parish priest, Canon Pam Wise, persuaded a certain Gareth Malone to form a choir. That turned into a TV series and has raised self-esteem hugely in that area. I confess that it may not have made much of an economic contribution but it has certainly made a huge contribution to self-esteem and social capital. These are vital things. Our cathedrals are also particularly active in the commissioning of music and art, such as stained-glass windows and sculpture. We have just commissioned 12 new statues for our nave screen which will take craftsmen two years to complete. Cathedrals are one of the main employers of apprentice stonemasons; a recent project between the University of Gloucestershire and eight cathedrals has been on just that.

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I believe that as well as having large national government initiatives and encouraging business, we need to think hard about supporting schools in developing creativity and about the voluntary organisations which want to be part of this, if we are to capitalise upon our long history and develop the creative aspect of our national life. It is from here that many talented and gifted young people come. They have the potential to make a significant contribution not only to society but to the economy.

4.25 pm

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, along with everyone else, I am grateful to my noble friend for initiating this debate. I was struck by the contribution made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, on the subject of diversity. It slightly made me consider whether to tear up what I was going to say and talk more about that subject, but perhaps it would be unwise given that we do not have much time.

I want to concentrate on the contribution made by arts organisations to the development of skills, both within the education system and outside it—that is, outside the formal education system—and not only in the creative skills sector and the creative economy but, as others have already touched on, in other sectors of the economy. I shall do that by shamelessly bigging up an organisation with which I am connected and of which I am extremely proud: the Roundhouse. In a way it is a microcosm of everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and others have been talking about. It is in north London and is a famously beautiful building within which wonderful professional arts events take place. There is music, theatre, circus and all sorts of other stuff.

Underneath the main performance space at the Roundhouse is a suite of studios that are fully equipped with video and sound, giving opportunities for people to make music in a variety of ways and to make other things as well. A wide diversity of young people between the ages of 11 and 25 come through the door to use the studios. They undertake practical skills-based courses in all the things I have just mentioned. They can develop their interest in being performers, managers, technicians, DJs or whatever they want to be into a marketable skill under the supervision of experienced tutors who are also, critically, working professionals.

People learn skills in a variety of ways. Some are not particularly well served by or at home with a formal educational setting. They do better with other ways of learning. The Roundhouse provides many opportunities for people who perhaps have not done so well in the formal education system to re-engage with their own enthusiasms, sometimes to re-engage with formal education, and to acquire skills that they can go on to use. It is probably not surprising that many Roundhouse alumni are now themselves established professionals in the creative sector, working at every scale from the BBC down to small start-ups. I should say that every year two young people sit as full members of the Roundhouse Trust, and my goodness are they ever good; they certainly put us on our mettle.

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The New Economics Foundation recently published some research on the impact of the open access programmes being run at the Roundhouse, into which young people come from a very wide range of backgrounds. Some of them are privileged while others come from deprived backgrounds, although they are committed to their education. Some have failed or been failed by the education system. These young people come together and work together. The foundation discovered in its research that the act of working together in a group—one that is ethnically and educationally diverse—in itself helps to create and embed a lot of what those young people are learning. I would just say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, that that is where hope for the future lies. It is in programmes like those being run at the Roundhouse where people are given an opportunity, no matter what their background, to learn about themselves and to learn new skills—and then put them into practice with no sense of social, ethnic or any other kind of barrier. They are simply focused on what it is that they want to do.

I ask the Government to acknowledge that this kind of work is going on all over the place. The Roundhouse is a particularly fine example but other arts organisations are doing it too. They are doing it in the face of considerable difficulty. It would be very nice if the Government would acknowledge, at least, that this is not just nice-to-have stuff: it is really important stuff. It impacts not only on the creative economy but on the whole of our economy. If we could build it into our education system, how much better off we would be.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, before the next noble Lord speaks, please could noble Lords keep to time? This is a very time-limited debate.

4.30 pm

Lord Clement-Jones (LD): My Lords, I want to say a big thank you to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for giving us all the chance to talk about our favourite subject this afternoon. After the recession and 2012, it is even clearer that our future in Britain lies with our imagination, creativity and invention. Enders Analysis’s Creative UK report, published only this week, demonstrates that the UK is experiencing a wave of business creation in the creative economy, higher than any other major OECD country.

So many of the creative industries are interconnected and have a wide economic impact. The CEBR report for the Arts Council last year demonstrated that arts and culture play an important role in supporting commercial creative industries. I am delighted that yesterday the Chancellor confirmed that 20% tax relief would be given to all qualifying theatre productions, rising to 25% for regional theatre. But the CMS Select Committee and, we have heard, the CBI and NESTA have all concluded that the creative and cultural industries face a number of pressing skills shortages, exacerbated by the growing inability to recruit talent from abroad. Skills deficiencies have been exposed by digitisation. Investment in training has historically been difficult to implement largely because of the prevalence of small and micro-businesses.

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The creative industries—I absolutely share my noble friend’s concern about this—need also to be much more accessible to young people from diverse backgrounds if they are to attract the talent that they need, as a recent IPPR report, March of the Modern Makers, makes clear.

I have some brief comments, given the time available. In line with the Henley review, we need students going into the creative industries to be multidisciplinary. There has been a danger that EBacc poses a significant threat to the UK’s creative economy. Will the Minister reassure us that the new “floor standards”, which contain five EBacc and three other GCSE subjects, introduced last October, are becoming widely known and will ensure that progress is measured across a range of subjects including the arts? Will this arrest the slide in take-up of arts subjects?

Then we have apprenticeships. Traditionally, this has been a sector that has been very difficult for school leavers without connections to penetrate, and where unpaid internships have favoured the children of the better-off. The sector is improving. I looked at the Apprenticeships website and there is now a large number of apprenticeships, for example, in the creative and digital media. The All-Party Music Group recently heard about the launch of UK Music’s programme to deliver 200 new paid apprenticeship opportunities across the music industry. Under the noble Lord, Lord Hall, the BBC is making great progress. BSkyB, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV, Sony and many others launched Creative Access in 2012 to provide opportunities to young people from the BME community. The Arts Council, of course, has its major creative employment scheme.

In higher education, we have some fantastic institutions, but the Creative Industries Council’s Skillset Skills Group, in its excellent report in 2012, made the point that too many courses lack industry-relevant skills. Creative Skillset’s Tick accreditation scheme for those courses, which arose from its recommendations, is therefore much to be welcomed. Post graduation, students need to learn business and entrepreneurial skills, and that is why I so strongly welcome initiatives such as those of the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN programme. There is therefore considerable progress in the sector. There are clearly myriad different schemes at all levels, but we now need to do much more. In particular, we need to make sure that all the pathways to qualifications and careers in the creative sector are clearer than ever, with far better information to those at whom they are aimed.

4.34 pm

Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho (CB): I am honoured to talk in this debate introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. She was instrumental in starting me on my journey into digital inclusion and I thank her for that as much as for prompting the discussion this afternoon.

I longed to work in the creative industries when I left university. I imagined myself as a great writer or, even better, as a renowned theatre director. In reality, I became a media and telecoms analyst. On getting my

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job, my boss told me that the telecoms industry was a fabulously interesting business filled with less interesting people, and that the media industry was a fabulously boring business filled with fabulously interesting people. It was 1994. Then a strange thing started to happen. During the following decade, these two sectors—media and telecoms—became more and more similar. The technology was moving so fast that the separation between content, distribution and customers was blurring. The internet had landed firmly in the middle and the definition of “creative” changed.

By 1998, I was running Lastminute.com, and the coders who lurked late at night on the top floor of the office were becoming the rock stars. They were the people in the team who were inventing the magic for our users. This trend has sped up. Now, the biggest stars on the planet, from will.i.am to David Hockney, are talking about coding and the power of tech. Creative people around the world are eulogising about the importance of learning to code. The geeks truly have inherited the earth.

Amazing and innovative ideas are emerging, such as the Creators Project, sponsored by Intel. It is one of my favourites, as it flushes out new digital artists. The ability to keep at the forefront of digital change will enable the UK to continue to lead the world in its creative sector, but there is much to be done. The introduction of better computer science in the curriculum and the mandatory teaching of coding in primary schools from September are very valuable. The UK has the opportunity to encourage a whole new generation of creators, but it is essential that the resources and training are given to teachers to make this change a success.

One aspect of the web that never fails to inspire me is the creativity that can be unleashed when people who have never before had access to it are shown how to use it. Jorge works with a charity that I chair, Go ON UK in Newcastle. Jorge came to the UK in late 1973 at the age of 16, having been forced to leave Chile following persecution by the dictatorship. He could not go back to Chile and reunite with his relatives and friends until recently, but earlier last year a friend suggested that he should get on the web and learn about digital media and self-publishing so as to write a book about his story. Jorge had never spoken of all those dark years in Chile but last year his book, Dear Chile, was published, and on the back of it he has just secured a publishing deal to write his memoirs.

Jorge had never used the web before this experience and he is not alone. Currently, 11 million adults in the UK cannot do four basic things online. How many more Jorges could there be among those 11 million—how many more people who never before have had the opportunity to become part of our wonderful and enriching creative sector? We need to build digital skills in all parts of our society to make sure that we have as wide as possible a pool of creative talent from which to draw.

4.37 pm

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab): My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Andrews on securing this debate and I am grateful for the opportunity to add my short contribution.

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The importance of the creative industries to the UK economy is not in doubt. Despite the recession, the creative industries have been outperforming the rest of UK industry, growing by 15.8% since 2008 against a baseline increase of 5.4% for the UK economy as a whole. Other noble Lords have given figures on employment, added value and exports, and I certainly will not repeat them. Suffice it to say, our creative business is booming.

So I welcome the recent announcements about tax breaks for high-end TV, animation and video games further to promote the skills that the UK has to offer in these fields. Film, television and games production are the kind of innovative, creative industries at which we excel in the UK, and they deserve government support. I am delighted that there is now discussion about extending tax credits even further, to regional theatre, not least because theatre is the training ground for many of the creative skills areas in which we take such pride.

The point I want to make is that of course creative talent does not appear fully formed: it has to be nurtured and stimulated. That is done, above all, in our specialist institutions and universities. Higher education is the primary producer of the talent and skills that feed the creative industries, and it is an important source of research that informs new ideas, practices and business models that apply both within and beyond the creative sectors. As Nigel Carrington, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts London, has said:

“A creative education is an investment in the future of individuals and nations. Creativity powers innovation, challenges assumptions and acts as a catalyst for change. Our students and alumni are shaping the world”.

The creative industries rely on the supply of graduates coming through our schools and universities, as others have said. Starting with schools, that means that creative subjects—the arts—must be guaranteed a core place in the school curriculum. Or, as has been noted in the other place, we must put the STEAM into STEM subjects.

If we are to continue to produce the talent that underlies the success of these creative industries, we must improve the status of arts education in our schools, not allow it to disappear. Yet the introduction of the English baccalaureate as the gold standard for schools has placed further emphasis on maths, science and geography, at the expense of creative subjects. Take-up of art GCSE fell by 14% between 2010 and 2013, while subjects such as fine art and photography will be credited as just one GCSE rather than two in school league tables. This is short-sighted. Students must be encouraged and supported to develop their creative skills, so that they are equipped to go on to study at our universities and conservatoires. From there, the talent will flow into our creative industries. What assurance can the Minister give us that the strategic importance of those subjects which are not science-based but which nevertheless contribute significantly to the UK’s economic health will not be overlooked?

While we safeguard the status of arts education in schools, we must also ensure that we fund properly our specialist arts schools and conservatoires. I have spoken

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on this aspect before, but I would like to ask again for an assurance over the continued commitment of premium funding to our conservatoires to help cover the shortfall between the fees they can charge and the actual cost of providing the intensive, individual tuition needed. They nurture the very best practitioners and have the highest percentage of graduates in employment across the UK higher education sector.

The continued success of our creative industries requires that we do everything possible to promote their centrality to UK cultural, social and economic life.

4.41 pm

Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): My Lords, this is an important subject and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for concentrating our minds on it.

These are difficult times and we all have to take our share of the prevailing astringency—I have no illusions about that. However, as we have heard already, we must be cautious not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Government have rightly recognised that the creative industries—or, in my particular field of interest, the arts—bring huge dividends to the UK economy, our reputation abroad and our society.

I will turn to the creative skills sector more precisely in a moment. First, though, I must say that there would be no such sector without education. In that respect, I fear that the bathwater is gushing out. Music and drama have been severely cut in many schools, and that is where it all begins for so many. That is where the light is lit, where young string players can get their fingers round the instrument while their muscles are still malleable; where an ability to express pent-up emotions through the worlds of literature, dance, drama and music can lead to more stable and fulfilled personalities; and where confidence in self-expression is kindled.

We know that exposure to the arts—to the communion of singing in a choir, for instance, where you have to listen to your co-choristers—promotes teamwork and social cohesion. However, this must not be the preserve of the privileged. Despite what, for instance, the Yehudi Menuhin School might do for a young Nigel Kennedy, our aim must be to provide cultural nourishment to every child so that they at least have the opportunity to become part of the creative sector. You have only to see a child’s fluency on a computer to realise how quickly—shamefully, to those of my generation—they assimilate and master new technology, but they must have access to it in the first place.

As we move towards university, we still find the arts being downgraded in some areas. A few years ago I was given an honorary doctorate of music at the University of East Anglia. After the ceremony, we talked about future plans, and how the music department might grow and produce musicians of stature, as the creative writing course had produced Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro among many others. A year or so on, the vice-chancellor had to write to me to tell me that I was a doctor of music at a university that no longer had a music department. Pride turned to great sadness, not for me but for the young people who, so

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close to Benjamin Britten’s home, would be denied a top-flight musical education. How sad, too, that the paid choir of Llandaff Cathedral has been disbanded.

I am glad to say that my musical industry, at least, is doing something at the sharp, business end of things. As we have heard, UK Music launched a Skills Academy in 2013, which brought together different strands of skills and training to help young people get work in the music industry. Since the launch, UK Music has placed 30 young people into some of the UK’s top music companies. Apprenticeships have ranged from royalty administration to music publishing. The Government should consider extending the successful creative employment programme, possibly by rerouting funding from programmes with lower take-up rates. It has worked because it is targeted to a specific industry.

Understanding of copyright is also crucial and it should be taught as part of music, not just computing and IT. As Adrian Sterling, an expert, said the other day:

“Copyright is about a right in a copy, not a right to copy”.

This is an eloquent distinction, which we all need to understand if we want our culture and creativity to continue to flourish. I have been privileged to flourish in a wonderful world of creative endeavour. We must make sure that future generations have similar possibilities: much is at stake.

4.46 pm

Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab): I apologise to noble Lords. I am speaking in the gap and must exercise compression techniques as I have got about one minute. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for an absorbing and fascinating debate. I am going to focus only on my favourite issue—apprenticeships—which has been given a good airing.

We have seen some good progress and I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, referring to the apprenticeship vacancy matching service, of which I am quite proud. It is one of the few computer systems I have introduced that has not, to my knowledge, fallen over or been hacked. We have recently seen some good examples. As the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said, the noble Lord, Lord Hall, has been a good influence at the BBC. With the Royal Opera House, he created the Thurrock opportunity, which creates apprenticeships in production, scenery design, et cetera. We need to engage locally, so I put it to the Minister that there ought to be a creative job opportunity strategy involving every local employment partnership.

4.47 pm

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lady Andrews for tabling this debate and for her excellent contribution. I also thank all noble Lords who have spoken. There was so much I wanted to say in the debate but in the short time I have I will limit myself to three quick points.

First, it is clear that the creative industries are already a success story but, sadly, they are an untapped source of considerable potential economic growth for

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the future. We have heard that there have recently been some piecemeal but welcome initiatives to boost skills in this area. For example, we hope that the creative employment programme, launched by the Arts Council and overseen by the National Skills Academy, will support thousands of new apprenticeships and paid internships. That is to be welcomed, as is the £16 million of funding to Creative Skillset to develop skills in film, TV, animation and games. A number of noble Lords have mentioned other initiatives. However, these initiatives are small-scale and disparate and serve to highlight the Government’s failure, across departments, to grasp and nurture our global economic potential and the human potential which lies behind it.

Secondly, as a number of noble Lords have said, nowhere is this inconsistency more stark than in the Government’s own education programme. Michael Gove has undoubtedly been allowed to sideline the teaching of creative subjects in the curriculum and the new league tables still put pressure on schools to drop drama, art, music, design and the other creative subjects. This is taking its toll: GCSE applications are falling across these subjects. I hope that the noble Lord will respond to that criticism.

At the same time, in education, we have seen the decimation of the careers service, so that young people have no concept of the wide range of work opportunities that exist in the modern creative sector. A recent report showed that teachers were so out of touch with what the job opportunities are in this sector that they just gave young people the same careers advice that they had been given at school. Noble Lords do not need me to tell them how far the world has moved on since then. Meanwhile, the government squeeze on the funding of undergraduate arts courses has seen creative and digital courses lose most of their teaching grant. Again, combined with the rising tuition fees, that risks damaging the supply of young qualified performers, writers and designers for the future.

Thirdly, much of the current government spending on arts and culture is badly skewed towards London and is failing to play its part in rebalancing our regional economic recovery. That has been compounded by the starving of funds to local government. As we all know, that has cut funding to community arts organisations, which in the past would have been the place where the next generation of artists had their first experience of participation. It is not clear how that vacuum is to be filled. Where will young people go to put their first foot before the footlights?

It is interesting that the recent IPPR report made a very imaginative suggestion, which is the idea of creative clusters around the regions, building on a local specialism; for example, Manchester could concentrate on fashion and games, Cardiff on TV and film, and Bristol on software and design. That is a very imaginative idea. With support from BIS and DCLG, such initiatives could play a vital role in wider regional regeneration. However, it needs the political will to drive an agenda such as this.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, made clear, the whole situation is made worse because non-white people and those from poorer backgrounds do not find any places in the limited training and careers

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opportunities on offer. There is a danger that we are sliding into dominance by a white, south-east urban elite in this sector, and nobody wants that.

It is a frequent mantra in these debates that we need more joined-up government, and I do not pretend that that is easy. However, I also know that DCMS does not have the funding or the clout to deliver radical change alone. I hope that the noble Lord will address those concerns in his response.

4.52 pm

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for securing this debate, and thank all noble Lords for what has been a fascinating exchange. We all agree that the creative industries play an essential role in our national life. I am very conscious of the enormous experience that your Lordships bring to these matters.

As has been said, the creative sector contributed £71.4 billion to the UK’s economy in 2012—well over 5% of the total UK economy, and far outperforming the UK economy as a whole. In that year alone, 133,000 new jobs were created in the sector. While the sector is showing impressive growth here in the UK, we do not exist in isolation; our global competitors are working hard, too. The Government are fully committed to working with the sector as it develops its strategy to maintain our global competitiveness. I was particularly taken by the absolutely correct point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, that it is very important that the creative industries are very much alive to the importance of sustainability, particularly, as she mentioned, in the fashion world.

The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, raised from the outset the importance of the commitment of skills and the support of the Government. That is why the Government set up the Creative Industries Council—I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter is a member—to provide strategic focus for both industry and government. It has also put in place a range of generic and sector-specific financing measures, and fiscal measures such as the creative content tax reliefs. The film tax relief alone has helped to raise more than £1 billion in inward investment in British films. It provides funding for agencies such as the Arts Council, the BFI, Creative England and the Technology Strategy Board to invest in and support the creative industries. The Arts Council is investing £1.4 billion of public money in arts organisations and cultural programmes between 2011 and 2015, and the BFI is investing nearly £500 million over the same period.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that my understanding is that 70% of Arts Council lottery funding over the past three years has been invested outside London. Indeed, as I said earlier and as we all know, many organisations which receive funding that are based in London tour well beyond London.

Yesterday, the Chancellor announced further support for measures for the creative industries, with the European Commission approving the extension of our film tax credit and a new tax credit for theatre, to which my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, generously referred. That will offer 20% tax relief for qualifying productions and 25% for regional touring from this September.

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As the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, emphasised, education and skills lie at the heart of any strategy to maintain our global competitive edge. We need to foster opportunities from an early age for young people from all backgrounds—what my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, said about all backgrounds showing a breadth of career opportunities in the sector is vital. That needs employers, schools and colleges to work together.

I am conscious of what has been said about the National Careers Service. I have a very long note on the basis that it has not been decimated. In fact, the reforms to careers advice in England will be of immense help. Given the time, it may be helpful if I write to your Lordships in some detail about that. Indeed, in the area of education and skills, Creative and Cultural Skills, Creative Skillset and e-skills UK—all the skills councils for the sector—are using government funds to develop and deliver schemes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, mentioned the £15 million creative employment programme funded by the Government and the creation of apprenticeships and paid internships. Much more will be done. We certainly recognise the potential; that is why the Government are committing £292 million up to next year on a range of cultural education programmes, including music education hubs, the BFI Film Academy, heritage schools and many more. Through the Skills Investment Fund, we will be supporting skills development in the digital sector context. I very much hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, will approve of that and of our reform of the curriculum for computer science, putting greater emphasis on programmes for creativity. It is clearly important that we have teachers who know how to do that, and that is also part of the programme that I should like to write to your Lordships about.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, raised the issue of the gaining of skills and the wider benefits outside the sector, whether financial and life skills or health and social benefits. They are all part of what those industries can create for people of all generations. That is why DCMS is working on how better to capture the intrinsic benefits of the creative and cultural sectors.

I was very interested in what the report of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, on culture and poverty meant. I have a copy and I will read it. A number of your Lordships raised the matter of teaching arts in schools. There is so much to be said about that. Given the time I have, I ought to write in detail, because I think and hope that there is a misapprehension about that. As the Chancellor said, about £20 million of public money is going to help cathedrals. I want to refer to what the right reverend Prelate said about singing and what the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, said about conservatoires. We clearly need to make sure that music-making, which is such a key feature of national life, is encouraged.

I had a very interesting meeting yesterday with Channel 4. It spoke to me about its 4Talent scheme. I must mention the BBC and the Stephen Lawrence BBC training programme for young people from BME backgrounds, and many others.

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I will be out of time very shortly, but I wanted to say that I have been briefed by members of many departments. Our thinking is very joined-up. The Creative Industries Council is jointly run. I have had briefings from DfE. The Chancellor has come in to help with the Budget yesterday. We should celebrate the creative industries, and I am very sorry that I do not have time to do your Lordships any further justice.

Pensions: Low-carbon Investments

Question for Short Debate

5 pm

Asked by Lord Harrison

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to help ensure that pension fund investments support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, we save for a pension to give us security in retirement. Climate change is putting that security at risk. It risks the financial performance of our pension funds, it threatens to destabilise the wider economy and it could compromise the quality of life of ordinary pension savers now and in decades to come. As the custodians of our savings for a secure retirement, the investment decisions of pension funds should help guarantee that security by mobilising capital away from fossil fuel extraction, which contributes to climate change, towards low-carbon investment opportunities, which can reduce the climate threat.

In this debate I want to outline the clear steps that the Government might take to facilitate this transition. We must give pension funds a stable policy framework. We must provide explicit legal clarity so that they can consider environmental factors in their decision-making. We must extend the rights of pension savers to know how their funds are addressing the risk that climate change poses to their savings.

In the early months of this year, flooding and severe storms brought misery to communities across southern England and Wales. Thousands despaired as floodwater inundated their homes. Hundreds of thousands spent days and nights without power. Experts at the accountancy firm Deloitte have estimated the clean-up cost of the floods at some £1 billion. The Prime Minister was echoing the concerns of many when he told MPs that he strongly suspected recent extreme weather events to be the result of climate change. The Met Office has warned that the UK should prepare for similar events in the future. The flooding showed how climate change is a real and present concern for ordinary people.

However, millions of those people have a stake in the very system that is helping to drive a potential environmental catastrophe. That skewed financial system must be a central part of the solution. UK pension funds account for some £2 trillion of assets. They invest in the goods and services that make our economy. As long-term investors and custodians of the retirement

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incomes of millions of ordinary people, they are uniquely placed to understand the climate risk. For those funds, that risk is indeed stark. Under every scenario, the effects of climate change on pension funds could be dramatic. If Governments do not introduce effective regulation to reduce emissions, the value of funds’ investments in fossil fuel companies and other high-carbon assets could collapse.

If climate change is allowed to advance unchecked, the effects of extreme weather and the growing volatility of food and fuel prices are likely to hit returns across entire portfolios. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, has estimated that if we fail to act, the total cost of climate change could be as much as 20% of global GDP. Climate change could also create economic and social instability, affecting the spending power of future pensioners and their broader well-being in retirement. Pension funds have a duty to act in the best interests of savers. Given the risk posed by climate change, they should seek to understand the investment implications. By reducing their exposure to high-carbon assets and by taking advantage of opportunities in the green economy, pension funds could help to guarantee the future security and prosperity of themselves and their beneficiaries, and hedge against that climate threat.

Certain barriers mean that this transition is not yet happening. The Government can remove those barriers. Pension funds often perceive low-carbon investments as risky and a significant reason for this is the confusion, and sometimes the infighting, that characterises government policy on tackling climate change. It makes investors uncertain when comments attributed to the Prime Minister describe green levies as “green crap”; it makes investors uncertain when the Treasury delivers a Budget where oil and gas explorers are given a £3 billion tax break to encourage drilling; and it makes investors uncertain when fossil fuel subsidies outweigh those for green technologies. In other words, at present, Governments are not only failing to do enough to promote green investments, they are actively keeping those investments uncompetitive by subsidising high-carbon alternatives.

Where there is currently uncertainty, the Government must provide stability and leadership. To remove this barrier to prosperity and to unlock a potential investment success story, they must make an iron-clad and cross-departmental commitment to catalyse the low-carbon transition. This means phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels and making an active and systematic commitment to developing and commercialising green technologies. As the Commons Environmental Audit Committee found, giving full borrowing powers to the Green Investment Bank by next year would decisively boost green investment and create jobs. That means putting low-carbon solutions at the heart of government plans for infrastructure and industrial strategy.

The type of infrastructure we build now will critically affect our ability to meet our carbon reduction targets in the future, so initiatives like the pensions infrastructure platform should demonstrate a clear direction of travel. As well as having low-risk opportunities to invest in the green economy, the law must allow pension funds to consider the wider benefits of those investments. The ShareAction charity has found that many pension

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fund trustees feel unable to take account of social and environmental factors such as climate change when making investment decisions. They often interpret their duty to act in the members’ best interests as a narrow requirement to maximise short-term gains.

Although the Law Commission recently stated that there was “no reason” for funds not to use environmental considerations, this position is often not reflected in practice. Investors need clarity and the Government can provide that by clarifying in statute that pension funds are not legally obliged to chase short-term profits at the expense of wider considerations. Will the Minister respond to that?

Savers’ security in retirement depends on how their funds address climate risk and the law should encourage them to take a broad and enlightened view of their members’ interests. Just as the Companies Act encourages directors to take account of environmental considerations and other wider factors in pursuing the success of their company, such a measure for pension funds would enable trustees to focus on long-term, sustainable wealth creation. Again, will the Minister respond to that?

To assess the risks of climate change, pension funds must also have access to high-quality information about the companies that they invest in. The introduction of mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reporting is welcome but this reporting must cover the full extent of a company’s activities and to be useful to investors, that reporting must be objective, reliable and readable. Is the Minister satisfied that the reports produced at the moment achieve the target of giving proper and measured information?

Will the Minister state clearly today that facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy provides real business opportunities, especially to small businesses? Katja Hall, the chief policy director of the CBI, said this month:

“The UK’s low-carbon transition is already driving jobs and investment. Our green market stands at £120bn and has been growing throughout”,

the recession.

I conclude by saying this regarding the European Union. Criticism was made today by the Chancellor of the carbon trading scheme but if we could engage with our European Union friends on important issues such as the environment, the Prime Minister might be satisfied with a renegotiation which is positive in the way that it approaches these important matters, which affect pension funds and people’s prosperity.

5.12 pm

Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Harrison for initiating this debate. I agree with every word that he said but that will not stop me saying the same thing in my own words. I declare a past interest as the chair of a public sector pension fund. That was at the Environment Agency and I will mention some of my experience there later on. However, I will start by focusing on the size of the problem.

As we all know—or as most of us accept—the world needs to reduce drastically its carbon emissions and greenhouse gases but, frankly, we are not doing at

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all well. The IPCC’s fifth assessment spells out that we are on course to exceed by some margin the safe level of a 2% rise in global temperatures, which is not that safe. I will take the measure of carbon intensity because the Americans like that better than some of the other targets. Between now and 2030, we need to reduce our carbon intensity globally by an average of 5% per year. The reality is that in the last five years, which were during a world recession, the carbon ratio fell by only 0.7% per annum so the world is well short of where we need to be. In fact it is the US that has done best, largely by substituting shale gas for coal, but in the emerging economies carbon intensity has actually increased by 5% and most western economies, including our own, have not done very well either. We increased our carbon intensity by 2.6% in the last reported year, which was to 2012, and the world as a whole did so by more than 2%.

As we are, we hope, coming out of recession we would expect the pressure and therefore the carbon intensity to increase rather than decrease. It is therefore a growing problem and to attempt to turn that round needs massive investment in greener technology: from the sources of energy right through to the appliances we use in our homes and on our roads, and from nuclear energy to how you power your own scooter or small car. Investment in those technologies can come from only three sources. The first is the state—as we know, states in most of the world are running through a period of austerity and shortage of funds. The second is the balance sheets of existing companies—we know that quite a lot of money is sloshing around on the balance sheets of many major companies. Unfortunately, that does not include European energy companies, whose balance sheets are not in a great state. We are therefore unlikely to see huge investment coming from that. It will therefore have to come, thirdly, from the markets. We know also that a large chunk of market investment nationally and internationally is deployed by people who, quite contrary to what my noble friend Lord Harrison was seeking, look very much at the short term. Many of the hedge funds and other investor funds around the world are not really likely to invest in technology which has a long-term return.

Pension funds on the other hand are by definition there for the long haul. While there has been a decline in certain types of the better pension funds, they are still deploying vast resources. The people who are dependent on pension funds have to take a long view of the benefit from them. People who are contributing now, in their 20s, to pension funds of all sorts could be receiving, or their dependants could be receiving, benefits relating to that contribution in 80 years’ time, well beyond the targets for the reduction in greenhouse gases.

There should therefore be some synergy between the decision-making of the pension funds and the need to divert investment away from high-carbon energy and high-carbon usage into greener technologies. Unfortunately, there are two problems with that. There is the culture of the pension fund sector on the one hand and there is the unreliability of Governments of all sorts in acting to facilitate this on the other.

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On the culture of pension funds, they are risk averse, but they define risk in very conventional terms. They are a bit set in their ways; they are a bit traditional and slow to move. That applies to the trustees of most pension funds, who, as my noble friend said, tend to interpret their fiduciary duty in a rather short-term and narrow way; it applies to the administrators of those funds; it applies to the advisers to those funds, who tend to look at things in stock market terms and seek a relatively short-term return when they choose which equities, bonds or markets around the world they should invest in. It applies also to the actuaries, who have pretty substantial powers in telling funds whether they are viable—indeed, some of the regulations relating to that are pretty constraining of pension funds in terms of assessing their solvency. Actuaries are even more conservative—with a small “c”, I hasten to add—than the pension fund professionals. It applies also to the fund managers who are contracted by pension funds. They tend not to see long-term investment which has some risk as being an area for their investment—yet the greatest risk of all to everybody’s investment is climate change and the drastic effects that it could have on all sorts of investment and all sorts of property. It should therefore be logical that investment policies should be seen through the prism of how they are affected, or likely to be affected, by climate change.

Some pension funds are beginning to do this. It does not mean overturning everything that pension funds do; it means seeing everything through a prism. In investment in equities, it means looking at the type of activities that companies are engaged in; in government bonds, it means looking at the type of view that Governments take; and in particular projects or ownership of property or land, it means looking at agriculture or forestry that is on the greener end of activity. In the Environment Agency, we tried to do that, for everything from our own decisions and right through. It did not mean that we had a completely abnormal range of portfolios; it just meant that some companies were not invested in while others, which were giving a bigger return and some seriously green advantage, were. It is not rocket science for pension professionals to take on that role, and we should do so in all our operations. There needs to be a concerted effort to try to change the culture of the pension fund professionals and those who advise them. It is beginning. One of the papers circulated to us was the Green Light Report, which makes a number of very important suggestions as to how pension funds can conduct themselves. I do not have time to read them out.

The other constraint is Governments. There are some opportunities for Governments here, and some downsides. Two years ago the Chancellor called together some of the major pension funds to try to get them to invest more in infrastructure. I do not know the degree to which there was a green dimension to that, but there could have been. He was thinking of delivering £5 billion of investment almost immediately. I am not sure how well that went but there needs to be some consideration of using that model to bring together the big pension funds and point them towards greater investment in greener technology and low-carbon areas.

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Of course, the regulatory framework is also a serious issue. Successive Governments have changed the regulatory framework both for pension funds and the development of green technologies. Just this week we have seen the Budget change rules in relation to money purchase pension funds, which will seriously destabilise investment in insurance companies and annuity providers. We had changes even yesterday in relation to the carbon floor price and therefore the way in which we see a return to green investment. We have a whole history of this—under both Governments, one has to say—with FITs and ROCs changing the rates. We cannot have a regulatory framework for the long term which changes every year, yet the past few years have seen serious changes. My plea to the Government is: let us have some stability and consistency, in relation to both pensions regulation and regulation supporting green technology.

5.22 pm

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on getting this debate on to the agenda because it is crucial to our future and our security as a nation. It is also a real pleasure to be in a debate where I did not say the words “climate change” first. It is great that more and more people are understanding how challenging this will be. Earlier this week, I was in a debate on fracking in which proponents of fracking said that we have to frack to deliver our carbon-reduction targets. Even proponents of fracking, which I think is the most disastrous anti-climate change measure, are using climate change as a big stick and something that we have to take into account in the future.

It has already been said that the local authority pension funds have a current market value of around £200 billion. That is a sizeable amount and if it can be manipulated and used in the right way, it can have a huge impact. There have been several reviews of pension fund rules, including the 2001 Myners report, but pension funds are still investing billions in tobacco, arms and fossil fuel companies. My work on this has been trying to encourage various pension funds to invest more ethically but also in a greener way. It is not easy. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, mentioned that pension funds are risk-averse but the fact is that there is a huge risk if they do not take climate change into account. In fact, the green economy is growing at a steady 4%, with lots of promise, so actually it is not a bad investment.

The big problem is that pension funds could be exposed to what is termed the “carbon bubble”, in that they have invested very heavily in fossil fuel companies and similar, but those assets cannot be used if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. That is a real concern because those pension funds could plunge if that sort of carbon bubble becomes imminent.

The government Budget was depressing yesterday—business as usual, and less green than the previous Budget, if that is possible. I abhor that the Government seem unable to see this problem, which is happening in front of their eyes.

Last year I met with Edi Truell, who is the chairman of the London Pensions Fund Authority, and pressed him to make the authority more ethical, in the sense

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that it could be more transparent about policies and implementation. My concern was that the LPFA was acting like an absentee landlord, not looking closely at what the companies it invests in are doing: whether they pay the living wage, for example—which should be an automatic component of whether it invests—and, of course, whether those companies are ethically and even soundly run.

I also talked to the London Pensions Fund Authority about positive investments in areas such as energy infrastructure. The fund is currently looking into the possibility of raising £4 billion, with other pension funds, to fund a 620-mile-long cable to Iceland, which would enable us to share enough energy to power 2 million homes. Iceland could be the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy supplies.

For many years people have campaigned to get quite a lot of pension funds to invest more ethically. For example, East Sussex County Council has been lobbied many times. The fund is valued at around £1.9 billion and is one of the largest pension funds in England and Wales. It has been considering one of the three things that should now happen, which I will now propose to the Government.

First, pension funds should sign up to the UN principles for responsible investment. That is an elementary step. Secondly, the Government should require pension funds to disclose much more information; for example, their socially responsible investment policy implementation and performance monitoring. The people who get the pensions want money for their pensions—of course they do—but at the same time they want to feel that they are not raping and pillaging the rest of the world.

Pension funds should also try to make more positive investments. For example, Lancashire County Council’s pension fund has just invested £12 million in the UK’s first community-owned solar development in south Oxfordshire. That sounds like such a win-win situation. It is good for Lancashire and absolutely brilliant for south Oxfordshire.

As I have a little time left, I will give noble Lords the three tests of sustainability. I wrote these for Boris Johnson when he became Mayor of London; I stood over him and made him read them, which was absolutely pointless. However, I will read them to noble Lords. The first test is: does it ask everyone, at every level of society, to do something? It is not enough to expect the Government, or the local council, to fix our problems. We all, as individuals, have to do something, but the Government cannot expect us to do it on our own—everybody must do something.

The second test is: could it cause potential problems downstream? This is one where Greens are absolutely brilliant, because we are very good at spotting potential messes. A classic example is biofuels. People such as Richard Branson were saying, “Fine, I’ll fly all my aeroplanes on biofuels”. In fact, if you grow biofuels, you are cutting down virgin territory and forest, and taking land that could be used for food—and food supply will be an area where we will have huge problems in the future. You have to make sure that you do not create more problems downstream.

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Finally, does anything claim to be “the” answer? There is no one answer. The problem of climate change is so complex and diverse that we need 1 million, or 2 million, solutions. As Al Gore says, there is no silver bullet, only silver buckshot. The problem is so complex, so we need complex solutions.

Doing the right thing now will save us money. It might feel expensive, but it will be a lot more expensive—exponentially so—in the future. Therefore anticipating, adapting to and mitigating climate change is absolutely urgent. Pension fund authorities have so much power through their investments that they should be exemplars of how to deal with it.

5.29 pm

Lord Giddens (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Harrison on having initiated this debate, in which there seem to be as many chiefs as Indians, which is a bit of a shame. I have spent the past seven years of my life studying climate change, and I would like to take a somewhat more global view than speakers have taken so far, as climate change is quintessentially a global issue.

Not only in this country but across the world, pension funds occupy a peculiarly strategic position within the wider framework of financial markets. They are by definition long-term investors responsible for a far longer investment cycle than the vast majority of other funds. In a world of the immediate, pension funds are obliged to consider the long-term future. Following my noble friend Lord Whitty, that does not mean that they always do so in practice, but in principle they are obliged to do so. Generating a stable set of returns for 20, 30 or 40 years down the line implies having a broad set of ethical imperatives—in other words, the obligation to create stability through their investment decisions; to produce stability rather than just endorse it. I take it that that is really the theme of this debate as a whole.

Sustainability is all about enhancing such stability in a world that is creating huge problems of resource management for its future. In the European Union, pension investments amount to about €8.7 trillion, a gigantic sum of money. About half of that is professionally managed assets within Europe, the rest is public money. It makes complete sense to argue that sustainability—seeking to limit climate change in particular—should be brought to the forefront of pension fund investment. It is in principle a win-win situation as, as other speakers have said, if we are unable to limit the advance of climate change—increasing weather volatility and other changing climatic patterns—we will intrude on that very process of providing security for today’s younger people that it is the object of pension funds to generate.

The framework of emissions reductions set out in the EU’s 2020 programme and beyond provides plenty of inducements for pension funds to invest and, indeed, guarantees a level of long-term protection for that investment. It will be interesting to hear what the Minister thinks of the existing state of affairs within EU countries on that issue, not just in the UK. A number of substantial investments of pension funds have been made in, for example, Germany, Austria

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and Denmark with regard to environmental imperatives. Most of those, as one would expect, are from public pension funds. However, some more corporate models are emerging. They are interesting and should be studied here. Notable examples I would mention are the Nysted wind farm in Denmark and the proposed Anholt wind farm in the same country. In those cases, the pension fund and the industrial partners collaborate to share both risk and reward, and that would certainly be a viable model here. Denmark, as we know, is considerably in advance of the UK on many of these issues.

In this country, the Green Light Report does what its name indicates: it analyses how pension funds can safely and profitably enter that new territory. The report has a range of comments on the issue that my noble friend Lord Whitty raised. It seems a sensible document and contains a whole series of possible strategies.

I should like to ask the Minister three basic questions. One is simply to follow up on the speeches that have been made so far. It is obvious that public policy will play a key role in ensuring a greater connection between pension funds, sustainability and the limitation of climate change more specifically. What interventions are needed on the level of shareholding law to provide a platform for such long-term investment? Where is our existing legislation inadequate and how might it be improved?

Secondly, does the noble Baroness agree that there should be impartiality between younger and older savers in respect of pension funds and their output for environmental imperatives? That has brooked very large in some European countries, because it helps to structure the nature of the investments made. If the noble Baroness does agree, how can public policy help ensure that this is so?

On my third point, I differ significantly from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and from her contributions to the debate on shale gas earlier this week. I call myself an ungreen green: the prime issue facing the world is reduction in global carbon emissions, which overrides most other imperatives, although it does not eliminate them altogether. We have a lot of work to do on this compared to the United States. This has come, not so much from the report discussed on Monday, but from the Breakthrough Institute. This environmental organisation has shown, definitively, that over the past several years the US has reduced its carbon emissions to a greater degree than almost any other country. It has done so because the advent of shale gas has allowed the widespread closure of coal-fired power stations which, as everyone acknowledges, are the most lethal source of CO2 emissions.

Does the Minister agree with this analysis which, as was discussed on Monday, is resonant with implications? Does she agree that pension funds should, subject to strict and responsible environmental regulation, treat shale gas as an effective environmental investment, so long as some of the core issues—especially curbing emissions of methane—are effectively handled? As was said in the report discussed on Monday, this is important because it is relevant, not just to this country,

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but to the core issues of climate change. The US and China contribute some 42% of total global CO2 emissions. If we cannot effect a change, especially in China, we are not big enough to make a significant dent in this global issue. Shale gas can play an important role, alongside renewable energy, if it is used analogously to how it has been used in the United States.