However, on a day when there is little business for your Lordships’ House—these instruments were moved from the Moses Room to pad out the Order Paper because there was a real risk that the business in the Chamber would have closed before the Grand Committee was due to sit—I find it staggering that there is not a government Motion before the House expressing the Government’s concern about the crisis in electoral registration, and explaining what they are going to do to sort it out, and get the millions of people who are eligible but are not registered on to the electoral register.

We are light on business, and we have a crisis. On Tuesday, the Electoral Commission published a report of its analysis of the number of people who were on the electoral register on 1 December. It found that there were 2%—that is, 920,000—fewer people on the register than in the previous February and March. Who are the people most likely not to be on the register? They are people who are moving home, students

26 Feb 2015 : Column 1802

and attainers—young people who are not 18 yet but will be 18 by polling day. That figure of 920,000 fewer people on the register is scandalous. This is a crisis, and rather than debate it here in your Lordships’ House on a government Motion so that we could hear what urgent action the Government were taking, we hear nothing about it, and it falls to the Opposition, on the back of regulations about election stationery, the combination of polls and how are we going to count the votes after verification, to raise these serious matters.

That is a dreadful state of affairs. I have an Oral Question down for 19 March asking the Government what action they will take to get people on the register before 20 April, and I am giving the Minister another chance to set out his plans today. We need urgent action, and we want to be reassured. It looks to me as if the Government are coasting on these matters. That is a truly dreadful state of affairs.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, that is slightly specious, if I may say so—but it does help me, because I wanted to raise one question with my noble friend. My experience is that there is no regulation relating to the right of a person who is unable to enter a particular polling booth to have the ballot paper brought out to them. I understand that it is open to the particular officer in that place to give that service.

I raise this matter because of the Assembly of Bethel. This is an organisation, rather small in its numbers, that has a particular view about what buildings its members may enter without impurity. It is an unusual view, and not one which I share, but holding it should not deny people the right to vote. In my former constituency I had a member of the Assembly of Bethel, and she was unable to enter the building because on top of it was a cross with a circle round it, and the organisation believes this to refer to the sun god rather than the Son of God. I discovered, in this very curious circumstance, that it is not even for the returning officer to insist that the ballot paper be brought out. He has to rely on the personal decision of the officer in charge of that particular polling station.

I am therefore taking this opportunity to raise what I know is an esoteric example, although it is none the worse for that—I am a believer in a bit of esotericism from time to time. People should have the right to deal with the ballot paper outside for all kinds of reasons, not necessarily just because they are in a wheelchair. Have the Government considered whether it might be an appropriate principle to say that such decisions should be governed by the local returning officer overall, rather than being left to whoever happens to be on duty as an assistant officer in a particular polling station? I do not expect my noble friend to have an immediate answer to the problems of the Assembly of Bethel, but he may be prepared to look again at whether we need to change the regulations in this regard.

Lord Trefgarne (Con): My Lords, may I, too, raise a small point? I was not in my seat for the whole of the Minister’s speech but I was standing at the other end of the Chamber, so I hope I may be allowed to intervene briefly. My noble friend referred to the voting

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provisions for blind persons, and the ballot papers that are available for them. Is it not possible to have available in polling stations a small number of voting papers in Braille, which blind persons can have access to, so that they are more fully informed about the choices that they are making?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I first met the noble Lord, Lord Deben, rather a long time ago, but I did not realise until many years later that he was such an expert on esotericism. I shall now always think of him as an esotericist of the highest order. All I can say is that I will take his point back—it is extremely esoteric—and ask the officials to reply.

The answer to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne—I think that I did mention this in passing—is that devices are provided in polling stations for the visually impaired, to guide them round the ballot paper. These devices have adhesive elements that stick them in the right place on the back of the ballot paper. I have not actually seen them myself, but that is what I understand to be the case. My understanding—I shall write to the noble Lord if I am wrong—is that what is necessary is provided.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, that we all recognise that electoral registration in Britain is a voluntary activity, with mild penalties for those who do not do it. It is not a necessary obligation as part of citizenship. The noble Lord, Lord Maxton, would like us to have identity cards and registration would be part of that, and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, would like registration—and, I think, voting too—to be compulsory. But we must recognise that part of the reason why, over the past 20 years, people have not registered—I stress that we have faced this problem for some considerable time—is the fact that they are disengaged from politics. In campaigning over the past few weekends I have found, in some areas more than in others, that we come up against a wall of, “You’re all the same”, “Politics is nothing to do with us”, “There’s no point in voting in this constituency”, and so on. I regret to say that some recent events in Westminster are likely to feed into that.

I repeat that we all, political parties as well as the Government and others, have to work extremely hard to enthuse the electorate. The Government have not yet completed all their efforts. In the week of National Voter Registration Day we managed to register nearly half a million extra people, and we will be continuing to maintain these efforts right up to the last day that people can register for voting. We have provided extra money for a number of agencies, as well as for electoral administrators in the areas of greatest need. As I said in opening the debate, we are not satisfied with the current position but we are maintaining our efforts, and we hope that by 20 April we will have as accurate and as full an electoral register as possible.

2 pm

I understand that one of the phenomena we are facing at present is that the December figures do not include a number of new students who registered during the late autumn. I am also told that a large number of 18 year-olds are registered at their home parental addresses and not yet at their university or

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college addresses. We do not know whether they will register at the latter addresses. That may be one of the reasons for this situation.

We are, of course, actively engaged in pursuing the maximum number of registrations as well as making sure that the register that we have by 20 April is as accurate as possible. As I said, we will return to this issue in some 10 days’ time when we discuss the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. I trust that we will all maintain our efforts inside and outside Westminster all the way through to the election as we need to have not only the maximum number of registrations but the maximum number of voters. I think we all recognise that we face a tide of disillusionment and disengagement with conventional party politics among many voters, against which we have to do our best to struggle.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: I accept that the noble Lord is as concerned about this matter as I am, and we regularly raise it, particularly in the Moses Room. However, as I said, the House is not exactly pushed for business and the election is fast coming down the track. Will the noble Lord talk to his colleagues as I do not see why the Government could not table a Motion to enable us to discuss this one evening so that he can set out the Government’s plans in full? This is a crisis and it is really serious now. I am very worried about the 20 April deadline. I do not understand why that is in force. A lot of people will not register in time. We will hear lots of dreadful stories during the election and on polling day about people who have lost their right to vote. We should do everything we possibly can to avoid that. I hope that the noble Lord will take that point back and initiate a debate on this issue before the Dissolution.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thought that I and others were keeping the House as regularly informed on this as possible. I have long since lost count of the number of Questions I have answered on individual electoral registration over the last 12 months. However, I will take the noble Lord’s suggestion back to the usual channels and we will see what we can do. I think that I have answered all the points that were raised.

Motion agreed.

Representation of the People (Ballot Paper) Regulations 2015

Motion to Approve

2.01 pm

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

That the draft regulations laid before the House on 13 January be approved.

Relevant document: 20th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

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Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order 2015

Motion to Approve

2.01 pm

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

That the draft order laid before the House on 15 January be approved.

Relevant document: 21st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

British Agriculture

Question for Short Debate

2.02 pm

Asked by Lord Willoughby de Broke

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the effect of European Union regulation on British agriculture.

Lord Willoughby de Broke (UKIP): My Lords, I am grateful to have the opportunity to have this short debate about farming because farming is facing something of a perfect storm at the moment. It is a storm made up of low prices, overregulation and unwarranted regulation, in many cases, from Brussels, and the imposition of a new payment scheme—the basic payment scheme—to replace the single payment scheme, but more of that a little later.

Some noble Lords may be familiar with Noel Coward’s song “There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner”, which states:

“From Colwyn Bay to Kettering they’re sobbing themselves to sleep,

The shrieks and wails in the Yorkshire Dales have even depressed the sheep;In rather vulgar lettering a very disgruntled group have posted bills in the Cotswold hillsTo prove we’re in the soup”.

I declare my interest as a member of that disgruntled group of farmers. I farm in Warwickshire and I am disgruntled because during my time in the Lords I have served on the committee chaired by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, who is in his place, and have spoken in many debates, including debates in 1991, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2008. I think that in nearly all those debates there were calls for reform of the common agricultural policy. I think that both Front Benches in this House have always agreed with the idea of reforming the common agricultural policy. However, what has happened after all those fine words? Where are we now? Has anything changed? Has the common agricultural policy become less bureaucratic, less centralised and less corrupt? No, it has not. Has it made farmers any more prosperous? No, it has not. Actually, things have got worse, as I will explain.

Let us look at where we are now. Dairy farming is on its knees and in many cases producers are being paid less than the cost of production. In some cases, milk is absurdly being sold at less than the price of

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water. I checked this out for myself in my local branch of the Co-op supermarket in Shipston-on-Stour last week and found that one litre of milk was priced at 85p, while a litre bottle of San Pellegrino water cost £1.35. Perhaps noble Lords should put San Pellegrino water on their cornflakes as it is obviously better than milk.

The beef and sheep sectors are suffering under overregulation, passports and identification schemes, many of which are unnecessary and certainly very burdensome and time-consuming for stock farmers. Arable farmers are regularly stripped of their ability to grow profitable, healthy and viable crops at a time when they are being enjoined to feed an ever increasing population, but the rules from Brussels make it more and more difficult to do that. I take the example of winter wheat. One of the big enemies of winter wheat is the black-grass weed. Over the last couple of years, the most effective black-grass herbicides have been gradually withdrawn against the advice of our own very independent and expert Advisory Committee on Pesticides and that of the previous government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington. However, their advice does not really count. What counts is what goes on in Brussels. The ayatollahs in Brussels decide what we are going to do and we have almost no say there any more. The rules are decided by the agricultural bosses in Brussels in the Commission and are subject to qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers, where we are regularly outvoted. Perhaps the Minister can explain why Britain’s much trumpeted strong voice in Europe—about which we hear all the time from the Liberal Benches and the—

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB): I am most grateful to the noble Lord, who is famous for his continental courtesy. When people ask, “What did the Normans do for us?”, you have to say that, after the initial fracas at Hastings, they brought a great degree of courtesy to our debates, as we will see when the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, who is legendary for his courtesy, replies to this debate.

Does the party of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, wish us to withdraw from the European Union and, if so, would we not still be subject to these terrible regulations which he has described, with only one difference—that we would no longer have any vote in what they were?

Lord Willoughby de Broke: Certainly, my party—UKIP—would definitely withdraw from the common agricultural policy. I am time limited in this debate and I do not want to go on for too long but we would have the money to pay farmers and our vote now is—

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My Lords—

Lord Willoughby de Broke: I am very sorry but I do not want to take any more interventions. If the noble Lord wanted to speak in the debate, he should have put his name down. Farmers can survive in this country without the CAP.

As the Minister will remember, the humiliating position of having no say in what goes on in agriculture in this country was underlined last summer when the

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Commission, spurred on by demonstrators dressed up as bumble-bees, suspended the use of neonicotinoid seed dressings for oilseed rape and other brassicas. Yet again, our Advisory Committee on Pesticides was against this, as to their credit were the Government and the Minister. Yet again, we are being forced to enforce a policy with which we do not agree.

The rule of unintended consequences will now kick in. Large acreages of oilseed rape have been damaged. The percentages are arguable, but these acreages have certainly suffered. According to Home Grown Cereals Authority estimates, about 40,000 acres of oilseed rape last autumn had to be destroyed, abandoned or re-drilled. The consequence of that is that as oilseed rape is a major food for bees and pollinators, there will be less food for them: there will be less oilseed rape. Now that neonics are banned, farmers will use airborne sprays. They have to be put on at flowering time. This initiative by the Commission will definitely damage bees more than was the case when we had neonicotinoid seed dressings—but welcome to the EU, and have a nice day.

Next on the EU shooting-itself-in-the-foot department were genetically modified organisms. Last year the scientific adviser to the European Commission, Professor Anne Glover, was effectively sacked by the new President of the Commission, Herr Juncker. He simply abolished the post. While she was not an active supporter of GMOs, her big mistake—her misdeed—was to say that she understood that the technology is safe and used all over the world. She made the serious error of actually saying this, when she told an organisation called EurActiv:

“I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food”.

For this extreme view she was vilified and pilloried by the usual suspects: Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association. Her job was abolished.

The result of this negative, damaging and anti-scientific approach to risk-based regulation, which is what we should have in this country, is that British farmers are disadvantaged by not being able to use technologies that their rivals all over the world are using to their and to consumers’ benefits.

It gets a bit worse. Brussels has come up with a shiny new and exciting replacement for the single payment scheme. It is called the basic payment scheme, or BPS. It is even more complex and irrational than the scheme that it replaces; it sounds hard to do, but Brussels has done it. There is a whole lot of bumf in six papers that I have had that covers 160 double-side pages of print and weighs in at 1 pound and 7 ounces. It defines what a farmer is and tells us what we can do on our own land.

The critical point here is that as farmers we can no longer decide what we grow. We are now handed down a demand and requirement by the Commission that in order to get the subsidies from the BPS we must grow three separate crops. The peasantry can no longer decide what it wants to grow. Presumably we are too stupid to decide what grows best on our own land, too ignorant to grow food that the market requires, and

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not fit to know what sort of rotational scheme we should have. We have to be told what to do by the European Commission.

This is complete madness. Do the Government really think it right to remain in this wasteful, corrupt, mismanaged, bureaucratic and utterly hopeless organisation, when the common agricultural policy has been condemned on both sides of this House for many years with, as far as I can see, absolutely no result? We would surely be better off bringing agricultural policy back to this country. This would be better for consumers and farmers, and much better for our self-respect.

2.14 pm

The Earl of Caithness (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, on getting time for this important debate.

In the world today we face a burgeoning population and a growing demand for food, yet EU and UK agricultural production is at best stalled and in some cases decreasing. Clearly not all is well. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has said that there are serious costs to UK agriculture from being in the EU. So what are the difficulties?

For the first time, the majority of the world’s population live in urban areas and for the most part understand neither farming nor the country. This will only get worse, whether we are in or out of the EU. The latest CAP reform was not fit for purpose. The three different crops for arable farms of over 30 hectares is the prime example. Decision-makers in Brussels pay too much attention to unelected, unaccountable NGOs. The so-called green lobbyists, funded in part by the taxpayer—quite wrongly in my view—are starting to do real harm. They will increasingly affect future decisions and regulations—and again, it does not matter whether we are in or out of the EU. EU regulations are far too often based on emotion and politics, not on sound science. A good example is the banning by the Commission of the neonic group of pesticides. This was a dubious decision that undoubtedly makes the lives of farmers more difficult.

The conclusion of the Anderson report on the plant-protection products regime as currently run by the Commission, commissioned by the NFU and others, makes for sober reading. It concludes that in the UK some crops, such as peas for freezing, carrots and apples, will probably not be grown in the future. The gross value added of UK agriculture will fall by about £1.6 billion per annum. There will be a drop of over 36% in farming profits, and a loss of between 35,000 and 40,000 jobs in the associated workforce. These are serious and worrying conclusions, and my noble friend must give us an answer today as to whether he agrees or disagrees with these findings.

I turn to GM crops. The EU position is not just to commit millions of the poorest to a worse diet and more starvation; it is driving research, development and production out of the EU when these are exactly what we need to boost growth and jobs. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, that the sacking by President Juncker of Anne Glover as chief scientific adviser, and the demolition of her job because of her approach to GMOs, was a huge black mark and a terrible decision.

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Dr Roberto Bertollini, chief scientist and the WHO representative to the EU, said:

“Ideology and vested interests continue to dominate the public debate in Europe and elsewhere irrespective of the attempts to bring knowledge and science-based advice in the picture”.

Anne Glover’s sacking and the removal of her post was a victory for the green NGOs that sought to undermine her position and won. The result is that the future is bleaker than it should be.

Let me be fair. Good regulations do come out of the EU. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, will have welcomed the minimum apple content in cider that has led to an increase in cider-growing orchards in this country. Although EU regulations on agriculture are perhaps one of the best arguments for leaving the EU, that would be totally wrong. From time to time we are bound to have less good commissioners and Commissions, just as we have less good Governments and Ministers in the UK. One has only to look at ex-Prime Minister Blair, who failed us on many fronts and in particular gave away a large part of our rebate in return for reforms of the CAP that never happened. Getting out of the EU will not solve agriculture’s problems. It will probably make matters worse and is not wanted by most farmers, particularly those in Scotland. I know that the noble Lord is a farmer and that he wants to get out, but not all farmers do.

There has been an encouraging start by Commissioner Hogan, however, who has said many of the right things. I hope that he is more in the MacSharry mould than his predecessor. In his keynote address to the NFU conference in Birmingham two days ago, Commissioner Hogan said that he had made simplification a top priority for his work programme in 2015. He went on to say that he had launched a comprehensive screening exercise of the entire CAP to identify which sections may need simplifying. He went on to say that more than 200 Commission regulations implemented by the common market organisation will be reviewed and simplified. If 200 are being looked at, what is happening to the others? Why are they not being looked at? In what timescale will this happen? How will we hold the commissioner’s feet to the fire? He has said the right things; how will we make him perform?

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State at the same NFU conference highlighted many problems. She talked about the 30 hectare farming nonsense. Is that one of the reforms that Commissioner Hogan will look at, or does it fall into the category of getting at the principles of the recent CAP reform and is therefore untouchable?

The commissioner mentioned something else that is very important but which the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, did not mention at all. He rightly pointed out that not all the complaints fell at his door. With the greater flexibility produced under the CAP reforms, we need to look at our own Government and, in particular, gold-plating. I must commend Defra—in recent years, it has been considerably better than its predecessor, MAFF—but we still have problems. Let me give an example from Scotland. The debate refers to British agriculture. I know that the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, will not reply to this, but as

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recently as 1 January this year, the Scottish Government introduced a more aggressive penalty matrix to drive the prompt reporting of cattle movements to fit with Scotland’s three-day reporting window, rather than the EU’s seven-day reporting window. That is stupid, and also detrimental to farming.

I will not let Defra get away with it completely: it might not be making new gold plates, but what about some old gold-plating? What about the 2007 regulations about the density of poultry stocking? That was way worse than what the EU had recommended but has not yet been repealed. I hope that that will be first on my noble friend’s list of things to do after today’s debate.

Let me end on a positive note. Sometimes one forgets what we do in this House. Sub-Committee D has recommended a number of things. When I was serving on it, it produced an innovation report which we sent to the Commission. A lot of that was incorporated in the CAP review. As recently as 31 January, another initiative under the European innovation partnership for agricultural productivity and sustainability was taken forward. That is to be welcomed, and Sub-Committee D deserves a pat on the back. It is worth staying in there and having our feet under the table—irritating as it is at times. That is the right thing for our countryside and our farming community.

2.22 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (LD): My Lords, in his opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, reminded me that we have often debated these issues in this House, even in the 16 years I have been here. We always seem to come to the same conclusions. I respectfully suggest to him that the reason for that is nothing to do with Europe. It is more to do with the fact that our food system has been so broken over those years. I shall lay out a few reasons for that before turning to the question of the EU.

The food system in the UK is not working for farmers or consumers. We produce some world-famous items, such as beef, lamb, potatoes and apples, and some others that are not so often thought of, such as watercress, pears and trout. They are fabulous, health-giving food. At the other end of the scale, we have consumers who are malnourished or obese. What are they living on? They are living on processed food saturated with sugar, palm oil and salt, which is doing no good to their health. That has nothing to do with the EU; that has to do with the food system, which has broken down. That is what we have to mend. In this country, we need an overarching food strategy that covers the spectrum from what Defra covers to what the Department of Health covers. Not since the Second World War have we had that.

From the EU, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, mentioned, we have lots of good regulation. We have had regulation about water pollution, air pollution and all sorts of other things without which we would probably have never had the incentives to make those steps forward. Of course, we have also had overregulation, and the noble Earl has cut short what I had to say about that, because I, too, was going to mention my hope from what the new commissioner has said about deregulation.

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I remember that a few years ago the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, was championing the cause of honest meat. With that, he had a point: it is about labelling meat so that consumers here can really see what they are buying. If, like me, he had been at the meeting of the All-Party Group on Agroecology yesterday—I must declare my interest in that I chair it—he would have heard from John Turner, who initiated the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association. It is a vibrant and growing association which ensures that we are using grass, which grows so well in the UK—probably better than anywhere else—to produce the absolute highest quality meat. The results of studies show that meat from pasture-fed animals has a higher nutritional quality than meat from animals fed on other things. That group did not mention that it is suffering from EU regulation, but it is suffering from the lack of proper, open labelling, which would make it much easier for consumers to see what they are buying.

One effect of the tabling of this debate was to make me look at UKIP’s agricultural policies. I was most surprised to see that number one on its agricultural policy list is to impose stronger controls on bush meat. Controlling bush meat, with all its health implications, is clearly very important, but that is not really a British agricultural issue. It is not in competition with beef or lamb. To mix my metaphors, it is a total red herring. That is an issue for the Home Office and border controls. The second top policy of UKIP is to support the trial culling of badgers for the control of bovine TB if veterinary opinion substantiates it. That is not original. It is common to all sides of the House so there is nothing to disagree with there. The third is that UKIP supports the principle of science before emotion on any agricultural topic. Who does not?

There is the issue of how strong the precautionary principle should be. Noble Lords have today raised the issue of neonicotinoids, which is highly important. We cannot do nothing about our pollinators dying out. There is a good argument for trying different approaches and not just allowing the continued use of neonicotinoids as a blanket solution to pests without seeing whether their use is what is causing such a dramatic fall in the number of our pollinators.

I contend that UKIP’s proposals would be an environmental disaster for farmers themselves because they suggest that pollution does not matter. Not only that, they would be a disaster for the wider community and for the food-buying public. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, made fun of the fact that the policy defines what a farmer is, but there is good reason for that. Why should CAP public money go to support the so-called slipper farmers? People who put their feet up and do nothing should not be receiving public money. It is understandable that the Commission is to try to define what a farmer is. The UK Government would join it in being anxious to ensure that public money does not go to people who should not be receiving it.

As for the effects of UKIP’s proposals economically, I will simply echo the words of Ross Murray of the CLA. He said that it was a fallacy to argue that if we opted out of Europe, British farmers could survive, let alone survive well. He said:

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“If we opt out of the EU our exports will be cut to shreds and we will be completely at the mercy of the supermarkets, who will always buy on price”.

I go back to where I started with this. The food system in this country is broken, but it is not the fault of the EU. One of the big steps that this Government have taken was to bring in the Groceries Code Adjudicator, which we need to do more to strengthen. We can see that from the dairy sector, but that is a different issue. Socially, UKIP’s policies would be an utter disaster. UKIP has nothing to say about young farmers, the price of land, capital machinery investment or food quality assurance and it wants to get rid of all of these border controls and regulations. What is going to happen when we have another horsemeat scandal? Finally, UKIP seems to have nothing to say on animal welfare issues, which certainly concern the Liberal Democrats and the public, and should concern the noble Lord.

2.30 pm

Baroness Byford (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, on achieving this debate. I thank him for his contribution, some of which I agree with and some of which I clearly do not. I should also declare my family farming interest and my membership of the NFU and the CLA.

I understand that farming is one of the most regulated industries. We should be working towards minimum regulation and the encouragement of good practice, only legislating where it is truly necessary. The question is: what is the problem? Has risk-assessment research been undertaken, and has sound science been implemented there? If the answers to those questions are yes, should regulation be introduced with a review planned afterwards?

I am grateful to this Government for responding to Richard Macdonald’s task force review and for the work undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, chairman of the Better Regulation Executive, who looked at smart regulation. I was, like others, encouraged to read of the incoming Commissioner Juncker saying that removing unnecessary red tape was at the centre of his political agenda and that his first vice- president has been given responsibility for looking at better regulation. I do not mind whether we call it better or smart, but it needs to be looked at and I, like others, am concerned about the dismissal of the scientific officer.

In this country, the Government have been tackling the current position on regulations. The Secretary of State, the right honourable Liz Truss, speaking at the NFU conference earlier this week, said that Defra was on course to cut 80% of the guidance given to farmers over the course of this Parliament. My goodness, that would be an achievement. They will have cut some 34,000 farm inspections due to farmers who have gained earned recognition. I cannot go into this more deeply, but I know that the Minister will know about that. This has been made possible by the various assured schemes on offer to farmers, so progress is being made.

However, one cannot be complacent. Relevant regulations over the years have protected food production, the environment and animal health and welfare, and have recognised the importance of soil and water in

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growing crops. However, there are concerns: some have been touched on but I will reinforce them. The new cap, the greening rules and the proposed three-year crop rule—which has been introduced for farmers with more than 30 hectares of land—bring huge challenges to many farmers, particularly the smaller ones and dairy farmers, who normally grow grass and perhaps only one crop on the farm as cattle feed. Those farmers are under serious threat and I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say when he comes to wind up at the end of the debate.

Secondly, as has been mentioned, the loss of plant protection products—such as herbicides, pesticides and fungicides—due to EU regulation has had an alarming effect on production. I do not know if your Lordships are aware, but since 2001, half of these products have been removed due to the overly cautious regulation principle, rather than taking into account, for example, the dose level and exposure of existing products. This risks reducing yields and exposes the crops to black-grass, which is a huge problem in the long term. Will the Minister tell us whether research is being undertaken to review bee colony numbers, now that these products have been withdrawn; or whether it was more climatic and other conditions, rather than the neonics themselves, that caused this problem? I am sure it would be a useful study if it has not been undertaken already.

Yesterday, an article in the press referred to an EU proposal that I nearly did not believe existed. It would require insurance cover for all owners of lawnmowers, golf buggies and mobile scooters that never leave private land. If they were in the public domain, it would be understandable, if slightly questionable, but these are only on private land. While I know that this comes within the remit of the Department for Transport, it obviously affects farmers as well. It brings to mind the proposal, which I think was then dropped, to restrict the driving of tractors to four hours a day. We just need to be very aware of some things that are not practical.

We need to be constantly aware of regulations that are not fit for purpose. Does the Minister agree that the EU GM regulations are not fit for purpose, either in respect of the current process or in anticipation of new crop biotechnologies, such as gene silencing and site-directed nucleases? I welcome the recent EU announcement that allows member states to take the decision on whether to grow GM crops, but there are some persistent questions that need answering within that. There are many who have reservations about GM technology. There are reports of its success in some parts of the world, but some express concerns about the effects experienced by other countries. Does the European Commission track such evidence; where does this responsibility lie; and who, if anybody, challenges the evidence that is coming forward from other parts of the world?

Food security, increasing populations, climate change and the growth of energy crops all put great pressure on agricultural land. In this country, we produce only 60% of the crops we need indigenously, which means that we are reliant on importing 40% of our food globally. That also has an effect on our balance of

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payments. Whether that can be sustained in the long term or not is a big question. “Backing British Farming in a Volatile World” was the title of the NFU conference held earlier this week, which recognised the challenges facing farmers today.

Another way in which agriculture across Europe can be helped is by greater co-operation and research-sharing between member states. I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Caithness referred to EU Sub-Committee D, on which he and I used to sit together and on which I now, temporarily, still sit. Over recent years, we produced two reports to which I want to refer, one of which he touched on. In the summary of that report, Innovation inEUAgriculture, we stressed the importance of science and research as key elements for increasing yields, but that this knowledge and innovative changes must be put into practice on the ground for farmers to understand and take benefits from. The report stated:

“Regulation should help, not hinder. Politicians and society must not be afraid of new properly tested technologies … Benefits and risks must be clearly articulated, recognising that too cautionary an approach may pose risks to global food security”.

The other report, which we produced more recently, was called Counting theCost of Food Waste. In that, we recognised:

“The EU has an important role to play in encouraging co-operation throughout the supply chain. It must also look at its own regulatory framework and consider where that may impede food waste prevention throughout the component parts of the supply chain”.

I guess that in this Chamber, it will not surprise its Members to hear that we waste a third of the food that we produce in this country and across Europe. If we could save and make better use of that food, there would not be so much pressure to produce more and more, while at the same time we know that we have more and more mouths to feed.

I am passionate about the way in which we in this country and across Europe can and do produce food. I believe that farmers want to be allowed to get on with it within reasonable constraints of correct regulation where it is needed. I am not as pessimistic as the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke.

Perhaps I might take up the point made my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, who talked about healthy eating. I come back to square one: I believe that we are tending to go so much towards the nanny state. At the end of the day, it is really for us as individuals to take responsibility for what we eat, how much we eat, what we do and the exercise we take. Having said that, it is the Government’s prime responsibility to defend the nation and to feed it—and in that, I am very glad that my noble friend Lord De Mauley is the Minister at this moment.

2.40 pm

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My Lords, I intervene briefly in the gap—

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I apologise but the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, was going to speak in the gap first.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab): The noble Lord is on his feet. Let him stay there.

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Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I thank the noble Lord. I intervene because the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, was unwilling to accept my interventions during his speech.

When the Minister sums up in answer to this debate, will he confirm that the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, is entitled to grow whatever he likes on his rolling acres, provided that he chooses not to apply for a subsidy? It is when he fills in the forms that he becomes subject to the regulation on issues such as the three-crop rotation. If you believe in reducing the cost of the CAP, as I certainly do and as the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, has argued down the years, a good initial contribution would be for him to decide that he is happy to farm his land unsubsidised. It is if he applies for a subsidy from the EU that he has to play by the rules of the game.

Will the Minister also confirm that, if the UK left the EU, farm products or food from Britain would be subject to the 10% common external tariff on entering the EU that we had left, and that the regulations on food standards and quality would still have to be honoured if we were going to sell into the single market that we had left? In other words, we would still get the regulation but would have absolutely no say in the writing of the rules.

Finally, I think I am right in saying that the proportion of our GNP represented by agriculture is now a lot lower than it was in 1972, but that the cost of agricultural subsidy to this country is a lot higher. Will the Minister confirm that? He might want to consider whether that is one of the reasons why the CLA and the NFU do not agree with UKIP.

2.43 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I can bring no farming expertise to this debate but what I can do is to bring memory. I well remember that, before the war, the farming industry was allowed to decline. That was a great strategic mistake. It is necessary, for strategic reasons, that we are as near self-sufficiency in this country as we possibly can be. Before the Second World War and for a long time during it, we were not self-sufficient and we suffered for that.

I happen to have been evacuated from London to a farm in Mapledurham, so I have a certain amount of experience of farming. The farmer was a member of what were then called the war agricultural committees. They had enormous powers to take over farms, if necessary, and have them run by the Government or people who they appointed. I remember going around with the farmer to some of those derelict farms. It was an absolute disgrace that farms which could have produced food were producing nothing and that their buildings and systems were completely derelict. So I know that we must not let our farming industry decline. I also believe that, for strategic reasons, we must have control of its policies. That is what we have not got under the European Union and the CAP.

Following the Second World War, the then Labour Government brought in a new agricultural Act, which treated farming probably better than it had ever been treated before. That lasted quite a long time but we can—and should—still be responsible for our own

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farming decisions. I understand of course that the farming industry and farmers themselves are concerned that, if we left the CAP, they would lose the subsidies without which they could not operate. However, we have to remember that we pay a net contribution to the European Union and that half of that goes to farmers. We could then use that in ways that save our own farming industry, rather than being beneficial to other farms throughout the EU.

It was correct of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, to have raised this matter. This has been an excellent debate and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

2.46 pm

Lord Grantchester (Lab): My Lords, it is always timely to consider for a moment the status quo of agriculture in the EU, what is current reality and what our objectives are for UK agriculture. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, for initiating this debate today and I declare my interest as a farmer receiving CAP funds.

The topic is wide ranging and all speakers have highlighted various areas for concern, but let us be careful with our conclusions. It will be no surprise that I do not share the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. All nations support their agriculture. The figures speak for themselves. In England alone, the total support from CAP payments in 2012 was just over £2 billion. That is 27% of the value of farming, which is some £7.25 billion in total. To those who say that Britain could be like Norway or Switzerland, I would suggest that they look at the comparison with agricultural subsidies in those countries: they are far higher, at 60% in Norway and more than 50% in Switzerland. I cannot see this as a likely or credible outcome for agricultural support here, should the UK leave the EU. Agricultural support would be nowhere near this level, or even at the status quo level.

Furthermore, Britain is a trading nation, which pertains in agriculture as well. EU exports would be in jeopardy. In 2013, some 105,331 tonnes of British beef went abroad, of which only 4,574 tonnes went to non-EU states. Sixty per cent of it went to Holland and Ireland. This reliance on exports to the EU would mean that UK producers still needed to comply with EU trading regulations, yet would be without influence on any future decisions, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has argued. What British agriculture produces is world-class and competes with any of its neighbours on quality. Britain needs to be at the table in Europe, shaping the decisions that will affect its farmers and food supply chain. The agri-food sector contributes £97.1 billion to the economy each year and supports the jobs of more than 3.5 million people.

Yet this not to deny that there are issues to address and implementations to be improved. Under this Conservative-led Government, however, the outcomes of the reformed CAP have been rather disappointing, failing to deliver simplification and failing to achieve further progress on decoupling support with a move towards a greener CAP and more profitable farming.

The Labour Party is clear that we want to see UK farming profitable, thriving and competitive. UK farming can respond to international food markets and meet

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global demand but at the same time protect and enhance natural resources, without a trade-off between food production and the wider issues of sustainability. The CAP has a clear role in the delivery of this and in providing resilience to enable responsible land management, recognising the public goods delivered such as mitigating flood control and providing recreation against an attractive landscape. This is why modulation from Pillar 1 payments to Pillar 2 payments of 15% from 2017 will be necessary. The next Labour Government have a clear commitment to support agriculture in the context of doing more to support the rural economy and get best value for money.

The delivery of all this through regulation is a vital area of concern to all speakers in the debate today. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, has highlighted the withdrawal of crop protection products, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. Labour supports this precautionary principle, as both have spoken about, but this must be underpinned by science and be evidence based.

We recognise the contribution provided by the Crop Protection Association members, with investments of nearly £4 billion per annum globally to develop innovative solutions that support safe and sustainable food production. The process leading to the licensing of new protection products will be complex, costly and lengthy. But the process must be consistent and focus on mismanagement and evidence rather than be hazard based. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, have highlighted the report produced by farm business consultants Andersons: the impact of hazard-based regulations will curtail profitability, restrict most crops and even curtail some food altogether, with consequential job losses along the food supply chain.

Perhaps the Minister in his remarks, and in answering the questions of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, can reflect on how regulation has slipped into this, what protocols exist whereby the Government may re-examine the basis of assessments and what his Government are doing to ensure that British agriculture has the tools at its disposal to increase production and productivity, which we believe should be at the heart of policy-making.

Several noble Lords have mentioned neonicotinoids as a further example of inappropriate regulation. The studies and research on pollinators are incomplete, with insufficient data at the moment. That is why the Labour Party supports the temporary ban on neonicotinoids, for the mean time, as an appropriate response to the European Food Safety Authority’s evidence on the contribution of neonicotinoid use to pollinator decline in the UK. The ban is due to be reviewed this year.

On the subject of genetic modification of crops, once again the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, have argued that this is far from fit for purpose. We recognise the assiduousness with which ACRE—the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment—undertakes its assessments. The safety of citizens and consumers with the environment should be the Government’s top priority. Any decision needs to be based on scientific

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evidence on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, genetic modification and new agricultural biotechnologies and techniques could be a powerful tool to tackle the challenge of global food security. These technologies have the potential to put crop protection in the seed rather than in the environment.

Labour agrees that it is right that EU member states should be able to decide themselves whether to allow certain GM crops, after careful consideration and in tandem with public recognition of their acceptance. In the light of the recent decision of EU Environment Ministers to enable member state decision-making on GM crops within the EU framework, when does the Minister think the first commercial application for GM cultivation in the UK will take place, and for what products? How will the Minister take forward a balanced argument to the public, based on science and evidence, robust safety controls, responsible biosecurity and labelling?

While there are many regulations that can cause problems, the one that has perhaps received most coverage, especially as it is pervasive to cropping systems, is the three-crop rule. This is one of the criteria to be met by farmers and growers to secure 30% of their direct payment. In England, although the NFU and environmental groups alike are critical of the overall EU reform package, they have conceded that the UK Government have done the “best of a bad job”. Perhaps in his remarks, the Minister might reflect on why his department could not have done a better job. Does the Minister consider that the new Commissioner’s approach, as highlighted by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, could provide a solution in this situation? After all, this rule cuts across many businesses that have been developed to generate efficiencies and co-operative practices. What are the Government doing to mitigate unintentional consequences from this element of the package?

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, mentioned food security. This concept is often spoken about as if it is only to be assessed against self-sufficiency of production. The Labour Party believes it is more complex than that and is also a function of distribution and reducing food waste, as has been mentioned, in the face of challenges such as climate change and decarbonisation. It is also a function of social and economic policies and good governance.

The Labour Party has a strong record on food security. It was the previous Labour Administration who undertook a coherent analysis of food security in 2009-10 with the Food Matters report, the Foresight report on land use, leading to the strategic Food 2030report—regrettably now scrapped by this Conservative-led coalition. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, had forgotten this report in her statement that there had been no such strategic analysis in the past 30 years.

Baroness Byford: I know that time is running out so I will be very brief. I had not forgotten it. I did not think it was as good as it might have been.

Lord Grantchester: I accept the comment of the noble Baroness. The UK’s confident level of food security would not last under this Government—

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Baroness Garden of Frognal: I apologise to the noble Lord that the monitor has gone out, but he has reached his 10 minutes plus.

Lord Grantchester: I do apologise. May I be allowed a minute to wind up—or half a minute?

I was going to go on to reflect on our party’s approach to climate change, the global demands for food and the strategies of the CAP. I was going to conclude that the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, in his opening remarks are quite wrong. The logical conclusion would be to call for a new Labour Government—after all, it is the only party with a long-term economic plan.

2.58 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, for raising a series of very important matters. Like the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, I start by declaring an interest as the owner of a farm and the beneficiary of the common agricultural policy.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has repeatedly emphasised her vision for our farming industry to be the best in the world. Indeed, at the NFU conference earlier this week, which has been much mentioned in this debate, she set out a long-term economic plan for food and farming which will ensure that this vital industry continues to grow and create jobs. One key element of this plan—making EU regulations work for British food producers, so that they can innovate and grow their businesses—is closely linked to the subject of today’s debate. As we have heard, being part of the EU brings benefits as well as challenges—regulations, in fact, on most areas of British agriculture and on the consumer. Quantifying those impacts is complex and challenging. However, noble Lords should be aware that the Government’s review of the balance of competencies between the EU and the UK, published last year, addressed these matters in great detail. Three of the reports published related directly to regulations affecting British agriculture. The consensus was strong support, including from the British farming industry, for the single market for agricultural goods, and for the EU’s powerful role in negotiating global trade deals for those goods.

Still, it is important to note that the views on more specific issues varied considerably. We have heard about several areas of division already today, so perhaps noble Lords will allow me to address some of them directly. On the common agricultural policy, we advocate a fundamental review of the current system of support payments. We want to see more emphasis on measures targeted at improving competitiveness and protecting and enhancing the natural environment. We were firm in advocating these beliefs during the CAP reform negotiations in 2013, and continue to press for further reform to reduce burdens on farmers and improve value for money. More immediately, we are committed to simplifying our own implementation of the CAP now. We are actively engaging in the latest

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CAP simplification agenda initiated by the European Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, of whom my noble friend Lord Caithness spoke optimistically.

Although I would never suggest that we have arrived at an acceptable CAP, I would like to give some examples of how the UK has applied pressure to improve the original proposals from the Commission. First, the original proposal did not cut the CAP budget at all, which would have been a disgrace. The final agreement cut the CAP budget by 13% in real terms.

As a result of our efforts, greening has been made less burdensome by raising eligibility criteria and adding more flexibilities. The crop diversification procedure proposals, for example, were originally for everyone with more than three hectares of arable land. Then there is the issue of ecological focus areas, which were originally to have been 7% of arable land. They have been reduced to 5% and, furthermore, nitrogen-fixing crops will now count towards the farmer’s EFA.

The original proposal for the active farmer test involved farmers’ accounts being checked to see what percentage of their income was from agriculture, which would have been hugely bureaucratic. We now have a much simpler approach based on a negative list of businesses deemed not to be farming.

Several member states argued that production quotas for sugar should continue for the whole of this CAP programme. In the end, we successfully argued to end these quotas in 2017. I am not saying that the result is good. However, we have been able to move it from terrible to bad. That is why we are maintaining the pressure.

To the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, with whom I agree on a surprising amount in this whole area, I have to say that I do not recall such effectiveness from the previous Labour Government. He asked why we had not done a better job. The answer is that we have to negotiate with the Commission and 27 other member states, but I can give him some examples of what we have done in terms of lobbying. A great deal of pressure was brought to bear by my right honourable friend Owen Paterson when he was Secretary of State, and my right honourable friend Liz Truss has retained that level of pressure. She wrote to the new Commissioner in October stating our concerns about the greening measures, and met him at November’s Agricultural Council to discuss the issue. Senior officials met their counterparts at the Commission in November, and my honourable friend George Eustice met a number of MEPs in December, January and February to raise UK concerns on greening and to encourage them to feed into the Commissioner’s CAP simplification exercise. The Secretary of State hosted a visit from Commissioner Hogan on Monday ahead of the NFU conference. They met farmers directly affected by the three-crop rule, allowing them to put their views to the Commissioner face to face. The Secretary of State is replying in very clear terms to the Commissioner’s request for suggestions on simplification.

It is not only the Commission and the Parliament with which we have engaged; at the meeting last October of the Stockholm group—consisting of senior officials from the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic, Latvia,

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Estonia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden—simplification was high on the agenda. The UK, Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Sweden signed a letter to the Commissioner in December calling for ambitious action on simplifying the CAP. And so it goes on.

As a result of all that work, Commissioner Hogan has committed to simplifying the CAP. He is currently, as my noble friend Lord Caithness said, undertaking an exercise to identify areas to reduce red tape and administrative burden. In answer to my noble friend, he has committed to producing a simplification strategy by the end of the year. He wrote to all member states last month asking for ideas on how to simplify the CAP without opening up regulations, focusing on the administrative burden for farmers. We consulted with the devolved Administrations and across the UK farming industry, and the Secretary of State will be responding tomorrow, calling for more ambitious action to simplify the CAP, including extending the review of the EFA requirements for greening to include the three-crop rule by 2016. Commissioner Hogan has also committed to reviewing direct payments, which include greening, ready for the 2017 payment year. The UK will be fully engaged in pushing for the most ambitious action to simplify the CAP in Commissioner Hogan’s mid-term review in 2017 to make UK farming more competitive. We believe that the only way to simplify the CAP properly is by making changes to the regulations, hence we are calling for more ambition and providing Commissioner Hogan with suggestions that require changes to legislation.

Various questions were asked by noble Lords. My noble friend Lady Byford talked about crop diversification, specifically in the area of dairy farming. She might like to know that farmers with fewer than 10 hectares of arable land are exempt from the crop diversification requirements, and those with 10 to 30 hectares must grow at least two different crops. It is therefore stepped so, to the extent that a dairy farmer is not growing arable crops, he will not bump into those rules.

The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, referred to current pressures on dairy farmers more generally, and he is quite right. We are doing all that we can to help dairy farmers overcome current pressures. The Rural Payments Agency has paid EU direct payments to 98% of farmers more than two months ahead of schedule, and almost every first-milk farmer has been paid. We are also working on longer-term resilience. He will know that the global market for dairy products is actually growing so, provided we can make ourselves as competitive as possible, we should be able to take advantage of that. The question is how we bridge the gap until we get there, and that is something we are acutely focused on.

On pesticides, the noble Lords, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lord Grantchester, and my noble friends Lord Caithness and Lady Byford, among others, referred to neonics. The UK has consistently argued that decisions should be made on the basis of proportionate risk assessment, not an approach that rules out any conceivable risk, however improbable.

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Noble Lords are right in what they say about the effects of a ban on yields. We raised these issues repeatedly with the Commission last year, and will continue to pursue the point with the new Health Commissioner. There is a review clause in the EU regulation and we will press for that to be carried out thoroughly, taking full account of costs as well as benefits. The European Commission has given an undertaking to commence a review of the science on neonicotinoids in 2015.

My noble friend Lady Byford asked about research on bees. I assure her that there is a great deal of research and monitoring on pollinators and this will continue, including under the national pollinators strategy.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lord Grantchester, talked about GM. I know that they would not disagree that we must ensure that all GM products for cultivation in the UK must have passed a rigorous safety assessment. As written, the EU regulatory regime could allow timely market access for safe GM products but, in practice, as we all know, most member states oppose GM and vote against the science. Over time, this has become increasingly problematic and restrictive. We have been pressing hard for positive changes in the operation of the regulations. We want a pragmatic and proportionate regime. The recently agreed cultivation proposal did not go as far as I would have liked, but it could help to unblock the EU-level approval mechanism as it will allow those member states that do not want to cultivate GM crops to restrict or ban them while allowing countries that are open to the technology to use it.

A large number of questions were raised in this debate and I do not have time to answer them all. I will respond to noble Lords in writing where I find that I have not been able to do so in the debate.

My noble friend Lord Caithness raised a really important point about gold-plating. We are committed to avoiding, where at all possible, going beyond the minimum requirements of any measures being transposed. Taking such an approach will ensure that the UK does not create unnecessary legislative burdens and place UK business at a competitive disadvantage. To ensure that we do not gold-plate, my department must satisfy the reducing regulation committee that it has identified the aims of the EU law and the relevant policies of the UK Government and how, save in absolutely exceptional circumstances, it does not go beyond the minimum requirements of the measure being transposed. The policy teams have clear guidance and, indeed, specific training on policy development and consultations to ensure that they take steps to check whether their intended policy goes beyond the minimum requirements and to provide stakeholders with maximum opportunity to engage with us on our proposals.

Several noble Lords referred to Professor Anne Glover. I regret that the Commission decided not to continue the post of EU scientific adviser. Anne Glover was, and I know will continue to be, an enormous force for good in science. She served extremely well in Brussels and we intend to work closely with the

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Commission to ensure that any new arrangement is well suited to the purpose, providing first-rate scientific evidence.

I fear that I am out of time. I know that a number of other important points were raised; I will do my best to summarise them in letters to noble Lords.

Jimmy Savile: NHS Investigations


3.11 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health in another place on the investigations into the activities of Jimmy Savile in the NHS. The Statement is as follows.

“With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the NHS Jimmy Savile investigations.

This morning, a further 16 investigations into the activities of Savile in the NHS were published. These include the main report from Stoke Mandeville Hospital and reports from 15 other hospitals. One report relates to Johnny Savile, the older brother of Jimmy Savile. These reports have now been placed in the Library. While no system can ever be totally secure from a manipulative and deceitful predator such as Savile, we learned last year that there were clear failings in the security, culture and processes of many NHS organisations, allowing terrible abuse to continue unchecked over many years.

Some victims are, sadly, no longer with us and others continue to suffer greatly as a result of what happened. On behalf of the Government I apologised to them last June and today I repeat that apology: what happened was horrific, caused immeasurable and often permanent damage and betrayed vulnerable people who trusted us to keep them safe. We let them down. As one of the Stoke Mandeville victims said,

‘there are so many messed up lives—although people have built up lives, you have children, you make a life, it ruins everything, your relationships with another human being—the things you are supposed to have’.

Today we must show by our deeds as well as by our words that we have learned the necessary lessons.

The new reports, like those released last year, make extremely distressing reading. In total, 177 men and women have now come forward with allegations of abuse by Jimmy Savile, covering a period from 1954 to just before his death in 2011. At least 72 people who gave evidence were children at the time of the abuse, with the youngest being only five years old. The allegations included rape, assault, indecent assault and inappropriate comments or advances. Allegations were made not in one or two places but in more than 41 acute hospitals—that is almost a quarter of all NHS acute hospitals—as well as five mental health trusts and two children’s hospitals. Further investigations have happened at a children’s convalescent home, an ambulance service and a hospice. There are three new investigations under way at Humber NHS Foundation Trust, Mersey Care NHS Trust and Guy’s

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and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Any further allegations will, of course, be investigated as serious incidents.

In addition, the Department for Education has today published 14 reports on investigations in children’s homes and education settings, and the review by Dame Janet Smith into Savile’s activities at the BBC is ongoing. These investigations have been deeply harrowing for victims but also for the investigators. I would like to put on record my thanks to everyone involved, particularly Kate Lampard and the NHS Savile legacy unit, which provided robust oversight and assurance in an incredibly difficult job.

I now turn to Stoke Mandeville, the hospital with which Savile was most closely associated. The report published today reveals shocking abuse of 60 victims that took place over more than 20 years between 1968 and 1992. From the brave victims who have come forward we know that Savile’s activities there included groping, molestation and rape of patients, staff and visitors. Victims were predominantly but not exclusively female, 20 were vulnerable patients disabled with severe spinal injuries, and one was a child as young as eight. Savile deliberately exploited these people because he understood that their reliance on specialist care they might be able to receive only at Stoke Mandeville made it even harder for them to speak up. This was calculating behaviour of the most abhorrent kind. Victims included 26 visitors and six staff. Six victims reported being raped, one as young as 11 or 12. Most victims were too frightened to come forward, but there were nine informal complaints and one made formally. None was taken seriously.

There is no suggestion that Ministers or officials knew about these activities, but accepted governance processes were not followed in the decision to allow Savile to acquire and maintain a position of authority at the hospital. In particular, Ministers made the expedient decision to use Savile not just to raise funds to redevelop Stoke Mandeville’s National Spinal Injuries Centre, but to oversee the building and running of the centre even though he had no relevant experience. Because of his celebrity and useful fundraising skills the right questions—the hard questions—simply were not asked, suspicions were not acted on and patients and staff were ignored. People were either too dazzled or too intimidated by the nation’s favourite celebrity to confront the evil predator we now know he was. Never again must the power of money or celebrity blind us to repeated, clear signals that some extremely vulnerable people were being abused.

I spoke last June about how changes to processes, policies and laws over the last 30 years have made it much less likely that a predator like Savile would be able to perpetrate these crimes today. Charity legislation is much tougher, setting out specific requirements for the auditing and examination of NHS charities’ accounts, and the safeguarding system now in place is significantly improved. The Children Act 1989, the first child sex offender register, Criminal Records Bureau checks and the Disclosure and Barring Service have all provided further protection. From 1 April, for the first time, the Care Act 2014 puts adult safeguarding on a legal footing and safeguarding adults boards will ensure

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that local safeguarding arrangements act to help and protect adults. We have also enshrined the right to speak up in staff contracts. We are amending the NHS constitution and have changed the law to make employers responsible if whistleblowers are harassed or bullied by fellow employees. We are also consulting on how best to implement the recommendations in Sir Robert Francis’s whistleblowing review.

However, proper policies and processes will not succeed if they do not go hand in hand with a change in culture, whereby patients and staff alike feel able to speak out with any concerns and can be confident that they will be listened to. It is particularly important that children and those with physical and mental illnesses are listened to, because they are the most vulnerable. While we are proud to live in a society in which people are innocent until proven guilty, we have a collective responsibility to investigate all serious allegations properly in a way that simply did not happen, time after time.

In the light of these disturbing reports, I also asked Kate Lampard to outline key themes across all the NHS investigations and to consider any further action that needs to be taken. She considered the extent to which Savile was a product of the culture of his time and concludes that, while he was a one-off, there are important improvements that need to be made to protect patients today. It is a thoughtful and comprehensive report, and I am today accepting in principle 13 recommendations she makes, including on access, volunteering, safeguarding, complaints and governance.

Trusts should develop policies on visits by celebrities and internet and social media access in hospitals. They should review voluntary service arrangements, safeguarding resources and the consistency of employment practices, ensuring clear executive responsibility. They should consider whether policies on the impact of volunteers on a trust’s reputation are adequate. The department, with its arm’s-length bodies, will examine: the possible development of a forum for NHS voluntary service managers; raising awareness of safeguarding referrals among NHS trust staff and volunteers; and to what extent NHS trust staff and volunteers should undergo refresher training in safeguarding.

I know some trusts which produced reports last summer have started to make improvements. One trust has already encouraged staff to raise concerns, updated the trust’s whistleblowing and complaints policy and published policy on the recruiting and management of volunteers. It is this kind of sensible, swift action that I want to see across the NHS. I have therefore asked the chief executives of Monitor and the TDA to ensure that all trusts review their current practice in three months against these recommendations and to write back to me with a summary of plans and progress at each one. These plans will be fed into the Government’s ongoing work to tackle child sexual exploitation.

One welcome practice that Kate Lampard’s report highlights is the growth in volunteering to support the work of the NHS. Overall, across the NHS we estimate that there are 78,000 volunteers, including 1,500 at just one trust, King’s in London. They do a magnificent

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job in improving patient care every single day throughout the NHS. We welcome this civic revolution and today need to make sure that any safeguards put in place support its further growth by helping to protect the reputation of volunteering as well as the safety of patients. Hard cases make bad law, and it would be the ultimate tragedy if Savile’s legacy was to hold back the work of the NHS’s true heroes, who give so much to their local hospital by volunteering their time. So while I agree that all volunteers working in regulated activity, typically having close or unsupervised contact with patients, should have an enhanced DBS check, I am not today accepting the recommendation that this should apply to all volunteers. As Kate Lampard acknowledges in her report, such a system may not in itself have stopped Savile. Rather, trusts should take a considered approach to checks on all volunteers, particularly using the enhanced DBS service if there is a possibility they will be asked at a future date to work closely with patients. They should also ensure that proper safeguarding procedures are in place locally as well as the DBS process, because it would be wrong to rely on the national database as a substitute for local common sense and vigilance.

The report also recommends that DBS checks are redone every three years. I believe the report is correct to say that trusts must make sure that their information on volunteers is up to date, but they can achieve this through asking volunteers to make use of the DBS update service, which enables trusts to check DBS information regularly and avoids volunteers having to go through the DBS process multiple times. We will be advising all trusts to do this.

Finally, I intend to take action in one area of great concern that the report highlights—namely, the responsibility and accountability of staff working with vulnerable people to take appropriate action when alerted to potential abuse. As the report recognises, the Government have substantially strengthened safeguarding arrangements since these dreadful events, but it is clear from these reports that there should have been a much stronger incentive on staff and managers to pass the information on so that a proper investigation happened. This is clearly unacceptable, and the Government have already said that we will consult on introducing a new requirement for mandatory reporting of abuse of children and vulnerable adults. The outcome of such a consultation must take full account of the need to avoid unintended consequences.

Let me conclude with a tribute to the victims who have had the courage to come forward. Without them, these investigations would not have been possible. It is our society’s shame that you were ignored for so long, but it is a tribute to your bravery that today we can take actions to prevent others going through the misery you have endured. As a result, our NHS will be made safer for thousands of children and vulnerable adults as we learn the uncomfortable lessons from this terrible tragedy. I commend this Statement to the House”.

That concludes the Statement, but since it was delivered in the other place, I have been advised that two passages require clarification. In repeating the Statement I said in relation to the victims at Stoke Mandeville that:

“20 were vulnerable patients disabled with severe spinal injuries”.

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That should have read: “20 were vulnerable patients, some of whom were disabled with severe spinal injuries”. In addition, I said at the start that the reports that I mentioned had been placed in the Library. In fact, copies of the Stoke Mandeville and lessons-learnt reports have been placed in the Library. The remainder of the reports are available on the GOV.UK website.

3.26 pm

Baroness Wheeler (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for reading out the Statement, for early access to the two reports and for the briefing that he held this morning. The Statement rightfully acknowledges the clear failings in the security, culture and processes of many NHS organisations that meant that terrible abuse was allowed to continue unchecked over many years. As the Statement says, that abuse was horrific, caused immeasurable and often permanent damage, and betrayed the trust of vulnerable people who had reason to believe that they would be safe.

It is right for the Statement to repeat the Secretary of State’s apology made last June when the first 28 investigations into matters relating to Savile were published, and I know that I speak for the whole House when I emphasise our support for his decision to do so. I also add our gratitude and thanks to all those who have been involved in the preparation of the reports, in particular Kate Lampard and Ed Marsden for their key themes and lessons-learnt report. Through their diligence, the full scale and horror of Savile’s sickening behaviour across the NHS has been laid bare. It beggars belief that abuse on this scale, known to so many people, was allowed to go on for so long.

However, as the analysis of what happened becomes more complete, the key question and concern that will be growing in the minds of people hearing this news today is the matter of accountability and the disturbing evidence that people knew what Savile was doing but failed to act. Much of what is revealed in these reports today confirms what we already knew about a pattern of criminal behaviour in the hospitals concerned, where patients and victims were not listened to and staff felt unable or unwilling to challenge. But what changes today with the Stoke Mandeville report is that it is now no longer possible to say that although the abuse was widespread, it was not known to some of those in senior positions. Nine verbal reports and one formal complaint were made but none was acted upon.

The question why does not extend just to senior staff at the hospitals. As today’s Stoke Mandeville report says:

“From 1980 Savile’s relationship with Stoke Mandeville Hospital underwent a significant change when he was appointed by Government Ministers … to fundraise for … the new National Spinal Injuries Centre”.

As the lessons-learnt report observes:

“In appointing Savile to these roles and in allowing him the licence and free rein he had in exercising these roles ministers and/or senior civil servants either overrode or failed to observe accepted governance processes”.

That is an extremely serious finding and needs to be acted upon. While of course I do not expect the Government to respond to this today, does the Minister not accept that this finding points to the need for a more formal process of inquiry into senior people in

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the hospitals and at the Department of Health? This includes former Ministers who did not follow the due processes. Knowing what we do, we cannot leave this here. Victims must have accountability, and that must be our shared goal across this House.

Alongside accountability, the victims of Savile also need help now. Many people who were damaged by what happened have never recovered and continue to suffer; some victims have died. In the June Statement, the Government said they would continue to explore compensation for the victims, including the use of Savile’s estate to fund any claims. Can the Minister update the House on that work, and whether there is any value left in that estate? Will this be sufficient, or is there a need for public funding to help victims? Today’s news will again be traumatic and distressing for everyone directly affected. Can the Minister tell the House what steps are being taken to offer counselling and other support to the victims?

I turn to the lessons-learnt report. We need to stress that, while these appalling events come from a very different era, it would be a major mistake to think that they have no relevance today. As one of the report’s chilling conclusions sums up,

“the evidence we have gathered indicates that there are many elements of the Savile story that could be repeated in future”.

Even though the world was different in the 1970s and 1980s, it is impossible to read these reports without wondering how so many people could have known about what was happening but felt unable to act. It must never again be the case that a member of staff is made to feel they would be letting down the hospital if they act to report abuse.

We have welcomed and supported the action the Government are taking to support NHS whistleblowers—for example, the provisions in the Care Act which put adult safeguarding on a statutory footing—but we cannot think complacently that this will be enough in these situations. Action is needed across schools, hospitals and childcare settings. We need co-ordinated, joined-up government action in response. Does the Minister agree that introducing a mandatory requirement for people in positions of trust to report abuse should be an early legislative priority for the next Parliament, whichever party is in office?

It is also evident from the report that we need to look again at changes to the vetting and barring system. Recent changes mean that convicted sex offenders are only added to the list if they are working in professions with access to children. This means that there are thousands of sex offenders who are today not on the list but perhaps should be.

Finally, in the context that Kate Lampard identifies, of a coming era in which hospitals will be more reliant on volunteers and fundraising, and in the light of the comments in the Statement, do the Government still stand by the changes to vetting and barring, or is there a need to tighten this still further?

This report charts appalling, sickening events and places a dark cloud over the NHS. We applaud the Secretary of State and the Government for the commitment they have shown in response to these reports, and we pledge our full support to help bring about accountability and justice for the victims.

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Earl Howe: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her comments and for the constructive way in which she has approached these distressing matters. She referred to the issue of accountability and, of course, that is one of the first issues that springs to mind when hearing about these dreadful events. The noble Baroness said that there were people who knew and failed to act. The tragedy was that there were so many victims who knew exactly what had happened but whose cries were left unheard. As she said, picking up on the Statement, there were nine informal complaints and one formal complaint, none of which was followed through. I understand that the investigators have not been able to trace the members of staff involved in those complaints, so that with the passage of time it is difficult to establish exactly what was said and when. However, the facts speak for themselves.

The noble Baroness also asked about the value left in the Jimmy Savile estate. My advice is that last March the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust had a capital balance of just short of £3.5 million. I understand that that balance may be a little less now, but that trust is being used to compensate the victims. If and when the money runs out, the Department of Health will step in. Although the compensation scheme has now officially closed, it is open to anyone else who has not yet come forward to make a claim, and they can also do so to the NHS Litigation Authority. Public funding is there to underpin the money from the Savile trust.

The noble Baroness also asked about the possibility of a further inquiry. Kate Lampard’s lessons-learnt report will feed into the findings of the national group on sexual violence as well as the work of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. This inquiry, chaired by Justice Lowell Goddard, will consider whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

Regarding support and counselling for victims, which the noble Baroness also mentioned, people who have experienced abuse and need advice or support can contact the free confidential support line from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. They can also contact the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s free confidential support line. During the investigations, each part of the investigation was responsible for ensuring that victims and vulnerable witnesses had access to appropriate support as required. Kate Lampard and the Savile Legacy Unit assured that these processes were put in place. Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, wrote to all CCGs in May 2013 to ensure that all GPs within each area were alerted to the possibility of victims and witnesses presenting for help and support. He also asked that arrangements should be put in place with mental health services in each area so that the victims and witnesses could have their support needs, of whatever degree, met in a timely and appropriate fashion.

As regards compensation, slightly more than £58,000 has been paid out so far by the NHS Litigation Authority on behalf of the Secretary of State, of

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which a third is damages. As I have said, the NHSLA will meet the balance of valid NHS claims on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The noble Baroness asked about the proposal for mandatory reporting of suspected abuse. We have said that we will consult on this issue, which is essentially one of whether people feel that there is a need for legislation. It will be a full 12-week public consultation on the advisability, the risk, the nature and the scope of any reporting duty, including questions on which forms of abuse it should apply to and to whom it should attach. Inevitably, the process of consultation on this issue is complex. It requires careful handling and we believe that it should not be rushed. It will be critical that we consult as widely as possible. The available evidence is inconclusive as to whether mandatory reporting regimes help or hinder or make no difference to child safeguarding outcomes. The Government have no preconceived view on this. However, we are clear that we should consult on the matter as soon as possible.

Reverting to the point made by the noble Baroness at the start of her remarks, the report concludes that it was reasonable for Ministers to pledge government support for the rebuilding of the National Spinal Injuries Centre. However, the processes did not work as they should. It is the job of civil servants to provide full and impartial advice, and it would appear from the surviving documentation that DHSS officials may not have presented the full spectrum of issues concerning the NSIC to Ministers at the outset of the project. That served to minimise the complexity of the situation. It did not specify any potential consequences. It set the scene for the project to be agreed with minimal strategic planning in place that took into account what we would expect to see today, which is both long-term service forecasts and revenue costs. That had the effect of placing a dependence on Jimmy Savile as a continuing fundraiser from that moment on.

I simply say again that the investigation concludes that there was no evidence that either Ministers or officials knew about Savile’s predatory behaviour. Clearly, a number of people within the NHS had strong suspicions about it, but the celebratory status of Savile and the fact that everyone knew that Stoke Mandeville in particular depended on his fundraising skills clearly acted as a brake on people’s ability to speak up when they should have done so.

3.40 pm

Baroness Barker (LD): My Lords, there is one fact about this excellent report on a very difficult subject which is so obvious that it is in danger of being overlooked. We are talking here about events within the NHS and specifically about events within NHS organisations which had among their staff people who, due to their professional expertise, should have been able to spot the signs of abuse, as they are experts to whom people turn for treatment when they have been abused. I am not talking about the BBC; I am talking about the NHS. Repeatedly they did not see it or did not speak about it. That makes me draw an uncomfortable conclusion which goes to the heart of a couple of the recommendations—that is, that it is possible, even in the best of organisations which exist

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for the best of reasons, for there to be a culture so powerful that people can ignore things which are bad almost to the point of disbelief.

Therefore, when the Government consider their response to all this, I ask them to look at recommendations R5 and R8 in the lessons-learnt section. Those recommendations talk about trusts having a review process of their own procedures. They also make reference to the local authority designated officer and the role that he or she might play. I put it to the Minister that, in order to break a culture of silence, it must be possible to bring in a reference to an external expert. If victims and staff had access to such a person as a backstop, it would be a very important means of ensuring that we never saw organisations operating in this way again.

Earl Howe: My noble friend makes a series of extremely powerful and pertinent points and I am in agreement with the thrust of them. She is absolutely right that this is a matter of the culture of an organisation. While I think we can say hand on heart that the culture in the NHS has in many respects changed for the better in recent years, we must never be complacent about this. This matter was particularly identified by Sir Robert Francis in his recent report on whistleblowing, and we have accepted his recommendations. For example, we will ask every NHS organisation to identify one member of staff to whom other members of staff can speak if they have particular concerns and are not being listened to. We will also consult on establishing a new independent national whistleblowing guardian as a full-time post within the CQC to fulfil the kind of independent role that my noble friend refers to. In that context we are legislating to protect from discrimination whistleblowers who apply for NHS jobs. Therefore, I think that there are things that we can do with the mechanisms to ensure that the NHS is a more benign place for people who would otherwise feel too frightened to speak up.

Nevertheless, the further consultation on mandatory reporting which I have undertaken we will carry out will, I am sure, bring all this into the frame again. I have no doubt—at least, I hope—that my noble friend will feed into that consultation in the way that she has just indicated.

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, I declare an interest as I have been a patient at the Stoke Mandeville spinal unit since 1958, when I broke my back. I knew Jimmy Savile to some extent over the years. He was very autocratic and very clever, but I never saw his dark side. Many of the people working at Stoke Mandeville did not see that side of him because he was so clever.

There is a problem with hospitals. They do not like bad publicity and there can be cover-ups. We need openness and honesty. I should like to ask the Minister about the present procedure for patients, who need an easy and quick way of raising their concerns. That is very important because many patients are at risk of having bad things done to them. Sometimes those bad things may be done by people on the ward, so patients need to bypass the ward but they cannot just be told that they have to go to the health ombudsman. That

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takes too long. Therefore, I hope that the procedure for patients will be given great consideration in the future.

Earl Howe: The noble Baroness has our admiration for the way in which she has coped with her spinal injury over these many years. She is, of course, absolutely right about the way in which Jimmy Savile duped so many people. He was a forceful character as well as somebody with a superficial charm, and he got away with what he did. She is, of course, correct that the protection of patients lies at the centre of all this and we must ensure that we have proper systems in place to make them feel confident that they can come forward.

I take the noble Baroness’s point about patients perhaps not feeling able to complain to the ward staff. The answer to her question is that the patient, or someone on their behalf, can complain to the chairman of the organisation or trust or to a member of the board, and thus bypass the clinical staff. There should always be a member of the board at the hospital whose responsibility is the protection of patients above all. In the end, it is for that organisation to investigate its own supposed failings. If somebody is not satisfied with the result of that investigation, it is then open to them to go to the ombudsman. We believe that complaints should be investigated at a local level, either with the provider of the service or, if that is not thought appropriate for any reason, with the commissioner of the service.

Baroness Manzoor (LD): My Lords, in relation to the protection of patients, I ask the Minister whether it would it be possible, each time a patient is seen by anyone—whether it is an external visitor or, indeed, a doctor—to ensure that there is another person present, such as a nurse. Just recently, a colleague went for a breast examination. She was seen by only one person, a male doctor; no safeguarding was available there. As part of that consultation, I would welcome this assurance.

Earl Howe: I take my noble friend’s point. However, I would hesitate before committing to a situation where, in every instance that a doctor or nurse examined a patient, they had to have somebody with them. In the real world, I do not think that is going to be practical. What one should have, however, is an assurance that whoever examines the patient, or performs some intimate caring service with the patient, should have been checked for both a criminal record and a previous employment history. I will take my noble friend’s point away, but I think that what I have said would be accepted by those in the National Health Service as the only practical way forward.

Baroness Hollins (CB): My Lords, senior hospital administrators were criticised in these reports, but senior civil servants were also responsible for facilitating Savile’s influence and access to Broadmoor and Stoke Mandeville hospitals. Have the civil servants been identified? How have they been held accountable? Have the survivors received an individual apology for the governance failures that allowed this catalogue of abuse to take place? I understand the Secretary of State’s general apology, but I think an individual apology would be appropriate for each and every survivor.

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Earl Howe: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness’s last point. My understanding is that each survivor and each victim has had an apology, but I will look into the possibility of my right honourable friend adding to that.

As regards the civil servants involved, only one has been identified: Mr James Collier, who was, at the time, deputy secretary of the DHSS. Dr Gerard Vaughan, who was the Minister most closely involved with the building of Stoke Mandeville’s spinal injuries centre, assigned Mr Collier to ensure that the project went ahead. The inquiry found that Collier’s role was essentially to remove obstacles to the project. In effect, he was both an enabler and an instrument of the whole project. However, the report says:

“If criticism is to be levelled at James Collier it is because he did not just sweep aside bureaucracy to enable the project, he was instrumental … in sweeping aside some legitimate concerns raised by statutory bodies such as the Oxford Regional Health Authority”,

once he had been placed in charge of the project. So the duty of a senior civil servant to “speak truth unto power” was not, I am afraid, one that he fulfilled. Mr Collier is still alive, and I do not think that it would be proper for me to criticise him other than in the terms that the inquiry has done, but essentially the investigation concludes that,

“it would appear that Savile’s authority was given at the behest of politicians and then made possible by senior civil servants”.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville (Con): My Lords, in congratulating my noble friend and his department on the fullness of the information contained in these reports—their very fullness makes one wonder how so much of the evidence passed people by—perhaps I may make one suggestion of presentation. When you read the two reports side by side, the grey-blue report about Stoke Mandeville contains far more upper-case letters as the initial letters of words. The pale mauve report of Kate Lampard is not addicted to that. The consequence is that it is much more difficult with the Stoke Mandeville report to recognise the comparative importance of the information given because it is always in headline elements.

Earl Howe: I understand the point made by my noble friend. At the same time, it is clear from the executive summary of Kate Lampard’s report that Stoke Mandeville is by far the most important and salient element of the report and I had hoped that that would have guided readers’ attention towards the section of the report that deals with Stoke Mandeville. Nevertheless, I am sorry that my noble friend has found it necessary to say that and I understand why he has.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, the Statement referred to inadequate systems and the need for a culture change. Does the Minister accept that many people are of the view that what we have is inadequate law and not only inadequate systems? I do not know whether my noble friend heard the “Today” programme this morning in which Mr John Humphrys, in interviewing a lawyer acting for one of the many Jimmy Savile victims, was astonished to discover that there is no offence of ignoring knowledge of child abuse that has

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been reported. Indeed, a majority of the British public think that it is already the law but the Minister knows that it is not.

I welcome the commitment to a public consultation that resulted from an amendment I tabled to the Serious Crime Bill, but several months have passed since that commitment was made by the Government and we still do not know which department will lead the consultation. Will it be the Home Office, the Department of Health or the Department for Education, or will it be a combination? I heard that in another place the Minister undertook that the consultation would be complete and the Government’s response given within 18 months of the Bill becoming an Act. Can the Minister confirm that that undertaking stands and say whether there has been any progress on which department will lead on this consultation?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I cannot give a specific undertaking on the timescale that we envisage for the consultation or on any legislation that might ensue from it because that raises the question of whether any legislation is necessary. That is what we want to know from the consultation process. However, I can tell my noble friend that the Home Office will be leading the consultation in conjunction with all the other relevant government departments.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, the noble Earl repeated a phrase in the Statement referring to Jimmy Savile as a one-off. Although that is qualified in the sentence that follows, nevertheless the reference is made. Does he consider that describing these incidents as a one-off characteristic of an unusual individual is tremendously helpful? We know that he was not a one-off because a number of other people working in NHS settings engaged in similar behaviour and have already been convicted. Many other people who were not working in NHS settings but doing other kinds of job—for example, in the rock music business—were also engaging in this kind of behaviour. Perhaps we need to take more account of the fact that, hard as it is for us to recognise, there are circumstances in which people, given the opportunity, will engage in this kind of behaviour and will continue to do so. Thinking of them as, as it were, bad apples does not help us to grapple with that reality.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right. It is with that thought in mind that Kate Lampard did not simply pigeonhole Savile as a one-off but has come forward with recommendations, most of which we have accepted, as to the wider lessons we should learn from this sorry saga. We know that, while the scale of Savile’s activities was probably unprecedented, there are others who have been found guilty of similar offences.

Baroness Seccombe (Con): My Lords, my noble friend the Minister referred in the Statement to the review by Dame Janet Smith into Savile’s activities at the BBC. This review is ongoing. Of course, it was the BBC which gave Jimmy Savile this extraordinary platform in the first place. Will my noble friend confirm that this ongoing review is entirely independent of the BBC’s management and the BBC Trust? Can he also indicate when the review will be completed?

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Earl Howe: My Lords, I have only limited information about the BBC review. Dame Janet Smith’s review was established by the BBC, in October 2012, as an independent review of its culture and practices during the years that Jimmy Savile worked there. It will receive evidence from those who may have been the subject of inappropriate sexual contact by Jimmy Savile. As my noble friend knows, Dame Janet is a former Court of Appeal judge. The review has been in contact with approximately 740 people. It has had more than 350 telephone conversations with witnesses and almost 190 witness interviews have taken place. The completion of the review has faced delays due to criminal proceedings and new evidence. One instance

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was that of Stuart Hall, who pleaded guilty to 14 charges of indecent assault. Another was the Dave Lee Travis case, but I do not want to go into detail about that. I do not have information about when the review is likely to be concluded, but if I can find out I will write to my noble friend.

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords—

Baroness Jolly (LD): My Lords, we have a 20-minute time limit.

House adjourned at 4.01 pm.