Another benign spin-off from the internet is the democratisation of research, as well as of learning. Many archives are now available on the web, which is a huge boon to researchers and scholars around the world. For example, amateurs are now studying ships’ log-books from the 18th and 19th centuries; these are a fascinating social history, as well as containing important historical data for climate science. The involvement of amateurs has been traditional in some sciences, such as botany, but the scope for citizen scientists is now far wider. In my subject of astronomy, there are so many data that the professionals cannot scrutinise them fully. It is now possible, and it has been done, for eagle-eyed amateurs to access these data sets and themselves discover new planets.

So there are huge opportunities, but to exploit them for maximum benefit our system needs a more diverse ecology—a blurring between higher and further education, between full-time and part-time, and between residential and online. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, so eloquently told us, we should cherish the Open University and the BBC for their leadership and pioneering role in this. With such an ecology, we can exploit the benefits of the internet, offer a better second chance to young people who have been unlucky in their earlier education, and promote lifelong learning for us all.

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4.53 pm

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, I start by paying tribute to my close and very dear friend the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. Who can find words powerful, poetic and complex enough to encapsulate the greatness that is Shirley Williams? No tongue is sufficiently silvered and no verbal palette is rich enough to do justice to this incredible woman. She has had an incredible impact on our political world and has been a great public servant. Her brilliance, her extraordinary eloquence, her compassion and her strong moral values have made her a lodestar in politics and beyond. She has been a role model, as the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, said, to many of us, but particularly to women. I hope the noble Baroness knows, as she leaves this House, how much of a heroine she is. Her wisdom will be sorely missed in this House, but I join others in wishing her happiness in the next stage of her extraordinary life.

I also want to welcome to the House the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, and I see that he is sitting there in the distance. He, too, is a friend, and a committed champion of educational opportunities and science. He has been a passionate voice and I have always valued his support for further education and its purposes. He is undoubtedly going to make a great contribution to this House.

Then, to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who introduced this debate. I thank her too. She has been loyal and stalwart on behalf of further education.

In 1997 I published a report for the Further Education Funding Council called Learning Works. I know the Minister has been urged to read all manner of reports and I, too, urge this one on him. I invite him to take it off the shelf and dust it down because it describes very well the incredible remit of the further education sector. As well as paying tribute to those who work in the sector and as a paean to it, it reminds us all of what a Cinderella this sector is in the world of education. It has been always the third in line. When Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, said that it was going to be “Education. Education. Education”, we knew what the third education was likely to be in that list. I am afraid that continues to be the case.

I fear for further education because it is still being neglected—it is poorly funded and never given the esteem it deserves—and yet it is so fundamental to the well-being of this nation and the opportunities it provides for so many. Indeed, it could provide so much more in the future. It is a source of regret to me that we are not doing enough with this precious part of our educational world.

I spoke in this House only a few days ago about the way further education provides not only opportunities for the learning of trades, technical skills and so on, but second chances for people who have often missed out. We know the reasons why. I described the young women who often start a family too soon and therefore have to pull out of their education; the young men who have become disenchanted with school; and the young people who are brought up in families who say that education is not for the likes of them. Finding their way back in to learning is hard for some people, and further education is the place where it is possible.

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However, because of their loss of confidence when schooling did not work for them, it is sometimes hard to take that step.

When I was producing the report I often heard people whose communities had been destroyed because of the end of some of the great old industries say, “You cannot teach old dogs new tricks”, and yet we can help people to find their way back in. Further education plays an important role in literacy and in helping people to learn that great business of knowing how to learn, how to use new technologies in creative ways and how to become employable.

When we were doing that work we learned that one of the important things is to take learning to the learners. Sometimes, people were too frightened even to go into a further education college to find out what was possible. In fact, learning could take place in community centres; in school playgrounds with portacabins, with a few computers to show them how to start; in billiard halls and hairdressing salons. Literacy for new arrivals in our communities was often taking place in rooms above pubs and so on. It was the first step back into this world and the ways in which people learn the English language. We have heard much discussion in the House today about the importance of women in minority communities having the opportunity to learn our language in order to support their children. Many want to learn for those purposes.

This debate is important, and not only because education has to be at the heart of any inspired project for regeneration. There is no doubt that education is one of the best springboards for the revitalisation of our economy, but it is about more than the economy. The economic rationale for expanding education participation and providing quality skills and so on is a great reason, but it is not the only one. Prosperity depends also upon there being justice and equity in our society, but we are seeing greater divisions between rich and poor. It is that landscape that I want us to think about: the growing gulf between those who have and those who have not, the lack of social cohesion and the ways in which educational opportunities can fill the gap.

I urge the Government to think about putting resource into this precious sector and to consider some of the inventive and creative possibilities that were set out in my report, such as learning accounts and credit transfer, which make it possible to start again.

4.59 pm

Lord Foster of Bath (LD): My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness and I echo in particular her comments about the need for more second chances. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Sharp on a wide-ranging and challenging opening speech. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, on his excellent maiden speech, and say that we will be looking at his clothing very carefully in the future.

I particularly want to congratulate my noble friend Lady Williams on her valedictory speech. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, who is also a former Education Secretary, sadly cannot be in her place today but has asked me to pass on her tribute to

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the contribution made by my noble friend to public and political life. She notes that laying the foundations for comprehensive secondary education is a testimony to my noble friend’s commitment to opportunity for all young people. She also asked me to say that my noble friend was “one of those who confirmed my belief that politics is a force for good and a place for women”. Judging by the warm reception that my noble friend was given by shoppers in Bath when campaigning there during the last election, it is clear that she is one of a rare breed: a universally popular politician. She has done much to change the landscape of British politics and her contribution to education is immense. She will be missed in your Lordships’ House.

My noble friend understands the personal, social and economic benefit of high-quality education and training, sharing the view of H G Wells that:

“Civilisation is in a race between education and catastrophe”.

We cannot be complacent that we are winning the race. We lag behind our competitor countries in skills. Some 8 million British adults lack functional numeracy skills and 5 million lack literacy skills. We have productivity below the G7 average and we know that only by addressing the skills challenge will we turn this around. And while today we are debating adult education, training and lifelong learning, we should not forget that success in these depends on high-quality education in our schools, especially in the early years, and in particular on giving vocational education parity of esteem with academic education. While we debate the ways to upskill the population, we need also to tackle the skills mismatch. It is estimated that nearly half of employers have staff with skills and qualifications beyond those required to do their jobs, leading to demoralisation and reduced productivity. Tackling that requires in part high-quality careers advice and information.

We do have a long-standing adult education pedigree and we recognise the important impact it has on social well-being, the development of communities and the growth of businesses, but there is a mismatch between the rhetoric and the reality as government support for lifelong learning and the funding of adult education has continued to reduce. Cuts were made under the Labour Government and there were further cuts under the coalition. Fortunately, despite those ongoing reductions, our network of further education colleges and community learning providers has found creative ways to continue to offer their communities and businesses opportunities for learning, training and development. Bath College, for example, through its excellent Love2Learn programme, provides adults with affordable courses and programmes in 300 different subjects and makes creative use of the funding available to ensure that the most vulnerable in the community do not lose out.

I am pleased that the Government have recognised the need to stabilise the budget and welcome the approaches taken to the newly named adult education budget, alongside the reforms to the funding of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships were a major achievement of the coalition Government which is already paying dividends, and I welcome the planned expansion. As MP for Bath, I was pleased to have helped Bath College and employers achieve a growth of 117% in the number of apprenticeships in the city.

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Seeing world-beating companies like Rotork plc use the apprenticeship programme to identify and develop its future engineers and managers was simply stunning.

As we have already heard, the digital economy is now 10% of the total economy and it is good to see successful apprenticeships in this area. For example, in addition to its 40-year collaboration with the Open University and its Make It Digital traineeships for 5,000 young employed people, the BBC is providing apprenticeship schemes in local radio, digital journalism and degree-level engineering. UK Music, supported by the creative employment programme, runs a successful music apprenticeship scheme. I welcome the Government’s continued development of apprenticeships for those reasons.

However, college leaders are beginning to talk about confusion and uncertainty. I therefore urge the Government to avoid over-complex, burdensome measures, so that the needs of apprentices and their employers are put first. It is local people who know what is best for meeting their local skills needs. Colleges, councils, LEPs and universities, many of which now operate in collaborative partnerships, are best placed to design and shape their adult education and skills systems. That is why devolution of some aspects of the adult education budget is broadly welcome. The notion of the local outcome agreement featuring in many of the devolution submissions really is a way forward to ensure local systems are being designed for local people and businesses.

I have one final plea: that we should give localities the autonomy to deliver on these without further central interference. For far too long there has been too much interference and too many changes. Now let us give the system a chance to rebuild a world-beating skills system which will strengthen the United Kingdom economy.

5.06 pm

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Sharp on securing this important debate. She has long been a champion of adult education and has great expertise in the subject, as we heard in her impressive opening speech. We have seen how widespread is the interest that it has generated, with the many excellent contributions from around the House. I am also delighted to join in the tributes to my wonderful noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, whose valedictory speech has reminded us of how much the House will be losing without her eloquent and perceptive contributions. She has been a key player on the political stage for very many years and combines a formidable intellect and energy with disarming warmth and friendliness. I add my thanks for all that she has done in public life and wish her a long, happy and active retirement from the House, and success in the EU referendum campaign. I also welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Willetts. I was a coalition government Whip and Minister for higher education in this House when he was the Minister and I have great respect for all he achieved in that post. We shall look forward to hearing more from him in the coming months.

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I have been convinced of the value of adult education since being roped in to take a college evening class in French many years ago. My noble friend Lady Sharp spoke of those classes and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, apparently benefited from them, although not with me as a teacher I hesitate to add. It was so different from schoolteaching. There were absolutely no discipline problems for a start because people were engaged and enthused by learning. Some were there to get a qualification to improve their employability. Others were there for the sense of achievement and enjoyment from learning something new.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, might almost have quoted Adam Smith, who allegedly said that every man is a student all his life and longer too. Obviously, he was not politically correct because every woman is a student all her life too. It is well proven that learning as an adult, including non-accredited learning, brings benefits such as better health and well-being, greater social engagement and increased confidence, as well as better employability and benefits to family and community life.

When I worked for City & Guilds, a vocational awarding body which predominantly accredits adult competence, I came across candidates learning elementary work skills, working their way up the ladder to the highest levels of skill and professional expertise. Many are retraining and reskilling to meet the changing needs of the workforce and to keep up with technology. This was outlined in the Digital Skills Committee, on which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and I served. It certainly included the creative industries mentioned by my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, of which he and my noble friend Lord Foster have been such eloquent supporters. It certainly needs to include those with learning disabilities, as championed by my noble friend Lord Addington.

City & Guilds owes its origins to this country’s long and proud tradition of adult education and training, which from medieval days was provided by City livery companies. They were set up to promote their trade and train young and old with the relevant skills and knowledge to ensure continuity. I noted with some concern the adverse comments in a debate on 11 January from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton. I assure him that, to this day, the livery companies promote craft, technical, business and professional skills, education and training, contributing several million pounds a year to educational organisations, projects, bursaries and apprenticeships. They work hard for the parity of esteem, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Foster. I declare an interest as a past master of the world traders’ livery company, one of the modern ones without the financial legacies of the older ones, but supporting modern business and trade through their members’ professional expertise and generosity.

We need a multifaceted approach if the country is to meet its goal to become more highly skilled, as set out in the Government’s productivity plan. Large numbers of adults will require reskilling, education or training. There are simply not enough young people entering the workforce, and many, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said, are in need of preparation for the world of work. This is the field in which the

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noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, has done such pioneering work. We have been reminded that, over the next 30 years, there will be 13 million vacancies but only 7 million school leavers.

For adult learners, part-time further and higher education is essential in delivering flexible learning for people who have other professional and personal calls on their adult lives. We heard about this from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and the noble Baroness, Lady Redfern. I join the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, and my noble friend Lord Shipley in tributes to the WEA, and it was good to hear from a real-life apprentice, in the form of the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya. Yet, part-time learners have been heavily hit in changes to funding, and colleges have struggled to keep up staffing numbers and the wide range of courses that they are expected to provide. While the November spending review contained some welcome measures to reflect the specific needs of part-time students, the momentum must be maintained if we are to see a reverse in the very significant fall in part-time numbers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, wrote a seminal report on further education, as she reminded us, pointing out that these colleges are essential to progress. My noble friend Lord Cotter and others have already mentioned the importance of FE. We received valuable briefings for this debate from the AOC, the Open University, Birkbeck College—of which the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, is president—the new Learning and Work Institute, the University and College Union and many others to add to the comprehensive pack provided by the Library. All indicate the importance of adult education to individuals and to the economy, and the importance of second chances. They express concerns over funding, adequate teachers and continuity of government policy to enable real progress to be made.

What support can the Government offer? Changes to loans are most welcome, but will not replace the severe hits colleges have taken, with increasing demands and dwindling funds. This is not a sustainable position. As mentioned by my noble friend Lady Sharp and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, one measure would be to look again at funding for equivalent or lower-level qualifications. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Rees, will be very pleased that exemptions were made for science, technology, engineering and maths students—not astronomy, though; perhaps that is to come later—in the spending review in November 2015. Will the Minister say what other subjects might be made exempt to meet shortages in the workforce?

What about the Government’s commitment to the provision of English for Speakers of Other Languages? We heard a lot about this in the debate immediately prior to this one. Last year, changes to funding eligibility for English for Speakers of Other Languages contributed to some 2,000 fewer women attending ESOL classes than before, as well as some 16,000 people who lost the opportunity to learn English, as directed through Jobcentre Plus. This particularly affected FE colleges, the main providers of ESOL, with 73% of ESOL students studying at a college. Although David Cameron has since pledged an additional £20 million for ESOL, targeted at Muslim women, the latest funding announcement does not

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make up for the 50%—£160 million—reduction in the funds available for teaching English courses between 2008 and 2015. Will the Minister say what guarantees there are for continuity in ESOL funding? One of the greatest barriers to this sort of learning is constant changes and reversals in government policy, which is certainly no help to all those attempting to provide these services. Investing in high-quality technical and vocational education, starting in school and continuing through further education, higher education and lifelong learning, is vital to providing long-term career prospects and for creating a more productive workforce.

We have heard some very strong messages coming through today. I urge the Minister to listen to the key players, the practitioners, the people at the sharp end who will be making adult education and lifelong learning accessible and encouraging. Their voices need to be heard. They deserve more generous and more reliable funding to fulfil the needs and expectations of individuals and of the country.

This has been a stimulating and wide-ranging debate. I look forward very much to the Minister’s reply.

5.15 pm

Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab): My Lords, it is a privilege to have been in the Chamber for the valedictory speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. Many noble Lords have said that it was an exceptional speech. I do not accept that, because I have heard her speak many times and she always delivers exceptional speeches. This evening I certainly feel regretful that that will be the last time I hear her. I have been in your Lordships’ House for almost 20 years now. Over that period there have been probably a handful of people to whom, if I see their name on the monitor, I will go to hear them speak, irrespective of the subject, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has been one of those.

When I joined the Labour Party she was Secretary of State for Education—our Secretary of State, of course. Not long after that she parted company with the party, and I hold my hands up to say that possibly I was a contributor to the reason for that parting of the ways. Such is politics. But I know that in her time as Secretary of State for Education she introduced far-reaching reforms in schools that have since benefited millions of people, who will be forever grateful for her efforts. I wish her a long and happy retirement outwith this House. We will not see her like again.

At the other end of the spectrum, I enjoyed the speech that the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, delivered with such panache, drawing on some of his recent experience as a government Minister in this field. Along with colleagues on these Benches, I look forward to his contributions in the future. We are aware that we will have to be on form to make sure that we counter his arguments.

I have been heartened throughout this debate by the number of occasions on which the Workers’ Educational Association has been mentioned. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who deserves credit not just for introducing the debate but for the comprehensive and compelling manner with which she did so, touched on that as one of the aspects of adult and continuing education. I was particularly taken by the remarks of

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the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, about RH Tawney, who is a hero of mine as well. I would not go as far as he has, though, and dress in tribute to him with his tweed jacket. I do wear a tweed jacket, but only when I am wearing a kilt.

I began my working life at the WEA. My first job after leaving university was as a tutor/organiser in the 1970s. Like my noble friend Lord Hunt and others, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, I visited small towns and villages to interact with people who had returned to education, in many cases after a lengthy absence, and were determined to begin a new phase in their lives. That may have meant seeking a new direction in terms of employment, or simply an extension of knowledge to use for their personal benefit or the benefit of their family or community. That was another point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

Whatever the reason, often that first step into adult education was the most difficult one. For more than a century, the WEA has opened doors for millions of people. En passant, the fine traditions of the WEA, as the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, said, have indeed fed into the literary festivals that have developed. I would add to that the book clubs, which are a reflection of the willingness of people to get together and have cultural exchanges in a relatively informal manner, which can only be welcomed.

Of course, the WEA continues to open its door to many people. Four months ago the organisation published the results of a survey of their students. It was entitled Changing Lives and revealed the extent to which adult learning impacts on so many areas of an individual’s life. That survey found that more than half of those aged under 60 gave improving communication skills as a specific skill developed on a WEA course. Tellingly, four months after completing the course, almost one in four reported having found employment. In addition to the impact on students’ civic engagement, a quarter reported a significant impact on their role as parents, with a quarter stating that they felt more confident about helping their children with reading, writing and maths. Thus the benefits of adult education to the next generation will begin to take root.

A report by BIS published in 2011 concluded that,

“informal adult learning contributes to other Government policies by improving health and wellbeing”—

especially that of older people, and their ability to access digital technologies—

“cultural development and active citizenship, all of which can potentially decrease the burden on public finances”.

Although I would never characterise spending on these important areas as a burden on public finances, I welcome the official recognition given to the very real benefits that flow from adult education. However, I have to say that the years since have not lived up to that hype, with little to suggest that BIS or, indeed, the Government, really do value adult learning’s contribution to the growth of the economy.

I will not repeat the figures that many noble Lords have mentioned in their contributions. None the less, it has to be said that the amount of resources that the Government are willing to commit have to have an effect on the number of people who can get involved in

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adult and continuing learning, and therefore the consequent benefits that will flow to the economy.

The Association of Colleges illustrated to noble Lords in its briefing for this debate that the adult skills budget is to be renamed the adult education budget this year, but that is at the same time as funding is being shifted from adult education to apprenticeships. The levy on employers has the aim of increasing the quantity and quality of apprenticeship training. That was one of the issues discussed when your Lordships debated apprenticeships three months ago. There is a real fear that some employers will offer only the lower-end apprenticeships and may even use the people filling them to replace existing staff. However, why should all of the burden fall on employers? The whole country will benefit from a better trained and skilled workforce, so the Government should be prepared to provide additional funding to ensure more apprenticeships are at the higher level. Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, said, apprenticeships are available only to people in full-time work, so those who are unemployed or are working part time are excluded. Their opportunities for retraining are becoming increasingly limited and there is a clear need to widen the focus from apprenticeships to other forms of upskilling and, indeed, reskilling.

The situation in higher education is every bit as alarming. As the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, said—and, indeed, proceeded to validate—we should not assume that the young will learn more effectively than older people. Anyone who does that does so at their peril. No matter the stage they are at in their adult lives, part-time higher education is essential in delivering flexible learning for people. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and others have said, the Open University is one of our great institutions. The OU in its briefing for this debate highlighted that part-time higher education is a cost-effective way of raising skills levels and training so that students can earn and learn. That represents 75% of Open University students.

The benefits of new skills are felt immediately by both individuals and employers. The November spending review contained some welcome measures in this regard, including extending loans for equivalent or lower qualifications for all STEM subjects to reflect the specific needs of part-time students, but it did not contain the measures necessary to halt, far less reverse, the significant fall in part-time numbers in recent years. I have to say that the signs are that decline could continue for several years into the future, with the biggest falls seen in those studying for foundation degrees, where the number of part-time students has collapsed by nearly 50% since 2011. What do the Government propose to do about that? That is a very serious statistic to deal with because foundation degrees are, of course, the way in which doors to higher education are often opened.

The Minister may have read the reaction to those figures by the head of the Office for Fair Access, who was unequivocal in warning:

“If sustained action is not taken now, it may be too late to reverse the trend. This will mean many talented people who missed out on the traditional route into full-time study aged 18 find their route to a second chance at study cut off”.

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Even if she does not listen to me, I suggest that that is surely a voice she should listen to. BIS has announced that part-time students will become eligible for maintenance loans in the academic year 2018-19 but, as my noble friend Lady Bakewell asked, why the delay? The problem is deep and deepening and needs to be addressed now, not three years down the line. I hope that the Minister will have an answer on that point because the Government seem to have little sense of the urgency required by current trends. Although part-time students may be in some form of paid employment, they still require maintenance support because part-time work rarely provides enough to live on.

It is easy—indeed, I suppose it is expected—for the opposition Front Bench simply to live up to our name and, to some extent, I suppose that is what I have done although not, I hope, gratuitously. There is support for the view that the contribution being made to the economy by adult and continuing education and the wider skills sector is lacking in many aspects and, in that sense, the country is being sold short. I cite the support that came in the form of a report published today by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a BIS-supported quango. It announced the outcome of its research on the GOV.UK website this morning under the headline:

“Employers facing talent poverty as skills shortages rise 130% in four years”.

The figures in the report show that so-called “skills shortage vacancies” now make up nearly a quarter of all job openings and the concern of the business community is clear, with evidence that employers cannot find people with the skills or knowledge to fill those openings.

I am sure that the Minister will outline her understanding of the report and what the Government intend to do as a result. I would suggest that they have not been doing enough up to this point. People in and seeking work deserve more support in their efforts, and the resources to allow them to achieve their aims must be made available for the benefit of us all.

5.26 pm

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for initiating this important debate and to all noble Lords for their contributions. It has been a wide-ranging and typically expert discussion that has provided much food for thought. I would particularly like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Willetts on his excellent maiden speech. As he said, I first met him as a bright-eyed 18 year-old when I worked in his parliamentary office during my gap year. Despite his calm words, I think it is fair to say that neither of us would have predicted that one day I would be congratulating him in your Lordships’ House from the Dispatch Box, but I am delighted to do so.

It has also been an honour to hear the valedictory speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. She has been a towering figure in UK politics since she first won her parliamentary seat in 1964. I am afraid that I was not around then to appreciate it. Since then, she has held a number of ministerial offices and among

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her many achievements she piloted through Parliament the legislation that ended capital punishment. It is fitting that her speech today has come 35 years after the Limehouse declaration and perhaps one of the boldest moves that you can make in politics—the launching of a new party. As noble Lords have said, her passion for education and as a strong advocate for women in politics are well known and her contributions be will be missed by all of us in this House. I would like to join everyone in wishing her the very best for the future.

Adult education and skills is a devolved matter, so this afternoon I will speak specifically on adult education in England. The UK economy is growing and, as a result, our employment picture is brighter, with more people in work than before. A record 74% of people in the UK are currently employed—more than 2 million more than in 2010. With employers growing in confidence and businesses looking to expand, the demand for skilled people is increasing. Of course, skills are one of the major drivers of productivity growth. Increasing workers’ skills makes them more productive and supplies businesses with the talent that they need. There are, of course, also broader benefits for communities in supporting those adults who are disadvantaged, unemployed and low-skilled to develop and progress, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, highlighted.

However, the UK has fallen behind international standards for too long. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, mentioned some figures, and we have some unacceptable gaps in basic and high-level technical skills that are needed for our economy. A recent report published by the OECD found that an estimated 9 million adults in England have poor basic skills and that less than 10% of young people in learning undertake vocational education or training in the UK compared to a third or more of young people elsewhere. This must change and the Government are committed to major improvements in adult education to meet the needs of the economy.

Many noble Lords today have rightly expressed concerns about, and made the case for, investing properly in the skills that our country will need in the future. This is a responsibility shared between employers, individual citizens and government and the picture for this Parliament is positive in these respects. Through the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, spending on apprenticeships will reach £2.5 billion in 2019-20—twice the cash amount spent on apprenticeships at the beginning of the last Parliament.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked how the levy will impact smaller employers. Employers with a pay bill of less than £3 million will not pay the levy. That is equivalent to about 98% of employers. However, all employers will have access, whether they have paid into the levy or not. They will be free to spend money on the apprenticeship training which they judge best meets their needs. Employers that pay into the levy will be able to get more out of it than they put in by investing in apprenticeships.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked whether the levy could be broadened to cover HE. The levy will be able to be used for apprenticeship training such as degree apprenticeships under the new standards. We are

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also expanding the advanced learner loans programme to ensure that people can take high-level technical and professional courses to develop their career prospects and meet our future skills needs. Of course, there is no age limit on these loans. Previously, there was no source of funding to help learners meet the costs of vocational courses at the levels equivalent to university degrees. We have rectified that. By the end of October 2015, there had been more than 190,000 applications. However, we want to do more, which is why we are launching a consultation on the introduction of FE maintenance loans to support higher-level technical courses at specialist providers such as national colleges.

The coalition Government had to take many hard decisions to reduce the deficit. One of them was to reduce the budget for adult skills provision other than apprenticeships quite significantly year on year. However, as my noble friend Lady Redfern said, we have been able to maintain, in cash terms, a £1.5 billion a year adult education budget across this Parliament to support learners with low levels of skills and education, and we are very pleased that we have been able to do so.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, raised concerns about the funding of the provision of ESOL. The decision in July to remove the additional funding for jobseekers needed to meet the English language requirement was not taken lightly, but it was a decision that we had to take to deliver savings without compromising the stability of the FE sector. Our data showed that the numbers of jobseekers being referred to provision was significantly lower than originally envisaged, primarily as many had been successful in gaining employment. Jobseekers can continue to be referred to ESOL courses by their jobcentres, because we continue to cover the full cost of English language training for those who have been in the UK or another EEA country for at least three years, are in receipt of certain work-related benefits and need to improve their English in order to find work.

Prospects for the further education sector look a great deal brighter as a result of the overall expansion of funding represented by our reforms. I can reassure the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Cotter, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, that we do value the sector and that its total spending power to support participation will be £3.4 billion in 2019-20—a real-terms increase of 30% compared to 2015-16.

As many noble Lords highlighted, adult further education has long been dominated by part-time learners, the vast majority of whom take courses in higher education. A number of noble Lords expressed concern in this debate, and in others, about the decline in numbers. It is exactly in order to address those concerns that we announced in the Autumn Statement that maintenance loans will be available for the first time for part-time study. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, that we are committed to introducing these, but we need to get the details right, which is why we are launching the consultation. We welcome a wide range of views to help us work out how best we can support learners with these new loans.

Of course, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Rees and Lord Watson, all rightly paid tribute to the many-faceted

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contribution that the Open University makes in adult education. It has long provided a very flexible way for adults to access learning in ways that suit them best.

It is particularly concerning when employers tell us that young adults do not have even the basic skills needed for the workplace. Through the Government’s traineeship programme we are seeking to address this by giving those who need it the skills and vital work experience needed to progress in an apprenticeship or other sustainable employment. Almost 30,000 individuals participated in traineeships in the programme’s first two years. We are also ambitious to raise adult standards of literacy and numeracy, which is why we have embedded English and maths into the heart of all our major adult education programmes and why we fully fund all adults to achieve GCSE maths and English.

High-quality apprenticeships providing training in the workplace are essential to support employers and to help our economy prosper in the years to come, which is why the Government are doubling the level of spending on apprenticeships annually and are committed to reaching 3 million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020. As noble Lords have rightly pointed out, not only is it important to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities but they must be of high quality and deliver the skills relevant to the workplace; and, of course, the person undertaking the apprenticeship should get the opportunities they want. We will ensure that quality will not be compromised in the pursuit of quantity.

We have put in place reforms that give employers more control, with more than 1,300 employers already involved in designing apprenticeships to meet their skills needs; 198 new employer-led standards have been published so far, with many more in development. Quality will be assured on these new standards through more rigorous assessment and grading at the end of the apprenticeship. Through the apprenticeship levy, employers will become more demanding customers when seeking quality training provision in England. To further support our focus, the institute of apprenticeships will be established from April 2017. This independent, employer-led body will be responsible for setting quality criteria for standards and assessment.

My noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott asked about flexibility. She is right that, overwhelmingly, apprenticeships are full-time and should be a minimum of 30 hours a week. But in some circumstances a minimum of 16 hours can be agreed, although this will extend the duration of the apprenticeship to ensure sustained training and a quality apprenticeship, and the apprenticeship levy will be able to be used to fund this.

We are also introducing ground-breaking reforms to technical and professional education which will set England’s post-16 education system on a par with the best in the world. The reforms focus on simplifying the currently overly complex post-16 education system to create new technical and professional routes from school to employment, and the highest levels of technical competency. We want to create a system which is genuinely owned, understood and valued by employers, which will help young people make informed choices about the different types of study and the opportunities

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these bring and which will better integrate classroom-based training and employment-based training such as apprenticeships.

The creation of a new network of specialist training providers—including national colleges and institutes of technology, the growth of degree apprenticeships, which I have previously mentioned and which are widening access to the professions, including automotive, banking, chartered surveying, aerospace and nuclear, and the expansion of loans to help more adults take a qualification in FE—will all help address technical skills gaps and shortages in sectors that are critical to the economy, and support the delivery of major infrastructure programmes.

The noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Clement-Jones, raised the issue of digital skills. As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said, the Government will be publishing a strategy later this year, as we all agree about the importance of the UK remaining a world leader in this area. Alongside the new computing curriculum in schools, new programmes have been designed to strengthen the country’s digital capacity through new high-quality skills provision; for instance, employers have designed or are designing 19 apprenticeship standards, and a new digital skills college will be opening in September 2016 to address gaps in this area.

The importance of lifelong learning for the economy should not be underestimated as it improves the life chances of people who are low skilled and socially or economically disadvantaged, which in turn supports the country’s growth and productivity, as well as their contribution to their local communities and their health. By working with employers and local services, such as health, schools, social housing and Jobcentre Plus, in deprived areas we can improve individuals’ job prospects.

Birmingham provides a good example. Its adult education service used BIS community learning funding to work with Jobcentre Plus, Carillion, Capita, Tesco and Morrisons, helping more than 500 unemployed people, many with disabilities and chronic health problems, into sustainable employment. In addition, more than 80 employers were trained in mentoring so that they could actively support employees from long-term workless backgrounds. We are supporting disadvantaged families through family learning courses, which help build parents’ own confidence and skills as they learn alongside their children, improving their chances of employment as well as raising their aspirations for their children.

Lifelong learning also supports the economy by upskilling older people; 2.9 million people aged between 50 and state pension age are out of work. As the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, said, there is no age limit on the capacity to learn. Part-time courses help older people build confidence, update their skills—including digital skills—and continue to be productive and effective in the workplace or in their community. Of course, lifelong learning has benefits for well-being, mental and physical health, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, outlined. Research shows that adult learning improves well-being and reduces depression.

Our £1.5 billion a year investment in adult education across this Parliament will support learners with low levels of skills and education. That budget, together

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with the separate funding that meets the needs of adults with education, health and care plans, which describe a higher level of support, explicitly provides support for learners who need additional learning support as a result of having or acquiring a learning difficulty or disability. Many voluntary organisations are doing excellent work in this field, and we continue to support the work of Disability Rights UK through our grant funding.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, raised the issue of teachers’ understanding of how to support dyslexic learners. Providers must ensure that teachers have the necessary skills to meet the needs of these learners and keep those skills up to date. There are a number of different courses available, including London Met’s postgraduate certificate in teaching adult dyslexic learners. Many teachers also benefit from a range of very helpful material produced by, among others, the British Dyslexia Association, of which the noble Lord will be well aware.

It is right that strong local areas and employers should take a lead in establishing a stronger skills system to better meet their communities’ economic needs. The noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Aberdare, talked about the advantage of local approaches and partnerships. We want to enable greater local influence over adult education so that it is better targeted and responsive to local priorities. We have already agreed ground-breaking devolution deals with Sheffield, the north-east, the Tees Valley, Liverpool and the West Midlands, and we expect more to follow. Our locally led area reviews are also making sure that further education becomes more efficient, financially resilient and locally responsive to the needs of learners and employers to deliver the skills required to grow local economies.

I thank noble Lords once again for their contributions to this debate. They have shown that adult education and lifelong learning have a vital role in strengthening the UK’s economy. The Government recognise that there is more to be done to ensure that the UK has the skills and flexibility it needs to grow in the global economy and that all people in this country have the skills they need to do what they would like to in life. Only through investment in high-quality vocational education that is truly responsive to employers, individuals and local needs will we secure future productivity and growth.

5.42 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in what I think has been an extremely good debate. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, for an extremely stimulating maiden speech and, even more so, my noble friend Lady Williams for a really memorable valedictory speech, which many of us will go away remembering for many a long year.

Adult education and lifelong learning is a very wide-ranging subject, and we have touched on a very large number of issues during the debate. We have gone from basic skills and ESOL through to digital skills. We have looked at growing confidence on the one hand to neurological pathways on the other. I, for one, am reassured by the fact that the noble Baroness,

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Lady Greenfield, told us that as we grow older our learning capacities need not get worse—sometimes I am not sure about that. In all, it has been an extremely stimulating debate. Looking at the wide-ranging facets of this subject has been extremely useful, as has having different people being able to talk about different subjects.

The Minister, whom I thank for an extremely comprehensive response to the debate, is very optimistic; some people are more optimistic than others about the future of this area. I hope that the Minister is right to be as optimistic as she is because, as she says, this area of our educational system is vital to the strength of our economy in the future. Once again, I thank all noble Lords for contributing to such a good debate.

Motion agreed.

Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure

Motion to Direct

5.44 pm

Moved by The Lord Bishop of Durham

That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure is set in the context of our commitment, as the Church of England, to keep becoming a safer church. The Measure itself is only one part of all the work that we are undertaking. The Measure is before your Lordships because the church believes it needs to improve its statutory arrangements: first, to prevent the abuse of children and adults at risk within the church community; and, secondly, to deal effectively with those in authority within the church who seek to harm children and vulnerable adults. It follows on from a wide consultation within the church as to the appropriate legislative steps that need to be taken. When it received final approval before the General Synod, this Measure had unanimous support among those who voted—28 bishops, 145 clergy and 149 laity voted in favour, with no votes cast against it in any house and no recorded abstentions. The Measure has also been placed before the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament and deemed to be expedient.

An important provision in this Measure is to be found in Section 5, which imposes a new safeguarding duty on those in authority within the church. All ordained clergy who are authorised to exercise ministry, along with all archdeacons, bishops, licensed readers and lay workers, churchwardens and PCCs will now be under a specific duty to have due regard to the church’s safeguarding policies and guidance issued by the House of Bishops. It is the House of Bishops which takes the lead on safeguarding matters in the church. It will be misconduct for a clerk in holy orders to fail to comply with that duty, and PCCs will be required in future to state in their annual reports whether they have complied with this new duty.

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Churchwardens and PCCs, together with the incumbent, play an important part at parish level in the life and mission of the church. They occupy positions of responsibility in the parish, where they are trusted and respected by others. The church therefore needs to be able to stop those who are unsuitable, from a safeguarding perspective, from serving as churchwardens or as PCC members. Sections 2 and 3 will do that. Any person who is on a barred list under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 will be disqualified from holding office as a churchwarden, serving on a PCC or being appointed a PCC secretary or treasurer. Furthermore, under Section 3, members, secretaries and treasurers of PCCs will be disqualified if convicted of an offence listed in Schedule 1 to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Those grounds for disqualification already apply to churchwardens under the Churchwardens Measure 2001.

This Measure will enable a bishop to suspend churchwardens, PCC members, treasurers and secretaries on certain safeguarding grounds. The bishop will have new powers to suspend them if they are arrested on suspicion of committing an offence listed in Schedule 1 to the 1933 Act or charged with such an offence, or if the bishop receives information from the police or a local authority that they present a significant risk of harm towards a child or vulnerable adult. To protect these lay officers from being unfairly suspended they will have a right to appeal to the President of Tribunals, an independent senior judge, against that suspension.

The bishop will also have new powers to suspend clergy, on the basis of information supplied by the police or a local authority. We realise that there are judgments to be made about where the right balance is between protecting children and vulnerable adults, and suspending clergy when there has not yet been an arrest or a charge. However, we believe that we have indeed struck the right balance here, as the bishop will be able to suspend only if satisfied that the cleric presents a significant risk of harm and, before the bishop suspends, he or she will have to consult the safeguarding officer and such other persons as the bishop considers appropriate. Furthermore, the suspended cleric will have a right of appeal against the suspension to the independent President of Tribunals, and will be eligible to apply for church legal aid for representation to pursue such an appeal.

Under the existing provisions of the Clergy Discipline Measure, disciplinary proceedings against clergy must be started within one year of the alleged misconduct unless the President of Tribunals, upon application, grants permission to make the complaint out of time. The president in such cases has to be satisfied that there was good reason why proceedings were not instituted at an earlier date. This one-year limitation period has been criticised for inhibiting survivors of abuse from making complaints, since it often takes many years before they are ready and able to come forward. Section 7 of the new Measure will remove the current one-year limitation period for any complaint against a cleric alleging misconduct of a sexual nature towards a child or vulnerable adult. This will help survivors achieve justice.

Under Section 8 of the new Measure, in cases where the limitation period does still apply—that is,

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in complaints that are not concerned with sexual misconduct towards a child or vulnerable adult—the bishop will now have new powers of suspension so that, in serious cases, the cleric can be suspended while the President of Tribunals considers an application to allow a complaint out of time to proceed. To protect the cleric, the test that the bishop must apply will be one of necessity: the bishop will have to be satisfied that it is necessary for a suspension to be imposed and will first of all have to seek legal advice from the diocesan registrar. The suspended cleric will have a right of appeal to the independent President of Tribunals.

As I indicated earlier, in all cases of alleged sexual abuse, or in any other alleged misconduct case, we need to find the right balance between protecting the vulnerable and the damaged on the one hand, and ensuring that the rights of clergy are not unfairly impeded on the other. We believe we have the right balance with this Measure. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I make it plain at the very beginning that I do not dissent from this Measure. I should perhaps declare an interest in that I was a churchwarden for some 36 years, in three different churches, and I am acutely aware of many of the problems that have disturbed people in recent years. I say that by way of preface. We in this House have recent experience of unfounded allegations being made against one of the most respected individuals in this country, albeit not a clergyman. I refer of course to Field Marshal Bramall, who must have gone through the most agonising period.

Not all your Lordships may be aware of this, but a recent colleague from the Bishops’ Benches also had an agonising period of a year or more. I refer of course to the former Bishop of Gloucester, the right reverend Michael Perham, whom I knew on the General Synod when he was Dean of Derby. He was a greatly respected bishop but suddenly, in the glare of publicity, had to stand down as bishop for a period. He was not able to make his farewell because his retirement had already been announced. Although he was completely exonerated by police and church, it was a long, cumbersome and distressing process. I hope lessons were learnt within the church from that. He was able to go back in June last year and, having had that agonising period, say farewell to a grateful diocese. We of course have had the pleasure in recent weeks of welcoming his replacement, the first of the women diocesan bishops, to your Lordships’ House.

I have cited these two cases, and I shall mention another because I knew the right honourable Edward Heath fairly well, in so far as one could know Ted Heath well. I was utterly astounded when accusations were made, and I was totally appalled at the way in which they were publicised by a senior police officer standing outside the late Sir Edward’s house in Salisbury and, in effect, saying, “If you have any complaints against the former Prime Minister, come forward”.

I hope those lessons from cases such as those to which I have referred have been adequately registered within the higher counsels of the church. The new powers and responsibilities that this Measure gives bishops are very considerable, and they must be exercised

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with enormous care and restraint and in the spirit that has been the watchword of legislation from Magna Carta onwards that an accused person is innocent until proved guilty. Too often in recent years, it has almost seemed the other way round.

Having had some distant knowledge of what the former Bishop of Gloucester went through, because we were in correspondence during his period of self-imposed exile—he stood down before he was suspended—I know a little of the agony that can be felt, particularly when the person is innocent. As one who fought for a constituent who had been wrongly imprisoned for sexual crimes, I also know how families can be destroyed. We know from the publicity surrounding the affair of Field Marshal Bramall that it would sometime appear that on the flimsiest of evidence a man—or a woman, for that matter—can go through hell.

I mentioned this briefly when the Ecclesiastical Committee discussed this Measure, and I thought it right to put some remarks on the record as we debate it tonight. Indeed, I was encouraged to do so by a couple of colleagues on the committee. The Measure has my support. It is important as we have had some very sad cases of clergymen having indeed been found wanting. It is important that people have total trust in the church—indeed, in the churches, because this is by no means an Anglican problem. Wherever people are gathered together, this can be a problem, whether they be Christian or otherwise. It is vital that the Church of England has safeguarding measures in which the public can have confidence, but it is also right and proper that the church, above all institutions, should have regard to innocent until proven guilty; that every possible help, counsel and advice should be given to anyone who is suspended; and that, so far as is possible, the anonymity of an accused person is preserved until a charge is made. That is difficult in the case of a parish priest—the rumour will go around—but it is perhaps less difficult in the case of, for example, a treasurer or a churchwarden. However, it is important that anonymity is preserved so far as it can be unless and until a charge is laid.

I hope that when the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who introduced this Measure in a moderate way, comes to sum up what will probably be a brief debate, he will be able to give some further reassurance on the point that disturbs me and which I felt it was only right to voice in this Chamber in this debate.

6 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for the very full and helpful way in which he introduced this Measure this evening, as he did in the Ecclesiastical Committee itself. I also take the opportunity to put on record my deep appreciation—I am sure I am not the only member of the committee who feels this—for the warm and very effective way in which we are led by our new chair, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who is an outstanding leader of our deliberations.

I very much endorse the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, which concern me deeply. I am a little more cynical than he is about the anonymity

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plea, because I fear that it might be counterproductive and would lead to even more gossip and speculation of a very damaging kind. I, too, despair at times about what I have always seen as the ideal foundation of British justice—that people are innocent until proven guilty. So often—too often—people are, in effect, tried, arraigned and condemned by the more irresponsible sections of the media and, indeed, by the gossip of the communities in which they live.

That is the point I wanted to make. Churches are themselves fairly close-knit communities. Particularly in smaller urban or rural areas, they are a very important part of the network of wider society. What we are looking at here can be a nightmare experience, not only for the person who is accused but also for his family and all the rest. I hope I will be forgiven for saying this—instinctively I do not like to say this, because it can sound awfully sentimental—but the basic principle of Christianity, as I understand it, is about love and the application of love in the way we live.

It seems that if we have any real, deep commitment to that principle, we ought to hear a little more—I raised this in the Ecclesiastical Committee—about the arrangements that are being made for counselling and supporting the accused individual during the period in which all these proceedings take place. Of course, if the person is ultimately exonerated, one can rejoice in the fact that he or she is exonerated but that will not undo the damage and, from that standpoint, I would like to see the other side of this coin. I am absolutely convinced that the church is to be congratulated on having faced up to something that needed to be faced up to and should have been faced up to long ago. It is extremely good that it has moved so firmly to try to do this, but the way in which the move is undertaken matters as much as the principle of the move itself, and I hope that the right reverend Prelate will be able to reassure us.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has been extremely kind and indeed very flattering about my chairmanship of the Ecclesiastical Committee. I should like to make one or two points about this Measure which I hope will be encouraging to noble Lords.

As a judge, I had some 35 years’ experience of sexual abuse. I was also the vice-chairman of the Cumberlege commission, chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, which advised the Vatican and the then cardinal archbishop of Westminster how Roman Catholic priests, deacons and so on should be dealt with where there were allegations of sexual abuse. The proposals in the Measure now before the House were almost exactly what we recommended and they were accepted both by the cardinal archbishop and by the Vatican as a good plan for other countries, as well as this one. We also spent a considerable amount of time—over an hour—in the Ecclesiastical Committee discussing the concerns, particularly in relation to priests and their suspension.

It is important to recognise that a diocesan bishop can suspend a priest or deacon only if he is satisfied, on the basis of information provided by a local authority or the police, that the priest or deacon presents a

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significant risk of harm. Interestingly, in the other place Stephen Phillips MP was very critical of this Measure, saying that it was too restrictive. He wanted a bishop to be able to receive information basically from any source and to have the power to suspend. He asked why the information should be limited to coming from the local authority or the police. Quite simply, the intention is that there must be evidence about the priest or deacon of sufficient weight that either the police or the local authority safeguarding team feel it necessary to approach the bishop. If the bishop gets information from another source, it will be his job to talk to the police and/or safeguarding team at the local authority, and indeed to tell the source of the information provided to him also to get in touch with the agencies. However, that gives the priest or deacon the protection that ill-informed or tenuous evidence cannot be used for the purpose of suspension.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, the important thing is that people are innocent until proven guilty, but you have to balance the protection of children against taking steps against adults. I had the unhappy experience of preparing a report on Chichester. A result of that report was a visitation to the diocese of Chichester. There were two priests, one of whom had died before he could be prosecuted—he would certainly have gone to prison; the evidence was overwhelming—and the second was in prison. I wrote a second report for the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, setting out the names of other priests who had not at that point been before the courts, several of whom are now serving sentences of imprisonment. So we have to be realistic: there are bad hats in every profession, even in the church. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, knows, a previous bishop of Gloucester is presently in prison. That was very bad luck for his successor, who had a very rough time in relation to that previous bishop.

So what is being offered here by the church, accepted as expedient by the Ecclesiastical Committee, is a proper balance between the protection of children and the proper approach to not finding somebody guilty of anything until the evidence has come before a criminal court, or indeed a family court if there are children involved with that particular person. It seems to me that the Church of England, along with the Roman Catholic Church, has just about got the balance right.

It is, of course, important, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said, that proper counselling should be provided if necessary to the priest who is suspended. He will also get legal aid through the church for lawyers, and one hopes that these matters will not take too long. However, the process being put forward by the synod seems entirely appropriate and I hope the House will approve this Measure.

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, I agree wholeheartedly with the extremely powerful and moving remarks made by my noble friend Lord Cormack. I will, if I may, very briefly add one further issue.

The diocese of Chichester decided recently that a former bishop, George Bell, whose memory is respected, indeed venerated, sexually abused a child some 65 years ago. This decision has provoked deep concern, particularly

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regarding the process followed in reaching it. There was just one, apparently uncorroborated, accusation. The names of those who decided the case have not been made public and neither has the amount of money paid to the complainant; nor have we been told the names of the experts who interviewed the complainant. The current Bishop of Chichester has declared that the church has, in this matter, acted with transparency. A more accurate word, surely, would be “opaque”. Deep hurt and bewilderment have been caused among many faithful members of the church. Should not our leaders give a full and proper account of the process by which the church has endangered the reputation of a very great man?

The Lord Bishop of Durham: I express my thanks to the noble Lords who have spoken and add my thanks to those of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to the noble Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for her chairing of the Ecclesiastical Committee. It was my first experience of attending such a committee with such a piece of legislation and I was treated with lots of courtesy, for which I am grateful. I will say as much as I can in response to some of the things that have been said. I am very grateful to the noble Lords for raising these matters and delighted that they are not opposed to the Measure.

The history of the successive Bishops of Gloucester highlights the very real difficulty we have found ourselves in. With regards to Michael Perham, the most recently retired Bishop of Gloucester, let me please assure the House that every time a case like this happens we follow a serious safeguarding case procedure. When that has been gone through, the last act is that the whole thing is reviewed to see what lessons might be learned from it for the future. I assure noble Lords that such a review has been undertaken and that some significant lessons have been noted. As that has not yet finally been shared with Michael Perham himself, I do not think it would be appropriate to say too much about it. However, I assure noble Lords that that review has occurred. One of the realities of the situation is that if this Measure had been in place, we would have been better able to handle it than we were when the circumstance arose.

6.15 pm

In response to the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Judd, the issue of pastoral support, care and counselling, not only for the person against whom an allegation is made but for their family, for the survivor—the person who has made the allegation—and sometimes in parochial situations for the entire community, has to be taken on board. We are constantly learning lessons about that. Certainly, we have learned further from Michael Perham’s case and will make some changes in the light of that experience. I hope that reassures your Lordships that we have done a thorough review.

There is a difficulty with the issue of anonymity—I perhaps share slightly the cynical thought of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, on this issue—and perhaps I may refer to the Peter Ball case. It is a deeply sad case with which the church is still having to come to terms. The reality is that people stepped forward and made allegations against him many years ago, and the church simply

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did not believe them. However, he has finally admitted his guilt and is now serving a prison sentence. That illustrates the tension that we live with in respecting and honouring all that a senior person in the church has done, and yet having to live with the reality that people who do great things sometimes also make very grave errors. We must not hide away from it when they do.

Another issue with anonymity, which we can get caught with, is that, first, sometimes names get into the public realm not because the church put them there but because others do. We then have work out how to handle the situation. The other reality is that when the name is put into the public realm, other people come forward and we discover that what was one allegation that may have appeared false is proved to be true.

A great deal of work is ongoing around support and pastoral care. Often, it is not the person against whom the allegation is made who is most seriously affected but close relatives and other members of their family. We have to watch for that.

Without wanting to deflect the question concerning Bishop George Bell, I refer the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, to the extensive explanation on the Chichester diocesan website that deals with the reasons why we have not been able to put into the public realm some of the information asked for. The decision to put his name into the public realm was not taken lightly. I was aware of this for at least two years before any decision was taken.

Secondly, I refer to what I said earlier: this is not to denigrate in any way the amazing work done by Bishop George Bell. He was an astounding man and leader of the church. But we also have to recognise that it is possible for great people to make mistakes. In fact, if noble Lords read very carefully the statements that have been put out, they will see that there has been no declaration that we are convinced that this took place. It is about the balance of probabilities and what might have happened if it had come to light at an earlier date. On matters such as whether his name will remain on the church calendar, no decisions have been made and no proposals have yet been suggested.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, perhaps I may express the hope to the right reverend Prelate that when those decisions are made, they are made in a spirit of Christian charity. He says that lessons are being learnt all the time. Surely the lesson that should be learnt here is that to give great publicity to a possibility without giving any opportunity for it to be challenged is itself a rather dangerous precedent.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: I note the point. It is a very difficult decision to have to make. Again I refer noble Lords to the website because there is a very long article on it explaining the ins and outs. I am quite happy to go on the record as saying that one of the lessons learnt in this particular case is that our failing to acknowledge the immensity of the work that Bishop George Bell had done was a failure in our communications process. We should have done it in a different manner.

I hope that I have responded to all the questions raised and I am pleased that everyone who has spoken

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is supportive of the measure. Perhaps I may now move the Motion formally so that it can be presented to Her Majesty for Royal Assent.

Motion agreed.

Diocesan Stipends Funds (Amendment) Measure

Motion to Direct

6.22 pm

Moved by The Lord Bishop of Durham

That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Diocesan Stipends Funds (Amendment) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, this is a very short and technical draft measure. It amends the Diocesan Stipends Funds Measure 1953 to ensure that diocesan boards of finance have the same powers to make decisions about the balance of investments in the diocesan stipends fund that they have in relation to their other charitable property.

Since 2013, charities with permanent endowment have had the power to pass a resolution to invest and use their investment returns, whether income or capital gains, on a “total return” basis. That is to say that no distinction is made between income and capital gain in determining how much of the return is available for spending on the charity’s purposes and how much should be retained to protect the value of the endowment. In order to pass such a resolution, the trustees must be persuaded that it is in the best interests of the charity.

The 1953 measure specifies, in some detail, the purposes for which the income account and the capital account of the diocesan stipends fund may be used. Income may be used for payment of clergy stipends, for repair of parsonages and for associated purposes. Capital may be invested in certain kinds of property, or used for the provision or improvement of parsonages. This detailed prescription constitutes a statutory restriction on the use of capital gains for the fund’s income purposes. That statutory restriction prevents the trustees from passing a total return resolution and prevents the Charity Commission from making an order permitting total return. Therefore, only income returns on investment may be used for payment of stipends. Dioceses may find that they are locked into an unhelpfully restrictive

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and potentially sub-optimal investment policy because of the need to generate income returns to preserve the ability to make stipend payments. This is particularly problematic at a time when income returns on investments are, broadly speaking, low and seeking a high income return could lead to choosing risky investments.

This measure does not alter the purposes for which diocesan stipends funds could be used. But it would permit DBFs, like any other permanently endowed charity, to pass a total return resolution and allocate returns to the income fund and the capital fund at their discretion. This would free the DBF to invest more flexibly.

The amendment does not compel any DBF to alter its investment policy relating to its stipends fund. If a DBF feels its present arrangements are satisfactory, it will be perfectly at liberty to continue investing its stipends fund exactly as it does at present. The new provision is purely permissive, enabling a DBF that wishes to do so to invest, and allocate returns, more flexibly than at present. I beg to move.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, in the Ecclesiastical Committee we agreed very speedily and with unanimity that this was a good thing and that we were fully behind it. We do not often have an opportunity such as this, so I want to take it to put on record the deep appreciation and admiration there is for clergy up and down the country. They set a tremendous example of how the principles of service can become the primary driving force for first-class and effective work in the community, and how there really are other factors in a healthy society than the market alone.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, it may not surprise the House to hear that the Ecclesiastical Committee deemed this measure to be expedient after an extremely brief discussion. I therefore support the measure.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for his very positive comments. In the light particularly of our previous debate, I would say that we have thousands of clergy who do fantastic work up and down the country. They serve the community and enable communities to develop and flourish. I thank him for putting that on the record for us. I also thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for affirming what the Ecclesiastical Committee said.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 6.27 pm.