Baroness King of Bow Thu, 21 Apr 2016 00:26:22 +0000 The website of Oona King en-gb THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES: WHY OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON THEM

Speech to Parliament as Shadow Broadcast Minister:

A generation ago, in 1998, the Labour Government defined the creative industries as comprising any business with the potential to generate,

wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property”.

It seems strange now that, in the fairly recent past, the Blair Government became the first in the world to recognise the creative industries as an industrial sector in their own right. The Creative Industries Mapping Document published by former Secretary of State, Chris Smith—now the noble Lord, Lord Smith—set out for the first time to measure and map the impact of the creative industries on the rest of the economy. He wrote in the foreword to the document:

The most successful economies and societies in the twenty-first century will be creative ones. Creativity will make the difference—to businesses seeking a competitive edge, to societies looking for new ways to … improve the quality of life. This offers the UK enormous opportunities. We have a well-deserved reputation for creativity; we can draw on both a strong historical base and vibrant contemporary developments”.

It is worth touching on the historical base that the noble Lord, Lord Smith, mentioned because it puts the future potential of our creative industries in context. It is incredible to recall that, at its height, the British Empire was the largest ever in history and held sway over one-fifth of the world’s population. The BBC Empire Service began in 1932 and is today, of course, known as the BBC World Service. The global footprint of the World Service is the widest reaching of any broadcaster or country and it is the most trusted news source in the world. The BBC news reaches more than 230 million weekly users. If you add our news to our other intellectual property exports—music, film, TV, games, digital content, publishing, architecture and so on—it is clear that Britain has done something truly remarkable. We have lost an empire but won the battle for global cultural pre-eminence. That pre-eminence now showers us with revenue and is the real venture capital of our economy.

As John Woodward wrote in his excellent review of the creative industries, published recently in March,

the UK has risen to become the pre-eminent global hub and talent magnet for investors seeking creativity, innovation, world-class skills and cutting-edge engagement with the new digitally-led creative economy”.

One of the purposes of this debate, and what noble Lords have done in it, is to ask: how did this happen and how we can ensure that it continues to happen? Tellingly, Mr Woodward’s explanation of how it happened is:

Over the past 40 years a combination of natural talent, education, training, and crucially, the provision of state-funded access to a broad range of cultural activity, have all contributed to the UK becoming a global powerhouse for the creative industries”,

but that,

the recent public spending cuts to arts bodies and to regional economic support structures now risk eroding the national DNA that originally propelled the UK to the top of the global creativity league”.

If we want to secure our future, we must secure our creative industries. As my noble friend Lord Bragg said, this calls for enlightenment from the centre. I liked his comments on repetition, such as:

A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”.

A couple of us have re-quoted this. I like a bit of repetition as much as anyone else but there are too many arts organisations crying, “A grant! a grant! my kingdom for a grant!”. Our kingdom’s cultural hegemony was built on state-funded access to a multiplicity of cultural goods but the scale of cuts to state-funded arts projects and institutions now risks critically undermining not just our collective creativity, our creative industries and our cultural heritage but the life-blood of Britain’s economy. That is why this debate is so important, and why it is so important that we see clearly the risks ahead.

What are the risks? The first is that we do not protect our PSBs and the extraordinarily innovative yet fragile creative ecology that they have spawned. Virtually every Peer speaking today has referred to our creative infrastructure. Secondly, there is the risk that through excessive funding cuts, as I have said, we fatally undermine access to arts and culture for all British kids, not just a lucky few. This was articulated by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, the noble Baroness,

Lady Kidron, my noble friends Lord Haskel and Lord Bragg and many others. Third, there is an enormous risk that our education system does not do enough to promote creativity, as was outlined by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bonham-Carter, Lady Kidron and Lady Wheatcroft, and by the noble Lords, Lord Burns and Lord Clement-Jones, and others. Fourthly, there is the risk that we do not secure the digital economy or its infrastructure adequately, for example in broadband.

The fifth risk is that the creative economy is limited to London and the south-east, and that we fail to introduce the regional structures required to hardwire creativity throughout Britain. We have not touched on that enough in this debate but I am sure we would all agree that we need to pursue that incredibly important strategy. Sixthly, there is the risk that we fail to respond adequately to regulatory challenges as they emerge, particularly those that require a constructive relationship with the EU. Seventhly, and following on from that, we need our IP regime to promote innovation and not stifle it, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, mentioned. I encourage the Government to think harder about how we effect that difficult balance between the incentive to innovate and ensuring that we have appropriate returns from copyright. There will be instances, and the digital world throws up many of them, where the current situation is not as we would wish it to be.

Eighthly, there is diversity, which I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, for raising. I should flag up that I am Diversity Executive for the broadcaster Channel 4. It was really instructive of the noble Baroness to have highlighted the role that Lenny Henry has played and the link with talent. Let us remember that this is about talent. Lenny Henry highlighted the fact that BAME talent has left, or been pushed out of, the television industry. Too often, people greet the diversity initiatives that are set up to deal with this sort of issue by whispering complaints—let me be blunt here—that they are just about getting black people jobs, that they lower the bar, that they undermine meritocracy and that they prevent the best person getting the job. So let me put the record straight and explain why intelligent diversity strategies grow our talent pool and our economy.

I will do this by way of an example that I never tire of repeating—please forgive me, those who have heard me say this before. It relates to the legendary former head of Film4, Tessa Ross, who was a great advocate for diversity. She was concerned that, despite Channel 4 having a remit to push diversity and find hidden talent, she could not find any black film directors. Tessa looked and looked. She asked her people to look. The cry went out across the land: “Black film directors—where are they?”. The response came, “Oh no, there aren’t any. Well, there aren’t any of note”. You know how it is: you want to employ black people and women and disabled people and working-class white boys from Scunthorpe, but you just can’t find any who have the right experience or qualifications. It’s even a bit like this round here in the House of Lords, isn’t it? How else do you explain that 77% of the Lords are men? Obviously we do not discriminate against women, and we are not in favour of men over women. It’s just that women are not as experienced as men, or they have not risen up through the ranks, or they are not the experts in their field, or they cry in the lab. You know how it is. Honestly, what a load of nonsense.

Back to the head of Film4 searching for a black film director—she knew there must be black people out there who had the talent to be film directors but just hadn’t had the opportunity. She decided to widen the recruitment field, to change the qualifications required. I say to any person in any industry, in any business: if you want to improve things, do that. Widen your recruitment base. She turned to somebody who had no experience as a film director. He was a visual artist. As we all know, Steve McQueen did not get the Oscar for best film due to political correctness. He got it because he is one of the most talented film directors in the world, because Channel 4 had an innovative approach to diversity and because Channel 4 had—and has—a strategy to go out and find the talent without qualifications, rather than let that talent be lost for ever.

The TV industry is currently working hard to promote diversity, and the Creative Diversity Network, which I work with, has done just that. I know that the Minister in the other place is well acquainted with the issues that the Creative Diversity Network is pursuing, so I ask the Minister: what will the Government do to spread the best practice identified by the Creative Diversity Network for the TV and film industries further afield to related creative fields such as radio, the music industry, publishing and theatre?

While I am on the subject of diversity, it is imperative to point out the huge diversity of the creative industries themselves. We have heard about fashion design, architecture, film, video, special effects, software, music, publishing, theatre, TV, tourism —the list goes on and on. Yes, these are disparate fields, but, as the Creative Industries Mapping Document pointed out all those years ago for the first time, these are the areas that make up the knowledge economy on which our future rests.

I end by turning to the BBC. As so many have pointed out, the BBC goes to the very heart of what it is to be British. I have already quoted my noble friend Lord Bragg, who said in this Chamber:

The BBC is not so much the family silver as the family itself”.—[Official Report, 3/6/15; col. 432.]

I will be frank. Many are worried that the Government want, with ideological zeal, to cut the BBC down to size, to something far less than it is at the moment. I am sure many of us will urge the Government not to use the BBC’s charter renewal as an inadvertent exercise in cultural vandalism. I quote an article that said:

Proverbially, when the bombs rain down, the captain of the last nuclear submarine will judge Britain ended when Radio 4 ceases to sound”.

The cultural industries have given Britain a sense of itself, and none more so than the BBC. Those industries will protect our future and, as such, they could hardly make a greater contribution to the United Kingdom’s economy.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Thu, 18 Jun 2015 00:00:00 +0000

Empowering women means giving them the practical tools to escape poverty and prejudice. Around the world, including here in Britain, a baby girl’s life chances are disadvantaged in comparison to her brother’s at almost every turn, and once she becomes a woman the disadvantage becomes entrenched.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, opened the debate by giving examples of how investing in women yields radically better results than investing in men. The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, gave the example of how spending £1 on vulnerable women here in the UK saves £3.57 later on. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, quoted Kofi Annan on this point, who has said that there was no more effective tool in development than investment in women. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby quoted Goldman Sachs to show scientifically that investing in women benefits society economically. Indeed, the many noble Lords who spoke powerfully about the international development aspect of this debate, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Bottomley and Lady Hussein-Ece, and my noble friends Lady Armstrong and Lord Boateng, all said that we must invest in women. It is fantastic that there is no disagreement; there is complete cross-party consensus that we must do that. From the government Minister to former Cabinet Ministers on both sides of this House to every Back-Bencher, everyone is agreed on the clear, indisputable fact that investing in women boosts the economy and benefits society.

I applaud those international development programmes funded by this Government, some of which the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, outlined, that invest in women. My question is: why do the Government disproportionately advantage women in their overseas programmes yet disproportionately disadvantage women in their domestic programmes? There is an avalanche of data showing that the coalition Government are doing domestically exactly what they decry internationally. Instead of following the common-sense strategy of putting money into women’s pockets, which everyone here, including government Ministers, has supported, the Government have systematically taken money out of women’s pockets. Independent research from the House of Commons Library shows that, over the course of this Parliament, a staggering 85% of cash raised from tax and benefits changes has come straight from women’s pockets, a figure that was quoted by the right reverend Prelate. Eighty-five per cent is a truly staggering figure. That is not all: according to the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, the group hardest hit by the coalition Government’s choices are families with children.

Sadly, the Government’s choices are not delivering women’s economic empowerment; quite the opposite, they are not benefiting women and children. The Government’s own figures show that, for example, in terms of some of its reform policies and benefits, two-thirds of those hit by the bedroom tax are women. It is easy to go on. The majority of those on zero-hours contracts, which the Government refuse to ban, are women. The majority of those earning the minimum wage are women. While Labour will increase that minimum wage to £8 per hour, the Government will not. The Government will not listen to their own advice on increasing women’s incomes, and the Government package this ongoing wealth transfer away from women as benefits reform, deregulation, cutting red tape, liberalising the labour market or value for money. The point is that either the Government do not undertake gender impact assessments or they ignore them.

So here are five key changes the Government could make immediately that would transform women’s lives. First, close the gender gap, increase the minimum wage to £8 per hour and ban exploitative zero-hours contracts. Secondly, improve maternity and paternity provision and provide affordable childcare, because, as Ministers will be aware, under this Government childcare costs have increased 30%. Thirdly, do far more to protect women from violence, most often sexual violence. Again, the facts are shocking: despite a rise in reported rapes, prosecutions for rape are down 14%. Fourthly, give women the power to challenge discrimination. Face facts: since the Government introduced tribunal fees—and this is one of the saddest statistics of all—claims for sex discrimination have fallen by 91%. It is not possible to put a price on justice and not realise that that price will be paid, and here it is clearly being paid by women. Fifthly, empower the next generation: stop channelling girls into low-paid work. So much of this is bound up with cultural barriers, as illustrated by the noble Baronesses, Lady Greenfield, Lady Brady, Lady Rebuck, Lady Perry, Lady Kidron, Lady Mobarik and Lady Crawley, among others. I am sorry I cannot mention every single Peer in this debate—although I am doing my best. Also, my noble friends Lady Howells and Lady Uddin raised the point of the obstacles facing BAME women.

What everyone is saying is “Give girls and women a level playing field”, and this theme was taken up by IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. The IMF is not known for its bleeding-heart liberalism. Christine Lagarde says that nations should remove laws that prevent women from working in order to increase the female labour supply and boost economies. She says:

In too many countries, too many legal restrictions conspire against women to be economically active. In a world in search of growth”—

and that is our holy grail, as we all want growth—

women will help find it, if they face a level playing field instead of an insidious conspiracy”.

Here in the UK we do not have an insidious conspiracy; we have insidious complacency. This brings me to our very own gender pay gap. I will focus the majority of my remarks on this subject, not because it is the single most important subject, but it is the single most important issue we are debating today that will be up for a vote in this House next week. I hope your Lordships will understand why I focus my remarks in this area.

I want to highlight the campaign begun by Harriet Harman and Gloria De Piero and taken up magnificently by the women’s magazine Grazia on pay transparency and closing the pay gap. Since Grazia launched this campaign, it has heard from countless women who are paid less simply because of their gender. One told how she managed to create a department at an ad agency. Looking at the salary information, she was staggered to see an obvious wage differential between the male and the female employees. Another woman described her horror at discovering that the man who was employed to take over on her maternity leave was paid more than her. When she confronted her boss about this, she was told that the man—who, incidentally, was less qualified than her—was paid more because he had to support his family.

Ellie, 36 years old, a former investment banker, discovered she was getting paid £5,000 less than a male colleague only when he let this slip himself. Ellie says:

We were identical in performance, age, level, experience, everything. Even he supposed we were paid the same ... I confronted my boss, but he warned me that pay was confidential and couldn’t be discussed. I’d already been given a higher offer by a rival bank, so I offered my resignation there and then”.

Asha, 55, ex-director of an investment bank, long suspected her pay was not keeping up with that of her male colleagues, but she could not get her bosses to admit the difference, let alone begin to redress the balance.

They would insist I was at the top of my pay grade, and tell me to keep it up, but despite working harder and longer than my male counterparts, my pay plateaued”.

It took her £60,000 and 16 months to reach an out-of-court settlement with her former employer. That is time and money most women just do not have.

Those are the women, the 91% drop, who cannot bring these claims anymore, so women’s ability to achieve economic empowerment is being cut away from under them. That is why transparency is the answer—and, incidentally, a very cheap answer. I understand why Members on the Benches opposite probably do not agree with our view, in the Official Opposition, that we should increase the minimum wage to £8 per hour. I understand; it is a different world view—fine. However, pay transparency does not cost anything, and it really is unforgivable not to bring it in. As Asha, the ex-director of the investment bank who got the money back by taking legal action, said:

Why would turkeys vote for Christmas? Transparency has to be legally enforced, with repercussions for not doing so”.

Possibly my favourite example is Shannon, 25, who works in advertising, and whose end-of-year bonus was a £100 Liberty voucher. Guess what her male equivalent got in the same job as an end-of-year bonus. He did not get a £100 Liberty voucher—he got £2,000 hard cash. Those examples of blatant pay discrimination are going on right now, today, this hour, this minute, in Britain, and we have a way to remedy them.

I will mention only one more example—there are so many others. Donna, 38, was a PR director from Yorkshire. She explained:

I landed a job at a PR firm in London. After a year I was promoted to account manager and at this point they employed another account manager to work alongside me, with the same amount of experience. The only difference? He was a bloke. I was stunned when over lunch he told me”,

he was earning over 30% more than her. Donna approached her bosses for a rise but still did not get enough to match her male colleague’s salary. She says—and I would really like noble Lords to understand the implication of this—

I know I could have sued for sex discrimination, but I didn’t want to rock the boat so early in my career. All I wanted was to be paid fairly”.

That is the point. Women are not asking for charity. They are just asking not to be blatantly, systematically discriminated against just because they are women.

Therefore I ask the government Benches opposite: what are they going to do to deliver the pay transparency that would help all those women and hundreds of thousands like them, up and down the country? When the amendment on pay transparency comes up next week, so ably championed by my noble friend Lady Thornton and others in this House, including my noble friend Lady Crawley, who will they side with? Will they side with Donna, Asha, Shannon and Ellie, who have been discriminated against just because they are women, or will they side—as they are currently saying they will—with the employers who refuse to pay them the same just because they are women? It is a simple choice.

I make no apology for getting quite angry about this. It is a scandal. What is more, it is a scandal that the Government could right, and do so fairly easily. We are the people who have a voice in Parliament; Donna, Asha, Shannon and Ellie do not have a voice here. As my noble friends Lady Crawley and Lady Dean said, we have that voice and we need to make that change. The vote is next Wednesday; the amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill would implement Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010, which enables the Government to make regulations requiring companies employing 250 people or more to publish information on the differences in pay between men and women. Granted, that is the very beginning—it would not help women who work in smaller companies, some of whose cases I just mentioned—but it is a start.

It is 44 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed, and here we have clear evidence that the law is being broken, day in, day out, to the detriment not just of women but, by the Government’s own logic, of our economy as well. How much longer do we want to wait? I echo the comments of my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton, who said that we should be proud of the progress we have made—and we have made incredible progress. I remember that when I think of my grandmother, who was the auntie of Uncle Ted, as I call my noble friend Lord Graham—he is my mum’s first cousin. His auntie and my gran—being one and the same woman—worked in a cigarette factory. Jenny left school at 13 and worked in a cigarette factory. Do noble Lords know what her job was? It was picking cigarettes off the conveyor belt at intervals and dragging on them to check whether they were dragging properly—literally, the definition of a dead-end job.

I know that we have made progress and I am grateful for everything that the Labour Party has done in this regard—it has been predominantly the Labour Party which has done this—but the Government have done some things here and there as well. I admit that I cannot think of any off the top of my head, but the Government will have done some things because, to be fair, all of us in this House think that the instances of clear pay discrimination that I have just described are unacceptable.

On this issue, I appeal to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, who described her family’s extraordinary heritage in championing women’s rights. The noble Baroness’s grandparents would surely have been dismayed to see such blatant sex discrimination going unchecked. Perhaps the noble Baroness could champion this issue. I appeal to the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, who surely has the clout—I know that she has the decency—to get the Government to make this simple change. The noble Baroness said that our job is to make life much better for other women. I appeal to the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, who said that our job is to give women the tools. This is the point; pay transparency is just a tool. It is not even a case of giving women any money, but it is giving them a tool. It is not charity and it is not expensive. Surely, those on the government Benches have a teeny bit of influence in this area—a smidgen, a soupçon, a crumb. Not a single Member opposite can consider that what is going on is acceptable.

In summary, I ask the Minister only two questions. I do not expect her to answer the first, but I would be sincerely grateful if she would answer the second. First, how can it be right to push money into women’s pockets overseas but take money out of women’s pockets at home? Secondly, will the Minister agree to lobby the Government to make a concession and support pay transparency next week in this House? It is clear that women’s economic empowerment is intertwined with their social, psychological, physical and cultural empowerment. I am sorry that I have not commented on all the fantastic speeches that touched on the cultural and educational aspects that we need to improve. Those speeches show that you cannot disentangle economic empowerment and place it neatly in a box. The least that we could do is empower women and pay them the same as we pay men.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Thu, 05 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000
Should Benedict Cumberbatch be flogged?

Benedict Cumberbatch deserves thanks for dipping his toe into the troubled waters of broadcasting diversity. He raised the thorny issue of his black acting friends not getting the same opportunities as white actors, particularly here in the UK. His accidental use of the derogatory term "coloured" promptly flung him into the linguistic swamp that mires race. This swamp is conscientiously patrolled by the PC diversity brigade, and as a reward Benedict's had his head bitten off – a sort of linguistic version of sharia.

As a diversity executive with Channel 4 (often viewed as a member of the PC brigade) I realise I too will have my head bitten off for writing that last sentence. And as someone who studied Islam at university, and has a great respect for that religion, I know there are too many lazy and ignorant interpretations of sharia in the press. But here's the point: too often we get overly exercised by individual words, or throwaway lines, instead of stepping back to see the wider meaning.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the importance of language. As a mixed-race person who grew up labelled "half-caste", I knew those words stained and demeaned me. But when my white gran, for example, used the term "half-caste", it wasn't because she thought I was inferior or wanted me to leave the country. She left school at 13, worked in a cigarette factory, never met a black man until my Mum married one, and only ever heard mixed-race people referred to as half-caste. It was all she knew.

I recognise that Benedict – educated at Harrow, and whose great-grandfather was a consul general for Queen Victoria – has less ignorance to fall back on. But he works in America where most black people refer to themselves as "people of colour", and he no doubt conflated that with "coloured people". And he also may not realise why black people reject the term "coloured": it is too closely associated with the evils of segregation and Jim Crow laws that enslaved an entire racial group.

For my black grandfather – born in 1893 in the Southern Bible Belt to parents who were little more than slaves – the term "coloured" came to represent everything that dehumanised him. My granddad would be perplexed to find that today a black man is President, yet it's hard for black people to find good acting roles.

Race relations in Britain are better than in America. Even if we don't seem that close to a black Prime Minister, at least we don't battle the legacy of slavery.

So why is it we can't offer our black actors less limiting roles? Why can't we stop typecasting them by race? Why must Asian actors mainly choose between playing corner-shop owners or terrorists? This issue of typecasting was Benedict's wider point, and make no mistake, overcoming it is of critical importance to Britain's creative industries.

If we fail to use the talent we have, we gift our talent to our competitors. Given the value of the creative industries to Britain (look on our cultural TV exports as a more-PC version of Empire), it's a mistake we can't afford to make. It's a scandal that talented black actors have to leave British airspace to climb out of the "black box"; to find roles on TV that aren't subservient or stereotypical.

And yet even Hollywood films with "black subject matter" that break out of the black box into the mainstream still have one thing in common. The clue is in their title: The Help, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave. These are incredible films – especially Steve McQueen's masterpiece – but our popular culture only seems able to absorb a subservient narrative of the black experience, while there are so many other narratives waiting to be told. I'm immensely grateful to Benedict Cumberbatch for pointing this out, because no one's going to listen to a diversity executive when they can listen to a Hollywood star.

Put simply, we need more white men to take an interest in "diversity". We'll only make progress when everyone takes responsibility for diversity, including those who haven't had to think about it much before. Channel 4 – and all the main British broadcasters – have been thinking about it a lot recently. At Channel 4, we've launched our 360 Degree Diversity Charter to "turbo-charge" diversity not just across Channel 4, but hopefully across our industry too. It's "360" because it includes everyone. Especially white men called Henry, Felix and Benedict.

We want to smash the barriers that limit talent from under-represented groups, whether in terms of gender, disability, age, class or sexuality (have you noticed the gay men on TV are often comedians? Graham Norton, Stephen Fry, Alan Carr…)

So if a white man takes an interest in diversity, don't bite their head off or issue a fatwa. Give them an Oscar. But take note that not a single black actor was nominated for an Oscar this year, not even the British actor David Oyelowo for his truly extraordinary performance as Martin Luther King in Selma. Now there's a film that explodes the subservient narrative. Martin Luther King had a dream, but he also had a strategy. The dream hasn't yet come true in British broadcasting, but as far as the strategy goes, we're finally on our way.

Oona King is Channel 4 diversity executive and a Labour peer.  See the 360 Diversity Charter here:

Diversity Wed, 04 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000
Leading or Leaving: What’s Europe worth to you?’s-europe-worth-to-you.html’s-europe-worth-to-you.html

The price, and value, of EU membership
Speech by Oona King at British Influence’s event Britain in Europe, 2015: Leading or leaving?

Let’s start by inverting Oscar Wilde and asking, like every cynic would, not the value of the EU but the price of the EU.

So how much does it cost us? The EU costs every single person in Britain 37p per day. What do we get in return?
We get peace. You’d think that was quite valuable.

We get access to a Single Market with 500 million consumers (worth £90 billion to Britain annually).

We get freedom of movement.

That’s just some of what we get, and it already seems quite a bargain. Yet not long ago I heard someone saying:

“They come here, they take all the housing, they will not learn the language, they will not integrate. They should go back where they came from!”

This was a French person in Toulouse airport talking about all the Brits who’ve moved to France, especially those that have retired there.

My gran was one of those. She was born in 1908, left school when she was 13 and started work in a cigarette factory. It was her job to pick cigarettes off the conveyor belt, light them, and drag on them to check each batch was “drawing” properly. It was literally the definition of a dead-end job.

Two of her older brothers died in WW1, one of her younger brothers died in WW2 and when the war started she was left with two young kids, and basically didn’t see her husband for six years. Many people of her generation had the same experience.

And this is my point: you have to remember how much ordinary British people lost when Europe was at war. It’s one of the first things we forget. The price of Europe not being a union wasn’t 37p per day; it was incalculable.

It’s the human cost and human gains that are so often lost in the story of Europe today, so often air-brushed out of the narrative written by our mostly Eurosceptic press.

But back to my gran. When she moved to France, with my mum, she was 85 years old. Do you think she was going to learn French?

She was a Geordie with an Irish father and a Glaswegian mother. She was barely understood in England, never mind France. But although she couldn’t understand another European language, she could understand freedom of movement.

She could understand that her pension arrived in France without a problem. She could understand that her healthcare was sorted out. She could understand that her grand-daughter (me) could get a job in Belgium, and marry someone from a European country that was previously our enemy. She could understand that her grandson, my brother, never had to join the army and fight a war. All that she could understand. And she understood it was clearly worth more than 37p a day.

But what of my generation? What does European membership mean to me?

To me our EU membership is about whether my country has a future or not.

It’s about whether my kids have jobs or not.

It’s about whether we respond, credibly, to the shift of power from West to East that’s going on now.

And the shift of power isn’t just West to East. It’s from governments to corporations. It’s from formal states to informal extremist groups with unprecedented access to information, technology and social networks.

We face threats from terrorism, disease, climate change... Britain is far stronger and has far greater influence in tackling these challenges as part of the EU.

We in Britain make up 1% of the world’s population, yet our global footprint is exponentially larger. I am proud of British values – foremost among them tolerance and diversity – and I want those values to resonate around the world. Membership of the EU clearly amplifies our influence.

Make no mistake: The biggest threat to the prosperity of this country is nothing other than the threat to leave the EU.
And the alternatives we’re given? We’re told we could be like Norway or Switzerland.

Let’s remember two things:

  1. Norway is awash with oil
  2. Switzerland is a tax haven. Or it was a haven. It’s a bit less ‘haven’-like now.

Let’s not take refuge in delusion.

If my gran, who finally left the cigarette factory and became a dinner lady, could understand the benefits of Europe, then it’s time everyone else did. And we have to take this argument outside the Westminster village, beyond the think-tanks and the commentariat. We need dinner-ladies and hairdressers, teachers, small business workers and nurses – we need everyone to really consider what Europe is worth.

But we can only maintain Britain’s strength and influence by winning the argument. That’s why we need people like you to take up the argument, and explain to your friends and family why we should stay in a reformed Europe. It’s an argument we simply can’t afford to lose.

So, yes, let’s ask the price of the EU.

But as Oscar Wilde warned, let’s not be the cynic - the Eurosceptic - who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Let’s not carelessly throw Britain’s world influence onto the scrap heap. Its value is too great. Too high a price was paid. And once our global influence is gone, it will never return.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:06:17 +0000
The online world is the real world for digital natives

Speech to the House of Lords 20 Nov 2014 :

Baroness King of Bow (Lab): My Lords, the online world is the real world for digital natives. That is exactly what worries so many of us. However, we would be doing our children a huge disservice if we viewed their online interactions in only a negative light. In fact, for many young people, the internet is far more likely to be a place of opportunity. The internet will bring them opportunities that generations before them could only dream of.

Rather than congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, if the House does not mind, I will quote her. At the beginning of her extraordinary film about children and the internet she says:

“About a year ago, I realised that every time I looked at a teenager, they had an electronic device in their hand, a device connected to the internet. I started asking questions. First the simple ones, like why can’t you leave that thing alone? And how can you do homework while checking Facebook at the same time? Quickly, I graduated to the more difficult: do you have any privacy settings? Do you know where your data goes? Do you know the person you’re talking to? Each of my questions was answered with a shrug. I always have and always will believe, that the internet could be the instrument by which we deliver the full promise of human creativity. But perhaps it’s time we asked ourselves: have we outsourced our children to the internet? And if yes, where are they, and who owns them?”.

I urge everyone interested in this debate to watch the noble Baroness’s extraordinary film, “InRealLife”. It teaches us so many things. It also reminds us that policymakers in general and politicians in particular need to recognise that we are at best digital tourists. However, that cannot prevent us legislating on behalf of digital natives—young people who live and breathe the internet. Indeed, it is our responsibility. That is where the problem, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, alluded at the beginning, lies, because we are trying to govern the terrain of digital natives. With a few honourable exceptions in this House—today they are the noble Baronesses, Lady Kidron, Lady Shields and Lady Lane-Fox—the rest of really do not have a clue what we are doing. Let us be honest, in comparison to the digital natives, most of us are digitally housebound agrophobes.

“Agoraphobe” is an interesting word in relation to how too many of us in politics instinctively view the internet. It comes from the Greek “agora” meaning market place;, which is similar to what a first-century Roman might call a forum or an open space, or what a 21st century teenager might call cyberspace. According to Wikipedia, agoraphobia is,

“an anxiety disorder where the sufferer perceives certain environments”—

let us think of the internet—

“as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment’s vast openness or crowdedness”.

In another online forum I found an agoraphobe described as,

“someone with a morbid and irrational fear of the outdoors, and in particular, of crowded public spaces.”

There we have it. That is basically us in the House of Lords when we view the internet. We view it in a morbid, irrational manner because we instinctively find it dangerous and uncomfortable. It is dangerous because none of the rules that we were brought up with apply; and uncomfortable because we cannot navigate the vast terrain. We do not know how to get around, and it seems hideously overcrowded because the whole wide world is there, otherwise known as www. For the younger generation, everyone is there, yet we, the digital tourists, can barely connect a computer to a printer or upload a blog.

I am not even joking. This is a really bad thing to say and I apologise in advance. If your Lordships go to my website - that is unforgivable, I grant you, but let me explain—you will see that my penultimate blog entry is dated July 2014. The next one is from this month, November. There are four months in between. Contrary to public perceptions of politicians, that is not because I was on holiday for four months. It is not because I did not have anything to blog about for a third of a year. It is because, despite being shown on four separate occasions over a three-year period how to upload a blog to my website, I just cannot do it. I don’t get it—it does not stick in my brain, because I was not brought up on computers, or I have not spent enough time learning how to navigate them. Let me put my cards on the table: I hate computers; they never work for me. I know that if I try to upload a blog, it will take four hours out of my life, it will end in failure, I will lose the will to live and I may sob hysterically. So, like many noble Lords, I distrust computers and I cannot effectively navigate the vast terrain of the internet.

Of course, when you are in that position, you would rather think the internet is a place ram-packed with paedophiles and con-merchants, because then our agoraphobia would be a blessing not a curse. Now here is the thing again: the internet is ram-packed with paedophiles and con-merchants, because the internet is the real world through another lens. Think of the real world and go back a few decades to, say, the 1970s. It turns out there were paedophiles everywhere you looked, from “Jim’ll Fix It” to the political establishment to “Top of the Pops”.

Police forces across Britain are today investigating 7,500 child abuse cases, including historical cases at children’s care homes. We all know that humans can be monsters, whether online or offline, and humans can be angels, online or offline—creative, inspiring, empathetic and transcendent. Between those two extremes is everything else. The internet means that children can come into contact with greater numbers of monsters or angels than ever before. The monsters we know about are predatory online paedophiles. The angels are, for example, the online mentors who can literally transform a young person’s life for the good. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned some of the mentoring that takes place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Shields, in her excellent maiden speech, spoke about the need for the creation of digital content to be safe by design. She said that we in authority must be faster, nimbler and more innovative than the minority of perpetrators who use the internet for criminal purposes. The We Protect initiative mentioned by the noble Baroness is also hugely important. She may also have suggested—I will be corrected if I am wrong about this—that we should close loopholes when people try to get around the structures we are building.

Action on what can be done falls into two distinct camps. On the one hand, we need to prevent the worst excesses and online abuse. In the context of today’s debate on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we are talking about Article 16 on privacy and Articles 19, 35 and 36 on protection. The second part of what we need to do is to educate children and to be critical and self-aware users of the internet—not used and abused by the internet. That is covered by Article 17 on mass media and Article 31 on the right to recreation and cultural activities, and the right to self expression.

On preventing the worst excesses, we need to move beyond the question of whether we should regulate the new wild west of the internet to how to regulate it. Obviously, there has been a huge amount of discussion on this, but we realise that there are things that we can and must do to protect our children. On extending that protection, we heard powerfully from the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, to whom I pay great tribute for the work that she is doing. We have recently discussed her proposals on adult content filters in the Consumer Rights Bill, and I must say to the Minister that I am genuinely perplexed by the Government’s position. It makes no sense that the Government go out of their way to get protection from the four main ISPs but then leave a loophole in which 10% of houses and the children in them will have no protection from adult content filters. What will the Minister do to get his colleagues to change their view and position before we get to Third Reading? There are the other issues, such as making online billing an offence, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, outlined, and revenge porn on which the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, spoke powerfully.

On the second part, educating children to be critical and self-aware, we need to push digital literacy right up the political agenda. I think that the iRights agenda is a fantastic place to start, with its five key principles. First, all under-18s should have the right to delete data that they have posted. Secondly, we should have the right to know who holds our data and who profits from these data—we would all like to know that, would we not? Thirdly, under-18s should be able to explore the internet safely. Fourthly, there should be safeguards on compulsive technologies, such as gaming. Fifthly, users should be educated so that they can navigate the terrain. I would say that we need iRights for Members of the House of Lords as well.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, outlined the plight suffered by 10 million adults in the UK who are still barred from the benefits of the internet. I cannot speak highly enough of the work that she does to close the digital divide, which has never been more important.

In conclusion, we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, that children’s lives have been revolutionised by technology, and that we must take this opportunity to ensure that we build a rights-based approach to children in the digital world. That is the lesson of this debate. It makes sense for a rights-based approach to stand on the architecture of the UNCRC. I thank the noble Baroness again for securing this debate and ask her forgiveness if I do not blog about it.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Thu, 20 Nov 2014 00:00:00 +0000
UK: shameful decline in gender equality hurts us all

Economists at the respected World Economic Forum (WEF) have kicked the UK out of the world's top 20 countries for gender equality. Their report in November 2014, The Global Gender Gap, measures something more intriguing than wealth: the gap between men and women's life chances. In other words, how much opportunity in a given country is governed by gender. You won't be surprised Saudi Arabia didn't make the top 20 either.


In 2013 the UK was ranked 18th for gender equality.  In 2014 we fell calamitously to 26th, ranked below Nicaragua, Rwanda, Bulgaria and Burundi.
So what's changed for the UK? Perhaps most dramatically, women have borne the brunt of swingeing budget cuts. Gender lays bare the nonsense of the Bullingdon Boys' claim that "we're all in this together".

According to the same report, average wages for women in the UK fell by £2,700 in a year to £15,400, while the average for men was unchanged at £24,800. But perhaps the WEF is packed with radicalised feminists; in which case let's turn to a different source: the House of Commons Library. Its figures show that the cumulative impact of George Osborne's spending choices since 2010 have hit women a staggering four times harder than men. Whether housing, work-related benefits and tax credits. In every area women have lost more money than men.

The Coalition government has meticulously and systematically removed the safety net for women. Nowhere is this clearer than in the support available for victims of domestic violence. This was shamefully demonstrated in the Legal Aid legislation, which led to the removal of legal aid eligibility for many women fleeing violent partners..

According to one UNESCO report, since the last general election, the funding for local authority support of victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse has been slashed by nearly a third. More than 30 refuges across the UK have closed. The most vulnerable women are forced to walk a tightrope between coercion and violence from their partners - and indifference and abandonment from the state. But it's not just women pushed onto the tightrope.  We push children out there too. We know the safety net has gone. We know they will fall.  We know their emotional development will be smashed to pieces. And we know we'll pay - when it's too late - to pick up the pieces with an extortionate price tag attached.

I led an Opposition Debate in the Lords on November 6th 2014, which set out these disturbing facts. I pressed the Minister to match Labour's commitment to find the immediate funding needed to save refuges that are set to close. Specialist knowledge built up over many years is at risk of being lost, and in too many areas it has already gone, replaced by generic centres without accommodation. If we don't help women escape domestic and sexual violence, we fail on so many levels.

We are slipping down the league of nations, jettisoning decency as we go, normalising violence, entrenching the increased sexualisation of women and girls, emotionally disfiguring boys, and ignoring the need for proper relationship education - another Labour pledge - in our schools. Research now conclusively proves that gender equality is good for the economy. Of course it is. How can you succeed if you abandon half the workforce?

Obviously, I never expected gender equality from the Bullingdon Boys. But nor did I expect them to actually accelerate gender inequality so rapidly. I couldn't imagine them speeding away from Iceland at the top of the gender equality index and motoring in the direction of Yemen at the bottom, as if on a Jeremy Clarkson- inspired car race. But the facts, extraordinary as they are, speak for themselves. That's why all decent men and women in our country should join Labour in supporting the Women's Aid campaign: SOS Save Refuges, Save Lives. It's time to act.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:19:23 +0000
A Coach & Horses comes to Parliament... Mind the gender pay gap!

Today we will see a coach and horses arrive at Parliament. Not so unusual, but on this occasion it will ride through the spirit of change left by the last Labour government. The Equality Act 2010 was a landmark piece of legislation which simplified, strengthened and extended protection from discrimination. One of the most persistent areas of inequality – first addressed by Labour over 40 years ago – is the gender pay gap.

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 sought to remedy the fact that women were systematically paid less than men. Yet last year, instead of narrowing, the gap actually widened slightly by 0.1%. This figure might seem small but not only are we riding in entirely the wrong direction, we are also witnessing significant hidden regional and sectoral variations. In London for example, women are now paid 13% less than men. And across the UK, women in full-time employment in the private sector are paid a staggering 20% less than their male counterparts.

So what is the Coalition government doing to address this blatant discrimination against women that often impacts hugely both on the children they care for, as well as pensioner poverty once they retire? Not a lot.

For a start, they've been dragging their feet over the important regulations contained in the Equality Act on Equal Pay Audits (EPAs). Regulations that finally come before Parliament today.

Such audits are an important mechanism to bring the gender pay gap to light. Essentially, where companies have broken the law around equal pay, EPAs switch the lights on, so employers and employees can see exactly where the problem lies. Cloaking pay structures in darkness (which is why this problem has dragged on so long) doesn't solve anything. It just increases a company's liability at some future employment tribunal. The best companies carry out voluntary EPAs. Most however, don't.

Ministers have decided to exempt micro-businesses (those with less than ten employees) who break the law on equal pay, from carrying out an EPA. Why? It can hardly be a burden on business: how hard is it to look at six or seven pay slips and compare job descriptions?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimates that for a business twice that size (20 people) with five job roles, an EPA takes half a day. So for a micro-business we're looking at about two to three hours work. The government is happy (quite rightly) to slap hundreds of hours of community service on individuals who break the law; yet if that individual owns a business and pays women less than men, Ministers are literally proposing that employment tribunals turn a blind eye. Their continued "burden on business" mantra shows they're not willing to lessen the burden on women.

Over a lifetime, the pay gap burden for women in full-time work stands at £361,000. The government's foot-dragging might be less insulting if we were making swift progress. While last Friday’s headline on The Evening Standard was ‘Pay gap widens’, it has been going this way since 2010. UK women are now missing out on an extra £177 a year in their pay packets because the Coalition has failed to make the same rate of progress to close the gap as Labour did in government.

For gender issues in general, the UK ranks 18th in the world – behind the Philippines and Nicaragua. Within this context it is shocking that the UK government takes such a laissez-faire approach towards the systematic under-payment of, and discrimination towards women.

So the air will be laden with irony in the Lords this evening, as we finish the debate on EPAs and move on to consider the ‘regret motion’ brought by former Commons speaker, Betty Boothroyd. The motion regrets that the Prime Minister is paying his Leader in the Lords - a woman, Tina Stowell –less than the man who preceded her in the job, Jonathan Hill.

If a female Leader of the Lords is paid less than her male counterpart, what hope is there for those out in the real world, for the hairdresser, stockbroker, dinner lady or shop assistant? One thing's for certain: that coach and horses will be trampling around Parliament tonight.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0000
British Values: who forced Mr Gove’s u-turn?’s-u-turn.html’s-u-turn.html

I was delighted to speak on behalf of the Labour front bench in the Lords covering an Education debate on “British Values”.  Here’s my take on it:

Who forced Michael Gove into a massive u-turn? In 2007 he said “‘There is something rather unBritish about seeking to define Britishness’. Now he has decided not only to define Britishness, but to legally require every British school to define Britishness and “promote British values”.

Everyone agrees that British values around the rule of law, individual liberty, and tolerance, helped create of one of the world's oldest and most successful democracies. We're less agreed on the recent implication that a better understanding of, say, the Magna Carta, might sort out poor school governance in Birmingham. That's obviously a bit of a caricature, but the point is that shared British values should be instilled by example, not diktat. Moreover it feels like an Orwellian and distinctly un-British approach to do what the Government has done in the wake of the Trojan Horse affair, which is to tar an entire community with language taken from counter-terrorism strategies.

The crisis in Birmingham throws up two key issues that are central to improving our education system. The first is oversight and accountability. The second is ensuring our children get a balanced education, within tolerant, aspirational communities.

On accountability, it's extraordinary that a self-confessed neo-conservative like our Education Secretary (who rails against the tyranny of centrally-planned economies) has devised a school bureaucracy so centralised it would make Lenin proud. If it made Lenin proud and it worked, that would be one thing. But the insanity of the Education Secretary thinking he can run thousands and thousands of schools from a desk in Whitehall has been a shambolic failure.

It’s not just that Mr Gove’s desk was submerged; children and parents were failed. And teachers – while delivering high attainment for their pupils – were abandoned. The minority of schools concerned displayed appalling governance, gender discrimination, homophobia, financial irregularities, and were unduly influenced by a conservative religious minority.

So what's the answer? It's a combination of the following 4 areas:

Firstly end centralisation, and introduce local oversight. That’s what Labour's approach on School Standards Commissioners does. The Tory policy is to introduce 8 regional commissioners – but this system still lacks local oversight, so can’t remedy the current weakness.

Secondly, where discrimination is found, for instance in attitudes towards girls, gay people, or members of particular religious groups, then it’s time to put that great British value into action: uphold the rule of law and enforce the 2010 Equality Act - don't start talking about terrorism prevention strategies instead! That’s why the last Labour Government introduced the Equality Act, because it safeguards basic British values around fairness and individual liberty. And we did it in the face of full-throated opposition from many Conservatives and Lib Dems.

Thirdly we need schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, and Ofsted should judge schools on their ability to do this, and prevent them offering a narrow or doctrinaire approach.

Fourthly we should urgently reflect on the wisdom of removing the responsibility for schools to promote community cohesion. The Government rejected Labour’s view that this was important, but events in Birmingham show this was a mistake.

So yes, let's learn from our past. The most relevant history however isn't the Magna Carta. It might be important that 800 years ago our baronial forefathers slapped King John about (mainly for their own interests), and put him in his place – a place on the throne which became less divine and fractionally more accountable and democratic. But no, our relevant history isn't from 1215, it's from 2001.

The key finding of the 2001 Cantle Report into the Oldham and Bradford riots was that a failure to integrate education systems placed communities on a collision course. British values around the rule of law, and respect of individual liberty, went up in flames. None of us want that. The current atomised and fragmented system, so beloved of Mr Gove, makes it more likely that schools and communities become isolated. And it puts schools at risk from narrow sectarian interests who can wreak havoc by evading scrutiny.

The Department of Education was alerted to the situation in Birmingham 4 years ago. You can imagine the letter lying unopened on Mr Gove’s cluttered desk, while teachers and children were left alone to deal with intimidation, discrimination and worse.

Let’s hope the Government now does its homework, becomes less ideologically-driven, and puts local safeguards in place to protect children’s education. By all means define and promote British values. But let’s be clear, it was Mr Gove’s laissez-faire values and disregard for oversight and scrutiny that led to this fiasco. It was Mr Gove who forced Mr Gove into a u-turn. 

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Wed, 25 Jun 2014 21:46:40 +0000
Keeping the flame alive: the Olympic legacy. My speech to parliament:

Baroness King of Bow (Lab): I begin by declaring an interest as Channel 4’s diversity executive and I am incredibly proud of Channel 4’s legacy as the Paralympic Games broadcaster. I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, about Channel 4’s achievement in changing attitudes towards disability, not least the “Meet the Superhumans” trailer, masterminded by Dan Brooke. It was nothing less than a game-changer. So, too, was the entire legacy promise of London 2012. No previous Olympic Games had ever put legacy at the very heart of the bid. Our legacy promised,

“nothing less than a healthier and more successful sporting nation, open for business, with more active, sustainable, fair and inclusive communities”.

The key question was posed by one of our veteran 2012 medallists, the rower Greg Searle. He said: how do we turn all the national pride generated in all corners of the country into producing not just the next generation of Olympic gold medallists but the next generation of good citizens? How do we inspire a generation, make Britain a more active sporting nation and, through the Paralympics, give every disabled child the same chance of engaging in sport as their able-bodied counterparts? Our report considers those huge questions, and how we can fulfil the legacy before it is too late.

I will start with the most obvious and urgent legacy: a healthier, more active nation. Why is it so important? The answer is simple: it is a matter of life and death. Is this an exaggeration? It is not, especially if you live in Tower Hamlets. I will come to that shortly. The obvious starting point is the well documented obesity epidemic facing Britain. Data from the Health Survey for England show that by 2050 fully one-quarter of young people under 20 will be obese. Today only one-third of boys and one-quarter of girls achieve the recommended 60 minutes’ physical exercise a day. That means that two-thirds of boys and three-quarters of all our girls are setting themselves up for health problems in later life, including but not at all limited to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In other words, they are setting themselves up for premature death.

I am sorry to say that in Tower Hamlets we have already reached the future predicted for England in 2050. Today, on average, women in Tower Hamlets already die 18 years earlier than their counterparts in Richmond. Men in Tower Hamlets can worry a bit less: they die only 15 years earlier than their counterparts in Richmond. You lose approximately a year of life for every stop on the District line as you move from Richmond to Tower Hamlets. In Tower Hamlets, more than one-quarter of all children leaving primary school are clinically obese. If you add together the children leaving primary school in Tower Hamlets who are both overweight and obese, the figure is over 40%.

There are two things that will stop those children dying younger. It is not rocket science—we know what they are. One is increased activity and the other is better nutrition. I will leave better nutrition for another day, although I confess to being slightly obsessed with it, because too often I spend the morning at the school gates in Tower Hamlets watching children eat crisps for breakfast and drink fizzy cola. I will concentrate instead on increased activity and grass-roots participation in sports. That is why the committee’s recommendation to improve PE teaching is so important. In our report we state that,

“PE needs a greater emphasis in the school day … Improving PE is fundamental … and we call on the DfE and Ofsted to take more active roles in making this change happen”.

I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said on this issue. If we need to lengthen the school day, let us lengthen the school day. Surely it is better than shortening children’s lives. I also endorse the excellent report by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, calling on the Government to give PE greater priority in the school curriculum.

It is absolutely critical to improve the link between primary school and secondary school sport. My noble friend Lady Billingham has already spoken about the sad demise of the school sport partnerships. The problem with the current system is that money goes to individual schools but does not support the sporting infrastructure between schools that promotes competitive sport.

A related problem that we have already heard about in some detail is the negative impact on team sports of the “No Compromise” approach. The focus on medals above all else has damaged funding opportunities for team sports. Team sports are the ones that kids are most likely to play—football, netball, volleyball, basketball, rugby and hockey —the sports we all remember playing as kids. They are the sports where you get the most bang for your buck in terms of grass-roots participation. They are the sports kids want to play. These sports will arguably do most to keep the London 2012 flame alive. How perverse would it be for our elite medal quest to reduce the sporting participation of British kids and shrink our sporting talent pool?

I understand that our approach has had huge success and I would be the first to say that I was filled with enormous pride at our medal haul. To come third in the world behind only China and America is extraordinary. The mountain we climbed was perilously steep, as we have heard, from being ranked 36th in the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 to coming third overall in London 2012. But the one thing that would be even more extraordinary and make me even more proud of this country would be a 2012 legacy that inspired a fitter, healthier country. It would be seeing Britain climb the league table to become the healthiest and most active country in the industrialised world. It would be to see our children living longer and having more active and meaningful lives.

That is the thing about sport: it creates this magic thing that politicians and policy wonks call social cohesion. We all remember the Oldham riots, where Asians and whites fought running battles in the streets. What was the one thing, the only thing, that the council could find that represented a bridge between the two communities? It was football, and that is because sport is a universal language.

London 2012 also made sport more inclusive, particularly for disabled athletes, as we have heard, but also for women. Women in the Olympics have come a long way. The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, is similar to many great men in history. His achievements were, well, great—and his belittlement of women was even greater. At the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, which de Coubertin arranged, 245 men took part, representing 14 countries, competing in 43 events. No women took part because de Coubertin said their presence would be,

“impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and incorrect”.

You wonder what he would have said about the Paralympics; it does not really bear thinking about.

In 1912, women were allowed to compete in swimming for the first time, but none of those competing was from the USA, because the USA banned its women from entering events without long skirts. I am not talking about Saudi Arabia; I am talking about the USA. That illustrates how far we have come. We have come so far, in fact, that, today, the words “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and incorrect” would probably be a fair way of describing our men’s football team in London 2012, but not our women. I salute all the British women who performed so magnificently and I look forward to the Minister securing equality of funding for women’s sports.

On the subject of fairer funding, we should also look at who gets to represent Britain in the first place. Elite sport is dominated by those who are privately educated—that should not be such a surprise, because everything is dominated by those who are fortunate enough to have a private education—but it is still staggering, even though we know that that is real world, to find, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, first pointed out to me, that more than 50% of the medals won in 2012 went to British athletes who were privately educated. Why should we get so exercised about that? Well, it is about the talent pool, stupid, because that means that more than 50% of our sporting talent is drawn from less than 7% of our population—the 7% of British children who go to private schools.

I have raised some of the problems affecting children growing up in very disadvantaged areas. These problems, which lead to nothing less than premature death, require structural change. One small yet decisive structural change in government that would support London’s 2012 legacy is our committee’s proposal to have a Minister for the Games Legacy. I have one simple question for the Minister: what could harm could it do? It could no harm, yet it could secure immeasurable good. It would make current plans more coherent; it would give added impetus at a government level. It would cost nothing—zilch, zip, nada—not even a newly minted 12-sided pound coin, not even a threepenny bit. If it is so cheap at the price, why are the Government so resistant to considering it? It would be fantastic to get a considered reply and not just a restatement of government policy, although experience tells me that that is probably the most the Minister will be able to achieve—but I live in hope.

As our report states, and as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who so ably chaired the committee, stated, we hunted for white elephants but we did not find them. What we found, despite the resounding success of London 2012, were myriad missed opportunities. Some were modest, some were galactic—such as the missed opportunity immediately to harness the enthusiasm of the volunteers—but the biggest missed opportunity would be a failure to nurture increased sporting participation. Given the link between sport and social cohesion, between sport and good citizenship, and between sport and living longer, it would be an unforgivable failure of the promise of 2012 if that legacy was not realised. I therefore urge the Minister to heed the report, which states:

“We are unconvinced that the Government’s current oversight arrangements represent a robust way to deliver the legacy”.

For that reason, I ask the Minister to give a more positive response to the committee’s well researched and evidenced recommendations than we have thus far received.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Wed, 19 Mar 2014 20:10:54 +0000
My speech to Parliament January 9th 2014 – on the need for affordable childcare.–-on-the-need-for-affordable-childcare.html–-on-the-need-for-affordable-childcare.html

Baroness King of Bow (Lab): My Lords, I thought I would start with a reflection on what a strange breed working mothers are. All you really need to know about us is that we never sleep and continually stress over childcare. Between 1 am last night, when I gave the baby his last feed and started jotting down a few notes for this speech, and 5 am this morning, when my husband got up to feed him, I was woken six times. I have four children so I have no one else to blame but myself. It is my bed and I made it; I just wish I could lie in it, but that is a problem entirely of my own making.

What is not a problem of my own making is that when I drag myself out of said bed and complete several school runs, as I did this morning, and when I finally arrive at my two year-old’s nursery, I find that I must pay £1,100 per month if I want her to go full-time, five days a week. Despite the fact that I am, by definition, extraordinarily privileged because—look—I am standing in this gilded Chamber as a Member of Britain’s most prestigious LinkedIn group, the fact remains that I cannot afford £1,100 a month. So my daughter does not go full time; she goes half time—two and a half days a week. For that I pay £660 a month.

When I previously had two pre-school children, the cost for me to place them in the local children’s centre was £880 per child, or £1,760 per month. That is why, as my noble friend Lady Prosser said, once you have two pre-school kids it is simply impossible for most people to afford that childcare. At the time I had what most people would consider to be a really good job. I was senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister but still I could not afford to spend £1,760 a month on childcare. So I left Downing Street and got a job where I could afford more childcare. So what? Who cares? My point is this: if you are a woman working in the Prime Minister’s Office and your employment choices are governed by the lack of affordable childcare, then you know that women with fewer resources and fewer networks have no chance at all of being able to pay for childcare out of their salary. They are forced to stay at home or make arrangements for their children that put those children at risk and do not take care of them.

Many others can hold down a job only if they have a sympathetic boss. Working mothers and working parents, therefore, often become unfairly beholden to the individual views of their boss. I was in a situation—a lot of us have been—in which I had a sympathetic boss. My boss in Downing Street was, after all, the first Chancellor and then Prime Minister to recognise the importance of massively increasing funding for childcare. He recognised that it was a national investment, as important in terms of infrastructure—certainly to women—as, say, transport.

Notwithstanding that, when I arrived at the local childcare centre that I mentioned and found a sign on the gate saying, “Closed due to staff sickness”, I felt sick in my stomach because I was due to have my first one-to-one briefing with the Prime Minister on my policy area. It was Sod’s law. I arrived in Downing Street with a 16 month-old on my hip and was shown in to see Gordon Brown, who had a face like thunder. To be fair, he often has a face like thunder, so I was not entirely sure if it was because I had a baby on my hip. However, I knew that I would not be pleased if a member of my staff turned up with a baby on their hip for a meeting. The baby started to cry, I was jiggling him and when I turned back, Gordon had disappeared. I thought, “Oh my God! He’s just walked out and is going to sack me. He is outraged and I do not really blame him that much”. Then his head popped out from the side of his desk. He was on his hands and knees and he said, “Maybe your son will like this little train set. My sons play with it”. He pushed it round and round for 10 minutes, and then said, “I think he’s settled now; we can get down to business”.

The point is that even though he was a sympathetic boss, let me get away with bringing the baby into the office, presided over a sea change in funding for childcare, and created and funded Sure Start, the fact is that now we see the gains falling back. Too often we see Sure Start being used as a political football or, indeed, not being used at all. When Labour was in power, Michael Gove said, “The Tories may well be wary of Sure Start because they believe it is the nationalisation of childcare”. If childcare is affordable and of high quality, I frankly do not mind who provides it, whether it is the voluntary sector, the private sector or the state. In reality, it is only the Government who can ensure that affordable, quality childcare is available to all children who need it. I thought that the point made by my noble friend Lady Prosser about the role that trade unions have played in providing childcare was important. I am reminded of the school run that I do each morning. Every day I pass a small blue plaque at the bottom of my street saying that this is where Sylvia Pankhurst set up the first crèche for working women—those otherwise known as the matchstick girls. Of course, times have changed since then, but not enough. Although we have poured in that money—and I recognise some of the very important points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin—we need to be smarter about how we invest it. We need to do as well as or better than our European competitors. However, I imagine that as well as spending the money more smartly, if we are to deal with all those children—and parents—who need childcare we are also going to have to bite the bullet and invest more.

This is where we come to the nub of this debate. What is the case for increasing access to affordable childcare? We have the economic case and we know that it is worth £15 billion to £23 billion per annum to the Exchequer, but what is the social case? In my few remaining minutes, I want to talk about how childcare impacts on tackling inequality and on improving social mobility, and how it can also improve parenting across social classes. I hope that we will also take note of the early intervention debate and how we can improve outcomes.

Let us remember that childcare is first and foremost about care of the child, and the best way to take care of children who would otherwise be at risk is to invest in their early years. I want to quote briefly from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which has already been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler. It says that,

“by age 3, there are already large gaps in cognitive and other areas of development between children with high-income or well educated parents and those with low-income or less well educated parents. These gaps get harder and more expensive to tackle as children get older”.

The point is that if we cannot come to a political consensus in this country that we need to invest in this area then we will just spend more and more of our money at the other end of the system in crisis, and that is not an intelligent way for us to spend our money. The OECD has stated that greater spend and higher enrolment in early education is correlated with increased social mobility. Universal, affordable and high-quality childcare helps in two ways. First, it lifts maternal employment rates and, secondly, it improves child development for the most disadvantaged children. I hope that we will note the report of the Early Action Task Force, entitled The Deciding Time—Prevent Today, or Pay Tomorrow, which reinforces those points.

In summary, investment in early years education and childcare is possibly the single most effective policy that government can implement. That is why I am proud of Labour’s vision on this issue, and I am glad to hear that we may have cross-party consensus here. However, over the long term what we need is more radical than what we have heard mentioned. Over the long term, we need free universal pre-school childcare. As Labour’s shadow Minister for Childcare, Lucy Powell MP, has stated, there is a clear economic argument for it: it will pay for itself over time.

Therefore, my only question for the Minister is a big, overarching one: does she agree with Labour—and, by the sound of it, the Liberal Democrats—that in the long term we must deliver free universal pre-school childcare? I hope that she does. I would certainly get a bit more sleep at night if she were able to consider that.

[email protected] (Oona King) Speeches Thu, 06 Feb 2014 08:39:47 +0000