§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Lord Freyberg rose to call attention to the role of design in improving public services; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the aim of this debate is to look at the way design is used in the public sector and to examine its potential to create a lasting 1133 impact, both financially and practically. I should like to speak about the design of goods and services in the public sector and about the systems needed to deliver them. Coupled together, these can offer the tools to transform our public services and provide ways of saving money in the long term.
§ Every year, central and local government spend billions of pounds on the design of goods and services in the public sector, from building hospitals to providing furniture for schools, new housing, street lighting, prisons, transport, waste disposal, and so on. However, there is evidence that the standard of design in these areas is still far from impressive, and new initiatives to improve it seem to be making very little impact.
§ On the face of it, the solution seems to be simple: first, to make greater use of the best design talent available; and, secondly, to realise that proper investment in good design at the outset will save money and improve lives in the long term—that is, long-term value over short-term expediency. However, at present, a host of good intentions and theoretical practical measures, such as the insistence that design principles be applied, have been set out in numerous government reports and ministerial speeches, but these are not in any way matched by results. What can the Government do that they are not doing already?
§ Discussion with those in the design world and at the Design Council in particular, of which I am a member (along with co-chair of the Associated Parliamentary Group for Design & Innovation), has led me to conclude that there would be considerable benefits in the public sector reassessing its design practices; that is, the point at which the design of products and processes is considered. In other words, what needs to change is the very culture responsible for procuring new buildings and services.
§ I would therefore like to alert the Government and those responsible for public sector spending to ways of thinking about and applying design principles that are most likely to produce good results. Over the past few years, the case for good design in government and public services has been keenly fought and, by and large, accepted. However, this message does not seem to be getting through to those who are actually responsible for commissioning and managing public buildings and services. For example, the recent Audit Commission report, which looks at schools built by private finance initiative (PEI) and those funded by traditional public finance, shows that the quality of all buildings was unsatisfactory. The faults referred to are fundamental ones; for instance, the quality of the building, layout, lights, classroom size, heating and acoustics as well as an absence of design innovation. This is a terrific waste of opportunity.
§ This and other evidence that I could point to suggests that despite many initiatives the overall standard of design in building schools has not improved. A similar picture holds for recurrent spending on product design. The Department for Education and Skills spent £1 billion a year—13 per 1134 cent of total expenditure—on learning tools and resources. Yet currently few of Britain's best designers are involved and purchasing decisions are not linked to the broader understanding of desired educational outcomes.
§ There is clear evidence that while those taking decisions to acquire new services often recognise the importance of good design, they lack the expertise or contacts. Last year, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) discovered that only 23 per cent of local authorities make use of design expertise when assessing planning or investment applications. Schemes which teach design awareness to the decision-makers and local authorities are crucial if we want to raise the standards and quality of our public services. That applies also to government and their departments.
§ The question today is how we use design to achieve practical and worthwhile changes in our public services, turning aspirational government policy into real beneficial and long-lasting improvements for the use of those services.
§ The connection to design in this context might not seem obvious, but design, of course, is not just about objects and the aesthetics of form. It is my belief that well designed systems for delivering public services are a crucial part of providing these desired improvements. Design considerations should be brought into play at the earliest possible opportunity—technical systems and organisational structures need themselves to be well designed.
§ I am not advocating endless surveys into the requirements for each public service. Instead, targeted consultation at the point of use should be carried out by people who understand the function of design as a tool to deliver public services. The design industry has developed a range of fast and effective techniques—borrowed from the social sciences—to understand and interpret the needs of users. Those techniques are simple to apply and go beyond focus groups or market research in what they can deliver.
§ The Government can encourage the learning process: more specifically, their various departments must be prepared to engage in dialogue with each other and with frontline agencies if more than one is involved in a particular scheme. These user-focused techniques developed by the design industry can encourage cross-departmental thinking and provide easy-to-use tools for the new practice.
§ Nor should we shy away from addressing first principles where necessary. Many of our public service institutions are still built to Victorian models and need to be radically rethought. The Do Tank's report on the 21st century prison looks at the problem of sprawling gaols built in the 19th century and is concerned that many of our new ones are simply modern and outdated versions of the originals. It proposes smaller "learning prisons", specifically designed to enable resources to be switched from security to rehabilitation.
§ Integral to the project is not only a building design, but the design of a new learning regime—again, developed by working with prisoners and prison 1135 officers. I am no expert on penal reform, but I can and do applaud the report's attempt to use design in such a practical and radical way.
§ There is clear evidence of the all-round benefits when the design is right. A King's Fund document published in 2002 highlighted the example of Newham Hospital in south-east London where levels of staff morale increased by 56 per cent following the redesign of the hospital. When asked whether they felt valued, 78 per cent of staff said, "Yes", after the redesign compared to 22 per cent three years previously. In other words, when one makes an investment in high-quality fabric and environment, one is making an investment in the people who work and pass through it as well. There is no short cut to that.
§ Up until now, the effective use of design within public services has lagged behind industry where the benefits have already been clearly demonstrated, a fact which has been borne out repeatedly by Design Council research. There have been a few notable exceptions, such as the redesign of the Royal Mail's change of address service. As a result, the public's completion of forms was transformed from 87 per cent incorrect to 90 per cent correct and entirely eliminated the need for staff training.
§ An example of good practice in the education field can be seen in the work of the government-funded charity. School Works, which links the design of secondary school buildings to the educational agenda —a rare occurrence. At Kingsdale in south London— a school classed as failing at the start of the project—a new curriculum, management structure and pastoral care system were designed along with a new building.
§ The momentum created by the whole process led to a renewed belief in the school's future. Pupils gaining GCSE grades A to C increased 20 per cent in the first academic year. In a recent report for the Department for Education and Skills, PricewaterhouseCoopers documented the strategic use of a design process in turning the school around. However, it should be emphasised that such practice is at present the exception rather than the norm.
§ The School Works scheme aims to provide practical solutions by combining expert knowledge with the expertise of those who work and live in the educational institution. Such an approach may sound like common sense, but it is an advance on the way design solutions have been achieved in the past, when they were often imposed without full consultation with those who would be using them.
§ Another problem is that many of the best smaller design companies are put off applying for the public sector design contracts by the long-winded bureaucratic hoops that they have to jump through. Public accountability is important, but it should be recognised that there is a downside. Where possible, we need to speed up the system and harness all the creative talents that we can.
§ This is of pressing importance because the Government have embarked on the most ambitious programme of public spending investment and reform 1136 since the 1940s. To give an example of the scale, in 2003–04, £24 billion will be spent on public services in addition to what is already invested and in 2004–05 that will increase to £40 billion.
§ I was recently introduced to the term "smart spending", which I suggest is an apt one for the use of design in public services. Investment in good design is a form of smart spending: it need not cost more and it can save money in the medium to long term. Improving the quality of design also offers the potential to improve the outcome of the services offered.
§ Finally, I would like to encourage all government departments to see design as important and relevant to them and not just the preserve of the DTI. Design of effective systems as well as of goods and services can bring lasting benefits to the users of those services and can save money in the long term. More importantly, we need to ensure that the people at the forefront of delivering those services, of building or managing them, know the benefits of using good design solutions because without their participation all of those good intentions will be wasted.
§ My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Lord Pendry
My Lords, the whole House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating the debate and for the way in which he introduced it. The power of design in reshaping the underlying systems and businesses process is very important. Without a doubt, high quality public services are vital to the nation's prosperity and well-being.
Britain is rightly regarded as a world leader in design. Successful businesses are the ones that invest in design to create more innovative and valued products and services, but in the public services that is not the case, and we must ask why.
The Government clearly recognise the importance of high quality public services to the nation's prosperity. Much effort is being put into modernising our public services, and the Government have embarked upon the most ambitious programme of investment in public services for more than 50 years. By 2004, public spending on education alone will buy one-third more than in 1997 terms. Modernisation requires investment, which is something that our public services were starved of in the 1980s and 1990s and—to be honest—well before that. That amounts to years of neglect, and it will take a long time before that can be turned round.
Money alone, however, will not deliver the reform of public services, or the transformation necessary. We all know that some of the worst public services have been among the most costly. People who work in public services systems do not go to work because they want to do a bad job—quite the reverse. Often they work in systems and structures that inevitably deliver poor outcomes. How frustrating and demotivating it 1137 must be for workers to work in a system capable only of delivering poor outcomes, however good they are as individuals.
For the Government's investment to deliver improvements, we must take a completely fresh look at the systems and structures that underpin the delivery of those services. We need to break out of the traditional ways of doing things, which will only continue to deliver the same outcomes and ultimately fail the needs of the people who depend on those services. Design skills and design thinking have a central role to play in transforming our public services. Design offers creative innovation and a new perspective on persistent problems. If public services are to be valued by the public, they must be redesigned around the needs of the users—the pupils, parents, patients and passengers.
The traditional model of a public service can be caricatured as being provider led, inward looking and hidebound by rules and structures and hierarchy. We need to break out from that model; services need to be redesigned so that the user is at the centre of everything that is done. Targets, inspection and league tables all have a part to play in increasing the accountability of public services, but over-inspection and the imposition of arbitrary targets can actually stifle creativity and innovation.
Fundamentally, improvement comes from within public organisations, and is not something that is done to it from outside. The people who work in the systems and processes will be those who deliver that improvement. We need to build the capacity of our public services to transform themselves and to achieve improvement continually. We need to give those who work in public services the right tools and techniques to redesign systems and structures to deliver high quality services for their customers.
I have some good examples from public services in my area. For example, local pension officers from the Department for Work and Pensions work alongside local council officers to provide a one-stop-shop for pensioners to improve ease of access and take up of benefits and pensions. That is so important when at least a quarter of pensioners do not take up their benefit entitlement.
I can also cite a successful partnership between police and local councils delivering enterprising solutions for designing out crime from local neighbourhoods, such an "alley gating" schemes. That involves the gating off of common alleyways in terraced housing areas, reclaiming the space for local people and cutting burglary by one-fifth compared with other areas.
My local council in Tameside, with its staff, recently redesigned the way in which they process council tax benefit claims. By involving the staff, applying the tools and techniques of design and taking a completely fresh and unfettered look at the services, they reduced the error rate from 80 per cent—the sector's norm—to less than 1 per cent. They also reduced the time taken to process claims from 10 days to one and, at the same time, slashed unit costs.
1138 Finally, we must not have the idea that redesigning services is a one-off process. It cannot be seen that way. The search for improvement in public services must be never ending. The use of design as a critical tool must be an integral process.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this debate, as it is an important subject.
I was the Minister responsible for the Design Council about 20 years ago, and I remember those days well. The situation then was that good design was always spoken of as important but never given enough importance in practice. It was somewhat similar to a publishing and purchasing policy for which I also had some responsibility around that time. As an ex-Treasury Minister, I accept that some of the blame remained with the Treasury, but that is not the whole story.
We produce many of the best designers in the world, but at that time far too many of them went overseas to work. The constant complaint to me from leading designers was that too many of the top people had financial skills but knew absolutely nothing about design. There was a lot of truth in that accusation, but in my view the fault is not on both sides. Part of my purpose today is to hear from the Minister how we have moved on in the past 20 years.
For every business manager who knew nothing about design, there was a designer who knew nothing about finance. They simply did not speak the same language. A key of good design is that it is sometimes wise not to accept the lowest price on offer. Many times the lowest price is the right choice, but the cheapest is not always the best. Taking something well designed or building up a long-term relationship with a supplier may be more expensive in the short run but cheaper in the long run. Those who know about design need to persuade those who make decisions to take a wider view.
I detect that we may have made some progress over the past 20 years and we still have a long way to go, but the Design Council can take a lot of credit. However, that organisation's website shows that too much of its material is designed to appeal to those who are already converted and accept the basic concepts of good design. That is important for the Design Council, which must remain at the forefront of progress, but there is another more basic job to do. The Design Council must get across to a large majority of the slightly cynical mass of managers that good design is a vital part of any investment appraisal.
Put simply, we need good designers but we also need financial managers who are better aware of the importance of good design. My experience taught me that one cannot take everything that they say at face value. In my day there were, and I suspect there still are, too many managers who publicly called for design and were strong advocates of it but who did not in practice, when making decisions, live up to their word.
1139 I have not come to this debate to criticise or to complain but to find out how, in this important area, the messages that I was trying to get across 20 years ago have made progress. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, I greatly enjoyed the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, in both its spirit and substance. I wait with keen anticipation what the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, will say in his maiden speech. He is a shining star of architecture world-wide. We look forward to his speech.
Almost 50 years ago I walked into the newly-opened Design Centre in Haymarket and it was a revelation. It was an outcome of the Festival of Britain. I was greatly impressed by the products on show. My wife and I were newly-married and we looked for our essential domestic utensils. We bought them from the shops when they were available. We still have some of those cups, saucers, knives and forks that we saw in the Design Centre.
As names are so easily forgotten, I pay tribute to Gordon Russell and Paul Reilly who brought energy and flair to the Council of Industrial Design and to the nation. It made a permanent impact on those times. Together with the Consumers' Association and Which? magazine, they led a consumer revolution in what was becoming an affluent society. At least, that was my lay view because I had not been involved in design or manufacturing.
Then, almost 20 years ago, the voters of Stockton-on-Tees lost their enthusiasm for me and, in due course, in 1987 I became director-general of the Royal Institute of British Architects. So for the first time I began to reflect on the design of buildings, including buildings serving the public.
As a Minister I had not thought much about the role of architecture in the public estate. I was involved in the planning of a new headquarters building for the Ministry of Defence, including its location, its cost and the transfer of staff, but I never raised the question of design, nor did my civil servants offer any such advice.
Good public sector clients usually appointed good architects and good architects achieved good public architecture. But new, countervailing factors in the late 1980s and early 1990s began to damage the role of high quality design. The first was the growth of design and build (usually a misnomer) and, secondly, compulsory competitive tendering (CCT). The aim was to reduce costs by diminishing the primary role of the architect as designer, thus putting price before value. Later, a third factor emerged with the arrival of the private finance initiative (PFI) which would further diminish the role of the architect.
Then, rather to my surprise, soon after 1997 the new government decided that design could lead to better public buildings. With the Prime Minister's personal support, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment was set up and Sir Stuart Lipton, a hard-headed property developer, was appointed. 1140 Despite some scepticism and little initial enthusiasm on the part of most Whitehall departments, it has since vigorously campaigned for high quality design. Already CABE has helped to change the mood of all those deeply concerned about the environment.
That is all good news but I have three principal concerns. First, it is probable that the PFI will diminish the design factor in the complicated equation of construction. As the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, mentioned, the recent Audit Commission report has said that early PFI schools are not significantly better. All the pressures, including the Government's own PFI ideology, point the wrong way.
Secondly, despite good intentions, guidance on improving standards of design in the procurement of public buildings falls short of instructions. I hope that operational guidance on the procurement of public buildings will be acted upon and that performance will be monitored.
Thirdly—this is wholly relevant to this very welcome debate—I hope that CABE and the architectural dimension in the public sector will be cross-party. It is right for the Government to claim credit for these developments. I welcome the Prime Minister's award for better public buildings. But if we are to have better public buildings from one generation to another, there must be a sustained campaign that will endure from one government to another.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Borrie
My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, who, as most of us know, is a skilled practitioner in sculpture. Sculpture is to my mind one of the most attractive and satisfying of the visual arts because of its three dimensional aspect.
I believe that design, whether it be design of objects or furniture or design of the internal and external layout of buildings of all kinds, or, indeed, the design of whole districts and cities, can enhance immeasurably our ability to work and function effectively and, indeed, the whole environment in which we live. To my mind, good design is not just a joy in itself.
Design is as old as civilisation itself. In creating today's public buildings and their layout and content, I believe that design is as vital to the purposes and functions of those buildings as it was in the creation of a Greek temple or a Roman palazzo. The Design Council, of which the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, is a distinguished member, has published a useful briefing paper for this debate. Reference has already been made, both by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and by my noble friend Lord Pendry, to the neatly alliterative phrase of the Prime Minister when he referred to the importance of design in satisfying users whether they be patients, parents, pupils or passengers. I believe that he also referred to victims of crime. I should like to mention passengers and victims of crime.
Foreign visitors to London comment frequently most favourably on the design of our taxis and, indeed, of our buses. Not long ago I was about to take my wife 1141 home after an orthopaedic operation and asked the hospital to order us a taxi, knowing that the back of a taxi is splendidly designed for ample luggage and, indeed, for putting one's legs straight out without having to bend them. We were somewhat dismayed when we realised that the hospital had an arrangement with a minicab firm. A small saloon arrived that was completely useless for the purposes in hand because of the small amount of room in the back.
The design of our buses has gradually been improved and adapted over the years, especially for driver-only operation, although they could do with further change to facilitate the carriage of disabled passengers. There is always a great outcry whenever that is mentioned because of the expense that might be involved. But sometimes it is important to put in order of preference comfort and convenience on the one hand and expense on the other. I think in particular of how the design of some of our train carriages has, far from improving, declined. I am, unfortunately for myself, a frequent traveller on Thames Trains. They have become typically poor in terms of design for luggage space, seating and lavatories. The Design Council states in its briefing paper:Britain has a wealth of expertise in transport design".Indeed, but, sadly, good design aimed at comfort and convenience of passengers often seems forced into second place against the demands of economy.
Economy class seating in aircraft has been a subject of debate many times in this House and I need not worry your Lordships about it. Noble Lords will well know that for long-haul flights in particular the space between rows has been limited and reduced. I fear that it is not only a matter of inconvenience but also perhaps of risk to one's health. I believe that passengers are a good deal less impressed by those changes—they are often referred to as design improvements—in the liveries and logos of transport companies, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, once graphically demonstrated in relation to British Airways, than by changes that can be brought about to enhance comfort.
Because of the time factor, I shall not go into the matter of the victims of crime. I believe that noble Lords would agree in general terms that, whether it be the layout of council estates, referred to by my noble friend, or car parks, although a great deal has been done, even more could be done to ensure greater safety for the possible victims of thieves and drug dealers.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Lord Foster of Thames Bank
My Lords, in rising for the first time in your Lordships' House, I am greatly indebted to my noble friend Lord Freyberg for initiating this vitally important debate on something which is so close to my heart.
A debate about design is, for me, a debate about values because I sincerely believe that there is a moral imperative for good design; to do it well and responsibly. Design is not an add-on, it is not a cosmetic, it is not window-dressing. It is a core, 1142 primary activity because anything in any part of the world that we inhabit has to be made. But before it is made it has to be designed. There are no exceptions whether it is on the scale of a city, the infrastructure of its buildings, the equipment in them, the infrastructure of streets and public spaces, pavements, the paving slabs, the door handles and even the invisible digital electronic world—it all has to be designed. It is a human act because design is a response to the needs of people, whether they are spiritual or material. The quality of that design affects the quality of all of our lives. As Winston Churchill said,we shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us".He could be talking about infrastructure because the infrastructure of public services is arguably more important than any individual building.
There are many myths about good design or perhaps they are really excuses for bad design. One is that it costs more and that we cannot afford it. Believe me, quality is an attitude of mind. It is not how much one spends of precious resources; it is how wisely one spends them. Resources are money. obviously; time is a very precious resource, but above all, there is creative energy. That is the determining factor, which is more important than money.
Given the power of creative energy, as a nation we are fortunate to have an abundance of talent, which is sought after around the world. Perhaps the most important point of all is that the challenge is to harness that creative energy and bring it close to the decision-making process. Only in that way can we raise standards and genuinely encourage innovation.
Apart from the ability of good design to lift our spirits, to offer delight and pleasure, enlightened design delivers economic benefits. We know that in a hospital a room with a view reduces recovery time. We know that the workplace is a good and desirable place to go as it can provide a better lifestyle, which increases productivity. We know that an airport with views, natural light and sunlight makes travel less stressful but vitally it dramatically reduces energy consumption.
We know that our buildings can be powered by clean, renewable sources of energy. We are not dependent on depleting fossil fuels. The German Reichstag parliament is a working example of that philosophy. But design is not a static one-off event; it is evolutionary. As the components of our environment erode around us over time design initiatives are required to upgrade them and eventually, as they become obsolete, they are required to replace others with more adequate and up to date facilities. In that sense it is evolutionary.
Designers continually face new challenges, some caused by irresponsible past strategies, the threat of global warming and population growth. They affect the balance of an island nation as much as a mega-city on the Pacific Rim. The challenges are the same, only the scale varies.
I passionately believe that we have to build more densely in urban areas and—a vital coupling—when we do that we have to improve the standard of urban 1143 living. It may mean building taller, but not always. It certainly means producing more housing of higher quality and at lower cost. I believe passionately that history is on the side of the density argument.
Buildings consume half the energy produced in an industrialised society; transport and industry, the infrastructure, the remainder. Given the link between energy production, pollution and global warming, the threat to the fragile planet's eco-system, there are strong arguments for reducing the energy demands in building and infrastructure.
The quest for a greener, more ecologically responsible design is not about fashion, but about survival. Designers can advocate with passion, but in the end they are only as good as those who lead; those who have the courage and the political will to set standards and raise goals. In that spirit it has been a privilege to participate in this constructive and, I believe, far-reaching debate. I thank your Lordships for your kind attention in listening to me for the first time.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Lord Hunt of Chesterton
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, and to say how honoured we all are to have such a distinguished architect and designer in our midst. Although no one is predicting that we shall follow the Germans with a new parliamentary building as part of our reforms, we could be sure that the design would be in good hands with the noble Lords, Lord Foster, Lord Rogers of Riverside, and perhaps with the noble Lord, Lord Freyburg, contributing some modern sculpture.
The noble Lord, Lord Foster, was educated at Burnage Grammar School, Manchester University School of Architecture and Yale University School of Architecture. His career has been in private practice. He has pioneered new structures, collaborating with Buckminster Fuller. Noble Lords will have seen the gherkin rising in the City and Stansted and will have some idea of their origins.
He has set up a world famous practice. His buildings have enlivened our cities and helped the United Kingdom to develop a more design conscious society. He has received many awards, prizes and fellowships from Europe and the United States, from academies and universities. As a professor at University College London I am pleased to say that he has been a visiting professor at Bartlett School of Architecture there. His books describe beautifully his marvellous buildings. He even has time for his recreations of flying, ski-ing and running.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on initiating this debate on such an important topic. I also thank the Design Council, which has produced a useful package of information for it. My own experience in this area is that I ran a rather high profile government agency, the Meteorological Office, where we had many discussions on design and presentation. The chief executive's view was seldom listened to. That is because we listened to designers.
1144 As with any government agency there were the more mundane aspects; for example, rather dilapidated buildings in remote Scottish islands, which are also part of the public service domain. The important point that I wish to make is that there have been very considerable improvements in the culture and application of design in the public service since the 1970s. As a cynic, one might say that the advertising world has had a more beneficial influence on government than it has on politics, in that respect. Certainly, the world of government is more design conscious.
I should like to focus a few remarks on the importance of environmental design, which the noble Lord, Lord Foster, emphasised. Perhaps one of the most important features is that good design must be fundamental and not merely an afterthought. My noble friend Lord Rogers, who regrettably could not be here today, said that environmental design was not just a question of green lipstick, which is rather a vivid expression.
I shall give an example. An element of design in Britain that is a bit of a scandal where environment and design could come together is noise barriers. One sees the most remarkable noise barriers in France and Germany. They are extremely important to communities as we increase our roads, and the efforts in this country are absolutely woeful.
As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, mentioned, buildings are extremely important. Design and science must be brought together, so that designers and people involved in building regulations work together. At a conference in London recently, it was realised that the architecture profession was perhaps not as much at the forefront of pushing the agenda forward as it should be.
Design does not relate only to hard matter; it also affects landscapes. My wife is a landscape architect, so I hear a lot about that. Perhaps one of the triumphs of design is the good design now being applied to restoring historic landscapes, with the help of the Millennium Fund. It leads to tremendous tourism. The most widely advertised posters on the Underground may be those that concern Hampton Court and its new design. Landscape design is also extremely important on housing estates. For example, by investing in better landscape design, Peterborough was able to reduce vandalism considerably. Other noble Lords have commented about design being important in reducing waste.
Government managers or chief executives of government agencies will be under considerable pressure from the Treasury or their government departments to reduce their budgets, or to be as efficient as possible. Therefore, it is very important that there be as much encouragement as possible from the centre for managers to consider good design. As other noble Lords have said, the cheapest design may not be the best. It is important that agencies and departments should use a business case with a design element in their decision making.
1145 The framework documents of agencies should include the need to use good design, both in terms of their own activities and those of their contractors. I hope that the Minister will explain how the best practice is being developed to ensure those vital needs.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Kirkham
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating the debate, and to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Foster, on a very interesting maiden speech, which lifted my spirits.
The debate could be more accurately headed, "How to improve the quality of life for all in the United Kingdom"—and do it easily and effectively. Public services are at the very heart of our quality of life in the United Kingdom. We have no alternative but to rely on public services to a greater or lesser degree throughout our lives. Hospitals, the police service and education all impact massively on the way in which we live. The quality and relevance of the service that we receive can determine how we prosper, how we live and how we die.
Although investment and focus clearly are important in helping to make our public services fit for and able to support our 21st-century economy, money and attention are not enough in a world of forever-changing attitudes, values and standards, and even faster-changing technology. Public services need to do more to keep abreast of changing user requirements and new demands.
Business has long recognised that fact. It has recognised the colossal contribution that good design and innovation can make, and the massive impact that they can have on communication and the morale, performance and retention of staff. All that is important to public services. Design also has an impact on product quality and service and, of course, on profitability. Public services should use design in the same way.
The most successful example is the Department of Health, which is currently working with the Design Council on a project to "design out" medical accidents. Other government departments are working with the Design Council to develop new perspectives on old recurring problems. They clearly understand the direct read-across from good design to user satisfaction, but that is not widespread. Why not? What is the down side? It is certainly not the cost, because good and effective design pays for itself, over and again.
If a better designed hospital environment helps to shorten a patient's stay, if it helps patients to retain their dignity and to recover more quickly, and if it frees beds, how much value is there in that? If our criminal population and crime are lowered by reducing the opportunity for theft through designing "crime-resistant" products, what is that worth to us? If simply the clever design of a bus shelter is not only more comfortable and better looking, but can be directly linked to lower crime levels, as it has been in South 1146 Yorkshire where I live, that must make design a bargain-basement investment. Design works in schools, too, where well designed lighting, heating, acoustics and furniture have been proved to yield better results.
We have heard already that there is no shortage of design ideas. We in the UK are the largest design workshop in the world, with almost 4,000 design consultancies that employ more than 67,000 people. In fact, last year the British design industry had export earnings of more than £1.4 billion. We lead the world in so many areas of design and have always had a spirit of invention and good ideas, from Harry Beck's London Tube map, which was designed in 1931 and still shows us the way home, to the bioform bra, the Dyson vacuum cleaner and the Millennium Bridge in Gateshead. We can choose from thousands of world-famous projects. British design successes are legend, but not in the public services. If our public services are to have any chance of meeting our growing needs and demands, the implementation of good design is not simply desirable but absolutely essential.
We need actively to encourage more dialogue and closer collaboration between the policy-makers, the manufacturers and the design industry, and we need to do it now. The catalyst to do that already exists in a long-established agency that makes things happen now through design initiatives in both industry and public services. That agency—the Design Council—has been mentioned several times.
The Design Council is currently funded by a DTI grant to the tune of around £7 million per annum—not £70 million, but £7 million per annum. That is small change in a government context, and some might say miserly. With a wall of money descending on the public services at the moment, now is the time to invest in design. Procrastination is not a valid option. Let us involve the best in the design industry and invest creatively.
How we do that does not matter, but the Design Council would be a good, practical starting point. It is in a warm-start position and, if adequately funded, could massively accelerate its aim of helping to turn design ideas into actions. It could accelerate that change and move toward a better quality of life for all in the UK, and achieve that through public services that could be transformed beyond recognition through and by design.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Baroness Greengross
My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on securing the debate. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Foster, how much I enjoyed his excellent and very inspiring maiden speech.
The debate is timely and important, given the Government's focus on public services and the intention of putting the patient, client, user and consumer at the centre of all provision. If those people are to be at the centre of all provision, an inclusive approach to design is essential. I want to put that in the context of this profound social revolution through which we are living: the age revolution.
1147 I was privileged to have been involved in a Design Council initiative called "Living Longer", involving Professor Roger Coleman at the Royal College of Art and the charity that I chair, the ILC-UK. We looked at design in the new context that we face. I was also involved in another initiative with the Royal Society of Arts involving an international competition for postgraduate students.
Many public services are no longer appropriate, given the change in the population that we are going through. The same is true of housing and consumer and household products. More older and many more disabled people are living alone and are keen to maintain their independence and, above all, their autonomy. They want to live, work, shop and enjoy their leisure in a safe and secure environment that is tailored to their needs and which adapts to their needs as they go through life and age.
It is the combination of the ageing population that we are experiencing with rapid technological and consequential social change that is the big issue. It is imperative to include and not exclude through design. In addition, the Disability Discrimination Act and related legislation gives rights to people who are discriminated against by bad design. They can and will take the offenders to court. That will also apply in the workplace when anti-age-discrimination legislation is introduced. There is a carrot and a stick for providers—and "providers" includes government. There is a need to develop products and services that work for us all, throughout our lives, and do not present obstacles to social participation. Those that do so will succeed and those that do not will fail. That is especially true for public services and in particular for housing, transport, education, health and caring services and leisure. Those public services can and must be at the leading edge of design.
With regard to ageing, what Peter Laslet described as the secular shift in ageing is recent. As little as 50 years ago the probability of surviving to enjoy an extended period after work was so low as not to be worth investing in. Now everyone worries that they have invested too little, as does the state, which 50 years ago embarked on a pension scheme that involved not investment but only income and expenditure. Now we know that that is becoming unsustainable. The big thing to realise is that the shift from young to old societies has never happened before in the history of mankind. This is uncharted territory and we are all learning as we go along.
Instead of thinking about retirement we must think of continuing to work into our seventies. That has enormous implications for the type and extent of our public services, and not just their design in physical terms. It also means that the people involved must be involved in the actual design of what they use and need. They must participate; that includes older people and those with disabilities. They must have the goods and services that give them that possibility and ensure their continuing independence. They must be available as part of any mainstream consumer offers. If people 1148 are to work longer, they will also have more money to spend, and the producers of goods and services are beginning to realise that.
What can we do? We must encourage the adoption of inclusive design thinking and practice. People in the design profession have been working on those ideas for some years now, but inclusivity is rarely asked for in design briefs. That must change, and measures must be taken to encourage industry to change its practices in that regard and to "mainstream" inclusive design.
The British Standards Institution has decided to introduce a BS in the 7000 series on inclusive design management. That standard is now in the drafting stage and should be completed for publication during the course of this year. That is important because it will encourage industry to engage with those issues and, in tandem with the DDA, it will expose those that do not take reasonable steps to ensure that the design needs of older people and those with disabilities are taken into account.
I shall add a few examples to the many that have so far been given. We must have a "life course" approach to design and flexible homes that adapt to us as we go through life. We might want semi-independence for our teenage children but also a granny flat; it is not impossible to design homes in that way. Leisure centres and parks should cater for all ages and the judicious use of street lighting for safe and secure living has been mentioned. Glass must be used and the design of bus stations and railway stations should be considered. Schools could be very adventurous because with interactive learning age becomes irrelevant and we can have learning centres that cater for everyone—teenagers and older. Interactive learning is only one part of an holistic approach to design, which can transform people's lives throughout their lives and make age in fact irrelevant.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord Gavron
My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and offer him my gratitude. He talked in a very erudite manner about the change in culture required in our attitudes to design. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Foster. it is almost impossible to discuss design in this country without quoting the noble Lord, but seeing him sitting in the Chamber rather inhibits my doing so. His was a most accomplished and remarkable speech.
The planning of our splendid new Royal Opera House building took more than 20 years. Several times during that period we seemed to be ready to build but when we got our quotations the price had gone up so much since the previous time that we had to stop again and raise more money. Eventually we realised it was now or never. There was still a funding gap, but we had to go ahead. We called in that brilliantly creative property developer, Sir Stuart Lipton. described by the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, as hard-headed. I agree. Sir Stuart took one look at our plans. He took one look and said, "Cut out the lowest two levels". We had been going down 60 feet. The bottom 30 feet would have cost us much more than all the other space in the 1149 building. It also involved the risk of further entanglement with London Underground and with various hitherto unknown archaeological sites—even at 30 feet we found a Saxon village—and we would have endangered our 1858 foundations. So we took his advice. To make up for the lost basements, we had to use some office space that we had hoped to let. However, the overall financial saving pretty well closed our funding gap. Our project had been saved, not by a designer, but by an expert briefer of designers.
When I recently visited one of our renowned teaching hospitals for a health check, I stopped briefly at the main signboard. An elderly woman was staring at it in a bemused way. "What does that mean?", she said pointing at a sign saying "Renal Medicine". I told her. "And that?" she asked of "Podiatrics". "And that?" she asked of "Haematology". I just about knew what they were. "These signs aren't for us", she said. "They're for the doctors and nurses. If they were for us they would be in proper English; you know: 'Kidneys', `Feet' and `Blood'". I agreed. "What's that one?", she asked. She was looking at "Colo-rectal". I pointed at the relevant part of my anatomy. "That's me", she said, and began to march off but she stopped and spoke again. She said, "It should have said, `Bums'". I believe that our designers of hospital signage should probably take their briefing from her.
Coming from a background in printing and publishing, I feel that I should mention the importance of typography and graphic design in our daily lives. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said, everything has to be designed: every book and every sheet of paper. The design affects not just the aesthetics but also the function of the printed product. Noble Lords may not realise it, but the speed at which one can read, absorb and remember information depends largely on its design. There is incontrovertible evidence that a well-designed textbook can be effectively read at almost twice the speed of a badly designed textbook. We all know about the pain of reading text that some designer has decided should be printed in small white type on a black background that comes off on your hands.
The design of the many printed forms and booklets issued by public sector organisations is variable. All express clearly the needs of the issuing body. The bad ones go no further. Good design takes the customer into account. There is great variation in the public's sensory capacities and relevant knowledge. Technical terms and small print, for example, can make form filling a nightmare for some people, especially older people.
Like many of my noble friends, I recently had the opportunity to discuss with someone in the Audit Commission its much talked about report on PFI schools. It is obvious that private contractors are interested in maximising their profit on each contract. In one case, a contractor, to save money, put a tin roof on an assembly hall. When it rained, not a word could be heard. That is not the fault of the Government, nor of the contractors, nor even of the architect. The specification was at fault, and the briefer who drew it up.
1150 In conclusion I return to my main theme: we must use designers for everything we make. In the UK we produce great designers, as we have heard. According to the Design Council they earned huge fees from abroad last year. Good design gives pleasure and is highly cost effective. But in order to achieve good design we need good briefing of designers. The people who brief designers in the public sector have a great effect on our daily lives. They need to be numerate, clear thinking, decisive, and have long term vision. They need to behave as if spending their own money. I commend to the Minister that they need to be fully and properly trained for their job.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Baroness Flather
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this interesting debate. Design surrounds us all the time. We value good design when we see it, but we do not stop to think about it. I thank the noble Lord for making us think consciously about a subject that we do not normally think about. It was a privilege to hear the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Thames Bank. I hope noble Lords will agree that we would like to hear more from him from time to time.
We have heard much about good design, but I begin with the impact of bad design. In the 1970s I became a member of the board of visitors of Holloway prison, which at that time was newly constructed. If one needed an example of impractical bad design, it was that prison. It was decided not to have bars on the women's prison, but the windows were so wide that a slim young woman could slip out. In the end they had to put bars on narrow windows which made it even darker and more unpleasant inside. One could not see very far down the corridor or what was going on around the corner. There were places where things could be thrown onto little roofs. Your Lordships would not have liked to see what used to land on those bits of roof.
We have to realise how destructive and expensive bad design is. It is important to start right and provide for people's needs. Good design, however, uplifts the spirit. That point has not yet been mentioned. When we go to see the Great Court at the British Museum or Tate Modern, the spirit lifts. Good design gives us much more than a space to use; it does something for our spirit.
I have a few points to make, which may be because I am a woman. Forgive me if my glasses keep falling off; they are not mine. It would be today that I would forget my glasses. Good lighting is important. How often lighting is relegated to being something that will happen by itself. In this country, where we have four months of almost non-stop darkness, good lighting should be at the top of everyone's list of considerations.
I turn to practicality and the people who are to use public spaces. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, mentioned patients, victims and so on. If they are to use a space, are they ever consulted? Do we consult patients when we design hospitals? Do we consult 1151 anyone else when we design facilities for those people? It is extremely important that there should be an opportunity to consult users. A working environment can succeed only if the people who are to use it are at least asked for their views about it.
With your Lordships' indulgence perhaps I may place a slight gloss on the debate: good design is in itself a public service. I have been involved for five years in the construction of a memorial on Constitution Hill. It is a long overdue memorial to the men from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the West Indies who volunteered to serve with the British forces in two world wars. Somehow they have been forgotten. Nearly 5 million served in the two world wars.
The memorial sits on the top of Constitution Hill as one enters from Hyde Park Corner. The architect Liam O'Connor described it as follows:Four sculpted piers in solid stone, surmounted by bronze urns form a cenotaph, a square, a public space, sacred to the sacrifice made by a great many people.The space between the piers forms a perfect square … framing views towards the Wellington Arch to the west and a domed pavilion to the north. The pavilion forms the heart of the composition; a belvedere in the Park flanked by two plinths, each a monolith carved with campaigns from the two World Wars. Cast bronze railings with a peacock theme form balconies from which the four main piers may be viewed across the sand-ride…Bronze lamp standards have been designed with tops to match the pavilion dome and the lotus leaf capitals re-appear as supports for the urns and the pavilion dome finial. The oak leaf section of the lamp standards re-appears as a wreath moulding to the urn bases, a reference to Lutyens' Whitehall Cenotaph".The reference to Lutyens extends beyond the Whitehall Cenotaph, because coming from New Delhi as I do, I see echoes of Lutyens throughout the memorial. It completes Aston Webb's original plan for a gateway to that side of the park. It is a serene and beautiful memorial, with beautiful Portland stone. The construction is exquisite. I think that that is a public service. The good design of that memorial helps us to enjoy the past even more.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Chan
My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on securing a debate on a topic that has enormous practical implications for the lives of users and staff of our health services. It was a particular pleasure for me to listen to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, and I look forward to hearing more.
I shall use examples from my professional experience to demonstrate the importance of good design for healthcare. One of the essentials for the care of new-born babies—especially those who are ill—is a clean, warm environment with electricity and a constant supply of clean water. The facility should be close to the delivery room with access to mothers. Those two facilities should therefore be on the ground floor of a hospital. But the environment of the delivery room where the baby is born is so different from the unit for the care of newly born babies.
1152 Keeping a new-born baby care unit clean and free of infection requires, among other measures, that all adults entering it—including mothers and staff—wash their hands. Only when their hands are clean should they handle babies. That is difficult to achieve because most people do not wash their hands regularly.
A clean supply of water 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year is a commodity that we take for granted. Most infections in a new-born care unit are water-borne because the drainage pipes of washbasins trap and breed germs, so they need to be sterilised regularly. Here is an opportunity for better design. Taps with long arms are necessary if we do not want to contaminate our washed hands when turning off the water supply.
Washing our hands with water regularly, before touching any baby in the care unit, will give us sore hands within two days. That is why today we wash our hands thoroughly with water and soap on entering the unit and then use antiseptic lotion to clean our hands before handling every baby thereafter.
Simple things can be difficult I o achieve, particularly when a team of healthcare professionals is looking after a sick baby who will have visits from parents. Design and the proper use of facilities is a prerequisite for helping people who need clinical healthcare. The user of the service must be the one whose well-being determines our design of buildings and equipment. Today, we would not approve of any health service facility that does not have access for disabled patients or visitors in wheelchairs. But reception desks may still be above the eye level of people in wheelchairs.
Primary care trust boards are now conscious that small premises with a doctor working single-handed are no longer adequate for healthcare in the 21st century. A health centre should have facilities for services other than doctors, nurses and receptionists so that patients need not go to hospital for ECG tracings of their heart, blood tests and X-rays.
Automatic doors are common at the entrances of hospitals, but they are inefficient in keeping out the cold when patients insist on smoking just outside the doors.
Design for the safety of patients must be a high priority. For many years I worked in a unit for newborn babies that was on the fifth floor of the maternity building when delivery rooms were on the ground floor. I was informed that in 1966 the architects of that maternity building in Liverpool had not heard of the need for a new-born baby unit and had added one on the top floor rather than draw up new plans. But in Birkenhead we have the best-designed bus station in Europe. Staff working in the baby unit had to have regular practice in moving incubators and cots down five floors in case of fire. The unit was closed only two years ago.
Design for the safety of patients and their families requires attention to detail. Let us consider the example of the medicine bottle with a child-resistant cover containing small pills for an older person. How often have we struggled to get the child-proof top off 1153 the bottle, or heard grandparents asking a young grandchild to help remove the top in order to reach the tablets for their blood pressure or heart failure? There are effective bottle tops, which people with arthritis in their hands can open that are genuinely resistant to the child under five, but they are expensive.
Other design improvements can be life-saving, such as needles attached to syringes that do not need to be removed by hand, thereby avoiding needle-stick injuries and preventing the infection of healthcare professionals who take blood from patients with hepatitis or HIV.
Another improvement needed must surely be the colour coding of medical solutions for injection used for anaesthesia, treatment of severe blood-poisoning and cancers. Some injectable drugs given directly into the blood will be lethal if injected into the spinal fluid. Such drugs should be colour coded so that doctors will be warned, and patients protected from medical accidents and death.
Finally, I shall quote from the Design Council, which states:Good design creates products, systems and environments that can help improve the outcomes of healthcare, providing more effective and safer services".Designing for patient safety must be the highest priority. Therefore, I welcome the news that the Department of Health is working with the Design Council to investigate the potential for a design-led approach to reducing the opportunity for medical error as part of its on-going "Building a safer NHS" patient safety strategy.
I look forward to the Minister's response to the debate.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Lord Chorley
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend on the masterly way in which he has addressed a complex and extremely broad subject.
In the short time that I have to speak, I want to touch, first, on the importance of teaching good design in schools and, more particularly, art colleges. I draw attention to the work of the Royal Society of Art and its student design awards scheme, which attracts more than 3,000 entries a year. The RSA increasingly sees its role as helping to set the agenda for design colleges by bringing in fresh new thinking. I find it rather refreshing that this ancient body, whose full title is the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, should be so active in promoting new ideas.
The RSA drew attention to some worrying trends. The huge increase in student numbers has resulted in a dramatic change in student:staff ratios. That, in turn, has led to a loss in the quality of teaching. The RSA questions whether it can retain its pre-eminent position in design education. Sadly I do not have the time to mention its consequential observations.
I turn to buildings. About 10 years ago the Royal Fine Arts Commission published an admirable study called, What makes a good building?. Incidentally, the 1154 study was commissioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, when he was the Culture Secretary. The final words of that excellent report are as follows:To achieve a good building requires a good brief, a good client and a good architect…It is not a simple matter, and requires great effort and passionate commitment".I think that we had the passionate commitment from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, in his masterly maiden speech.
I want to talk about the brief and the client—the procurement process. My first point has already been made, but it is worth repeating that research both at home and abroad shows that investment in good design generates economic and social value. This is not a novel point among professionals, but decision-makers, such as the Treasury, often tend to forget it. If I have time, I may come back to that issue.
Sir Stuart Lipton, who has already been mentioned by a number of speakers, the chairman of the RFAC's successor body, the Commission for Architecture and the Building Environment—CABE—reminds us that the Government are now embarking on the most significant building programme since the 1960s. Therefore, the stakes have been upped and the procurement process becomes all important. In the same piece, where he spoke about the big spending ahead of us, Sir Stuart Lipton was fairly scathing about some of our new buildings.
I want to touch on one or two consequential issues. First—again, the point has already been made but I repeat it—how can we ensure good design in PFI contracts, or, to put it the other way round, how can we design the form of PFI contracts so that good design is ensured?
Secondly, how can the Treasury, for example, be made to understand that building economics on the basis of lifetime costs is far more efficient and better than the normal Treasury regime of the initial cash budget approach? Of course, the Treasury denies that. It says that we have manuals on how to proceed with such matters, but, when the chips are down, it is cash that matters.
Thirdly, how do we prevent what I call "design degradation", which usually comes about when endeavouring to economise on detailing or qualities of finish—for example, door knobs and so on—when budget problems arise during construction? I draw attention to the issue but have no time to go into it.
Fourthly, how can we encourage the participation of innovative small sub-contractors; for example, in relation to furniture and furnishings and so on? The red tape of the billing process can constitute a crippling overhead.
It is so easy to identify the problems and so difficult to find solutions. In brief, how do we train and educate our officials not only in the virtues of good design but in identifying, and distinguishing between, good and bad? I believe that the answer is to educate and train officials at—I emphasise—all levels.
1155 I must conclude. I should have liked to link building design to urban planning. But, again, the noble Lord, Lord Foster, took us down that path and spoke in his outstanding maiden speech far better and with far more authority than I could have done.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, when thinking of what to say in this debate, I looked in the Oxford English Dictionaryand found that the word "design", simply as a noun, has eight definitions. Number five was,a crafty contrivance or hypocritical scheming".I am afraid that for some design—or perhaps lack of design- —that definition may occasionally be apposite.
I was much helped in preparing these remarks by the recent short document published by the Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment, referred to by a number of noble Lords. On the very first page, the results of a MORI poll show that 81 per cent of the population are interested in how the built environment looks and feels. Even more people—85 per cent—agree that better quality buildings improve the quality of people's lives.
Those findings, which show such a high awareness among the general public, perhaps explain some of the other positive research findings in the report. One has been given by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. Another is a study by the University of Nottingham, which found that in a cardiology ward which had been fitted with improved lighting, better external views and other improvements, patients' blood pressure and pulse rates were significantly lower and post-operative stays came down from 11 to eight days.
My own medical practice moved into a newly built health centre in the mid-1970s. It was in advance of its time and had carefully thought-out plans to enhance joint working between doctors, nurses and other primary care team members. At the planning stage, there was much discussion between the staff who were going to use the building and the architect. However, due to cost-cutting during construction, the fabric of the building began to fail at an early stage so that now, 30 years later, it is having to be extensively rebuilt. That is an example of how skimping on building costs, despite a good conceptual design, can lead to greater expense in the long term.
On my way to my home in East Sussex, I often pass the remarkable development known as "BedZED"— the Beddington Zero Energy Development—in the borough of Sutton. This is a high-density housing project of around 100 homes. It is immediately arresting because of the brightly coloured wind-driven, heat-exchanging ventilators, which swivel on the roofs—a system rather similar to that used in Portcullis House.
There are many other novel features—many more than I can describe—including a small biofuel combined heat and power unit. Energy consumption in the dwellings is only 10 per cent of that in a comparable traditional dwelling. That 10 per cent of energy is produced on site. The project was developed by the Peabody Trust to the design of architect Bill 1156 Dunster who first tried out the design concepts when building his own house. It is a superb example of good design and environmental conservation, and the cost of building it was no greater than that of a conventional housing development.
Like other noble Lords, I want to refer briefly to the Audit Commission's report on PFI in schools. It shows that, of the 10 traditional and eight PFI schools studied by the Building Research Establishment, the PFI schools were, on average, worse in all five aspects of design quality used. However, to be fair, one PFI school was commended. Its quality may have been high because the head teacher was involved in the project negotiation from the start. It is a key feature of a successfully designed building that the eventual user, who may not be the commissioning agent, should be involved from the start.
The summary of the final chapter comments:There is a strong case for changing capital funding incentives to enable options other than the PFI to be pursued equally advantageously".It was very audacious of the Audit Commission to give advice to the Treasury. But surely the main reason for using PFI in the first place was to shift the burden of raising capital from the public to the private sector and, thus, the debt incurred would not appear on the Government's balance sheet. But the debt is still there, of course, and it costs the public considerably more to service than a state-secured loan. In addition, as the report shows, the product that results may be less suitable, of inferior quality and have higher maintenance costs. All that is because of an inflexible Treasury rule not to increase visible public sector borrowing.
Good design may initially cost a little more in time and thought, although not necessarily in money. But the end result is more pleasing to the eye and more efficient, costs less to maintain and is kinder to the environment.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville
My Lords, I, too, commend the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. His family's ancestral courage is well known, but the personal imaginativeness of the subjects which he chooses to bring before your Lordships' House for debate deserves separate praise. He has also on this occasion given us the opportunity to hear the notable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Thames Bank.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to 19th century prisons. There is a great continuity in our affairs. I mention the prison that Bentham built—the Millbank Penitentiary, where the Tate now stands. Not for nothing was he a utilitarian. Five prisoners were lodged in a group of cells but there were washing facilities for all of them from the start. Judge Tumim could not have approved more.
I declare an interest as a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art. My own speech will be idiosyncratic and telegraphic. My greatest luck in public life was to be the Minister to issue the guidance to the Lottery 1157 distributors that they should consider the architectural quality of the applications put before them. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for his kind reference to another initiative in my time.
Others have quoted the Design Council report. In the spirit of the quotation given by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, the observation in the report that the input of end users is most valuable at the start of the process, before the designs have been made and before the cost of change grows prohibitively high, was the story of how Japanese ship-building took over the world.
My father's philosophy tutor became the controller of metals during World War II. My father asked what his qualifications were and he said, "They are two. The first is that I am trained to ask questions—there are a large number of questions to ask in the context of metals. The second is that everyone else in metals has an emotional involvement in particular metals like wolfram and tungsten, but I have no emotional involvement in any of them". The creation of a post within Government with the oriental title "The Great Questioner" would do design a great favour.
I was lucky enough to attend a school founded in 1843 where, around a fine early 18th century house, the governors employed Blore, Street—I spent four years in a boarding house designed by Street who put concrete into a domestic building for the first time—Norman Shaw, Bodley, Comper, Aston Webb and WG Newton whose science laboratories were among the 50 first 20th century buildings to be listed. There was even a Waterhouse cricket pavilion, perhaps his only one, which the school has just restored to Waterhouse's original design. The child is father to the man and these things teach one what is possible.
One of the earliest boys to attend the school—in the school's first five years—was William Morris. It is interesting to note that what made the most impression on him during his school days was Avebury seven miles away. I remark that Avebury is essentially a public sector artefact.
From that school I also took away the recognition that people behave as a result of the way in which they are treated—whether it is listed blocks of council flats in Pimlico, the design of the legendary Thomas Telford School in Shropshire, with its academic success, or the new Jubilee Line stations that won the buildings of the year prize, competing, coincidentally, in the small change of today's debate, against a bus shelter in Scotland.
To draw on Waterhouse's cricket pavilion, I shall add to the list of design successes in the public services. I cite topically the English Cricket Board's use of the national curriculum, initially to design coursework and teaching aids based on cricket—arithmetic, geometry and physics come first to mind—but more subliminally to get school children interested in cricket as well.
Thirty-five years ago I called on the enlightened managing director of a public but smallish company in the Black Country who had just sent a new appointee 1158 to his board on a three-month sabbatical all around Europe to refresh himself and to look at recent capital investments by industrial companies. I ask the Minister how far that example is followed in the public sector today.
All of that said, we should not rely blindly on innovation. I saw the Nottinghamshire County Council's winning exhibit at the Milano Biennale in the winter of 1960 of a CLASP prefabricated school, and I flushed with national pride. But 25 years later I was a DES Minister when the CLASP schools all needed renewal at the same time.
Finally, a cheering coincidence. Like the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, in 1961 I furnished my first office from the Design Council's design index. On that index was only one hatstand. I loyally and blindly bought it. The other day I was in Bond Street where the Fine Arts Society was selling a Charles Rennie Mackintosh hatstand for £35,000. In life, as in the Bible, the bread that one casts upon the waters comes back after many days.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating the debate. It provides a timely opportunity to acknowledge the importance of design in all parts of public life. It also allows me to stress how important the higher education sector is for encouraging improvements in design in public services and more generally. I declare an interest as chief executive of Universities UK.
Too often the role of design is forgotten. Universities have a central role in research, teaching and knowledge transfer in all areas of design. Our universities have a reputation as world leaders in creativity and innovation. That is a reputation on which they are keen to build.
Design is just one of the 13 creative industries defined by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Others include architecture, music, performing arts, publishing and software and computer services. The creative industries in the UK are a massive success story. They generate revenues of some £112.5 billion, employ something like 1.3 million people, contribute around £10.3 billion in exports and account for over 5 percent of GDP.
The universities already make an enormous contribution to improving the delivery of public services. They train the professionals on whom we rely. We might ask what that has to do with design. In the context of this debate, it means not so much the doctors, lawyers and engineers of whom we normally think, but the designers and architects whose creative vision provides modern hospitals with specialist equipment, attractive living accommodation in towns and the countryside, bridges across our rivers, new transport systems and so on. Design is not a sideline in universities but a mainstream activity.
I shall take 2000–01 as an example. In that year there were well over 40,000 full-time undergraduates taking degrees in design studies. In addition, there were 1159 almost 6,000 more who were studying courses that included elements of design. That enormous number means that just over half of all creative arts students in our universities were studying design. It does not stop with undergraduates. Also in that year there were almost 3,000 postgraduate students studying design, either as their sole area of study or as a component.
I think that that makes it clear that without the work of our universities there could be little possibility of improved design in our public services. Like other noble Lords I pay tribute to the enormous amount of work carried out by the Design Council in promoting the excellence of UK design. I was delighted to see its recent publication, Meeting of Minds. It illustrates universities' role in design, innovation and research and highlights what business and public services gain from working with universities.
I am delighted to use an example which will be close to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Foster. I compliment him on his enlightening and uplifting maiden speech. I give the example of the partnership between Primal Pictures and University College London. Supported by the DTI and the Medical Research Council, that partnership led to the development of the interactive hand, a 3D virtual model of a hand, a new and important teaching and reference aid for the medical profession.
Where else are universities having an impact? The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, will be pleased with my second example, as it demonstrates the progress for which he was looking. Brunel University has been involved in a project to design millennium homes that will be designed with state-of-the-art technology to enable elderly people to live independently in their own homes for longer. I could quote many more examples.
Where do we go from here? How do we increase the skills base of our designers so that they can help to improve the delivery of public services? How can we ensure that more of the innovation in design in our universities can be put at the disposal of the public sector? First, I hope that the Government will remember the importance of design and the other creative industries as they consider how they implement last week's White Paper on higher education.
In that light, I welcome wholeheartedly the announcement that there will be an arts and humanities research council by 2005, although I have a concern about the possible direction of research funding in the White Paper. It is important that the council will be able to support emerging centres of excellence and not just those that are already world leaders. It is an area of growth and innovation and if we stop innovating it will soon die.
I also hope that the Government will continue to press for overt reference to arts and humanities in the design of important research initiatives in Europe, such as the future framework programmes and the European research area. Finally, I hope that the White Paper will result in additional funds to teach the next 1160 generation of designers in universities whose skills are vital to ensure that design plays its full role in the improvement of public services.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Lord Bhatia
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for initiating this debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Foster, on an illuminating maiden speech.
I am no expert on design, but as a layman who is constantly the end-user of products and of public services, I want to share my views on good and had design. I should like to talk about our built environment. Whether housing or office space, it affects our quality of life and output. A badly designed house or office has an adverse effect on our behaviour, work and well-being. About 20 years ago, I was involved in the development of an institutional building in the centre of London, and have been fortunate to be able to build a small house for my family to the west of London. Perhaps I may share some of my experiences with your Lordships.
The institutional building required office space, conference and meeting facilities and a community hall. We had a sensitive owner and architect, both conscious of the need for a building that would cater for a large number of people using its facilities, taking into account movement from one space to another and providing sufficient lighting and good, well-designed furniture. Above all, the building would have to stand up to constant use by a large number of people.
Many believe that architects and builders are the decision-makers. My experience is that unless end-users are brought in from the beginning and their views sought at the planning stage, the whole development will be a disaster. We shared the architect's initial drawings with the end-users and, indeed, with the neighbours. We asked whether they liked the plant and facilities and whether they wanted anything added or deleted. Photomontages were produced to show how the new building would sit with the existing, neighbouring buildings.
Although that process was painful, time-consuming and expensive, it enabled us to develop a building that truly reflected the needs of end-users. My point is that good design of a building is not the sole domain of the architect, but needs involvement from the owner, user, builder, building material supplier and craftsmen We spent much time on the building materials and quality of workmanship. We searched for and found the most suitable materials and the best workmen to execute the final product.
A plaster ceiling in one part of the building won an award, but the most fascinating incident involved a teak wood bench designed and placed in one circulation area near a glass window. I found myself with the carpenter who had made the bench and the designer. They were arguing about who was the creator of that beautiful product. The bench, under the window with the sun pouring through, cast a beautiful shadow on the marble floor below. The bench was beautiful and so was the shadow. They finally settled 1161 on the compromise that the design was that of the designer but the shadow belonged to the carpenter. The pride in the design of that simple bench and of the craftsman who had built it with loving hands was evident.
I have been watching the people who use the building for a long time to see whether such a well-designed and built work space has any effect on the quality of their lives and output. Surprisingly, I constantly notice the huge change in the way people use the building and how a well-designed space affects the quality and output of their work. Working in a good environment automatically makes them conscious of the stationery they use, the publications they produce and the manner in which they organise social and other events. I often find them arguing about whether the kind of event they are planning will match the beautiful building in which they are located. Working out the most minute detail of such events reflects the detail of the way in which the building was built and is maintained. As a whole, I can say that that well-designed building raises standards of output and presentation and reflects on the people who use the building. There seems to be a direct relationship between a well-built environment and the quality of the work carried out in that space.
We all see the huge number of new office buildings being constructed in London. We hear about modern buildings of all shapes and sizes being built to attract and accommodate new businesses and investments. Some of those new developments are unattractive and unpleasant to look at. I do not understand why planning authorities allow such buildings to be constructed. I am often told that such structures are built to last for no more than 25 or 30 years because the land value is so large that the developers can knock the building down in 30 years and build yet another atrocity in its place to meet the demand for office space. So good design—external and internal—is sacrificed on the altar of more space for a short-term gain. Some of the new buildings in the City of London today bear witness to that phenomenon.
About 12 years ago, I was fortunate enough to build a small house for my family in the west of London. Being able to build something from the ground up in London had been only a dream. The best I had hoped for was converting an existing building to my needs—never the best solution. However, I found a piece of ground on which I could build something to suit my needs. I made contact with a local architect, who said, "Yes, I can design two nice bedrooms upstairs and a living/dining room space downstairs". It took me some time and effort to explain to him that I knew what I wanted. I sketched it for him on a piece of paper. He sat there looking at me in disbelief and said: "This is probably the first time I have met a client who knows what he wants". It was obvious to me that he had never asked what the client wanted.
We got on splendidly well thereafter until we started to talk about the internal finishing and designing. It soon became obvious to him that he was designing a house for a person from a different culture. 1162 Fortunately, a lucky event saved us both a lot of trouble. I happened to be travelling to India for some work and invited the architect to come with me to see some of my cultural heritage. We agreed that he was not to copy anything that he saw but was going there simply to understand his client's cultural background.
It was one of the best things that happened to him and to me. On our return, his words were, "I think that I understand you better". From thereon he completed the design of the house, which was reviewed in the Financial Times, House and Garden and a couple of other arts and architecture magazines. I have now lived in the house for the past 12 years. I consider it a well-designed space—of course, I would say so—in which I feel comfortable because it is built to meet my needs.
§ Lord Evans of Temple Guiting
My Lords, with all due respect, the noble Lord is well over his allocated five minutes.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, during one of the last warm days of autumn, I took my three children on the riverboat from Greenwich to Westminster. As is the custom, one of the boatmen offered us a running commentary as we went down the river. As we passed the headquarters of the Greater London Authority on our left, he said, "And there, on our left, is the new headquarters of the Greater London Authority. As you can see, it was designed by an under-employed window cleaner".
It was a great honour today to hear from that underemployed window cleaner. I thought that I would tell the noble Lord that story because he has had so much praise today that he should hear at least one word from his critics. It was a great pleasure to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Foster.
My other problem arises from hearing the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. As noble Lords may know, I am one of the revolutionaries concerning reform of this House, and yet, whenever I get out the tumbrels for the hereditaries I think of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and his contribution to this House. Yet again, he has made a major contribution by raising the issue of design, and we are all in his debt for that.
My interest in design originated with my membership of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry in another place, then as director-general of the British Retail Consortium in the mid-1980s, and then, since entering this House, becoming associated with the campaigning groups, Anti Copying in Design, known as ACID, and the Federation Against Copyright Theft. Much of their work is about protecting creativity in areas such as music, film and product design, but protecting a good idea and rewarding creativity applies equally to the power and direction of public service procurement.
I agree with the Prime Minister that Britain's future lies in creating a high-skill, high-tech, high value-added economy. But to create and sustain such an economy it is essential that ideas, innovation and 1163 design distinctiveness are protected and that the ideas of men and women of innovation are protected by law. That has been one of my interests in the House.
This excellent debate has drawn on the brief produced by the Design Council, which is among my papers. I shall not repeat many of the points that other noble Lords have referred to except to point out that, although it may be a brief for the converted, as the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said, it would be well worthy of wider distribution, if only to provide the proselytizers of good design with a good document from which to work.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, that design has great importance in ensuring that our public services are taken up. Too many buildings that house organisations which offer help seem to say not "We are here to help" but "Abandon hope all ye who enter here". It is true that good design can make a building appear friendly to people who may be a little cautious about becoming entangled in the bureaucracy of public service.
Throughout the debate various themes have been taken up—for example, how good design can help in the areas of health and education; in sport and leisure, an issue to which the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, referred; and in tourism. I agree that good signage can be a great help to tourism.
As to housing and housing design in the public sector, I can remember going round a council estate in Southwark with a local councillor 30 years ago, at the beginning of my political career, and him standing there with real pride, looking at the high rise flats and saying, "When I see those high rise flats I see socialism in action". It is worthwhile designers and planners reminding themselves that sometimes they can get it disastrously wrong. Those high rise flats, which were built with such good intentions and such worthy aims, created massive social problems that we have spent many of the past 20 or 30 years trying to repair. In addition to the many virtues advocated today, I urge on the designers and planners a tad of humility.
Another area where public service lateral thinking as regards design can help is in the design of built-in deterrents against theft. Too many products are too easy to steal. There have been exchanges in the House about mobile phones and how slow the companies were in building-in anti-theft devices. Before that, the manufacturers of cars were similarly accused.
There is a whole range of areas in the public service where positive thinking can be of help. We have all learnt something today. Having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, speak about his hat-stand, my noble friend Lord Rodgers will probably now rush home and take a close look at his Festival of Britain cups and spoons. I recommend that he takes them to the next edition of the "Antiques Roadshow" because he might have some worthwhile heirlooms on his hands.
Like my noble friend Lord Rodgers, I left another place by public demand. One of the nice things about it is that I occasionally get invited back to my old constituency. On 28th March I shall be going back to 1164 Stockport to address the Stockport Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and to present prizes at a design award ceremony. The competition, which was sponsored by the Stockport Chamber of Commerce, Stockport Council and the local community, was to redesign the centre of Stockport.
One of the lessons to come through the debate is that end users must be involved in design right from the beginning. I am going back to Stockport with a real sense of pleasure—although slightly fraudulently because it is my membership of the All-Party Design Group which gives me the qualities to present the prizes. As my colleagues know, I have not been renowned in the past for my Armani suits or design consciousness.
The arguments that provoked the competition in Stockport could be rehearsed elsewhere. Good design is a win-win situation. It is a win for the citizen as a taxpayer because, as speaker after speaker has emphasised, good design brings good value. It is a winner for the citizen as the consumer of these services because, again as other noble Lords have emphasised, good design helps the consumer. My Whip is wagging his finger but, if he reads the whip, he will see that I have got 10 minutes. Whips try to control everything.
Finally, as my 10 minutes come up, let me say that good design is good for UK plc. I work with one of the big trade associations—the electrical manufacturers— and it is still in Britain because of the quality of design. Whether in manufacturing or public services, the lesson to be learnt is that design is not the cherry on the cake but the real heart of success.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Baroness Miller of Hendon
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, for several things; first for having introduced the debate; secondly, for himself having introduced it so well; thirdly, for having introduced a debate which has caused so many excellent, interesting and different speeches to be made; fourthly, as my noble friend Lord Brooke said, for giving us an opportunity publicly to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, on his excellent maiden speech; and, fifthly, for his adventurous spirit in introducing a debate that is more about ideas than anything tangible. It is true that the ideas have to be linked with discipline and experience, as many noble Lords have said, but the whole concept is very interesting.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I looked up the definition of "design" in the dictionary. The definition I came up with is completely different from his—I did not notice that there were seven others—and states:The art of producing plans, sketches or concepts"—I emphasise the word "concepts"—for the making or production of a building, machine, garment or other object".I stress the word "concept" because the Design Council, of which the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, is a member, in its brief for the debate, attaches the word "design" not only to physical objects such as I have described but to much more abstract matters.
1165 I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and the House will forgive me if I do not attempt to deal with the philosophical concepts of design—other noble Lords have spoken to that issue. It will be easier for me if I speak to the more tangible purposes and the need for good, better physical design.
My personal approach to the tangible nature of design is best expressed by the well-known quotation, to which I am glad no one else has referred today because I do not want to feel that I am repeating other noble Lords, from the American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is generally summarised as:If a man build a better mousetrap…the world will beat a path to his door".One of my own experiences of the effect of better design was an advertisement, which many noble Lords may remember, from 25 years ago when a company introducing tea used a very elegant-looking teapot. I do not know how much tea the company sold but it was said at the time that thousands of the teapots practically walked off the shelves. I still have one that I use today.
"Design" is not simply about building a better, better-looking or more efficient mousetrap. It is about finding what is sometimes described as a gap in the market, discovering an unfulfilled need and devising the means of filling it. It was so interesting to hear different people's experiences. The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, talked about having to design things differently for the older person. Like the noble Lord, Lord Chan, I cannot open that wretched thing for pills that is supposed to be safe for children. Everything has had to change considerably. So discovering an unfulfilled need and devising the means of filling it is very interesting and worth while.
I remember my first experience of using a mobile phone—it was during an election in 1984. It was a great big heavy thing; you had to carry around heavy batteries because the thing never lasted long before it needed charging up again. I did not think that it was much use, but today, mobile phones are light and tiny. The only thing you need is good eyesight so that you can see the numbers. However, you can do all sorts of things such as sending text messages and photographs. I have just learnt to do that, which is why I mentioned it—I would not have done so otherwise.
A new world-wide industry, of vast economic significance, has developed because of the improved design of the equipment and the technology which, within a generation or so, will make the public phone booth as obsolete as the gas lamp which, in turn, disappeared as a result of the introduction of the better designed, more efficient and less labour-intensive electric lamp standard.
It is clear that design is not limited to making objects better; it is also about bringing into existence more efficient and functional objects. Perhaps this is what the Design Council means when it talks about producing environments for people to work in that are more pleasant or promote more efficient operations—or, preferably, both.
1166 Britain has long been a leader in design in every aspect of invention or in the delivery of services. The Moscow underground may be something of great beauty, but the London Underground map is a classic of design that has stood the test of decades. It has survived the introduction of several additional subway lines and is a model of clarity for locals and foreigners who need to find their way around. In fact, as my noble friend Lord Kirkham mentioned, that is especially so when we compare it with the maps of the Paris Metro or the New York subway. I do not want to be rude to them, but they resemble plates of spaghetti.
The London Underground map is an outstanding case of design improving public service. It also shows that good design can be timeless. In my former business, I used a machine for filling envelopes with forms and literature which is still used to this day. I was amazed to find that the machine that I used was designed in 1906. Apart from adjusting the use of simple knobs rather than complicated nuts and screws it was, in effect, exactly the same. Similarly, the qwerty keyboard, on which I typed my notes today, has served English-speaking typists throughout the world for almost 100 years.
It is beyond argument that well designed schools and classrooms are just as essential for encouraging learning and good teaching as well designed text books, while old-fashioned, decrepit classrooms encourage slovenly habits among the pupils.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Gavron, I am moving on rather quickly, as time is passing and much of what I was going to say has been said.
In a series of searching Written Questions in another place last summer and autumn, the honourable Member for Stourbridge elicited the information that although the Department for Education and Skills had one of the ministerial design champions, it had not sponsored a single project—at least, not as at 26th February 2002.
By contrast, it is a totally different story at the Department of Health. Research has come up with the fairly obvious conclusion, which many noble Lords have mentioned today, that medical treatment is better and recovery quicker in a pleasant, well designed hospital than in one that resembles a Victorian workhouse.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, is the ministerial design champion for the Department of Health. Scouring through a series of Written Answers, I see that he is commendably mentoring four National Health Service schemes in central Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester and Walsall. To its credit, the Department of Health employs 47 chartered surveyors, 14 architects and four town planners in addition to outside specialist expertise. When someone who knows what to do harnesses that knowledge with whoever is to design a project, that makes it so much better.
Public transport is another important matter, particularly the objective of persuading more people to use it rather than their cars. I suspect that penal taxes will not be the answer. Instead, getting people to 1167 abandon their cars and use public transport needs an adequate number of buses and trains, running with adequate frequency and on schedule. No less important is that those buses and trains should be well designed and comfortable. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, made similar comments when he was talking about the design of trains and being packed in like sardines. That is hopeless—who wants to use that as an alternative to a comfortable car?
I give credit, however, to the Civil Service for the efforts that it has conspicuously made over many years to redesign many of the forms that it sends us for a variety of purposes, so that they are clearer and easier to fill in by members of the public. The noble Lord, Lord Gavron, mentioned that as well. Doubtless, they are better because it is probably easier for computers to read them, but it is very important none the less.
The debate has shown that there is a consensus in favour of good design, not just for aesthetic reasons but for sound, commercial and environmental reasons, and in the interests of efficiency, delivering essential public services. I shall be very interested, as I am sure all your Lordships will be, in hearing the thoughts that the Government have to offer, not in the form of general platitudes or talk about more departmental design champions, but indicating what active steps they are taking to encourage good design in every field in which the Government, as the font of all public services, have an interest.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston)
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on securing this quite excellent debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, said, it comes at an important time. This Government have increased levels of capital investment in our public services to their highest, in real terms, for well over a generation. In just four years, we have doubled levels of investment to some £38 billion in 2003–04.
I echo, too, the views of my noble friend Lord Pendry and others. These levels of capital investment are essential to deliver our main ambition, which is the reform of public services. The relationship between this ambition and the role of good design can be simply stated. Understanding and responding to customer experience is the key to successful public service reforms. By redesigning our systems for tracking the views of the users of our public services, we can then redesign services to match more closely the public's needs and priorities. As the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, have emphasised, we need that stronger focus on customer needs.
The Government also believe that it is vital that public servants, politicians and other professionals think imaginatively about innovative ways in which we can realise the huge potential of good design to improve and even revolutionise sectors of our public services. As the Prime Minister stated when launching the Better Public Buildings initiative in 2000, we have 1168 asked Ministers and departments to achieve real change in the quality of design across the public sector so that we leave a legacy of well liked public buildings delivering well appreciated public services.
Good design is not just a matter of aesthetics, although we should always be aware of the profound impact of attractive products and distinctive buildings on the reputation of institutions and towns and the self-esteem of those who live and work in them. Good design is also about utility and service delivery. Better designed hospitals allow medical staff to deliver higher standards of healthcare and encourage patients to get better quicker, as we have heard. Staff and pupils can no doubt advise on how better designed schools can make teaching more pleasant and productive. Carefully designed local environments help the police to fight crime and promote community safety. In short, good design is a necessity for all our people, not a costly indulgence for a minority of aesthetes.
I hope to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, therefore, that this Government have learnt from experience that good design need not cost more over the lifetime of the product or building. That is a lesson my colleagues in the Treasury would readily endorse. Good design can also demonstrate how new technology can promote better ways to build, manage and maintain new facilities. When one considers that design investment is usually only about 0.1 per cent of the total cost of building, maintaining and delivering services within a public building, one can see the potential for improvement. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, warned, whether through municipal ambition or private speculative building, all around us in the public realm is the dismal evidence of past failure and the false economy of saving through the neglect of decent design.
As my noble friend Lord Borrie said, we must be alert to the lessons of that history. Given past mistakes, this Government have also had to start from a poor position. In contracting, the public sector was not often a competent client. In the 1980s and 1990s, building projects typically suffered cost over-runs and delays of some 60 per cent. That is why we invited Sir John Egan to produce his report on Rethinking Construction, which demonstrates how the standardisation of procurement techniques and the transfer of construction risk to the private sector could help us control our capital expenditure plans. By setting tough targets, we now have far more buildings delivered on time, on budget and with fewer defects.
I, too, share the fond memories of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, of those exciting early days of the Design Council in the 1950s and 1960s. He was pleased to learn that we have resourced two organisations—the Design Council and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) —to champion the pursuit of quality design across the procurement process. We understand that we can achieve the most efficient procurement process in the world, but unless we have a committed client working with talented designers, we will still end up with a poor product. We need only to look back at some of the disastrous public building strategies of the 1960s to see that future generations 1169 will scrutinise our contribution according to what we deliver, not just how fast we deliver, on the planned £38 billion spend. We, too, want to ensure that PFI projects do not skimp on design, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, fears.
We certainly have no cause for complacency. As the Audit Commission recently reminded us in respect of school design, we are still not achieving on a consistent basis the standards we strive for. Nevertheless, in responding to the debate, I want first to set out what we consider we have achieved to date before considering what more we need to do.
We have heard from distinguished former Ministers, such as the noble Lords, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville and Lord Wakeham, who in their time effectively championed good design and we try to maintain that tradition. Following the launch of the Better Public Buildings programme in 2000, the Prime Minister appointed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, to chair a group of ministerial design champions.
A Minister champions good design in each government department with a significant capital expenditure programme. This group has been meeting for more than two years and it has made impressive progress. Each department now has a clear action plan for improving design standards which it is systematically implementing. Those are monitored by the CABE.
That system of champions has been replicated across the public sector so that, for example, every NHS trust—hospital and primary care—now has its own design champion. The same applies to regional development agencies, the Housing Corporation and a growing number of local authorities. Each Minister is personally mentoring between one and four large capital projects to understand and influence the procurement process first hand.
Each department has been working hard to improve design standards. The importance of design in healthcare is reflected in empirical evidence from around the world, which demonstrates that high standards of design lead to quicker patient recovery times and improved levels of staff recruitment and retention.
Let me amplify the example of good practice in health given by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and cite one of the studies mentioned by my noble friend Lord Rea. The University of Nottingham compared three healthcare environments before and after they were redesigned. The schemes included a cardiology ward with improved lighting, better external views and the clustering of beds in smaller groups; and a coronary day-care unit with better beds and patient facilities, larger windows and a visitors area. Measured healthcare improvements included lower pulse rate and blood pressure readings among patients; shorter post-operative stays—eight days down from 11 days; and lower prescribed drug intakes. That is a remarkable outcome and the contribution of the noble 1170 Lord, Lord Chan, a distinguished paediatrician, is a personal testament to the importance of design for patients.
The Department of Health recognised early on that the NHS was achieving inconsistent standards of design in the early stages of its hospital building programme. There were some clear winners, such as the Norwich and Norfolk hospital, but some designs were out-dated in terms of our desire to create patient-focused environments. As a result, the NHS appointed His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales as its design champion and has partnered CABE on a variety of initiatives to improve standards. It has set up a design review process, which should help reassure your Lordships, so that every new hospital project is scrutinised for its quality at the key stage of the PFI process. It has revised its guidance to ensure that it reflects up-to-date healthcare management.
As the noble Lord, Lord Chan, may know, the NHS has also introduced a system of design quality indicators to help all the users of a hospital to be involved in the design process. Finally, it has sent the CABE to help individual hospitals and primary healthcare providers in the early stages of the design process. On hospital signage, I trust that the designers will take note of the lady mentioned by my noble friend Lord Gavron, who, like myself, does not have the Latin, and design something more functional.
The recent Audit Commission report tells a similar story in the education sector. A few years ago, the then Secretary of State for Education asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to explore the main impacts of capital investment in schools on pupil performance. It found that capital investment had the strongest influence on staff morale, pupil motivation and effective learning times. In the early years of this Government, we found that there was a considerable variation in the extent to which the LEAs and individual schools were responding to the design challenge. There were some real success stories, but too many schools were providing environments that were functional but not inspiring.
In response, the DfES has partnered both the CABE and the Design Council to drive the message home. The CABE is now working with every LEA going into a major round of PFI school procurement to act as a confidant and adviser in the early stages of that process. Both organisations are serving on the School Buildings Advisory Group, which also includes educationists, head teachers and designers. The DfES has recently published the results of Classroom of the Future, which used design and innovation to plot a series of responses to the changes in education environments we can expect over the next 10 years and beyond.
Perhaps most significantly, the Secretary of State is commissioning a series of exemplary primary school and secondary school designs, which will combine great architecture and urban design with a drive to maximise the benefits of off-site modular construction techniques. These exemplars will draw on the best 1171 design talent in this country and beyond and will act as a resource for all LEAs and individual schools entering into a major building project.
I cannot match the breadth of aesthetic influence on the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, of his school days, but I was fortunate enough to attend Scotland Street school in Glasgow. Sadly, it was the only school ever built by the brilliant Charles Rennie Mackintosh and I wish I had taken my school desk away with me when I left.
As the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, mentioned, the department has been funding an organisation called School Works to examine new ways of involving pupils and teachers in the design process. Its first active case study was the Kingsdale secondary school in Southwark, which has just achieved a 20 per cent increase in the number of pupils achieving at least five GCSEs at A to C grade level.
All this effort does not start just when children enter primary school. Among our most successful design initiatives have been Sure Start centres and Neighbourhood Nurseries. In both cases, we used national design competitions to set the standards of design at the outset of those initiatives.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, reminded us of the importance of educating an ever more creative generation of graduates. I trust that this debate will demonstrate to students of design the broad and strong support for their future role, as witnessed by the entertaining contributions of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller.
On courts and prisons, the Lord Chancellor has pioneered new approaches to the design of court buildings. Again from the outset he has used CABE as a critical friend. He has also employed the internationally-renowned architect, Ian Ritchie, to set appropriately high standards for these landmark buildings.
At the same time, Ministers at the Home Office are working with the Design Council and the independent design organisation, the Do Tank, to rethink the design of prisons. The importance of that issue was highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. As I learnt previously from the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, the cost of keeping a prisoner in gaol each year is twice the cost of Eton School's fees and six out of 10 ex-offenders are still returning to prison within two years. We have to work harder to incentivise those building and managing our prisons to design systems of detention which place greater emphasis on improving the future life chances of the prisoner, and reducing the probability of reoffence.
Of course, the role of design in the delivery of public services is not confined to the delivery of public buildings. In a few days' time, in another place, the Deputy Prime Minister will be publishing his Communities Plan which will set out how this Government intend to create neighbourhoods in different parts of the country which offer the better quality of life which the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, rightly demands. We face two different problems: the 1172 need to deliver additional housing in London and the South East; and the need to renew the housing stock in parts of northern England and the West Midlands. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, that the importance of design will be branded into the Communities Plan. Excellence in urban design will be essential in creating higher density mixed use neighbourhoods. This will require the skills of architects, landscapers and planners who will have among their concerns the needs of the elderly, as described by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross.
The Deputy Prime Minister has already announced at the Urban Summit that CABE will be asked to set up a new unit, CABE space, to champion the design and management of public space, including parks, playgrounds, squares and streets. At present, over half of local authorities have no strategy for making the most out of their green spaces. It is not surprising, therefore, that 30 per cent of the population will not use our parks at all.
Part of the process is designing places that are safe. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently working with the Home Office, CABE and the police to revise the planning guidelines on designing out crime. Again, there are many empirical studies that show a clear relationship between good urban design and improved community safety. We need to use Secured by Design principles, including increasing natural surveillance and reducing rat-runs, to help local communities and the police deter criminal and other anti-social behaviour.
I hope that your Lordships will agree that this programme of activity demonstrates our commitment to raising our consciousness across Government when it comes to investment in quality design. But we cannot be complacent. I want to close by concentrating on what still remains to be done. Last year, we asked CABE and the Office of Government Commerce to review our design performance in the procurement of public buildings. The report of their review was published last October. The 11 recommendations they made have been accepted by every government department and by the National Audit Office.
Let me add to the praise of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, and many others. I feel particularly privileged to speak in the same debate in which the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, makes his maiden speech. It was an outstanding contribution which I take to heart as a Minister. in a previous life, as chairman of the Scottish Media Group, I was fortunate enough to be a tenant in his wonderful ITN building in Gray's Inn Road; and before that as a journalist who once worked in the old newspaper building which stood on the site I congratulate him on the dramatic use he made of the depth of the old print room. As a former Transport Minister, I should say that if one wishes to travel on the Tube, go to Canary Wharf. The station, designee: by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, is well worth the journey.
1173 The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, spoke of transport. I understand the problem with taxis. I see them also mutating into people carriers in many of the market places up and down the land. The noble Lord and I are both impressed by the advances made by London Transport with its low-floor buses, and so on—despite the fact that it is at the expense of that splendid classic, the Routemaster, which is a splendid vehicle as long as one does not fall off the platform.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned noise barriers. On the transport side, I assure him that we are very conscious of the needs there. The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, spoke persuasively of the changing needs of an ageing population, comments which should carry across Government. I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Gavron, and the experience with the Royal Opera House and its thoroughly enjoyable outcome.
In conclusion, I agree with the general thrust of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and other noble Lords who have spoken so persuasively from their wide experience of business. We all agree that we have extraordinary design talent in this country, arguably the best in the world. We are already reaping the benefits of that design talent in export receipts. It would be a missed opportunity if we were not to maximise the use of that talent in our drive to improve the quality of public services. We want the best designers and the best architects designing new public buildings and products. Our message to the private sector is quite simple. If you do not employ this design talent, you are reducing your chances of winning business from the Government. Once again, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, on securing this debate and congratulate both the Design Council and CABE on their work to date. They enjoy our full support for the future.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Lord Freyberg
My Lords, I congratulate all noble Lords who contributed their impressive and considerable expertise to the debate. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Foster, on his extremely informative and accomplished maiden speech, bringing to bear his enormous knowledge in this area. We all look forward to his future contributions on this and other matters.
I know how seriously the Government take the question of design in public services. The fact that current measures are frequently not achieving the high standards is no reflection on their interest in the subject but evidence that there is no single, simple set of criteria which can be implemented. However, I hope that the Minister will agree with me when I say that it is well worth persevering to improve all aspects of design in the public sector and that when a high standard is achieved, even in just one project, rewards are enormous. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.