On the 18th December 2017 Lord Whitty led a debate on the report of the European Union Committee – Brexit: trade in non-financial services (18th Report, Session 2016-17, HL Paper 135). The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I am no expert on the technical elements of trade in non-financial services, so have listened to speeches with both interest and admiration. Most of the points I wanted to make have already been made, so, given the time constraints, I will make a single point that lies behind the detail of the report—the reason why the frictionless movement of talent matters. I invite the Minister to note what I say, but not necessarily respond to it tonight.
The services under debate all deal with people and, in many cases, with people who do not simply produce things or look for a healthy balance sheet at the expense of everything else. They have to do with creativity, culture and connectivity in its widest sense. The benefits as well as the costs of cultural services are sometimes hard to quantify in cash or purely economic terms. My point here is simply to ensure that the particular—perhaps peculiar—nature of some of these services is recognised. The digital economy is a means to a cultural end: connecting people and services, shaping communication and culture, moulding world views as well as behaviours, both individual and social. Creative industries such as broadcasting go beyond the manufacture of things that can be traded in order to satisfy consumer need or desire: they do something to the pool we swim in as human beings, creating and shaping cultural and societal norms as well as language.
I guess this is what concerns me in every debate about Brexit, and I state it again here simply in order to keep it on the record: the thriving of our economy is crucial to the well-being of our people and our culture, but the economy is not the end; it is the means to an end which is human flourishing and the common good. If we forget this, we become merely utilitarian and materialist. It might sound arcane to some, but the services addressed in this report have to do with values, languages, the meeting of people, cross-cultural communication, the arts, exposure to the unfamiliar, and access to that which is alien and strange. They are, therefore, important for shaping how we see the world, ourselves and human meaning. Perhaps more than other industries and services, they influence future generations in ways that others do not.
Edmund Burke stressed the importance of intergenerational justice in a way that transcends the immediate challenges of today’s economic demands. In the current edition of the New Statesman, Adrian Pabst notes how Burke’s,
“emphasis on covenantal ties between generations can help us think through the growing economic injustice between young and old today”.
He goes on to write:
“Society is not a contract of individuals. It is a partnership between the living, the dead and those yet to be born … Human beings are not atomised agents maximising their utility. And they are not anonymous carriers of historical laws”.
The creative services build culture. I hope that the concerns expressed in the report concerning the risks to them will be heeded, or, at the very least—pace the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes—that the potential benefits to these services in a changing and challenging technological environment will be identified more clearly as negotiations continue.