§ [FIRST DAY]
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.To be selected to move the Motion for this Address confers a singular honour on the Conway division of Caernarvon-shire and also on the Principality of Wales. Not many Welsh Members have had this privilege, and I am deeply conscious of the responsibility that is mine and thankful for the traditional indulgence of the House.
In the past, when an hon. Member moved this Motion, he would have referred to a Gracious Speech and a ceremony that few, if any, of his constituents would have heard or witnessed. That is not so today. This morning, through the magical medium of television, thousands of my constituents, together with millions of Her Majesty's other subjects, were virtually present at the traditional opening of this new Session of Parliament.
In the words of the Gracious Speech, if I may use a slight amendment of tense, outwardly they will have seen the pageantry and the symbols of authority and state; but in their hearts they will surely respond to the spirit of hope and purpose which inspires our Parliamentary tradition. Above all, they will have been impressed by the calm dignity and grace of Her Majesty and by the charm and clarity of her voice. I know that the House will endorse my saying that we, and those we represent, all wish to express to Her Majesty our pleasure, our gratitude and our admiration.
This has been a memorable year for the Principality of Wales. The Empire and Commonwealth Games, at Cardiff, and the activities of the Festival of Wales in themselves assured that. But the occasion which marks the year above all and which commends it so memorably to 9 the people of Wales, is the creation by Her Majesty, last July, of His Royal Highness Prince Charles Prince of Wales.
The announcement of this gave widespread pleasure and all Wales rejoiced. It was in the county part of which I represent that the title was originally conferred by Edward I on his infant son. I am delighted to express our gratitude that Her Majesty was pleased to do the same, and to say how much we look forward to the time when His Royal Highness will be traditionally presented to the people of Wales at Caernarvon Castle.
In moving this Motion, I believe that it is traditional to refer to one's constituency. It is also customary to be noncontroversial. I hope that I shall not be in breach of the latter custom when I say that I have the privilege of representing the most beautiful constituency in the whole of Britain. The Conway division of Caernarvonshire covers a substantial and important part of the old Kingdom of Gwynedd and up to about 650 years ago we had a remarkable history of having been singularly and successfully inhospitable to long successions of Roman, Saxon, Norman and English visitors. I am happy to relate that things are different today.
Every year, we profitably embrace thousands of invaders from across Offa's Dyke, who retreat, in due course, healthier, happier and perfectly contented to be a little poorer. In my constituency, the tourist industry is a major industry, and I was interested to note in the Gracious Speech the references to the proposed repeal of the Catering Wages Act. This is a subject of controversy, so I shall not comment further. It is certain, however, that all who are concerned with the standard and progress of the tourist industry in Britain will await further details with much interest.
Another major industry in my constituency is agriculture. Most of the farms are well within the category of "small farms". The House knows well the difficulties that small farmers have faced in the past, and, despite the fact that they have in recent years received substantial help from guarantees and production grants, it has been widely felt that in the general interest of agriculture and the country more could be done. I am pleased that the Gracious Speech mentions that legislation will be intro- 10 duced to enable special assistance to be given. One of the major difficulties faced by the small farmer is that of obtaining reasonable medium-term credit, and the announcement that further support will be provided for the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation will be particularly welcomed.
There are parts of my constituency which join an area which has suffered for many years from a high percentage of unemployment. There are indigenous reasons for this, which makes it a particularly stubborn problem. Remedial measures have been taken and there are hopeful signs of improvement. I mention this because we in Wales have personal knowledge of the sadness of unemployment, and the expression in the Gracious Speech of the Government's determination to ensure a stable level of employment is particularly welcomed. But the security of employment everywhere is greatly dependent on the strength of sterling at home and abroad, and I am sure that the whole House will approve that part of the Gracious Speech which expresses the Government's resolve to ensure that strength.
Coming from a part of the United Kingdom, as I do, which has an outstanding record in education, I was distinctly interested in that part of the Gracious Speech which promises new plans for developing the nation's schools. We in Wales have long believed in universal education as being the great equaliser of the conditions of men and as such the most vital part of social machinery. Today, it is more than that. The viability of a modern State depends on the extent of the training and qualifications of its citizens.
To invest as fully and as generously as possible in education today is not just a moral duty of Government; it is good, practical business. In this era of science, and in this world of competition, a nation which fails to make full use of its intelligence deserves its inevitable ignominious decline. I feel sure that the whole House will endorse that part of the Gracious Speech which promises to encourage the extension of facilities for higher education in the universities and technical schools.
Great interest will be shown in our debates, and outside the House, in the proposals relating to pensions. Opinions 11 will undoubtedly differ. I think, however, that we can agree that the provision for old age presents to any Government today not only a social obligation but a major problem, and that whatever may be our differences it is clear that for the future prosperity of the country and the protection of existing and future pensioners any pension proposals must be based on sound financial principles.
I think, too, that most of us agree that a pension related in some measure to earnings before retirement is more in line with modern needs than the present system. In the case of non-pensioners there will be general approval of that part of the Gracious Speech which promises further encouragement to home ownership. With the increasing ability of people of working age to be more self-providing, it is in the interests of us all that they should be owners as well as earners, and I welcome all encouragement that can be given in this direction.
The whole House will echo the hope expressed in the Gracious Speech that the negotiations due to begin in Geneva on Friday, on the suspension of the testing of nuclear weapons, may prove fruitful. We welcome the initiative that the Government and the Government of the United States have taken in this matter. I had the privilege of visiting the United States this summer, and I have no doubt that the people and Government of that great country are as anxious as we are to preserve peace and justice and promote improved standards of life throughout the world.
I hope that the Government will not only seek to promote the closest co-operation within the Commonwealth, as stated in the Gracious Speech, but will also continue to promote the closest understanding and mutual trust between the United States and ourselves, for in that unity lies the greatest prospect for peace.
The Gracious Speech indicates that there will be much work for us in this Session of Parliament. I pray that the outcome of our activities will greatly benefit Britain and the whole world.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
I beg to second the Motion.
It is a great honour to be chosen to second the Motion for an Address today. 12 In choosing a particular Member the House honours not so much the Member concerned as those whom he represents. I know that my constituents in the Eastleigh division of Hampshire are deeply sensitive of the honour accorded to them today, especially as we are a new division, lacking the smart political pedigrees of our neighbours in Southampton, Winchester and the New Forest.
Geographically, the Eastleigh division is a horseshoe imposed over the great port of Southampton and separating it from the rich farming land of Hampshire. We are essentially an industrial and residential constituency, although there are, to the north, some noted pig-breeders, with their Wessex herds and, to the east, important growers and market gardeners. The village of Botley, for many years the home of that great Tory radical, William Cobbett, claims to have given birth to the English strawberry, although the leaf was subsequently borrowed for use in another place.
Our industrial interests are varied. They include railways, aircraft, boat building, cable making pharmaceutical products, a bacon factory, school furniture, and a galaxy of small light industries. Although the Borough of Eastleigh is dominated by the great carriage works and the great locomotive works of British Railways, over the constituency as a whole the picture is one of small enterprise—commercial, industrial and horticultural.
Residentially, we are becoming increasingly a dormitory for Southampton, which creates, in what were once quiet Hampshire villages, particular problems both for the older residents and for the local authorities. That is why we welcome especially the reference in the Gracious Speech to improving the basis of compensation for the compulsory acquisition of land. Most of the victims of compulsory purchase orders in the Eastleigh division are small proprietors, who can ill afford anything less than full market value.
Because of my division's close association with ships and aeroplanes, my constituents are keenly interested in what is happening in the world around them. They will therefore be pleased to learn from the Gracious Speech about the continued efforts to be made to reach agreement upon disarmament. They will wish our negotiators well when they meet at Geneva on Friday to endeavour to secure 13 agreement with the Russians and Americans upon a controlled suspension of nuclear tests. We pray that this may be a small beginning, leading to great ends.
Prior to being elected a Member of this House I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of travelling extensively, on business, through many parts of the Commonwealth. I was therefore especially pleased to hear in the Gracious Speech about the success of the Commonwealth Economic Conference at Montreal. But the same spirit of determined cooperation has yet to animate the negotiations in Europe for a Free Trade Area. Having recently returned from Strasbourg, where I was a delegate to the Council of Europe, I know that when the same political determination is found in the O.E.E.C. discussions as inspired the Commonwealth Conference, then these negotiations can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, because the technical difculties are not insuperable. European trade must be outward-looking and not inward-looking. There is no room in the modern world for a "little Europe," save as a museum piece.
The Gracious Speech gives notice that further Measures are to be introduced to promote the social well-being of the people of this realm. This purpose must appeal to both sides of the House although it is possible that there may not be complete unanimity in the House when, in due course, the details of each Measure are laid before us. Therefore, I should like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) had to say about the proposals for placing the National Insurance Scheme on a sound financial basis, and for relating pension rights to earnings. Although the Eastleigh division was created only in 1955 we have our share of old people. In the past adequate provision by the able-bodied for their old age was made difficult by the long years of unemployment before the war, while the savings of those who were able to save have been continually eroded by inflation. It is right that those who are at work should make adequate provision for their old age, so that in due course they do not become an intolerable burden upon youth.
My constituents have been disturbed by the increase in crime, particularly crimes 14 of violence. In Eastleigh we do not like thugs. Therefore, my constituents will welcome the determination shown in the Gracious Speech to deal with this problem. I hope that the proposed penal reforms will cover not only the young thug but also the old lag. I mention this further problem because of my experience with those few of my constituents who are at Winchester. I refer to the prison, not the school.
My constituents will also welcome the new plans for developing the nation's schools. To us in Hampshire education has been a particular burden because of the great increase in our population since 1939. However, our county council has made great progress in recent years. I should like, in all humility, to pay tribute to two hon. Members who serve that authority so enthusiastically—my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Pott) and the hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King).
In view of the industrial character of my constituency I am delighted to learn of the priority in education to be given to technical colleges and secondary schools. I am happy to tell the House of the great improvements which have been made, and are being made, in the secondary schools in my constituency and which have taken much of the sting out of failure to pass the 11-plus examination. I hope that employers will respond by providing better facilities for apprentice training. British Railways have just set an excellent example by opening a new apprentice school in Eastleigh.
Lest hon. Members should feel that we in Eastleigh are too obsessed with the the science and the craft of manufacture, I would refer them to the opinion of the great Dr. Johnson, thatWords are the daughters of earth and things are the sons of heaven.No tears need be shed nor apologies made for the fact that we are an industrial society. We have advanced a long way from "the dark satanic mills" of the early Industrial Revolution. There is no reason why the arts and the humanities should not flourish in such a society as naturally as do the sciences. It is worth recalling that the great masterpieces of Flemish, Florentine and Venetian arts were the products of mercantile societies and that Leonardo da Vinci was a professional engineer as well as an artist of 15 superlative genius. We in industry are no hedonistic automatons. We, too, have souls. We, too, have our feelings. We also have our prejudices and our passions. So we know from our own experience that the American sociologist, Lewis Mumford, was right when he wrote:If you fall in love with a machine, there is something wrong with your love-life and if you worship a machine there is something wrong with your religion.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
It is an ancient custom of the House that the Leader of the Opposition, in rising to open this debate, should first of all congratulate on behalf of the whole House the mover and seconder of the Address. I do so today with very special pleasure. The two speeches to which we have just listened were models of the kind of thing which should be said on these occasions. Both hon. Members are young men, both personable, both have fine war records, and both managed to be entertaining and, on the whole, non-controversial, while at the same time getting across to us some interesting ideas and thoughts of their own.
The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) represents at any rate a very beautiful district. We will not argue about whether it is the most beautiful in the country. He represents a part of North Wales. I am delighted that to him fell the honour of moving the Address today. He must occasionally feel rather lonely as a Tory Member in Wales, but I am sure that in his remarks about Wales he had all Welsh Members with him on this occasion. He referred, quite properly, to the unemployment in the neighbourhood of his constituency, and it is indeed a grave problem to which we shall have to return perhaps on more than one occasion during this Session.
The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. D. Price) has something in common with me; he is described, at any rate, as an economist. I offer him my condolences. Perhaps he suffers even more than I do, because he is a younger man and can be said to have known something about economics more recently. He is also the Member of Parliament for a constituency which it will be agreed is highly marginal. I am delighted that he should have had this one occasion on which to second the 16 Address. He will not have another one in representing Eastleigh.
Today is a rather special occasion, not only because we are starting the debate on the Address, but because for the first time the opening of Parliament was televised. Anxieties were expressed earlier in some quarters that the Opposition might be prejudiced by what occurred. Indeed, some commentators advised that we should not have agreed to the televising of the opening of Parliament. For my part, even if there had been a risk of that kind, I think that it would have been very wrong for the Opposition, merely because they thought their political fortunes might be affected, to come between the people and the opening of Parliament. But I must say that after listening to the Gracious Speech, any anxieties I might have had were removed. Apart from some phrases to begin with and the moving last paragraph, I am afraid that the rest of the Speech seemed to be a rather unimpressive statement of stale platitudes and a dull catalogue of mostly minor legislation which nobody in his senses could possibly associate with Her Majesty the Queen.
However, as I have said, there were some passages which rose above a statement of that kind, and I should like to say for this part of the House, and, I am sure, for the whole House, that we warmly welcome the visits which Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh are to make to Canada and to Ghana. It is indeed an admirable thing that this Commonwealth of ours should be held together, and be able to be held together, by visits of this kind.
I should like to make two other comments on Commonwealth affairs. First of all, I warmly welcome the statement that Nigeria is now definitely to become independent on 1st October, 1960, and I should like to extend my congratulations to all those who are responsible for that decision. Secondly, I should like to take the opportunity of welcoming the Prime Minister of Canada who is so shortly to arrive in this country on a visit. We are very happy that he is coming, and we shall be glad to see him. We hope that he will stay and see something of our labours here as well as other aspects of British life.
I do not propose to say very much on the subject of foreign affairs. We shall 17 hope, Mr. Speaker, with your consent to have at least one day devoted to this subject during the debate on the Address, but in view of the immense importance of events in the Middle East there are a few things which I think should be said on that subject.
Shortly before the Summer Recess, there came the revolution in Iraq and the decision of the United States and British Governments to send troops to the Lebanon and to Jordan. I must say that the phrase in the Gracious Speech about the Middle East, in the light of all that, seems to me curiously mild, subdued and detached. All that is suggested is that Her Majesty's Government:…"will co-operate with the United Nations and the countries of the Middle East in any measures likely to relieve international tension in that troubled area and to take account of the needs and aspirations of its peoples.Personally, I think it is a good thing that Her Majesty's Government are taking this rather more subdued line, but looking back on what has occurred, I cannot help reflecting that it seems extremely doubtful whether the intervention of last July really achieved anything whatever. It is hard to find a single correspondent in either Lebanon or Jordan who thinks that the intervention was of any value whatever. What has happened in Lebanon has been almost exactly what it was reported was expected to happen immediately prior to the American intervention. There is a new President. The very man whose name was suggested has become President, and at last, to our relief, the civil war has come to an end. It has been patched up. As for Jordan, there is still no evidence whatever that there was any real threat of external attack, and while I am very glad that British troops are now being withdrawn, I think he would be a bold man who would claim that the internal security of that country is any greater.
Further, let us remember that all this began with a revolution in Iraq which was alleged to have been fomented from outside. Very few people say that now. It seems generally to be recognised that this was, whether we liked it or not, an internal affair. Indeed, there is very little evidence that the present Government of Iraq are entirely friendly with the present Government of Egypt. I hope, however, that Her Majesty's Government will not try once again to base their Middle 18 Eastern policy on supporting certain Arab States as against other Arab States. I believe that that policy, enshrined in the Bagdad Pact, has brought nothing but harm to our reputation and that in trying to back some Arab States against others all that we do is to turn all of them against us.
Finally, perhaps the most important event in that part of the world in the last few weeks has been the grant of substantial Soviet Russian aid to Egypt in the building of the Aswan Dam. I do not want to exaggerate the dangers of this; indeed, it would be well if we took up a fairly relaxed attitude towards it. But to anyone who supposes that this is a triumph of British diplomacy, I can only say that that seems to me the opposite of the truth.
I should like to say a few words on the even more tragic situation in Cyprus. On many occasions, from these benches and on other occasions, we have deplored, as have all of us, the violence, murder and terrorism which unfortunately have been rife in that island for so long. We have made repeated appeals to Cypriots, to E.O.K.A. and to the Turks to stop violence. All of us must agree that violence of this kind stimulates and is stimulated by hatred and solves nothing. Having said that. I must add certain things.
I deeply regret the failure of Her Majesty's Government to follow up the offer of Archbishop Makarios that he was prepared, rather surprisingly I thought, to throw over Enosis. I believe that that offer could have been taken up and should have been taken up, and that had it been taken up we might have avoided further violence in Cyprus. I also regret the remarks of the Colonial Secretary about Cyprus being Turkey's offshore island. I think it was unwise for him to talk in that way. It cannot but have made relations with Greece even more difficult and have hampered the Foreign Secretary in such efforts as were being made to bridge the gap with the Greeks.
I also regret that the Greek Government have now rejected the proposal for a conference which emerged from the discussions with N.A.T.O. We have always believed that the best way to handle this problem was to get the N.A.T.O. authorities, either the Secretary-General or other members of N.A.T.O., to play their part 19 and help us as mediators. They were making some progress with this, and I still hope that, despite what has been announced, the Greek Government will have second thoughts on this matter. After all, in the last resort they do not want eternal conflict with us and with Turkey. We are members of the same Alliance and—unless there are facts about this matter which are unknown to us—it seems to me that there can be no harm at least, from their point of view, in taking part in such a conference.
I pass to the home front. There are a number of non-controversial Measures. Even the references to controls and the possible proximity of a General Election are unlikely to stir up any great party passion about the protection of deer in Scotland. Nor is there likely to be any great controversy—at least I hope not—about that far more important matter of legislation to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Mental Illness. I am glad that the Gracious Speech refers to the gravity of the increase in crime. Indeed, so important do we regard this subject that we have suggested to you, Mr. Speaker, that Friday might be set aside for a debate upon it in a constructive spirit, so that all hon. Members who wish to do so may make their contributions to the solution of that difficult but extremely important problem.
I notice that there is to be a Bill to improve the basis of compensation for the compulsory acquisition of land. I suppose this means increasing the compensation to landlords. There may be hard cases, but we say that proper compensation for landlords who suffer from planning should be provided by charging landlords who gain from it, that is to say, out of betterment and not from a further charge on rates and taxes.
This principle was laid down and implemented in the Labour Government's Town and Country Planning Act. It is very unfortunate that the Prime Minister, when Minister of Housing and Local Government, repealed this Act. He abolished it and reintroduced the market value on the one side for private sale and lower prices for compulsory acquisition. This is the Measure which has, in fact, involved the Government in their present difficulty.
20 There is to be a Bill on factory legislation. Generally speaking, I have little doubt that we shall support that, but I must point out a serious omission. There is no suggestion of legislation to implement the Gowers Report. I had to mention this matter last year after the Government had dropped their Shops Bill. Once again office workers, shop workers and railway workers are to be denied the protection which the Gowers Report recommended for them. I am particularly surprised that this should be so, because the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport was himself a member of the Gowers Committee and announced only this summer that the Government were fully in favour of the principle of legislation for railway workers.
I see that there is to be a Measure to encourage home ownership. We shall await with interest what is brought forward. There is not much doubt that the best way of encouraging home ownership is to reduce interest rates so as to enable people to get their homes more cheaply. All that the Government have done so far in that matter has had exactly the opposite effect. The average mortgagee with a house costing say £2,000 has to pay about 12s. 6d. more in his repayments than he would have done when the Labour Government went out of office.
Our policy on this is perfectly plain. We believe that it is necessary and right that there should be low rates of interest for mortgagees. We also believe that local authorities should be empowered to make loans in certain cases amounting to 100 per cent. of the purchase value of the house and that those loans should not be confined to new houses but should be extended to old houses. We shall wait with interest to see whether what the Government have to offer comes up to the high standards which we lay down in this matter.
There is to be a Bill to put into statutory form the rules and orders which were introduced under emergency wartime legislation—unless they are to be dropped altogether. We do not in the least oppose giving statutory form to what were purely temporary provisions. That is certainly right and proper, but it all depends on what exactly is included in the Bill. We hold strongly that no Government should be deprived of the 21 necessary powers of guiding, encouraging and controlling the economy of the country in the interests of the nation. We have heard of only one particular Order which is to be dropped. That is the Industrial Disputes Order. No doubt my hon. Friends will have more to say on this subject. I find it hard to understand why the Government thought it necessary to abolish the Industrial Disputes Tribunal which, since 1951, has settled over 1,000 disputes which otherwise might easily have involved strikes. I do not understand why they have got rid of something, which may not have been enormously important, but which certainly has contributed to industrial peace, without apparently even consulting effectively the Trades Union Congress.
There is a reference to other Measures being laid before us in due course. I have only one question to ask on this. If one wants to know what other Measures are likely to come forward, one looks to the proceedings of the Conservative Conference. A proposal was raised there which causes us some misgiving. It was the demand that the Representation of the People Act should be amended so as to remove all restrictions on the use of motor cars at General Elections. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I notice that some hon. Members approve of that. I would regret very deeply if an important change of that kind were to be made without the consent of the Opposition. We believe that this Measure, which limits the numbers of motor cars which can be used, is a fair one and does help to preserve a balance between the parties. We should view with dismay any intention on the part of the Government to weight the scales in their favour shortly before a General Election.
Finally, I turn to what is likely to be the most controversial Measure which the Government are to introduce this Session. That is the Bill which is described as for:placing the National Insurance Scheme on a sound financial basis and enabling a larger section of My People to build up pension rights related to their earnings.In this matter we know roughly what the Government intend to do, for the White Paper has been published. The more we study that White Paper the less we like it. It 22 is not only that existing old-age pensioners are to receive no improvement in their pension at all. It is not only that there is no safeguard for them against inflation. It is not only that those earning £9 a week or less are outside the scheme altogether. It is not only, indeed, that the contracting-out provisions leave it not to the individual but to the employer to decide whether this shall happen or not. The most extraordinary feature of these proposals is, in my opinion, the low level of benefit which is to he available in relation to contributions.
I hope I may be permitted to give two examples to show what I mean. They are from The Times. One points out that, under a private superannuation scheme, to earn £26 a year pension one has to have paid in £200 to £230 during one's working life, while under the Government scheme, in order to get the pension of £26 per year, or 10s. a week, one has to pay not £200 or £230 but £300 during one's working life. The second example is that, under a private superannuation scheme, 5s. a week gives one a pension of £60 a year when one is earning £12 a week, but, under the Government scheme, 5s. a week will give one not £60 but only £39 a year.
So we have this extraordinary situation. The proposals of the Government are approximately one-third worse than those available under ordinary superannuation schemes. Why is this? It is simply because the scheme is not really a national superannuation scheme at all but a scheme which deliberately sets out to replace an Exchequer liability for the basic pension with a severe tax on those who happen to come into the Government's national superannuation scheme. No wonder the words used in the Gracious Speech put the emphasis on:placing the National Insurance Scheme on a sound financial basisrather than talking about national superannuation. Of course, putting it "on a sound financial basis" depends on exactly what is done. To leave this burden on the taxpayer generally, where it may be adjusted between different taxpayers in accordance with what they are already paying and what the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day thinks they should pay, is in our opinion a much fairer way of dealing with this problem than imposing the burden, not even on all wage 23 earners, but simply on those excluded from private superannuation schemes. Nor is it placed upon them in any proportional sense, but only on those with from £9 to £15 a week on the basis of a proportional tax and thereafter without any increase whatever. I can find no equity or sense whatever in this proposal. I warn the Government that we shall be severely critical when we come to the debates on it.
My last reference to the Gracious Speech is to an omission. There is nothing in the Gracious Speech about the need to expand production. Perhaps that has something to do with the proposals for superannuation, because the Government may well say, how is the Exchequer to meet this ever increasing deficit which, by 1982, will amount to £400 million? Our answer to that is plain. It is a heavy burden, but not an impossible one provided we have a period of economic expansion. All that is said in this Speech—and the same words were used in the Speech on Prorogation—is that Ministersare resolved to ensure … a high and stable level of employment.In present circumstances, something more than that was needed. When all is said and done, there are 200,000 more people out of work than there were a year ago. There are areas, some of which I have visited, where the unemployment percentage is now 8 per cent. There are rumours—indeed, there are official statements—indicating that we must expect worse to come. There are coal stocks mounting up so that industry, which has been faced with shortage for so many years, is now facing a crisis of glut directly as the result of the failure of industry to expand.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
These are incontrovertible facts. The steel industry is producing at only 75 per cent. of capacity.
All this is the more deplorable because of the stagnation of production over the last three years. If we go back to the immediate post-war period, we find that during the period of the Labour Government industrial production went up by 7 per cent. a year. From 1951 to 1955 expansion continued, but at half the previous rate—at 3½ per cent. a year. Since 24 1951 there has been a complete levelling off, and now, in this year, production is actually 4 per cent. below what it was last year. This really is a deplorable state of affairs. One has only to consider the immense losses to our economy through this failure to realise our potentialities in these last few years.
The fact is that what has happened since 1955 has made it overwhelmingly clear that the Tory policies of "free for all" are unable to solve the central dilemma of our time, that of how to get expansion without inflation. Indeed, the efforts which they have made, because of their fear of inflation, to restrict expansion—and that is the only logical explanation of them—have not even prevented inflation. Costs have continued to rise and prices have continued to rise, too. We have had the benefit recently of a remarkably favourable turn in the terms of trade and of falling import prices, but that has not been conveyed into final prices.
In our opinion, this is the central issue facing the country, and we shall return to it not only this week but, I can assure hon. Members opposite, on all possible occasions. For we cannot as a nation solve our problems except on the basis of expansion, and we believe that the Government's policies make that impossible.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
I am sure that the House will unanimously endorse the tribute which the Leader of the Opposition paid to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address. They have carried out their task gracefully and effectively.
My hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) has been several years in the House and is a man of rising reputation in his own profession. He always speaks up for Wales, as he is entitled to do, for he represents a Welsh constituency and is both by birth and by tradition a Welshman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. D. Price), who seconded the Motion, takes an active part in the life of the House of Commons. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, he is an economist, but unlike some of our economic pundits he is also actively engaged 25 in the day-to-day management of industry. He is thus in the happy position of being able to combine theory and practice. At any rate, I will endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said; he and I have listened to a very large number of these speeches, and both the speeches today were a model of what such speeches should be.
I must inform the House that the usual arrangements will be made for the debate on the Address and for private Members' time. No doubt the House may hope to hear from you, Mr. Speaker, about the former, and the Leader of the House will propose a Motion about the latter tomorrow.
Like the Leader of the Opposition, I feel that I should refer briefly to the innovation which has marked the Gracious Speech today—the fact that this ceremony, instead of being witnessed by a few hundred people, has been seen by a vast audience at home and overseas. It was made abundantly clear in the course of the television broadcast, I understand, that the legislative proposals and the policy contained in the Gracious Speech are the sole responsibility of Her Majesty's Ministers. Nevertheless, the final paragraph of the speech, in which the Queen expresses the hope that the televising of this ceremony will fortify our parliamentary tradition, contains a sentiment to which I feel certain all Members of the House can subscribe.
It is usual for the Prime Minister to open the debate on the Address by a review of the Government's plans for the forthcoming Session. Last year, the right hon. Gentleman had a complaint to make. He said:… the burden of legislation which we shall have to face this Session does not appear to be excessively heavy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 17.]I do not think that this criticism was justified in the event, but it is true that we were able to complete our labours without recourse to that procedure which has been so often used of recent years and is somewhat inelegantly termed "the parliamentary hangover."
This year, at any rate, the Gracious Speech foreshadows a very full programme of work. There is no tailing off, no diminution of our energies, no staleness, no weariness of office, no unseemly scuttle from power and responsibility. 26 As far as one great category of domestic affairs is concerned, one category of home affairs, there is a sentence in the Gracious Speech which exactly describes the Government's purpose: we will continue our effortsto secure a just balance between the expanding demands of the modern State and the freedom and status of the individual.This has both a narrow and a broad context. It applies to the proposal to abolish a number of emergency powers and controls, and to put those which are still necessary on a proper, specific and statutory basis. The Bill for this purpose, together with an explanatory White Paper, will be presented and published tomorrow.
But this principle has a wider sweep. It applies to the proposals for legislation to strengthen the Factories Acts and to repeal the Catering Wages Act. It applies more notably to the Bill to provide a fairer basis for compensation where land is compulsorily acquired. This Bill will also be presented and published tomorrow. With it will be published an explanatory White Paper, so that, at any rate, we shall have an Ariadne's thread to guide us through what I well remember to be a most formidable legal labyrinth. I almost felt today that the right hon. Gentleman intended to revive the development charge. Although the detail is complicated, the purpose is simple and it is clearly stated in the Gracious Speech.
A steadily growing proportion of people want to own their own houses and to enjoy the freedom and security which ownership gives. This desire is one which we on this side of the House want to see realised by as many people as possible. Many people have been discouraged from buying their own houses because—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] During the Labour Party's rule they could neither build one nor buy one. They have been discouraged by the difficulty of getting a mortgage. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the rate of interest is not the only problem. After all, the building societies are able to lend only what they are able to borrow, or what is returned to them through their customers paying off their accounts.
Accordingly, the Government propose to remove this obstacle in the simplest possible manner, and that is by advancing 27 Government money to the building societies and so increasing their capacity to lend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I knew that hon. Members opposite would not like it. Our aim is to brine, about a general widening of house purchase, but in such a way that special aid will be given to purchasers of those houses to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the older and the smaller houses, which are most affected today by the shortage of mortgage funds. It is not so much a difficulty with the new house as it is with the older and the smaller house. A scheme has been worked out and the necessary legislation will shortly be introduced.
Another important matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred at some length is that of pensions. Of course, there have been very great changes in the whole social and economic situation since Lord Beveridge presented his famous Report. First of all, private occupational provision for old age has developed to an extent no one then contemplated. Secondly, there has been an enormous advance, especially in the last seven years, in the prosperity of the great mass of the population. I do not think that anyone could deny this—certainly, no consistent reader of the Daily Herald. I do not think that it is even necessary to make quotations, or even to appeal to the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen. North (Mr. Hector Hughes) for the sub-port which he gave me so dramatically on a former occasion.
It is, therefore, right to look again at the whole question of the provision of pensions for old age, and although I do not want to go at further length into this question today, the scheme is set out in detail in the White Paper, and, after taking full account of criticisms and suggestions, a Bill will be presented early in the new year.
Of course, I have seen criticisms. Members of the party opposite have complained that we have been guilty of picking up the clothes they left along the bank while bathing. If their clothes had been serviceable, I certainly would not have hesitated. The trouble is that they were at once showy and shoddy, at first sight rather good but really full of holes. I have not stolen their clothes. 28 At the worst I have picked up a couple of old Wykehamist ties.
In addition to the Bills that I have mentioned, there are other valuable domestic Measures in our programme, such as the Bill which will give smaller farmers the necessary financial backing and encouragement to better management of farms. Then there is the Bill on mental health which will be a large Bill occupying, I fear, the time of the House for some time.
Then I ought to mention this; the right hon. Gentleman specifically referred to it. Among other Measures, we shall shortly introduce a Bill which will repeal the restrictions in Section 88 of the Representation of the People Act, l949, on the number of motor cars which may be used at Elections. I do not quite know what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said that it was necessary to consult and get the approval of the Opposition, because he will remember that this provision was brought in by the Labour Government, contrary to the view of the Speaker's Conference and contrary to the wishes of the then Opposition. I think that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends so look backwards and are so out of date that they seem to regard a motor car as a kind of perquisite of rich men, the things we used to go about in, with ladies in veils and all the rest of it. Really, quite a lot of people have motor cars today, and I think that from this morning a great many more are going to get them.
But, as the right hon. Gentleman said in the latter part of his remarks, the work of Parliament is not confined to legislation. It has the right and duty to debate, and among the important issues which will demand our attention both in this and in subsequent debates will, of course, be the broad economic situation. I understand that there will be a debate for two days next week on this subject, and, therefore, I will only try to deal with the salient points today. I will leave it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer who has managed our economy so well in the last ten months that I have no doubt that he will be able to manage the discussions about it equally well.
Economics, I think, are recognised by the most prudent economists as not a science but an art. It is not just a question of mathematics. It is a question 29 of human psychology and human reactions. In any event, for this country the price of economic stability—and in his closing phrase, I think the right hon. Gentleman recognised it—is continual vigilance. It can never be easy—do not let us pretend it is—for any Government to steer with absolute precision an economy as delicately balanced as our own.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman had some experience of this when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in that memorable year 1951, but he seems to have, in Alan Breck's words, "a grand memory for forgetting." On the one hand lies the danger of deflation and not making the most of our productive resources, leading perhaps to unemployment and all that that means. On the other is the danger of inflation, which means the loss of markets, the disappearance of reserves, first a trickle, then a flood; and, apart from all these external dangers, grave social distress at home, and perhaps, if it is allowed to go too far, mass unemployment.
It is along this narrow path between these two sets of difficulties that we or any other Government have to find our way. The mediaeval alchemist sought the philosopher's stone. The modern economists seek equilibrium. But alas, equilibrium is very hard to reach, except perhaps in the grave, and then, indeed, of course, the forces of production and consumption are in perfect balance.
When we met this time last year—everybody remembers it—our major problem at home was to curb a dangerous inflation; our major problem overseas was to avoid a loss of confidence in our currency. I do not think that the most jaundiced critic would deny that we have made great progress in overcoming these two dangers. We have stability at home. For nearly a year the cost-of-living index has remained level. Everyone has gained from this. At the same time, the increases in our reserves of £450 million in the last year and the surplus in the balance of payments of £334 million in the first half of this year, larger than any full year's surplus in the last twelve years, are surely proofs of our success. Of course, I will admit that we have had not only good management; we have had a bit of good luck perhaps. But I do not see any harm in that. One can always dowith a little bit of bloomin' luck".30 But, of course—and there is the other side of it—we have to suffer inconvenience and risk difficulties to gain these benefits. We have to pay a price. To avoid the mortal danger which inflation and the loss of the reserves might have meant to us if the situation were not handled properly, we have had to accept temporarily at least some decrease in the level of production and a small increase in unemployment. I would, however, beg the House not either to underestimate or to exaggerate these advantages and disadvantages, but to try to make a balanced picture. At any rate, we are in a stronger position than at any time since the war. We can now move forward again with confidence.
Broadly speaking, there are three methods and, as far as I know, three only, by which one can assist re-expansion. The first is the easiest, but it has, of course, within it the seeds of danger if it is pressed too far. It is to increase consumption. The second is to stimulate internal investment, public and private; and the third is the mobilisation of our own and the world's credit to support our customers overseas. Those seem to me the three methods open.
In the first category we have already begun important measures. The Bank Rate has been reduced to 4½ per cent.; the credit squeeze is over; bank advances have risen by £85 million in the last three months; and I am informed that the hire-purchase regulations, which have been successfully used to curb inflation, have now been abolished. If further action is required, I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not hesitate to take it.
The stimulation of private investment depends, of course, upon the markets available both at home and abroad, but it has been and is being assisted by access to the bank credit or to the capital market on easier terms. As regards public investment, the ceiling on public capital expenditure has already been raised, and we are, at any rate, in a much stronger position now, for public investment if it is not to be inflationary, must be supported, or certainly is best supported, by savings.
I know that we can have an enormous Budget surplus and do it that way, but the healthier way is that private savings should be made in support of public investment. Savings are now running at a 31 record rate, and this is perhaps the healthiest foundation upon which re-expansion can be built. Many factors are responsible for this splendid savings effort—the better state of the reserves, a greater confidence in the value of money, the steady price index, the more attractive means of saving, including the old Premium Bonds, and, finally, the healthy and encouraging prognostications of the political future periodically, and we hope accurately, provided by Dr. Gallup.
The third method which can help us both in the short and in the long run is to increase the facilities of credits to our overseas customers. This we can do ourselves to some extent under the Export Guarantees Act and in other ways. We are in a better position, at any rate, to use this instrument from our strength, but, above all, it is on the expansion and development of the world economy and world trade that our national fortunes must greatly depend.
As regards Europe, we are still hopeful for fruitful results from our negotiations for the establishment of an outward-looking Free Trade Area in Europe. Regarding the Commonwealth, we have the outstanding success of the Montreal Conference. As regards world trade, in the discussions with President Eisenhower last summer, I urged the need to encourage and support a wider basis of credit. These discussions led to practical results in the decisions at Delhi a few weeks ago, and I trust that an expansion of the resources of international credit will speedily be put into effect. These policies, all taken together, will, I believe, enable us to do what the Gracious Speech refers to—maintaina high and stable level of employment.Some fluctuations there will be, but we shall not hesitate to take further action as it is required. I think that our record over the past year shows that we are not afraid, unwilling or unable to take drastic action to preserve the stability of prices and the strength of sterling. We shall act as resolutely, and, I hope, as successfully, in the field of employment.
I recognise, of course, that there are industries in this country which are currently facing special difficulties for special reasons, and the most striking, and certainty the beet known, is the case of the 32 cotton textile industry. Here, we have a famous, long-established industry, with honourable traditions, both of skill and labour relations, which has made a great contribution to our national life, but which feels its existence threatened by the continuing inflow of cotton goods, free of tariff or quota, from the Asian Commonwealth.
None of us can be indifferent to that problem, or to what it may mean in human terms, but, as Members on both sides of the House know well, there are the deep issues, political as well as economic, springing from the whole political and economic structure of the Commonwealth, and, indeed, from the desperate need of the poorer countries in the Commonwealth family to be able to help themselves by being able both to manufacture and to export.
If this situation is to be handled in a way which is tolerable and fair, and which will do justice to the political, economic and human issues involved, in Lancashire and in the Asian countries of the Commonwealth. I think that both sides must see that they do not press their points of view too far. Sound principles can be maintained only if they are operated fairly in practice, and that is why I have consistently urged on both the Commonwealth countries and on the industry here the advantages of a mutually satisfactory agreement. This would provide for a voluntary limitation of imports for a period of years, and so at least give a breathing space. I am glad to say that there has been wide recognition of the advantages of this course.
The Indian and Pakistan industries have shown a statesmanlike and constructive attitude in the agreements which they have negotiated with the Cotton Board. Agreement has not yet been reached with Hong Kong, from which imports continue to rise, but some progress has been made in these negotiations, and I am glad to say that this very morning the Cotton Board, in a further effort to achieve an understanding, has made new proposals to the Hong Kong industry. It sincerely believes that these are generous proposals and should constitute a fair and reasonable settlement. I trust that an agreement can now be reached without further delay. I believe, moreover, that such an agreement is in the best interests, 33 both in the short and the long term, of the Hong Kong industry.
This problem—and it is a problem which we have to face—emphasises all the more that our continued prosperity depends more than ever before on our being able to develop and use to the full the brains and the skill of our people, and in the adjustment and change of industry to new conditions. That is why we regard education as the most fundamental productive investment we can make. There is a large building programme for the expansion of the universities, particularly in the teaching of science and technology. In technical education, most of the new buildings included in the £80 million five-year programme have been started. The number of sandwich courses has been doubled, and the first diplomas in technology have already been awarded.
But we cannot expect to take full advantage of these developments in the universities and the technical colleges unless we make a similar effort in the schools. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has already announced the decisive action which is being taken to train more and better teachers. He will soon be presenting to the House, in a White Paper, details of an ambitious five-year plan to improve and develop the secondary schools, without of course, destroying the grammar schools. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will announce similar proposals for Scotland. More and better teachers; more and better school buildings; this double effort will secure for our children equal opportunity, and for our country a great increase in the trained ability at the disposal of industry and commerce.
The right hon. Gentleman made some reference to foreign affairs, and I understand that we are to have a full debate. There are, however, one or two points to which I must refer. Here, again, as I have already said about economics, many of the most difficult decisions are questions of balance. If only all the problems were in black or white, how easy it would be, but the arguments are never all on one side. Yet it is the task of a Government, even when arguments are finely balanced, to make the decisions.
This was particularly true at the time of the Jordanian crisis this summer. The 34 decision which the Government then reached on Jordan to send British troops into a foreign country, with tenuous lines of communication, was not an easy one. It was certainly not, in military terms, an attractive operation. In political terms, with the uncertainty of the situation, it was undoubtedly hazardous, but in terms of international morality and honour it was clearly right.
The Opposition thought that our decision to act in Jordan was wrong—at least, Members opposite voted against us although, curiously enough, they did not vote against similar action taken by the United States in the Lebanon. I still do not understand how their minds worked on those two occasions. It is a good example of how convenient it may be for party leaders to sit on both sides of the fence at once, provided, of course, they do not have the responsibility of government. Yet with all the uncertainties and hazards, and despite the opposition in this House—there was very little outside—the ventures turned out not unsuccessful.
We have now had the emergency session of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the General Assembly resolution, the so-called Arab resolution. This was put forward by the Arab States themselves and it emphasises the desirability of good relations between the Arab States and the need to respect their systems of government. That was a gain, but it was one which would not have been possible without action. It gave the United Nations time to seize itself of these problems. If we had not acted, the United Nations might, perhaps, only have been able to record and deplore a fait accompli. As it was, the Secretary-General could study the situation for himself and subsequently secured agreement for certain measures which, we hope, will help towards stability in the area. These include a number of measures all of which, if they operate, will help.
Of course, I do not say that Jordan is now secure from aggression, internal or external. But the situation is now such that in agreement with ourselves, the Jordanian Government, who must primarily be the judges, have decided that our troops can withdraw. This operation has begun and will be completed within a few days.
It remains to be seen how far the States principally concerned will live up to the 35 resolution in other ways. So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, we have honoured our pledges. We have done exactly what we said we would do. We came in at the invitation of the Jordanian Government, and when they thought that the position justified them in no longer requiring our help we removed our troops. We have enabled the United Nations to act and we can now trust and believe, at least, that the main clauses of the Arab resolution will be implemented.
There is one point that the Leader of the Opposition said which I must put right. It was never said at any time that the revolution in Iraq was caused by external aggression. I have had the records searched and I am absolutely certain that that was never stated at the time.
§ The Prime Minister
Iraq—never. The right hon. Gentleman did not say Jordan; he said Iraq. Of course, in the case of Jordan, we thought that there was external aggression.
I must now make it clear, however, that we shall maintain all our alliances and treaties in this area, including our membership of the Bagdad Pact. None of these is a threat to any Arab country. We want our relations with Iraq to continue on a basis of friendship and co-operation. We have particularly welcomed that part of the United Nations resolution which invited the Secretary-General to explore the possibilities of an Arab development institution. We would welcome an institution to promote economic co-operation between the Arab countries and to help further economic growth in that region. We hope that the outcome of the Secretary-General's consultations will be successful.
It may or may not have been a coincidence that as the threat to the Middle East became less acute, pressure began to be felt in the Far East. In some quarters, there was great alarm. I do not want to underrate the difficulties and potential dangers in that area, but I thought then that the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition and of his hon. Friends in this matter was not helpful in keeping the situation calm. I had no hesitation in rejecting the advice that the right hon. Gentleman gave me, sometimes by letter and sometimes from the platform. 36 Nothing will persuade me that public recrimination is the best method of diplomacy between friends and Allies.
Our attitude towards the situation in the Formosa Strait was, and is, quite clear. We have no military commitments in regard either to Formosa or the offshore islands. We deplore the use of force for the purpose of effecting changes in the present situation in that area. We believe that any solution must be a political solution. We have been in constant consultation with the American Government throughout. It was particularly easy to do so because of the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, where my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary took part. Surely this was the right way to make our influence felt.
The development of the situation has not been unhopeful. The talks in Warsaw continue and may contribute to a calmer atmosphere. The shelling of the island has been suspended, or partially suspended. Delicate and even dangerous the situation may still be, but I believe that those who, some weeks ago, were widely expressing their fears of a world war, and trying to build up a campaign in this country on that basis, have now been proved to have been alarmist and unhelpful.
If there was any justification for what I have said it was surely that although the situation in the Far East excited the Leader of the Opposition so much in the holidays, he did not make even a passing reference to it today, not one single word. [Interruption.] It is very odd that if it was so tremendously important that the right hon. Gentleman kept sending letters to me during my holidays—although I had only a few days—and there were all those great speeches at the party conference, he did not even mention it in the course of his speech today. If it had been a very great scare he would have gone on with it, but he thought he had better drop it and I agree with him.
Now I should like to say a few words about Cyprus. I am sorry to detain the House, but this is of some importance because of the meeting of N.A.T.O. tomorrow. In June, we announced our new plan for Cyprus based upon a seven-year period during which a decision on the eventual solution could be postponed. This policy seemed to command a wide 37 measure of approval in the House. It was generously responded to by the Opposition and in the country and among our Allies. It is true that the plan was at once condemned by both the Greek and the Turkish Governments. Nevertheless, at the end of July, the situation in Cyprus seemed to me more hopeful and I was glad to he able to appeal successfully to the Greek and Turkish Prime Ministers to join with me in condemning violence, which they did.
I therefore thought it right to see whether I could persuade the two Governments to accept our new plan, or to accept it with modifications. As the I House knows, I paid brief visits to Athens and Ankara and to Cyprus during August, in which I did everything I could to persuade our allies of the sincerity of our purpose. My discussions in both capitals were full and friendly and after hearing what both Governments had to say—for it was difficult to get the balance right—I announced on 15th August substantial modifications and changes in the plan.
The Turkish Government, after initial misgivings, accepted the plan with the changes. I was hopeful that the Greek Government might do so but, alas, they felt bound to reject it. This, I regret to say, was followed by a new campaign of violence in the island. I know that the House would wish me to pay tribute here to the courage and patience of the Governor, of the officials and of all the security forces. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They have shown both restraint and dignity under terrible provocation.
Now, what of the future? When Her Majesty's Government made it clear that they felt that the plan for a seven-year standstill in Cyprus, accompanied by measures of communal self-government, must go forward, there was a great outburst in Greece. I regret it, but I respect and understand their difficulties. Over the past month, there have been discussions in the North Atlantic Council, and I should like to pay tribute to the energetic and imaginative conduct of these discussions by the Secretary-General, M Spaak. We have been discussing both what the business of the conference should be and how it should be composed.
We proposed, and it was generally accepted, that the conference should discuss our interim seven-year plan. We 38 agreed also to include the question of a final solution in the agenda. This is not a mere form of words; we intend the discussion of a final solution to be sincere and thorough—all the more so because it is important, as I have stated more than once in the House and elsewhere, that the provisional arrangements should not prejudice any final solution.
So much for the substance. As to the composition of the conference, it has been common ground that it shall be attended by representatives of the three Governments concerned in the problem and of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. We are perfectly willing to accept any person whom those communities should wish to represent them. I wish to make that clear. There is no question of our having refused to sit at a conference at which Archbishop Makarios, if he were selected by the Greek Cypriots to represent them, would be a member. It was common ground, also, that it would be useful to have the presence of other parties, and an agreement on the exact composition of the conference and the place had virtually been reached last week.
Over the week-end, we have had reports suggesting that the Greek Government, after all, feel unable to attend the conference on the basis which has been under discussion. They will, no doubt, state their position in the North Atlantic Council tomorrow. In the meantime, I can only express the hope, which I am sure is shared in all parts of the House, that their decision will not be such as to rule out all hope of the conference. There is no point really as to either its substance or its composition which should prevent its taking place. More than that, I will not at the moment say.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
As the right hon. Gentleman has said that the N.A.T.O. Council is to meet tomorrow to discuss this matter, as we have pressed upon the Government for some time past, and as there will not be a further opportunity for discussing it until after tomorrow, will he not agree that the Greek Government face very great difficulties at home because they have declared that they have dropped Enosis? Would not the conference be facilitated, and the Greek position be made easier, if, at the same time, it were declared that partition was ruled out, also?
§ The Prime Minister
The position at present is that there is an agreed document on what the conference is to be about. We thought that there was practical agreement as to who was to go there and where it was to be. Now we are told—I do not know what the reason is—that the Greek Government feel—I see their difficulties—that perhaps they may not want to attend the conference at all.
I saw M. Spaak yesterday. I know that all our Allies in the N.A.T.O. Council will do everything they can, and I certainly will not abandon this possibility, even if it has to be temporarily postponed for some reason or other. I think that we should go forward and see whether we can get this conference. I do not think that I will add anything more. I have tried to speak in the least provocative way. We are all anxious that our friends and Allies, Greek and Turkish, should sit down with us, and anyone else who can help, to get, first, a partial solution, and we are perfectly prepared to discuss sincerely and honestly the possibility of a final solution.
I want to say a word now about the H-bomb, the nuclear deterrent, and the prospects for disarmament. I was, very naturally, gratified to observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was able to carry the Labour Party Conference in favour of the Conservative Government's policy of manufacturing and having the bomb. The particular method of voting by which he succeeded in doing this must excite the admiration and envy of every Patronage Secretary. However, he did achieve it.
It is true, also, that, had I yielded to his pressure during the last two years, his motion would have been meaningless because, without the tests, the bomb could not be made at all. It is true, also, that, while this is the official policy of the party opposite, it is, I understand, repudiated by a large section of it. This, of course, is another example of the convenience, when in opposition, of sitting on both sides of the fence. Meanwhile, I must give a progress report on disarmament.
I think that everyone agrees that disarmament, without safeguards, would be folly. Unhappily, all our efforts over the last ten years for a comprehensive disarmament agreement have failed, 40 because the Soviet Government would not accept the necessary control measures to make the agreement effective. We therefore tried for partial disarmament, and the Soviet Government again rejected this plan even as a basis for discussion, even though it was endorsed by a two-thirds majority of the United Nations. We have now tried again. We have long advocated the principle of technical discussions first and political agreements afterwards. The Soviet Government refused to consider this until last summer when they changed their attitude and participated in the conference of experts, first suggested by Her Majesty's Government, which met in Geneva during July and August.
The purpose of the conference of experts was to report on the practicability of a control system for an agreement to suspend nuclear tests. This technical conference was successful and reported that such a form of control was a practical thing. On 22nd August, the British and American Governments announced that they would suspend tests for a year from the end of this month provided that the Soviet Government would agree to meet with us on 31st October to work out an effective agreement and did not themselves conduct tests during this period of a year.
The conference will meet in a few days' time. The work may be difficult, but I pray that it will be successful, and I believe that every Member of the House will support that wish. This is one ray of light, and there is another. On 10th November, a second conference of experts will meet in Geneva to discuss whether it is possible to devise a system of safeguards against surprise attack by one country on another. We hope that, if this technical conference reaches agreement, it may pave the way to another political conference.
Therefore, Sir, this new Parliament opened today opens, in my view, in an atmosphere of confidence and hope. The Government continue to deal with all these problems at home and overseas in a reasonable and balanced way, with energy but without panic, with moderation but with resolution. In this task, we believe that we can count on the support of both Parliament and the nation.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I welcome one statement made by the Prime Minister in the course of his speech. I have felt for some time that the building society movement was not capable of meeting the needs of all those of our citizens who want to purchase their own houses by means of a mortgage. The Prime Minister has announced that the Government are to come to the assistance of building societies and provide them with additional funds to enable them to make advances to would-be house purchasers.
I do not know how the building societies are to be selected for this purpose. I do not know whether these advances will be limited to only those building societies which are members of the Building Societies Association. If this is the suggestion, I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that one of the largest societies is not a member of the Association. Some machinery will have to be devised to select which building societies are appropriate for this particular grant or advance
I hope that this Government assistance will not be limited to building societies. I hope that these advances will also be made available to those progressive local authorities which already make advances to would-be house purchasers. It is of the utmost importance that no favouritism should be extended to building societies and that money at low rates of interest should also he available to local authorities which wish to extend the amount of money that they advance to people who want to buy their own houses. We know only too well of the difficulties which in recent years have been placed in the way of young couples who are sick of waiting on housing lists and who want to buy their own houses.
There is another point I should like to mention in connection with the Government's pension or superannuation scheme I hope that the difficult plight of widows and the regulations relating to widows' pensions will not be overlooked in for mulating new proposals. It is very hard that under present regulations widows who have to go to work are liable to lose their pensions if their earnings exceed a certain amount, while widows who are fortunate enough to have unearned 42 income at their disposal are not penalised in any way. Widows with unearned income to any amount can draw the full pension. I urge the Government to give sympathetic consideration to the difficulties which are experienced by many widows who have to go out to work and who in many respects are unnecessarily penalised in so doing.
One omission from the Gracious Speech is the problem which has been in the minds of many of us during the Summer Recess, namely, the problem of immigration. I represent a constituency into which there has been considerable immigration. Fortunately, we have been able so to order our local affairs as to avoid some of the excesses that have taken place in other parts of the country. I am surprised that there is no reference to this problem in the Gracious Speech, because, according to a report that appeared in the Daily Express of 2nd October—the only report I have been able to find—the Earl of Home, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, made a speech on the subject in Vancouver. The report has not yet been officially denied so I must accept it as accurate. In that speech the Secretary of State said:Curbs will have to be put on the unrestricted flow of immigrants to Britain from the West Indies".He went on to say that arrangements to restrict immigration would have to be the result of mutual agreement between British and West Indian leaders. I hope that the Government will make an announcement in the not-too-distant future about these negotiations, which presumably may result in legislation having to be passed in this House. It is of the utmost importance that whatever the Government may decide to do in this respect shall be the result of discussions and mutual agreement between the Governments concerned.
There is another omission from the Gracious Speech which will be noted with a certain amount of dismay. There is no reference to any intention on the part of the Government to do anything about the betting laws. The Home Secretary will recall that there was a Commission on this subject, but nothing is being done about it. That is a pity because if, for example, betting shops were instituted, as was recommended by the Report, that would go a long way to relieving the 43 police of a distasteful task in which public opinion is not behind them. The time of magistrates' courts is taken up year in arid year out with cases of street betting. The limited extent to which corruption has crept into the police force is due in no inconsiderable measure to the unsatisfactory state of the betting laws. It is a pity that no indication has been given of any intention by the Government to deal with this matter.
Another point to which I must draw attention is that there is no reference in the Gracious Speech to the Wolfenden Report, which dealt with two very important and serious problems, prostitution and homosexuality. There is, of course, considerable difference of opinion on these problems, but at some time or other, whatever party is in power, action will have to be taken. By and large, the Wolfenden Report provides some basis upon which the Government should introduce legislation. It is a great pity that the Government do not at the moment show any intention of acting upon any of the Wolfenden Report's recommendations.
I was interested to read the other day that at long last the Lord Mayor's Show will be held on Saturdays in future. The City Corporation has at last come round to that view. I have been advocating this for about eight years. Inevitably, amending legislation will be entailed. That was always the bugbear or the obstacle held out against introducing this very necessary reform, which became all the more difficult to resist in view of the decision to hold the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Saturdays. The extent to which London traffic is unnecessarily bogged down by these very interesting ceremonial functions, which we do not want to disappear, through holding them on weekdays has at last come to the notice of the authorities concerned. The Home Secretary will no doubt be aware that if we are to hold the Lord Mayor's Show on a Saturday the Calendar Act, 1751, will have to be amended and probably some alteration will have to be made to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, 1925. I trust that these amendments of the law will commend themselves to the House.
One other point upon which the Government, I think, will have to take action 44 concerns subliminal advertising or subliminal insertions, either on the television screen or on the films. Evidence has now been provided that in some American horror films, one of which is about to come to this country, subliminal suggestion has been employed as one of the horror devices. This calls for some action on the part of the Government. This kind of thing must be nipped in the bud at the earliest possible moment, and any proposals by the Government to make it illegal for subliminal suggestions in advertising to be employed either in television or on films would commend itself to the acceptance of most hon. Members.
Another suggestion which I should like to make and which might commend itself to the Government arises from the fact that I live in the country. It concerns the nuisance or the annoyance caused to people living in the countryside by selfish farmers who drive their cattle along the public highway. We know that they are entitled to do so, even where it is possible for them to drive their cattle across their own land.
Where I live, in Binfield, regularly at least once a year the whole of the roadway and the verges, which are carefully preserved and tended by people living in the cottages alongside, are trampled down, ditches are blocked and roads are made filthy by this practice. The Berkshire County Council is either incapable of adopting or unwilling to adopt the necessary byelaw which would enable it to deal with the matter and require the farmer responsible to remedy the damage arising from this very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
I think that legislation could be introduced which would give backward authorities like the highway department of the Berkshire County Council the power either to compel farmers guilty of this anti-social behaviour to repair the trampled verges and the ditches which have been blocked or to carry out the work and charge it to the person responsible.
Those are a few of the suggestions which occur to me in considering the Gracious Speech. Most of them, I think, should commend themselves to the favourable consideration of the Government.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Denzil Freeth (Basingstoke)
I was away from the House in America during the last few weeks of the last Session. To be abroad sometimes enables one to have the advantage of seeing one's country as others see it. Two things struck me most about England as viewed from the other side of the Atlantic. The first was the enormous admiration which people over there have for the Prime Minister and for this Government. After all, it was my right hon. Friend who,at the time of the crisis in the Middle East and the landing of troops in the Lebanon and Jordan, managed to burst once and for all what one might call the Khrushchev bubble about summit meetings. I believe that that was a most important thing to do—to show that the Russians do not make suggestions for summit meetings with the idea that those meetings shall take place and problems be solved but merely as yet another tactic in the game of the cold war.
I cannot help comparing—as my right hon. Friend did this afternoon—my right hon. Friend's attitude over international affairs with that of the Leader of the Opposition and those who support him. If we are fighting a cold war against Russia, as surely we shall be fighting one for many years, it seems to me that there are two things which we must not do. The first is to become separated from our allies. I do not for one moment believe that the Russians can win the cold war if Britain and America remain united. The actions of the Opposition during the recent difficult days in Quemoy seem to me designed specifically once again to separate Britain and America. The second thing which we must be certain not to do is to lose our nerve in what, after all, is a war of nerves. In my opinion, the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters show conclusively that in round 1 of the renewed war of nerves they have lost their nerve at the very beginning.
That was the first thing which struck me in America—the enormous and growing admiration in which the Prime Minister was held. The second attitude of mind which I met in Canada, Philadelphia, New York and Washington was the admiration of the American people, and particularly those connected with finance and industry, of the way that the 46 British Government have managed the economy over the last 12 months. Whether or not that may be regarded as admiration based on a sound reasoning, it is essential that we must continue to keep the economy on a sound footing and to keep the demands which will be made on the Exchequer to reasonable limits.
The Leader of the Opposition today was a little less than fair when he drew from the order of the words of the Gracious Speech the conclusion that the Government cared very little for the superannuation schemes for helping old people and merely wanted to place the National Insurance Fund on a sound financial basis. I believe that the Government are absolutely right in their priorities. However much we may want to help people, it is very little use if we have not the wherewithal to help them. To put the National Insurance Fund on a sound financial footing seems to me the first priority in any reorganisation of the National Insurance and Pensions scheme. It is worth recalling to the House that this is the one thing which the Labour Party's national superannuation scheme does not do. Indeed, in the first edition of this document—although from correspondence in The Times they appear to be changing the figures practically every week—we find the following statement on page 29:We should not conceal from ourselves, however, that when the amount of pensions paid out rapidly increases, the value of National Superannuation as a method of national savings is correspondingly reduced. Once again after some twenty years there might be a deficit like that we are now facing on the present National Insurance Fund.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that there would at least be a fund from which considerable income would be obtained which would help to bridge that deficit? Would he not further agree that no one has yet disputed that there would be a surplus in the early years of such a scheme which would build up a fund which would help pensioners in the future?
§ Mr. Freeth
Of course, in the Labour Party scheme there would be a considerable surplus in the early years. I am pointing out that the scheme envisages substantial deficits in the later years, and. 47 therefore, that it does not solve this problem, whatever other problems the Labour Party's scheme may or may not solve.
The hon. Gentleman's first question was about the problem of a fund or an account. Frankly, I have never seen any particular virtue in a fund as opposed to an account in a national superannuation scheme of any kind. I very much doubt whether a fund is a possibility, because it is always necessary to deal with the problem of the late entrants and there will always be people in any national insurance scheme for pensions from now on who are drawing much more out of the fund than they ever put into it. The idea of a fund, therefore, in the strict sense of the word, seems to me particularly inapplicable.
I gather from reading the document, "National Superannuation," published by the Labour Party, that they give three reasons why they believe that a fund should be in existence—psychological, financial and economic.
In a very peculiar way it is believed that if there is a fund politicians cannot tamper with it. We have a fund in a sense at the moment; at any rate, we have quite a large amount of money in the bank of the National Insurance Fund; but we all know that every kind of pension has to be reviewed after every so many years in the light of changed circumstances.
As for the financial reason, it would not be a fund in the strict sense of the word because eventually the capital would have to be drawn on to pay off. As for the economic one, quite frankly I have never thought that it was very likely that the building up of a very large fund in order to produce extra savings would turn out to be successful. If we take from people far more than they are willingly prepared to give and to save, then we shall merely find that personal savings fall by roughly the extra amount that we are taking out in enforced contributions.
I believe that the Government are absolutely right in putting the National Insurance Fund on a sound financial basis. I do not believe it is necessary to have a fund to do that. After all, we took in, in 1948, all the people who had not paid all the necessary contribu- 48 tions. Today people are getting a full retirement pension under the present scheme who have contributed only 10 years. Therefore, we are in a position whereby for many years any contributions that are being made today will be used to pay out the pensions to those who today are retired. When we in our turn retire we shall have to rely upon out successors to produce the contributions to pay us our pensions.
The essential thing, therefore, is to make certain that contributions match the pensions which we have to distribute, and that the Government scheme as outlined in the White Paper effectively does. If we take the year 1981 to 1982, some 20 or 25 years hence, we find that there is an excess of income over expenditure of £42 million. In other words, the Government proposals will succeed in putting the scheme on a basis whereby its annual income is very slightly in excess of its annual expenditure.
That seems to me the essential thing we have to do, and it is when we look at it in that light that the criticism by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that it was the people earning between £9 and £15 a week who were going to pay for the deficit on the National Insurance Fund, falls completely to the ground, because we are not paying off the deficit: we are making certain that we are not going to incur one. I believe that the scheme of the Government, outlined in the White Paper, is one which is financially sound.
I also believe it is one which is very desirable to have. The growth of private pension funds has been one of the least advertised but in many ways one of the most important social and economic developments of the post-war years. Possibly, where there is today one person in three who is covered by an occupational pension scheme, it may be possible to increase the proportion in five or ten years to one person in every two; but we all know that there will be many people for whom private schemes are an impossibility, and that is why I believe that the Government are right to produce a scheme aimed specifically at those earning £15 a week or less, because those are the people who generally are not covered today by private occupational schemes. A person who is earning more and is not covered can take advantage 49 of the 1957 Budget of my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) and have the Millard Tucker scheme; a person who earns less and is not able to take advantage of the 1957 Finance Act therefore needs more help from the State.
It is, I think, a good thing basically that help should be given only to those who really need it. Because what we have to decide is this question: is the State to take over virtually the whole responsibility of providing pensions for old age? That is what the Labour Party's national superannuation scheme proposes to do. By putting contributions so high it would inevitably reduce the private savings by the 2 per cent. capital contribution, and this would inevitably result in the pension schemes and insurance policies lapsing, since people would not have enough money to pay for both. Therefore, we should move towards the Socialist State where the State does everything and the individual does nothing for himself. I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance took a very wise decision in confining the Government's superannuation scheme to the people who are least likely to be covered by private occupational schemes and allowing those to help themselves who can do so.
I also welcome very strongly in the Gracious Speech the proposal to improve the basis of compensation for compulsory acquisition of land, by which the people who are now hurt are the people who are least able to help themselves. There can be no justice in a system whereby people who are able to sell to other private citizens can get the fair and free market value and people whose land, for one reason and another, is required by the community get merely a derisory amount. People who have invested—sometimes almost all—their savings in a small piece of land, in a cottage and so on, then discover that a road needs to be widened, or that their land has to be taken for some great urban development, or, as is land which is being taken in the northern part of my constituency, for the provision of married quarters for the American Air Force.
Parallel with this measure of restoring justice to those who own their house or a piece of land, the Government are giving further encouragement—and I 50 rejoice at it—to home ownership by methods the full details of which one will be very interested to see.
I rejoice also that more help is being given to somebody else who is independent and needing help, and that is the small farmer. The difficulty of helping the small farmer has always been that he pays little or no taxes and, therefore, the various depreciation allowances, which are of great value to the large farmer, to him are of little value at all. His is the problem of how to get or borrow enough money to equip his small holding or whatever it may be in a way to enable it to be efficient. There is the difficulty of enabling him to have sufficient money to rent or to buy a unit which is economic, because I have found that so many of the small farmers can operate only in pigs and eggs and possibly a little milk, and with the fluctuations in the prices of pigs and eggs they can be very badly hurt indeed when prices fall just when their stock or eggs are ready to go on the market.
I believe that this is a workmanlike programme of legislation for this, possibly the last, Session of this Parliament. There is a number of questions one would like to ask, questions about the National Insurance scheme as proposed in the White Paper. What, for example, will happen to employees who join a firm which has contracted out? One would like to know what are to be the criteria where a firm has, perhaps, not one but several pensions schemes operating on a horizontal basis, one, perhaps, for white-collar workers and one for scientific workers. Will such a company be able to contract out in respect of one section of workers and remain in it for the others?
All these and other details of legislation in the Gracious Speech will doubtless be shown to us very shortly. It seems to me strange for the Opposition to deride something which will give a great deal of benefit to very large numbers of people.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The fact that for the first time in history the opening of Parliament has been televised may give the Gracious Speech a wider appeal and perhaps an appeal different from that which it has had before. Some people may think that the Monarch is engaging in party politics, especially now that we are so near a 51 General Election. Sensible people, however, who know their history, are aware that the Gracious Speech is merely an exposition of Government policy.
It is one of the anomalies in our Constitution that the views expressed in the Gracious Speech by the Monarch from the Throne are not sacrosanct, because they express merely the party policies of the Government that happen to be in power for the time being.
That is British tradition and practice, just as much as it is British tradition and practice that an Army officer is entitled, immediately on retirement from active service, to engage in party politics.
I mention this because it is relevant to what I shall say about the Gracious Speech. Field Marshal Montgomery, upon whom I make no attack, a gallant officer who served his country well, immediately on retirement from active service, has boldly contrasted the policy of the present Government with the policy of the last Labour Government. That he is entitled to do, but he should do so with accuracy and fairness, as I hope with accuracy and fairness to examine the Government's policy as adumbrated in the Gracious Speech and criticise the grave omissions from that Speech.
Field Marshal Montgomery is reported to have said:The first post-war British Government concentrated on our own internal affairs and declined to put its foot into Europe or look outwards at the world.That is not completely accurate, as I shall show. The facts are that the 1945–50 Labour Government, with great success, did several constructive things, internal and external, all at the same time, which the earlier post-war Government failed to do after 1918, when Britain was plunged into mass unemployment and almost into bankruptcy.
The Labour Government of 1945–50, when Britain was almost bankrupt, did these constructive things simultaneously. Unlike the earlier post-war Government, they Demobilised millions smoothly from the Forces, they reinstated them smoothly in civil employment, they created full employment, they built the Welfare State, all contemporaneously and with success and also, as the gallant Field Marshal must well know, they developed 52 N.A.T.O., in which he took so distinguished a part in the succeeding years.
In justice to the gallant field marshal I must say that he says so, but with certain inaccurate qualifications. Again, I quote him:Its energies were directed chiefly towards creating a Welfare State, to bringing about a reorganisation of British industry, moving towards nationalisation, and to raising the school-leaving age at a time when there were not enough teachers or buildings. The world looked on with amazement at what was going on in Socialist Britain. They thought we were all mad.The world thought the contrary, and said so. It was filled with admiration at the social experiment that was so rapidly and with such success being carried on in Britain.
It is true that the post-war Labour Government did all these things for the good of the nation, but Field Marshal Montgomery overlooked the fact that while raising the school-leaving age the Labour Government provided emergency schemes for training teachers and building schools. That was done with such success that today the children are inches taller and pounds heavier than were their parents at a comparable age. That is the kind of contrast and criticism which I use as a preface for the criticism that I am about to level at the Gracious Speech.
The most unhappy feature of the Gracious Speech is its failure to look inwards at the nation, its failure to recognise the application of science to some of man's most obvious needs today in his home, in his work, in the fields, the factories, and the workshops. I shall direct my few remarks to two aspects only—one advanced and the other elementary science.
As to the advanced science, the achievements of British scientists are magnificent, dramatic and useful, but there is no adequate mention of them in the Gracious Speech. There is no adequate mention of their great potentialities in relation to the internal life of the nation. There is no reference to them in relation to the many needs of mankind within our nation, the solution of which needs, aided by modern science, should make Britain a veritable paradise.
On the contrary, Britain, indeed, like the United States, and like Russia as far as we know, lays the emphasis on the spectacular and the extravagant. In my 53 submission, these three countries, and certainly Britain, to judge from the Gracious Speech, are in relation to the application of science to the needs of mankind today far too extrovert. Sputniks are sent to circle the world. Pioneers are sent to the moon. Missiles are sent into outer space, and there are nuclear submarines like "Nautilus", "Skate" and "Sea Wolf". There is not enough in the Gracious Speech about the application of advanced science to the daily needs of mankind and that, in my submission, is a very grave fault in it, in the outlook of the Government and in their attention to the needs of the nation.
One would reasonably expect some promise that the wonders of science would be applied to passenger ships and fishing trawlers, to the catching and distribution of fish, to farmers' reaping and sowing, to irrigation and rainfall—as indeed is done in Australia—to the freezing and preservation of food, to the problems, amenities and, indeed, entertainment of the housewives and to the treatment and cure of disease and its prevention. The Gracious Speech, however, fails to deal adequately or realistically with these fundamental and urgent needs of today within our nation.
Scottish people might reasonably expect the Gracious Speech to indicate that science will be used to repopulate the Highlands and Islands, to take industry there, to solve the problems of the farmers, crofters and fishermen, to accelerate travel and tourism and to reduce freight charges within Scotland, indeed within the whole of Britain. But the Gracious Speech fails adequately to do justice to these obviously manifold opportunities which science today provides. Why are there these gaps in the Gracious Speech? Obviously, the answer is because they are gaps in Government policy, because the Government are out of date and do not intend to apply the wonders of science to the needs of today within the nation.
I turn now from advanced science to an elementary problem which the Government should solve and which the Gracious Speech should mention. It is the dangerous waste of land in this small and thickly populated island. It results from the spoliation caused by persons who, for their own profit, make big cliffs and lochs and then leave them a danger 54 to life and limb, disfiguring blemishes on our fair countryside. This involves every year the loss of thousands of acres to the nation, the deaths of many people, mainly children, and the injury of more. I have authority for this which I shall mention in a moment.
The cliffs and lochs to which I refer are to be found in mines and quarries all over the country which, having been exploited by either private exploiters or companies, are abandoned and left a danger to the public. They comprise thousands of acres all over the country and there is not a word in the Gracious Speech about this loss to the nation or about how the Government propose to deal with it.
In England, there are 1,300 mines, of which 300 are abandoned, covering hundreds of acres. In Scotland, there are 510 mines, of which 200 are abandoned, also covering hundreds of acres. In Wales, there are 520 mines, of which 100 are abandoned, with a similar loss of acreage to that country. There are hundreds of disused and dangerous quarries. Many of these contain artificial cliffs which are hundreds of feet high and also artificial lochs which are, in one instance I know of, 200 feet deep, where many people annually are drowned and injured.
On 10th September I wrote to the Minister of Power, who I am glad to see represented here today at my request, and I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for coming. By letter to me dated 19th September the Minister of Power made five grave disclosures which I shall now disclose to the House. The first is that in addition to those I have mentioned, his records show that…there are approximately 2,500 other coal mines which have been abandoned. The records kept in the coalfields would no doubt add considerably to these numbers and, of course, there would be further ancient workings of which we would have no record at all.His second disclosure is thatIt is the duty of the owner of a discontinued or abandoned mine to fence or otherwise protect its shaft.I add to that quotation that to my knowledge this is not always done, with the result that many deaths and injuries have followed.
The third point he makes is thatThere are certain exceptions in the ease of metalliferous mines.55 To my knowledge many of these in different parts of the country are still a danger to the people.
Fourthly, as to quarries, he says thatThere is no corresponding statutory obligation to fence a quarry.So, many quarries remain a danger. Is it not an astonishing thing that in this age and generation those quarries and mines should be left unprotected, a danger to the people? And is it not time that so grave a danger was dealt with by the Government as a matter of policy so grave that it was put into the Gracious Speech?
The fifth point is:There are no specific statutory provisions about safety at pit-heaps as such.As we go about the country in trains and buses and look out of the windows we all know of the vast number of pit-heaps, and so on, which meet our eyes and which not only cover waste ground but are a danger to the public.
I shall give one example which is within my knowledge and within my constituency; indeed, it is this instance which has brought my attention to this national problem. There have been a number of fatal accidents at Dancing Cairns Quarry, which is on the outskirts of the City of Aberdeen, and I am sure that there are similar fatalities and injuries all over the country. The last death occurred there on 2nd March last, when a boy called Peter Ingram Home, aged 9, was killed. The relevant facts are that the quarry seems to be owned by a private company, excavations have been made there, deep cliff faces have been made, deep lochs have been formed, from which children have not always been excluded. The result has been that year by year there has been a toll of death and injury at the quarry.
I got into touch with the local authority about this, but the local authority says that it has not got adequate powers to combat this nuisance or to protect the public or to award compensation to those injured or to the dependants of those killed. In these grave circumstances I deem it my duty to draw the attention of the House to what is not only my constituency problem, but is also a national problem.
Therefore, I ask the Minister of Power these questions: first, how many accidents during the last ten years have 56 occurred in disused mines and quarries in Scotland, England and Wales? Secondly, how many resulted in physical injury and death respectively? Thirdly, what compensation was paid to the persons injured and to the dependants of persons killed? Fourthly, by whom was the compensation paid? Fifthly, what steps have been taken to prevent such accidents, and by whom? Sixthly, how many acres are lost to the nation by leaving these disused mines and quarries as they were left on becoming disused? Seventhly, how are these acres taxed, and who pays the tax; who is under an obligation to the State in regard to them? Eighthly, what steps are being taken, and by whom, to restore those acres to their pristine flatness, safety and fertility?
In fairness, I must state that in recent years some legislation has been passed attempting to solve these problems. I have a list of statutes but will mention only four—the Public Health (Scotland), Act, 1897; the Public Helath Act, 1936; the Mineral Working Act, 1951; and the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954. These statutes, however, do not go far enough to protect the public or to restore this lost land to its pristine state of safety and fertility.
It is obvious that this is a national problem and that it should be dealt with as a national problem in the Gracious Speech and by the Government. How? By means of expert engineers, who, in the glory of modern science, with explosives, bulldozers and other implements, can transfer the artificial cliffs to fill the artificial lochs and hollows and save the public from them. The country needs the land and the people need the protection, and the Gracious Speech should say so. The Government and a field marshal, with eyes fixed on distant vistas and foreign lands, may sneer at our internal affairs, but they affect the life and work of Britons. These artificial cliffs and artificial lochs should be eliminated. They have been made by businessmen and companies for their own profit and then left derelict, a danger to the public.
It is a social problem of long standing which should have been mentioned in the Gracious Speech and should be tackled by the Government. I gave notice of it long ago to the Government, in time for them to put it into the Gracious Speech. They may ask how they can solve the 57 problem. The answer is obvious—by putting squarely on the shoulders of the person or company who exploits the land in this way, or the local authority, or both, the obligation to restore the land to a condition of usefulness free from danger to the public.
I hope that at long last the Government, notwithstanding the grave omissions from the Gracious Speech, will take at least this matter, one of many matters, in hand, and have the problem adequately solved for the benefit of the nation.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I shall be a little quieter and certainly a great deal shorter than the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). I want to make one or two observations on the Gracious Speech, which the House has welcomed wholeheartedly on one side and denigrated rather half-heartedly on the other.
First, I want to refer to one aspect of the National Insurance scheme, the earnings rule for retirement and other pensioners. No one who has given any thought to the principle of the earnings rule can question that it is sound and sensible to put a limit on the pension which may be payable to a retirement pensioner if he has not retired, but, unfortunately, the principle is not understood by the public and it cannot be got away with any more. It is no use being able intellectually to justify something if it does not have the confidence of the people to whom it is to be applied. We have reached a stage with the earnings rule when I have given up trying to explain or excuse it. In my study of the White Paper. I do not see exactly what the Government propose to do, but I hope that the earnings rule will be washed out together with the whole conception of old-age pensions as retirement pensions. And it will mean doing that; one cannot have a retirement pension without having an earnings rule.
The Government's White Paper is concerned with, according to the title, "provision for old age", not provision for "retirement", which is a big departure in terminology. If this is a scheme for providing for old age, it is something new, because really the only way in which the Beveridge social security system makes 58 coherent sense is if one regards all the pensions paid to pensioners under National Insurance as unemployment pensions, paid because certain people are unemployed or unemployable, such as widows who have been withdrawn so long from the labour market that it is impossible to expect them to get a job. Otherwise, as Beveridge said, a widow ought to work; there is no reason why she should not. Thus, there are certain employment disabilities in respect of widowhood which merit a pension, and retirement pensions are unemployment pensions in respect of retirement.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
I am with the hon. Member in his argument, but can he explain why a field marshal, who, I understand, never retires, is able to draw a retirement pension?
§ Mr. Iremonger
An old soldier never dies.
We cannot go on justifying the present arrangement it is just not understood. I do not know what we shall do about the widows if we are to have old-age pensions. Everybody calls them old-age pensions; they have never been old-age pensions, but apparently they are now to be such. It is probably best that they should be and that we should pay people simply in respect of old age, extracting the money from them and the rest of the public. It will probably work out better, because people will know what they are getting instead of thinking they are entitled to something which they are not.
I particularly welcome the proposal of the Government to improve the basis of compensation for compulsory acquisition. This means that we have to sacrifice the theory of betterment, intellectually respectable as that may be—I think it is mere sanctimonious eyewash—to the practice of commonsense and manifest fair play. That is a proper sacrifice to make. The present system of compensation, which has prevailed in one form or another since 1947, is not understood by the public and brings government into disrepute. There are flagrant injustices which give rise to personal tragedies, which are properly reported in the Press, and, properly, catch the public imagination, and, properly, bring government in general— 59 not any particular Government—into disrepute. We must reconcile ourselves to the fact that we must give people what they think fair value for their property. Full market value compensation will mean that occasionally someone probably gets away with more than he is strictly entitled to and we cannot justify it intellectually, but that is better than driving a person to suicide or, as happened in my constituency, a widow into penury because her property was taken away from her and she was not given proper value.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I wish to correct what the hon. Member said just now. The present system of compensation has not existed since 1947. It was introduced by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Iremonger
That is playing with words The hon. and learned Member knows that the fundamental conception of planning, compensation and betterment dates from Scott, Barlow and Uthwatt.
Again, I am particularly glad to see that the Government have taken a bold and imaginative decision about home ownership. I think it is a very sound instinct and perfectly right to use the building societies as my right hon. Friend suggested was going to be done. We all know that building societies have had to limit loans because they have not the money to lend. Just as a successful counsel has to put up his fees in order to limit the work he does, the building societies have had to introduce more stringent restrictions.
It is right that young couples should be able to get a decent mortgage on the market value of houses built in this century at least. That has not been happening. Those who have suffered in this way have been the people whom we want to encourage to own their own homes and to bring up their families in them. I think the Government are sound in pursuing that policy and that it will be universally welcomed in the country.
While we are on the subject of property owning, may I add that I am anxious that we should support the institution of private property; and I was delighted to see that there was no reference in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—most curiously, considering the 60 date—to the devastating effect that we were supposed to anticipate on the coming into operation of the Rent Act. I have been waiting for a year with much less trepidation than hon. Members opposite concerning this matter. Going round my constituency the other day, I saw all the estate agents I conveniently could and I learnt that there were, in all, two cases among their clients pending in the courts, in both of which there were perfectly reasonable explanations. I am quite confident, therefore, that the Government whose judgment was so right in the matter of the Rent Act, in the desirability of introducing it and the timing of it, will be vindicated in the method they propose to employ to promote this further extension of the ownership of property.
Finally, I am particularly glad to see in the Gracious Speech—and I know it will be welcomed—the reference to the gravity with which the Government view the increase in crime. This really is a most terribly important matter. I have not got a great deal of sympathy with the floggers and the hangers, and I know it is very easy to make them seem ridiculous and slightly unpleasant, but as a matter of fact they are, generally speaking, decent people. They are not sadists, although they may be slightly misguided in their proposals. Actually, what they are doing is very valuable. They reflect and give expression to a deep feeling of malaise among worthy sections of the community at the signs that the Government are failing in the very first duty of a Government, which is to maintain law and order. However unreasonable manifestations of this kind may seem, it is always advisable to take them very seriously. I think that the Government are wise to put into the Gracious Speech this reference to the increase in crime. It is much more important to the people whom we represent in this House than many of the more conventional political issues which we debate. I am quite sure that the country will welcome the fact that the Government are going to take steps to see what can be done.
Before concluding my speech, I want to make one constructive suggestion regarding compensation for the victims of crime. I agree that there are legal complications in this matter, but I think it might be quite possible to turn the conception of retribution into something 61 more constructive in the way of compensation. A constituent of mine, who was a swimming champion of the county, was waylaid one day by a young gentleman whom she had disappointed, and he beat her about the head in a most horrible fashion and left her senseless. She is not dead, but she is unlikely ever again to live the sort of life which she might have been expected to live. Her assailant, who by an act of vengeance has placed this terrible burden upon this young woman for life, has, to all intents and purposes, although he is now in prison, got away scot-free.
There appears to be no way at present for the victim of a crime automatically to get compensation from his or her assailant; only if a person who is assaulted takes action in the civil courts can he even hope to get damages. I think that we ought to try and link the administration of the criminal law to some form of compensation for the victims of crime. I hope that when the Government's proposals are revealed that suggestion will find a place in them. Generally speaking, I welcome this sign that the Government are alert to what I regard as the mast disturbing manifestation on the social scene at the moment.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I noted with interest in the Gracious Speech that the Government propose to announce new plans for developing the nation's schools, directed, in particular, to improving the scope and quality of secondary education. I was particularly pleased when, during the course of his speech, the Prime Minister announced that the Secretary of State for Scotland would, at a later date—I hope during the course of the debate—indicate similar plans for Scotland.
We have to realise, as I am sure the Prime Minister does, that if we are to carry out a reform, or an extension, of this nature, we must have more teachers. I want particularly to direct the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to the fact that his policy at the moment is not helping the recruitment of teachers in Scotland. Over three months ago a committee, which he himself appointed to inquire into the demand of teachers in Scotland for a cost-of-living increase, awarded a 5 per cent. rise to compensate for the higher cost of living. As I 62 say, that was over three months ago. During that period, as I discovered in the Recess, there has been extreme discontent among teachers in Scotland because there was a lackadaisical attitude on the part of the Government in implementing the decision of their own committee.
Only a few days ago, it was announced that the Secretary of State now proposes to grant the 5 per cent. award as from 1st November next. Not only is the award small, but also, in respect of the decision of the committee, it seems to come very late. The teachers felt that, in view of the fact that it was three months since the committee made the recommendation, the Secretary of State might have back-dated the increase. Evidently the objection to doing this was the fact that it would require legislation. The Secretary of State does not propose to take that step which, while it may appear reasonable to some people, accentuates the grievance of Scottish teachers, especially since it was comparatively recently that legislation was effected in order that an award given to policemen might be back-dated. It is difficult to defend an act whereby teachers are differentiated against compared with policemen. No one would try to diminish the responsibilities of policemen or object to the fact that the award was back-dated, but it is a gross injustice to teachers that they have not received at the hands of the Government the same treatment as that meted out earlier to policemen.
There is another matter which has been already referred to. The Prime Minister stated that it would be the policy of his Ministers to maintain a high and stable level of employment. It seems to me rather a pity that we cannot have a new phrase. This phrase "high and stable level of employment" is one which has appeared in almost every report of any committee that has ever been appointed to deal with this problem since the end of the First World War. I should have liked the Prime Minister to have stated that he intended to go, or to try to go, a little beyond this and to have introduced a new phrase saying that he would do his best to create and maintain a state of full employment in the country
This is very important to people in Scotland. I am not in any way saying that it is not of equal importance to people in the United Kingdom. The Prime 63 Minister was recently in Scotland, as was my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who paid great attention to the industrial areas. He saw for himself the state of disaffection, and he came into contact, at first hand, with men who had been out of employment for months and who at the moment had no obvious chance of getting further employment. He met those men and he knows something about the problem at first hand. I felt that when the Prime Minister was in Scotland it was unfortunate that he should have apparently devoted more attention to the grouse than to the unemployed.
In Glasgow, at the moment, there are now 20,000 people unemployed. That is a very large number. The figure for Scotland is approaching 80,000, and it has been stated that the number for the United Kingdom is now very nearly 500,000. These are grave figures. I want particularly to refer to the fact that one industry—the aircraft industry—has been rather seriously affected. We have had redundancy at East Kilbride, Prestwick and on the borders of my own division in Hillington. I agree that they are small redundancies at the moment, but they are now affecting a class of employee who formerly regarded himself as almost secure against unemployment, namely, the person employed on the staff side. They are coming under this redundancy which has been created by a Government policy. No one will deny that.
No [...]ight hon. Gentleman on the Government Front Bench will deny that this is a direct result of a policy decided upon by the Government and, as a result of that policy, the number of employed in the aircraft industry over the last year has fallen from 264,000 to 250,000 over the country as a whole, which is a very serious fall. In Scotland we feel that this is particularly unfair, because our share of the aircraft industry has been very small, since at no time have we had more than 14,000 people out of that 264,000 employed in the industry. We think it wrong that, having had such a small share of the prosperity, we should now be unduly suffering at a time of adversity.
In addition to the diminution in employment in the aircraft industry, there is a tendency to a decrease in the shipbuilding industry. In my own division 64 of Govan, the employers at Fairfield, one of the biggest shipbuilding areas in the United Kingdom and one of the most important, have told me that they have nothing on their books at the moment beyond 1961. That applies, I think, to most shipbuilding firms along the Firth of Clyde. That worries the men and many of the women in my division, because many of them were unemployed during the tremendous depression of the 1930's when one out of every three of the shipbuilding employees in Govan were looking for work in any part of the country where it might be found.
I feel that the Prime Minister and the Government are not sufficiently seized of the importance of this problem. I said that it was the result of Government policy. We shall probably discuss that policy at some later stage, and it is one to which I do not suppose there is any very widespread objection. The strategy of defence is changing. We are to rely more on the missile than on aircraft and the aero engine, and therefore somebody had to lose his job. If, however, the Government had decided on a change of policy which would create unemployment they ought to have had plans themselves to absorb the unemployed, and it is as clear as daylight now that they have no plans whatsoever.
When we are asked, "What would we do?" I would say that we in Scotland have remedies to take up the slack which we have been putting before the country and before the Government for quite a while. These remedies are accepted by every body of opinion in Scotland. The Press, newspapers like the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald, newspapers which support the party opposite, say that we must have in Scotland two new major industries. In Govan and in Clydeside generally we are still far too dependent on the heavy industries, and therefore we are looking for something more on the light engineering side. Every body in Scotland agrees on that, but in the meantime, while we await whatever plans the Government may have in that direction, if any, there are things that we can do now if they are really interested in the problem.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) has the opportunity of catching your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am sure that he will mention the need for a graving dock at 65 Greenock. It is quite clear that that project is limping along very painfully.
I can tell the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland of another project that would help; the reconstruction and redevelopment of Prestwick Airport, if the Government are prepared to go ahead fully with the scheme and not proceed in a patchwork way, bit by bit. The full scheme includes the extension of the runway, the building of the tunnel, the new terminal buildings and the control tower, and the provision of a station for a diesel service between Prestwick and Glasgow. The whole scheme would represent employment for between 500 and 600 men, and at a very rough guess—there are no firm estimates—the incoming of about £6 million. Until the Government can resolve their mind as to the type of major industries they will introduce in Scotland, that would tide us over, taken along with the graving dock and the Tay Road Bridge, which must come if the Forth Road Bridge is fully to achieve its purpose. These are merely stopgaps until we get two new industries in Scotland.
That raises the question of the new steel strip mill. All sorts of rumours are flying around. It is said that we will have a judgment of Solomon, and that the project will be divided into two. Which parent will yell out, "Don't do that. Keep the child whole. Give it here or give it there, but do not divide it"? I do not know.
§ Mr. Rankin
There will be lots of wails in Scotland if it does not go there. The Government seem to be dithering about the strip mill as they are over Prestwick Airport. We are led to believe that some argument is going on about the advisability of carrying out the whole scheme or only a little of it. I appeal to the Joint Under-Secretary to see that every influence is exerted to bring the Treasury to realise that there is no use going ahead with Prestwick on a piecemeal basis. That will not be much help to Scotland. It will mean only that the full development which must come might come when there is more inflation than at present.
During the Recess I tabled a Question asking the Secretary of State for Scotland 66 what legislation he proposed to introduce to deal with the control and protection of red deer in Scotland, and today I have my answer. The Gracious Speech states that a Bill will he laid before you, Mr. Speaker.for the protection and control of deer in Scotland.We are all interested in animals, and in most schools in Scotland a yearly lecture is given by the teachers on the importance of being kind to animals. I believe that prizes are given to the pupils who write the best essays on kindness to animals. In one school, after having given the lesson, the teacher asked her pupils if any of them could give her examples of kindness to animals, and one little fellow put up his hand and said, "I know one. I heard my father telling my mother yesterday that he had put his shirt on a horse." That is an unusual type of kindness to animals, which carries risks that some people do not like to venture upon. However, I think we are all agreed that we do not want to see cruelty to animals.
When in the month of May, last Session, I sought to direct the attention of the Home Secretary to an extreme form of cruelty to a stag by sportsmen in Somerset there was a wide volume of opinion which supported the protests made by English people in connection with that malpractice. But we must remember that cruelty to animals occurs in Scotland lust as it does in England. There is cruelty to the deer by sportsmen, but there is also cruelty to the deer by poachers and by owners. Owners omit to provide food for their stock during the winter, and that is as extreme a form of cruelty as any other. To die by hunger, as the report of the Committee which looked into the problem says, is just as bad as being hunted to death.
Because of the omission to put out hay for the deer during the winter season the deer in turn raid the farmers' turnips, and so become a nuisance to them. It is sometimes argued that the best solution would be to exterminate the deer altogether, but the Government have clearly decided that the deer should not he treated like the rabbit. Therefore, the issue of extermination will probably not arise, although it might be asked what greater use to the community is the deer than the rabbit.
It may be alleged by some that the provisions which the Government are to 67 make will be merely a Tory Measure to protect the sporting interests of Tory owners of deer forests, and the incomes derived from them, but in a discussion I had with one owner of a deer forest I was assured that a deer forest is a dead loss, although so many capitalists seem to run their enterprises at a loss that one feels there must be a profit somewhere. If venison were a more popular food stronger interest might be shown in the care of the deer.
However, there is a strong argument for control. According to the Glasgow Herald of 14th August there are 100,000 head of deer in Scotland, and it is quite probable that we in Scotland cannot afford so many in addition to English landlords. If the deer were humanely controlled agriculture would benefit, and so would the deer, because less cruelty would arise through hunger. Poachers, particularly the gang poachers, would also be more effectively dealt with than at present.
According to the Report of the Committee on Close Seasons for Deer in Scotland, presided over by Sheriff Maconochie, Cmd. 9273, the number of deer in deer forests in the whole of Scotland in 1952 was 84,775 as against 130.000 in 1939, so the number is decreasing. While the number of deer was going down, the number of sheep in the same period increased from 50,000-odd to 140,000, but the number of cattle remained practically stationary, at about 1,600.
Obviously, the deer forests can become a source of food. If we controlled the deer, without a doubt these sources of food could be increased very greatly. John Bright, one of the leaders of the former Liberal Party, once visited the Great glen of Scotland, and Glen Urquhart. Viewing that glen, he compared it with many others he had seen and said:Glen Urquhart is to me a lovelier glen; There deer and grouse have not supplanted men.It would seem that in Bright's time that glen carried far more human beings than it now carries and had fewer deer. If the Bill carries the provisions which many of us hope it will, there is no reason why the deer forests should not be a great asset to farming and to food production; so we await it with tremendous interest. We hope it will not have the fate of its predecessor introduced in February, 1952, 68 which left the Lords and was sunk without trace.
In the course of his speech, the Prime Minister said that the search of man through the ages had been for the Philosopher's Stone. Listening to him and reading his speeches in recent months, I have come to the conclusion that, while he may not have found the Philosopher's Stone, he has found the Blarney Stone. Whether he goes to bed with it every night or not, I do not know, but he cannot continue to kiss it. He cannot rely on his good luck all the time. He confessed today that good luck has helped many of his policies to materialise, but, unless he has a plan—he has no plan to deal with unemployment in Scotland—he cannot depend on good luck all the time. His luck will change. Without a plan the schemes outlined in the Queen's Speech will not fructify. Every one of us on this side of the House hopes that before the debates on the Address terminate we shall have given to us in clear terms the plans the Tories have for dealing with unemployment in Scotland.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
I shall not attempt to follow the whimsical and highly-coloured descriptions of the problems of Scotland, no doubt inaccurately stated, of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin).
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Member has just stated that I am seeking to deceive the House by saying what is not true. Is that in order?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Saying what is not true is in order, but saying that an hon. Member is a liar is not in order.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I was so confused by his argument that I could only think that some of the statements made by the hon. Member must be inaccurate.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I was sorry that the hon. Member cast aspersions on the 69 holiday of the Prime Minister in Scotland. Many people have said to me that they were very glad they did not have to work half as hard as the Prime Minister and they were sorry that he had to cut his holiday short and to come back to London.
In the series of admirable proposals we have heard in the Gracious Speech today—those referring to a pensions scheme related to earnings, a new scheme for compensation for compulsory acquisition of land and a scheme for home ownership, which was announced by the Prime Minister this afternoon—it is quite obvious that we shall not have a great deal of time in this Session for any major steps forward in the field of industrial relations.
I could not help feeling, during the summer holidays, that the problem of industrial relations in the Western world is very far from being solved at the present time. We had the annual wage increases, which always tend to outstrip our productivity increases and then we had strikes in the nationalised industries, in B.O.A.C and London Transport, and the wage rounds led to increases in costs in all industries where production remains static. Of course, there are a certain number of expanding industries which are able to absorb those costs, but even those industries are sometimes limited by the amount of raw materials which can he imported from abroad.
I could not help feeling, during those strikes and some of those industrial troubles, that the popular conceptions of capital and labour are hopelessly out-of-date today. Everyone who is employed by a company is an employee; there is no clear line of demarcation between a worker and staff. Even the chairman of a company is an employee.
The old conception of an employer, a capitalist entrepreneur who did everything, designed the product and produced it, ran the works, bought his own materials, was his own salesman, his own accountant, his own public relations officer and the rest, has gone because, in a big company, his functions are split up between a multitude of men. There are design engineers, works managers, production engineers, personnel managers, sales directors, accountants, and so on.
A top executive in a big industrial company today is really a co-ordinator. 70 He is not an owner-manager, but has many specialised departments with large staffs and specialised workmen under him. The tendency towards big companies must grow in future and the result will be a growing middle class of specialised workers and specialised staffs which are bound to grow larger and larger, particularly with the advent of automation.
Despite this tendency, which is going on all around us in industry, we still hear a great deal about the old war, labour versus capitalism, and the old war-cries. I cannot help feeling that the attitude of some of the unions is very out-of-date. I noticed during the holidays the old-fashioned attitude of trade unions like the United Society of Boilermakers, Shipbuilders and Structural Workers and the National Union of Vehicle Builders.
If we talk to a man in the works about these problems we get quite a reasonable discussion, but a sort of veil of suspicion comes over his mind in any discussion of the words "capital" and "capitalist". I went to some little trouble to see who the capitalists are today about whom so much is said. There have been many surveys of capitalism; one was made fairly recently by the Oxford University Institute of Statistics. It established that in this country there are 1¼ million shareholders and that nearly half of these, strangely enough, are women. Of these shareholders, about 34 per cent. are retired. They represent the largest single block of shares. The average holding of shares is only about £200 or £300, and about 42 per cent. of the shareholders of the country have incomes below £400 a year.
A more harmless lot of people than the capitalists I cannot imagine. They are far from being the ogres of capitalism of which we have heard a lot about for so many years. I have heard it said by the Leader of the Opposition and other hon. Members opposite that the wealth of the nation is held by 3 per cent. of the people. I do not believe that that can be true. It can only be true if we count big insurance companies like the Co-operative Insurance Company, and who are very big investors, as one person. Then the statement might conceivably be true.
That is not the real picture that lies behind the big investors like insurance companies. The fact is that 70 per cent. 71 of the families of our country own life insurance policies. Life insurance companies are very big investors in industrial shares. In fact, about 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. of the total industrial shareholdings is borne by insurance and pension funds. I therefore claim that 70 per cent. of the nation participates in shareholdings in industry. That takes us very far from the 3 per cent. who, it is claimed, are the owners of the nation's wealth. With that sort of background I think that we have a modern picture of what is really happening.
I turn for a moment to the problems of industry as a whole. I do not think that any hon. Member can claim that nationalisation is the answer to industrial problems. It certainly has not prevented strikes, as was claimed in the halcyon days before nationalisation was introduced. I remember that in the coal industry of Yorkshire, before the war, it was always said that after nationalisation everyone would like to work for the State and that strikes would come to an end. My second objection to nationalisation as a panacea for industrial problems is that it makes the ownership of industry more remote from the common man even than capitalism.
The solution of our problems lies in the property-owning democracy; not just the ownership of houses, bungalows or a few National Savings Certificates, but ownership of industrial shares as well. I hope that on that point I will carry with me some Co-operative hon. Members on the other side of the House. I believe that to be the answer of the Western world to world Communism, and that we must continue to apply it rapidly if we are to keep ahead of Communism.
Many companies, such as I.C.I., Rolls-Royce and Joseph Lucas, have introduced employee stockholding schemes so that the employee can acquire shares, either by direct purchase or out of the profits of the company paid by way of bonus. All these different schemes have been analysed in a book which I have been recently reading, entitled "The Challenge of Employee Shareholding" by Dr. George Copeman, to whom I am much indebted. We must further encourage such companies to introduce schemes by tax concessions similar to those given to the building societies and co-operative societies in the past few years.
72 The acquisition of shares must surely identify the interests of the owners and the workers, and must give the employees some understanding of the functions of capital. It has had, and will have, the most beneficial effects on labour relations. It is nice to think of this idea of a man in a company holding perhaps £200 or £300 worth of stock in the company in which he works. Such a man would not only have a stake in the company but an amount perhaps equivalent to that of a man who is bringing his own machine-tool to work.
§ Mr. John McCann (Rochdale)
Does the employee, by holding stock in the company, also have a vote in the affairs of the company?
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
In some schemes the man would have a vote. Any modern scheme would surely provide for the workers to have a vote, and, in fact, they do so provide.
This company shareholding is not the whole answer to our problems, because a man has all his eggs in one basket if he has shares only in his own company. In bad times his job as well as his shares may be in jeopardy. We therefore want to encourage people to invest in industry, probably through something like the unit trust movement, which enables a man to invest a few pounds in a whole portfolio of industrial shares held by the trust He can do this by putting aside a few shillings a week. Time does pot permit me to do more than sketch briefly some of the legislative changes that could be made to make the unit trust movement as popular here as it is in America, where twenty times more shares are held by unit trust holders than is the case here.
It ought to be possible for the trustee savings banks to deal not only in National Savings, but in trust shares. I think that we should have to amend the Truck Acts so that employees could request their employers to deduct something from their wages in order to buy not only National Savings but unit trust shares as well. We ought to reduce the Stamp Duty on share transactions from 2 per cent. to 1 per cent., and the Board of Trade regulations governing unit trusts might be amended so as to tighten up the buying back of shares by the trust, and perhaps allowing more flexibility in service charges so as to allow the annual service 73 charge to come out of gross income instead of net income. It would also be popular to allow the investor to have tax free the first £15 of his holdings in unit trusts. All these things would greatly encourage the unit trust movement.
In this way, by extension of company schemes for employees to hold shares and by the extension of the unit trust move-merit, we should be encouraging a whole field of new savings to be cultivated by industry. Although National Savings have gone up by ten times since 1951, these National Savings are applied to Government purposes. There has not been such a large increase in what is put aside by the ordinary man in industry. If we took these steps it would bring all the employees in the enterprise completely together and thus eliminate friction and lessen strikes, and it would certainly be an answer to Communism. I trust that during this Session we shall find further time for a discussion of these important matters in both the industrial and the economic field.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I hope the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) will forgive me for not following his remarks. I want to make only a single point in my contribution to the debate.
The Gracious Speech refers to the three-Power talks on the problem of skipping nuclear tests, talks which are due to start on Friday. It is not too much to say that if the talks fail the prospects for humanity will indeed be gloomy. The 50-50 chance which mankind has of surviving will become an even slimmer chance. There is, for instance, the likelihood that France will begin tests very shortly.
The serious point is that the present likelihood is that the talks will fail because all three Governments—I make no exception—are looking for a formula which will give them an advantage at the expense of their rivals or a formula which will provide an excuse for blaming their so-called enemies for the breakdown of the talks. They are no more likely to reach success in this way than they did in the past. The United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee met in London and in the course of 171 sessions agreed on precisely nothing, and I am 74 frightened for all our sakes that the forthcoming talks will have the same result.
Many hon. Members on this side of the House believe in unilateral action, or, as one may prefer to call it, disarmament by example. We believe that only by one nation having the courage to act on its own shall we cut the vicious circle. I must admit that I would go the whole hog. I would unilaterally stop the tests, the manufacture and the stockpiling of the bombs, and I would ask the Americans to remove their air and missile bases.
But it is true that this is a big step to take, and we must be realistic. I see little prospect of the three Governments concerned, as at present constituted, going as far as that. Therefore, today I plead for limited unilateral action. The talks at Geneva present mankind with a glorious opportunity, possibly the last one, of stopping the arms race. If the talks fail and the arms race goes on, it will gather momentum, and the result is clear to every serious-minded person. Therefore, I urge that Britain should declare that, in order to reach agreement, with America and Russia, as well as for other reasons, she will stop permanently, unconditionally and forthwith, her nuclear tests. I believe that then, and only then, is there a chance of these vital talks succeeding.
As I have said, I think all three Governments are raising obstacles. The obstacles that we are raising is the stipulation about one year—that we would agree to stop our tests for one year only. There is a widespread suspicion that one year is approximately the time necessary to digest the experience of the previous series of tests; in other words, no sacrifice is involved. There is an air of hypocrisy about this which deceives no one, neither the Russians nor the people of this country.
Suppose the Government did as I am pleading and stopped all future nuclear tests. It might result in the loss of a further gain of 10 per cent. in the efficiency of our bombs—if one can use the word "efficiency" for such devilry. If we increase the efficiency of our bombs by 10 per cent., is it such a tremendous advantage? We already have hydrogen bombs 1,000 times as devastating as the bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the 10 per cent. extra 75 efficiency which we might obtain in our hydrogen bombs, is it worth losing the possibility of success at the Geneva talks?
I believe that if our Government had the courage to do this, their example would force the two other Governments to follow suit. Then a completely new and magnificent situation would arise, because once we had taken the first step the rest would follow. The first step is always the most difficult. If we could by the force of our example reach agreement at Geneva on stopping tests, I believe we could proceed to stop manufacture and stockpiling and eventually deal with our political problems as well. If the Government would do this, the whole world would breathe a sigh of relief because the shadow of being wiped out would be lifted from us.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
I hope the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) will forgive me if I do not follow him on the subject of nuclear weapon tests, although I cannot accept that the British Government are going to Geneva having in mind a way of devising a formula to blame the other side if the talks break down. I think the hon. Member is being unduly pessimistic about that.
There are various matters in the Gracious Speech to which I wish to draw attention. One, mentioned at some length by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin), is the question of unemployment. I believe that the challenge of rising unemployment is one of the greatest tests the Government will be called on to face during the coming months. I am convinced that a solution to the problem will be found.
I think we should all accept that full employment or a very high level of employment can be maintained only if our money is sound, if there is full confidence in sterling, and I believe that, owing to the action taken by the Government a year ago, that position has now been reached. There is once more full confidence in sterling, and we can now afford, and dare, to take off the brakes and start expanding again. For that reason, I believe that a solution to the problem of rising unemployment will be found.
76 There are so many jobs in the country that want doing today that one would think that there ought to be plenty of work for everybody, but we can never overlook the danger of inflation, of expanding again too quickly. We must be careful in our choice of priorities for re-expansion. It is my belief that we ought to concentrate most on helping those industries to expand which have already proved themselves not only efficient and successful but able to compete in any market in the world.
One of the most useful steps which can be taken in dealing with the problem of unemployment is to encourage successful industries to branch out in those parts of the country where unemployment is at present above the national average. I agree with what the hon. Member for Govan said about the need for new industries to be taken into the parts of Scotland which he mentioned, and in this connection I think we ought to give a very high place to the motor industry. It has a fine record and it is a very large employer of labour, directly and indirectly. It has been very successful in the export market and its products affect every one of us in one way or another.
I am sure that the industry will welcome the decision announced last night to remove the remaining hire-purchase restrictions, but I think there is something even more helpful than this which could be done—I realise that it is primarily a Budget matter—which would not only help the industry but would stimulate industrial activity in general, and that is a reduction in the tax on petrol and diesel fuel. That would help producers to bring down their costs and would benefit all users of motor transport, whether goods or passenger transport. I think it would be one of the most effective ways of bringing down the cost of living.
When he was opening the Motor Show last week my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred to a forecast which had been made that in ten years' time one family in two would own a motor car. Whether they would all be members of the Conservative Party I do not know, but in view of the objections which we have heard from the Labour Party to allowing an unlimited use of motor cars at General Elections, that might well be so, though in one ward in my constituency 77 last May the Labour Party produced 45 motor cars in support of one candidate for the city council.
This desirable state of affairs of a car to every two families will bring with it immense problems. It will mean much more urgent acceleration of the road-building programme. By that I do not mean only motorways out in the country; I also mean dealing with the far more difficult problem of providing urban motorways and many more off-street parking places.
All these things mean still more jobs. These additional jobs will call for greater mobility of labour. If people are to change their jobs, obviously they will want somewhere to live, and I still feel that some parts of the country are far too short of houses. We have far too long a waiting list in Manchester, although in Manchester this is largely due to the lack of sites for new houses.
We all realise the very great difficulty of steering the right course between inflation and deflation, and the Government must on no account, through fear of unemployment, be stampeded into actions which would lead to another round of rising prices and the consequent loss of confidence in our money at home and abroad. That would do far more harm than good in helping to solve the problem of unemployment.
The Prime Minister referred to the need to expand consumption as one method of dealing with unemployment, and I believe that the time has come when we might do more to speed up the repayment of postwar credits, perhaps by reducing the age at which they are paid and certainly by repaying them in cases of hardship. In common with hon. Members on both sides of the House, I have more than once asked whether they cannot be repaid in case of hardship. We have almost invariably been given the same answer—that it is impossible to define hardship. With all respect, that is absolute nonsense. If the Treasury is unwilling to try to define hardship, why does it not ask the National Assistance Board how to do it, because the Board is doing it every single day? Apart from the injustice, and, I would call it, the cruelty of withholding money owed to people when they are in need, what is the sense in refusing to pay them what they are entitled to have and at the same time driving them into asking 78 for money from the National Assistance Board? There seems no sense in that at all.
One very good reason, in my view, for welcoming the reference to superannuation and pensions in the Gracious Speech is the fact that the White Paper will put the whole scheme on a sound financial basis. That, I think, is of vital importance to the pensioners themselves as much as to anyone else.
One aspect of the scheme which will undoubtedly meet some criticism is that it appears to do nothing directly for existing pensioners. It should be remembered, however, that the present retirement pension is in real terms the highest it has ever been. Those who call for an immediate increase in its nominal cash value are, it seems to me, thinking too much of that cash value and too little of what it will buy.
As we are aware from the White Paper, even at the present rate of the 50s. retirement pension, the National Insurance Fund will show a deficit of £14 million this year, and to increase the pension to £3, as has been suggested, would cost another £180 million now, and the deficit will rise with an appalling rapidity as the number of pensioners grows from about 5 million today to about 7½million in twenty years' time. To increase the cash value of the pension and to meet the immense cost by heavier contributions and out of heavier taxes would, I think, be so inflationary as to defeat its own object. It would reduce the real value of the pension, as has happened in the past, by forcing up prices.
We all know that the best way to help the pensioners is to bring prices down. I was therefore somewhat disappointed to find that in its Second Report the Cohen Committee felt compelled to refer in paragraph 115 to the failure of the prices of manufactured goods, as a group, to decline appreciably in the last few months. The Committee went on to say:It therefore seems necessary to inquire whether there are any ways in which the prices of industrial products could be made to move downwards more rapidly in response to changes in costs.That I believe to be true. It is not good enough to be satisfied with keeping prices stable; they should be brought down. In my opinion, if as much effort were put into reducing prices as has been put into 79 increasing incomes, whether in the form of wages or in the form of dividends, everyone would be much better off and the pensioner would benefit most of all.
I believe it is about time that the consumer, as well as the wage earner and the shareholder, derived some benefit from increased efficiency in industry. Be that as it may, with prices at their present level, a pension of 50s. a week is not by itself enough to live on. It is perfectly true that many pensioners have got other means. I know it is said that it was never intended that people should live on the pension alone, but it does not alter the fact that in some cases 50s. a week is all that a pensioner has, and it is not enough.
These are the people whom we want to help most at the present time. The proposals of the Government and of the party opposite are almost entirely for the next generation. There is a lot of truth in what was stated in The Times on 15th October, that it may well be best to treat existing and future pensioners as separate problems. It seems to me that the best way to help the existing pensioners is not to give everybody a relatively small fiat increase all round irrespective of individual needs or means, but to give a larger increase to those who need it most. In other words, it is right to keep the present retirement pension at the standard rate and to provide a supplementary pension in case of need.
I know it will be said that that would simply mean driving more people to apply for National Assistance. We know that many old people are very reluctant indeed to accept payment from that source. They look on it as taking charity and as an affront to their pride. I respect their spirit, but, for all that, they are wrong. We all ought to try to convince them that they are wrong and no one should encourage them to think of National Assistance as something shameful to which old people are driven by a mean Government. All those people who receive National Assistance have themselves contributed to it in one form or another through taxation, and I do not think that that is any more a charity than is a pension, because nobody is entitled to a pension of 50s. today on the strict basis of what he has paid into the National Insurance Scheme.
80 Presumably the machinery of the National Assistance Board would be the one best fitted to administer any sort of scheme of supplementary pension. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the officials of the Board who are doing a wonderful job with a great deal of sympathy and understanding. However, I wish sometimes that we could think of another name for this service which would remove any feeling that it was a kind of charity.
There is one other way in which we might help existing pensioners. In view of the fact that the existing pensioners will not benefit under the new scheme, would it not be possible to have a further relaxation of the earnings rule in the case of existing pensioners? Indeed, I feel that the time has come for a general relaxation of that rule and a general increase in the amount which can be earned without prejudice to the pension, because wage rates have gone up since the amount which can be earned was fixed at 50s. If one accepts the need for the rule at all, it should be tied more or less to the current rate of wages.
Before leaving this subject of pensions, I wonder whether the Government would have another look at the case of the self-employed to see if they can be brought into the graduated scheme in one way or another. I understand that this has been done in the United States, and I do not think we ought to reject the possibility simply on the ground of administrative difficulty. These people should be given a chance to come into the scheme if they want to. This matter has been raised with me by a number of people. Although it may be right that those who have contracted out of the State scheme should pay their contribution at the present instead of the lower basic rate, I do not see why this should apply to the self-employed, because they are not allowed to pay the graduated contribution even if they want to.
I wish to refer to the paragraph in the Gracious Speech relating to education. It is stated that in the new plans which will be announced it isintended, in particular, to improve the scope and quality of secondary education.I certainly have no quarrel with that, nor do I deny the need for higher education in science, and so on. But I should like to say something about the bottom rung 81 on the education ladder, and that is the nursery schools. I hope their claims will not be overlooked. Surely a good start in education is important. Teachers with whom I have discussed this matter tell me that they find that children who have been to a nursery school adapt themselves more readily to the infants' school than do those who have always been at home.
I know that a great many people hold the view that children under five years of age are much better at home, being looked after and taught by their mothers. I agree with that in the case of children in the country or in those parts of the cities where they have plenty of open spaces where they can get out in the open air and play with other children. But nursery schools are most important in the thickly-populated built-up parts of big cities like Manchester. I have in mind an area in my own constituency. In a nursery school in a heavily built-up area such as that children have a chance to get out of doors and play safely with other children under supervision. They certainly could not do that if they stayed at home. Surely one does not want to keep them shut in the house all the time. It is terribly dangerous to let them out in the streets to play, although I know it is sometimes difficult to prevent them.
Besides this, many mothers these days want to go out to work. Some people criticise them for doing that and say that they should stay at home and look after the children, but I think it is unfair to find fault with the mother who wants to go out and earn more to improve the amenities of her home if she knows that her children are being well cared for and properly looked after with other children in a good nursery school. Whatever anyone else may say on this subject, I know that the mothers in my constituency have very strong views on the need for nursery schools.
I know that we cannot do everything at once in education or in anything else, but I am convinced that there are plenty of opportunities for providing nursery classes in existing schools. I have a case in point. In a school in my constituency there is an infants' department with eight classes, three of which are taken over by the senior girls, two as class-rooms and one as a music room. The music room was originally used as a nursery room, and in view of the great demand by 82 parents that it should revert to this purpose, it ought to do so, more particularly as all the facilities are readily available. Nursery furniture and equipment is stored in the school waiting to be used. Last year, the Manchester Education Committee sanctioned the use of this room for this purpose. The project has the co-operation of the headmistress of the senior girls' department, but a Government inspector came along and objected to it. This is a matter which came to my notice only within the last day or two, and I shall certainly take it up with my right hon. Friend the Minister because there is no doubt at all that there is a very real need for nursery schools in these heavily built-up parts of great cities.
One thing is certain about the Gracious Speech. It is that it contains enough to keep the House fully occupied for a long time. There will, no doubt, be some differences of opinion on matters of detail, at any rate, as the various measures which are proposed pass through this House on their way to the Statute Book, but, for my part, I am confident that what Her Majesty's Government seek to do and have set out in the Gracious Speech will commend itself to the nation as a whole.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
I am very pleased indeed to have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson), because I quite agree with most of what he said, and, in particular, with the last section of his speech, in which he drew the attention of the House to the question of education. He stressed a very important aspect of this subject. I quite agree with the hon. Member that if a child starts early enough in school it will be to that child's advantage.
There is a reference to educational expansion in the Gracious Speech:My Government will continue to encourage the extension of facilities for higher education in the universities and technical colleges. In addition they will announce new plans for developing the nation's schools intended, in particular, to improve the scope and quality of secondary education.I am very sorry indeed to note that there is no mention at all of the primary schools. There is a real danger that our education system may become unbalanced because we might pay attention to the top and not sufficient attention to the base. After all, it is the primary schools 83 which will feed the secondary schools, and the secondary schools will feed the colleges, the universities and the technical colleges.
Consequently, I think that the time has arrived when we should pay more attention to the primary schools, because they have, I believe, been neglected more than any other branch of our educational field, especially in the rural areas. Yet, if education is to be improved in scope and in quality, if, as we are promised in the Gracious Speech, the education in our secondary schools is to be improved, then not only do we need the schools, but we also need the teachers to staff those schools, and it is to that question that I want to devote a few minutes of my speech tonight.
It is true that the Minister of Education has lately decided on a large-scale expansion of our training colleges, but that decision was long overdue. It should have been decided upon years ago, and I am very sorry to say that even as late as last June the Minister was not convinced that it was necessary to expand our training colleges to provide for the training of our teachers. We are always pleased to welcome the change of attitude in favour of educational expansion. We are promised a large-scale expansion involving a cost of £15 million over the next four years and it may be that the Minister is to be congratulated on having squeezed £15 million out of the Chancellor.
It is true that the present Chancellor was preceded by the "Iron Chancellor", but I suggest that the present Minister of Education should squeeze the Chancellor still more to get more than £15 million for this scheme. I know that there has been a large advance in technical education, and rightly so, and I am very pleased that this is mentioned in the Gracious Speech, which declares that the Government willcontinue to encourage the extension of facilities for higher education in the universities and technical colleges.I fully admit that we cannot hold our position in the modern world unless we have the finest technical education possible, but it is also true that we are now about halfway through the spending of £100 million on technical education.
I am not suggesting for a moment that the cost of expanding teachers' training 84 colleges is comparable to that of setting up technical colleges, but I do suggest that £15 million to be spent on expanding teachers' training colleges is not by any means a prodigal sum. I believe that if that sum of £15 million could be raised to £20 million or, better still, to £22 million, it would make all the difference between a real success and a faltering achievement. The problem with which we are faced is the provision of a satisfactory system of education for our children and youths in the immediate future. All sides of the House agree that that is the problem and unless it is solved we shall in due course reap a legacy of serious social problems, to which there is same reference in the Gracious Speech today.
This problem of the recruitment of teachers is not an easy one to solve, but one thing is certain. If we are to have the right number of teachers, and of the right quality, we must take all matters into consideration, and I should like to ask the House to bear with me on this point for a few moments. In the first place, 34 per cent. of the children in our primary schools are in over-sized classes. One-third of our schools are understaffed. That is a very grim story to tell, because we have always thought that this country was a pioneer in the field of education. When we come to the secondary schools, we find that 62 per cent. of the children are in over-sized classes. That suggests the magnitude of the problem. In other words, we must have more teachers, even on that score alone The aim must be to provide satisfactory education, which cannot be provided unless the classes become educationally manageable.
There is another factor, and I do not know whether it is always borne in mind. There are at present no signs of a shrinking school population. Indeed, the evidence points in the other direction. School populations will be expanding for years to come, and, therefore, before any real impact can be brought to bear on the size of classes, not only must we increase the numbers of the teaching profession, but that increase must be a very considerable one indeed.
There are other factors, too, and perhaps we do not always bear them in mind when thinking of the teaching profession. There is a commendable change of 85 attitude on the part of parents, particularly of children attending secondary modern schools. More and more are they becoming anxious for their children to remain longer at school than merely until the prescribed leaving age. Parents are becoming more alive to the fact that a child learns more in his last year than in his first few years at the secondary school. This trend has to be encouraged, but it represents an extra demand upon the leaching staff.
Another factor to which I wish to direct attention is that the Education Act, 1944, has not yet been fully implemented. The time has come to make up our minds whether that Act is to be fully implemented. It cannot be shelved indefinitely. We are already fourteen years away from the passing of that Act and at this stage, when we are planning ten years ahead for the recruitment of teachers we should take into our calculations the full implementation of the Education Act, 1944. The raising of the school-leaving age to 16, the establishment of county colleges, and so on, should come into our deliberations and have their effect in our calculations. Obviously, this will mean a big demand for teachers. With already over-sized classes, an expanding school population, children staying on longer at school and the desire to put the 1944 Act into full implementation, a great demand for teachers is created.
What about the supply? Where are we to get the teachers from? This is the crux of the problem. The Minister, however, has consistently refused to face it until June this year. The National Advisory Council on the Supply and Training of Teachers recommended that there should be 16,000 extra places by 1962. According to that expert body, nothing less than that number of extra places could meet the situation. It is a realistic figure. The Minister, however, even in the face of that expert advice, decides upon 12,000 instead of 16.000 extra places, or a reduction of 25 per cent.
I do not suggest that the proposed expenditure of £15 million will not enable us to travel far. What I do suggest, however, is that an additional £5 million or £7 million would make all the difference between travelling far and arriving at the winning post. What is certain is that with £15 million we shall not arrive at our goal, but that if we spent £22 million we 86 should have a strong chance of arriving. We must set our minds upon arriving. In this respect, I am not prepared to accept the dictum of Robert Louis Stevenson, thatTo travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive".We have travelled hopefully in the realm of education all through the last fifty years and we must bear in mind that the circulars can be expected to come down to apply the brake once a start has been made.
My next point is an important one. Year by year, it is becoming more and more difficult to place school leavers in employment. Some time ago, the Lord Privy Seal, in addressing an august body, referred to the need for "un-Teddifying" the Teddy boy. I suggest that no factor would he more conducive to Teddifying the un-Teddified boy than to allow youngsters to leave school without finding them interesting and suitable employment. If economic circumstances do not improve, because we cannot find employment for these boys and girls we may have to raise the school-leaving age and establish county colleges; but we would he frustrated, because we would not have the teaching staffs. The problem is an important one. Nevertheless, with these reservations, I very much welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to the large-scale expansion in education.
In view of the declared policy of expansion, I have been baffled by the decision of the Minister to close the training college for women at Wrexham. In fairness to the Minister, however, I should say that I have just had a letter from him telling me that the matter is to be discussed later. It appears, therefore, that the matter is not finally disposed of. In Wrexham, we have a women's training college with 200 students which has been in existence for thirteen years. It was opened as a temporary training college and it has been threatened with closure time after time. It has been reprieved more than once and it is still functioning. Until recently, the decision was that it should close in 1961.
Such a contraction of facilities does not make sense in the midst of the proposed wonderful expansion. To me, it is a contradiction. The college has been threatened with closure at a time when the country does not know where to turn 87 for training facilities for teachers. It is situated in an interesting area—because everything about Wrexham is interesting. It is the finest town in Wales. It is certainly the largest industrial town in North Wales. With nine large secondary schools in the immediate neighbourhood and plenty of nursery schools and primary schools, it has an abundance of teaching practice facilities, and yet we are threatened with the closure of the college.
I appeal to the Minister seriously to reconsider the matter. At a time when the Midlands are crying out for teachers, and the country does not know where to look for them, it is nonsensical to consider closing this college, which has served the country so well during the last thirteen years.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
I shall return later to the allusions to education that we have heard in the speech of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones). I was struck by the relevance to what he was saying of a remark made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), who said that the worst feature of the Gracious Speech this year was its failure to look inwards at the nation. The speech of the hon. Member for Wrexham to which we have been listening with great interest was an example of looking inwards. We heard about the educational problems not only of his part of the world but of the country in general, and we heard him say, in particular, that, unless special employment opportunities were found, prepared or created in these islands, the Teddy boy would continue to be a problem. I believe that the Speech from the Throne today is the best we have had in this Parliament, for the very reason that it puts the Commonwealth first and is outward-looking—among other things to expanding employment opportunities oversea—and I shall devote my remarks primarily to that Commonwealth aspect of it.
A study of the three previous Speeches from the Throne shows a changing estimate of priorities in the Government's mind. In 1955 it began, very naturally, with an allusion to the then railway crisis. But it followed that by references to the United Nations, to N.A.T.O., Western European Union, the United States, the Soviet Union and then disarmament, 88 before there was one word about the Commonwealth. Even then the allusion to the Commonwealth was altogether perfunctory. In 1956, the Government, I am glad to say, did respond to suggestions made in various quarters, but we still found that the Commonwealth was put in second place, or even third place, in their statement of their approach to the affairs of the nation at that time. The same was true, although to a lesser degree, in 1957.
But the Gracious Speech today puts the Commonwealth first, does so emphatically and, what is more, gives us a clue to the Government's attitude toward the Commonwealth. We have the clue in the sentence which says that it is "in the spirit" of the Montreal Conference that Britainwill seek to promote the closest co-operation within the Commonwealth.Furthermore, we are told that the Government propose to pursue that objective in the beliefthat the Commonwealth has a unique contribution to make to the progress of human society.The spirit of Montreal was admirably defined in paragraph (2) of its final act, which said that the Commonwealth's needscall for close collaboration both between themselves"—that is, Commonwealth countries—and with other likeminded countries.It went on to say:For these reasons the central theme…at Montreal has been an expanding Commonwealth in an expanding world",the implications of which in economics, finance and trade the Conference had been studying.
It is a theme which recalls most adroitly a sentiment uttered by Her Gracious Majesty the Sovereign and the Head of the Commonwealth in her Christmas broadcast in 1956. She then told the 660 million citizens of the Commonwealth, who, as we were reminded at Montreal, occupy no less than 12 million square miles of the earth's land surface:I believe that the way in which our Commonwealth is developing represents one of the most hopeful and imaginative experiments in international affairs that the world has ever seen.89 Those words give point also to a most interesting, stimulating and fecund allusion made by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary in a speech on 10th October, from which I shall quote verbatim, because it is to the advantage of us all that his words should be recorded in HANSARD. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary that day said:It does not seem to me impossible to add, as it were, relations-in-law to the family group of the Commonwealth. At some future date, other sovereign powers may wish for a closer bond than partial inter-dependence with the Commonwealth, and I feel that it might not be impossible to satisfy them without disadvantage for the family as a whole.He went on to say:If this ever becomes more than a dream, we shall have provided the world with what it so desperately wants—a union of nations bound by a common ethic to protect its weaker members and prepared to sink self-interest for the common weal.Those words and that sentiment are reflected in the words of the Gracious Speech:It is their firm belief that the Commonwealth has a unique contribution to make to the progress of human society".The question which we as Parliamentarians must consider is how the United Kingdom Government and its partner Governments in the Commonwealth will make good the decisions and the resolutions of principle made at Montreal. If one studies the final act of that Conference, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a special reference in his speech today, one finds that the decisions were really of two kinds, what I might call hard-and-fast decisions—some of them, no doubt, taken beforehand—and resolutions or agreements of general principle on obligations which all Commonwealth countries recognised that they had towards one another. As such, the final act of Montreal was a kind of credo of Commonwealth purpose the like of which there has not been hitherto.
How are we all to make sure that the eleven or twelve sovereign Governments of the Commonwealth which subscribed to those purposes do live up to their pledges and deliver to us, every one of the 660 million Commonwealth citizens, what they have promised? There is at present no regular Parliamentary forum for the Commonwealth as a whole which would enable us, as we do in this House, to 90 chivy, badger, question and probe Ministers or Governments to find out what is going on and, as it were, demand an answer.
The organisation and system of the Commonwealth can make a unique contribution to human society. But one of its most urgent needs is an annual conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which could perform the function—let us say, in a debate on the Montreal final act—of a Parliament where delegates from all the countries of the Commonwealth could nag, chivy and question Government representatives. Some of my hon. Friends opposite—I call hon. Gentlemen opposite my hon. Friends, because I have very great respect for many of them—some of my hon. Friends from this side, and Parliamentarians from other countries, would be able to chivy and question our Commonwealth Governments and, no doubt, at times address them in language of "Elizabethan" candour which would occasionally bring a laggard Government to action.
We already have such a conference every two years. I do not believe that to hold such a Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference annually would cost more than £100,000 on each occasion. If this annual conference had a steady delegation from each of the main Commonwealth Parliaments, there would be a sense of continuity. The annual conference would be welcome everywhere. If the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has its own annual assembly, if the Council of Europe has its own Assembly more frequently still, surely it is time that this grouping of nations, the Commonwealth, on which we rightly pin our major hopes, should have no less.
Many of us are gratified—I certainly am—at the decision in Montreal, at last, to establish, after many years of pressure and argument, a Commonwealth Consultative Economic Council, even though, in accord with Commonwealth tradition, it is largely a confirmation post facto of what has grown up, I regard that decision as a great triumph, particularly for Australia and New Zealand, which have clamoured for it for 35 years, but also for the foresight of our own Government who obviously threw their weight behind the proposal. Merely because Commonwealth decisions of that scale and magnificence represent a legal and formal 91 confirmation of what has been growing all the while—that was true of the Statute of Westminster—there is no reason why things should not be built on it, just as things have been built on the Statute at Westminster itself.
Therefore, I believe that before this debate it over we are entitled to ask the Government, and to receive an indication of their view, what this Economic Consultative Council will be and what it will do. Will it merely be an organisation that meets from time to time ad hoc, or will it be a continuing organisation, perhaps on the lines of the Colombo Plan Bureau, with a chairman, or preferably a secretary-general—perhaps of the skill and calibre of M. Spaak—who as secretary-general can take an initiative in Commonwealth activities? That is certainly what some of us are hoping for. We are given little indication in the final act of Montreal whether that is the purpose. The only clue we have is that the Commonwealth Economic Council will play a major part and furnish the secretariat. We want to know a little more about it. It is legitimate to ask whether the Commonwealth Economic Council is sufficient as a model.
We are told that there is to be a Commonwealth house in London to provide a roof for this organisation. The suggestion is current that other Commonwealth countries might also build similar Commonwealth houses in their capitals. First, I want to hear something of the Government's ideas about the Commonwealth house in London. Will the organisation take over a fairly old building—Marlborough House comes to mind—which is cramped in its quarters but beautified with many historical and agreeable traditions, or will we be bold and pick a really important site on, for example, the South Bank, from which can be seen St. Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament, but at the same time something modern and imaginative, and engage a first-class architect of the new age and show that when we do something for the Commonwealth we are doing something for tomorrow and not for times gone by?
I was much intrigued and encouraged by the Commonwealth scholarship scheme announced at Montreal in which I think I can fairly and honestly say that discern the hand and mark of the Secre- 92 tary of State for Commonwealth Relations, whose conduct of Commonwealth relations has grown to a stature and effectiveness that has impressed all of us, particularly in his diplomacy. He preceded me in the honour of representing the constituency of Lanark. I was particularly pleased to see that it was made clear at Montreal that these 1,000 scholarships, which provide for the interchange of Commonwealth advanced students, shall not only be in the field of science and technology but also in the field of the humanities, and will exist not only for enabling people to get a university degree but will provide fitting rewards for serious studies in the humanities.
Here I am reminded of a foreign statesman who complained that his country had been beaten in its current campaign against a neighbour because the neighbour had trained men of wisdom as well as technologists. The country to which I am referring had only trained technologists and, therefore, broadly speaking, they had men who knew how to make things but did not know what to have made. This is a critical distinction. On this point, I am not losing sight of—and I feel sure that I carry both sides of the House with me in this—the need and value of technical education and the parlous need for many more engineers and technicians. But I was glad to see in Montreal that the wisdom of training administrators, leaders and others in the humanities was recognised.
That is fair enough, but what about other aspects of Commonwealth education? Only a day or two ago I received a letter from a leading schoolmaster in Australia. As I have not his permission to quote from the letter, I cannot identify him, but he is a person who is well known and respected in Australia and he is also known over here. On Commonwealth education, he writes:Many of us in the Headmasters' Conference of Australia have strong views: every time one of us goes to England he harangues the Headmasters' Conference on the subject of the exchange of masters and the importance of English people taking an interest in Australia. I do not know if this does very much good: we certainly find difficulty in getting our own masters over to England for experience. We feel that English schools should be glad to have people from our schools in Australia: they are not completely outlandish or incompetent and usually they do very well indeed in English schools. What we need is to get 93 our young men to England for a year or two;…It is of tremendous value if they can have a year or two abroad and return here: it is far more valuable than getting Englishmen out here.He goes on:My colleagues managed to achieve some success in placing young men by going over to England themselves on leave and bullying a few English colleagues. No doubt that is what I shall do when I visit England next summer.I trust that these words will be read in HANSARD by the Commonwealth Relations Office, because as the educational conference of the Commonwealth planned for next year approaches, the exchange of schoolmasters within the Commonwealth may assume very considerable importance.
I was impressed by a statement in paragraph 53 of the Montreal final act, which reads:The Commonwealth countries agreed that their aim would be to develop understanding of their objectives.It is certainly long overdue. Is there not a strong case for a concerted Commonwealth effort to develop Commonwealth self-consciousness of its nature, being and purpose? For example, is there any reason why we should not have a popular version of the Montreal Conference Report, illustrated with diagrams, maps, and so on, in the way that we have a popular version of the economic White Paper every year? I have every reason to believe that such a document from a United Kingdom angle is already being prepared which will no doubt make evident how much Britain did at the Montreal Conference.
But surely what we need is a popular publication, cleared by all the Commonwealth Governments, issued in their name and made available for sale cheaply in all Commonwealth countries where those of our 660 million fellow Commonwealth citizens who are literate can read about the Commonwealth, as they very seldom do at the moment. Is there any reason why this admirable little book, "The Commonwealth in Brief", published by the Central Office of Information in London and full of the most useful facts, should not be reproduced in a cheap popular illustrated edition and sold on bookstalls throughout the Commonwealth?
I was much interested to learn that an illustrated account of the journey made 94 by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister through the Commonwealth early this year is either in preparation or has been prepared and will be made available to United Kingdom Information Offices overseas. I think that is worth while; but what about the journey we are about to witness of the Canadian Prime Minister, who is going on a great Commonwealth tour? These are vivid Commonwealth events. Is there any reason why the Commonwealth should not exploit them jointly in the interest of awakening Commonwealth self-consciousness? It will be said that it is not for Britain to publish something on behalf of Canada. But Britain has always taken the initiative in Commonwealth affairs and it seems to me wholly proper that we should suggest to the Canadians that, if they wished it, we would gladly try to bring out an account of Prime Minister Diefenbaker's journey, for popular distribution anywhere in the Commonwealth where there is a sale for it.
I was much interested the other day in a letter from a New Zealander who asked why we had not a Commonwealth Information Office. Of course, one gave the obvious answer that there is no single Government with the responsibility to take charge of such an office, but he wrote back—again, I have not his permission to quote the letter, and I therefore cannot disclose his name—in the following terms:A good example of the kind of organisation in mind, on a small scale, is the Public Relations Group which covered the Royal Tour of the Commonwealth in 1953–54. The group comprised representatives of commercial and official information services, mainly Press, film and radio, and although it naturally varied in composition from country to country, it remained basically the same in that all members of the Group worked together with one object—to get the story of the tour to the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time. I think that this would he a good pattern for a Commonwealth Information Service, based on co-operation between all its members and working with a single aim—to tell the Commonwealth story in terms that people everywhere can understand.He suggested that each Commonwealth country in the service should agree to provide an office and working facilities for regional headquarters staffs of a certain number of people. I hope that this thought, coming from a great-hearted New Zealander who tells me that he has had 95 25 years in the business of public information, will be considered seriously in the Commonwealth Relations Office. Perhaps before the debate is over we may hear a word or two from that Department about it.
The Montreal Conference was primarily about economics, and we are told that there is to be further study of ways of sustaining or supporting the prices of primary products. I refer to paragraph 44 of the final act. It would be fatal to assume—as was assumed by some members of the Commonwealth at that Conference, and the assumption even found its way into the final act—that China and the U.S.S.R. will wish to spike their own guns in order to be helpful to us about the prices of primary commodities. It is worth noting that Academician Varga, whose estimates have considerable weight in the Kremlin, now believes that the capitalist world is going into its longest and deepest slump for a couple of generations.
There are various vague allusions in the final act to the disposal of surpluses and, in particular, of food surpluses. May we, before the debate is over, hear from the Government a little more of what they think about the idea of a Commonwealth Food Bank which would purchase surpluses and hold them against rising prices or, alternatively, arrange for disposal to needy countries like India of Ghana, which would in turn pay in counterpart funds to be earmarked for the purchase of capital equipment elsewhere in the Commonwealth? There are many difficulties and problems about such a scheme, which seems to have been raised by the Canadians at Montreal but which did not find its way into the final communiqué. May we have some information about that before the debate ends? May we have some information on the Government's views about Lt.-Col. St. Clare Grondona's widely publicised and very detailed scheme for dealing with Commonwealth surpluses?
We are assured in the final act that the real cure for low or uncertain raw material prices is stable markets. One thing which is obvious about the Commonwealth is that the cure for many economic ills is stable as well as expanding markets. In parenthesis, it must be noted that not only is the Commonwealth 96 population rising sensationally every year but so also is its wealth. Many statistics are available in India, Pakistan, many Colonies in Africa, and in Canada and Australia, which all show that although the population is rising fast, and in India and Pakistan very fast, the gross national product is overall rising faster still.
The Commonwealth is already an expanding market, but it it does not protect its own interests by the simple and traditional resort to the tariff weapon, then we shall possibly find this wealth seeping away. One of the remarkable features of Montreal is that the merit of the preference system was formally recognised. Indeed, we are told not once but several times in the communiqué that the Commonwealth Governments recognise the value of preferences, although they are not prepared at this moment to extend them. Why not? If their value is asserted and confirmed, is there some Reason—perhaps a political reason or perhaps some consideration of American likes and dislikes—which makes it impolitic at this moment to extend them further?
We are confronted with a crisis in our relations with Europe and with the refusal of at least one member of the European Common Market to agree to a Free Trade Area, and it may well be that shortly we shall be forced into something like an exchange of preferences with the other eleven partners of O.E.E.C.
Could we be told why it was that at Montreal the preference system was thus damned with faint praise? It was given a pat on the back and then put away. If we want stable markets and secure prices, they must be protected markets. Could we be told more about the proposed studies of the Commonwealth Bank project that are to follow the Montreal Conference?
I heartily congratulate the Government on the Gracious Speech, on their choice of priorities, in putting the Commonwealth first and in giving us a guide to their thinking about the Commonwealth. But I and others will watch the Government closely as well as support them. We want to see deeds as well as words, and we trust that we shall see them. I urge the Government to press on and to keep a wary eye for opportunities of expanding Commonwealth influence both economically, through taking the initiative in 97 world affairs on behalf of and with the support of the Commonwealth, and in certain political contexts. It would do a disservice to be too precise, but there are possible opportunities in East and West Africa as well as in North-Western Europe. I cannot help reminding the Government, and the Commonwealth Relations Office in particular, of the words of Field Marshal Smuts in 1917:The Commonwealth is a dynamic evolving system always going forward to new destinies.Perish the Government which neglects to advance that thought and all praise for the Prime Minister who does.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry Randall (Gateshead, West)
The House has listened to a very interesting discourse by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) concerning the Commonwealth, and I believe that he has raised quite a number of very important problems. I do not, however, propose to follow his remarks. I did take note, however, that at the beginning of his speech he said that he regarded the Gracious Speech as the best of the last three. I am not at all sure that he would expect me to agree with him.
Nor, by the way, do I feel that his hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) would agree with him, for his was a remarkable and, indeed, a most astonishing speech. It was a speech which could quite easily have been made from these benches, and certainly not a speech which commended to the House the Gracious Speech and its contents. The hon. Gentleman told us that what we were facing was the challenge of rising unemployment, and that it must be met. We on this side could not agree with him more, but he did not go on to say that it was the present Government who were responsible for the present situation because their activities had discouraged production rather than encouraged it.
The hon. Member went on to say that there were far too many people wanting housing. Again, I could not agree with him more; but there is no mention of that in the Gracious Speech. Any mention of that is absent, apart from the mention of home ownership. He referred to post-war credits and the need for them to be paid out. There is no mention of that in the Gracious Speech. 98 He referred to the need to reduce prices. I agree with him, and I think that this side of the House and many besides would agree with him, but I see no reference in the Gracious Speech to action being taken whereby that could be brought about.
The hon. Member referred to the old-age pensioners and to the need for something to be done for them. There is no mention of that in the Gracious Speech, apart from the suggestion of the new pensions scheme which, as I understand, makes no contribution at all to improving the lot of the old-age pensioners. The hon. Member for Blackley talked of all these things. On the basis of his comments, I cannot see why the hon. Member for Lanark should regard the Gracious Speech as the best of the last three.
There are one or two matters in the Gracious Speech to which I want to refer, because they concern my constituents. There is the reference to home ownership. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition quite rightly remarked when he was addressing the House earlier today, it comes passing strange from a Government whose activities have rather discouraged home ownership. They have discouraged it by the higher interest rates. I thought that my right hon. Friend's comment was a very fair one.
Apart from the mention of home ownership, there is in the Gracious Speech no mention of the housing problems which many local authorities are facing. Many local authorities, including the local authority of Gateshead, from which I come, and which I serve, have large slum clearance problems, and they are facing at present a colossal problem, the rate of the subsidy for new houses provided for the rehousing of tenants in slum clearance areas; because it does not reflect the burden thrown on the local rates by the high rates of interest. In my view, the Gracious Speech reveals a serious omission, for there are many local authorities, including Gateshead, which are faced with this problem, and which will be keenly disappointed that in the subsidies for clearance of slum property there will not be wider assistance afforded them.
99 I refer to the proposal to abolish certain economic restrictions and controls. Doubtless the Industrial Disputes Tribunal comes into this category. I do not think that it will be denied that in Great Britain we have a record second to none in the march of progress in the settlement of disputes between employee and employer in industrial life, and I was quite surprised today to hear one hon. Gentleman on the other side say that the trade unions were out of date, and had not brought up to date the management of their affairs to deal with the new situation confronting them. I believe that our trade union movement, to represent its members, has marched in step with the new conditions and the new ways. Slowly, with resolution, and often with much fortitude, we have fashioned our instruments for bargaining, for consultation, for negotiation, and for arbitration, so that they have become the envy of the whole world.
It would be quite churlish of me, as one who has served a lifetime in the trade union movement, to give all the credit to one side only. There have been two sides working together. Improvements have come not only from the fine contributions which the trade unionists themselves have made, but have come also—let us admit it—from a sizeable number of good employers. There has been a joint enterprise and with it has come great credit to all.
What disturbs me about the recent announcement by the Minister of Labour is his apparent lack of consultation in his desire to change the law on industrial relations. His failing to have consultations is completely foreign to what has gone on before in the painstaking task of building the structure of our negotiating machinery. I can well understand that during the last few months there have been pressures from some quarters to change the law. I would be quite willing to try to appreciate the reasons why they want the law changed, though I do not necessarily accept them, and why some employers, probably the minority who never did like arbitration, are now insisting that if arbitration be retained it should be on a voluntary basis.
What I just do not understand, in the light of all the experience we have had, in view of Ministerial statements, in view of 100 the valuable contacts which have been built up over the years with the T.U.C., is why the Government have apparently turned their back on any form of consultation before deciding to give their judgment on a vital issue. It makes a hollow mockery of all the professions of the past, and, what is more disturbing, it casts the gravest doubt and a grave, menacing shadow on coming events.
I believe I can carry with me every Member of the House here now when I say that our country just cannot afford to go back to the law of the jungle in this matter of industrial differences and disputes. That is a luxury which is no good to the workers, no good to the employers, no good to the nation. So is any action, however well intended, which ignores past experience and the struggles which forced one section of the community into bitter conflict with another. And the tendency in the last few years has been that quite a number of employers have wanted to use arbitration as wage-fixing machinery.
Some trade unionists have been a little disturbed about this, and perhaps even the Minister has had an eye on it, but from my own experience I would tell the Minister that the trade unionist has not welcomed this attitude on the part of employers. It was a misuse of the machinery. The trade unionist has always preferred negotiation. It is the British way of life and he understands that method. Nevertheless, British trade union leaders, aware of the nation's needs, were anxious to go to considerable lengths to avoid direct action and they have done all in their power to encourage members to make use of the advantages of arbitration.
But what will face trade unionists now if the law is altered and this Order is withdrawn? The recalcitrant employer will not negotiate. He will choose not to be a party to arbitration. He will choose to contract out and refuse to be a willing partner. The workers will feel that they will be faced with the alternative of either nursing their grievance, with all the ill-effects which that will have on production, or taking direct action. This Order which it is proposed to withdraw has saved many hundreds of strikes. Over 10 million workers are not covered by any form of arbitration in their own industries and, therefore, great work has been done through the opportunities made available in the Order.
101 We are not clear from the statements made what is to replace the Order. All we know is that it is to go. I hope very much that there can still be second thoughts on this decision to withdraw the Order, and that there will be still an opportunity for negotiations with the T.U.C. on this matter, even if it results in our having a modified version of the Order. I hope that it will be possible for us to have negotiations so that we shall not go back to the industrial relations of the dark, bad days of 1950.
I want to refer, also, to the unemployment situation. It is my view that too few people have knowledge of the full seriousness of the position which is building up. Even some of the Government statements appear to be more of a sedative, more of an attempt to lull the people into a sense of false security. Only the other day Lord Hailsham said in a speech that there is some slackening in the employment situation. I can assure the House that in the North-East there is something more than slack to be taken up, and not only in the North-East but in other parts of the country. As the tide of employment recedes, it is the old depressed areas that are being uncovered.
I know from recent reading that it will be found on record that the percentage of unemployment in the old distressed areas now being uncovered is greater than the average for the whole country. In my own constituency, Gateshead, unemployment has doubled since last year. What is more troubling is the fact that not only have these unemployment figures doubled, but the placings have decreased. That has affected men rather than women and becomes a most serious situation for the people in my constituency. The situation in the North-East is beginning to take on a very menacing look.The declining coal industry in the county of Durham is already creating redundancy…That is a quotation from the Annual Report of the Aycliffe Development Corporation, which goes on to say:Unless the whole economy of the county is to be again jeopardised, new industries must be established within the county to provide the alternative employment for the increasing number of mineworkers who will become redundant in the near future.The warning is there.
102 The North-East can rightly boast of its shipbuilding yards and of the men who serve in them. These men are not uninformed of the threat to their livelihood. Even the Press representing the policy of the party opposite ran in Newcastle the streamer headline:Slump in shipping brings dole fears to yards.The paper went on to quote the Shipbuilding Conference, as follows:Few new orders are being booked, cancellations are rising and some contracts are being deferred as the full effect of the shipping recession is felt.Says the Shipbuilding Conference today:'While some firms, particularly those building larger types of merchant ships, mainly tankers, have contract dates for delivery beyond a four-year period, there are many others specialising in the building of cargo ships or smaller vessels of various kinds where order books are relatively short. There are cases where, unless new work comes to hand in the meantime, the existing contracts will he completed within six months, which could lead to serious unemployment in certain areas.'I quote, also, from the Financial Times of 22nd October, whose shipping correspondent said:Unless they can obtain new orders soon, unemployment may occur in some areas.The cloud of unemployment on the horizon in the North-East may only be the size of a man's hand, but memories are long. The dark days of the 1930s have never been forgotten and those grim experiences have been passed on to the second generation, as I was reminded when I met a deputation in my "surgery" three or four days ago. The people in my constituency, and in the North-East, are alarmed and dismayed, and it is my view, despite the language of the Gracious Speech referring to employment, that there is little in the Speech to give comfort to them.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
The hon Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall) has referred to the cloud of unemployment. I am glad that he has not repeated the kind of allegation that those of us on this side of the House who have fought elections in the industrial areas have heard so often—that we on this side of the House deliberately want to see unemployment. It is indeed a refreshing change that speeches are modified in that respect.
103 The hon. Member has a vast experience in the trade union movement and, therefore, I listened to him with very great respect when he spoke about the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. I was a trade union branch official for two years though, I regret to say, in a union which was part of the Confederation which has been notorious for abusing the tribunal, unlike that union which the hon. Member served so well for many years. Probably no union resorted more to arbitration and so successfully than his, largely under his guidance.
I thought the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that the Government wanted to abolish arbitration completely. May I remind him, with every respect, that there is still the Industrial Court and that when both sides genuinely want to go to arbitration they can go to the Industrial Court and get there perhaps a better decision than the kind that has been reached by the Industrial Disputes Tribunal in the 18 or so years it has been in existence.
Earlier the hon. Gentleman referred to the difficulties which local authorities were having in acquiring property for slum clearance, and he made the point that the Gracious Speech omitted any reference to that difficulty. I will follow him in some detail on that point because, in my submission, one of the greatest obstacles of all has been their power of compulsory acquisition and the totally inadequate compensation which local authorities have been able to give to those people whose property they have taken away. Indeed, that has been a deterrent in many areas to local authorities serving compulsory purchase orders.
I think all would agree that the compulsory purchase order is an indispensable weapon of modern government, but it is none the less an objectionable weapon because it means forcing a person to do something against his will. Yet even those who lose their homes, and sometimes a large part of their income, would agree with the principle of compulsory purchase if two conditions were satisfied. The first is that compulsory purchase should be necessary in the public interest and, if the question of public interest is to be resolved, that it should be decided by a tribunal acting in accordance with the principles of natural justice. The 104 second condition is that the compensation should be fair.
About once a year this subject is raised in the House. It has been raised perhaps more frequently in the last three years than previously through the persistence and perseverance of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Captain Corfield). Notwithstanding annual homilies from the Front Bench, nothing has been done so far and the fallacy has persisted in high places that all has been well. However, at last there is a prospect of something being done.
The main reason for my concern is that I am honoured to represent a constituency in which there is probably more building development than in any other. Much of it is by private enterprise, hundreds of houses having been built by private builders. A large amount of building has also been carried out by local authorities, both within the constituency and outside, such as by the London County Council, the Walthamstow Borough Council and the East Ham Borough Council, and also by a development corporation charged with the task of building the new town of Basildon.
To do this, the corporation will have to buy some 80 miles of unmade-up roads along which are thousands of small bungalows that the planners describe as shacks or shanties. These 80 miles of unmade-up roads look like long stretches of badly ploughed fields that have become overgrown with weeds.
Those bungalows are lived in now, but soon they will be replaced by modern houses. The overwhelming majority of the people there wish to remain in their bungalows. Many do not wish to be rehoused because they are old-age pensioners living on a modest income. By owning one of these bungalows, they have no rent to pay and their rates are negligible. They may have the good fortune to have a small amount of land at the back of the bungalow on which they can grow their own food, have a few apple trees, chickens and perhaps a pig or two. In such circumstances, their needs are much smaller than would otherwise be the case.
The life they lead along these 80 miles of unmade-up roads has its disadvantages. In winter no tradesmen will call, at times 105 not even the postman. On the other hand, the policeman will not serve summonses quite so readily in bad weather because then he has to put on waders. However, it is the life which these people have chosen and, having chosen it, they would prefer to remain there. If they are moved by way of a compulsory purchase order they may be transferred to one of the modern houses and have to pay a rent of anything between £1 and £3 a week. At the same time they will lose their gardens and the food they grow and, in the result. they will be considerably worse off. It is even worse than that, because they will not be able to supplement their old-age pensions by claiming National Assistance since one is not eligible for it if in possession of £300 capital. Yet that is the kind of sum they will be allowed by way of compensation for losing their homes, and it means that they must use as income the capital received by way of compensation.
Since, therefore, they will be reluctant to leave, the Basildon Development Corporation must hold in readiness the weapon of the compulsory purchase order. Most of the people there know of this weapon. They know that the corporation has the whip hand and that there is no answer to, and no appeal from, a compulsory purchase order. Therefore, it is natural for them to take the initiative and to go to the corporation and offer their bungalows for sale. In those circumstances they appear to be willing vendors, but they are not so in fact. If I may say something which may sound Irish, they are compelled to sell voluntarily.
I blame the Basildon Development Corporation for many things, but I cannot blame it for this. It is not the fault of the corporation; it is the fault of this House for not having rectified this injustice. The planning legislation passed by this House has given every parcel of land in England two separate values. One is the value in the open market when sold by a willing vendor and bought by a willing purchaser. The other value is when a local or national authority serves upon an owner, large or small, a compulsory purchase order and forces that person to sell his property.
One could understand it if the higher price were to be given to the person who had his property taken from him compulsorily t that might be fair. The essence 106 of a market price is that it is agreed between a willing purchaser and a willing vendor. If the vendor does not want to sell, obviously the property is of more value to him than the market value. A man who sells his property under a compulsory purchase order is essentially an unwilling vendor. The property is worth more to him than the market price. It follows that it becomes a financial loss, certainly a personal loss, if he has to sell under a compulsory purchase order. As a general rule, the compulsory purchase price to the old-age pensioners and others who have to sell their bungalows in Basildon is less than the market price.
Until 1919 the usual basis for compulsory purchase was the market price plus a solatium of 10 per cent., which was perhaps usually a fair price because the 10 per cent. allowed for the hardship of having to move from one house to another, and it might well have been the price which the vendor would have accepted had he sold the house ordinarily in the open market. As we know well enough, the compensation is now as a general rule the existing use value plus any claim for loss of development rights agreed under the 1947 Act, a price based, therefore, on conditions more than ten years ago. Every hon. Member would. I think, agree upon one thing if not upon anything else, that the £ is worth something very different from what it was in 1947. I think the figure is about 12s. It requires no argument by anyone to show that it is patently unfair to pay compensation on a basis of more than ten years ago. It is largely this fall in the value of the £ which has led to the two values for land.
On the other hand, always to allow the market value would be to over-simplify the problem. The market value of some houses has been whittled down to almost nothing by Government action. The Minister of Transport is embarking on a colossal road building programme. Many of the new roads will demolish existing houses or cut away a large part of their gardens. In those circumstances the market value of the houses will be almost decimated. Surely compulsory purchase would then cause great hardship if the value to be given were the market value.
There is another reason why the market value would be unfair. The county 107 development plans impose many restrictions upon building development. Therefore, is the basis of compensation to be the market value of the land for the purpose allowed by the development plan, or is it to be the price the land would have fetched on the open market were no restrictions imposed by the development plan? There is no simple solution, no easy formula, to adopt which would be fair to both the public and the private owner.
Therefore, I hope that the Bill, in arriving at the basis to be agreed, will adopt three principles: first, that the compensation should never be less than the market value; second, that the basis of the value should not be pegged to a particular year, as it has been hitherto; and, third, that the formula should take into account the existence of development plans and the restrictions imposed by the 1947 Act.
I know this is a subject which raises little sympathy in the minds of hon. Members opposite. They have to regard all property owners as plutocrats, as people who had a good run for their money in recent years; but that kind of image takes no account of the kind of property owners that I have sought to describe. It is no exaggeration to say that there are thousands of people in my constituency who are old-age pensioners and others living on small incomes, and they have suffered, and are continuing to suffer, a very great deal as the result of existing legislation. They are being forced to leave houses in which they wish to remain and to go into houses the rents of which they can ill afford. Year by year, first a Labour Government and now a Conservative Government have failed to put the matter right and to give justice to those who have suffered by Government action. I hope that by the end of this Parliamentary year there will be on the Statute Book this Measure which will put an end to a grave and grievous injustice.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
I listened to the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) with interest until, in his last few remarks, he referred to the attitude of hon. Members on this side of the House towards this problem. As I am at the moment in exactly the position of many of the poor landlords described by 108 the hon. Member, in that a very large local education authority has suddenly decided that my house is standing in the way of a brand new college of advanced technology and has politely asked me to sell, with just a hint in the background that if I do not something else may happen, I have every sympathy with people placed in such a position.
However, it must be remembered that the majority of people who own property get the market price when it is compulsorily purchased by a local authority. It is when we come to the sale of land that we meet the problem to which the hon. Member referred. As I say, in the vast majority of cases the owners of property get the market value. Where it is slum property I would regard the site value as the market value, and good market value at that for the property. When it comes to land, I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning the action of the Prime Minister when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, for it is one of the prime causes of the situation in which we find ourselves. Apparently, however, something is to be done to remedy it during this session.
I would, however, draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that often it is the action of the State, sometimes the action of the local authority which is promoting the compulsory purchase order, which has given the property the market value it now possesses. Therefore, it does not always follow that a local authority, having built a road and increased the market value of adjacent property, should then have to pay the enhanced market value of the property when it takes it over. I cannot therefore accept the contention that the full market value at the time has necessarily to be the price on each and every occasion. There are circumstances when other factors have to be looked at. I am sorry that the Government took the action which they did in 1954, which has largely led to the muddle in which we find ourselves.
I wish to refer to two other matters mentioned in the Gracious Speech, particularly housing and pensions. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that, because of the action of the Government, it had become not easier but far more difficult to purchase a house for one's own occupation. I would remind the House that 109 between 1945 and 1951 it was possible for any intending house purchaser to borrow up to 90 per cent. of the value of the property, without any undue trouble, at a rate of interest of 3¼ per cent. from any one of about 1,500 local authorities in England and Wales. I hope that when the Government scheme comes forward it will at least give to people who are able and wish to become owner-occupiers the kind of facilities that were taken from them by the present Government in 1952. I think that is the least that can be done to get back to the easier situation there was for the intending owner-occupier under the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951.
We were told by the Prime Minister this afternoon that one of the main reasons for the difficulties of the building societies was that they were unable to attract from investors the amount of money they required for people who wish to borrow for owner-occupation. One of the main reasons for that is the policy adopted by the Government of deliberately raising the rate of interest in the last few years. On the other hand, the building societies presumably could have obtained money if they felt that in return they could lend it at a higher rate of interest to people prepared to borrow from them, but building societies on the whole—I speak of them generally and not in regard to one or two minor and less good examples—do a very good service for the community. They also realise that the vast majority of people who want to buy houses cannot afford to pay exorbitant rates of interest, and they have endeavoured as far as possible within the policy of the Government, which has been against them in this respect, to keep the rate of interest at the lowest level they could in connection with the general financial situation.
I can only assume that if the Government are now to step into the market and say to the building societies, "Because, owing to the financial position, you cannot get the money you require to lend to prospective owner-occupiers, we will find some of that money for you and lend to you". The Government, are presumably, to lend to the building societies money which they have borrowed at the Government's rate of credit and that will really mean a subsidy from the Exchequer to owner-occupation. If it is to be Government money coming in with a rate 110 of interest below the general level of the market—presumably the Government will be borrowing at a lower rate—it can only be by such a subsidy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] An hon. Member says "shame". I do not say shame at all. I have no objection to that as such, but it comes rather queerly from a Government who have decided not to give a subsidy—in fact to withdraw a subsidy —from council house building. If the Government accepted the logic of the fact that if there is to be a subsidy for owner-occupation from the Government there should be a subsidy for council house building, all of us can be completely happy. If there is to be a subsidy for one, the Government should automatically give it for the other type.
The Government, however, take the line that the council house tenant will have to pay a rent which in fact would purchase his house which he will never own. That is something I cannot understand. We shall have further details of this scheme. I think there must be rather rigid conditions governing the action any building society may take and the way in which societies use money lent to them by the Treasury. It seems rather queer to me that the Government should go out of their way to set up completely new machinery for pouring Government money into the building societies when all they need to do to encourage and help owner-occupation is to turn on the tap of the Public Works Loan Board and let the local authorities operate legislation already on the Statute Book. The Government are to produce legislation for what could be done simply by order tomorrow morning. It does not seem to me that we are going to get very far by having an Act of Parliament to do that.
I hope there will be a chance when we see this legislation to enable building societies—and, I hope, local authorities also—to give advances of more than 90 per cent. of the value. There are many people in this country, some in my constituency, who are not living in overcrowded conditions but find very little chance of obtaining accommodation from a local authority. I have several instances in my constituency where people are housed well so far as space is concerned, but are being harried by owners—some are white and some coloured—who are trying to force them out of their accommodation. Several of those people have 111 £100 or so and are striving desperately to save a little more money. A way in which they could be helped would be to enable building societies to advance larger mortgages to those people who are willing and able to go in for home ownership.
We were also told by the Prime Minister that the credit squeeze has come to an end. I hope it means that we are soon to hear from the Government that there will be no further limitations on house building by local authorities and that the rationing scheme, still in existence, will disappear. I hope it means that in a few weeks' time we shall hear that local education authorities which have had serious cuts made in their school building programmes will be allowed to carry on with their full programmes. This particularly affects my constituency, where improvements to the Archway Secondary School which London County Council wished to carry out were cut from the council's programme owing to the effect of the credit squeeze. If the credit squeeze is to come to an end, let us see local education authorities allowed to carry out their programmes.
I wish to refer to the pensions proposals which are promised to us. Apparently, however, we are not to see the Bill until some time early in the new year. Whether that is because the Government have not yet agreed among their own members on how it is to be framed, or that outside interests have yet to be squared in this matter, I do not know. I am rather disappointed that apparently we have to wait two months for it. All we heard from the Prime Minister this afternoon was a rather sneering remark about a couple of Wykehamist ties. All we heard from the Minister of Pensions when the Labour Party proposals were brought forward was some rather sneering reference to "a skiffle group of professors". All we heard from the Chairman of the Conservative Party's organisation was that the Labour Party promised "half a pie in the sky in 2010 A.D.". When we look at the Government White Paper we see that by 2010 A.D. a man earning £12 a week will be able to draw—if he is eighteen now—the magnificent pension of £3 10s. a week. If that is not "half a pie in the sky" I do not know what is. The model scheme of the Labour Party provided for a higher pension than that, but 112 it was referred to sneeringly by the Chairman of the Conservative Party.
I wish to take the opportunity of placing on record my great admiration for the work done by this so called "skiffle group of professors" in getting over to the people, and to the Government, that wage-related pensions are required in the twentieth century. If they have done nothing else, I think they will be remembered for many years to come for having got that idea into the heads of the Govt. today.
On one thing I must compliment the Government. It is that at least they are honest in admitting that their main purpose is not to improve the standard of living of people in retirement or on National Assistance, but to placethe National Insurance Scheme on a sound financial basis".I compliment the Government on being honest as to the aim behind this White Paper and, presumably, the scheme that we are to see maybe some time in the new year. It appears that they started by saying, "How can we get the National Insurance Scheme out of the red?" Let us not forget that ever since 1946, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) moved the Second Reading of the National Insurance Bill of that year, this House and successive Governments have accepted the fact that there is going to be in the years to come a successively increasingly larger amount of money to be found by the Treasury to balance the income and expenditure of the National Insurance Fund.
The Government have apparently thrown overboard that concept, which was accepted by the Labour Government immediately after the war, and, if my memory serves me correctly, by the Opposition at that time and by successive Governments since then. The Government intend to try to take the burden off the Surtax and Income Tax payer and the taxpayer generally by placing it primarily on people earning between £9 and £15 a week. I know that there have been speeches from the Government benches stating that that is not true and that it is placed on everyone earning more than £9 a week. They say that even if they are earning £25 or £30 a week, they will still have to pay their share, because they will pay a higher contribution on 113 their earnings between £9 and £15 a week. That is true, but one hon. Member opposite told us that most of the people earning over £15 a week were already in satisfactory pension schemes or, if not, could make satisfactory and adequate provision for themselves. I would remind hon. Members that anyone who is in a. satisfactory existing scheme will not contribute in the future anything like as much as he would have been expected to contribute towards the cost of maintaining existing pensioners and towards the emerging deficit in the National Insurance Fund.
It seems clear that the Government tried to see what could be done to balance the National Insurance Fund by increasing contributions in some way. They found that by a little wangling not only could they balance the National Insurance Fund but at the same time they could give a little extra pension to people earning between £9 and £15 a week. What a meagre proposal this is. What ridiculously inadequate pensions will come out of this scheme.
There are two reasons for this. First, the pension which will eventually be received bears no relation whatever to the contributions paid in. A large part of those contributions will straightaway be taken from the people who are being forced to pay them and will be used to meet what should be a Government liability—the cost of pensions for the existing old people of this country. It will immediately he taken away from them in order to relieve the Surtax payer and the higher Income Tax payer from what ought to be his liability.
Another reason why these pensions will be nothing like as good as they ought to be is that the Government scheme makes no provision whatever for something which any actuary, anyone running a proper superannuation scheme, would state to be absolutely necessary; it makes no provision for a fund. When there is no fund for a pension scheme, there is no interest income. When there is no interest income, obviously the pension will not be as good as it ought to be. As soon as the Government White Paper appeared, I took the trouble of contacting some insurance companies and offering to pay them the amount which someone earning £15 a week would have to pay in order to qualify for the Government pension. In every case—and I was 114 pleased to see it confirmed in The Times a day or two later—the insurance company was able to offer a pension at least 30 per cent. better than that to be obtained by paying into the Government scheme.
Yet here we have a Government, which talks about liberty in the Gracious Speech, stating that it will force individuals to contribute certain amounts of money towards a scheme when, if they were given the liberty to contribute this money to insurance companies, they would be 30 per cent. better off. This is a point which we must watch carefully when the Government's Bill appears.
There are some other points to which I object. The scheme leaves out everybody earning less than £9 a week. Let us face it, it assumes that everyone earning less than £9 at the moment will be forced to rely on National Assistance when they reach retirement age, because there is no proposal whatever to increase the basic level of the National Insurance retirement pension. The assumption must be that the Government think for all time that the National Assistance Board will continue to act as a buttress to the whole social security system of this country. Originally, the National Assistance Board was intended simply to catch those people who fell through the ordinary social security net. Unfortunately, for the last 12 years or more it has been virtually buttressing the whole National Insurance scheme.
If we are to make any major changes in that scheme we must in my view take the opportunity at the same time to put the National Assistance Board in its rightful place, looking after those people who fall through the net, and we must not assume that it will remain for ever the bed-rock of our social security system. We must try to reduce to the smallest possible number those people who rely on National Assistance, through a means test, in order to exist, whether in retirement, unemployment, sickness or any of the other adversities of life.
I am opposed to the Government's scheme, too, because it automatically provides that hardly any working woman will be allowed to take part in it. It must be remembered that the average wage of an adult woman is £6 11s. 3d. a week. Here we have a Government so-called wage related pension scheme being brought into operation which allows no 115 one in unless he or she is earning £9 a week. The vast majority of women, whether single or married, are automatically excluded from participation in the scheme.
It also excludes the self-employed, with some glib reference to them being able to make provision under Millard Tucker. That may be all right for certain company directors, barristers and others in a similar position, although I am told that even some barristers do not have very large incomes nowadays. I suggest that there are a large number of self-employed people in this country, such as small shopkeepers, small farmers, crofters and others, who will find it virtually impossible to take out adequate pension cover under any scheme, whether Millard Tucker or anything else. I suggest that those self-employed people must be given an opportunity of taking part in any national superannuation scheme which is introduced. At the same time, any national scheme must do justice to existing pensioners and to middle-aged people as well as provide a reasonable living standard for men now 25 years of age when they reach retirement.
I think that the Minister, in introducing the White Paper, has tried to pull a fast one on us. At the end of it he included one or two tables giving some idea of the income that will be available, of the contributions which will be payable and of the benefits which might be drawn, but nowhere does he give us any idea of how those amounts have been calculated.
We now understand that we are not to see the Bill for another two months or so. I hope that the Government will use that interval of two months to let us have a great deal more information about the background of their scheme. For the past 18 months the Minister has been taking every opportunity to snipe at proposals put forward by the Labour Party. As The Times mentions, he has been very careful not to give any figures which will allow anyone to snipe at him. I suggest that if we are to be able to discuss this matter when the Bill is published, the Government should take an opportunity during the next two months to let us have a great deal more detail about their calculations.
I also hope that when I, and no doubt some of my hon. Friends, put Questions 116 to the Minister during the next few weeks in order to obtain figures which will enable us to be more informed about the matter when the debate takes place on the Bill, we shall not receive from the Minister a reply to the effect that it would be too much trouble to get these figures out It is essential that hon. Members should have the maximum amount of background information. I am sure it is available in the Ministry. It certainly ought to be available in the Ministry if the Ministry has done a good job in looking into the scheme. I hope that as much information and as many figures, both from the actuary and from other sources, will be made available to hon. Members in order that we may have them before us when we discuss the Bill.
I had hoped that the Government would take the opportunity of bringing before us in this Session pension provisions which would enable us to take the whole question of pensions out of the political arena. That is something for which we must aim as soon as we can, so that we do not have to have wrangles in this House and Acts of Parliament in order to increase benefits and contributions every so often. I hope that in the two months before the Bill is expected to be introduced, the Government will think again about this whole matter. I hope that in the end they will bring before us an all-embracing scheme which will assist us in expanding the economy of this country, which will give not only retired people but everybody a better standard of living, which will provide a square deal for existing pensioners, instead of ignoring them as the present proposals do, and which will also give proper treatment to the middle aged.
It is not too late for the Government to have another look at all of their proposals, and to have a more serious instead of a sneering look at the proposals which the Labour Party committee, of which I was privileged to be secretary, put forward some eighteen months ago. As the chairman of that working party, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), pointed out at the time, if the Government will consider what he said ought to be included in any proper superannuation scheme, the time is not too late for us to provide a scheme which is worthy of this country, which will give everyone 117 a far better opportunity and which will take the whole problem of pensions out of politics by giving the pensioner a square deal.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Ledger (Romford)
I should like to follow a point which w as raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) and which interests my constituents considerably. That is the reference to the encouragement of home ownership, though I think it will seem a little peculiar to some of my constituents.
It was only a few months ago that I led a deputation of councillors from the Romford Borough Council to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to ask for a greater allocation of houses to people who could not afford to buy them. We got from the Ministry an assurance that we could have no more houses for the next two or three years than those which would, in effect, house the old people on the housing list, those in slum dwellings and those with some priority or other.
In other words, we were told that there was no chance at all for those in general housing need. Young married couples, or people who have been on the housing list for up to six or seven years, stand no chance at all of getting a house through the council. If we could really believe that the Government were preparing a scheme which would really enable people with lower incomes to purchase a house we might feel that there was some hope for those on the housing lists.
I should like to point out to my hon. Friend that it is not just a question of granting a larger loan; it is not even a question of granting a 100 per cent. loan. I can give a very good example of a scheme in which a 97½ per cent. loan was offered by the local authority. I happened to live there and took advantage of the scheme. Under this scheme, which was called the tenant purchase scheme, the council proposed that it should apply to 38 houses because they felt that there were so many people on the housing list who would prefer to own their own homes rather than rent them, and that they would fill these houses under this scheme.
118 The council granted a 97½ per cent. loan repayable over twenty, twenty-five or thirty years. In practice, very few people on the housing list were able to take advantage of the offer. Hundreds of them applied because they wished to own their own homes, but they were rejected because they had not sufficient income to pay the weekly instalments that would be due. A 97½ per Bent. loan involved a considerable increase in the amount of interest that would have to be paid. For a four-bedroom house it was estimated that the cost would be £3,700. This included a garage, and these were exceptionally good houses.
But the interest repayment on such a house over twenty years is £4 10s. a week. Added to that are the rates which are 25s. a week. The council have not yet worked out how much the repayments on capital would be, but let us say another £2 10s. How many people earning £9 or £10 a week could afford to pay £7 or £7 10s. a week to buy a house? It is not just a question of the amount of the loan. It requires a special scheme with a specially low rate of interest.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North said, we had such a scheme until 1952—a scheme, introduced by the Labour Government, of borrowing through the local authority—and I should have thought that any scheme would have appealed more to people if operated in similar circumstances rather than lending money on special terms to building societies. Quite frankly, I think that there is something of a smell about this proposal to give a little extra business to the building societies, and I certainly do not like it There is a lot that needs to be done in supplying houses for people who want to buy them and for those who cannot afford to buy, but I think that the Government will continue as they have done in the past rather to "kid" the people more on this issue than really help them.
There is another point in the Gracious Speech which I do not think has been touched upon this afternoon. It is the phrase which states:My Government view with gravity the increase in crime.I am rather pleased to see that something is to be done about this, although it is my own opinion that this problem will only be solved by dealing with the numbers of police serving in the forces. I 119 do not mean that we should necessarily recruit thousands more policemen.
I do not know whether other hon. Members saw and heard the broadcast on television a couple of months ago, when Sir John Nott-Bower, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, was retiring. He was asked about the relations between the police and the public, and he admitted that there had been some deterioration. I think that this is due to the fact that the police are being given tasks today which they do not really like doing. I do not think that any policeman likes having to snoop around among motorists who leave their cars for five or ten minutes while doing some essential business. There are policemen who are out doing that as their specific jobs.
I have been to court a couple of times myself, and on each occasion these special policemen expressed disgust at having to do the job. It was pointed out how much more useful work could be done. Indeed, on one occasion a policeman admitted to me that on a Friday morning he had spent one hour watching my car. It was one of those Friday mornings on which we usually hear of the robbing of clerks who are carrying wages from banks to their firm's premises. Here was a policeman watching a car for one hour, and, having dealt with me, he probably went off and was not going to bother about the rest.
This sort of thing is a shocking waste of manpower. We have only to go to any magistrates' court to find many of these policemen waiting for their cases to be called. It would be interesting to have the figures of the wastage of police manpower in the courts in dealing with offences by motorists. It would do a lot to restore good relations between the public and the police if policemen were given a proper job to do. On this point, I think I ought to say that only recently I had occasion to commend the police for their action, and that was in my own constituency during the recent floods. Without doubt, many people were saved the devastation of their homes by the speedy information which the police conveyed to the rescue workers.
Finally, I wish to say a word or two about the United Nations, because I see that once again the Government have included this passage in the Gracious Speech: 120My Government will seek to play a full and constructive part in preserving peace and justice and promoting improved standards of life throughout the world. To this end, they will actively support the United Nations…If the Government do begin to support the United Nations at some time or other, I think that there will be an increased hope for peace in the world, but there is no evidence so far to suggest that the Government really believe in the United Nations or would use it for the purpose of bringing peace to the world. For instance, I would refer to Suez, as I think I am entitled to refer to it, because it was only after we had gone into Egypt that we made any reference to the United Nations, and said that if a United Nations force took over we were prepared to leave Egypt.
The Americans said the same thing after they had gone into Lebanon, and we repeated it after we had gone into Jordan. We said that we were prepared to leave as soon as a United Nations force took over. In fact, the Jordanian Government would not hear of it. They did not want a United Nations force in Jordan because they did not want the real truth to be known, that the people of Jordan generally had no time for their then Government. I am wondering whether the Government have the courage to face up to the opportunity which now presents itself of showing whether they really believe in the United Nations.
Probably the area of the world which offers the earliest prospect for a world war is in the Far East. I refer to the offshore islands of the Chinese mainland. Here is an opportunity for the Government to prove that they believe in the United Nations. We on this side of the House accept the ruling given by Sir Anthony Eden, three years ago, that we recognise the offshore islands as part of the Chinese mainland. If we recognise that as a fact, we must recognise the authority of the Chinese People's Republic over the island of Quemoy.
We are blinding ourselves to the facts if we believe that the Chinese People's Republic will be content with Quemoy, because they have said clearly that it is their intention to free Formosa from Chiang Kai-shek. I do not necessarily believe that they are justified in making that claim, but doubt seems to exist whether Formosa itself is part of China. If it is part of China, surely we should 121 recognise the right of the Chinese People's Republic to authority in Formosa. If it is not part of China, it must be the job of the Government, if they really believe in the United Nations, to draw attention to the fact that Chiang Kai-shek is an aggressor in Formosa. He must be if Formosa is not part of China. What are Chiang Kai-shek and half a million troops doing in Formosa? They were not invited there. Either it is part of China or it is not.
The Government, however, seem to me to be rather two-faced about this matter, because recently in the United Nations, although recognising the Chinese People's Republic, they voted against the Chinese People's Republic taking a seat in the United Nations and, indeed, voted later against any further discussion of the matter.
I know that as I pose this problem of Formosa it is so simple that it would not appeal to most politicians; they prefer matters to be complicated. In fact, it is the complications and explanations on the part of the Government which are as grave a danger to the peace of the world as any actions by Communist Governments. A little more honesty in dealing simply with these matters of foreign affairs would do much good for peace.
I sincerely ask the Government to reconsider their attitude to the United Nations and to give positive proof that they believe in it. I do not mean, as in the case of Jordan, acting against the interests of peace and then saying that we are prepared to leave the country once a United Nations force comes in. The Government have paid lip-service to the idea of a special United Nations security force for keeping peace in the troubled areas of the world. I noticed that they talked a lot about it after we had gone into Suez, and they mentioned a word or two about it at the time of the Jordan crisis, but between these crises they said nothing about it. The Government have an opportunity for proposing that we should have a United Nations force and hr doing something positive themselves about it. We, in any case, will judge the genuineness of the Government in their attitude to the United Nations not upon the priority they give it in the Gracious Speech, but by their actions in the United Nations.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I should like to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Ledger) about the offshore islands of China. This afternoon, the Prime Minister chided the Opposition with having criticised America and having urged the Government to make it clear that we, at any rate, would not be behind the United States if force were used by the United States to protect Quemoy against the Communists. But the very fact that the Opposition did make their views known very clearly to President Eisenhower, to America, and throughout the world helped to calm the situation and bring about the altered policies of the United States. It is noteworthy that the great American journalist, Walter Lippmann, probably the finest political commentator in the world, backed up the arguments of the Labour Party through thick and thin.
My hon. Friend spoke about the police. I suggest that, in the rural parts of the country, particularly in small country towns, one of the duties which absorbs an unreasonable amount of police activity is the guiding and controlling of traffic through the crowded streets. Why it should be necessary to rely upon policemen for this duty I cannot understand. If another kind of force of wardens, or something of that sort, were recruited for the purpose, policemen would be relieved for their primary duties.
My hon. Friend referred also to the difficulty of house purchase. A Government publication recently issued showed that almost half the incomes in the country, including those of man and wife together before taxation, are under £10 per week. My hon. Friend mentioned a particular case where the total payment for the purchase of a house would total about £7 a week. One can see that, at any rate for that kind of property, there is little likelihood of any ordinary person being able to purchase his own house. All the more is this so because of rising unemployment and growing uncertainty.
In addition to the unemployment, there are many men working on short time. The position is clearly exemplified in my constituency. In Falmouth, where there is a big ship-repairing yard, men have been in and out of work for some years. Quite recently, one of the workers there told me 123 that, during the previous six months, he had been out for seventeen weeks. Things are a little better at the moment, but throughout the whole South-West there is great apprehension about rising unemployment. As we all know, the increase for the country as a whole during the last twelve months has been 40 per cent.
I have here a letter which I received a week of two ago from the Secretary of the Devon and Cornwall Federation of Trades Councils, in which he says:The Devon and Cornwall Federation of Trades Councils has decided to ask all Members of Parliament for the two counties to help it in having a small deputation received by the Chancellor, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Labour, and the Minister of State, Board of Trade, to put its case for special treatment and aid in the introduction of new industry.That is a simple request from men and women who are at their wits' end about what their future and the future of employment in industry will be in these two south-western counties. I would add that probably my constituency is about the worst hit of the lot. The Government recently passed the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act. We look forward with interest to seeing how this Act will be applied when applications for aid are made under it. Several people have come to me to inquire about it and I know that in my own area applications have gone forward.
Then there are the anxieties of small firms. Rising unemployment has meant that they, who perhaps have been subcontracting for big engineering concerns or the aircraft industry, are finding it very difficult to keep going. They want to know whether the small industrialists already in the area will be looked after as well perhaps as the people who will be helped to introduce new industries. Obviously, this House, when it passed the Bill, had in mind assistance for both sections.
I ask the Ministers concerned to consider sympathetically applications from small firms which would like to get on the tender lists of various Government Departments. I do not ask that they should be given special treatment—obviously, they must be able to justify their inclusion on the lists—but I feel that sometimes firms are not included in the lists because there has been no one 124 to ensure that their interests are properly looked after. In ship repairing we are a little better in Falmouth now than before, but still there are 30 ships laid up in the River Fal.
There is a reference in the Gracious Speech to the Government's hopes of maintaining a high and stable level of employment. I hope that when they say "high" they mean high. That is a very flexible word. I should like to know whether the Government consider that 3 per cent, unemployment is a high and stable level of employment. Undoubtedly, incomes have risen all over the country and even all over the world. People in modest homes have amenities which were undreamt of when I was young. Therefore, any unemployment or underemployment which comes now seriously threatens the ability of these people to keep their homes together.
One of the projects in Devon and Cornwall which causes very great interest is the Tamar Bridge proposal. The Minister of Transport, after much badgering, agreed to the Tamar Bridge Authority being able to raise an immediate loan for preliminary preparations and plans to be carried out. However, I have in my hand a circular, issued by the St. Germans Rural District Council, which asks me to do what I can, presumably with other Members of Parliament from Devon and Cornwall, to ensure that when the preliminary work is completed the construction of the bridge will proceed at once. I have already said in the House that it is to be a toll bridge. It will not be assisted by rates or taxes. Therefore, although it may be a public enterprise project it seems to me that it should stand on exactly the same footing as a private enterprise project and ought not to be held back by Government action.
I have also a circular which has been sent by the South Western Electricity Consultative Council to the Chairman of the Electricity Council pointing out the handicaps from which the South Western Area Electricity Board suffers in the matter of rural electricity development. It says:The plain fact is that in the South West the programme we have welcomed and publicised can no longer be fulfilled. Unless the Board gets the capital it needs for this and other essential work it cannot hope to keep its appointment with 85 per cent. of its farmers by 1965 or 1968. Take the current 125 year. The Board had a pressing claim for overdue reinforcement. Under all heads, capital required was £4.9 million. The Board's authorisation was £4.05 million. The cut fell disproportionately on rural work. This year, the Board will connect 600 fewer farms than last. Take 1959–60. If the S.W.E.B. is to get hack on its programme, it must set aside at least £650,000 for rural development. But £3.1 million is needed for essential reinforcement work in that year. In all, the Board will ask for £5.6 million. This is £700,000 more than it asked for last year. and nearly £1½ million more than it got.During the course of his speech, I think, the Prime Minister made some reference to the possibility of more latitude being given to the nationalised industries in the way of capital expenditure and development. I sincerely hope that that is the case.
I have here a leaflet issued by the Milk Marketing Board. It is entitled "Ices in Wonderland". The Cornish Members of Parliament have been circularised by the Cornwall Branch of the National Farmers' Union drawing attention to the fact that the Minister of Agriculture ought to ensure that "ice-cream" really means an ice-cream made with cream and not one made with vegetable oil, whale oil, or some other product which happens to be produced by the great industries or combines. It is a simple request, but the Minister of Agriculture seems to be hedging about it. It would be a method of using up a good deal of the surplus liquid milk, and I am sure it would be of benefit to everybody and particularly those who buy and enjoy real ice-cream.
Reference has been made to the Government's intention to repeal the Industrial Disputes Order. The National Union of Bank Employees, at any rate its Cornwall branch, feels very strongly about this and feels that without such an Order the union will be left without redress or means for settlements, for the employers, or some of them, refuse to recognise trade unions.
I can speak in support out of my own experience, because it was not until Mr. Ernest Bevin was at the Ministry of Labour and National Service, about 1940, that it was insisted that compulsory arbitration should apply in the local government service, and we had been unable to get a provincial council in the South-West for staff employees until Mr. Bevin made that Order. We got from him that advantage.
126 During the debate reference has been made to post-war credits. It does seem to me that the Government ought to give priority to these, if they have financial surpluses available when the next Budget is introduced. After all, many of the holders of those credits have very small incomes and really are in need of those credits, and if there is any money to spare some of it could well be spent in liquidating those assets.
The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland), in an interesting speech on the Commonwealth, referred to exchanges of teachers within the Commonwealth. It enables me to point out that an English teacher going overseas is paid his English salary. An English teacher going, say, to the United States, is getting his English salary when working alongside American teachers drawing, perhaps, two or three times as much. There are higher salaries, I think, than the English paid to teachers in Australia and New Zealand. It seems to me a very fine development that there should be exchanges of teachers, but I think that the Government ought at least to see that English teachers going overseas have not to suffer financially.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Will Owen (Morpeth)
Members on both sides of the House during this debate have paid tribute to the historic circumstance in which the Gracious Speech was made this morning. The advent of television has conveyed to millions of people not merely the ceremony but also the importance of our British democracy. I wonder whether television of our proceedings here tonight would have a like effect upon democracy in Britain and overseas; there are so few of us present at the moment.
The Gracious Speech contained several items of considerable importance which have been commented upon by Members on both sides of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) called attention to the implications of the statement concerning Government policy to maintain a steady level of employment. That has been a subject of comment on both sides during the debate. Those who have elected to examine the Press during this evening will be aware of the boost which is now given to the importance of the new services provided by hire purchase. 127 I wonder whether the Government, in recognising that Britain's economy needs a shot in the arm, might turn their thoughts and attention to the importance not only of lifting the brake off hire-purchase but also to the importance of releasing accumulated post-war credits. There are many people within the age group concerned to whom this amount of money would be invaluable these days.
I fail to understand why time and again when this matter has been raised in the House speakers on the Government Benches have tried to hide behind the concept of administrative difficulty. Surely, where there is a will there is a way. I believe that the release of accumulated post-war credits could do more at this stage than this boost of hire-purchase which has been acclaimed as a new stimulus to production and purchasing power within the economy.
Furthermore, we have had to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeatedly year after year that some consideration should be given to the relief of Purchase Tax. Unfortunately, our requests have not had very much influence. I feel that at this stage, when there is urgent need particularly for domestic utensils, that the relief of Purchase Tax could do much to stimulate a new field of productivity and to provide a new service to the consumer within the economy.
In the course of the debate, considerable attention has been paid to the needs of the old-age pensioners, arising out of the statement in the Gracious Speech which projects the possibility of a new pensions scheme. I believe that millions of people who will read that reference in the Gracious Speech to a pensions scheme will be gravely disappointed when they find that they are not embodied in its proposals. Millions of old-age pensioners will be saying, naturally, that these proposals are provisions for tomorrow, not for their time but for the days and years that lie ahead.
Millions of workers in industry also will not be brought within the provisions of this projected scheme, and they too will be disappointed. Surely, when all of us recognise the need for a pension which provides adequately for old age, here is an opportunity for us to recognise the needs of those who are with us today and to recognise that adequate provision 128 should be made to embrace all those engaged in industry, irrespective of their degree of remuneration.
There seems to be a tendency to be selective, to divide the sheep and the goats and to make a division of society into the "haves" and the "have-nots". Unfortunately, those who are below the £9 limit of earnings are not to be considered for these provisions, except at the basic standard rates. A Government who elect to make such a provision are harbouring the challenge of class distinction and I believe that the scheme as outlined is doomed to failure.
I wish to convey to the House certain omissions from the Gracious Speech on matters of considerable importance in terms of national policy. Many folk in the rural areas will be disappointed at finding no reference in the Gracious Speech to the serious challenge represented by the absence and decline of rural transport in their areas. This issue has been brought to the notice of the Government on many occasions. I have personally sought to indicate that in recognition of the changing technical basis of transport in this country it was inevitable that the provision of a rural service would tend to decline. Evidence has accumulated year by year, and within my own division of Morpeth. Northumberland, we are faced with this serious change.
In this Northumberland area we have seen British Transport withdraw its rural railway services. We have pleaded that in the absence of the old steam train some recognition might be given to the needs of our rural community by the provision of a new diesel rail service. Unfortunately, we have not been able to convince those responsible for the new adjustments of the importance of even that single rail car service as being imperative and essential to the maintenance of the life of our rural community.
Only within the last two months the private bus proprietor has informed the village folk that as from 24th September he would be compelled to withdraw the only means of communication they have between the rural area and the town. This, as will be appreciated, gave rise to considerable concern, anxiety and worry among the people within that rural community. Village meetings were held, village thought was expressed, and people 129 indicated their willingness to pay an increased fare to cover the liability which the local bus proprietor had indicated in order that they might be assured of some continuity of rural transport.
May I ask the House to face this challenge? It is not only a challenge of new means of transport in conflict with the old, it is not only confined to this Northumberland area; it is a challenge that is expressing itself throughout rural Britain. As such, I would have thought that the Minister of Transport would have been able to persuade his colleagues in the Cabinet to get some measure of recognition of this problem within the Gracious Speech.
I know that in assessing the failure of the individual bus proprietor we are recognising the failure of private enterprise; the inability of private ownership to meet the requirements and needs of a changing society. This in itself has a serious effect upon one of our major industries, agriculture. I believe it to be true that agriculture plays a vital part in our economy. If that be so, these rural areas make a real contribution to the maintenance of our consumer needs and, by so doing, save us considerable importation of raw materials as well as food supplies. If that be so, then some special effort should be made to ensure the maintenance of rural life.
I can tell the House that there are rural communities which at this moment are suffering a lingering death. The farmers in East Northumberland have called attention to the fact that during the post-war years, in the County of Northumberland alone, some 6,000 workers have left the rural area. The farmers cannot get casual workers because there is no transport available for them. This is having a serious effect upon the degree of productivity in our rural areas.
Further, it affects not only farmers in the provision of rural labour but also the life of our growing teenagers in our rural villages. There is no employment for them in the village. The employment for them is in the town, but no means of transport is available for them. They have no rail or road facilities and they have to travel twelve, fourteen or even twenty miles before they can get to a town where there are possibilities of employment. What hopes do these young people have unless somebody stirs the 130 Government into recognising that this is a national problem? There are disabled workers in these rural villages, and at the employment exchange at Morpeth jobs are available for them, but the people cannot get to the jobs because no transport is available.
I mention these things as illustrative of the nature of the problem which, I was hopeful, would have found expression in and through the Gracious Speech as showing the Government's recognition of one of the challenges of our time. I am hoping that, as a result of one's observations tonight, the Minister of Transport may be persuaded during this Parliamentary Session to look seriously at the problem and to introduce some form of legislation that will make possible the provision of transport in the rural areas.
We on this side have said repeatedly that, in view of the inability of private enterprise to do the job, the only answer lies in the provision and maintenance of a public service. In other words, if in Northumberland there is a profitable bus service covering mainly the urban areas, why cannot those running the service take the rough with the smooth? Why can they not share the responsibility of meeting the requirements of the poorer area in turn with the affluence of the urban area? This is not beyond the possibility of administrative organisation. If it can be achieved, its simplicity opens the door to an early resolving of the problem which challenges the rural community, not only in my constituency, but in many other parts of rural England.
A further problem is that, in the development of modern mining, the National Coal Board has periodically been challenged by the growing development of spoil heaps within the midst of urban areas. To meet this challenge, the Board has taken every possible means to ensure that where collieries lie near the sea, the debris from the colliery is transported to the sea. This appears at first sight to have been a simple solution, but as every problem is solved, so another challenge is thrown up.
In removing the debris from the colliery to the sea, a two-fold problem has arisen. In the first place, there is a challenge from the fisherfolks that by the dumping of millions of tons of debris in the sea year by year, what was once a source of their livelihood is tending to 131 cease to exist. They blame their inability now to secure a livelihood in those areas upon this dumping of coal debris into the sea.
Furthermore, as a result of the normal action of the sea, the debris is now being washed back on to the beautiful sandy beaches of the County of Northumberland. Thus there arises a new challenge from the local urban areas. Something must be done to ensure the preservation of our seaside amenities and to obviate and remove this challenge to their social existence. They have appealed to the Coal Board. I believe that the Board, within the powers it possesses, has done everything it can to meet the difficulties. This is now a national problem, however, affecting not only the County of Northumberland, but other counties throughout Britain where mining is adjacent to the seashore.
I was hoping that once more, as a result of representations made to him, the Minister of Fuel and Power would have recognised that this was a matter that should have been embodied in the Gracious Speech for legislation during the coming Session. I still hope that that may be so. I hope that the appeal I make to the House tonight will not only be listened to by the few who are present, but will find expression and recognition in the administrative organisation of Government policy during the next few months.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
It was a great occasion to see the ceremony of the opening of Parliament performed by Her Majesty with the Lords and Commons assembled this morning. On this occasion I particularly wish to draw the attention of the Government not only to aspects of the Gracious Speech which are very useful and helpful to the people of my constituency, but also to certain other problems which a Member of Parliament ought at all times to put before the Government.
When I came here in May, 1955, I put nine requests to Her Majesty's Government on behalf of The Wrekin constituency and the majority of those requests, I am glad to say, have been fulfilled over the past years. However, that does not deter me from putting other matters which I think Her Majesty's Government 132 could well consider during this Session. I think, first, that not all of us are happy about the Opencast Coal Act and certain of its provisions. I think it very reasonable that legislation should provide for a Minister to hold an inquiry where the Coal Board which is to mine by opencast methods and obtain a compulsory order to mine in a particular area.
Last Session we passed the Clean Air Act. It seems rather ridiculous to have clean air and then build a new housing estate and very shortly afterwards to have opencast coal mining within one hundred or two hundred yards of it. That seems a great mistake and I must assure the House that we in the Wellington area will certainly demand an inquiry before any attempt is made to dig for opencast coal near this council house estate and under the lovely national beauty spot, The Wrekin.
There are other problems I also wish to mention. In 1955, I drew the attention of the Government to the question of rural water supplies. I shall be following later the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) on the question of better rural bus services. There are areas in North Shropshire, especially around Waters Upton, Great Bolas, Crudington, and Ellerdine where the Government have a scheme to provide rural water at a cost of £190,000. That is a very large scheme and one well worth going on with, because in that area there is some very valuable agricultural land and many very efficient small farmers. Although we applaud the help that the Government intend to give by way of mortgage and finance to small farmers, I suggest that water is as important. That £190,000 scheme was stopped in 1956 because the Government felt that it was unnecessary capital expenditure. I suggest that, before other forms of expenditure are indulged in, this rural water supply should be considered as having a very high priority for the large farming community in that part of The Wrekin.
I should like to deal for a moment with the question of housing. By allocation the Oakengates Rural District Council was allowed to build only 100 houses when it had planned to build and had made all the arrangements to build 288. I am very glad that when the Minister recently received a request to reconsider the whole problem he willingly agreed to 133 allow the council to put the remainder of the houses out to tender.
I think that that will be satisfactory for the Oakengates housing situation, but let me assure the Government that this area was the foundation area of the old Industrial Revolution. It has had hard times. It is a mining community and there is the great steel industry there, but in the old days the local authority was in no position to afford a park for playing grounds like those at Bournemouth. I think that such areas, which, in the past, have suffered from neglect, should, in the days of affluence, be the first to receive Government help. I therefore make a special plea that the request for the balance of the money required to complete the recreation ground for a large number of people in that industrial area of Oaken-gates be granted as soon as possible. The Minister received a deputation in London in July, following my Parliamentary Question about it, and he agreed to review the matter in November. November will soon be here.
The other problem which I should like to bring forward is that of the rural bus services. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Morpeth to say that if the rural bus services do not work it shows the inefficiency of private enterprise, Anyone who is running a bus service must run it as an economic unit. I am sorry to think that he makes that charge against some of our very able bus companies, which are giving a valuable service to the best of their ability in these rural areas. If they cannot run the bus services at a reasonable profit in order to provide new buses and to keep the service going, we must give additional thought to the matter.
Although the hon. Member for Morpeth made his complaint, I do not think that he made his suggestion to the House quite clearly. Some plans must be considered whereby the big industrial areas are able to pay into a fund which could be drawn on to implement and augment rural bus services. In any case, it will do no harm if the Government give this matter considerable thought prior to the next General Election.
The problem of post-war credits becomes more and more acute. It seems remarkable that we can buy almost everything that we desire through hire purchase. It has been said tonight that one 134 can buy a motor car by putting down 10 per cent. of the purchase price and paying the instalments over four years. How is it possible to justify this sort of thing as well as Government expenditure in other fields, however necessary, if the Government do not first consider what action they propose to take about post-war credits? If they want to stimulate buying, then let them release post-war credits.
Surely there is a good case for saying that if a person entitled to a post-war credit dies, the money should be paid out to the family, and should not have to pass to the heir to the estate who would then have to wait until he is 65 before receiving the post-war credit. These are some administrative problems which the Government would he wise to consider, and I shall be very grateful if they will do so.
The next question with which we should deal is that of compulsory purchase. It is quite wrong for hon. Members opposite to think that house owners are necessarily wealthy men. They are not. Many house owners in my division have saved over the years to buy their houses. After a time they may no longer need the house, or they may wish to hand it to a relative as a gift, and then they find their savings are lost because of a compulsory purchase order.
It is very hard to justify a situation in which a person who allows the council to take over his property with vacant possession gets one price, while the owner of another house in which a tenant is living gets a different price. The whole problem of payment for compulsory purchase is urgent and pressing, and I shall be very glad when the Bill dealing with this matter is laid before Parliament.
Having dealt with many of the matters which I as a Member feel should be impressed on the Government, I should say that there are occasions when it is polite to say, "Thank you" for services already rendered.
§ Mr. Yates
My hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Redmayne) feels that way occasionally. I am very glad that he came to The Wrekin and that he knows what "Hear, hears" mean.
The greatest contribution that the Government have made has been towards 135 education. It is no use anybody trying to pretend that this is not so. The magnificant schools which the Government have built in the last five years are standing for everybody to see. Between 1951 and 1957 nearly £1 million have been spent on building new schools in The Wrekin. I shall be raising soon the question of the technical college which is to cost about £125,000. People who complain and ask why the Government take so much in taxation should do what I have done, visit some of the new schools and see the happiness which they have created for the children and their parents.
One other problem I wanted to mention is this. Although we have provided these new schools for the benefit of a great number of pupils, there is still a minority to which the Government should pay attention, and that is the Catholic minority. There is a minority of 4,000 in The Wrekin. They have saved up their money to build a school and have only asked for loan sanction to complete a new school for their children. If the Government wish to be fair in this matter, I hope those responsible will pay the most careful attention to the plea which I shall be making shortly, on the Motion for the Adjournment, for the improvement of the grant to the Catholic schools in The Wrekin.
I think that will do as far as my division is concerned, except to add that the visit of the Prime Minister was a great event, and that everybody, to whatever party they belonged, was very glad to welcome my right hon. Friend to The Wrekin Division. We had not seen a Prime Minister for 25 years.
As there is plenty of time tonight, I should like to switch to some more important aspects of matters mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and particularly concerning the Middle East. We have to look back over the last few weeks and recall a remarkable speech made by that eminent Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery, because I think that some of his observations, although they were not altogether liked by the Socialist Party, were very apt concerning the Middle East. I think there are one or two matters which should be taken up, and I will deal, first, with the subject of radio broadcasts.
I do not know whether this House really has any idea of the number of radio 136 stations which are being operated in the Middle East, in Egypt and down the Red Sea, where one is being built with Russian money in the Yemen, and will operate contrary to British interests. These stations are using language which is detrimental to any hope we have of carrying out one of the objects mentioned in the Gracious Speech—to be able to look after the needs and aspirations of the people in the area. When these radio broadcasts are taking place. and they are likely to increase, it is no use tackling them by using, in return, language unfit for that area. I should suggest that our reply should be based on the possibility of broadcasting more on educational lines.
Why do I mention this? It is because the radio set in the Middle East, and I hope soon also the television set, is a centre of small concentration of information and gossip for that part of the world. What are these people fundamentally interested in? They are interested in the new technical things, how to improve their agriculture, how to grow better crops and how to repair a motor car. Instead, therefore, of using radio stations to slang back at the other side, we might consider very carefully whether it is possible, through research, to adopt a technique of offering education by radio. I suggest that this sort of approach to those people would be much better than trying to justify present hates or policies which have not always been successful.
Therefore, we must consider how many radio stations we require. Certainly, the one at Hodaida, in the Yemen, will have an enormous effect on the whole of Central Africa and Kenya. If General Glubb said that we were talked out of Jordan, it seems to me a possibility that we might be talked out of the whole of the Middle East and Africa. That being so, before any firm steps are taken on radio broadcasting policy, I suggest that the Government should examine carefully whether there is not a new way of entering the homes and the minds of those people. After all, our battle is to invite them to accept our way of life and not listen to those who are counselling evil around them.
If one bears in mind the radio war or the radio unpleasantnesses of the Middle East, one cannot help but refer to the centre of radio activity in the Middle East, which, of course, is Cairo, in Egypt. 137 Napoleon said that Egypt is the most important country. It still is and always will be. It seems to me incredible that at this moment, instead of Great Britain and the United States helping to build the Aswan Dam, which will help to take away the poverty of the country, this project should have passed into the hands of the Soviet Union. This seems to me a terrible tragedy, but I think that with political wisdom and skill it still can be redeemed. To redeem it, however, one must face the situation that President Nasser is there whether we like it or not. If he were not there, there might be very much worse to come.
Therefore, when we think of Egypt and we consider that we have about £600 million involved in Egyptian assets, built up by our country over the years, it seems to me incredible that at this juncture we have not yet opened diplomatic relations with that country. France has decided to do so. Under General de Gaulle, France looks like saving herself and overcoming the first great stumbling block in the Middle East, namely, her relations with Algeria.
From Egypt, I would like for a few moments to refer to Tunisia, a country which is now being subjected to the most appalling radio attacks by the Arab Union, especially upon President Bourguiba. The attitude taken by the Arab States is that they believe that Bourguiba is preparing to make a federation of friendly States in the North African area, namely, Algeria and Morocco and Tunisia.
If President Bourguiba is a friend of the United States and of Britain, the one thing that we must not do is to embrace him so hard as a sort of saviour of Western influence in that part of the world that we lose him. It is much better for the United States and Great Britain to devote their energies and their money in precisely the way that the Soviet Union is successfully doing, but with this addition, that we beat the Soviet Union at it.
Wherever one looks in the Middle East, one can see what the Soviet Union is doing economically, socially, and culturally among the people there. The quantity of books and literature issuing from the Islamic part of the Soviet Union is quite astonishing. Some of the books being published are extremely valuable. The effort is to attract the whole Muslim world 138 into the orbit of the Soviet Union, and at this the Soviet Union is working very hard now. When all those Muslims get together, it will have enormous influence.
What are Great Britain and the United States doing to counter this move? Some say that they should rely on the Bagdad Pact and the Anti-Subversion Committee. What happened to the Anti-Subversion Committee and the Bagdad Pact last year? Why does one pay so much money to those who are supposed to be in charge of looking out for subversion when subversion takes place in the capital of the Pact? These things seem quite mysterious. We should adopt a policy towards the Middle East really designed to help the people themselves. I do not think that the Government can do it with large loans directed from Government sources. It must be done through the businessman who is normally there and who has been there for some time.
However, businessmen in this country are not prepared to risk their capital in these territories if they think that, at any moment, their money will be lost in a coup or revolution or be taken over by nationalisation. Therefore, instead of thinking of money being given to these countries, as the United States and Great Britain are doing, we might well consider whether it would be possible to devise some form of insurance fund so that, if any businesses fail, there would be some help for British businessmen whose assets are smashed by a revolutionary movement in the Middle East. This seems to me to be an idea on which we should work; at least, it puts the right people in the country, namely, the businessmen themselves.
The tragic danger for us in the Middle East arises because we have believed for a long time that it would be possible to dragoon the Arab States to oppose Communism because it was in our interests to do so. If Field Marshal Montgomery has "bust" one thing open, he certainly disposed of that idea in one remark he made in his speech recently. How politicians could ever believe that it would be possible to galvanise Arab nationalism to oppose Communism is quite incredible. The only opposition is to Israel.
We see, therefore, the inevitable tragedy working out. Britain and the United States, relying, of course, on guarantees through the United Nations, 139 will have to support Israel at all costs, and they are supporting Israel now. Into this great and growing area of influence the Soviet Union has come. Ultimately, the situation will become most dangerous: there will be two camps—America, Britain, Israel, and the Soviet Union—in the Middle East and, perhaps, involving North Africa.
There is not much time left to stop this movement and whatever one thinks about President Nasser, or whatever one thinks about the present rulers in Iraq, time is short and we must persuade those people that before they put on the Soviet gallabya of Nessus they should think and we should help and warn them. It would be no use any of these countries in a year or five years' time coming to us and saying, "We made a mistake; help, help." It is too late when the Communists get hold of a government completely. Although President Nasser is not a Communist, a great many people from the Soviet Union are working, with his junior officers and in his Ministries.
We have, therefore, a choice to make, and I think that it is our only choice. We must say that we have forgotten Suez, whatever the faults about it one way or the other in the past, and that we are anxious just as much for their future as we are for the oil which we so badly need. I think that the Government should somehow find a way in which the British businessmen can return to play their part in Egypt and other places in the Middle East in which they have given great service and that we should bury the hatchet and get on with the work, as is laid out in the Gracious Speech, toco-operate with the United Nations and the countries in the Middle East in any measures likely to relieve international tension in that troubled area and to take account of the needs and aspirations of its peoples.It is clear from the Gracious Speech that the Government realise the need and understand the problems. They must have the courage to grapple with them and to remember all the time that there are people in this country who have definite loyalties and alliances with Israel, and rightly so. They like Israel, but these loyalties must never outweigh our task to preserve our friendship with the Arabs and Africa from the poison of Communism which is now working against them and their souls.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
Many of us on this side have admired the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) in his privations from time to time because of the views that he holds on two essentially great problems of our time in foreign affairs and in the Colonies. The part that he has mentioned tonight, namely, his attitude towards the Arab States, seems to me to be the logical and consistent viewpoint of those Conservatives who claim many years ago to have founded and sponsored the Arab League. The ex-Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, claimed that it was one of the triumphs of his youthful career as Foreign Secretary to have helped begin the movement towards Arab unity. The hon. Member and certain of his hon. Friends have managed to remain consistent to that viewpoint. In politics, consistency may not always be a good thing. If it is a good thing, the hon. Member has demonstrated it in his somewhat arduous membership of the House of Commons.
I was only sorry that he was not present during the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland). His hon. Friend dilated at great length on the merits of the Commonwealth, but he did not paint quite as balanced a picture as one ought to have done, because he forgot the question of Cyprus. Even if the Government wish to congratulate themselves on progress in the Commonwealth, Cyprus is one very black spot in the Conservative record since the present Parliament began.
All through this Parliament the terrorism in Cyprus has continued. As long as I have been a Member, just short of three years, Cyprus has been a very great problem, and it is one of the saddest aspects of British Colonial administration of the last three years that Cyprus has been a constantly recurring Parliamentary topic. Indeed, the situation has become worse. I do not think there is any hon. Member who cannot see that the position has gradually become worse. That is why many of us admired the hon. Member for The Wrekin in his efforts in the all-Party Cyprus Conciliation Committee, set up a long time ago to try to reach an amicable solution to a problem which ought not to lend itself to party disputations but which ought to be settled for the sake 141 of Britain and the island in a friendly, peaceable manner.
I am convinced—this will sound partisan—that after three years of Government during which a Conservative Colonial Secretary has had responsibility for the administration of Cyprus, it is not possible under a Conservative Government to secure a solution in the island. I do not think that is a party remark at all. I do not believe that the Cypriot people can genuinely feel that there will be a settlement through a Conservative Government, and I am honestly convinced that if the Labour Party succeed at the next General Election they will be able to provide the background for securing a solution to this problem. That is an opinion to which I am entitled, and I do not ask hon. Members to join me in holding it.
§ Mr. W. Yates
I assure the hon. Member that remarks like that, however much he holds that view, when said here cause a great deal of difficulty internationally. If he makes such a statement, the Cypriots will say, "Let us carry on terrorism until a Labour Government comes into power". They will never get in for fifteen years.
§ Dr. Mabon
That is not an unfair point, but my remarks are nothing compared with those which have been the cause of this trouble. It was a simple remark by a Conservative Minister which sparked off terrorism. The suggestion that Cyprus could never become an independent unit within the British Commonwealth started all this trouble. Lord Colyton, then Minister of State for the Colonies, as Mr. Henry Hopkinson, said, when the troops were moved from the Suez Canal to Cyprus, that Cyprus would never become an independent self-governing unit within the British Commonwealth. The speech which the Colonial Secretary made at Blackpool, when he 142 said that Cyprus is Turkey's offshore island, was probably as stupid as that made originally by Lord Colyton which sparked off the trouble.
It is only because the hon. Member for The Wrekin has spoken that I have been brought into this matter. I rose in the debate to concern myself with unemployment in Greenock—indeed, unemployment in all the Greenocks of Britain and in all the areas where there is 8 per cent. or more incidence of unemployment among the working population. In many of those areas, nothing has been done to help us in trying to diminish the number of unemployed.
I have now a large number of National Assistance cases. I see a large number of unemployed men at my "surgeries", and I have to deal with the kind of problem which was met before the war, although probably not on quite such a large scale as then. There has been about an 8 per cent. unemployment figure in Greenock for almost fifteen months—not just for a few months but for fifteen months. I must complain at the lack of Government activity and assistance. I am told by the leader of my party, who visited my constituency during the Recess, that, apart from special Government aid, we cannot expect an increase in employment unless there is a general upsurge in the economy and a growing expansion within the economy. It has been suggested that the years of economic stagnation which the Government have imposed on the country are the cause of our difficulties. I remember—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.