§ [FIRST DAY]
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Halifax)
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.Speaking as the back bench member of my family, I am sure that I am expressing the satisfaction of the whole House that, once again, Her Majesty has been able to open Her Parliament in person. I am equally sure that the whole country will view the programme of visits set out in the Gracious Speech with admiration, perhaps mixed wth respectful anxiety at its arduous nature, and that our people will be reconciled to her absence by the knowledge of the pride and pleasure with which she and other members of the Royal Family are welcomed by our fellow citizens in the Commonwealth.
By tradition, this speech should avoid controversy, but I will risk the anger of Lancashire Members by reminding the House that this is the second year running that Yorkshire has been honoured by providing the mover of this Motion; and I am sure that we all remember with pleasure the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley). It is also the second year running that Yorkshire has won the County Cricket Championship. I wish that the Prime Minister and the Patronage Secretary could be as effective in guaranteeing the first half of the hat trick as I am sure the Yorkshire XI will be in arranging the second.
Great honour has been done to the people of Halifax—and, of course, to myself—in choosing me as their representative to move this humble Address, and I am sure that Halifax appreciates the Gracious Speech the more because of its own close ties with the Commonwealth, which provides many of its best markets and most of the raw materials for one of its greatest industries—wool. But Halifax is not dependent on wool alone. In this comparatively small 11 borough there are nearly as many different industries as there are in Birmingham, including the flourishing machine tool trade which, however bad the political situation, has done much to improve trading relations between East and West.
Apart from woollen and worsted, engineering and machine tools, we make, in Halifax, parts for jet engines and fish fryers. We make toffees for export and toys for budgerigars. We manufacture the "cat's eyes" to help my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in his campaign for road safety and a very large number of the hearses which will be used if he is a spectacular failure.
So you will see, Mr. Speaker, that Halifax, like the rest of the country, in the end depends upon industry. In Halifax, however, much of the industry is organised in small firms, sometimes still family concerns, which often find it difficult to expand their markets overseas. I particularly welcome, therefore, the reference in the Gracious Speech to the reduction of trade barriers which the Government hope will result from their negotiations under G.A.T.T. I hope, too, that these negotiations will lead to a further easing of the terms on which woollen goods can be imported into the United States under the tariff quota.
We all seek, in the words of the Gracious Speech,a well-balanced growth of production in conditions of high and stable employment".This, however, must surely depend on the expansion of trade in the world and the freeing of markets in Europe in particular. I am sure that, in co-operation with our partners, we will soon succeed in consolidating the European Free Trade Association. I hope that it will not be much longer before we can reach, together with our partners in the Association, as close a degree of co-operation with the members of the European Economic Community.
I welcome, and we must all welcome, the words of the Gracious Speech which indicate that the Government are still workingtowards the political and economic unity of Western Europe, on a basis satisfactory to all the Governments concerned".I must, however, confess that the words have a familiar ring and that the sentiment does not strike me as being altogether new.
12 We have heard very much the same words in every Gracious Speech since 1955. It has been a long serial story and not all the chapters have been altogether happy. I believe, however, that the words of the Gracious Speech and the recent appointment of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to concentrate on the affairs of Europe will indicate to the countries of the Six that the United Kingdom is genuine in her desire to find a solution which is acceptable politically as well as economically. Then, we may hope that this will be the last instalment, containing the happy ending, of a tale which, up to now, might well have been entitled "Europe, or Little by Little".
Not only is it in Europe that there is today a pressing need for political unity. On the problems of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, I will not attempt to anticipate my right hon. Friend, but we have all noted with satisfaction the reference in the Gracious Speech to Sierra Leone, which is soon to follow in the steps of Ghana and Nigeria. Political advancement in Africa must go hand in hand with economic advancement. I am sure that the House will welcome the reference in the Speech to the Government's intention to join with others in helping the Governments of India and Pakistan in the financing of the construction of the work to be carried out in the Indus River Basin. Such help requires not only the sound economy and the well-balanced growth of production referred to in the Gracious Speech, but also a proper allocation of our scarce capital resources. This may well be hard to achieve as long as Europe is divided economically and will certainly be difficult until our rate of saving and investment matches those of the other major industrial countries.
I am happy to think that the constituency which I represent has played its part. By their support of Lord Mackintosh in the National Savings movement, and the growth over the years of the Halifax Building Society, my constituents have shown a truly Yorkshire awareness of the need for thrift, and of its rewards. The last Session produced an Act protecting those who invest their savings in building societies. In this Session a Bill is to be introduced to extend the investment power of trustees. I hope that among the "other Measures" 13 to be put before us in due course there will be one to protect the small investor, to make it easier and cheaper for small savers to invest their savings in industrial stock and so acquire a personal and direct share of our industrial prosperity.
But material prosperity, however fairly shared, is not enough. When, at the time of the Crusades, the West was in conflict with the East, each side was united in itself and each was strong in its own faith. Now, such unity of faith and the strength that it brings belongs only to the East. It is certainly the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to maintain the strength of our defences and to keep the balance of power even. It is surely the duty of each one of us, Her Majesty's subjects, to seek a unity of belief, a strength of purpose, through which we of the West can develop the free society in which we believe, with those countries which have not yet turned to Communism and share the benefits which that society has brought to us with the less prosperous peoples of the free world.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I beg to second the Motion.
In choosing a Member to second the Motion for the Address, the House has paid a handsome compliment to North Dorset, and I know that my constituents are deeply conscious of this honour. Since it is a number of years since a Member for Dorset has had an opportunity of proposing or seconding this Motion, perhaps it would be appropriate to say a word about the area which has sent me here as ifs representative.
North Dorset is a large and varied constituency, stretching from West Parley, on the outskirts of Bournemouth, up the Hampshire border to Alderholt and along the southern border of Wiltshire to join Somerset. I speak of boundaries as they are today with no foreknowledge of the intentions of the Boundary Commission.
The history of North Dorset begins long before Julius Caesar wrote that smug dispatch, wthich it is now fashionable to pronounce with a "w", "Veni, vidi, vici", and we know that over a thousand years ago large parts of North Dorset were the private property of the Wessex Kings, the direct ancestors of our Royal family.
14 As I watched the wonderful pageant this morning, I was reminded that the Witenagemot, the direct forerunner of our Parliament, proclaimed several kings at what is still called King's Court Palace, in my constituency. We know that three Wessex kings are buried in North Dorset, two of them at Wimborne Minster, a Royal Peculiar of great antiquity, while the shrine of Edward the Martyr drew pilgrims to Shaftesbury until the time of the Reformation.
The area around King's Court Palace is now a mosaic of small owner-occupied farms, many of which are occupied by yeomen whose families have farmed the same ground, or, at least, in the same parish, as far back as the written records go. They give a special flavour to that part of my constituency. Historians say that this pattern of small farmsteads existed before the Normans came. Some believe that they may have originated by gifts from Anglo-Saxon kings. We still have a charter of Alfred the Great in which he conferred a parcel of land near Shaftesbury over which he had rights of Forsteal, Hamsocne and Munde Breeche, and I like Ito think that similar rights were enjoyed by the, ancestors of some of my constituents.
In the south, my constituency has been developed at a fast rate, and the area between Verwood and Wimborne is particularly sought after by commuters from Hampshire, and every year many hundreds of retired people choose to come to settle in that beautiful countryside.
Of course, agriculture and its associated industries form the foundation of North Dorset's prosperity. This year's abnormal weather has struck a heavy blow to farmers everywhere. Thousands of acres of crops lie rotting in the fields, and meadows on which stock should be grazing are now lakes. These difficulties, coupled with the threat of increasing pressure from overseas, have given many farmers a sense of insecurity, and I particularly welcome the assurance in the Gracious Speech that the Government will continue their policy of supporting British agriculture.
The plan to improve Covent Garden should effect economies in the marketing of horticultural produce, and I hope that this will help both our housewives and our horticultural growers through 15 a reduction in the number of middlemen.
The House is aware that in this abnormal year the worst effects of flooding have been felt in built-up areas, and I welcome the Government's intention to provide additional revenue for river boards and also to give extra powers to local authorities who need to be able to deal with local problems on a short-term as well as a long-term basis.
Throughout the country, there are many homes and businesses which have suffered severely from flooding, and a number of casualties have been caused. Fortunately, my own constituency has suffered less than some others, but in areas like Ferndown and in other districts housewives have had their ground floors under water in some cases. This is a result of what the lawyers call an act of God, but we must hope that it will never be repeated.
The entire House will welcome the announcement that war pensions are to be increased, together with retirement pensions and other benefits. We are all familiar with the problems which affect the elderly, and all will welcome the knowledge that our older neighbours are to enjoy greater comfort in the evening of their lives.
In North Dorset we have many progressive small industries and interesting installations, amongst which is the National Stud, to which Her Majesty the Queen pays delightfully informal visits, and we like to think of her pleasure as she inspects the young stock, some of which will carry her colours to victory in classic races of the future. I welcome the proposal of legislation to tie up loose ends of the Betting and Gaming Act and to give assistance to the bloodstock breeders, all of which is so important for the future of British racing and which has the support of all the interests concerned.
My constituency provides a substantial proportion of the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry, of which I have the privilege to be the honorary colonel. This regiment has a famous history, and visitors to our mess are struck by the numbers of trophies won in competition with Regular Cavalry regiments. The regiment now forms part of the Territorial 16 Army, that unique British institution which is recognised by our allies as being the best and cheapest reserve army in N.A.T.O. Now the time has come when the Territorial Army has to be made more compact and, therefore, more efficient. In some cases, this will necessitate grafting one existing unit on to another. Operations of this nature call for deep incisions, and no anæsthetic exists which can dull the pain these will cause, but if these operations are carried out with skill and care, eventually the scars will fade and the new composite regiments will combine the traditions of the past with increased efficiency in the future.
I know that the House will welcome that part of the Gracious Speech which refers to education, and I am glad to know that the Government appreciate the importance of the part played by the teaching profession and have plans to double the number of teachers' training college places in the next five or six years. We know that many parents willingly deny themselves to give their children a better start in life, and I believe we shall all welcome the Government's decision to improve the basis of grants to students attending universities and comparable courses elsewhere, thus reducing the obstacles which now hinder able boys and girls. I welcome this as a step towards the abolition of the educational means test.
Before I was elected, it was my duty to administer justice at Dorset Quarter Sessions, and I welcome the proposals in the Gracious Speech to deal with that small proportion of modern youth who are deliquents and the reference to help for the approved schools. I particularly welcome the moves to rehabilitate convicted prisoners after they regain their freedom so as to re-establish them amongst their fellow-citizens and to make it less likely that they revert to a career of crime.
My constituents are particularly concerned about the increase in crime, particularly crimes of violence, and I hope that the new powers which are to be given to the courts, such as the power to give sentences of indeterminate length and compulsory after-care or supervision for some categories of offenders, will serve to check this dangerous tendency. It is no longer a question of 17 making the punishment suit the crime; it is now a question of choosing the combination of punishment and after-care which is most likely to reform each individual criminal.
The Gracious Speech covers a wide field. Its implications affect not only Britain but also the Commonwealth, where many new nations are attaining independence. New and difficult problems have become apparent, and Britain may be affected by events in distant areas for which in some cases we have responsibility but over which in many cases we have no direct control. The wind of change has begun to blow. No man can say when it will stop or what will remain after it has died away. Some of the resultant pressures may affect Britain both politically and economically, and great responsibilities will rest upon us. I pray that it may be given to us to solve those problems and so to achieve results the benefit of which will be not only for Britain but for the Commonwealth and throughout the world.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
In accordance with the usual traditions of this House, I rise to offer on behalf of all of us our warm congratulations to the mover and the seconder of the Motion for the Address.
I realise that the House will be more interested in what the Prime Minister has to say about the speech of the mover, the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Maurice Macmillan). Nevertheless, there are one or two things I should like to say about that speech and about the hon. Member. There has been comment in some newspapers that there was something wrong about the Prime Minister's selecting the hon. Member for this task. I do not myself in the least share that opinion. I think that it was perfectly appropriate that the Prime Minister should select the hon. Member. I say that not only because I think that, as we all expected, he discharged his duties very well.
The hon. Member moved with a most delicate touch on European affairs, insinuating himself carefully between the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade, on the one side, and the Colonial Secretary, on the other. One can say there was almost an hereditary skill about that. He also told us 18 about his constituency, a Yorkshire town, and, as a Yorkshire Member. I was especially glad, of course, that he was selected. He also introduced a rather more serious note into his speech than is usual on these occasions, but in my opinion it was none the worse for that.
I feel that the hon. Member must sometimes not be entirely happy in his position. It cannot be easy to be a Member of Parliament who is the son of the Prime Minister. Indeed, it might not be very pleasant to be the son of the Leader of the Opposition. After all, it is very difficult for an hon. Member in this position to establish himself in his own right. He is always described as the Prime Minister's son, and, of course, much the same would apply to the Prime Minister's brother or nephew or anybody else.
On the other hand the cloak, so to speak, which bides his real personality, is not sufficient to keep him out of the news, and if by any chance he is fined for parking or his car is towed away he can be sure that it will be in the newspapers with a heading, "Prime Minister's Son's Car Taken Away".
But there is one thing to be said in addition. The hon. Member described himself as the back bench member of the family. There may be occasionally a feeling in his mind, which would affect anybody else in the same situation, that precisely bcause of his close relationship to the Prime Minister he will be debarred from preferment.
I feel that we can all say that there is really no great danger of that. The Prime Minister has staunchly refused to allow any unfair discrimination against his relatives. I would comfort the hon. Member by saying that I can hardly suppose that the Prime Minister, having made this perfectly plain as regards his son-in-law, his nephew and another relative, the hon. Member's brother-inlaw—the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs—I cannot believe that the Prime Minister would depart from this general principle as far as the hon. Member for Halifax is concerned.
The seconder of the Motion, the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn), gave us a very interesting speech and displayed not only his obvious 19 knowledge of agriculture and breeding—I understand that he breeds bull terriers—but also an agreeable historical knowledge of Dorset, a county for which all of us have an affection, for certainly the hon. Member's own constituency contains some of the most beautiful country in the South of England. We were all very interested to hear what the hon. Member said and we congratulate him upon his performance.
In turning to the Gracious Speech, I should like to take up a point which the hon. Member for Dorset, North made about the floods. There is nothing about the subject in the Gracious Speech, yet the fact remains that there are hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen who are far more concerned about this matter than about anything else at the moment. I ask the Government whether they are really satisfied that all that can and should be done in the way of flood control and prevention has been done. I do not know how far the legislation promised on land drainage touches on this problem. I know that we had the Heneage Committee's Report on Land Drainage in England and Wales which came out eight or nine years ago, on which no action has been taken and which I believe at last is to be implemented in this particular legislation.
As a layman in these matters it certainly seems to me absurd that year after year we are confronted with these floods—local disasters, there is no other word for them—and yet every few years we have an appalling state of drought in the summer. I ask the Government to give us as soon as they can some report on this matter. The hon. Member for Dorset, North referred to the floods as an act of God. That is a very fair description, but if they are an act of God it is really not fair to put the burden of meeting the cost of these floods upon the locality which suffers from them.
This surely is something for which the central Government should assume responsibility. I hope that we shall not have just the usual appeals to charity. I am all for it, but it is not enough in these circumstances and I think that we should have a statement from the Government as early as possible making plain what they are going to do under both of these headings.
20 The Gracious Speech contains the usual pious platitudinous references to the economic situation:… a sound economy … to ensure a well-balanced growth of production …and so on. One would hardly suppose in reading that paragraph what were the facts today; so far from having a well-balanced growth of production we have had in these last five years four years of virtual stagnation followed by one year of rapid expansion, and now that rapid expansion is tailing off and we are falling back into stagnation again.
One would hardly suppose from that paragraph that there was any anxiety in the Government's mind, as there surely should be, about the recession developing in the United States. One would hardly suppose from reading that paragraph that the balance of payments this year is certainly the worst that we have had for several years, and that it is indeed doubtful whether we shall have a surplus at all and that if there is a surplus it will be woefully inadequate to finance the long-term overseas investment that is taking place.
Finally, one would hardly suppose from this paragraph that even our gold reserves are only held to their present level by exceptionally high interest rates which in their influence on the economy can serve only to confirm the state of stagnation to which I have already referred. I make these points and retail these facts and leave the development of them to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and other speakers in the debate which is to take place tomorrow.
I am glad that at long last we are to have a rise in pensions. This is indeed long overdue. I ask the Prime Minister to give us, if he can this afternoon, at least the broad outline of the proposals. If not, can he tell us when we shall know what the proposals are? Are they to be published in a White Paper? When is the Bill to be introduced? And—a matter of very great importance to the pensioners themselves—when will the new rates of benefit come into force?
I do not know the exact extent of this legislation. The phraseology is not entirely clear. Many of us in the House are concerned about other classes of elderly people who are adversely affected 21 under present conditions. I would mention in passing only one—those who served on the railways for many years, the railway superannuitants who certainly have not had nearly as fair a deal in this matter as other public servants.
It is rumoured that by far the greater part if not the whole of the funds to finance the increase in benefits is to come from flat-rate contributions. I hope that that is not so. The flat-rate contribution is really about as bad a tax as one could have. It is nothing more nor less than a poll tax which in its incidence is bound to fall more heavily on the poorer classes of workers. The fact that in the Government's own pensions scheme there is to be a slight reduction of contribution for those earning less than £9 a week will be of little consolation to those persons earning low wages today if through this legislation the contribution is, after all, to be increased again.
There is reference in the Gracious Speech to housing. I must make it plain that we on this side of the House are profoundly dissatisfied with the Government's failure to take adequately into account the consequences of their own Rent Act and the complacency with which they appear to regard the slow progress in clearing the slums and dealing with overcrowding. We shall certainly return to this matter during the debate on the Address.
Similarly, we feel that the remarks in the Gracious Speech about education are quite unsatisfactory. The vague general sentences are not enough. Far greater efforts are needed to increase the supply of teachers, both to avert what may well be a grave crisis in the primary schools in the coming year and to implement the Crowther Report on secondary education. Again, we shall return to this subject later on.
Lastly, on the home front I wish to make a brief reference to the statement in the Gracious Speech about the British Transport Commission. We shall wait to see what are these proposals for reforming the structure and functions of the B.T.C. But there is a very strong feeling on these benches that the Government wish, for doctrinaire reasons, to break up the Transport Commission. We are deeply concerned that this should not be done. We do not like the way in which the Stedeford Advisory Group 22 was set up; a body which meets secretly and which is not producing any report. We are told that we shall hear the ultimate conclusions of the Government, but we shall not have the evidence on which they were based.
I know that I speak not only for hon. Members on this side of the House but for many hon. Members opposite when I say that we wish that the Government would pay a great deal more attention to the Report on British Railways by the Select Committee. Not only, in our opinion, is its analysis of the reasons for the present difficulties facing the railways most cogent and convincing, but it makes no recommendation in its Report for reforming the structure and functions of the British Transport Commission. Indeed, it goes a long way to assert that it thinks that the present set-up is all right. It comes down firmly in favour of a single integrated system and says that the general lines on which the Commission is now working are right, is a pity that the Government should be so absorbed with the decentralisation of the railways on very doubtful premises and so little concerned with the increasing monopolisation of the daily and evening newspapers of this country.
In foreign and overseas affairs there are two subjects on which I should to touch briefly. The first is the paragraph in the Gracious Speech dealing with the United Nations and disarmament. We all of us want to see the negotiations on nuclear weapons tests brought swiftly to a successful conclusion. It is the most hopeful piece of negotiation going on between East and West at present. We also want to see, as soon as possible, a return to negotiations on general disarmament.
I should like to say this on the subject of general disarmament. Experience has shown that it will be extremely difficult to reach quickly a general agreement covering the whole area concerned and every kind of weapon. I am well aware of the need for not getting too confined in one's approach to these matters, but I repeat again, what we have so often said from his side of the House, that there may be a great deal to be said, if the general negotiations hang fire and if, indeed, we cannot start them again for some time, for seeing if we cannot negotiate in Central Europe—the most 23 dangerous area—a zone of controlled disarmament there. It may well be—and there are signs in what has been said by Russian leaders and other leaders on the other side of the Iron Curtain—that they would be prepared to negotiate a satisfactory system of controls in a given area far more readily than they would for the whole of the Soviet Union.
As to the United Nations, we welcome, the Government's undertaking to give resolute support to its work. But it is not enough merely to utter phrases of that kind. It is extremely important to strengthen the United Nations by practical steps. No doubt the Government will agree with me when I say that they should withstand the attacks which have been made on the United Nations over the part it has played in the Congo. It has been criticised by the Soviet Union, in my view, quite unfairly and I profoundly disagree with the suggestion that the administration of the United Nations should, so to speak, be put in commission. I am certain that it would not work at all. But if we are to strengthen the United Nations, there is something else which has to be borne in mind. We have to strengthen, Wherever we can, its reputation for impartiality and its reputation for being fair as between different interests. We have, whenever we have the opportunity, to throw our weight on that side and not to make it simply a battle ground for opposing points of view.
That leads me to make three specific suggestions. I hope that, at long last, the Government will push far more energetically than ever before for the admission of China to the United Nations. It is very likely that by sheer weight of numbers this will be brought about before long, and it would be far more satisfactory for the sake of good relations between East and West if, instead of waiting for a majority to pile up and carry this thing through, the Western Powers were to agree to come down in favour of it beforehand. I know the difficulties with the American election and so on, but I think that this is something that we cannot ignore if we value the reputation of the United Nations and if we want peaceful relations between East and West.
The second point is the question of South-West Africa. I cannot see how 24 one can possibly defend the refusal of the Union of South Africa to accept United Nations supervision over a territory which was, after all, a mandate allotted to it after the First World War. This matter has a long history but it is not over yet. I understand that the next move is likely to be a further reference to the World Court. I would ask the Government to make it plain that they will support the decisions and recommendations of the World Court on this matter, whatever they may be, and that they will not be influenced in their attitude simply because of the relationships which exist between ourselves and South Africa. One cannot say that this is a matter on which the majority of the Commonwealth countries in any way support the Union of South Africa, and, in the interests of seeing that the United Nations and those who belong to it can look at these problems impartially, a change in the Government's attitude there would be valuable.
The third point concerns an international issue of some delicacy. I say "international issue", although I am referring to Algeria. I know very well the difficulties of our relations with France, yet we must understand that the situation in Algeria may give rise to serious international dangers in the near future. The Algerian rebel forces have made contact with and have been recognised by Russia and China. There is every possibility that they will receive arms from these quarters. One has only to see the dangers of such a situation—the interception of Soviet vessels with arms, for instance—to realise the possible consequences. This is a matter of which, with all respect to our friends in France, I do not believe the United Nations can divest itself and I hope that the Government will take that view, too.
Last of all, I should like to say a few words about the Constitutional Review of the Central African Federation and the Monckton Report. Leaving on one side for the moment the terms of reference, I should like to say this about the Report. It is a most impressive document. It confirms in its analysis what we have said year after year in this House, that there is in these territories, particularly in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, a great African hostility to the Federation and that this hostility 25 exists because the Federation was forced upon the Africans and because it was not accompanied by either real political advancement or an end of racial discrimination.
I must say that for all of this Her Majesty's Government must at least in part be held accountable. The fact is that when we look back over the last seven years it has been clear for far too long that the policy of Her Majesty's Government was to reflect and support the views of the European minority and that they failed to bring home to the European minority there the changes that were bound to be essential in their outlook.
There is one very clear example of this which comes out in the terms of reference of the Commission itself. I referred the other day at Question Time to Sir Roy Welensky's broadcast on this matter. He dealt with it in great detail. He pointed out in the broadcast how time and time again Her Majesty's Government had supported his point of view. He said:Finally … in July, 1959, I made it abundantly clear to Mr. Macmillan when we were discussing the Commission's terms of reference that I could not accept that the proposed Commission should be enabled to discuss any possible break-up of the Federation or secession in any shape or form.He went on:Indeed, in November, 1959, when the question of the Labour Party's participation in the Commission was under discussion, Mr. Macmillan was invited by Labour Members of Parliament to agree that the Commission should be able to consider secession. He would not give the Labour Party the assurances they asked far and, in consequence, they abstained from participation in the Commission.He continued:In the face of all this the Commission have made their recommendation, which I have already mentioned, that in certain circumstances each of the territories will have a right to demand secession.Sir Roy also said:… arising from certain of the exchanges between Mr. Macmillan and several Labour Members I sought and received from Mr. Macmillan assurances that secession was not for consideration by the Commission.Finally, Sir Roy said:For the reasons I have given I am compelled utterly to reject this recommendation and I must hold the British Government to Mr. Macmillan's undertaking to stand by the terms of reference as we agreed them.26 I hope that the Prime Minister will tell us what assurances he gave Sir Roy, and whether Sir Roy's complaint against him and against the Government is justified or not, and I hope that he will in particular tell us how he understands Sir Roy's statement that he must hold the British Government to the undertaking to stand by the terms of reference. How does this affect, for instance, the possible discussion of the Monckton Report at the Constitutional Review?
We shall pursue this matter further during the course of the debate, but today I ask at least for the following assurances from the Government. First, I ask for an assurance that, despite what Sir Roy Welensky has said—I have some sympathy with him in the position in which he finds himself, though I totally disagree with his general approach—the Government will make plain that there will be no restrictions on what may be discussed in terms of secession and other possibilities at the Constitutional Review.
Secondly, I ask for an absolute assurance that the Northern Territories in particular should be properly represented by Africans, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population in these still Colonial Territories.
Thirdly, I ask that the Government should recognise, as the Monckton Report makes plain, that federation must be based upon consent and cannot survive without this, that the right of secession in some form must exist, and that there is no hope whatever without a rapid extension of the franchise and a much wider degree of self-government in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland that these territories can accept federation.
Finally, I ask that the Government should do the job which they have neglected for so long, to bring home to the European minorities in these territories that, instead of resisting and refusing to understand the winds of change, they should realise that their only hope in the future lies in recognising that they must accept African advancement to full self-government and come to terms accordingly.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
My first duty is to join with the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member 27 for Halifax (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) upon the speech with which he has moved the Motion for the Address. I confess that I was a good deal more nervous than he seemed to be while he was speaking, but that is only fair, for, from earliest youth, children suffer acute embarrassment about what their parents may say or do—or even the way in which they dress. I will, therefore, content myself with observing that my hon. Friend is known to me as a man of independent views who does not hesitate to criticise the Government if he feels it right to do so, perhaps in that way inheriting something from the former Member for Stockton-on-Tees. However, he has, I think, done very well and I am very grateful to the Leader of the Opposition and much touched by the gracious way in which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken.
I should also like to congratulate most warmly the seconder of the Motion for the Address, my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn). He is a worthy representative of the county to which he has given great service. He is a real friend of his fellow farmers. He first came into the House in 1957, when, if I remember aright, the fortunes of the Conservative Party were not at their highest. One of the newspapers described the by-election result of the day as "a Glyn and tonic for the Tories". That seems a long time ago, of course, but, then, the tides of public favour ebb and flow. One never knows. Meanwhile, my hon. Friend's own position is, I am certain, firmly established, both in his constituency and in the House.
I have to inform the House that arrangements will be made for the debate on the Address and for private Members' time. No doubt the House will hope to hear from you, Mr. Speaker, about the former, and the Leader of the House will propose a Motion about the latter.
There are two points which the Leader of the Opposition raised on which I should like, briefly, to say what we propose to do. The first was the question of the floods. On that, the Minister of Housing and Local Government proposes, with the permission of the House, to make a statement at the beginning of proceedings tomorrow. The second was pensions. A similar statement will be 28 made, and the Bill should be in the Vote Office tomorrow afternoon.
It is customary in this debate for the Prime Minister to range in some detail over the whole field of the Government's administrative and legislative proposals, but on this occasion I shall, with permission, depart from that practice and deal only with certain salient points.
First, at home, there will be great economic debates, of course, but I must say that it seems to me that the most striking achievement of the nation during the past year, and for even longer than that period, has been the maintenance of both stable prices and full employment. Unemployment now averages 1.5 per cent. over the country as a whole. There are, of course, some less favoured areas, notably in Northern Ireland and certain parts of Scotland, but it is our firm intention to grapple with this problem of localised unemployment. Our policy has already produced—I feel that all hon. Members will be fair enough to admit—some remarkable results.
As I say, we have, speaking generally, full employment by any standard, and, indeed, in many areas, scarcity of labour. We have also had steady prices for more than two years. Such a long period of price stability has been unknown since the period between the two wars. But then, as the older hon. Members will remember, price stability was accompanied by serious, widespread and, in some parts of the country, intolerable levels of unemployment. Therefore, at home it is our main purpose, with all the other things that we have to try to do, to try to achieve these two things together if we can—full employment and stable prices.
If this is to be done, and if, in addition, we are to achieve rising standards of living, and if we are to play our full part in helping the less fortunate countries in the world, then we have to ensure that our goods sell abroad, and with an increasing flow, at competitive prices. The exports question in all its many aspects will, I feel sure, figure largely in this debate and throughout the Session, for it is vital to our island economy.
I will now turn to Commonwealth affairs. One of the most difficult tasks which faces us is to determine, with the other Governments concerned, the future of the Federation of Rhodesia and 29 Nyasaland. The House is, of course, familiar with the background. The Federal Constitution provides that there shall be a Review Conference not less than seven nor more than nine years from the date of the coming into force of the Constitution.
It was in preparation for this Conference that the Monckton Commission was appointed. This was done in agreement with the four Governments in the Federation. The terms of reference were also agreed. I have already expressed Her Majesty's Government's warm gratitude to Lord Monckton and his colleagues. Undoubtedly, the outstanding feature of the Report is the almost unanimous agreement—there was a small Minority Report signed by two members—on the importance of maintaining a federal association.
The House will recall that when the Commission was appointed there were considerable discussions about the terms of reference. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has referred to that today. Her Majesty's Government refused to amend the terms of reference in such a way as to allow the Commission to advise whether the Federation should be carried on or dissolved.
In this House on 21st July, 1959, I used these words:… if questions were put about the possibility of secession being within the purview of the Advisory Commission, I would say that it was clear to me that the Commission would be free, in practice, to hear all points of view from whatever quarter on whatever subject, although, of course, we thought it right to give it terms of reference which accord with what we regard as the object of the 1960 review."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1959; Vol. 609, c. 1079.]That object is, of course, the maintenance, in some form or another, perhaps varied, of a federal association. On 24th November, 1959, I said this:… I regard the Commission as free, in practice, to hear all points of view from whatever quarter and on whatever subject. It will, of course, be for the Commission to decide what use to make of the material which reaches them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 208.]The right hon. Gentleman has asked me about my communications with Sir Roy Welensky. It would, of course, be contrary to practice to publish the actual texts. I have looked carefully through every message and I can tell the House 30 that my assurances to him were in exactly the same words as those I have used in Parliament. If I am now asked whether, in my view, the Commission has exceeded its terms of reference, then I think that this is what I would reply: we have to take other people's points of view into account as well as our own. I fully understand Sir Roy Welensky's expectation that the Commission would not deal with the question of secession. I also understand the argument that the Commission has gone beyond its terms of reference, at least if they are interpreted strictly.
On the other hand, it has not dealt with the question of secession in the sense debarred by the terms of reference. It has not considered whether the Federation should be carried on or dissolved. What it has considered is how the Federation would best be carried on and what changes would give it the best chance of success. The whole tenor of the Report endorses the continuation of a federal association as being in the best interests of the inhabitants, both on political, social and economic grounds. It suggests a qualified option to secede at a point of time and in conditions to be determined, but not by any means necessarily—as has often been assumed—at the end of a fixed period.
This is proposed by the Commission with the intention not of destroying the federal association, but of strengthening it and helping it endure. The Commission clearly felt that if it ignored this question its other recommendations would not measure up to the needs of the situation. Whether it was right or not in this view is a question, of course, for discussion at the review conference. I have heard it suggested that I had some foreknowledge from Lord Monckton as to his intention to deal with this matter in the Report. This is not the case. Neither he nor I would have thought it right that we should discuss the Report that he and his colleagues intended to present, and we did not do so. Nor did I do so with any other member of the Commission.
I would point out, however, that so far as I know none of the members of the Commission—and there were representatives from all the territories—ever raised this point as to whether discussion of the question as it comes out was within or without the terms of reference. There 31 is one further remarkable fact. Many of the other recommendations in the majority Report are subject to reservations. By contrast, this particular recommendation was endorsed by all the signatories, no matter by which Government they were nominated. I think that that is remarkable.
I have seen it suggested that, on receipt of the Report, instead of sending it to the printers I should have returned it to the authors with a comment that certain parts seemed to be ultra vires. That would not have been a realistic approach. Nor could I have treated in such a way the distinguished persons who had given such long service. Had the question been raised by any members of the Commission itself, that might have been another matter. As I have said, it was not so, and it was inconceivable that I should take it upon myself to throw their work back at them at that stage.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me last week, and again today, whether we would make a declaration of intention to consider a request from any Government to secede from the Federation. The Report does not ask the Government to make any such declaration before the Conference. We shall consider the Report as a whole at the Conference. The Report does, however, suggest that it should be made clear that the question of secession at some future date, or in some future conditions, should be discussed—the word which the Report uses, in paragraph 294, is "discussed".
We have already stated our view that the Conference should be free to discuss this and any other relevant issue. Thus, whilst we have fully accepted the view of the Report that this matter must be considered with all other relevant matters, it would be quite wrong for the Government, before even entering into the Review, where these matters are to be debated and discussed and a determination reached, to anticipate the deliberations of the Conference.
My purpose has been to clear up misunderstanding and to emphasise the spirit in which I think the Report was written. Hon. Members will not expect me or anybody else to try and foretell the outcome of the Conference. There will be widely differing points of view— 32 that must be so—but we must surely pray that it will be possible to reconcile them and arrive at an agreed basis upon which all the peoples of these three territories can go forward together. We do not, and we must not, underestimate the difficulties, but we should not underestimate the prospects of success. In any case, I believe that that will be the spirit of all who come. We shall approach our task with patience, with understanding, and, I hope, with faith.
I now turn to some of the foreign questions of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. Perhaps the most sensational development of the most significance in the international field was at the meeting of the General Assembly in New York, attended by so many heads of Government. This gathering reflected the changed character of the United Nations since its foundation.
It also illustrated, in a rather striking manner, the changing methods of conducting international relations. The practice of diplomacy by public pronouncement is not altogether new, but statements of position were not only made on the authority of, but actually pronounced by the heads of Government. How far the new diplomacy is preferable to the old, I am not sure, but there it is.
Soon after his arrival in New York, the Foreign Secretary felt that I should join him there. With so many Commonwealth heads of Government coming, with President Eisenhower and Mr. Khrushchev addressing the Assembly, it seemed right that the British Prime Minister should go and try to speak for Britain. I must say that I rather enjoyed the experience. With occasional exceptions, the United Nations Assembly, of course, lacks the vigour, the cut and thrust, to which we are accustomed in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the width of representation, the colourful personalities and the differing points of view compensated for the limitations of debate.
It was a remarkable and even moving spectacle and no man of British stock could fail to experience a thrill of pride. Looking round that great hall, one saw the representatives of all the peoples whom we have helped to independence. They ranged from the old Commonwealth countries, through the Asiatic nations, to the African, including the 33 most newly independent of all, Nigeria. Certainly, the meeting must have been an educational experience for other heads of Government besides myself. Certainly, the talks which we had outside the United Nations, either bilaterally, as it were, or in larger groups, were of value, of value if only in removing false ideas of each other's position.
But on the deep division of power in the world between the Soviet bloc and the Western Alliance, the Assembly, I fear, made no effective assault. Indeed, the Assembly and the whole United Nations organisation became itself more deeply involved than ever before in the battle, in the struggle between the giants. I have never concealed and do not now retract my belief that negotiation is essential if the situation in the world is not to get worse. President Eisenhower, President de Gaulle and I reaffirmed that view after the breakdown of the Paris Conference in May, and it is reaffirmed in the Gracious Speech.
There are many ways of conducting negotiations and we must choose the most practical. One method, particularly with certain questions, would be to have another Summit Conference. I have already expressed the hope that that may take place during 1961. But it would be foolish to deny that the international atmosphere has worsened a great deal since last spring. How can we recapture that mood and get away from propaganda and get down to some real discussion? It is not easy.
In his quite numerous speeches, both in New York, at the Assembly and outside, and elsewhere, Mr. Khrushchev has widened the area of disagreement. It now embraces not only all the familiar topics in Europe and Asia, in disarmament and economics, but also the African situation—as the right hon. Gentleman reminded the House—and especially the Congo situation, and now the very structure of the organisation of the United Nations itself, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
Of course, the situation in the Congo is a great tragedy in itself, but it would be a greater tragedy still if, because of the situation in that unhappy country, the full violence of the cold war and perhaps something worse were to sweep into Africa. The United Nations' effort has at least prevented that catastrophe up to date.
34 It was, perhaps, a certain frustration, a certain annoyance, about the development of the situation in the Congo which prompted Mr. Khrushchev to make his surprising attack on both the Secretary-General of the United Nations and on the present organisation of the Secretariat. It would be fair to add that the Soviet leader was careful to distinguish between Mr. Hammarksjōld as a man and the Secretary-General as a product of economic determinism. He is, of course, by tradition a Socialist and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition knows, for this purpose Socialists count as capitalists. In any case, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is not the time to weaken and perhaps immobilise the effectiveness of the administration of the United Nations by trying to turn the Secretariat itself into another forum for the struggle for power.
In this sterile situation, there is no question, as Mr. Khrushchev himself recognises, which stands out with such crucial importance, no question of greater importance than that of disarmament. Many heads of Government referred to that in their speeches and I had discussions on it with various world leaders, including Mr. Khrushchev. The basis of disarmament discussions must be a willingness on all sides to negotiate agreements without seeking to improve their relative national positions. That is the only fair basis.
There are some people, I know, who feel that the Soviet Union does not wish to have disarmament, but intends only to argue about it for propaganda purposes. There are others who believe that the only disarmament agreement which the Russians would sign would be one which would put them in a position of advantage. Personally—I may be naïve, but I think that it is the only possible line to take—I feel that the only basis on which we can continue to discuss and operate is to assume that the Soviet Government and the Russian people are genuinely interested in seeking disarmament.
As the House knows, the Soviet position has been that we should first agree the general principles of disarmament and only then begin to discuss control. The Western countries maintain that disarmament and control must go hand in hand. Mr. Khrushchev has 35 called that wanting control over armament instead of disarmament, but the truth of the matter, surely, is that until fear and suspicion can be if not removed, at least lessened, disarmament and control must go together. Unless there is effective control, therefore, we shall never get disarmament.
It is all very well to say that we should all agree to destroy so many rockets, or bombers, or tanks—quite a good thing in itself, perhaps—but what is the use of destroying ten or twenty bombers if one has another hundred lying hidden somewhere? Time and again, since the war, there have been disarmament discussions and plan after plan has been proposed, but at no stage has any progress in fact been made. The only exception of any kind of progress, to which I am glad the right hon. Gentleman called the attention of the House, has been the Geneva Conference on the suspension of tests.
We have not quite reached agreement, but still the conference is going on and the tests are not going on. That is all right. The areas of disagreement are being narrowed and the questions which remain to be settled are crucial and important, but now quite few. It is worth observing that that Conference began and, indeed, was made possible only by the preliminary work of the experts. It was a British suggestion, as a matter of fact. It was at last agreed by the Russians that it was experts who first had to say whether there was any scientific method which could be applied to control these tests. It was when they came to report unanimously that objectively that could be done that the political discussions began to make same progress.
It was because of that example that in New York I made my suggestion to establish a body of experts to examine the technical aspects of control, inspection and general disarmament. Although I tried to explain it to him privately, Mr. Khrushchev did not quite understand, and thought that this was simply a method of causing delay. As I said to him, I do not see why technical discussions should not proceed simultaneously with political discussions about the general principles; but not until and unless the nations know exactly what the 36 technical possibilities are can they work out seriously a genuine disarmament agreement. The debates on disarmament are beginning in the United Nations. We shall press our point of view. We shall try to persuade the Soviet powers to accept it, and we earnestly hope that negotiations can soon start again.
Meanwhile, it is my duty to warn the House that until we have achieved international disarmament, and until we have reached agreement about this, it would be folly to lower the defences of the West of which the nuclear deterrent forms a vital part. There are, of course, a number of views about the deterrent. Some think that it is morally wrong and should not exist at all. I can sympathise with that point of view, although I do not accept it. Others believe that it should be left entirely to the United States. There may be grounds for this on financial, or perhaps even technical grounds, but there is no case at all for abandoning our own deterrent on moral grounds and then huddling into shelter behind the Americans. Others, again, would like to see the deterrent controlled by N.A.T.O. or an international committee.
I do not propose to enter into those arguments now. I will only state my view that it is at this moment the Western deterrent force—today still mainly a bomber force—which preserves us from aggression or threat.
In this strange new atomic world, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) knows so well, we, the British, were the pioneers. During the war we shared all our secrets with the Americans. I will not go into that story now. After the war things were different. All the same, the Labour Government of the day decided to build up an independent British contribution to the nuclear strength of the West. The Conservative Government have continued that policy. We now have our V-bomber force, which makes an important contribution to the strength of the West both by its size and by its location.
We believe that it will continue to do so for most of this decade. There may, of course, be great changes within that period. Our efforts to achieve general disarmament may at last meet with success. The whole basis of the Western deterrent may be changed. It is idle to speculate, but for the moment it must 37 be our aim to keep the Western deterrent power as effective as possible until disarmament agreements can be reached.
The United States has made a significant advance in deterrent power. The first Polaris missile-firing submarine, the "George Washington", will become operational before long. I am told that it will be quickly followed by other vessels now nearing completion. A new and flexible element will thereby be added to the strategic nuclear deterrent. There would be operational advantage and to that extent the deterrent would be strengthened if sheltered anchorage on this side of the Atlantic were available for a submarine depot ship and a floating dock. This Her Majesty's Government have undertaken to provide.
These facilities would be used by United States submarines on routine patrol in peace time. The anchorage will be provided in Holy Loch in the Clyde, and the depot ship should be established there during February of next year. The floating dock will follow later. Supporting facilities will be provided by the Royal Navy. The United States naval authorities in London and the Admiralty will co-ordinate routine measures to govern the operation of the United States submarines so as to prevent the risk of any difficulties arising from mutual interference between United Kingdom and United States submarine or anti-submarine forces. Such matters must cover routeing, arrival and departure notices.
Stringent safety precautions will be adopted to prevent any risk to health or safety in normal conditions. Among other local arrangements, a liaison committee will be set up to ensure the fullest possible consultation with local authorities and interests concerned.
§ The Prime Minister
May I finish what I am saying before giving way.
The House will realise that it is impossible to make an agreement exactly on all fours with the bomber base agreement. The deployment and use in periods of emergency of the submarine depot ship and associated facilities in the United Kingdom will be a matter of 38 joint consultation between the two Governments. Individual submarines will only visit the United Kingdom between patrols, which may last for a considerable period at a time. Their home port and refitting base will still be on the other side of the Atlantic.
As regards general control, therefore, we shall continue to rely on the close co-operation and understanding which exist between us and the United States in all these defence matters and which President Eisenhower has recently reaffirmed.
Wherever these submarines may be, I am perfectly satisfied that no decision to use these missiles will ever be taken without the fullest possible previous consultation, and, of course, it is worth recalling that these mechanisms have a greater degree of flexibility than perhaps some of the present methods of launching the deterrent. We therefore felt it right to conclude this agreement. It is in the tradition of Anglo-American co-operation in joint defence established in peace time, more than twelve years ago and carried on by successive British Governments.
Like the agreement on the United States bomber bases in this country, it will serve and strengthen the whole N.A.T.O. alliance. Naturally, my Cabinet colleagues and I gave grave thought to this matter. At first sight, the addition of these facilities might seem to bring added anxiety, but, on reflection, I hope that the House will feel, as we have, that this new arrangement does not add to the risks to which we are all inevitably exposed in this nuclear age.
In any case, to have refused these facilities would not have been in the spirit of the Western Alliance, and refusal would not have given us more power or more security. It would not have reduced our real involvement. Even taking the narrow view of self-interest alone, I believe that the more we are involved with the whole great complex of the modern deterrent the more effective our voice becomes in its world-wide control.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is the Prime Minister aware that there is considerable resentment in the west of Scotland because of the belief that the great industrial population there will be exposed to destruction without any adequate 39 means of defence? Can he assure us that there is to be some real, effective control of this Polaris missile?
§ The Prime Minister
I have just spoken about the second point raised by the hon. Gentleman. That is my view and I must put it before the House.
As regards the first point, if I may be quite frank, although the purpose of the deterrent is that it should not be launched by either side, if this happens I do not believe that this particular place or that particular place in this country will really bear a greater share of risk than any other. It would be perhaps if it was in the area in which the bombers were, which would be the natural target. We must remember that the Polaris submarines will be at sea, and, therefore, this target, like every other target in the country, will be important but no more important, and perhaps a little less important, than the bomber bases.
I therefore think that we have to accept the situation that our danger is spread, and that we are all in it. The object of this exercise is that it shall not happen.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
The Prime Minister has said that the Polaris submarine will be at sea. That is the point. Is not this missile-carrying submarine offensive and not defensive in character?
§ The Prime Minister
Of course it is an offensive weapon, because its purpose is a deterrent purpose. If a person is against the whole deterrent, that is another argument, but this is another form of the present deterrent.
It may be that in time to come, if this dreadful situation has to go on, there will be more of these. But this weapon has an advantage, at present. One side might be tempted to think that it could destroy the other without retaliation, if it were quick enough. Here is a weapon which, whatever else happens, will and can retaliate. I and my colleagues have thought it right to agree to this facility, and I believe that, on reflection, the House and the country will feel that we had no other choice.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
As this is a very important subject for the people of Scotland, many of whom are greatly concerned about it, 40 will the Prime Minister take a plebiscite of the people of Scotland before making this decision?
§ The Prime Minister
No, Sir. I would hesitate even to take a plebiscite of the party opposite.
If we look to the wider field—to the challenge of our time—we can hope to get through it only through the unity of the whole Western world—the growing unity, in every form. Peace—real peace—is a long way off; we must face that. It may take years to accomplish, but in the end, if we have any faith, we must believe that it can be accomplished, because it is the purpose and the end of almost all the ordinary people of the world.
It may take years to form and underwrite it, but we believe that the way of life which is dear to us will triumph, because we believe in these ideals. At the same time that we think it right to strengthen ourselves in unity—military, economic, financial and the rest—I still say, with even greater emphasis than before, that we must try to get back to the atmosphere of negotiation and discussion in order to reduce the strain and tension in the world. I earnestly trust that in the course of the Session of Parliament on which we have today embarked we shall see some real progress to this end.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
I begin by making two references to the Prime Minister's speech. The first concerns what he said about Central African federation. He expressed the hope that what he was saying would clear up misunderstanding about the terms of reference of the Commission, but most of us who listened to him will take the view that he conspicuously failed to do anything of the kind. The fact remains that Sir Roy Welensky understood the terms of reference of the Royal Commission in one way while the members of the Commission understood them in another way. Sir Roy Welensky, in his recent broadcast, made it quite clear that he understood that he had received assurances—he said in his broadcast that he had sought assurances and had received them—that secession was not within the terms of reference of the Commission. Yet the Commission went to on consider that question.
41 The Prime Minister said that the Commission almost unanimously said that federation ought to continue; but the Commission also said—completely unanimously—that federation ought not to be imposed and that the Northern Territories in particular should have the right to secede. This matter will be debated in more detail later in the week, and when it is debated my hon. and right hon. Friends will require from the Government something much more explicit about the misunderstanding that occurred between Commonwealth Prime Ministers on this very important issue.
My second reference concerns the Prime Minister's mention of the deterrent. As I was listening to him speaking on the subject and saying that we were becoming more and more involved in the whole complex question of the Western deterrent, it seemed to me that every word he was uttering was an argument against the maintenance of an independent British deterrent and that all he was saying about the latest development of Polaris and the American submarine bases made it clear that, from the strategic and economic points of view, it would be folly for this country to follow up the failure of Blue Streak with an expensive failure with Skybolt or any other alternative.
The Prime Minister made one or two vague references to disagreement in this party on this subject. It would be a much healthier situation if the debate about nuclear weapons were also conducted in the party opposite. The hydrogen bomb and all it involves confronts mankind with the most perplexing problems it has yet had to face. Therefore it is something which we should all debate, and while I regret the decision that my party made at Scarborough—which I hope will be reversed—I make no apology for belonging to a party which has had a heart-searching inquiry into this problem. I would rather belong to a party like that than to one which acted like a flock of sheep.
I now turn to the Gracious Speech as a programme of legislation. The Prime Minister said that he would depart from tradition this afternoon and not examine in detail the programme of legislation which the Government were bringing before the House this Session. That is hardly surprising. The programme of legislation is so trivial, humdrum and unenterprising that one could not expect 42 the Prime Minister to bother himself with making a survey of it. A year ago, in the debate on the Gracious Speech, I was one of many hon. Members on this side of the House who referred to the fact that that Gracious Speech contained no reference to a major piece of legislalation. It seemed to us at the time a surprising thing that the Conservative Party, having gained a victory at the polls, should have no clear idea what it wanted to do with its power. What is even more astonishing is that after twelve months of reflection it has still no major proposals to bring before the House. The Gracious Speech is a ragbag of odds and ends. It has not real theme and no real message for Britain in the 1960s.
Last year, perhaps the biggest piece of legislation with which the House was concerned was the reform of the betting laws; this year, perhaps the biggest piece of legislation will be the reform of the licensing laws. Last year we made minor amendments to grants for horticulturists; this year we are to make minor amendments to grants in respect of university students. Last year we had a piecemeal Road Traffic Bill; this year there is to be another piecemeal Road Traffic Bill. One can imagine Ministers of the Crown poking about in the pigeon-holes of their Departments looking for non-controversial reports several years old and saying, "What can we put into this year's programme so that the House shall have something to discuss?"
Even when there is a useful and non-controversial report which demands legislation, it takes the Conservative Government many years to make up their mind to do something about it. This year we are to have a Bill to reform the law relating to weights and measures. It is nine years ago since the Hodgson Committee recommended new legislation on this subject. My right hon. Friend has already reminded the House that many years ago new legislation on land drainage was recommended and that at last something is coming forward. Again, the reform of the licensing laws is something which has been debated and discussed over a long period. There is still nothing in the Gracious Speech about reforming legislation on many other things which have been recommended by authoritative bodies in recent years.
43 The Gowers Committee reported eleven years ago on the need for legislation in connection with non-industrial employment, and it was only on the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) that some part of this has been enacted. We are still waiting for the Government to bring forward some legislation along those lines. More recent reports, such as the Younghusband Report on social workers and the Report received by the Home Secretary in the summer about the need for compensation for the victims of criminal assault—these things, presumably, are being kept back in the queue for many years.
My main criticism is of the essential triviality of this programme. It seems to me that, as the scientific and technical revolution through which this country is passing becomes faster and more exciting and more challenging, the reactions of a Conservative Government become more and more feeble. The society in which we live presents us with a number of urgent challenges. Let me remind the House of one or two examples. One concerns the way in which industry in this country is driven more and more into certain areas and people are driven there along with industry. The balance of the population of these islands is becoming more and more lopsided.
During the Summer Recess, I had the pleasure of a short walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands, and a few weeks after that I went to North Wales in order to lecture to a week-end school. In both of those areas, I was told some of the problems of communities which are losing many of their youngest and ablest people who are going away from home because they cannot find opportunities in the towns and villages in which they were born. This is a process which has been going on for a long time and is still going on; if anything, it is being accelerated. Meanwhile, in the Greater London area, in the kind of area I represent, we are suffering from the effects of the other side of the problem, from the effects of too many people in too small a space. That is the situation which results in an increasing housing shortage, more traffic congestion and a boom in land values which increases the price of land and puts it out of the reach of ordinary people.
44 There is a shortage of land for social purposes. Only yesterday, I received an example of this in the form of a letter of protest from an allotment society in my constituency which is worried because the borough council wishes to take its ground for use in housing development. I read the reasons which the society gives for wanting to resist this, and I know the reasons which the council have and the urgent need for more land for housing development.
The tragedy of this sort of problem is that both parties are right. The community ought to have enough housing land and ought also to have enough land for horticulture, for sport and for other recreations. In fact, the whole of the social life in Greater London, Birmingham and in other great areas of population has become distorted just as much as in other parts of the country communities are declining because people are moving away. There is an urgent need for the Government to have some sense of design, some sense of purpose and some sense of planning in this challenging situation, yet that is not even mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
Another critical situation which should receive the attention of the Government is the crisis facing the services in this country in dealing with the problems of youth. Here, at least, the Gracious Speech expresses "concern for young people." It is one of the many platitudes which occur in nearly every paragraph of the Speech. There is no recognition of the fact that 1961 is the year in which those school children who have been referred to as the "postwar bulge" will begin to leave school. Next year, we shall have five boys and girls reaching school-leaving age for every four who reach school-leaving age this year. This will present the country with a critical situation regarding employment, apprenticeships and youth services and recreational facilities for our young people.
I warn the Government particularly with regard to employment. If there is any kind of recession next year, it is this extra large number of school leavers who will become the first victims. Employers, before they make other people redundant, will stop taking on new workers. This situation will coincide with the end of National Service which, in itself, aggravates the employment position for 45 young people. This serious situation is not even mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
Before leaving the subject of youth, I wish to mention the reference in the Gracious Speech toan increasing level of expenditure on the physical recreation of the young".This is a matter on which I and many other hon. Members eagerly await the detailed recommendations of the Government. Hon. Members on this side of the House were encouraged by the recommendations of the Committee on sport presided over by Sir John Wolfenden. We were particularly encouraged because his main recommendations were already Labour Party policy and were included in our manifesto at the last General Election.
I was reminded recently of the tragic lack of provision for physical recreation in many parts of the country. The Borough of East Ham provided Britain with a Bronze Medal winner in the Olympic Games in the person of Brian Phelps, who won his medal in the diving contest. Brian is a credit to his borough and to the country, but the fact I wish to mention is this—
§ Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
Is that the competitor who had to go all the way to Cardiff before he could find a diving board on which to practise?
§ Mr. Prentice
I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He has made the point I was about to make. It is significant that in order to find anywhere to practise his high diving, Brian Phelps had to go all the way to Cardiff to find a diving board.
§ Mr. Prentice
This country should not be so short of facilities of this kind. We ought to have swimming baths, running tracks and the rest of it; and not only facilities to enable potential champions to train, but also for other people who are not champions so that they may enjoy fresh air and exercise—and not only young people, though this is primarily a problem regarding youth. I see no reason why a middle-aged gentleman who wishes to correct his middle-age spread should not be able to 46 put on a pair of shorts and run round a track. This is the kind of thing about which a great deal more action is needed.
Those of us who have taken an interest in the problems of the pensioners welcome the fact that there is to be at least some increase in pensions. We want to know how much and the other details which were mentioned by my right hon. Friend. If the rumours are correct, the amounts which the Government have in mind can only be described in the same way as were the last lot three year ago—too little and too late.
In the sphere of pensions and social benefits generally, this country is falling behind almost every other country in the Western world. There is one more example of a major problem receiving the most inadequate attention in the Gracious Speech. In 1948, this country led the world in the type of social insurance scheme which we produced. Now nearly every other country is passing us by. Practically every country in Europe spends a larger proportion of its national income on social benefits than does Britain. Nearly every other country in Europe makes better provision for its retired people. It is in West Germany and not in Britain where a scheme is being pioneered for wage related benefits for the sick, so that people away from work during sickness may not suffer the financial embarrassment which is so often the case in this country. It is in the United States, not in in Britain, that they are pioneering the guaranteed annual wage to deal with the problem of redundancy.
One could go on giving examples of the way in which we are lagging behind. This is another large problem with which we ought to be concerned in the 'sixties, which the Government have so far ignored. One never hears a Minister of the Crown in this Government make a speech about pensions without his trying to compare what they are doing now with what the Labour Government did in the first few years after the most damaging war in our history. They ought to be comparing the situation now with what is happening in other civilised countries and realise that we are falling behind. One of the moral tests of the affluent society is how we look after the elderly, the sick, widows 47 and others who cannot make ordinary provision or earn their own living.
There are many other large problems which I could mention if I wanted to detain the House longer, but many of my hon. Friends will give other examples. This is a Speech which, in relation to world, economic and social affairs, is profoundly disappointing. It falls short of what is required of a Government of this country at present. It fails to measure up to the major challenges of the 'sixties. If the Government go on in this way, it will be a bad thing not only for the administration of the country but for Parliament itself, because if Parliament does not deal with the major problems that concern the ordinary people of this country in their everyday lives, then the prestige of Parliament itself will decline. Be that as it may, one thing which is clearly indicated is that a Conservative Government have not the imagination to face up to the challenge of the scientific and technical age in which we live.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) in everything he said, but I should like to make one comment. Early in his speech he complained that there was not enough legislation foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech. I sat through the years when the Labour Party was in power with a large majority and was able to see the appalling results of overcrowding not only the House of Commons but various Ministries with far too much legislation. It seems to be a Socialist theory that all a Government have to do and the only reason why a Government are there is to pass new Acts of Parliament. That is not so. A very wise man once said that a good Government should administer for four-fifths of their period of office and legislate for the other fifth. I think that that is one of the greatest truisms. It is because the Labour Party, when in office, was so cluttered up with legislation churning through the sausage machine that it failed to administer the country in the way it should have been administered. I therefore thank heaven that we are not cluttering up the programme with a lot of extra legislation.
48 Once more, I want to come to the defence of the people for whom I have spoken many times in the House, those who are the new poor, who are living on small fixed incomes, who have worked hard all their lives to save for their old age and are feeling things very much indeed. I wish to make some new suggestions. One or two of my older suggestions have already been adopted. The first suggestion which I want to make is an old one and it concerns the question of putting a date on Government stock. By that act alone a very large proportion of the problem would be solved. These are people who lived in the days when it was the fashion to invest money in gilt-edged Government securities and they have found those securities—Daltons, for example—worth about £24 instead of £100 and are unable to sell. They are using little bits of capital to feed and look after themselves. If the value of the stock were raised by placing a date on it, perhaps a short-term date, they could get rid of the stock and could buy equities or use the money for purposes for which they need it so badly.
I am not in the least impressed by the answer which I have had that this would be grossly unfair because people who bought the stock only the day before yesterday would reap an unfair advantage. What on earth does it matter if someone else benefits a little more if the vast majority of people get their just deserts? I am not impressed by that argument.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
My hon. and gallant Friend has more or less just dealt with what I was about to say, but I do not think that his figures are quite right. In the case of much of this old stock, there is no doubt that over the years the vast majority of people who hold it bought it at a much reduced price. If a fixed date were put on it, they would reach a very large capital profit.
§ Sir. O. Prior-Palmer
I do not share that view entirely, because of what I call the "fiddle" which took place during the war when people were led up the garden path with regard to this stock.
What I want to plead for is this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the whole weight of the Treasury behind him, should look into this matter and see whether something can be done, because, 49 as I have said, in that way the situation of many of these people would very largely be relieved. If it is considered that it would give too great an advantage to people who have recently bought the stock, that is all right. We should say that it applied only to those who bought it before a certain date or that it should be put on a sliding scale. I cannot believe that it is beyond the wit of the whole of the Civil Service, the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to evolve some scheme if they had the will to do so. In any case, it is simply not good enough to go on doing nothing.
The position of these people is partly, not at all wholly, due to this question of investment. It is perhaps more due to the fact that, whereas Government taxes have been falling steadily over the years, local rates have been increasing steadily. We all know that about 60 per cent. of the money spent by local authorities goes on education. In my view, that percentage will and should increase. A great deal more expansion is needed in our education, but it places an ever-increasing burden on local authorities, with the high interest rate on loan charges for school building—
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We are discussing a most important matter—the Queen's Speech. Would it not be fair to the House and to the Opposition that a Member of the Scottish Office should be sitting on the Front Bench as Scotland is dealt with—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
The bon. Member must be aware that that is not a point of order for the Chair.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
As I was saying when I was interrupted in the middle of a sentence, interest on loan charges for school building, and so on, is becoming so formidable, and will continue to be so, that local authorities will have to get some more assistance. I am absolutely certain of that.
Who is paying for all this? In my constituency, by far the greatest proportion of those who are paying are elderly people who are so hard up. Although in the 19th century one may have been rated on the size of one's house, that bears no relation to modern conditions. I know of houses in the same street which 50 look exactly the same but have different rateable values. The whole thing seems to be in a muddle. There are elderly and retired people living in houses which they would give their eyes to vacate. Why do not they leave? The simple answer is that they cannot find money for the removal. It is just beyond their means to "up sticks" and go into other premises. The situation is getting desperate. It is unfair that these people should be paying for the education of other people's children when they are so hard up and have probably educated their own children at their own expense.
I made a similar suggestion last year to the one I am about to make now. I do not know how practicable it is. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), whom I see on the Opposition benches, could probably give me the answer in a few minutes. Since inquiries and commissions are so fashionable, however, is it not possible to consider setting up an inquiry into the question of a local Income Tax to take the place of rates, so that people are taxed on their ability to pay and not on their outward appearance? That is something that the Government should do before the next General Election. Let us have the answer. Is it impossible to do it? If so, for what reasons? If it is a matter which it takes a Royal Commission or a Committee to decide, let such a body sit and find out. I cannot help feeling that there must be many local authority members in this House who could give the answers, both for and against, and we might even thrash it out ourselves.
The hon. Member for East Ham, North touched upon my next point. There is the question not only of financial relief, but of services. A great deal more help and encouragement should be given to local authorities in the services by which they assist the people. I refer to the "meals on wheels" service, geriatric treatment, visits by welfare officers, and so on. In my constituency, the "meals on wheels" service is being done as efficiently as that wonderful body of people, the W.V.S., can do it, but the kitchen in which they have to operate leaves much to be desired. The local authorities should be encouraged in every possible way to assist these services a great deal more. Looking at the matter from a 51 purely financial point of view, it costs a great deal less to feed people in their own homes and to provide them with reasonable treatment there than it does to keep them in an institution, and they would far rather stay in their own homes.
Having talked about Committees and Commissions, I must say that, in this day and age, after having been in the House of Commons for something like 15 years, I am amazed that neither the Cabinet nor a Civil Service commmittee can produce all the relevant facts and figures which are necessary for a Minister to make up his mind without having to set up a Royal Commission or a Committee.
We have had frequent reports from Commissions, but after months and months they are often ignored. We had the Crowther Report on the school-leaving age. The Minister paid a certain amount of lip-service to it and fired what might have been the pistol at the start of the race—that is to say, he gave it the green light—but he took the precaution of taking away the winning post. He did not put a date to the implementation of the report's recommendations. To me, it is incomprehensible that a Minister is incapable of getting the facts and figures from his Ministry and saying, "This will be the date. We will get on and do it." That report has been virtually shelved.
A certain amount was said at the Scarborough conference of my party about the Anderson Report on university grants, but does it need a Committee like the Anderson Committee to find out these facts? Do we not all know the facts? Is it not merely a matter of taking a decision? The reason, surely, for the setting up of a Committee is to procrastinate and to put off the decision a little longer, so that it can always be said, "There is a Committee sitting to consider this matter. Wait and have patience." Hon. Members opposite were just as guilty when they were in office.
Then, there was the Albemarle Committee on the Youth Service. Does it really require a Committee like that to tell us that more money is needed to be spent on the Youth Service? Has not every local authority been screaming for more money for the Youth Service? Do we not all know the facts? It is simply a question of whether the money is or 52 is not available or can be made available. I cannot see that it was necessary to set up the Albemarle Committee to tell us exactly what we knew a long time ago. I hope that these words of mine penetrate to a higher level. I do not know whether my two hon. Friends who are at present sitting on the Front Bench agree with every word I say, but that is probably about as far as they would be willing to go.
I want now to leave home affairs and to turn to a matter concerning foreign affairs. I am getting extremely worried about the irredentist movement in West Germany. It causes me and, I am sure, many other hon. Members deep concern. We have heard of heavily attended public meetings—for example, at Dusseldorf on 10th July and 28th August and at Berlin on 4th September—when Dr. Adenauer, Professor Erhardt and Herr Willi Brandt addressed vast, excited gatherings. The gist of what they were saying was that if Germany stood fast with the West, one day the West would see that East Prussia was freed. This was done to impress the large audience, comprising largely of youths, who had probably never heard of the Eastern provinces and knew little about them, that with Western aid all their ambitions would one day come to fruition.
That sends a cold shiver down my spine. Are they not just the sort of noises we heard in 1936, 1937 and 1938? That this matter should be raised at this juncture seems to me incredible. Some people say that it is only electioneering and that it does not mean very much, but I am not at all sure about that. I think it is a great deal more than electioneering in Germany. It is said there that the present situation is impossible. Impossible for whom? Certainly not for the Poles. They regard the Oder-Neisse line as their one security. The situation is certainly not impossible for the Czechs. I hope that one Minister in the Government will make it clear that we would never dream of supporting Western Germany in any form of either attack or pressure. Unless we do this, the only effect upon the Poles will be to throw them further and further into the protecting arms of Russia.
Do hon. Members realise that there has been great pressure on the cartography department in Britain to publish maps showing the historical frontiers of 53 Germany and that propaganda atlasses have been published in Germany? Today, there is the Sudeten atlas, which might easily have been edited by Henlein, in 1936.
I am a great friend of Germany. In my small way, in the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians' Conference and in other international conferences, I have done a lot to try to help, and I voted for the rearmament of Germany. I hope that my German friends, if they read these remarks of mine, will realise that I am making them only so that one day I may not regret having supported German rearmament.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) has just drawn attention to a particularly dangerous situation which may arise in Eastern Europe. Earlier in his speech he was pleased, for himself and everyone present, because we had not the prospect of sitting up for long nights over many weeks passing a great deal of legislation, as we did in the years immediately after the war.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in both his points. However, whilst not suggesting legislation, I suggest that the Government should take an initiative. It is an initiative which deals to a certain extent with the dangerous situation to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred. It is one which is dealt with rather complacently in the fifth paragraph of the Gracious Speech, which says:… My Government will continue to give resolute support to the work of the United Nations. The improvement of relations between East and West remains a primary object of their policy. In particular, they will go on working for the success of the Geneva Conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests and will do their utmost to achieve comprehensive disarmament under effective international control.Do Her Majesty's Ministers seriously think, after all our experience of disarmament conferences, that anything will be achieved, unless there is a completely new approach? I doubt if they do. That is why I say that this paragraph is a little complacent. This afternoon the Prime Minister referred to all the disarmament conferences there had already been. He admitted that none 54 of them had come to anything, but he still dared to hope that the one exception would be the Conference at Geneva on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests.
What do the Government intend to do about it? This is what calls for a really new initiative. Almost all the leading members of the Government have gone on record as saying that the time has come for us to try to set up a world authority far the purpose of keeping the peace. The Prime Minister made a very pointed remark about it in 1955. He said that disarmamentmust be comprehensive … The control must provide effective international, or … supranational, authority invested with real power." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1955; Vol. 537, c. 2181.]Paragraph 8 of the Defence White Paper of 1958 says that nothing less than comprehensive inspection and control by a world authority makes sense. Many hon. Members heard the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations say in June, 1958, when he was Minister of Defence, that the time had come to do some serious thinking about the setting up of such a world authority.
Apart from disarmament, there is the question of peace-keeping. I know that disarmament is very much bound up with that, but it can be thought of as a completely separate problem. At present, I do not think that anybody on either side of the Iron Curtain looks upon the United Nations, I will not say "with trust", because that would create a wrong impression, but as a body capable of keeping the peace. It has many admirable uses. I am much in favour of it and of working through it whenever possible, but I do not regard it as a body capable of keeping the peace.
The Russians certainly do not so regard it. Very recently, they have been giving manifestations of their distrust of its machinery. In the United States it is not regarded as a possible machinery for keeping the peace. This is because any tiny State has precisely the same vote as the United States.
In these circumstances how can we make a break through on disarmament and peace-keeping? I am very happy indeed to be associated, as is a considerable number of Members of all parties, with the Parliamentary Group for World 55 Government. I believe there is here a method by which this can be done if proper initiative is taken by a first-class Power, or a Power which is first-class in its influence. We could set up a world peace-keeping authority, leaving the United Nations exactly as it is, to conduct its most beneficent work of providing a forum for world public opinion and allowing people to air the views therein. This is excellent work, apart from that done by the Special Agencies of the United Nations. In addition to this, there should be a world authority capable of keeping the peace.
How could this be achieved? I suggest that Her Majesty's Government seize the initiative and that the United Nations should now pass a statute doing three things. I know that in using the word "statute" I am using a technical expression, but not necessarily in a technical meaning. The United Nations should, first, pass a law saying, in effect, "Thou shalt not commit aggression". I am putting it shortly. Doubtless it would contain many pages, but that is what it would mean. The United Nations should, secondly, set up a court to administer that law. It should, thirdly, set up a world authority to ensure—by force, if necessary—that that law is obeyed.
Why would this be any more acceptable on either side of the Iron Curtain than the present organisation of the United Nations? I submit this to the House as a hard-boiled reason, not the reason which might be given by a starry-eyed idealist who has only Utopia in sight. This is my hard-boiled reason. When it came to setting up the court and deciding who should be members of its panel of judges, or when it came to setting up the authority—the police force, if you like—and deciding who should constitute the commission to control the police, every one of the proposed names would be subject to the veto on either side. If individuals proposed were not vetoed, they would be acceptable to the whole world.
That would be a means of breaking through the present lack of faith, which everyone on both sides of the Iron Curtain seems to have, in the United Nations as a peace-keeping authority. The authority I suggest would be set up for keeping the peace. It would be subject 56 to the veto when each individual member was appointed. Once appointed, it would not be subject to day-to-day interference by the United Nations or any other political authority. It would be rather like the police force in this country. It can do what it likes without interference from the House or from local government; but, if it does something which an individual does not like, it can be taken to court; and it can take individuals to court. If an individual does something against the law which the police force is supposed to uphold, it can take that individual to court.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I have been following the hon. and learned Gentleman with some sympathy. How does he get over the difficulty that his suggested method would freeze the present status quo? That would be its object. Communist Powers do not agree with the status quo and they would not drop their present attitude.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
That is a perfectly sound objection. I am being a little too quick. I have not the least doubt that, in addition to the functions of a court of law administering the law set up under my proposed statute of the United Nations, either there would have to be another court, which I should not want, or the court would have to be given the power to administer equity as well as law. If that were done, there would be always a possibility of altering situations which at present give rise to danger.
That is the way that I would suggest it could be done. I realise that there are many non-contented nations which would not accept the status quo, or agree that it should be enforced by a police force in a court of law. Why should they? Circumstances may change and make it equitable to change the status quo.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
Does not the hon. and learned Member recall that before the war the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) was the British president of an organisation run by Lord Davies which had these two points as a focus for public attention, the setting-up of a police force and the setting-up of a court of equity?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I remember that. Indeed, I have been a lifelong member of that same organisation, which still exists 57 today, thank heaven, to propagate that view. I have not the slightest doubt that the most important matter at present from our point of view is a world peace-keeping authority. But I agree that there must be, from the point of view of others not so contented in the world as we are, some means of effecting changes peacefully in the status quo. This, I think, we could do. It would not be an international court like that at The Hague which can only deal with Governments, but a world court to which individuals could be taken if they had contravened the law as it stood in the statute passed by the United Nations.
In talking about this to generals, admirals and hard-headed businessmen, I have often found that one of the most usual fears to be expressed is this. What about this world peace-keeping authority when we have gat it set up? How would we prevent it from being usurped and taken over by a tyrannical Power, or by an individual, or by a group of people? I cannot give a very definite answer to that, except to say this. If one is to argue that we must not set up this organisation because it might be seized and abused and used to tyrannise the rest of the world, I can reply by saying that if it is true for that world authority it is true for every single sovereign State.
Each of these may be seized or taken over by a wicked power in order to tyrannise its people and perhaps the world. All one can do is to take such steps in the setting up of one's Constitution as to minimise the risk of these things. We all know of the checks and balances in the United States Constitution, and there may well be similar means which can be introduced into other Constitutions, and should be introduced into this statute to be passed by the United Nations.
In any case, even if these failed, and tyranny did come from these means, I would still say that it was better to take the small risk of this than go on in our present anarchical state, which, sooner or later, by accident, must lead to disaster on a colossal and unimaginable scale. Therefore, I feel that the Government at this stage and at this present juncture of international relations could make a great contribution if they lived up to the words they have used in 58 this House and elsewhere, and really took the initiative towards setting up this world peace-keeping authority, leaving the United Nations to do its excellent work alongside. The two bodies, the authority and the United Nations, might well be called world government, for in a sense this would be world government. If they did this, they would earn the gratitude not only of this country, but of the entire world.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I should very much like to follow the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) in his remarks about world government, because it seems to me that he has put forward something that is certainly worthy of a good deal of thought and consideration by hon. Members of this House. I suppose that, if we went back into English history, we should find that when the King's writ was first introduced, it very often did not control any of the larger barons, and we accepted for many centuries a limitation of that power. Over the centuries that power has gradually covered the whole nation.
I do not want to take up any further points which the hon. and learned Gentleman made, because there are quite a few other matters mentioned in the Gracious Speech which I should like to discuss. The first is the question of federation in Africa. I would ask the Government, with all the pressures that are being put upon them, to move in this matter with a great deal of caution. What so many hon. Members in this House and people in the country seem to forget is that in fact Southern Rhodesia is to all intents and purposes an independent State. We can do very little indeed, apart from pressure by speeches, to try to persuade them to extend their franchise to cover the greater proportion of their electorate. I am afraid that the tone of some of the speeches that have been made in this country in the last twelve or eighteen months, rather than encouraging the Rhodesians to take the forward steps which we should like them to take, have in fact made them rather more reactionary than otherwise would have been the case.
On the other hand, we who are trying to get these countries in East Africa on the road to independence might spare a 59 thought for the difficulties that have taken place in South Africa. I do not want anybody in this ancient House to think that I am supporting the policies of the Government of South Africa, but it is very interesting to note that there are 2,900 university graduates among the coloured peoples in South Africa, whereas in the rest of the Colonial Territories in East Africa there are 2,800 university graduates out of a population of perhaps 28 million. The record of the Colonial Territories in bringing these countries on towards independence does not compare too favourably with that of South Africa.
Pressure from outside can work tremendous results. I am convinced that when South Africa first enunciated the policy of apartheid, their Government had no intention whatever of doing anything constructive about it. I am convinced that that enunciation of apartheid just meant that never should two types of race or colour meet, but because of world pressure and the criticism that has gone on day in and day out, the South African Government's policy, if we like, of Bantustan, is beginning to work to the great benefit of Africans in South Africa. In the Transkei there is a degree of self-government, a right to raise taxation and a far greater building up of responsibility at that lower level than would ever have come about had it not been for the criticism and the pressure which had been brought to bear on that country.
I hope that all our colleagues in the Commonwealth will realise that nations change from generation to generation, but that once one of them has left the Commonwealth it is very unlikely that it will ever come back again. I ask for forbearance and understanding. I understand the depth of feeling existing in the other Commonwealth countries about the policy of South Africa, but I suggest that if we keep South Africa within the Commonwealth we can still exert that pressure much more forcibly in the Commonwealth than outside it, so that we can bring them on gradually towards building up the status of the coloured South African until in fact he can take a responsible part in the government of his country.
Another item in the Gracious Speech is our overseas trade. I am convinced 60 that something must be done if this country is to achieve the objective that it has had ever since 1945, which is to obtain a sufficient volume of exports to allow us to import all the goods and raw materials we require to keep our economy going at full blast and, at the same time, to enable us to invest from £300 million to £400 million a year in the overseas countries, and particularly in the Commonwealth. Every year, with very few exceptions, we have fallen down by about £400 million.
For years, everyone has said that it would not do to provide a special incentive for exports; that we could not provide special encouragement or alleviation of taxation in this field because we could not say who really produces the export. That is to say, if a motor car is produced half the component-part manufacturers may have taken just as much interest in the production of the car but will get no benefit.
I have been concerned with the home trade all my life but if, in the long run, it would be to the benefit of the nation and would help us to overcome our problems, I would be perfectly prepared to see those firms in the export trade receive some taxation advantage to provide the incentive that is so necessary if they are to get those exports. It is a very significant fact that about three-quarters of our export trade results from the efforts of the very largest firms. The small and medium-sized family businesses do not produce nearly the same result, and I am sure that the reason is that when they can sell their product in the home market they require some additional incentive to go to all the sweat and trouble of selling overseas.
I ask the Government and my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to look at this matter once more. The export trade is absolutely vital to our road, health and education programmes and to every other type of activity of benefit to us. We can carry out all the things we want to do only if our export figures are such that we are not losing our place in the world.
That leads me to pensions. On this occasion, I think that without any difficulty I can support the Government's proposed pension increase. I must add, however, that an article I read in the Economist this weekend very much 61 represented what has been going on in my mind for several years. The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) has said that our general level of social benefits is falling behind that of some other countries. The reason for that is that our social benefits are evenly spread—a thin layer of butter all over the slice of bread—whereas in many other countries the benefit is given to those who really need it.
I am sure that, on the whole, all our thinking on the welfare services is based on the 'thirties, when there was great want and unemployment. We now have an affluent society, and I believe that, with the currency management in the world, world trade will remain affluent into the years ahead. I believe that we can look forward to the young school leavers of today having had, at the end of their working lives, plenty of opportunity to save and to invest and that their old age should therefore be something about which they should have been able to take a greater share of responsibility either through their own firms' pension schemes and the like, or in other ways.
In this connection, therefore, the rôle of the State should be to look after cases of real misfortune, and to do so with sympathy and understanding. The hon. Member for East Ham, North mentioned sickness benefit. Looking into the future I should have thought sickness benefit in an affluent society to be far more important. Circumstances in which all income suddenly ceases while payments go on week after week can be a greater disaster than approaching old age after thirty or forty years of solid work.
I ask the Ministers to turn their thoughts to that aspect. That is the sort of thinking that the nation must do in the years ahead, as it must put back on the shoulders of those who, in an affluent society, are well able to bear it, the responsibility and burden of providing and saving for their old age. From the remaining welfare funds the nation could then provide a far higher benefit for those who, through misfortune, were really in need of the nation's assistance to bring them into a happier state of living. Amongst those people I would include the war pensioners. It is no fault of theirs that they are disabled and sick; it is the result of their rallying to the nation's call.
62 I welcome the fact that we are to do something about weights and measures. I agree with all of those who have referred to the packets of stuff one buys today. As one who does a lot of shopping on Saturday morning, I know that one does not have much idea of how much one is buying across the counter. Further, it will mean that if I order a large whisky anywhere in this country I shall know exactly what I ought to get—
§ Sir D. Glover
It might be Irish whiskey, because I believe in international trade.
I do not want to pursue the subject, but I certainly think that the whole weights and measures system wants overhauling. Having said that, I can only express the hope that I shall not be a member of the Standing Committee on the Bill, because I can see hours and hours of "leave out 'of' and put in 'and'". This Measure will undoubtedly involve a lot of "wet-towel" work.
My main concern is land drainage. I am glad to see that the Government have included this in their programme but, from what I understand from the White Paper, I want the Government to know that unless I can get the Measure they are to bring before the House very drastically improved they will not have the benefit of my company and support in the Lobby when we debate the subject—
§ Sir D. Glover
It is not a rebellion on party lines. I do not think that I shall be wasting the time of the House if I explain to those who may not know much about land drainage just what it is that I complain about. In parenthesis, I am sorry to see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, after I have been working on him for three years, has now become Minister of Labour, while his junior colleague has gone to the Foreign Office. I have to start all over again.
What is the problem? When one goes to see these worthy gentlemen at the Ministry of Agriculture they seem to think that the whole land drainage problem is something that affects landowners and farmers and nobody else. I have very little sympathy with landowners 63 and farmers. Well-drained land brings a good return. It is, therefore, perfectly right and just that the landowner and the farmer should pay a drainage rate to get their land well drained. What perhaps 90 per cent. of hon. Members do not realise is that in all these low-lying areas every little cottage and house pays a drainage rate.
In my constituency I have agricultural workers who pay a drainage rate of £8a week's wages—each year. Did those people decide that they wanted to live and work there? In my constituency the whole drainage system is based on where a datum line lies above a certain artificial point above the mouth of the River Mersey. There are local government houses built on one side of the road and paying the drainage rate whilst those on the other side do not have to pay it.
We now have town and country planning. It is not the fault of the individual that it has been decided that the other side of a road is in the green belt and that the houses must therefore be built on the opposite side where the land drainage charge will arise. The water now flows more quickly from the slightly higher land because of paved roads and so on, and each year people find the drainage cost going up and up until it is insupportable.
When I became an hon. Member I thought that I would be regarded as a very good Member of Parliament. I persuaded the Minister of Agriculture to sanction a £750,000 drainage improvement in my constituency. I retired from that fray thinking that for years afterwards Douglas Glover would be an honoured Member in the constituency. But, of course, what I forgot to realise was that the administrative cost of that scheme would mean that year by year the cost to the householder would go up. The benefit which the householder is getting in a country of this sort is surely not a local responsibility.
I am not advocating that this should become a national responsibility, but I certainly think that it ought to become a county council problem. I am afraid that if it were to become a national problem we should get a great deal of red tape and bureaucracy coming into it. However, I am certain that the present 64 system is totally unsatisfactory and that modernisation should be either on the basis of it becoming the responsibility of the county council or that there should be some national grant to the river boards and the internal drainage boards. The position is certainly such that the burden to these small communities has not been satisfactorily looked at.
As I understand from the White Paper, when the Measure on land drainage comes before the House it will be very satisfactory indeed to the larger elements of the farming and landowning community, but there will be nothing in it which wild bring any glow to the hearts of those who really suffer—the individual householders who have very little say in the matter.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Has my hon. Friend borne in mind the fact that from a rating point of view the internal drainage boards are in very much the same difficulty as local authorities as a result of the extraordinary state of chaos over Schedule A and that the important thing would be, first, to get the rating system right, when we might see some improvement?
§ Sir D. Glover
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I thought that had detained the House too long already as otherwise I would have gone into the question of Schedule A. I have an example of two houses, one an owner-occupied house and the other a rented house, and one of them pays twice as much as the other. I am certain that my hon. Friend is right and that the question of rating- is one of the things to be put right, but I think that we should organise a drainage system for the whole country.
The next matter I wish to refer to is transport. I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) has left the Chamber because I wanted him to know that I agreed with everything that he said about committees. I think that we are getting too many of them. I must say that after all the money and effort that has gone into the so-called modernisation of British Railways I am shocked that at this stage we should be appointing a committee to consider the rôle and function of British Railways. Some three or four years ago I made a speech in the House saying that that was 65 the first priority before we spent any money.
The British Transport Commission has raised every bridge from Manchester to Crewe and is in the process of raising all the bridges all the way to London, yet there is exactly the same clearance as before, so that they will not take any greater or more bulky loads.
What is the rôle of the railways? I am convinced that a great deal of their modernisation will never reap any financial benefit. I know that there is a great deal of affection among hon. Gentlemen in the House for the railways. As I see it, there is a long-term future for commuter services which ought to be better than they are today. There is equally a long-term future, I am convinced, for a great many of the long-distance trains to Scotland and the north of England. But it is not economical to run a lot of the services which are being run today, some of which have been modernised.
When we asked the British Transport Commission to look at the railway pattern, why did we not say to it, "You produce a plan of the railway system that you would run in Britain if, in fact, there were no other outside source of revenue and then we will decide which of the lines that you are proposing to close down we will insist that you keep open and subsidise because they are needed in the national interest."? All this has now been thought of, but it ought to have been thought of three, four or five years ago. I shall study and criticise any debate and any Measure concerning the modernisation of British Railways with very great care during the coming Session.
I welcome the help which it is proposed to give to the Youth Service. I only wish that someone in the Department concerned with the Service could find some more attractive names. The term "youth leaders" is not the right term to use. We do not talk about "youth", but about young people and teen-agers. We do not have "youth leaders" but "captains of sides". I am sure that it would increase the popularity of many of the services if more popular names and titles could be found.
I am very grateful indeed that I have been called to speak in this debate and I propose to conclude my speech by coming 66 back once again to the question of exports. I believe very sincerely that this is a matter to which we must really turn our minds and on which we must speak our thoughts, even though they may be controversial. Other countries provide special benefits for the exporters. I do not see that it would be anything to the disadvantage of this nation if, in fact, exporters were excused payment of Profits Tax on that percentage of their trade which went abroad. That is a descriminatory tax against trade and not one in favour of it.
If we do not provide greater facilities, particularly for the smaller traders, for research and the acquisition of "know-how" in the markets of the world and thereby increase our export target by something like 10 per cent—which is the margin between our success and our failure—we shall go on having debates on perennial crises, tightening of credit, restrictions on hire-purchase and on the free flow of our national income. Unfortunately, we do not always regard this matter of exports as a major issue confronting the country today. I hope that during the coming Session we shall devote a great deal of thought to overcoming it.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
On a point of order. May I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether the Government intend to have a senior Minister sitting on the Bench in front of the Dispatch Box? I can never remember during a previous debate on the Address seeing the seat in front of the Dispatch Box unoccupied. If I understand aright, many important speeches will be made today, and I want to see more than one Minister of senior rank sitting and listening to them.
§ Mr. Rankin
Further to that point of order. May I ask for the second time, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether a Scottish Minister will appear on the Government Front Bench, in view of the fact that Scotland is actually mentioned in the Gracious Speech?
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
After those two interruptions, I wish to turn to the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), 67 though I hope that in all conscience he will not expect me to follow him in all the points that he made about exports, land drainage, pensions and transport, because I have given certain undertakings that I will not speak for too long and if I attempted to follow all the points which he made I should take up far too much of the time of the House.
First, I wish to support what the hon. Gentleman said on land drainage, and perhaps take the matter a little further. I am sure that it would not come amiss if we were to send to all the victims of flood distress during the last two months a message of sympathy from this House and, more than that—as messages of sympathy are easy things to send—a message from the responsible Minister, who has not a very tender heart—I refer to the Minister of Housing and Local Government—saying that there will be some material help for them in the form of financial assistance from the Government.
I wish to follow the hon. Gentleman on one subject, namely, pensions. According to the Gracious Speech, it is proposed to increase pensions for those who now come within the National Insurance schemes and for those in receipt of war pensions. Both those categories meet with my full approval. However, I thought I noticed a party point of view introduced into the debate by the hon. Member for Ormskirk. Does he really mean that he wants us to go back to the means test for war pensioners? Does he want the pension of such a person, whether he has been an admiral or whatever rank he may have held, to be dependent upon his own means? Are people's means to be raked over, as they were in the past? The same applies to pensions under the National Insurance schemes. These are insurance schemes to which those who draw upon them make contributions. These pensions ought to be on an actuarial basis, with a proper contribution from Her Majesty's Government.
I want to depart from party controversial points and refer to a body of pensioners who have had a very raw deal from the Government. I know that I shall have the approval and support of hon. Members opposite on this matter. I refer to a body represented throughout the country, but particularly in my constituency of Crewe; namely, railway 68 superannuitants. I note with great regret that there is no mention of these railway superannuitants in the Gracious Speech. War pensioners have had their pensions increased; they have been increased having regard to the increase in the cost of living and inflation. There have been increases under the National Insurance schemes.
These people for whom I make a plea—and the Leader of the Opposition has today also referred to this matter—have had three ex gratia increases, the last one in 1956, which have not kept up with the ordinary pensions, including war pensions, and neither have they kept up with the National Insurance increases. These men served the old railway companies faithfully for forty and fifty years. They were heads of departments, station masters and supervisory staff of many grades. They have a low, fixed and miserable pension. They have been hit by inflation. So have retired civil servants and retired teachers, but they have been looked after; they have been given increases.
What is the Government's answer to this case? "We are not responsible; these are old railway servants," they say. But surely it is not fair to say that. The British Transport Commission has taken over the responsibilities of the old railway companies. "Oh", but it is said, "the Commission has no money with which to make these increases." Surely the Government are not going to hide any longer behind that excuse.
The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) wrote to Sir Brian Robertson on this very subject and she received a letter from Sir Brian, dated 30th May last, which I have her permission to quote. He said:I assure you I entirely share your feelings about the old railway servants who are down at the bottom of the pensions scale. Towards the end of last year the Commission gave long and anxious thought to the question of further supplementation, following the three schemes of increased allowances which we have brought in over the last six years. The Commission came to the conclusion that there was indeed a strong case for some further assistance but that the cost could not possibly be met from the Commission's own resources having regard to our general financial position. I"—That is, Sir Brian—therefore wrote to the Minister of Transport putting the whole matter to him, and I am awaiting his reply.69 There was a debate on 4th July in this House on this subject. It was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), supported again by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth. Nothing has been done since that date. On that occasion the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport made a speech which filled five columns in the OFFICIAL REPORT, in which he repeated all the arguments which had been put forward by the hon. Lady and by my hon. Friend, and at the end he said that the Government could do nothing. He said:Beyond that, I cannot go tonight"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1960; Vol. 626, c. 193]I hope that during the course of this debate someone will go further than the Joint Parliamentary Secretary went on that occasion.
It will take £400,000 to put this body of well-deserving ex-railwaymen on the present level—not on the proposed increased level—of the National Insurance pension. Surely something must be done for these men. Is there nothing for them? There is nothing in the Gracious Speech. I hope that the Government will take responsibility for these men and will at least consider an increase in the pensions which these people—I was going to say "enjoy"—receive and on which they are unable to enjoy life. The Government should be determined to right this wrong which is of long standing.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
I fully share the sympathy expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) for the railway superannuitants in their plight, but I hope that he will forgive me if I confine myself to the subject upon which I want to address the House, namely, the review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
I believe that the Chair may be allotting time during this long debate especially to the subject of Commonwealth affairs. Nevertheless, I hope that I shall be allowed to say a few words about this matter, as it was referred to in the important statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in reply to the Leader of the Opposition.
70 I agree wholeheartedly with what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about the nuclear deterrent, including the British nuclear deterrent but I thought that he was unhappy—and I myself was unhappy—in what he said when he referred to the Monckton Commission's mention of the possibility of secession from the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
I think that Sir Roy Welensky, whom many hon. Members opposite seem to think is some kind of great white ogre, but who is, in fact, an enlightened, humane and civilised Commonwealth statesman, has a right to feel resentment. It is quite clear that he would not have given his agreement, the agreement of the Federal Government, to the Monckton Commission had secession been included in the matters for consideration by the Commission.
It is quite clear, also, that this understanding of Sir Roy was correct because of the attitude of the Labour Opposition at the time of the appointment of the Royal Commission. It was the understanding of the Opposition that the question of secession was ruled out, and that is why members of the Opposition objected to the Monckton Commission as it was proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Now there are many hon. Members opposite who feel that they would like to have served on the Commission and been associated with a number of its recommendations.
Lord Monckton has done distinguished service to the State, and the whole Commission has produced a notable and in many respects a useful State paper but as, in my view, it was not entitled, by bringing up this question of possible secession, the Commission has done a disservice to Commonwealth interests and to the orderly advancement of the Federation as a peaceful and prosperous multiracial State. In the state of affairs and opinion as they actually are in Africa today, it is a mistake to give the impression that we may be putting the Federation under a suspended sentence of death by mutilation.
I should be the first to agree that economic considerations are not the most important, but the economic advantages of the continuance and permanence of federation were proclaimed by the Monckton Commission. I shall not 71 weary the House with figures, but I refer hon. Members to the very revealing statistics to be found on page 25 of the Commission's Report. When one considers the deplorable conditions in which most black Africans live in Central Africa one must deeply regret anything which is likely to undo the Federation; for there is no doubt that the existence of the Federation has attracted capital from abroad and has enabled that capital to be put to productive uses, as, for instance, in the Kariba Dam project.
I am particularly anxious about what would happen to the Nyasaland Protectorate if the Federation were to be dissolved or broken up. Livingstone's land has sometimes been compared with Scotland. Perhaps it is better to compare it with Ireland. It has beautiful scenery, lovely lakes, magnificent mountains, but few natural resources. It has tea, tung and tobacco, which, incidentally, are white man's crops, but very little else to export except labour. So perhaps one may call it, not the Scotland, but the Ireland of Central Africa. If Nyasaland were no longer part of the Federation, would this Parliament and the British taxpayer be prepared to shoulder the burden of its support? The Federation has been able to provide about £4 million a year for the Nyasaland Protectorate. I do not believe that the British Parliament and the British taxpayer would like that burden to be transferred to their shoulders from the shoulders of the Federation.
The trouble about the Monckton Commission's Report and about so much of the politics which, regrettably, are played with the future of a very great country is that there is so much uncertainty. No one knows where he stands, or what is to happen. There are conferences, reviews and reports and no one is able to plan ahead. It is significant that in the great skyscrapers of Salisbury so many of the office blocks lack tenants. Supposing that there is quite a possibility that after five years this Federation is to come to an end, he would be a foolhardy philanthropist who put his money into its development. Anything that discourages European investment or even European migration to the Federation is a gross disservice to the African population, whose conditions today are so very poor.
72 I am getting a little sick of "the wind of change". It was a notable phrase in the Capetown speech, but it is becoming a bit of a bore. In passing, I point out that one of the things about winds is that they change. It is the same with tides. We are always talking about tides, but the great thing about them is that they turn. The Prime Minister made another speech on Africa in the Central Hall on 15th March last, under the auspices of the Commonwealth and Empire Industries Association. In that speech he said that it was to the European that the African owed everything. That should not be an arrogant assertion, but it is a fact. I would not use it as an argument for everlasting White supremacy, but I think that some people are beginning to lose sight of the absolute necessity for African advancement.
Partnership has not been achieved in full measure and there is a tremendous amount to be done, but one reason I believe in partnership is that it rejects the view that one race must always rule over the other. It rejects the destructive error that all Africans are black. It rejects the view that white Africans, a number of whom were there earlier than their black neighbours, are merely aliens, in the long run to be tolerated and exploited or expropriated and expelled. It is very easy for us if we visit these countries—and I have visited the Federation, though nit under the august auspices which have figured recently in a possible case of Privilege—to be critical.
One of the things which rather worried me, particularly about the newer generation of settler—I use the term "settler" as a title of honour and not as a term of opprobrium—was that when I asked many of them questions about Africans, their culture, ideas and feelings, they did not give me much of an answer. They did not seem particularly interested. Although, as I say, it is easy to be critical, I thought it a little distressing that there is so much mutual incomprehension. But it is nothing to the incomprehension in this country of the position either of black or white Africans in Central Africa and there is not enough sympathy with the very distressing mental adjustments which both have to make. It is not as easy to develop a multi-racial society as it may seem in Hampstead, if not in Notting Hill.
73 A great deal of harm has been done by criticism which has not been constructive, but has been ill-informed. Reference was made by my hon. Friend, who is not in the Chamber at the moment, to South Africa. The referendum in South Africa—and I hope that the House will forgive me mentioning this, because the same argument applies to white Rhodesia—was narrowly lost. I remember that when I was on the Copperbelt of Northern Rhodesia I was surprised and distressed when speaking to some English-speaking South African mining engineers. They did not even say that they were Nationalists, but they said that they would vote Republican. I asked why and they replied that it was because they were so "fed up" with being taught their business about race relations by a country which, when confronted with a handful of coloured people in London, could not get by without riots. The problem is by no means the same.
I will not mention the name of the African Member of Parliament who said to me, "How can you British expect Africans to trust you when we are beginning to think that you are the sort of people who place no trust or confidence whatever in your own kith and kin?" A caricature is current of the Rhodesian settler, but he might be you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or any hon. Member in the House who, by chance and circumstance, has gone to make his life in Central Africa. These men are Britons transplanted, with all the decencies and defects of our people.
§ Mr. Rankin
Will the hon. Member tell us what is the population of our kith and kin in South Africa?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I am not addressing myself to South Africa. The hon. Member can look that up in the Library. I do not want to delay the House further on that subject, but to say a few words in refutation of this curious idea about some of our kith and kin not in South Africa, but in the Federation.
What is a so important point is that this affects the advancement of the African. The Europeans are the builders, and, in justice, have their rights in the riches and resources of the territories where they have made their homes. Without them these resources would not have existed, and they might not continue to 74 exist if these Europeans were no longer there.
Perhaps I may inflict on the House two or three figures which, I think, are revealing. In the Federation about 340,000 non-blacks, if I may put it that way, employ or work with, on their farms or in their firms, about 760,000 black Africans. These 340,000 non-blacks and 760,000 blacks sustain the whole cash economy of the total population of the Federation, which is between 7 million and 8 million. The remainder are the people whose standards can be raised only by European capital and enterprise.
The rest are about 7,760,000 black Africans who scratch a miserable pittance from the soil. I have seen a little of that in some of the reserves of Southern Rhodesia. They scatch a living by primitive agriculture, or they rub along somehow on the earnings and remittances of labourers who migrate to the farms and mines. They are not able to make any real contribution to the cost of their country's defence, administration and the growing educational and other social services.
That is why I deeply regret any suggestion of the impermanence of the Federation. In seven years it has justified itself on the economic plane, but I repeat that it is not the economic criterion which is the most important. Federation has a higher purpose and justification that material advance, and the riches in British Central Africa are not just the minerals and the tobacco. Partnership has been abused, and it has not been realised so far as we should like to have seen it realised, but it is the only alternative to racial conflict. It is the only alternative which I see to the domination of one race over the other, the only possible solvent of mutual fear and lack of understanding.
If we let the Federation down we shall find eventually that apartheid not merely becomes the doctrine and the policy in the Union of South Africa, but becomes realised on a continental scale. We shall find that Africa will fall into areas of black domination and certain areas of white domination where there are Portuguese, Afrikaners and people of British stock who are determined—and some of them are determined and ruthless people—to fight for their lives and livelihood.
75 We hear a great deal to the effect that Federation must be based on consent. This is the sort of phraseology which has more reference to our conditions than to African conditions. What happened to Mr. Gondwe, who was sufficient of a "stooge", as some hon. Members would call him, sufficient of a co-operator as to serve on the Monckton Commission? When he came home from serving on the Monckton Commission he was knocked unconscious outside his own house, and an African girl who came to his rescue was treated in a similar manner.
We talk about consent and the expression of the popular will. We talk about democracy and we talk about votes. But so much of the tragic reality of African politics today is terrorism, intimidation and witchcraft. "One man, one vote" sounds very nice and proper, but what it could mean in certain African territories is that we should have one vote all right, but after that we should have one man and the rule of one man. The intimidation which goes on makes a mockery of such words as "consent". The intimidation in Nyasaland is a disgrace to the Colonial Office, and we should not be quite as pleased as we sometimes are about the success of recent negotiations with political leaders in Nyasaland.
The actual state of affairs in Southern Africa puts into a different light the recent legislation in Southern Rhodesia which has somewhat worried me, as it must have worried other hon. Members. I think that we can be glad of one thing—that its administration is in the hands of an enlightened Civil Service and an enlightened police force. The British South Africa Police has the sort of traditions coming down from Rhodes's day in which we believe in this country.
Another misunderstanding arises from trying to apply our conditions to their conditions in Central Africa—this insular trait of ours of assuming that everybody else is like the people here. Although it sounds terrible to send a man to prison for a long time for throwing stones—we think of a mischievous boy or hooligan taking a stone and throwing it of a passing car—it is a fact that stone-throwing in Africa is lethal. They are very good at throwing stones in Africa, and they can kill with stones. So there again it perhaps puts things in rather a different light.
76 So much is to be gained and so much is to be last by the success of the Federation. I think that there are many pro-proposals which will be found useful in this Report. It may be that the Federation could be looser; I do not know; but I pray that it continues to be effective. It may be its destiny is to be looser, but wider—I mean wider in extent, because if it succeeds, if partnership succeeds, if federation holds firm, it may attract contiguous territories to share its prosperity and peace. Its interests are bound up with Portuguese Africa. Its outlet to the Atlantic is at Lobito Bay and its outlet to the Indian Ocean is also in Portuguese territory, at Beira.
Northern Rhodesia has links with Katanga. To some armchair revolutionaries it is a pity that a great degree of peace, and decency, law and order, have been maintained in Katanga under the Nationalist Government of Mr. Maishe Tshomibe. Some people think it quite wrong that he wants to work in partnership with Europeans. Some people think it is quite wrong that when the rest of the Congo has gone down in chaos and has been penetrated by Communism the great mining industry of Katanga should go on working almost normally. I pay my personal tribute to the Government in Katanga. In their own way they are making a reality of partnership, partnership between Africans and Europeans.
I think that a great deal of harm has been done in Southern Africa by meddling from outside, no doubt with the best of internationalist intentions. The Gracious Speech says:Throughout the coming session, My Government will continue to give resolute support to the work of the United Nations.Some rarefied people never speak of the United Nations except with bated breath, as though it were not a piece of diplomatic machinery but almost a religion, but do the Government really mean to give a blank cheque, carte blanche, to the work of the United Nations whether that work be good or bad or indifferent, whether it be destructive or whether it be constructive? My goodness, in Katanga how destructive has been the presence of the United Nations. One of the things which the United Nations has done in Katanga has been to obstruct Mr. Tshombe's gendarmerie and frustrate the maintenance of law and order, and peace and security.
77 The same has been true in other parts of the Congo, I would say this. I myself can give no support, no support whatever, to the spending of British money on a United Nations presence or effort in Central Africa while money is being spent by the United Nations where it is not wanted and where it has done harm, namely, in the State of Katanga. No. International meddling has done great damage in Africa.
I agree very much with what Dr. Nkrumah has said about the "balkanisation of Africa". I do not want to see the Federation balkanised. I agree, too, with much of what Dr. Nkrumah has said about a Monroe Doctrine in Africa. The African, like the American, Continent needs a Monroe Doctrine to keep it free it possible not only of a clash of the giant Powers, but also from international meddling. If we had such a Monroe Doctrine it would have to respect the internal system of South Africa, or Liberia, which is mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and where, perhaps, is to be found one of the most arbitrary forms of colonialism, though the ruling race is also black.
Such a Monroe Doctrine would also have to respect the position of those European Powers with duties to discharge to peoples who are still dependent. I believe that long before now we should have proclaimed a Monroe Doctrine for Africa, to use, again, the words of Dr. Nkrumah, to allow independent African States inside and outside the Commonwealth and the French Community to build their their sovereignty without becoming pawns of selfish influences and giant Powers.
I mentioned Katanga, which has connections with Northern Rhodesia. How Katanga, with its wealth, should help the rest of the Congo is, I believe, a matter which the people and Government of Katanga should be able to decide. In the future Katanga might form a link between the Federation and the Congo as a whole. We must think in terms of a revolutionary Africa. The formulae for this greater concept should not be beyond the empiricism of the British Commonwealth. The idea is in tune with our aim of Western European unity and the potent idea of African solidarity. Let us think big and bury 78 those conclusions in the Monckton Report which are defeatist, let us not look backward with timidity and despair, but forward with courage and hope.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
I enjoyed, as I think the whole House did, the old-world flavour of the speech of the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). He suggested that it only requires generous business men to invest in Africa; that we should encourage a Monroe Doctrine to be built up there, which will protect Dr. Verwoerd's ascendancy over the majority of people who live in the Union of South Africa; and that somehow we could thus freeze the great African Continent at the beginning of this historic period of its development, so as to preserve all those parts of the Continent which are under the control of settlers or of the imperial Powers. Whether one agrees or not with the hon. Member, his speech has little relevance to the realities in Africa. Africans themselves admit that they need Europeans to help them; that would be a sentiment echoed by Africans, but they are not prepared any longer to be dominated by Europeans.
At the time of the Suez crisis I remember it being argued in this House that there must be British control of the Canal because the Egyptians could not run it themselves. Then pilots came in from all over the place, on the basis of being servants of the Egyptians, and eventually we saw more ships using the Canal than ever had used it when it was under British control.
This idea, that the only possible partnership between European technical knowledge and the African people is on the basis of European domination, has no support in fact, either economic or political, and that is the idea which I understood the hon. Gentleman to mean in his speech.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I am sorry if I did not make my meaning clear to the hon. Member. I was arguing for the idea and policy of partnership, which is to lead to the absence of domination by one race over another. I was speaking against the domination of one race over another. I said that I believe that we must try to make a success of federation. 79 I hope that in all parties we shall try to make a success of federation. I said that if we do not I believe apartheid will prevail not just inside South Africa but much more widely and throughout the Continent. I ask the hon. Member to believe that that is in fact what I said and that that is my belief and conviction.
§ Mr. Benn
I am afraid I do not agree with the second speech of the hon. Gentleman any more than I did with his first one. Partnership can only be on the basis of consent. In this country we have a system of Government based on partnership. That is to say, there is a decision by all the people as to who shall govern us, and the rest of us, whether we like it or not, have to accept it. It is my view that we cannot limit democracy to our own frontiers without endangering democracy within our own frontiers. If anybody doubts that, let him look at what has happened in France. In the attempt to prevent democracy in Algeria, France is in danger of losing democracy herself.
§ Mr. Benn
I would rather not give way again because I want to deal with these issues in a fuller way and in my own words later on.
The tribal festival of the Queen's Speech in which we participate every year is an occasion to look forward and to judge the Government's policy and see how it will shape in the months that lie ahead. I want to do that and to examine the international situation that is likely to confront us in the next twelve months, to judge our policy by that situation and to see whether our policy is likely to measure up to the challenge that we have to face.
British foreign policy as it was being expounded today by the Prime Minister had its origins in the postwar era. It had its origins in the years when Stalin's Russia seemed to threaten the security of the Western world. Our response to that challenge of Stalin's Russia was the policy of alliances and rearmament and an attempt to bring everybody we possibly could into alliance with us. "A power vacuum" was the phrase that Ernest Bevin used. The idea was to line 80 up just everybody on one's side and see that there was no area between oneself and the Communists. That was the policy thought most likely to give one security. This was the policy which was applied to the Middle East with the Bagdad Pact and to the Far East with S.E.A.T.O. At the same time we supplied arms to our friends, when they seemed reliable, and in this way we hoped to build a buttress against Communism.
This is the case that the Prime Minister advocated and which he repeated today rather uncritically and rigidly in his speech. Last year, the Prime Minister began to move away from it with his Moscow visit, but today he repeated more or less unchanged the traditional foreign policy that this country has pursued since the war. He made fun of us at Scarborough for having doubts and anxieties about it. I repeat with my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) that when I heard the Prime Minister speak I thanked God for the Labour conference where these issues were thrashed out. I assure hon. Members opposite that whether we reached right or wrong decisions at Scarborough is of very little importance compared with the fact that we actually discussed these issues, whilst at Scarborough the Conservative conference confined itself to the menace to our security that might come from foreigners using our National Health Service, as if the main danger to British security was a lot of pregnant tourists coming here and filling up our maternity hospitals.
I want to apply the simple test of the future problems that the world faces to the foreign policy which is being pursued by this country, and I want to isolate three problems which I believe will confront Britain in the next twelve months.
First of all, it is clear that the arms race will continue. Technical developments on both sides of the Iron Curtain are going on apace. The Polaris submarine system which is now being developed by the United States will mean that in a very few years these submarines can be all over the oceans of the world and any one of them can deliver greater fire power than that of both air forces in the whole of the last war. It is obvious that the Germans are moving towards possession of their own nuclear weapons, and it is very unlikely, if we pursue the Prime Minister's foreign policy, that we 81 can reasonably resist this demand. For he argues that the more nuclear weapons we have in the West the more effective the deterrent and the more unlikely war will be. It is perhaps only when the distribution of atomic weapons is spread more widely that we shall begin to see clearly whether the arms race does give us security or not in the world today. Of course it does not.
By pursuing a policy of alliances and rearmament I think that we are unlikely to be able to face the problems that confront us. The Soviet Union is developing its own weapons too and there cannot be many months before there are armed satellites encircling the globe able at any moment to release their weapons on the rest of the world. Then we have China no doubt developing her own weapons and anxious to take part in a policy of negotiation from strength. Therefore, by that test I do not believe that this country's traditional foreign policy measures up to requirements.
Next we come to the problem of the developing crisis in Africa, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Chigwell, with whose speech I said I would deal, has now had to leave the Chamber. The developing African crisis is something that will become more and more dominant in world affairs this year. We have already had in the Congo a complete collapse of a new African State and the attempt of the United Nations to save it. We do not yet know whether the United Nations will succeed. This is only the beginning of the African crisis, because what happens in the Congo will be repeated in Angola and Portuguese East Africa. And the greatest crisis of all, that of Algeria, will be absolute headline news from now on as far ahead as we can see. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition dealt with this matter in his opening speech and I have the Adjournment on it on Friday and therefore I will not deal with it further today. Algeria will become another Korea if the United Nations does not impose a peaceful settlement on France, now paralysed by the contradictions of her own internal crisis. This problem of Africa will not be eased by a policy of alliances and rearmament.
Next we have the very important element of the situation which we shall have to face in the next few months 82 inside the United Nations, a situation in which many Powers are turning to the United Nations to solve their problems. The hon. Member for Chigwell poured scorn on the United Nations and poked fun about our religious faith in it. Of course we have a religious faith in the United Nations. If the United Nations does not solve our problems who else will solve them? I have a religious faith in Parliament too, not because I agree with all that Parliament does but because I would prefer that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister should do the wrong thing, peacefully by popular consent, than that we should all try to do the right thing by means of violence. Therefore, in the United Nations lies the only hope for the peace of the world. I asked a United Nations official last year, "Is it worth working in this organisation?" He replied, "Very often it does not seem to be, but if I came to the conclusion that it was not I should jump out of the window." That is what I feel about the United Nations, with all its imperfections.
So my point is a very simple one. If we measure our existing traditional foreign policy against the problems that will confront us in the next twelve months we will see how irrelevant it is. The policy of the cold war not only does not contribute to the solution of the arms race or of the African crisis or help to make the United Nations work, it actually makes every one of these problems more difficult to solve. My point, therefore, is to try to isolate and draw attention to some now priorities in foreign policy. These are not important because I am suggesting them, but because they stem from an attempt to look at the world afresh and to see what it is in the 1960s that we have to do if we are to survive.
I come first and foremost, as everybody does, to the question of disarmament. There is no hope whatsoever of disarmament if we cannot reduce or remove the distrust that now exists between the Soviet Union and the United States. Therefore, I put priority No. 1, disarmament, as our task.
Secondly I put the struggle for human rights as our responsibility, because, as I said earlier, if we do not give to Africans the opportunity for peaceful victory for themselves, equality of status, 83 and human rights, there will be bloodshed in that Continent. All we are discussing in Africa today is not what will happen but how it will happen. It is the method of change that we are discussing.
The third problem that I put on my new list of priorities is the problem of economic development, because people very often forget that the greatest crisis that faces the world is still the problem of human poverty, and I just do not mean the poverty that exists today. I mean that poverty that is awaiting us in the future when world population doubles, as it will in the next forty years. I believe that the first true man appeared on the globe 50,000 years ago and during that 50,000 years the population of the globe has risen to 2,700 million. In the next forty years there will be twice as many mouths to feed. Therefore, this problem of economic development is much more pressing even than the problem of the atomic weapon. There is a possibility that we shall not destroy ourselves in war, but there is certainty that we shall starve if we do not provide the economic development and capital accumulation on the scale necessary to meet the needs of the world's rising population.
Finally, on my list of priorities comes our rôle in the United Nations. I agree most strongly with what has been said about world Government. None of these problems can be settled within the framework of national sovereignty. They can only be settled by some supranational authority. I feel that the question of world government, which we all believed was a good thing—we wanted it one day and all that—has to be transferred from the drawer in our desk marked "Distant Future" and put in the drawer marked "Near Future". I believe that an initiative along these lines would meet with very considerable response by other countries which also fear the dangers that national sovereignty may bring to them.
If these are our priorities, how can Britain help to achieve them? What is required now is a new foreign policy initiative by the British Government. I put at the top of our priorities for our own policy—I am now speaking about what Britain could actually do—the need 84 to work to bring about a détente between the Soviet Union and the United States.
I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for what he began to do last year when he went to Moscow. He was, unfortunately, frightened away from it by the objections of Dr. Adenauer. General de Gaulle gave him the "icy mitt", President Eisenhower was not very keen on it, and, after the abortive Summit, the whole thing came to an end. But it was the right idea and should now be put as priority No. 1 in our foreign policy.
I do not believe that the United States or the Soviet Union are planning an aggressive war, nor do I think that they believe that they could win such a war. Indeed, I think that Soviet motivation deserves extra study by us and that we ought to come to terms with the changes that have taken place in the Soviet Union since the death of Stalin. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has done a great deal with his British Council work and the U.S.S.R.-Great Britain Association work to try to bring about understanding. A number of us who have taken an interest in this have come to the conclusion that Soviet ideas have changed a great deal, not because of a change of heart, but because the realities of the situation have changed the Soviet analysis of the situation.
The first and dominant thing about the Soviet Union today is that it believes that it will win by peaceful means. It does not matter whether they are right or wrong. History will tell us that. But if they actually believe, as Mr. Khrushchev believes, that Socialism will defeat capitalism by outcompeting and outproducing it, they would be lunatic if they tried to anticipate this peaceful victory by a war which would destroy the whole of society. That is the first reason why we can reasonably say that the Soviet Union does not want a war.
The second is that the Soviet Union and the Communist Party have in recent months been willing to engage in the most intense ideological conflict with the Chinese who had not accepted their view on the dangers of war. There is no greater test of the sincerity of Russia's intentions than to judge by the way Russia has pursued—at great risk to the solidarity of the Socialist camp—its theoretical argument with the Chinese. 85 Some people have been comforted by the disagreement between Moscow and Peking. I find no comfort in it. I yearn for the day when Moscow and Peking may be brought to think on the same lines that Mr. Khrushchev has advocated. There is evidence in recent weeks that the Chinese are beginning to see the Soviet case for co-existence.
The third reason why we may believe that Mr. Khrushchev's Russia is different from Stalin's Russia is that there has been considerable internal easement in the Soviet Union. There is no question about this. One does not put on internal easement to impress the foreigner. It is growing self-confidence in their society which helps them to relax a little bit.
I therefore believe that a British initiative designed to bring about a détente between Moscow and Peking could achieve great influence, and certainly it is worth trying.
The second thing that we must do if we are to have a new foreign policy initiative is to take a new and more vigorous line on what is commonly called imperialism. This is the big issue of the twentieth century. When future historians come to write about the twentieth century, the end of the old imperial pattern will be one of the trends described most fully and elaborately. Although British policy has had some good aspects under this Government, there is still uncertainty in its attitude to Imperialism. In Muscat and Oman, an issue which I tried to raise some years ago, we still hang on to the sort of association between an imperial Power and local sheiks, which was really more appropriate for the eighteenth rather than even the nineteenth century. And it is the same in Aden.
On the other hand, if we look at other parts of our Empire and at what we have done in those parts of Africa where there are no settlers—Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone—the picture is much more bright. When we look at areas where the settlers live in Central Africa, we find that the Government, on the other hand, have been bolstering up the settlers. When we look at South Africa we find that excuses of Commonwealth unity have come in to fog the issue. When we look at Portuguese territories and at Algeria, we find that 86 N.A.T.O. Loyalties have corrupted our attitude to imperialism.
All I am saying is that we have in Britain still, despite the much vaunted "wind of change" speech, no consistent policy against imperialism, and the African people regard us as, at the worst, enemies, and at the best uncommitted on the issue of colonialism and imperialism. I do not believe that in the twentieth century, if we want to have any influence in the world, we can be uncommitted on colonialism. I believe that an uncompromising policy against old-fashioned imperial structures is absolutely essential.
The third priority for our foreign policy is to build up the United Nations. I believe that if we have a contribution to make it is in this very field. We often boast of our many years of Parliamentary experience. We preserve in the ways, habits and methods of work in this House all our old history to remind ourselves of our own struggle. This experience in making change by discussion effective is experience which the United Nations desperately needs.
Mr. Khrushchev's decision to visit the United Nations Assembly this year was the best thing that could possibly have happened, because the only way that one can kill the United Nations is by ignoring it. One cannot kill it by using it. The great struggle in the world is on the issue of whether the great Powers—America, Russia, China, and India—are willing to put confidence in the machinery of peaceful change or not. I do not agree with much of what Mr. Khrushchev said. But although his language was sometimes unparliamentary and you, Mr. Speaker, would have called him to order long before he was allowed to indulge in his personal attack—you have no gavel to break but no doubt your discipline would soon have been effective—because of the fact that Mr. Khrushchev actually visited the United Nations I believe that there is some reasonable hope that it may be made to work.
If our new priorities are to be a détente, an uncompromising attitude against imperialism and a real effort in the United Nations, what effect will this have upon our traditional policy? All I am advocating is a new emphasis and a greater flexibility. I do not believe 87 this will always be popular with our allies, but that is a very different thing from saying that we should leave our alliances, which I do not think we should. Until we get multilateral disarmament there can be no security. Atomic arms races can never give security to any country. But until we get a disarmament agreement we must be free to make arrangements for our own security.
There is a very wide measure of agreement on this side of the House, despite the disagreements which have been much discussed in the Press, that a predominantly non-nuclear Britain operating within a reformed N.A.T.O. would be able to play just the sort of rôle that I advocated earlier in my speech. All we have to recognise is that in the world of the sixties—unlike the world of 1949 when Stalin dictated our response—we cannot let N.A.T.O. dominate our own foreign policy. I have no doubt whatsoever that it is allowing N.A.T.O. to dominate our foreign policy that has led us wrong in Algeria, led us to vote against Chinese admission year after year to the United Nations, led us to drop the idea of disengagement in Europe because Dr. Adenauer would not have it, and has prevented us from making the contribution to peace that Britain could make. This demand for an independent foreign policy, I believe—and not unilateralism—is the greatest and most important change that is coming over our country at the present time.
There is a specific and particular contribution that the Government could make this coming year. I want to bring it down to hard-and-fast proposals. The Government should go back to the policy of détente with Russia and see whether they could not succeed this time. After all, it was not of our making that the Summit failed. That was the fault of other very unhappy events which occurred at that time. It was not the Prime Minister's wish that the Summit should fail, and he should not be deterred by the hostility of others from attempting it again.
I should like a deliberate policy of friendship with Russia to become once again an important element in British policy-making. I am not suggesting anything so very revolutionary. I am suggesting that we should cut out the 88 provocation and try to cut out and cut down some of the propaganda, hoping that that will be reciprocated. I suggest that we should try to make a real effort to lift the limitations on Soviet diplomats here and try to get more contacts. We should try to show in everything we do that there is nothing built into our policy which leads to hostility towards the Soviet Union.
I should like to see Britain end the trade embargo, which has no meaning whatsoever in the world today. With Soviet arms progress in the atomic field, to maintain a strategic embargo against Russia or China is meaningless, and it does great damage to our cause, which is to show friendship to the Soviet bloc. Even if the United States were not prepared to accept this, I would go ahead alone in ending the trade embargo.
I would go further and Try to resume contact at the highest level. This summer a Soviet Trade Exhibition is being opened in London. It is the greatest exhibition that the Soviet Union has ever staged outside its own country. It is twice as big as its exhibition at the Brussels Fair. A month later there will be a British Exhibition in Moscow, which, I believe, will be the biggest foreign exhibition ever to appear in the Soviet Union and the biggest exhibition ever put up abroad by Britain. I should like to see the Prime Minister invite Mr. Khrushchev to London to open the Soviet Exhibition, and if this led to some useful contacts, I should like to see the Prime Minister go to Moscow a month later to open the British Exhibition and renew those contacts.
This is really the way ahead for Britain in the nuclear age. All I am saying is that new realities should give rise to new policies. We are always too late. Like the War Office, Which is always preparing for the last war, we are always preparing for the last international crisis and seem never to be looking ahead to the future.
I believe that we are, in a sense, on the eve of a great break-through in foreign affairs in which flexibility will return, and can be made useful if it does return. When I travel—I have had the good fortune in the last year to go to the United States, to the Soviet Union and to Africa, and have travelled a little in Europe—I feel that the whole world is 89 on the move. The younger people—those who were born in Africa and are now coming to freedom for the first time, the young people in the United States belonging to a country which has confidence in the future, and the young people in the Soviet Union who are engaged in construction—really do believe that this is their world and that they are able to shape its destiny.
Where does one find that feeling in Britain? Where is that boundless confidence in the future and that desire to get on with the job? In my view, Britain has been induced into a smugness and complacency which shuts our eyes to what is happening in the world. We still believe that because we do everything in the same way, because Mr. Speaker wears his wig and because there is the same procedure as we go about our daily business, we are, by that very fact, still great. But no country is great unless it faces the challenge of its own time and makes its own contribution in its own way and seizes the opportunities which are presented to it. That can be done in the Britain of 1960 only by a new, more independent and more flexible foreign policy and a Government who are willing to provide it.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
The speeches in this debate so far have ranged very far and wide, and they seem to have reached a foreign affairs level. I am sorely tempted to follow the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), but I wish to take the spotlight away from international affairs for a moment and use it at a more constituency level.
While the Gracious Speech has dealt with a variety of problems which will face us in the year ahead, there is one aspect which, I am sorry to say, has been omitted. This is a non-party matter, and I feel that it is the responsibility of all hon. Members of the House. I refer to the need to preserve, in this age of industrial expansion—the Gracious Speech referred to a well-balanced growth of production—the beautiful landscape of this Island. We all know that the standard of living of this island is rising. We hear ad nauseam about refrigerators, cars, television sets, and so on. We hear about education, welfare and full employment. 90 These are all vitally important, but they are all very material matters.
I believe that the time has come to include in our definition of the standard of living what I call the atmosphere of living as one of the parts which go to make up this standard of living, which is at the moment a very material thing. Parliament must ensure that we preserve an atmosphere in which the irreplaceable beauty of our countryside continues to provide a setting for thoughts which are more noble than mere material prosperity.
Since the war about 400,000 acres of agricultural land have gone over to industrial development. Hon. Members must consider and think about this, and above all, care about it. We preserve our ancient monuments. Some of them are not very ancient, and some, certainly to people like me, represent nothing more than a pile of stones which I find difficult to identify as an ancient monument. Yet we allow the most beautiful tracts of our countryside to be ravaged by industrial development.
There is an application pending by Richard Thomas and Baldwins to mine about 7,000 acres of our most beautiful countryside in North Oxfordshire. I am glad to see the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) present; I believe that he has experienced very much the same thing in his constituency. This area contains some most typical examples of quiet, unspoilt rural England. It is not scenery of grandeur. It is not like the Highlands, the Welsh mountains, or the Lake District. It is just the quiet, ordinary rural England which I believe is really England.
Many hon. Members may have passed through it. It lies between Banbury and Chipping Norton, on either side of that road. Unhappily, it sits on ironstone, and it is this which Richard Thomas and Baldwins wants for its new strip mill operations in Newport. If the application is allowed, that landscape will be irrevocably changed. I believe that we are the trustees of our land and that we have no right to allow it to be desecrated by operations such as these. The cosy villages and the mellowed farms will be left high and dry and quite out of context with all the rest of the surrounding country; the folds of the countryside will be flattened out by these 91 mining operations. What right have we to do this? I do not think that we have any right to allow this sort of thing to be done now.
There will be an inquiry. There will be arguments at that inquiry, arguments centring round, I expect, the economics of the thing—whether we should use home ore or imported foreign ore. Shipping will be mentioned, I expect, and a plea will be made that we should import ore because that would employ our merchant shipping. Businessmen will say that now is the time, when freight rates are low, to get long-term charters, and that we can thus bring the ore in more cheaply. Others will say that there is plenty of ore in under-developed countries, that, as the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East was saying, it is our duty to help them, and that we should get it from there and not from north Oxfordshire.
If the local people feel that it is vital to scrape the surface like this, they will, of course, agree to it, but if it is not vital they will fight, fight and fight against it. They are not happy about one or two things. They are not happy about the fact that Richard Thomas and Baldwins comes under a Ministry as a nationalised concern. Nor are they happy that the inspector, who will hold the inquiry, is appointed by a Minister. They are not happy that, following on this sequence, the third thing is that the judge in the case will be my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
There is a slight feeling that perhaps the denationalisation of Richard Thomas and Baldwins is being delayed so that the result of this application can be decided and if it is granted then, when R.T.B.—as it is called—is denationalised, in the prospectus will be a statement that it has all the rights for all the ores it will need. That might benefit the resale of the concern.
Despite these misgivings, I have confidence in the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and that he will consider all the factors laid before him at this inquiry in the light of the national interest. But what is the national interest in a context like this? I do not believe that one man can say what it is. I believe that it is for this House to decide. 92 It is surely very much in the national interest to preserve the heritage of this land even if it means importing ore. It is surely very much in the interest of this country to keep this ore which, I understand, is the last suitable ore in this country as a strategic reserve in a time of economic crisis or war.
The Government can decide to preserve this area from what I would call industrial rape. Here is their chance. Let them heed the local feelings and hear the local people say that decency and common sense have prevailed over commercial opportunism. I regret that the Gracious Speech has omitted to declare that industrial growth will be matched by rural preservation.
There was, however, a reference in the speech to protection of the community against crime. Perhaps, within the meaning of that, north Oxfordshire will be protected against the crime which Richard Thomas and Baldwins wishes to commit against it. Perhaps I expected too much to be put into the Gracious Speech, but I am sorry that this was omitted. I trust that my plea will be heard and that when we talk about a rising standard of living we shall include the whole fulness of living and will give a higher priority to a standard of life where tranquillity can be found in our countryside and where minds can be allowed to develop thoughts which transcend our immediate material needs. I hope that the Government will acknowledge their responsibility in this matter.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The Gracious Speech dealt with a great variety of topics. I propose to deal only with one. It is fundamental to the interests of tens of thousands of people in Scotland and I very much regret, as they do, that it is not even mentioned in the Speech. The Gracious Speech consists of over 100 lines of print and Scotland is specifically mentioned in about three of those lines. It is very regrettable to Britain, of which Scotland is still part, that this should be so, and I shall, therefore, address myself to one topic, a very intriguing one, which concerns the people of Scotland.
The Gracious Speech fails to deal fairly or fully with the needs of science in relation to Scottish trade, industry and 93 education. It fails to deal with the invidious distribution of trade and industry as between England and Scotland. It further fails to deal with the invidious distribution of trade and industry between the south of Scotland and the north of Scotland. I do not intend to deal with all these topics of this fundamental problem, but with only one in order to advocate the establishment of a Scottish federal university of technology.
The Scottish people are of opinion that that should have been dealt with long ago. It was taken up when the Labour Government were in power. It has not since been pursued, and it is not even mentioned in today's Gracious Speech. This is not irrelevant from the eloquent speech we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) on foreign affairs. It links up with foreign affairs. It is essential that Britain should hold her place amongst the other nations, and one way of doing that would be to establish a Scottish federal university of technology. I have the name in my notes, because it is such an elaborate name, but that is what they call it.
In the Scotsman—that great organ of public opinion in Scotland—there is an article today by its industrial correspondent which states:Without more evidence, Scotland is not going to make much of her natural resources. In fact, the experts, who can already supply a welter of information, are, paradoxically, only too well aware of their own shortcomings.This was the crystal-clear point made on the first day of the symposium on natural resources organised by the Scottish Council (Development and Industry).That symposium began yesterday and was attended by 150 expert scientists. These experts want and need the co-ordination which a Scottish federal university of science could give.
I have been authoritatively approached about this and have been informed that it is felt that higher technical studies would be stimulated if there were available at the appropriate central institutions in Scotland a special award which would have the prestige and status of existing university degrees. It is further felt that the best way to achieve that is to establish the organisation which I mentioned, namely, a federal technological university of Scotland, based on a foundation of five existing colleges in 94 Scotland, one of which is at present in receipt of a grant from the University Grants Committee.
Before elaborating this proposal, I ought to mention Scotland's needs in relation to England and the north of Scotland in relation to the south. First, compare Scotland with Britain as a whole, the British economy lags behind the rest of the industrial world, but the Scottish economy is even further behind. I shall not trouble the House with the figures, which I have available. Unemployment in Scotland is twice as high as it is in England. In England, industrial production last year increased by 5 per cent., but in Scotland it increased by only 1 per cent.
Comparing the north of Scotland with the south, we find that great motor car works and steel works are encouraged and subsidised by Government money in the south, but not in the north of Scotland. This discrimination between England and Scotland, on the one hand, and between the north and south of Scotland, on the other, is invidious, shameless and unhealthy from the point of view of the British economy and Britain's place in the world.
Worse still, far more scientific establishments are being founded in England than in Scotland. Even worse, Scotland is being deprived of some of the scientific establishments which she has. Indeed, one excellent scientific establishment in Aberdeen is being closed down, its apparatus sold and its expert staff of scientists scattered.
I asked Questions about this in the House, but I could not get a satisfactory explanation of this shocking discrimination against Scotland. On 17th August, in desperation, I wrote to that Minister who is sometimes called the Minister for Science, although he has another more high falutin' name, a Minister who sits in another place. I urged him to maintain that one scientific institution in Grey-hope Road, Aberdeen, in accordance with the principles which he had expressed in his speeches in another place and in the United States of America and in his recent book, Interdependence. I wrote to him:In Aberdeen for many years we have had a Government scientific research establishment at Greyhope Road which has won worldwide celebrity for its valuable work. This is 95 due to a brilliant group of scientists and other workers gathered there.The Government now propose to close down this Research Establishment, to discontinue its useful work, to scatter this group of brilliant scientists and thereby increase unemployment which already exists in Aberdeen.No satisfactory reason is given for this arbitrary action, damaging to Great Britain at a time when, as your recent book on 'Interdependence' points out, Britain's safety and progress are being menaced by scientific success in other countries.On 8th September, I received from the Minister for Science a long and polite letter which said that the problem was for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and that he could not concern himself with it.
About that time, the Minister for Science went to America, where he made eloquent speeches about the scientific progress in other countries, the lack of it in this country and the menace of that scientific progress of other countries to Britain. When he came back from America, he went to Glasgow and was elected Rector of the University, making a speech in which he stressed:the need for faith in a scientific age".I venture to say that he should add some "works" to his faith and maintain the scientific establishment that we have in Aberdeen and also establish more scientific establishments throughout Scotland.
I mention those things to show that the Government are on the wrong road in discouraging the study and practice of Science in Scotland. The right road is to encourage science by establishing a Scottish federal university of technology. That constructive idea began with the learned bodies in Scotland which are most concerned and it has strong support among them. Five major institutions of that kind are concerned. They are the Robert Gordons' Technical College, Aberdeen, the Technical College, Dundee, the Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh, the Royal College of Science and Technology, Glasgow, and the Technical College, Paisley.
Those five bodies are eminently suitable for the federation which they favour to form a Scottish federal university with the usual powers of a university, including the granting of degrees. They are 96 suitable for federation, because they all already conduct higher technological courses, they are homogeneous in character, their systems of government are similar, they are far enough apart geographically to avoid topographical or geographical rivalries, and yet they are near enough for consultation and would not disturb the work of existing universities. They have actually drafted a federal structure which is ready to be implemented by the setting up of a court or council and a senate or board of studies.
The advantages which they expect to accrue from a federal structure are obvious. They include meeting an existing urgent demand for a federal university; making an essential contribution to Scottish education, trade and industry generally; and to stimulating the prestige and status of technological studies in Scotland. There are similar federal universities elsewhere, one, in New South Wales, Australia, established in 1947, and, I believe, now operating with great success. Such a foundation would be welcomed by all Scotland's well-wishers and a fortiori by well-wishers of Britain.
For instance, the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) has set up a group to study the resources of Scotland. Within the last week, the chairman of one of the committees, Mr. Elgood, said, in Edinburgh:This symposium is really a start of an inquiry which will reappraise our resources and give pointers towards using them better. For one thing, we hope to be able to stop some of our best brains of Scotland going abroad.This federation would be a good thing. It would be good for both Scotland and Britain. During the debate on the Gracious Speech last year I pointed out how sadly Scotland had been neglected in Gracious Speeches over the previous years. Here is another instance of this neglect and I hope that the arguments which I have ventured to present to the House will be accepted by the Government. Even though it was not included in the Gracious Speech, it can be included in the Government's programme, and the Government can easily get in touch with the bodies to which I have referred and invite their co-ordination in setting up for Scotland the beneficent institution which I have suggested.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen North (Mr. Hector Hughes) will forgive me if I do not venture to follow him in what he has said. I feel that it is unwise to comment on Scottish affairs, particularly on an aspect about which I admit to being inadequately informed.
I want to turn aside from the great world issues which have been discussed this afternoon and confine myself entirely to home affairs, and, in particular, to the reform of the licensing laws in England and Wales, Scotland apparently not being affected in any proposed legislation.
I am sure that the proposal to increase retirement pensions will be generally welcomed, but I hope that it will not be forgotten that there are other people who have not shared in the general prosperity. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) about the railway super-annuitants, but I want to give two examples of people whom I feel have lagged behind.
First, there are about 44,000 war disabled pensioners from the 1914–18 war. They are pensioners with a disability of 40 per cent. or more who do not get the age allowance. In fact, one in three of the pensioners will never get the age allowance because he will not live long enough to receive it. I feel that the qualifying age of 65 is too high, and that the least we can do for these people who have borne their disabilities—in some cases the loss of a limb—for forty-two years or more is to reduce the qualifying age.
The second group of people who have been badly treated are the widows of Regular officers with a minimum of twenty years' service and whose husbands died before 4th November, 1958. The pension of about 3,030 widows of captains and lieutenants in this category is less than the National Insurance pension. They receive £127 2s. a year, out of which they must feed, clothe and house themselves. By contrast, a cadet at Sandhurst with one year's service receives £291 a year pocket-money. His uniform is provided and he is fed and housed. I consider that there is a lot wrong with that situation.
98 No one can say that those two groups of people have shared in the general prosperity, and I hope that the reference in the Gracious Speech to the increase in war pensions will cover them.
I turn now to the problem of the licensing laws. I welcome the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce legislation to reform and deal with our out-of-date licensing laws to bring them more into line with modern habits and the requirements of the important tourist trade. During the delbate on this subject in January of this year my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke about suggestions which had been made and which he thought were sound. I should like to refer briefly to some of these proposals which, I hope, will be contained in the Bill.
First, the number of permitted hours. They should be increased to nine all over the country, but there should be local discretion about the times at which licensed premises may open or close. I do not suppose that anyone would advocate having no limit on the permitted hours. I think that everyone would agree that there must be a break of at least two hours in the afternoon. Nevertheless, I consider it right that the justices should have power to allow different hours for different days of the week, and, indeed, different hours in different parts of the same district.
I say that because in most places it might be found convenient to have an extra hour on Friday or Saturday night. But there may be districts in which there is a holiday resort in one part, or where there are theatres or picture houses which people leave after ten o'clock and there is a demand for the extra hour every weekday. In yet another part of the same district—it may be a country area—there might not be a demand for extra hours.
There must be room for discretion. Even where the extra hour is in force there may be individual houses where the licencees find that they can do no business after the present permitted hours. They might want to close, and I think that it should be made clear that the licensee can close before the end of permitted hours if he receives the consent of the registered owner to do so.
Another aspect of the problem is that of the shop with an off-sales licence, for 99 instance, a licensed grocer. As everybody knows, one can walk into such a shop and order a bottle of liquor for delivery at any time, but one cannot buy it and take it out of the shop except during permitted hours. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, that is a most irritating state of affairs. I think that most people will agree with my right hon. Friend about that, although there are two sides to the problem.
My right hon. Friend also suggested that the law which allows restaurants and clubs in London to get what is known as a "Special Hours Certificate" should be extended to the rest of the country. Such a certificate allows drinks to be served up to 2 a.m. for consumption up to 2.30 a.m. The conditions for the granting of such a certificate are that the premises must be covered by a music and dancing licence and that they shall be used for providing substantial refreshment to which the sale of liquor is ancillary.
I hope that the suggestion that this practice will be extended to the rest of the country will be included in the Bill, although I wonder whether it is necessary to insist on "substantial refreshment". I have in mind that such a licence might well be given to an ordinary "pub" which has a music licence, or a music and dancing licence, provided it was equipped to serve refreshments of a rather lighter character, such as bacon and eggs, fish and chips, and things of that kind, because it does not appear right that such facilities should be limited to people in London and elsewhere who are prepared to pay West End night club prices for that kind of entertainment.
Under Section 104 of the Licensing Act of 1953 the permitted hours can also be extended for one hour every night in licensed premises and clubs. This is usually known as the "supper hour" and the licence is granted if the club is used for providing substantial refreshment. That extension is not limited to London, but it is at night only. I agree with the proposal that a similar concession should be made in the case of mid-day permitted hours, to cater for people who want late lunches. I hope that that provision will be incorporated in the new Bill. Consideration might 100 also be given to allowing this extra midday hour on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday, but only if there is a genuine and substantial demand for it.
It should also be possible for hotels and restaurants to have a licence to serve drinks with meals, provided that the premises are suitable for a restaurant. In that case there should not be any necessity to prove demand, but it would be made quite clear that drinks could be served only with meals, and that there could not be a bar in the premises.
Several aspects of the licensing laws are quite unnecessary, and they bring the law into disrepute. My right hon. Friend mentioned the fact that a resident in an hotel can buy a drink for himself out of permitted hours but cannot buy one for a guest. That seems quite senseless, especially to foreign visitors. Further, it is quite legal to buy a drink a second before closing time, but an offence is committed if a person is still drinking that drink at a second after closing time. It would surely be sensible to allow him ten minutes or so to finish his drink. A customer in a public house can buy a bottle of liquor and take it out with him provided that he leaves during permitted hours. If he takes his bottle out afterwards he is breaking the law, but the licensee can send it out for him.
Then these is the question of Sunday billiards. In the Betting and Gaming Bill of last Session we repealed that part of the Gaming Act of 1945 which provided that every billiards room in a public house must be closed on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day, and every other day appointed to be kept as a public fast or thanksgiving. Although we repealed that part of the law that did not mean that billiards could be played. Surely there is nothing wrong with playing billiards on Sunday. It does not seem any worse than playing golf or tennis, or going to the pictures. I hope that that situation can be put right by repealing the rest of that Section.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the licensing laws is the question of the clubs. The Gracious Speech made special reference to it. No one would want to interfere with the large number of respectable and well run clubs which exist all over the country. Their purpose 101 is not simply to provide drinking facilities; that is usually incidental to their other activities. But there is a large and increasing number of other and most undesirable clubs which need to be brought under the effective control of the law. The best way to deal with this matter is not by trying to draw a line between members' clubs and proprietory clubs. I am told—and I am open to correction—that many well-established, old and respectable golf clubs are proprietary clubs.
The best suggestion made on this subject is to be found in a document provided by the Bow Group. I recommend it to the attention of all hon. Members. It suggests that there should be a new justices' licence, called a club licence. The justices would have the power to refuse the first application on the ground of the unsuitability of the applicant or the premises but, once licensed, clubs would have to re-register annually, as they do now, unless they had been struck off in the meanwhile. If that happened they would require a new licence.
Under this proposal the existing clubs would not require to be licensed, and would carry on as they do now. If an existing club were to be raided and struck off it would not be able to re-open almost at once, under another name, in the same place or in nearby premises, as is the case now; it would have to apply to the justices for a club licence, and the police and the local authority would be able to oppose it. In such circumstances I am sure that the justices would be unlikely to grant a licence, and the police would know that if an undesirable club were raided and struck off they would not be frustrated by seeing the same club, in effect, open up almost immediately. In this way the worst clubs would rapidly be eliminated. I hope that the Bill will contain proposals on those lines.
Everyone would admit that the reform of the licensing laws is long overdue. The main objects of any changes should be to prevent the law being brought into disrepute by making it easier to administer and enforce, and by making it meet the convenience of the public at home and visitors from overseas to a greater extent than it now does.
I assume that the announcement in the Gracious Speech that legislation will 102 be introduced for a levy on horse racing implies a levy on betting to help horse racing—presumably on the lines of the Report of the Peppiatt Committee, which we discussed on 23rd May. The need to give some assistance to horse racing has been underlined once more by the many successes of French and Irish horses in our races this summer. It is significant that in France and Ireland betting makes a considerable contribution to horse racing.
I do not want to take up much of the time of the House in discussing this subject, because I have said it all on another occasion, but the Peppiatt Report proposed that bookmakers should contribute between £1 million and £1¼ million in this levy, and I repeat my argument that that is far too small a sum. In Ireland, in 1958, the turnover of the bookmakers was just over £14 million, and they contributed rather more than £1 million to the State and the Racing Board. The Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming estimated the turnover on betting in this country in 1950 as £214 million, and the Churches Committee on Gambling put it at £336 million in 1959. The Peppiatt Committee estimated the figure to be £200 million. It is, therefore, suggesting that there should be a maximum contribution of £1¼ million out of a turnover of £200 million, while in Ireland there is a contribution of £1 million out of a turnover of £14,600,000. The Peppiatt Committee's suggestion is absolutely ridiculous, and I hope that the Government and the bookmakers will have second thoughts on this matter.
I should be sorry to see the bookmakers disappear, but I hope that they will reflect upon the fact that a very strong case can be made out for a Tote monopoly, such as there is in France. Unless they do a good deal better than they are apparently proposing to do at present the case for a Tote monopoly will be hard to resist, without going into further details, for more reasons than the financial contribution it can make.
In the debate on the Gracious Speech two years ago I referred to the need for more nursery schools, especially in thickly populated and heavily built-up areas of great cities like Manchester, and I make no apology for returning to that 103 subject tonight. During the last few years there has been no further provision for nursery education in my constituency, and the Ministry of Education circular on this subject, which came out on 31st May, was very discouraging. Indeed, so far from holding out any hope of increased nursery education it seemed to suggest that it was desirable to reduce it. Meanwhile, the demand for it continues. Only recently I had a petition signed by a large number of mothers of young children who live in my constituency. I know that there have been similar requests from other parts of Manchester.
I am well aware that a great many people say that young children under five should stay at home and be brought up and educated by their mothers. That is all very well in county districts, or in the more prosperous suburban parts of cities, where there is somewhere for the children to play other than in the street. But it means that if a young child is to be brought up at home in the areas to which I refer the mother cannot go out to work.
Many parts of my constituency are very heavily built up and there is nowhere for the children to play. The mothers go out to work and the result is that the children have to be left in charge of some elderly relative, if there happens to be one available, or else they are shut in the house because it is not safe to let them out into the street. Are we to say to mothers of young children that they are not to go out to work when, in some cases at any rate, the little extra income which the mother is able to earn may make a lot of difference to the comfort of her family? All I would say is that I should not advise any hon. Member, including my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, to tell that to the mothers who come to see me about their young children.
I have read the Minister's circular and I can understand the reluctance of my right hon. Friend to do anything which would take teachers or resources away from the primary schools and give them to the nursery schools. But for all that, I think it worth considering whether a child who has been to a nursery school may not adapt himself more readily to the ways of a primary school when he arrives there and whether, consequently, 104 he may not learn more quickly and benefit more from the education provided in the primary school than would a child who has been left on his own, perhaps while his mother has gone out to work. I believe that money spent on nursery education in many parts of the country would be money very well spent.
The Gracious Speech provides a programme of wide-ranging social legislation. It seems to me that we ought to be able to debate a great deal of it on non-party lines. I suppose we must accept the necessity for a Whip on debates on Government Bills, but I hope that a good deal of latitude will be allowed to back-bench Members on both sides of the House on occasions when great party principles are not involved, so that we can work together and make as good a job as we can of the proposals which will come before us.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
Though all our hearts are bleeding for the poor old bookmakers I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) on that subject because he knows so much more about it than I do.
I regret that the Government have failed to provide any adequate plans to relieve the misery caused by Britain's tragic housing situation. This is not a matter which is confined to London. As one half of the nation evidently does not know how the other half is having to live, I wish to quote one or two shocking oases so that the facts of bile may be better known.
Last week the Minister of Housing and Local Government, speaking from the Government Front Bench, said that this matter was confined to London. The right hon. Gentleman must have known that was not so, because a number of hon. Members representing constituencies in the provinces have supplied him with facts to the contrary. Again, it was suggested that this was a matter concerning the better type of houses but I can assure hon. Members that this also is not the case.
What I am about to say refers to cases in Salford, but I can assure hon. Members that these examples could be repeated in every industrial city in the country. Take the case of a mother, 105 Mrs. Gwendoline Smith, who, with her husband and four young children, lives in a house near Salford docks. It is a typical two-up-and-two-down house in a long terrace. There is no bath, no hot water and no inside toilet. That is nothing exceptional; it applies to five out of ten houses in my constituency. What is interesting is that all these houses are owned by the same landlord. They are identical houses. The occupants of all the other houses in this street pay a rent of 14s. 11d. a week. I should add that until the Rent Act came into force in 1958 the rent was 8s. 6d. a week, so that hon. Members may see from that what type of houses they are.
Every house in this street is rented at 14s. 11d. a week, except the one occupied by Mrs. Smith and her family. She pays £2 8s. a week in rent. Why is this? It is because there has been a change of tenancy and the house has become decontrolled. The landlord can do what he likes. He can double or treble the rent. In this case it has been trebled. It has been multiplied by six since 1958. The landlord can double, treble or quadruple the rent. He can put the property up for sale. He can say that he will not have tenants with young children, or with dogs. He can do what he likes. I asked Mrs. Smith, "Why do you pay this rent?" She said, "Because I was living with my husband and four children in two furnished rooms for which we were paying £3 7s. a week." So she was forced to take this house. That is not an exceptional case. This week I had a letter from a Salford father who tells me that every house in his street has been rented at £1 6s. a week since the Rent Act came into force, and now the tenants of five of them are paying £2 18s. a week. Here, too, they are identical houses owned by the same landlord. There is no bath, no inside toilet and no hot water. But there is that great difference in the rent.
In another case again involving a street near the docks, the maximum controlled rent is £1 5s. 5d. and the occupants of three of the houses in that street are paying £2 10s. 10d. a week—or exactly double. Some hon. Members opposite may think that perhaps those rents are rather low. For people with a high income they may be. But hon. 106 Members forget what are the wage rates in many industries. Let me quote the engineering labourer's rate. It is £7 17s. 4d. a week before stoppages. One cannot pay a rent like £2 10s. out of an income of £7 17s. 4d.
I possess the names and addresses of these tenants and their landlords and I should very much like to reveal them. I have sent them to the Minister of Housing. But I am in some difficulty because the tenants, for a good reason, do not want me to give these names. Their tenancies are decontrolled and they have no longer any security of tenure. They may be evicted at very short notice and there exists a very real danger of victimisation. Therefore, I cannot mention names. I invite the Minister of Housing, or, if he cannot go himself, one of his senior officials, to go to the back streets of our big cities to see what is happening and then to say that this matter is confined to London or to the better types of houses.
Another factor is that new landlords are entering the racket. They are buying up whole streets of rotting houses for a song with the deliberate intention of raising the rents as soon as possible, and it is now quite legal for them to do so. As soon as the tenant changes they can double, treble or quadruple the rent. I know of offers being made to tenants, sums of money being offered, to get out so that landlords can bring in new tenants, decontrol the houses, and raise the rent. In certain cases when a tenant leaves a house which is desperately needed, it is kept empty because the owner is holding out for a high price.
I do not want to suggest that all landlords are guilty of these practices. There are honourable exceptions, but there are many who at this moment are guilty of intolerable conduct towards their tenants. They are using the argument of the market and the fact that there is this acute housing shortage to exploit their tenants.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
And they are not doing repairs since the Rent Act was introduced.
§ Mr. Allaun
They are not doing repairs. Even when the rent has been raised under the Rent Act, in most cases to roughly double, there is the greatest difficulty in getting many landlords to do 107 repairs. It takes six to nine months to go through the procedure of getting them to do repairs.
Each year hundreds of thousands of houses change hands because of death, or because a tenant removes to live elsewhere. Eventually, every house in the country will become decontrolled in this way. This is creeping decontrol. If only a minority are aware of it at the moment, I am afraid that everybody will be aware of it in the long run. There is only one answer—to amend the Rent Act, to prevent further decontrol when a change of tenant takes place. I regret very much that it will be difficult to restore rents which applied before 1958, but at least we would be assured that there would be no further decontrol of houses when the tenant changes.
I shall speak briefly because I know that other hon. Members are anxious to speak. I want to quote the most astonishing statement of the year. It was made by a Minister who is responsible for the Government's information and propaganda. I quote from last Sunday's Observer:Dr. Charles Hill, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said at a recruiting rally of young Conservatives from seven Midland counties at Wolverhamption yesterday: 'A national housing shortage no longer exists'. What remained were purely local problems.That is palpable nonsense. It is a piece of impertinence, a complete and blatant contradiction of the facts and an affront to the millions who are suffering terrible housing difficulties at present. I challenge the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to go to Manchester, Salford, Glasgow, London, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield or any of the great industrial cities and repeat that statement at a public meeting.
In all those cities, and in some of the small towns also, there are long, long, waiting lists. As most of us who have advice bureaux know, there are as many people in desperate housing need not on the waiting lists as those who are on the lists. They do not put their names down because the situation is hopeless. In Salford, unless one has been on the housing list since 1944 one has no chance of a house at all except under slum clearance. When the Chancellor of the Duchy says that the housing problem no longer exists, in what areas does he mean it 108 has been solved? I wonder whether in his constituency of Luton it has been solved. I have not looked it up, but I should be astonished if there is no housing shortage in Luton.
I can certainly tell him that it exists in most cities in the North. In many of them overcrowding is such that in certain houses one or more children have to leave home at night to be boarded out with neighbours because there is not room in the parents' home. I know seven cases in my constituency of Salford, East and there may be others. I am sure this can be repeated in other constituences. What are parents who have two tiny bedrooms about 10 ft. by 12 ft.—glorified box rooms—to do when there is a mother, father and perhaps eight children of both sexes? Where are they to go? It is no use saying that they should get out because then they would go to some other house where the Rent Act operates and there is decontrol and they would have to pay the price which the landlord can extort.
Young couples are having to live with their in-laws and those who are in council houses are now faced with big rent increases. We all know the reasons for that. It is because the interest rate has been raised from 3 per cent. under the Labour Government to 6⅛ per cent. today. I must repeat these figures.
For a £1,600 house by the time the interest is paid over sixty years the total cost is £6,040. As a result the rent goes up. Because doubled interest is payable and the subsidy removed on all houses except slum clearance houses, 25s. has been added to the rent. Some poor people are unable to take advantage of the housing being offered. As a result, the programme has been cut. The council house programme has been halved. Most people cannot afford to buy their own houses, yet at the Conservative Party conference in Scarborough the Housing Minister said:Don't let's kid ourselves that we are likely to see private builders going into the less attractive task of building to let.That is a tremendous admission. If they are not going to build houses to let and the council house programme has been halved, who is going to build houses to let? Two solutions to these two problems exist. The first is to restore cheap housing loans, and the second to restore 109 control of houses when a change of tenant takes place. I urge the Government seriously and sympathetically to consider these proposals.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I join with other hon. Members who have welcomed the Gracious Speech, and I particularly welcome its reference to an increase in pensions, including war pensions. I hope that the increase will also apply to older teachers who retired some time ago, and who are living on a meagre pension, and to retired civil servants and others.
I wish to follow the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), who deplored that the Gracious Speech did not mention unemployment in Scotland. I represent a Northern Ireland constituency, and I much regret that the only mention in the Gracious Speech to unemployment was in the brief sentence that theGovernment will seek to maintain a sound economy and to ensure a well-balanced growth of production in conditions of high and stable employment.The constituency of Belfast, East is noted in the House particularly for its shipbuilding industry. The Gracious Speech mentions that the Government intend to introduce legislationto provide financial assistance towards the construction of a new Atlantic liner to replace the 'Queen Mary'".We have been assured that this contract will be put out to tender, and I am sure that the shipbuilding industry in Northern Ireland will submit a very competitive tender.
In Northern Ireland we have a highly developed, very old and well-established shipbuilding industry, which can compete on even terms with any other shipbuilding industry in the world. But I sincerely regret that the Gracious Speech did not go on to propose any general policy to assist the shipping industry in this country. I should have liked to see some mention of the Government's willingness to support a scheme for scrapping old liners and building liners and merchant ships. Our Merchant Navy is increasing in age, and it is on that Merchant Navy that the country most depends in war.
We have to face the policies of countries which support flags of convenience 110 and ships owned by a strange conglomeration of persons, which fly flags of small, unimportant countries in South America in order to obtain tax advantages. The Government should support a policy which would enable our shipping industry to compete against shipping firms which owe allegiance to no country and which are often supported by capital subscriptions and advances from the United States. The Government should support shipping firms in this country to enable them to compete against ships flying flags of convenience.
I call on the Government to take determined action against the policy of flag discrimination. It is a policy which leads countries to make it a term of contract that importers to those countries shall use only ships flying the flags of those countries. This is uneconomic and also operates very much against shipping interests in this country.
This country has a great say in shipping matters. We are a heavy importing-exporting nation. Surely we can bring some pressure to bear, particularly on the United States, to persuade countries to abandon these policies of flag discrimination, which can operate only to the disadvanatage of America in time of war. Stern bargaining is called for. We heard earlier today the Prime Minister refer to an American submarine base which is to be established in this country, and we know that America has aircraft bases here. Surely this fact and the fact that we import so much of our raw material and goods from America give us a strong bargaining power with the United States. We must use it to maximum effect.
I should like to mention briefly the other great industry in my constituency—aircraft building. Short Brothers and Harland are perhaps best known for their freighter aircraft, the Britannic, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Sir D. Campbell) will have more to say later in the debate, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I mention the firm in relation to yet another project which it has pioneered, the S.C.1, which was undoubtedly the success of the Farnborough show, which I attended. Not only delegates from other countries but also the aviation magazines published in all those countries—including France, Germany and America—referred to it as the success of the show. It has been developed in 111 Belfast over a long time. A design team has been built up in Short Brothers and Harland which is second to none in the world. It has taken fifteen years to train this team.
The Gracious Speech mentions that it is Government policy to encourage engineering skills and the teaching and training of technology in this country. Are we to abandon all the technical skills and the promises which were made to Northern Ireland when she was given the contract to develop the S.C.1? She has done much in research, not only in respect of vertical take-off but in respect of another plane which has been successful recently—the variable geometry plane. This is a small plane the wings of which can be moved back at variable angles. Recently it has flown at a sweep-back of almost 70 deg. There is nothing like it elsewhere in the world.
We have proved, not only with the S.C.1 but with the variable geometry plane, that our design teams lead the world, and I call on the Government to follow the S.C.1 contract with yet another contract. The amount of money involved is very small. We have learned that the Hawker Company has recently been given a contract to develop a vertical take-off fighter which we hope will meet N.A.T.O. requirements, but there is no reason why the Government should not spend a little more and fulfil its promise to the engineers and the design teams in Northern Ireland by giving a second contract to develop what is a different type of plane—a second vertical take-off plane on a principle which in ten or twenty years' time may lead the world. The French and the Germans have shown great interest in vertical take-off, and they want to develop it for themselves. We must strike now, when the iron is hot, or we shall lose the lead which we have gained in this country in revolutionary aviation research.
Another matter has caused great concern recently not only in my constituency but throughout Northern Ireland. There is a reference towards the end of the Gracious Speech to the British Transport Commission. Her Majesty stated that herGovernment would submit … proposals for reforming the structure and functions of the British Transport Commission.112 We had an illuminating debate last week on the functions of the Commission which, unfortunately, because of shortage of Parliamentary time, was devoted entirely to the railways. I want to mention another aspect of those functions—the shipping services which the Commission runs to Northern Ireland.
One of our great difficulties in Northern Ireland arises from the freight rates, which are extremely important to many industries. This is particularly the case in the linen and engineering industries in my constituency. Representatives of many of the firms which I visited during the Recess told me of the difficulty arising from the freight rates imposed on raw materials entering Ireland and finished products leaving the country. Those freight rates have just been put up by 7½ per cent. But when I refer to page 57 of the Annual Report and Accounts of the British Transport Commission, I find that the Commission made a profit last year on its shipping services of £3.9 million. That profit of approximately £4,000,000 is analysed on page 91.
The analysis shows that the gross receipts for the Irish services for the year were £4,696,000. The gross receipts show that the Irish services accounted for one-quarter of the total receipts of the Commission in the past year. Therefore, though we are not provided with detailed information, it appears that the Irish services make an annual profit of about £1,000,000.
I therefore ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport why, with a profit of £1,000,000, freight rates have been raised by 7½ per cent., much to the disadvantage of trade and industry in Northern Ireland. We are told that there was a British and Irish shipping conference at Euston about a month ago. After that, all transport rates to Northern Ireland were raised by this amount. Does this mean that there is a monopolistic agreement on shipping freights which is approved by the Government? Why should the Commission's shipping services cost exactly 7½ per cent. more in the same way as the independent shipping companies?
This must be dealt with. Are the shipping services to Northern Ireland being run by the Commission to subsidise the deficit on the railways, which 113 amounts to £42 million per annum? I ask the Front Bench—
§ Mr. McMaster
I ask the Front Bench most seriously to deal with this point during the debate, because it has often been said—it was repeated by the Prime Minister today—that it is the Government's intention to assist Northern Ireland. I ask them to consider this point, because it appears to me that the shipping services are being used as a form of indirect taxation on those living in and carrying on business in Northern Ireland. This seems to be a way of writing off at least part of the loss incurred on the railways in the rest of Great Britain.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I suggest to my hon. Friend that he asks the Assistant Postmaster-General, who is sitting on the Front Bench, to convey to the Minister of Transport the very important statement he is now making on this problem of Irish shipping. There should be someone on the Front Bench to listen to this very important speech with the idea of taking action.
§ Mr. McMaster
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I am well aware of her great interest in shipping matters. I accept her suggestion. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General will convey my remarks to the appropriate quarter.
§ The Assistant Postmaster-General (Miss Mervyn Pike)
§ Mr. McMaster
In the reorganisation of the British Transport Commission thought should be given to running the shipping services as a separate and independent service and not as a means of subsidising a loss on the railways. Paragraph 422 of the Report from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, British Railways, says:In some cases, there may be a third and different consideration—one of social need. A service may be justified on other than economic grounds, because for example the less populous parts of Britain might otherwise be left without a railway service. Account may, in other words, need to be taken of social considerations.I am not opposed to such a subsidy to assist people living in remote areas, but one set of users should not be taxed 114 in this roundabout way in order to subsidise others. If the House accepts that it is desirable to run part of the Commission's services at a loss, the burden should be placed squarely upon the Exchequer, the cost to be met from taxation. It should not be met by a 7½ per cent. increase in the cost of the services rendered to those living in Northern Ireland, who have no other way of exporting their goods for sale in this country and abroad.
I call upon my right hon. Friends to consider this matter immediately and to treat it with great urgency. If it is too late to remove the 7½ per cent. increase, I ask the Government to consider if the effect of that surcharge can be mitigated. I should like the Minister in his reply tomorrow to reassure people in my constituency that the Government's intention is truly to assist industrial development and expansion in Northern Ireland, because it is on that expansion that the welfare and livelihood of all the loyal people in Northern Ireland depend.
I am pleased to join with my hon. Friends in welcoming the Gracious Speech.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
We are approaching that point of time in the debate when the hon. Member who is called becomes the personal enemy of those who are waiting to speak. Despite that, having sat here from 4 p.m., with scarcely a moment outside, I shall try, with the consenting patience of my audience, to touch on at least some of the many topics that I intended to deal with.
I assure the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McMaster) that he has my full support in what he said about the ship-building industry. I, too, represent a division where between 10,000 and 11,000 persons earn their livelihood from building ships. For a very long time I have been urging the Minister to state a policy. I have indicated the policy. It is the one which the hon. Gentleman put before us—the policy of scrap and build. I hope that the replacement for the "Queen Mary", coming to Clydebank, will show that the policy is starting to be applied in Scotland at least.
I was interested in what appeared to me to be an implied threat which the 115 hon. Gentleman directed at our American cousins, shall I call them—or friends, or, from what the hon. Gentleman said, perhaps something a little more remote. He did not seem to like the Americans in certain phases of their operations, and he suggested that as we had space for Polaris submarine bases we might use that as an argument to teach America to mend her methods with regard to her shipping discriminations. I hope that he will press that point on those of his right hon. Friends who sit on the Government Front Bench, and who have much greater power than either he or I have in dealing with those matters.
I should also like to say a word on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). He referred to the city from which I come, the City of Glasgow, and said that Glasgow had 120,000 people on the waiting list. That statement is particularly interesting, because the Government have told us that a high rate of house building will be maintained.
§ Mr. Rankin
Yes, for whom? When this Government came into office we had perhaps just a little over 100,000 people, and since then the number on the waiting list has increased to the present figure of 120,000 people. One wonders how the Government reconcile a continued high rate of house building with that continuing increase in the number of people in the City of Glasgow who are still waiting for houses.
But there is a worse aspect of it which I would draw to the attention of one of the new Ministers appointed to solve, or to help to solve, Scotland's problems. I wish him good luck in his job, and I hope that he finds a greater satisfaction in it than some of his colleagues who worked with him have found from the efforts they have made in past years One of his predecessors who looked after housing in Scotland told us repeatedly in housing debates that the housing problem in Scotland was solved. We had that time and again and yet the Government now tell us in the Gracious Speech that they will maintain a high rate of building. They will not maintain it for Scotland, because they think that the housing problem is solved in Scotland, although 116 in Glasgow there are 120,000 people still waiting for houses.
§ Mr. Allaun
It is not 120,000 people, but 120,000 applicants, which represents about half a million people.
§ Mr. Rankin
Yes, it is 120,000 applicants. Indeed, the number is growing, and Glasgow is now facing an even more serious decision. It is the most densely populated city in the whole of Europe.
The Glasgow City Council is faced with the decision to use up the open spaces in the city—the public golf courses mostly played on by working men and women on Saturday afternoons and during the week. The "communist" golf courses are not affected. I suppose that the Tories realise that they play on "communist" golf courses, and that the ordinary working man plays on a collectivist or socialist golf course, because he pays only when he uses it, and on the "communist" type of golf course one pays for the whole year and uses it as often as one likes.
That is one of the dogmas of Communism. These are the two types of golf courses in this country and the Tories mostly belong to the "communist" type. I admire them for it, because they do not pay every time they go there, but only one total amount for the year and then have the use of their course as they choose.
Glasgow is talking about the necessity of using up the public open spaces—the golf courses and some of the public parks—while we on this side of the House, in the Scottish Grand Committee, have been urging the Government for years now to go ahead with the creation of at least two other new towns in order to prevent the corporation from using this land which is so necessary for the health and welfare of the City of Glasgow.
As I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East, a quotation from a speech which I have often used myself came into my head. It was from a speech made by the right hon. Joseph Chamberlain in his days of enlightenment, when he was a Liberal—whether a Right-wing or a Left-wing Liberal I do not know. In 1870, in a speech at Sheffield describing housing conditions, he used these words:Think of the physical conditions of the great mass of the people of this country. They 117 are living in conditions of squalor, filth and pestilence, in conditions that would not be tolerated for an instant in the stables and the kennels associated with the dwellings of the rich.I think that if we take Salford, Glasgow and many of our great cities, and, I agree, modify that statement a little, that is still basically true after ninety years.
For most of those ninety years there was either a Tory or a Liberal Government in power. Faced with a problem which was so eloquently and adequately stated, as it was by Joseph Chamberlain, they have still left that problem with us today, thus condemning their own inactivity in every year in which they had the power to rule. Therefore, I hope that the rate of building will be still higher than it has been in the period during which this Government have been in power.
I should like to refer to one or two other points in the Gracious Speech itself. The first four paragraphs attracted my attention because they deal with a matter which has had my interest in the House for a long number of years. These four paragraphs refer to Her Majesty the Queen and the duties that she will be undertaking very soon. Because of the range of her movements on the tour which she is to undertake, and the number of countries to be covered, I assume that she will be travelling by air, and that reminds me that just a few days ago, there was a "near miss" when the Queen was returning home in an R.A.F. Comet. An immense publicity was given to that incident, and properly so, but one has to realise what that means.
It goes back, to a large extent, to the inefficiency of Ministers who sat on that Front Bench. A year ago, four Members of this House, of whom I was one, had to direct the attention of the Minister to a "near miss" that could have caused four by-elections almost before we had even got into our seats. The Minister was very indifferent, and I say that after consideration.
§ The Joint parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but his right hon. Friend was rather indifferent.
118 It is not only Royalty and Members of Parliament who are concerned in "near misses", but the ordinary travelling members of the public. I have been assured by those who are concerned with the care of the machines and their operation that we do not by a very long chalk hear about the number of "near misses" that occur. We hear about them only when the near miss is no longer a "near miss" and the ultimate has happened.
As a result of one of these accidents, nearly ten years ago, I was driven to raise the matter for the first time in the House. A Dakota and a military aircraft flew into each other over Coventry. This incident occurred at mid-day on a clear day, when the sun was shining. The two aircraft met head on. In the House I immediately asked for airways. I argued that if we could have railways and seaways, surely we could have airways. I was opposed by the Tory Party, who thought that I was limiting the rights and manoeuvrability of military aircraft. We have not even now got full control in the airways. The incident in which I was concerned with some of my colleagues shows that we have still not got in this country a unified system of civil air traffic control. We are now asking not only that this system should be applied fully in this country but, also, that it should be extended to the whole of Western Europe, and, if possible, to the whole of Europe.
The safety of passengers is something to which we are committed in theory. Every Government has agreed that it must be the first aim of a Minister to ensure the safety of passengers. This is because of two facts. First, more and more people are travelling by air; we are cheapening tourist fares to attract increased numbers to this relatively new method of travel. Secondly, we are at the same time faced with the fact that if an accident occurs, the result is final and obliterative. Consequently, everything should be done to ensure the safety of all people of all classes who travel by air. As I have said, we want a complete system of unified civil air control in this country, and, if possible, throughout Europe.
The issue has been before the Ministry of Aviation for more than eighteen months. The advisory committee which the Minister appoints and the board which acts in association with him have 119 considered the matter, and advice has been given and recommendations have been made, and yet no Minister, to the best of my knowledge, has done anything about it. I shall shortly be tabling a Question on this subject, and perhaps we shall get the answer then. My information from those concerned in the matter is that nothing has so far been done. I feel that the changes at the Ministry have been so frequent over the last two years that no Minister has been able to get down to considering the reports.
I should like to take up another point which has been mentioned. We are assured that the Government will seek to maintain conditions of high and stable employment. When I read the Gracious Speech I read it as "The Government will seek to maintain conditions of high and stable unemployment". I read it that way because I had just received a copy of the latest unemployment figures in Scotland through the excellent service that we have in the Library. In September, the number of unemployed in Scotland was 65,225 and in October it had risen to 72,536. How long are we to have promises about keeping and maintaining high and stable levels of employment when the unemployment figures in Scotland are going up?
We in Scotland are worried about the position. As I have previously said, one of the instruments that the Government propose to use to solve or alleviate the unemployment position in Scotland is the motor car industry. Yet that industry, which is supposed to create abundancy in Scotland, is now creating redundancy in the Midlands of England. Naturally, therefore, we are disturbed about the statement on high and stable employment. Surely there is a firmer assurance of achieving that end than can be provided by the instrument which the Government seem to be using.
Like other hon. Members, I welcome the paragraph in the Gracious Speech in which we are told that war pensions will be increased and authority will be sought for increases in retirement pensions and other benefits. I subscribe to all that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) had to say about railway super-annuitants. We have all had letters from these people, who are suffering acutely today. I have promised—I generally 120 fulfil my promises—to say a word for them in the House. I hope that in considering the increases, which we welcome, the Government will not forget the railway superannuitants.
It has been rumoured that the increase for the old folk will be about 5s. or 7s. 6d. per week. I suggest—one cannot hope for any answer about the figure at the moment, of course—that it will not commend itself to my hon. Friends, or to any hon. Members opposite, judging by what they have been saying, if the old folk get the miserable sum of 5s. or the not much better sum of 7s. 6d.
It should be the aim of every Government to prevent people from being dependent upon a son or a daughter merely because they have become old. Surely we can give the old people the dignity of independence, the dignity of knowing that they have a sufficient sum weekly to meet their decreasing demands on society. I hope that when the Bill comes before us it will measure up to the principle which I have enunciated.
I welcome the statement that we shall have legislation to amend the Crofters (Scotland) Act. When I read about it I wondered whether the Prime Minister had discovered one or two relatives among the crofters whom he wanted to help. We shall find out more about that later.
I welcome the proposal for greater safety on the roads. This morning, not within the precincts of Parliament but not very far away, I was on a pedestrian crossing. The traffic had stopped and I was following others on. I was nine-tenths across when I noticed a motor cycle on the crossing. Had I taken another step I would not have been standing here tonight. Many of my impatient listeners may say what a pity I stopped.
I wonder when the Government will prohibit people from buying motor cycles, fitting "L" plates and then dashing along the Great West Road or Victoria Street at a speed at which they ought not to be moving. It is not unfair to say that these people should not be on the roads at all. There is no use in erecting notices at every county boundary stating "Speed kills" when the Government are allowing motor cars to be driven at speeds which kill. I hope that they will think of these things, and I 121 am sorry that I cannot develop the matter now.
I wish to protest against the omission of something which has caused great concern in Scotland. I have received many letters from women's organisations in Scotland asking me to do my best to ensure that the Government introduce legislation to deal with the law of succession in Scotland. Two years ago I was lucky in a Private Member's Ballot. On the advice that we all receive when we are in that position, I decided to bring in a Private Member's Bill to reform one aspect of the law of succession. I did so believing that I would be supported by the Government, because I was assured that in the next Gracious Speech there would be a reference to the Government's proposals for dealing with the law of succession as a whole. I believed that if I took the case of the intestate spouse and raised the preferential claim of the surviving spouse from £500 to £5,000 that would help the Government in the larger Bill which they proposed to bring in.
I got the minor Measure through without much trouble, and now the preferential claim of the surviving spouse, without affecting his or her other legal rights, it raised from £500 to £5,000. But last year, despite what I was led to believe, although there was mention of the law of succession, nothing was done about it. This year there is no mention of any legislation to reform the law of succession in Scotland and bring it into line with the law as it obtains in England. The Mackintosh Report, which deals with this necessary reform, has been in the Government's possession since 1951. The English Report reached them at the same time and it was dealt with immediately. But, after nine years, nothing has been done about reforming and bringing up to date the law of succession in Scotland.
I want briefly to deal with another paragraph in the Gracious Speech. I have not dealt with all the matters which I have noted, but I shall wait for another opportunity which I hope is not too far away. I want to deal with the paragraph which says:My Government will play their full part in maintaining the North Atlantic Allianceand to keep the link withour great ally, the United States of America …122 The word "alliance", in so far as it refers to this country and America, is a misnomer for many reasons. The United States of America has an economic and military strength which alone is equal to the power of all her N.A.T.O. partners combined. All their forces are under the supreme command of an American general. In addition, on their territories she owns all the weapons of obliterative power and has the bases from which to deliver those weapons. The Pentagon and the administrative departments in America take all the decisions without consulting her allies. The proof of that was shown in the U2 and RB47 incidents.
In an exchange between my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), the Opposition's "Shadow" Foreign Secretary, with the Prime Minister last week, my hon. Friend got no assurance at all from the Prime Minister that this situation would be revised. Today, we have heard the Prime Minister's statement on the Polaris base which is to be established in the Gareloch, which will turn the whole of the Clyde estuary into an American security area; and there is still no assurance that the movements of Polaris would in any way be subject to consultation between the Prime Minister and the responsible Americans.
It is true to say that we are not really an ally of the United States; we are a satellite. We live on an expendable American base and we have no firm guarantee that in any part of Europe would America intervene on behalf of any of her N.A.T.O. partners. The simple reason, as has been stated from the Opposition Front Bench, is that that intervention might prejudice the safety of the great cities and the population of the United States.
Strong resentment, therefore, is being felt by many people at that position and what it leads to. This was reflected not so long ago at the Scarborough conference of the Labour Party, when one of my hon. Friends referred to the lunacy of an Americanised society. It is not unfair to say that this was one of the most loudly cheered remarks of the whole conference. This is the situation that is causing grievous discontent in the country. It is manifested, and has been manifested, in many directions and that 123 resentment is not coming from a handful of people who are pacifists or unilateralists, or bear any similar names.
Long before we heard anything at Scarborough the great Co-operative movement had decided almost unanimously that if we are to help towards peace one of the methods is to try to think of new ways and not follow the old ones in solving the problems of the 1960s. This was adequately and eloquently dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). One of the things he said was that we must stop trade embargoes. Two years ago the President of the Board of Trade told us that to help in the abolition of embargoes on free trade we were taking Dakota aircraft off the prescribed list. We were scrapping them, and we were taking them off the prescribed list that barred their export to Russia when she was building and flying the TU104. What an absurd position.
A little earlier I had been told by the President of the Board of Trade that we could not remove the embargo on trade with China because she would have to go to Russia to obtain the dollars to carry on the trade. I told the right hon. Gentleman that China had in the State Bank in Hong Kong 150 million dollars of surplus cash to trade with, but he did not know that. He poured scorn on the idea, but later he had to admit that I was right. That cash was utilised to trade with other nations and we lost that trade at a time when we had unemployment in Scotland and in other parts of Britain.
Trade is a means of bringing people together. That is why we should promote it. If the Government are serious in their attempt to bring peace by new methods they will do all that a Government can do to wipe out the embargoes that keep nations apart and will devise methods which will bring nations together and further the peace we all want.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)
I am certain that we are all pleased that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) escaped death at the hands of a motor cyclist.
§ Mr. Prior
I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him too far into the political philosophies of the Glasgow golf course. I want to deal first of all with the reference in the Gracious Speech to the fact that the Governmentwill seek to maintain a sound economy and to ensure a well-balanced growth of production in conditions of high and stable employment.The greatest obstacle to progress at the moment is high taxation and in particular the levels of Surtax and Income Tax. There is grave disincentive to work, both in the lower ranges, where a man no longer wishes to do an extra hour or two overtime because of the tax which he has to pay, and also in the higher ranges, where it is not worth while for a man to go out to get orders in the export markets because he knows that so much of the extra cash that he earns will go in taxation.
High taxation also leads to a certain amount of dishonesty in everyday life, and people spend more time in trying to cook up expense accounts than they do in getting on with the job of trying to improve the country's economy. I fully realise that there are many social demands on the Government's and the country's finances, but it is of vital importance that we should reduce taxation in the near future. I should have thought that it was possible to keep the present social services going and, at the same time, to bring about a reduction.
I suggest that if we have to tax anything further it would be better to try to find some method of introducing a capital gains tax, which works in the States, rather than continue with the high, direct taxation that we have at the moment.
I was interested the other day to see that the Economist was advocating a surcharge on National Insurance in times of great prosperity. I should have thought that here was something that we could do which would even out the fluctuations in the economy, so that if the economy were running at a rate which we could not sustain, we could ease the pressure by surcharging for a short while the National Insurance stamp, particularly if the money could be devoted to certain projects that could be named in advance, for example, roads. I believe that that 125 would help the economy to run in balance and it also means that restrictions on hire purchase, which are put on and then taken off and which have a very disrupting influence on the economy could be avoided. I do not like to see at one moment the economy being allowed to run at full gallop and two months later the brakes being put on, with the constant disruption of industry which follows.
I think that we have a long way to go to try to create a feeling of enterprise and opportunity in this country and that it is only by reductions in taxation, so that people can feel that when they have earned their money they will be allowed to keep it, that we shall achieve a satisfactory rate of economic progress and also a position in which the people of the country feel that hard work is really worthwhile.
I turn to the question of the welfare of old people and increases in the retirement pension. I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) say that he considered that we might before long be ready for a graduated scaling of social benefits according to need. Although at the moment I do not think that we can do that, I am beginning to feel that if we can keep full employment and high prosperity there will be a place for it in the future.
It seems remarkable that we can have insurance schemes which insure us in the future against poverty and old age, but when we have an almost national disaster in the way of floods we have nothing with which to help people. More and more we should devote a certain proportion of our insurance contributions to meeting the unforseeable. We can all foresee that we shall probably reach the age of 65, but we cannot foresee floods, or, to a lesser extent, sickness or disability and that type of disaster which falls upon people from time to time. That is an insurance risk that we ought to be prepared to take.
I welcome very much the proposed increases in the old-age pension, but it is a pity that the Government could not have brought in the Bill before the winter; at any rate, it is a step in the right direction.
126 I turn to that part of the Gracious Speech which deals with agriculture:At home my Ministers are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agriculture. They will introduce legislation to reorganise and improve Covent Garden and to amend the law relating to land drainage in England and Wales.None of us needs to be reminded at the moment of the importance of land drainage and of the lack of it in many parts of the country. We have had the Heneage Report in front of us for some years and the position has become considerably worse since the Report was written. The development of residential and industrial property, combined with much better drainage of farmland, results in a much quicker rate of water running off the land and residential districts and getting into the streams and rivers. That has led to very serious flooding in certain parts of the country.
The finances are not available at the moment to deal with this problem adequately, and I feel that those who are bearing the brunt of these drainage difficulties are having to deal with a lot of other people's troubles. I hope that the new Bill on drainage will go at any rate some way towards evening out expenditure and making certain that there is enough money to prevent some of the disasters which we have experienced in the last few weeks.
It is very important that the Government should do some re-thinking about agriculture. The industry is in a serious position. I declare my interest straight away; I am a farmer. We have had a very bad year. The autumn has been quite disastrous for many farmers. Anyone who travels up to the North-East, as I did last week, will see many fields in which the corn still lies in the fields, where it has lain for the last two months. That corn will be a complete write-off. We should remember that the weather plays an important part in agriculture and that the farmer has to put up with many difficulties which industry does not have to face.
I have been interested to read that one of the main difficulties which we are experiencing in coming to terms with the European Common Market appears to be that our system of agricultural support gives cheaper food to the consumer and that the European system of support results in the consumer paying 127 1s. 6d. in the £ more for his food. Thus, a considerable part of the subsidies which at the moment are paid to British agriculture can be seen in terms of consumer subsidies and not producer subsidies.
I consider that it is imperative that we try to get together with the rest of Europe, on both political and economic grounds, and I do not think that British agriculture will suffer to the extent that some people suggest. Our agriculture is an extremely efficient industry and, given fair wage conditions among European agricultural workers, we shall be able to compete quite reasonably. I know that there are several other difficulties to be overcome first, particularly in horticulture.
I am not at all satisfied with the way in which some of the subsidies at present being administered to agriculture are working. For instance, I feel that a lot of the subsidies on barley and wheat, in particular, are going into the wrong hands. The middle men, or the brewers in the case of barley, as well as the feedingstuffs merchants, are, I think, tending to talk down the price of corn, and particularly of barley, in the knowledge that the farmer will obtain a deficiency payment which will make up to him the difference between the realisation price and the guaranteed price. Much of the subsidy, therefore, does not go to the farmer, who should be getting it, but goes into the hands of the brewers and of the compound feedingstuffs manufacturers.
The time is fast approaching when we must look at some of our deficiency payments schemes again to see whether we cannot devise a system which will put a minimum price on these crops, which will have the effect of raising the price which the farmer is paid and reducing the difference between the price which he receives and the guaranteed price for those crops.
In certain commodities we are reaching the stage of over-production. In milk we have exceeded it and, as a result, the price of milk this year has fallen to a very low level. I believe that there is a case for the farmers to get together and to try to regulate in some manner the amount of milk reaching the open market. Unless we can do that as a 128 farming industry, the bottom will fall out of the market before long.
It is interesting to note that this year the housewife has been reasonably content to pay a far higher price for her eggs. She has been buying them quite satisfactorily in the same numbers, or nearly so, as last year. That brings home the fact that the egg subsidy, which last year cost the country about £35 million, is not really a necessary subsidy, because, obviously, the housewife is prepared to pay a decent price for eggs. We are paying this high subsidy in order to allow free entry for imported eggs, but last year only 2 per cent. of our consumption was imported. To allow that 2 per cent. to come in and not place any restrictions on them or to put a minimum price on eggs, we paid out £35 million. In so doing I do not think that we satisfied either the farmer or the taxpayer. There is a reasonable chance that we could get some agreement between Denmark, the main source of our egg imports, and our own Government to get over the problem of imported Danish eggs.
We can do much more in co-operation amongst agricultural producers. At the moment, they do co-operate but they get no incentive or help from the Government so to do. If a group of farmers decide to put up a grain storage building, or a building to house dressing machinery for grain, they are denied the grant which goes to an individual producer. I believe that the future of agricultural co-operation needs encouraging to the greatest possible extent. I hope that the Government will review the machinery covering the grant to agricultural co-operatives for buildings and will allow a grant for that purpose.
There are many other ways in which co-operatives can help, particularly in marketing. We have introduced legislation for the horticulturists to take advantage of co-operative business, and they have a grant for so doing. Farmers should get together more to market their produce in co-operatives, and the Government should give them every assistance to do so. I hope that the Government will look at their agricultural policy again and realise that there is deep dissatisfaction in parts of the industry at the treatment they have received in the last few years.
129 It is very hard to suggest better methods, but from time to time suggestions are put forward and nothing seems to come of them. I think that the agricultural industry is efficient, and deserving of support from the point of view both of the farmers and of the farm workers. We need a prosperous and contented countryside and a prosperous agriculture to go with it. Without a prosperous countryside and agricultural industry, I do not think that we can have a prosperous Britain.
I hope that, in approaching the Annual Price Review in February, the Government will consider that agriculture has been on a rather difficult wicket for the last few years and will give it a fair crack of the whip. Relations between the farmers and the farm workers have been first-class. I hope that the Government will enter into partnership with the industry and see that prosperity is improved in the coming year.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)
The debate on the Gracious Speech ranges over a wide variety of subjects and enables hon. Members to raise topics in which they are especially interested. Topics of importance have been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House, including the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), who made an interesting speech about economy in taxation. I know that he will forgive me if I do not follow him. In my present state of mind I have been attracted by that part of the Gracious Speech which deals with the work of the United Nations and with disarmament.
One cannot discuss the United Nations and disarmament without fully taking into account the impact of the arms race. For more than twelve years talks on disarmament have been proceeding in the United Nations, but without positive results. There is some justification for saying that one could get a headache trying to keep account of all the difficulties, obstacles and barriers which have been raised in all the talks about disarmament at the United Nations. Such a series of failures without achieving great results cannot be ignored, but I believe the more that issues are discussed and ventilated with a view to reaching an effective solution to the problem of disarmament, the more will public opinion seek to avoid 130 being drawn into international anarchy by the threat of a new war.
It is well recognised that the arms race and the constant development of new weapons of mass destruction are the principal factors contributing to present world tension. The problem of disarmament profoundly affects every individual, no matter where he lives. Such an unsatisfactory situation demands the elimination of the anxieties, doubts and mistrusts which bedevil mankind.
We are often told that a study of history is a study of causes and effects. Nothing happens without cause and nothing happens without leaving behind some results. For the first time in history we are placed in a situation in which the new revolution in military technical developments decisively affect world politics and the very existence of all of us.
It was with some interest that I noted the contents of a speech by Mr. Khrushchev, as reported in the Press of 20th October. In strong language, he referred to the decline of British imperialist power. With a diplomatic choice of words, at the Tory conference at Scarborough, the Prime Minister stated his reasons and willingness to attend a Summit Conference. However, in the broader terms of present-day decline and expansion, one has only to concentrate on the last five years or so to see the impact of the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States of America on world affairs, proving that both are now stronger than at any time in their history.
One has little difficulty in realising that the global distribution of American power is a product of the last war. The same applies to the expansion of the Soviet Union, but in the system of worldwide American bases can be seen a strategic military empire which is recognised as a permanent feature of American power geography. As I see it, it is the scientists who, in this fundamental transformation of the world situation, have presented the main source of military technical developments which are such a disturbing feature in our lives. So much is this the case that I sincerely believe that it is imperative to keep global communications reverberating for peace and to draw far-reaching conclusions from the consequences of the arms race.
131 It appears that when Mr. Khrushchev speaks he does so from a position of strength, backed by the production of rockets in the Soviet Union. I believe that not only in this country but in the United States there is evidence of the depressing anxiety felt by people who feel themselves vulnerable to the fantastic developments which have taken place recently.
We have heard a lot today about Polaris. If one takes stock of the arms race, one finds that it is visualised that by the 1970s a fleet of American nuclear-powered Polaris submarines will be capable of firing from under the water on to a predetermined target in the Soviet Union, and American experts are already computing the effect this will have on world strategy and the balance of power.
Long ago men dreamt of the conquest of space, and it is characteristic of our time that military factors have given impetus to the production of giant rockets. With the march of human intelligence it is largely military considerations which have caused the Soviet Union to speed up its scientific programme for the conquest of space. If and when the Soviet Union attains its objective, who can forecast what the balance of power will really be?
We learn that scientists are working on a type of bomb about which no one wants to talk. It is the so-called neutron bomb which, when perfected, would be able to send out streams of poisoned radiation greater than that produced by the hydrogen bomb, and which would leave industry and properties intact but would destroy the population.
All this makes it clear that the arms race is a race between scientists. The fear of mutual destruction compels us to consider such a fateful matter as disarmament when one realises the tempo at which the arms race has been rushed forward in so many different ways.
Once one accepts the difference in the structure of the military equipment of the power blocs, one must also accept the difficulties in coming to an agreement to carry out co-ordinated disarmament, and the difficulties of considering the factors which have to be taken into consideration to ensure that neither side feels at a disadvantage as a consequence.
132 As I have said, nothing is more clear than the warnings which the leaders of the Soviet Union have repeatedly given of the dangerous consequences of equipping the West German armed forces with atomic and nuclear weapons, by their sharp reminders that they, too, can use the same means of retaliation. It is not difficult to see the danger which would loom over Europe if we stepped up these military measures. I agree with Sir John Slessor, a former marshal of the Royal Air Force, in the opinion he expressed in the Observer of 19th July, 1959, when he said:I do not believe Germany can ever again be a military menace to her neighbours. Thinking Germans know very well that the only certain result of another great war would be that Germany would finish up as a radioactive charnel house.It would be a great mistake to assume that we, too, would not be affected. This thought gives neither comfort nor satisfaction to millions of British people. It is right and proper to bear in mind the nuclear capabilities portending so many uncertainties. To quote Sir John Slessor again, on page 308 of his book The Great Deterrent, he says:To some the rather unfortunate word 'tripwire' suggests that the function of General Norstad's forces is to provide a facade—a thin red line—to be overrun, so to speak, thus touching off the nuclear deluge upon Moscow. Stanlingrad and points East. This is a fantastic conception. … The true function of the N.A.T.O. screen is indeed primarily to avoid just that, to stand between the hydrogen bomb and the frontier policeman.To my way of reasoning the most serious aspect to which we should direct our attention is not the principal purpose of the policy of N.A.T.O. for collective security but the intention to supply Germany with nuclear missiles.
This decision creates a very sad outlook in these times. The most urgent problem today is the necessity to reduce the existing tension by resisting forcibly the idea of equipping the West German armed forces with nuclear weapons. The doctrine of massive retaliation which has been adopted means that the time has come to renounce the use of nuclear weapons against an attack with conventional forces. Once the button is pressed nuclear war can never be stopped because events would follow inevitably.
As a very high premium is placed upon aggression and surprise attack, I 133 believe that the destruction of this country would be such that political freedom would cease to have any value. Everyone knows, or ought to know, what the consequences would be. We therefore have no doubt about exerting special efforts to restore our vision and moral purpose of life. War can only be excluded if disarmament is carried out under the strictest international control. Nothing should be beyond the competence and the material means of fulfilling the exact purpose of the United Nations to this end by accepting the basic principles of the United Nations to provide security from attack through the collective forces of the States.
I also sincerely believe that we should evaluate our thinking in terms of political necessity by accepting the provisions provided for in the United Nations and being prepared to act as a genuine force not only for the dissolution of the arms race and the ending of the cold war but as a means of strengthening the United Nations and as a medium whereby world disarmament and peaceful coexistence can and must be most readily achieved.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I think that this is the only day during the debate on the Address when we have what I might call an opportunity for a general debate over a very wide field. The rest of the time will, so to speak, be directed to arguments against, with Departmental Ministers present to hear the discussions and the points of view which will be put forward.
I must express my deep regret that on an occasion of this kind, which is very important indeed, until the appearance of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and except for a brief period, we have had nothing but a series of very delightful but quite uninfluential junior Ministers sitting on the Government Front Bench. Even if they wished to do so they could not exercise any influence on Cabinet policy. I doubt very much whether any of them were concerned with what has been said. I do not, for example, recall any point raised which concerns my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General. I cannot see that any of the most important matters which have been raised will be 134 dealt with by junior Ministers in the Cabinet.
I wish to put on record that so irate did I become at contemplating the backs of the heads of so many charming junior Ministers that I rang up No. 10, Downing Street, and sent a message to the Prime Minister to say that I regretted it but I did not think very much of his Government's contribution today in the debate on the Address.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)
I hope that my hon. Friend does not think that I have come here only to hear her speech because of that telephone call. In fact, I arranged some time ago to come to listen to the last hour of the debate.
§ Dame Irene Ward
My hon. Friend need have no fear about that. I never for one moment imagined that any Minister ever comes to listen to me. Perhaps I might convey to my hon. Friend, with the gracious acquiescence of the Chair, that the Whips Office told me that the Whip understood that I was to raise the question of pensions, and asked whether I would like a Minister present from the Ministry of Pensions. My reply was, no, and that I preferred a Treasury Minister; and so I was glad to hear that at any rate my hon. Friend was coming to the debate. We managed to coincide my speech with his appearance.
I was about to say something quite nice which I will now proceed to say. I hope that my hon. Friend will convey to his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer my deep appreciation of the fact that he is going to see me on Thursday afternoon. Therefore, I will reduce the tone of my speech, because I think it is very charming of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find time to see me. I wanted to say that because I think it quite important.
I should much have preferred to have dealt with the first part of the Gracious Speech which embodies that part addressed to Members both of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, but I shall content myself with saying that I agree that the time has come when some move should be made towards finding China a place in the United Nations. The time has come when it would be much more appropriate for Communist China—which, after all, 135 whether we agree with them or not, does represent the will of the vast majority of the people of China—to find her place in the United Nations.
I suppose I am one of the very few Members of Parliament who were invited by the Minister of Information during the war to visit China at the time of the Chiang Kai-shek régime. While I was there I was enchanted by the Chinese Cabinet. For one thing, they understand the British sense of humour. I imagine that on the great occasion when our Prime Minister dealt with Mr. Khrushchev, whether the Chinese representative from Communist China agreed with the British Prime Minister or not, he would have enjoyed the British sense of humour displayed by our Prime Minister.
Now, after so many years, we might at least say in no uncertain terms to the United States of America that, as quite often we have had to make sacrifices to try to come into accord with their view of world events, it is about time they followed the kind of lead we should like to give.
I should very much like on this occasion to be able to make a speech on the international situation or on problems facing the Commonwealth and our Colonial Territories, but I have set myself the task of trying to persuade Her Majesty's Government to look at the problem of those on small fixed incomes.
I have that objective and I shall pursue it until I have some successful results. When I took my seat on this bench today, one of my colleagues turned to me and said, "Are you not pleased about your pensioners?" I replied, "I am very pleased indeed that we are to have a new National Insurance Bill and that retirement pensioners are to benefit accordingly," but it is very clear to me, and has been very clear, that a great many people think that helping retirement pensioners through the Ministry of National Insurance is the beginning and the end of the problem of those living, or trying to live, on pensions.
My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary does not need me to disabuse him about what thoughts I have in mind. I also listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). He hoped that the pledge in the Gracious 136 Speech would cover retired teachers and retired civil servants. Another hon. Friend talked about the widows of Regular officers and also about the retired pay of officers. The Gracious Speech does not cover either of those sections of the community. I am certain that it was never intended that the Gracious Speech should do that. Only yesterday I received a note from the Minister of Defence who has been considering representations made to him by a Parliamentary delegation in February on behalf of widows of retired officers and retired officers and also widows of other ranks and retired other ranks asking for their position to be reviewed. It was only yesterday that I received through the leader of the delegation a complete and absolute negative.
I want to show why I think that the Government's social policy is cock-eyed. That is exactly what it is. That is not, perhaps, because the Government mean it to be cock-eyed, but because there are so many tremendous problems that the task of correcting social injustice has the lowest priority.
I had the great good fortune in my constituency yesterday to visit some new Part 3 accommodation which the County Borough of Tynemouth has just built. I was delighted with the results of its efforts. In that accommodation were many people who were coming to the end of their lives, some being rather feeble and ill. I am glad to say that they were accommodated in extremely attractive and good circumstances. They had beautiful rooms, very good heating, a beautiful outlook, television, radio, tobacco, sweets and laundry, and they also had kind and generous attention from a first-class staff. Also, each of those persons gets 10s. a week pocket money—I think I am correctly interpreting the Government's intention when I say that it is likely that their pocket money will also be increased—and I think that is very delightful and very humane.
However, if people of that type live in their inadequate little homes; if they are looked after by their relatives; if they are on National Assistance; if they are the widows of ex-Regular officers; if they are railway superannuants and the British Transport Commission, because it is in debt, cannot meet its commitments to them under the Pensions 137 Increase Act—those persons cannot have a quarter of the things which the people now in Part 3 accommodation have. I doubt whether very many in the small fixed income groups have anything like that amount of pocket money to spend after they have provided for their ordinary needs.
I want to go one step further. The Tynemouth Borough Council has done very well indeed for those who require care and attention. I was taken round the Part 3 accommodation by the chairman of the committee and the matron in charge. I said, "How many meals a day do these people have?" I was told, "They have four meals a day, which a great many of them find rather a bother because, being very old, they would much rather go to dinner at half-past five or six o'clock than stay up to supper at seven."
The Minister of Health has laid down the diet standard for people who live in Part 3 accommodation. I do not think that I exaggerate when I say that the vast majority of people who go into Part 3 accommodation are found to be under-nourished. The last thing that old age pensioners, retirement pensioners or non-contributionary pensioners can afford to spend money on is food.
A very important thing to bear in mind is that the Ministry of Health standards are governed by proper and adequate medical assessment. The Ministry has the benefit of the advice of doctors, dieticians, experts on nutrition and all the people who understand what a balanced diet is and at what age certain kinds of diet are required.
Four meals a day is the standard laid down by the Ministry of Health for these people. Some of the old people find it rather inconvenient, because in many of the circumstances in which they have been living they have not had the money to provide the food which is provided for them in the Part 3 accommodation.
I am delighted with the Part 3 accommodation, although actually the television and radio sets have been provided out of voluntary efforts. Nevertheless, they are there. The lovely outlook and charming surroundings are there. This is what the Minister of Health thinks is the appropriate standard for these people, and I am glad that he thinks it is. In addition, he thinks that when they have everything 138 their hearts can desire they should have some pocket money. Perhaps these people are rather sorry that they have become old and that life is probably fast ebbing away. They may be sorry to leave this world. Perhaps some of them feel a little strange coming from their old homes into Part 3 accommodation. Nevertheless, they are able to have a nice sum of pocket money.
I turn now to those who do not enter Part 3 accommodation. I refer to the railway superannuitants. I am not generally known for telling stories, but I shall tell my hon. Friend on the Front Bench one story, because I may have some design upon the Government in the future. When the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1956, was under discussion the Government decided that only pensioners from gas and electricity companies which had been owned by municipal authorities would qualify under the Act. At that time it was the intention of the Government to leave out pensioners of privately owned gas and electricity companies. The Ministers of the time did not agree with that, but, unfortunately, they had not been able to make any impression on the Treasury.
After this lapse of time I can now say that I had a meeting with the Prime Minister and told him that, if justice was not done to the pensioners of privately owned gas and electricity companies, I should get myself suspended from the House in order to try to draw the attention of the country to the decision which the Ministry had had to reach—owing, I presume, to the attitude of the Treasury. It was not a very pleasant decision to have to take, but I am glad to say that, on the day when I was going to seek suspension—you, Mr. Speaker, were not at that time Speaker—the appropriate Minister met me and said, "I suppose that you know that you have won your battle?" I said, "No, I do not know that I have won my battle, because no Chancellor of the Exchequer will ever tell me that I have ever won any battle." The fact was that the battle was won, and I have always been very proud and glad of it.
Now, I am just warning my hon. Friend that I am trying to think of what I can do to draw the attention of the country to the continued resistance of the Treasury to the genuine claims, supported by the chairman of the British Transport Commission, of the railway 139 superannuitants, and of these old widows of officers and a great many other retired people who are in no position whatever to increase their pensions or their salaries. I think that the position is absolutely desperate, and, if I cannot find a way of impressing on the Treasury how strongly we all feel about these matters, I shall have to try to think of some means of letting the country know. I feel extremely strongly about this
In the Gracious Speech mention is made of the attitude towards the Pensions (Increase) Bill which is to be introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, and this is what it says:My Government will follow out their policy of advancing the social welfare of My People.Are not the railway superannuitants the Queen's people? Are not the elderly widows of Regular officers the Queen's people? May I ask my hon. Friend whether Her Majesty did not make a speech the other day saying that she felt sometimes that this country had not done all that it ought to have done for our soldiers? What does that mean? Does not this Government pay any attention to what Her Majesty says? That is what I want to ask my hon. Friend.
Are not these old widows and these railway superannuitants, the people who come within the ambit of the Pensions (Increase) Bill, the people for whom we have been campaigning for a very long time, as well as the unestablished civil servants, many of whom fought in the First World War—are not they the Queen's people? If not, who in the Government is taking to himself the right to differentiate between the Queen's people? Who is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or who, indeed, is the Prime Minister, to make that differentiation? I challenge them on this. It is quite a good thing that my hon. Friend has not to reply to this speech, but who are the Queen's people? We are all the Queen's people, and is not this a pledge on behalf of Her Majesty to promote the social well-being of all her people?
The Gracious Speech goes on to say:War pensions will be increased and authority will be sought for increases in retirement pensions and other benefits, and in contributions, under the National Insurance schemes.140 I am absolutely delighted that war pensions are to be increased but I want also to say a word about the education grants for the children of widows of officers and other ranks who were killed in the last war, because they are also the Queen's people. There are quite a lot of things about educational advancement in the Gracious Speech from the Throne.
Shortly before the war ended, a decision was taken, I think by the National Government of the day, to make an £80 education allowance to the widows of officers and other ranks, so that if those women wished to try to educate their children in the manner in which their fathers would perhaps have educated them, had they lived, then the Government would make a small contribution to help them. The figure was fixed before 1945 at £80 a year.
I am not suggesting that quite a lot has not been done for the children of widows, but the fact remains that once a woman loses her husband she also loses the chance of increasing the standard of life of her children as it might have increased had their father lived. The same comment applies to industry, commerce and any other walk of life. But we have all tried to see that those who bore the heat and burden of the day in the last war were given as far as possible all that this country could give them. I was therefore glad about the £80 education grant.
But of those in the community who suffered from anxiety, injury and even death in the First World War the only section which has had no increase in its allowance since the time the allowance was fixed is that containing the widows in receipt of education grant. It is still at a maximum of £80. It is true that the children of a widow, by their ability, can win scholarships and obtain State aid, but the fact remains that that tiny contribution towards children who lost their fathers in the war has never been increased.
I have had many letters from widows who do not want their children to be latch-key children but who feel that they must go out to work to try to keep their children on the same standard of life as that enjoyed by children whose fathers returned from the war or children of parents married more recently. It is an absolute scandal that that small grant 141 to very few people—for most of the children have by now grown up, although some are still receiving further education—has never been increased.
Various speakers in the debate today have raised these problems. Unfortunately no Treasury Minister has been sitting here until now. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to make this plea to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. All these details of life of the sections of the community of which I speak are handled by different Government Departments. Ministers never seem to be able to get together and to co-ordinate their policies. The Minister of Health's attitude on Part 3 accommodation, for instance, never seems to have been drawn to the attention of the Minister of Pensions.
I can look back at these matters over a long time. Sometimes there are some advantages in having lived a very long time, and sometimes there are great disadvantages. I well remember the Minister of Pensions, no longer in the House—I have not seen him for years—saying during the war, when we were arguing about these matters, that some Ministers were diffident about going to the Treasury. Of course, it is not only a question of a Minister not wanting to approach the Treasury for fear that it may not reflect credit on that Minister and may prevent him moving up the ladder; sometimes there are other priorities. One realises that when we are trying to save money and reduce taxation, and when we have pressure from farmers and railwaymen. I notice that if the railwaymen say that they are going to strike everyone starts to rush around. There would be a row of Ministers present today if we had been discussing railway wages. But when it comes to superannuitants who cannot fight for themselves and for whom there is no one to fight, nobody bothers about them.
I think that sometimes Ministers look down their lists of commitments. They know that they have to place their applications with the Treasury for money, and they say to themselves, "What pressure will be the least?" Inevitably to the bottom of the list go the railway super-annuitants, the widows of officers and other ranks, the widows' children and their education grants—all those who live on small fixed incomes.
142 I was glad that the senior civil servants got a share because we owe a great deal to our senior civil servants, but I see no reason why their claim should be met when many other established civil servants, many of whom fought in the war, cannot get their position improved. I cannot remember whether the new Minister of Aviation is in the Cabinet, but he was certainly Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I remember that when we were in opposition he moved a Motion supporting their claim. Perhaps he left his office too soon before he could implement his pledge.
I am a politician. I do not mind being a politician, but if I give a pledge I like that pledge to be honoured. In the paragraph in the Gracious Speech to which I referred, Her Majesty refers tothe social welfare of My PeopleI also want to remind my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary that the party pledge at the time of the General Election was that everybody would share in the prosperity of the country. "You've never had it so good" does not apply only to some sections of the community. When that statement was made in a general way, everyone was entitled to apply it to himself or herself. But there are many people who could not possibly apply it to themselves. The pledge was given that everyone would be enabled to share in the general prosperity of the country.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, who is a very able Parliamentarian and never misses a trick, will be claiming that the Government are keeping their pledge when he introduces his new National Insurance Bill and the increases in retirement pensions. Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful that I was called to speak today because I notice that my right hon. Friend will be introducing his Bill tomorrow, and if I had not been called today I would not have been able to say what I am saying.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on being quick off the mark. He will claim that the pledge given by the Conservative Party at the time of the General Election is being kept. Of course, it is being kept in part. I agree that there are masses of people whom it is very difficult to help, although I think we 143 could be of some assistance in enabling drugs to be supplied free to private patients and by abolishing Schedule A tax. Many things could be done, although, of course, we can never make life fair for everyone.
The point is that I cannot understand why the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was asked about the Pensions (Increase) Act, which was passed in 1959 before the General Election, said that he was not going to introduce another Measure. What about those deserving people? Were they not covered by the Government pledge at the time of the General Election? Of course they were, and I think that I am justified in resenting the fact that one section of the community is picked out. In the Gracious Speech nothing is said about the alteration in the housekeeper's allowance for wealthy widows while spinsters are left out. Are spinsters not entitled to their share, too, or is this to be granted only to widows?
I want to record by profound dissatisfaction with the fact that no Treasury Minister has today interpreted the Gracious Speech for us. I was very glad that Her Majesty herself made the point about soldiers to which I have referred, and I shall watch with great interest to see whether the Prime Minister pays attention to what his Monarch says.
The absence of a Minister today to interpret the Speech is unfair to those of us who represent a scattered section of the community who cannot stand up for themselves. This is why they are always placed at the bottom of the list and this is why today I have chosen to speak on this aspect of the Gracious Speech rather than on matters of international moment. I notice that there are a great many hon. Members who will speak on that subject.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I hope to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Thursday afternoon and I hope that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will show my right hon. Friend some of the more purple passages in my speech. I shall hand my right hon. Friend a list of items and ask him for an interpretation 144 of what the Government meant when they made Her Majesty refer in the Gracious Speech to "My People".
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
I am glad that one of my hon. Friends has emphasised in the debate that the Labour Party is not ashamed of the Scarborough debate even though there is a division of opinion in the party on defence. One thing which has clearly emerged from the defence debate at Scarborough and the radio and television presentation of it has been that it has revealed as never before to the British public the ability, courage and integrity of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and his utter fitness one day to be Prime Minister.
I want to follow the pleas made earlier today on behalf of the railway super-annuitants about whom some of us have been speaking from time to time over a number of years Their case is a simple and a just one. They paid into a superannuation fund when the railways were under private enterprise. The superannuation fund today cannot meet actuarially the increased cost of living by stepping up the pensions to bring them into line with modern values. No superannuation fund can do that, but civil servants, teachers, professors, local government officers and the police have their superannuation funds supported by the Government in such a way that under the Pensions (Increase) Acts the pensions are approximately what they would have been had they been determined in modern conditions. Those pensions even now need some adjustment.
Now that the railways belong to the nation, I believe that it is the nation's duty to treat these public servants as we treat all others. Thirty-two thousand railway superannuitants are excluded from the provisions of the Pensions (Increase) Acts. I again appeal to the Government, and particularly to the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and his Committee which did such valuable work in this field and gave rise to the latest Pensions (Increase) Act, to take the railway superannuitants under their wing and at long last deal justly by them.
I welcome the reference to war pensions. Later this month the limbless ex-Service men will be presenting to the 145 Government their own demands for an increase in war disability pensions and pensions for war widows. The All-Party Committee certainly hopes that the Government will yield to what, I believe, are the just demands of B.L.E.S.M.A.
I want to urge the need for greater help for widows, including the 10s. widow, the no-shilling widow, the old widow whose husband died before he qualified under the new National Insurance benefits for full benefit, and for those whose husbands die just before the widow is 50. I want to read to the House an extract from a letter which I had from a widow. She says:My husband passed away 13 weeks before I was 50. The Government assumes I have an extra ten years' vitality for those 13 weeks.She gets a pension of 10s. a week instead of £2 10s.—My husband and I were married 28 years. He served in the Ypres salient in the 1914–18 war and suffered many years from chest trouble. My stamp was 5s. 3d. when I became a widow. Now it is 7s. 7d. I only have 2s. 5d. left out of my 10s. I am classed like a young person twenty to thirty, able to start life again. I had a major operation last year so could not do any work if there was any available last year. I have just moved to Clevedon because I could not get a job in the town over 50, but although I have advertised and had my name at the labour exchange there seems little hope here until next summer.This widow is now 54. I have spoken before of the difficulty a middle-aged widow who has given the best years of her life to her husband, home and family has in getting a job in the face of keen competition.
I believe that the Minister did very fine work for the widowed mother and fatherless children, although they need more help, but he still has to right the wrong of failing to recognise adequately the tragedy of widowhood itself.
The Government have deliberately added to the cost of land, the cost of money, the cost of building houses, the cost of buying them, the cost of renting them and to the burden of rates. In our affluent society, landlords, rentiers and property owners benefit by this change. Trade unionists in strong unions offset these increased burdens by wage increases, but millions—and here I share in all the pleas which the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) has been making—who have fixed incomes bear the full impact of Tory rapacity in 146 the present free-for-all, with money as the nation's god.
These are not only the pensioners and superannuitants. Many workers engage in work in which they are unable to work overtime. Much of the increased income of many of the workers whose wages have not gone up comes either from overtime, or because the wife is working, or for both of those reasons. What really matters is the basic wage, and if the basic wage is low and there is no overtime the position of the ordinary fellow is hard.
I have a letter from a semi-skilled labourer in Government employment taking home a weekly wage packet of between £8 and £9, with no bonuses and no overtime. He is now facing the ultimatum of "buy or get out" in respect of the house which he has rented. It is decontrolled. The three years' agreement has ended. He writes:I am helpless simply because I cannot raise a mortgage as I do not earn £10 a week.He would need more than £10 a week if he could get a mortgage at all. What can he do?
In my local newspaper last Friday there were 112 houses for sale. That man is debarred from those. There were seven houses to let, one at 5 guineas—no children or pets stipulated—one at £4 5s., one at £5, two at 10 guineas, and one at 8 guineas. Of the four furnished houses advertised only three were in Southampton. What is that man and men like him to do faced with the impact of the Rent Act?
The grim irony of the present situation is that there are enough empty houses in Southampton at the present moment to meet the needs of the people there who are badly housed. Some of the houses have been empty ever since the Rent Act. Of two in my ward one has been empty for three years and one for two and a half years, the owners hanging on to get their full price, a price which the Government's policy has raised. Year by year the number of empty houses in this country increases as the death of tenants frees them from control.
I believe that no single Act this century has caused so much misery or done so little good as the Rent Act. All that we have managed to do so far is to 147 stagger the effects of the Act and to protect the saddest victims, those on National Assistance, from its effects. It is the group which is just out of National Assistance that bears the full impact at the present moment, and I regret very much that there is nothing in the Queen's speech about that.
I now want to call attention briefly to a crisis which lies ahead of us in primary education. We have a series of excellent Reports—Crowther, Albemarle, Anderson and Wolfenden—on other aspects of education. We need a similar major inquiry into primary education. The N.U.T. has paved the way here by its own excellent report. The superstructure that we seek to build depends basically on the work done in the primary schools. Yet primary education has been the Cinderella the whole of this century.
One grim fact overshadows the primary schools. The first bulge hit the infant schools a number of years ago. It is now passing through the secondary schools and causing us an employment problem as the first swollen generation comes out in 1962 from the secondary schools. But that bulge is followed, as some of us have warned the country for a long time, by a second bulge. In the peak year, 1957, there were 4.4 million children in our primary schools. In the peak year, 1969, there will again be 4.4 million children in our primary schools; in fact, there will be only 15,000 fewer than the record number in 1957.
Also, wastage in the teaching profession increases as more women marry early, have their children earlier and bring up their families; and some of them do not even come back to teaching after they have brought up their families. Most of the teachers in primary schools are women. Also in 1962 we shall be introducing the three-year teacher-training course for all teachers. Therefore, it is in the primary sector of education, which faces its new peak in the years just ahead, that the shortage of teachers will be most marked.
The Minister's rather panicky circular to training colleges tells them to train, for the next three years at any rate, 85 per cent. of their intake for primary schools and leave him to recruit graduates, often 148 untrained, from universities for secondary schools. In the short run, this is the only step the country can take, but we are stumbling in education from expedient to expedient as crisis follows crisis, and, if pursued beyond short-term policies, this particular expedient contains, I believe, grave implications.
The teaching profession cannot accept as a permanent policy that untrained graduates are qualified teachers for secondary children, or, indeed, at all. The training colleges cannot accept that their permanent function is to train only primary teachers and that the function of the university is to provide secondary teachers without training or even with training.
Education is integral. The universities and the training colleges must get nearer together and not drift further apart. Education itself cannot accept that there is really any basic difference in all that makes education between the necessary quality and training of a primary teacher and that of a secondary teacher. I believe that we have to do some hard thinking about education itself and about how far we are coping with the demands of this age. We have made considerable progress along the intellectual road, though much remains to be done there.
Last week's conference on mass media opened with a fine speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. It called attention to the grave moral, spiritual and cultural problems of this age, the dichotomy between the values we seek to establish in good homes, in the schools, in the churches, in all the worth-while social institutions, and those values that obtain in a cheap and shoddy culture outside, provided by society and taking their shape only by the profit motive which is so dear to the hearts of the benches opposite.
I hope that in this Session Parliament will do serious, thoughtful work in this. I hope it will support the demands of those—and I believe they include the Minister of Education and the Home Secretary—who believe and know that we can only match the technical, intellectual, economic, moral and spiritual demands of this age if we make a much greater investment on all educational fronts, if we have a positive attitude to delinquency and if we aim at preventing 149 it, removing its causes, refusing to blame youth for the sins of society into which we plunge them, very often half-educated, at the age of 15, rather than merely punishing delinquency when it occurs.
I regret that the Gracious Speech seems to show no appreciation either of the magnitude or of the urgency of the issues that have been mentioned so far in this debate.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)
The part of the Gracious Speech to which I had intended to refer was that which says:The improvement of relations between East and West remains a primary object of their policy.that is, the Government's policy. It was a sad commentary on the present state of the world when the Prime Minister, in his remarks today, said that peace, real peace, is a long way off. We must face this. He went on to say that negotiation was the only way.
All of us agree that it is by negotiation that we can hope to solve some of the pressing problems that confront us all. Rather than try and solve all of them at once we should proceed from now on to deal with one problem at a time and try to clear that up. What I wished to talk about this evening was the situation in Germany, which I consider to be one of the most serious problems 150 at present. I wanted to draw attention to the provisions of the Potsdam Agreement—a document which must be considered to be virtually dead or ineffective—and to ask whether we are to accept the present position of Germany today, divided as she is between East and West, one part with a population of 17 million, the other with 50 million.
I intended to refer to an article written by Field Marshal Montgomery in June or July last year, when he said that the possibility of German reunification must be put out of our minds for a very long time ahead. In conversations which I have had recently with American public figures, with French deputies, and with many of my constituents, I find that many people feel that the reunification of Germany is not the most important factor that confronts us all.
It might, therefore, be necessary to recognise the two halves of Germany as they exist today, and get on as best we can with both of them and with both their Governments, even though the Gov, ernment of Eastern Germany may not be to the liking of every one of us. But to debar 17 million people living in Eastern Germany from normal contacts with their fellow citizens in other parts of the world is to me most unsatisfactory.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.