§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, the country would be better governed and happier and more injustices and inequalities eliminated if there was greater co-ordination in Government Departments internally, and between Government Departments externally on both policy and administration.One of my hon. Friends said to me the other day that if I did not always present myself as a rebel, perhaps the House would listen to me more readily. I do not see myself as a rebel at all. I am a Northerner, I call a spade a spade, and when I see an inequality or an injustice, following the tradition of my part of the country I seek to put it right. I do not consider that that is being a rebel.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, I would add that I feel that the many inequalities and injustices which still fall to be dealt with are more likely to be remedied if we have a Conservative Government, because for the remedying of many of these injustices a sound national economy is imperative.
I think that the country is very lucky to have a Prime Minister such as the one we have. Indeed, I think that the world is very lucky that we have such a Prime Minister, because I believe that there is no substitute for experience, and the Prime Minister has much experience upon which the world is very fortunate to be able to draw.
I assure my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite that my speech is not likely to be an intellectual one. I intend to go into a great deal of detail, because I believe that if one gets one's detail right in government, that affects the whole of government. Also, there are very few opportunities when back benchers can deal with some of the detail which I feel it is very important to put right.
Before I start talking in a broader sense, I should like to make a comment about one or two Ministers. First, I want to say a word about the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Although I do not necessarily find myself always in agreement with his views, my mind runs back to when he was Financial Secretary 32 to the Treasury. He was one of the first Financial Secretaries to pay any attention to the problem of those on small fixed incomes, for which I was always very grateful.
The second Minister to whom I wish to refer is the Minister of Defence, because he was the only Minister of Transport who gave any help at all over the problem of the railway superannuitants.
Finally, I want to say a word about the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because, obviously, he has to figure rather large in what I shall have to say this afternoon about co-ordination. I seem always to have got on very well indeed personally with all Chancellors of the Exchequer, but I never seemed to be able to get any further with them. When I visit the present Chancellor, taking with me letters from people complaining about the depreciation of their War Loan, increasing rates, or the lack of an increase in pensions, he is always very much affected as a human being.
Then my right hon. and learned Friend leaves his room behind your Chair, Mr. Speaker, and goes to the Treasury, and there he seems to be entirely swamped, perhaps not unnaturally so, by the economic problems of the day. I never hear anything more about the sympathy that he has expressed concerning the problems to which I have directed his attention.
Since my comments will be fairly critical, I felt that I should say that I am not unaware of the services of many Ministers. I only wish that I could catch them more often in a humane rather than a Parliamentary frame of mind. If I could do that we might make better progress.
First, I want to draw the attention of the House to the problems of co-ordination between the Ministers of Education and Transport, in certain aspects of education. Councillor Mrs. Bowden, of the Whitley Bay Borough Council in my constituency, has directed my attention to the problem affecting one of our big new technical grammar schools. Nearby, there is to be a new modern school. When the school is completed, the total number of children going to the two schools will be about 1,600. Unfortunately, access to the school is over a narrow hump-back bridge, which has 33 been a source of danger to pedestrians, including school children, for many years.
In the interests of the safety of children it is not right that the Minister of Education should authorise the buildings of schools unless he is satisfied that there is safe and satisfactory access to those schools, by road or bridge, whichever it may be. It is deplorable that it does not seem to be possible for the Ministers of Education and Transport to devise a co-ordinated plan to overcome the problem.
Access to these schools is subject to the control of the Northumberland County Council. That county council at first stated that the Minister of Transport had not allowed sufficient money to enable it to provide a good access. The local authority immediately protested to the Minister in vigorous terms, and I also protested in vigorous terms both to him and to the Minister of Education. I told the Minister of Education that unless something was done I should feel obliged to protest against the continuance of the building of this new school.
I am glad to say that the Northumberland County Council has stated that it has reconsidered its priorities and is intending to fix on to the hump-bridge a footbridge for the children. At the same time, the Minister of Education has told me that the headmaster of the new school will see that all the child cyclists attending school pass their driving tests.
My observation on that is that we can have the best child cyclists in the world and the most careful motorists, but if it is not possible to see over a small hump-back bridge real danger exists. I cannot see that a footbridge, put on to an unsatisfactory hump-back bridge, can possibly provide a proper safeguard for the children. The footbridge wild not be able to carry a great number of Children in safety at any one time, and how can anybody be sure that the children will keep to the footbridge? My right hon. Friends should get together on this matter, because it is concerned with children's lives. It would be most unsatisfactory if the Minister of Transport—if he is the correct authority—were not able to find the money to ensure the safety of children.
34 I have had letters from both Ministers, each saying that the other is responsible, or that the Northumberland County Council is responsible for finance, but it is quite impossible for a back bench Member to discover exactly where the responsibility lies, or how the money is allocated. It is not right to build this vast new school without providing proper access for the Children.
There is undeveloped land which would provide another access to the school, but the Minister of Transport has told me that it is proposed to put a footbridge over the railway, and not to construct a footpath. My mind is directed to an old poem that I heard in my youth:How oft I heard of Lucy GrayAnd how she crossed the wild.I do not consider the provision of a footbridge over a railway, in an area which is not built-up, and where there is no lighting, to be a satisfactory and safe way of ensuring that the children from the grammar school will be able to reach the areas in which they live, should they desire to walk home.
I am not satisfied that either the Minister of Education or the Minister of Transport has looked into the matter from the aspect of the safety of children and the removal of anxiety of parents. I am not prepared to accept that whatever access is provided should be provided as economically as possible. In present circumstances it is not right to economise at the expense of the safety of children.
I get very annoyed when I hear the Minister of Transport talking as he does about safety on the roads—however correct 'he may be—and encouraging motorists and pedestrians to take greater care, because it is clear that the Ministries concerned do not follow out his directions. I hope that as a result of what I am saying some action will be taken.
I want to say a few words about statistics. It is very interesting to examine them. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education on his announcement that he will examine the various facilities of all the schools in the country. That is a very wise thing to do. A few years ago I asked him whether he was aware of the number of schools that had earth closets.
35 The other day I asked him if he knew how many new schools—in respect of which a considerable amount of plate glass has been used—have blinds. He replied that the information was not available. Medical opinion on the need for sunblinds in schools where there is a lot of plate glass does not seem to be clearly defined, but a number of people believe that it is not right that children should be taught in classrooms where the sun pours in unless sunblinds are provided.
I wish to point out to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that this matter affects expenditure on the National Health Service and that it is important that we should know what is the position. If it is decided that sunblinds must be provided, the Minister of Education should take steps to ensure that they are provided. The same applies to the replacement of earth closets.
I do not always agree with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I felt that they had a good argument over the curtailment of the minor repairs programme. I should like to know how the Minister of Education can ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for money for a programme if he does not know the condition of all the schools in the country. Without that information, how do we know that a fair share of the money received from the Treasury is being spent in every part of the country? I was horrified to discover that in 1962, it was necessary to look for statistics regarding matters which, as a practical individual, I consider it is essential to know and which should have been ascertained, say, immediately the war was over.
The same applies to housing. When my right hon. Friend the Minister for Commonwealth Relations was Minister of Housing and Local Government, I was concerned to know whether there were a sufficient number of houses being built for elderly people. I know that the situation has now changed, and I am glad of that, but, at the time, I asked a number of Questions and made myself as objectionable as I generally am; and my right hon. Friend told me that my bullying had resulted in his making an inquiry about how many one-bedroom 36 houses there were in the country. He had been horrified to find that the housing programmes of local authorities had become unbalanced regarding the different types of houses.
I have never known the Treasury to react so quickly. Almost in a twinkling of an eye my right hon. Friend was able to increase the subsidy in respect of one-bedroom houses. This achievement was flattering for me. But when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was Minister of Housing, he rightly emphasised that 300,000 houses a year were built at that time. I wonder why no official figures were obtained then showing the balance of the various types of houses, including one-bedroom houses for old people.
The other day, I asked the Minister of Health whether he could give me some information about physiotherapists. I asked where were the schools for training them, and what happened to the students from those schools. I consider this information to be vitally important from an economic and practical point of view if we are to run a reasonably good and competent Health Service. I was staggered to be told that the facts were not available. I had two Questions on the Order Paper today to the Minister of Health, and I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend is trying to get up-to-date figures about the nursing profession and other aspects of the Health Service.
It is extraordinary that we should have gone on as a Government year after year without knowing these facts, which seems to me absolutely essential in order that a first-class hospital service may be provided under practical and economic conditions. I do not think that the Government, or, indeed, the previous Labour Government have ever sought to acquire the kind of details which I think it absolutely essential for a first-class Administration to know.
Before dealing with another part of this important subject of co-ordination, I wish to make one other point in relation to further education. The Northumberland County Council has provided a further education college at Whitley Bay which has been an enormous success. To that, I pay tribute. There is a first-class principal and staff and the project has aroused tremendous 37 interest. The committee responsible for the administration of the college asked for a small hall to be provided which would be used for physical recreation, for drama and for the provision of the necessary canteen and other facilities. When I went to the opening day earlier this year I was amazed to find that a lovely hall had been provided.
Please do not think that I was not delighted to see something so good from an artistic point of view. But I am told that we cannot get the money to provide further classrooms, so I wondered whether it was absolutely necessary to have all this quantity of plate glass and mahogany and for there to be such magnificent curtains as had been provided for this hall.
The chairman remarked that the college had asked for what it thought would be a hut, but it had turned out to be a palace. The alderman representing Whitley Bay commented that as everybody was so pleased with the hall he hoped that there would be no complaint when the county council levied its new education rate.
I took up the matter with my right hon. Friend. I am glad that the hall is now built, because everyone will enjoy using it, but I think it a little hard that such a magnificent hall should have been provided when we cannot find money for the additional classrooms which would have made the college even more valuable than it is. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education replied that, of course, it was nothing to do with him, because the money came out of the Northumberland County Council's minor works programme. I noticed that the minor works programme of the Ministry of Education can be cut, but there are a great many children in my part of the country who are in very old schools and who have not the use of the lovely, up-to-date facilities which the new schools provide. It is very hard on these children.
I can quite see that the reduction of the minor works programme for schools is an easy matter for my right hon. Friend to handle, but I do not think that it is a very satisfactory method, because the whole idea is to try to give a similar type of education to all children. Some children are bound to be more lucky in going to new schools, but I do not think 38 it is fair to cut the minor works programme when, suddenly, the Northumberland County Council is able to find the money for this exquisite hall which I have described.
I should have thought that from the point of view of the ratepayers, who are trying to believe that the economic situation of the country is not difficult, this kind of situation should not be allowed to develop. There is very real reason why the Minister of Education should consider this whole matter again, to see that all parts of the country are equally well served. I hope that we shall have some results from the survey which he is making with a view to bringing his statistics up to date.
I want to turn from that subject to the burden of the rates. I was very disappointed, after my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) moved his Motion in March of this year on the problem of increasing rates, with the speech made in reply by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It was so full of detail of one kind and another—I am sure of very great interest to very many people—that, by the time he had come to the end of what he had to say, he did not tell us anything, except that we should have to wait, about what was to happen to try to reduce the rates burden on those people who are finding it almost impossible to meet the increased demands which are being made upon them.
I want to say here and now that I do not believe that the Government's policy of trying to shuffle off this responsibility from the centre to the ratepayers is consistent with Tory policy. I always understood that Tory policy meant that one paid according to one's means. This is very annoying, I have no doubt, for Income Tax payers and Surtax payers, but it has always been the basis of our policy. I did not agree with the Local Government Act, and I do not like block grants, because I think that that system places a very unfair burden on those living on small fixed incomes.
I was, therefore, very glad that I did not support the Measure as it went through the House, but I now find that this is being carried out as Government policy. I hope that I shall have an opportunity, after seven o'clock this 39 evening, of directing my fire against my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health when we are considering the Health Visitors and Social Workers Training Bill, in the matter of expenditure that will be placed upon the local authorities and, therefore, on the local ratepayers. By the same argument, I do not consider it to be consistent with Tory policy. I should like to see that policy reversed.
I always have believed in the principle of the payment of taxation according to one's means, and I think it is most unfair that no decision has yet been taken on what can be done to relieve those who are finding it quite impossible to meet their increased rate demands. It is not only a case of meeting the increased rate demands, but, as we see today, the prices of gas, coal and electricity have gone up again. People living on small fixed incomes, as well as young couples just beginning their married lives, are finding this situation quite impossible. There is very real anxiety throughout the country among these people on how they are to meet their demands.
I was dismayed to find out that the Government are continuing the process of pushing expenditure from the centre on to the local authorities. I can very well see that, at the end of the day, when the Estimates are considered between the responsible Departmental Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will receive a pat on the back. My right hon. Friend is a most interested Minister, and a great many people in the country are delighted to have him as Minister of Health for that very reason. He is a financial purist. I can see him, at the end of the day, going to the Chancellor and saying, "This is what I have been able to achieve throughout the year. I have not exceeded the Estimate." The Chancellor of the Exchequer will pat my right hon. Friend on the shoulder and tell him what a good boy he has been, but that is no good to me.
If the expenditure which has been undertaken by my right hon. Friend in his legislation is to be handed over to the local authorities, one of two results may flow from that. Either the local authorities may not implement the Measure which has just been placed upon the Statute Book, or, if they do 40 implement it, they may increase the rates to the detriment of those people living on small fixed incomes. To me, this does not make sense. Although I know how difficult it is for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the money necessary for the expansion of the social services, I do not think that it is either creditable or courageous merely to transfer that expenditure from the centre to the local authorities at the expense of those living on small fixed incomes.
I read with very great interest and followed up in detail the explanation given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in reply to my hon. Friend's Motion. I did not find very much in it, except that he said that we had to wait until something happened. The people who are in extremis today, except the young married couples, cannot wait indefinitely. Those of us who have "surgeries" week after week know all about the heart-rending stories and anxieties brought to us, and yet we can offer these people no help at all, which is very regrettable.
I want to put some questions to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I think that it is absolutely superb to have him to reply to this debate, because, as Chairman of the Conservative Party, he will know what I, as a Conservative Member of Parliament, expect from him. My right hon. Friend has two advantages, in which he is very lucky. He can influence the Cabinet and so put forward Conservative Party policy.
When are we to hear that teachers' salaries are to be borne by the Exchequer and not as a proportion of the rates? I have come here to say emphatically that I do not think that this is fair on the teachers. Good local authorities such as my Borough of Tyne-mouth have regard for their teachers, but other authorities may not be so good. I do not think it fair on the Burnham Committee for local authorities to have to consider teachers' salaries when they know that that will increase the rate burden on local authorities.
If my right hon. Friend is really interested in seeing that we have the best men and women in the teaching profession, here is a wonderful opportunity to make their payment dependent 41 on the Treasury and not on local authorities. That would help local authorities enormously in facing their difficulties.
I noticed that in the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary he never even suggested that there should be an inquiry on these lines. I cannot understand why my Government are so opposed to every kind of inquiry for which we ask. This would be a very good subject for inquiry. The inquiry demanded, quite rightly, by nurses for their revaluation is absolutely essential. I cannot understand why my right hon. Friend should have been so foolish as not to accept that. We ought also to have the inquiry which was asked for in relation to professions supplementary to medicine.
I have a great admiration for the Minister of Defence, although he will come under my fire in a few moments. He has managed to deal very satisfactorily with the Services. I know what the position would be, he being such a strong Minister and not such a financial purist as the Minister of Health. I do not know where the Leader of the House stands in this, but I can see that the Minister of Defence would go to the Cabinet and the Government would have to pay. Service widows' pensions and retired pay would be at the bottom of the list, but he did achieve something from the Treasury. Service pay has gone up quite out of proportion to the incomes policy of the Government. I am very glad about that.
My right hon. Friend was able to do that and he did something more. He was able to get the position readjusted for doctors and dentists. I also have no doubt that he would have got the position readjusted for nurses—at least I hope that would be the case—but the Minister of Health, in the position he holds, would not, I suppose, go to the Cabinet and argue either for the nurses or for the professions supplementary to medicine.
That is why I want to say this to my right hon. Friend. He is the Chairman of the Conservative Party as well as being Leader of the House. As we turn over the Order Paper we find dozens of back bench Motions on it. Some are all-party Motions and some are 42 party Motions, and we find democracy asserting itself on these lines. I do not see any sign at the moment of the Executive accepting the democratic appeal. I am delighted to find that the Conservative Party conference which is to be held shortly is to consider two motions on the question of rates. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will reply to these motions, which I shall read to the House.
This will be coming before the party on 23rd May, so my right hon. Friend must be very careful what he says in answer to me today, because on that occasion I shall be sitting on the platform. I shall be looking at the back of his head, as I am doing this afternoon. The first motion, on taxation and rating, says:That this Conference, viewing with concern the continual increase in local rents which bear heavily on those with small incomes, believes that money raised by taxation according to income causes less hardship and therefore urges H.M. Government to increase the total general grants to local authorities.Another motion, which is starred for discussion and is not quite so difficult to answer—we have one which is less difficult and another which is more difficult—says:That this Conference views with great concern the continual increase in Rates and, while it appreciates the heavy burden thrown on Local Authorities to keep a high standard of services, it asks the Government seriously to consider the present rating system with a view to releasing the unfortunate householder of the whole responsibility of payment and to spread the load evenly on all citizens of 21 years of age and over who, after all, receive an equal share of our Public Services.Of course, that is very much easier to answer. The Leader of the House, or the Minister of Housing and Local Government, will be able to point out the inaccuracies in that motion. I know exactly why that particular motion has been chosen. That does not affect the question I am posing, that the people whom I try to represent, because they have not got big unions to speak for them, are being crushed under this heavy burden. Tory policy has never believed in making people pay when they have not the means to pay. I hope my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be able to deal with this problem and will let me know today what the Government have in mind.
43 I turn from that to discuss the question of Service pensions. Before doing so, however, I want to put on record the fact that some distinguished bodies also feel that something should be done about the question I have been discussing. They ask for an inquiry, but I do not think that an inquiry is necessary in this case. I want to see a reversal of rating policy. There are some very important people interested in this matter, such as the Association of Municipal Corporations, of which I have the honour to be a vice-president, the National Union of Ratepayers, and the Royal Institute of Public Administration. The Parliamentary Secretary, when replying to the debate to which I have referred, gave such a brilliant exposition that no one noticed that he had not actually answered the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich for an inquiry.
I have never had any experience of local government, so I may make many mistakes in what I say about it. I cannot argue with the same facility as I could if I had served on a local authority, but I know that we cannot go on as we are doing. It is not fair to those who are not able to pay Income Tax, let alone Surtax. It is not fair to those outside the taxpaying classes to expect them to pay more and more for everything. It is no good having a cost-of-living index in relation to those people. That is all right for people who are reasonably affluent, but it does not meet the case of those living on small fixed incomes nor of young married couples. They are in a powerless position. I cannot argue their case more emphatically than I am trying to do this afternoon. I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell us what the Government have in mind.
I turn to the question of Service pensioners, and particularly the widows of Regular Service officers, public service pensioners, nurses, retired teachers, retired civil servants and the whole galaxy of people who made our survival possible in two world wars, and who have no one to speak for them except a few Members in the House of Commons and occasionally a Motion on the Order Paper.
I cannot understand what the Government are doing to let these people fall 44 so far behind the rest of the country. I have had letters from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, the Minister of Defence and the Service Ministers, in which they say, ad nauseam, that the best way to serve the interests of those living on small fixed incomes is to stabilise the economy. Of course it is, but is not that for everybody's benefit?
The economy would be stabilised at a much higher cost of living than in 1945. People who have been able to buy themselves out of inflation will have a stabilised economy as well as the advantage of having bought themselves out of inflation. Those to whom I refer will have the stabilisation of the economy, which I agree is very important to them, but they have not been able to buy themselves out of inflation. Their position is parlous.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend knows it, but the widows of these Regular officers and other ranks are dying at the rate of 107 a month. What is the good of suggesting to them, with all their anxieties and with all the service which their husbands gave to the country, that the best way is to drift on with an incomes policy? I am thoroughly ashamed of our actions in this matter, and I want to explain what has been done about some of the other widows, because that is very much to the point.
Widows and widowers who keep resident housekeepers—and one must have a good income these days for that—get a special allowance of £75 a year. Bachelors and spinsters do not. No one quite knows how these relatively well off widows and widowers got this allowance, and every time the subject has been raised in the House we have been told that it is anomalous. The Royal Commission which considered taxation said that it was an anomaly and that we ought to deal with it. Why should these widows and widowers get £75 a year, which would be heaven-sent to the widows of Regular officers and other ranks? Why should one section of the community manage, for some reason or another, to get this provided for in the Finance Bill? Why should we be able to find money for them when we cannot find it for those who are Government servants? I do not understand.
45 I asked my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he could not extend those allowances over a wider field. I suggested that it would be better to follow the recommendations of the Royal Commission, to remove this allowance and to give the money to other people if we are so hard up that we cannot otherwise find it for them. I should also prefer the money to go to wives who permanently support disabled husbands—not only husbands disabled in the Services, but those disabled in industry. We could make better use of this money. When I asked by hon. Friend the Financial Secretary how much we were giving in allowances to these affluent widows and widowers, he said that he did not know. I did not believe him and I was surprised to be told that.
We have allowed those retiring from the Colonial Service to fall below the national retirement pension level. We keep pointing to what we have done for the national retirement pensioners, but no one ever points out that their position had been materially altered by increases in the price of gas, electricity and coal. The other day the Chairman of the National Coal Board, Lord Robens, made a speech at Birmingham about using modern appliances to make the use of coal more economical. I am sure that that was a right and proper thing for him to do, but how does he think people living on small fixed incomes can do that? I should like to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer sitting in a room with a gas fire and putting 6d. into the meter every now and then. He would see how long he had a warm room. He would be surprised how short a time the 6d. lasts. I am frightened about the future position of the elderly, and I wonder whether my right hon. and learned Friend has made an inquiry into it.
But I do not want to leave the question of Colonial Service and other Service pensioners. I feel that the Government have behaved disgracefully in this matter, and I think that the House feels so, too, because there is a very well-supported Motion on the Order Paper. Yet the Executive takes no notice whatever. I do not believe that the fault lies with the Secretary of State for the Colonies or the Minister of Defence. I am convinced that when these Ministers 46 go to the Treasury to argue their case, they have these people at the bottom of their priority lists, and that all Ministers become so tired by the time they have argued the top priorities, which are essential, that they pack up their papers and these people at the bottom are forgotten.
I remember that during the war a Minister, who shall be nameless, said to me, "Irene, it does not do a Minister any good to go too often to the Chancellor of the Exchequer". I do not think that the present Chancellor would react in that way.
In dealing with the Colonial Service pensioners, I believe that the Treasury is frightened of the action which might follow in the independent countries. But I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he is entitled to make these people live at such a low level that they do not know how to meet their commitments simply because he is frightened about something else. I do not call that fair or just. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will take some action about this. I admit that his letters to me have not given me great cause for pleasure, but he can have a change of heart. We should remember that it was an election pledge to help these people. The Prime Minister made it plain that everybody would share in the general prosperity of the country, but these people have been left out.
I want to know when we shall keep that election pledge. I should hate to say what I can think up next, but I shall have to think up something unless that election pledge is kept, because I do not believe in giving pledges which we do not keep. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not only look up our manifesto and read the Press cuttings of the Prime Minister's speech, but will also draw the Prime Minister's attention to his speech and see that it is implemented.
I come to my final subject. I am sure that the House will be glad to hear that. I want now to discuss the question of "Neddy". I cannot understand who invented the name "Neddy". It is a most significant name. I do not think that it is a very good thing. However, I will say this; I promised to say it slowly and three times, but perhaps I will not do that. I do not think that 47 it is a good thing to hand over our incomes policy and a discussion of expansion only to employers, some outstanding economists, and trade unionists on "Neddy".
I have taken part in many conversations—at least, I have listened to many conversations—between employers and trade unionists. I know exactly how these conversations will go. None of the general services—the professional side, the nurses, the doctors—is represented on "Neddy". These services are equally important in expansion. It may be that they do not produce in the way that one might expect within the framework of "Neddy", but they are equally important to the general productivity and expansion of industry. It is most regrettable that all of us should be handed over to employers, trade unionists and one or two economists. There is not a single representative of consumer interests on "Neddy". I do not think that this is right.
I want to read a letter which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor has sent to me, because it is interesting. I have raised this subject before. Of course I have raised it. I have gone on raising it ad nauseam. This is what my right hon. and learned Friend says:To stabilise costs and prices and secure a firm foundation for a faster rate of economic growth, it was essential to break into the wage price spiral. This we attempted to do by means of the pay pause. To be effective it was necessary to take this step quickly but because of its very suddenness it was bound to have some arbitrary effects; and we were of course bound to observe our policy scrupulously in respect of our own employees, if it was to be taken seriously by private employers.I suppose that the Chancellor does not accept the Services as Government employees. This reminds me that they are in the service of the Crown, which makes it all the more peculiar that we have not allowed the Monarch to have her way in dealing with pensions of widows of retired officers and other ranks.
My right hon. and learned Friend continues:But I am very conscious of the difficulties of securing our national aim of keeping overall increases in money incomes within the long term trend of national production, without creating unacceptable anomalies and feelings of unfairness, and I am giving a good deal of thought to this problem at present.48 It is absolutely marvellous for the Chancellor to say that he is giving a good deal of thought to this, but I should have felt better if he had given some thought to it before we embarked on it. I should like to know in what direction we are going. I should like to have proper planning. I do not like to think of the Chancellor sitting in isolation, though I have no doubt that he has some of his great Treasury officials sitting in chairs beside him. I do not like to think of him sitting in isolation giving thought to the fact when he should have thought it out before he embarked on it.
I should like to know from the Government how long they think we can go on treating our own employees badly in order to give a lead to other people. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health had allowed the nurses to have their inquiry, we might be able to treat them fairly in the end. I hope that he will allow them to have their inquiry, because he, also, can always change his mind. If we could have the inquiry which is demanded by the professions supplementary to medicine, we might in the long run be able to treat them fairly. We cannot go on in this way ad infinitum while the Chancellor sits thinking.
The same applies to university staffs. We cannot go on expecting those who teach in our universities to carry on with their wonderful work although they feel that they are being penalised. These people are very important in our national economy. They are just as important in our national economy as one or two of the employers sitting on "Neddy". As we have to advise on our technical education, as we have to advise on our scientific research, as we have to advise on expansion in the inventive genius which is part of our British heritage, so we have to have our university people at tap level. We cannot have them feeling that they are being crippled while the Chancellor sits tucked up in a little room thinking out what is to happen in the future.
I am horrified that my night hon. and learned Friend did not think it out before he acted. It is true that he said he had to act quickly. I am profoundly grateful that the pay pause has had such an advantageous result. I do not complain about that. I can defend that. 49 I am glad to defend it. What I cannot defend is that we do not know where we are going. As I said before, that ridiculous little White Paper on incomes might have been written by a child.
I want to read to the House a small paragraph from the Daily Telegraph, which I suppose my right hon. and learned Friend would agree is a most respectable paper for the Tory Party. It is an article headed, "Which way to an expanding economy?" That is what we do not know. We have been told that that is what we are aiming at, but nobody has yet told us how we are to achieve it. I have not got all that much faith in "Neddy". I wish that consumers were represented on "Neddy", because I know that when all these big birds get together no one ever says, "When are you going to get prices down?" They are either protecting their wages or their profits. There should be a few people on "Neddy" who have no interest in either profits or wages. There should be somebody on "Neddy" to speak for the consumers. That is where the weakness really is.
The article, written by Mr. Maurice Green, says:Has Mr. Selwyn Lloyd got a 'policy for growth'? Yesterday's debate on the Finance Bill shed no further light on it, as Mr. Brooke said only that the Chancellor was encouraged by the growing evidence of the effects of his economic policy. The Opposition maintained its view that he has no policy for growth, but only one for retrenchment.The vast majority of the public feel that, if he has one, they certainly do not know what it is. And that is true not only of the man in the street but often also of the man in the T.U.C., the F.B.I, or the business boardroom.If I had been Mr. Maurice Green I would have added, "or among the consuming public". I am sick of boardrooms. I am sick of arguments between boardroom directors and trade unionists and there being no opportunity for the consumer, who has to pay all these high prices, to be heard. And we still do not know where we are going.
I also want to know something about nurses' pay. According to all the Sunday newspapers, the Government are about to make a decision on that subject, and the idea is that there should be arbitration. Whether or not the nurses can be persuaded to go to arbitration I do not know, but can my right hon. Friend say 50 whether, if they do go to arbitration, it will be a genuine arbitration? I know of the devastating effect that the 2½ per cent. offer made by the management side of the Whitley Council had on the nursing profession, but it now seems that we have another chance.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health does not pay attention to warnings from anyone. He is always so certain that he is right, and in this world it is impossible for anyone to be completely right. I hope that he will heed this one. If the proposed arbitration is not to be a genuine arbitration, I beg my right hon. Friend not to countenance it. I would far rather we had the proper inquiry for which the nurses have asked than that we should play about with an arbitration in which someone will argue for the Government either that the money is not available, or that to grant it would be against Government policy.
As the Chancellor has said, we cannot go on holding down our own employees for ever. We must have unity in this country. The people must work for the country and for the Government of the day, of whatever political persuasion, feeling that they are being fairly treated, and it is difficult for them to feel that unless the Government explains to them in what direction we are going.
Although I do not know what sort of expansion "Neddy" will advocate, I am quite willing to give it a chance, but I hope that when my right hon. Friend answers he will give us a great deal more detail, and tell us how he thinks the consumers can help. On the whole, the consumers are very loyal supporters of the country. We want to do the right thing, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell us in what direction we are going and how we are to deal with our own employees so that they do not feel unjustly treated—I should hate that.
I hope that he will also tell us what part the consumers can play in helping our economy to become stable and flexible, and continue to provide an expanding standard of life. My right hon. Friend will not, of course, have forgotten that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary promised that we would double our standard of life in twenty-five years. I do not want the standard of life to be bettered for 51 a few people only; I want it to be improved throughout the country, so that everyone gets the fair deal that I do not think that they are getting at present.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I know that the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) will forgive me if I do not follow in detail what she has said to us, but I hope that she will allow me to thank her for having chosen this subject, about which I want to speak, albeit on a somewhat narrower aspect than she chose.
My interest is in the need for co-ordination and co-operation between Government Departments in order to foster and improve the health and safety of our workers at their work. I propose to divide my speech into three parts. In the first part, I shall point out why there is that need. Secondly, I shall show how co-operation and co-ordination are beginning to show very good results. Thirdly, I shall ask the Leader of the House to assist me in making a request to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, although I shall not say what that request is until I come to it.
Had I handpicked anyone to answer me today, I could not have found anybody better than the Leader of the House. I shall be speaking about health and about safety at work, and the right hon. Gentleman, in previous Parliamentary incarnations, has had very considerable experience as a Minister of Labour and a Minister of Health. I am very fortunate.
On 21st December last, I spoke briefly in an Adjournment debate initiated by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) on the subject of accidents at work. I sought then to show that we were not getting the true facts; that the 190,000 accidents annually reported by the Chief Inspector of Factories could not be the true figure; and that I suspected that accident notification was not taking place in the smaller factories.
I was able to show, at least to my own satisfaction, that the Minister who knew the total number of accidents was the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, because he received claims for 52 every accident resulting in incapacity for three days or more, and paid out on them. I said that it was obvious to me that that Minister did not so analyse his figures as to let us know whether the accidents happened in the factory, the workshop, the street, or elsewhere, and I asked that something should be done about that position. I myself estimated that the total number of accidents each year was normally not 190,000, but about 250,000.
The second part of my speech refers to my attempts to get the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to play some part in research. Answering a Question that I put to him on 13th November, 1961, he told me that he was using the powers afforded him under Section 73 of the Industrial Injuries Act to finance, at that time, two research projects relating to diseases which might have some bearing on prescriptions—on the prescribing of diseases. In answer to a supplementary question, he told me that he was not conducting any research into the causes and incidence of accidents, or methods of preventing them, and made it clear that he felt that that responsibility lay with the Minister of Labour and, in respect of particular industries, with the Ministers concerned with them.
The Leader of the House will remember better than I that the Factories Act, 1959, which he piloted through the House and through its most interesting Committee stage, gives power to the inspectorate to undertake scientific, technical, statistical and other works of investigation. I would, therefore, ask this question: has anything been done since 1959? It would be interesting to hear some news about this. I know the work that was done on the Halifax and Potteries surveys, but has anything been done technically in the way here described?
I appreciate that in research—and I remember speaking in Committee on the 1959 Bill—we do not want to set up another research organisation just for the sake of doing so. If the Leader of the House can tell us how the problems are farmed out to the research organisations that can handle them and can say that there is some co-ordinating hand that plucks and brings back all the details so that action can be taken, I shall be comparatively content. Am I 53 right in suggesting that, at present, there is no overall policy for safety and health research, other than in the mines? If so, it makes true my plea that there is need for better co-ordination between Government Departments.
I recall three questions I asked to see whether the action being taken is adequate and whether the Departments are becoming interested in co-ordinating their work. For example, on 4th December, 1961, I asked… whether he will take steps to ascertain the number of statutorily reportable cases of injury following accidents at work, which are not reported owing to the negligence of the employer.The Minister replied:I am considering means by which I could obtain more reliable information than is now available to me about the extent to which accidents are not reported.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1961; Vol. 650, c. 114.]It is apparent, therefore, that action is being taken to find out the facts.
On the following 18th April I was told by the Parliamentary Secretary that a survey was being undertaken with a view to obtaining information as to the co-operation between the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance and the Minister of Labour in order to ascertain the true number of persons subject to the Factories Act who claimed benefit for industrial injuries. He clearly said that that was to be done and that the survey was being undertaken. That, again, is the type of action for which I have been pleading. As in medicine, unless all the facts are available we cannot even attempt a diagnosis. A problem cannot be solved until we know from what and how we are suffering.
The third question I asked concerned co-operation between the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education so that there should be fostered the principles of safety and accident prevention by having them taught in schools and technical colleges. I asked to what extent this was being carried out. I received what I thought was a satisfactory answer. I was told that the Minister of Labour… keeps closely in touch with his right hon. Friend the Minister of education who is constantly emphasising to local education authorities and principals of technical colleges the importance of inculcating safety principles in schools and colleges. H.M. Inspectors of Schools advise the head of schools and colleges who are encouraged to develop a close liaison with H.M. Inspectors of Factories. Their 54 advice and assistance on matters of safety are increasingly being sought."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 18th April, 1962; Vol. 658, c. 67.]This, I thought, is the way in which I want this type of co-ordination to move. I remember discovering some years ago—I think that it was before the present Leader of the House was Minister of Labour—that soluble lead glazes were being used in schools throughout the country so that our school population was open to lead poisoning. Although it was forbidden to use this in the factory it was not forbidden to use it in the school. When the attention of the Minister of Education was brought to this problem, and when he was urged to get in touch with the Minister of Labour and the Factory Inspectorate, a regulation was sent out within six weeks—if it was not a regulation then it was certainly advice which was sent to every local education authority—forbidding the use of lead glazes and also of powdered flint where-ever possible. If action can be taken as quickly as that when knowledge is available, it is all the more important to plead that the special knowledge that is available in one Government Department must be made available to other Departments interested in the problem.
That brings me to the last part of my speech—the enormous advances that could be made if some knowledge of the basic legal requirements for industrial health and safety were introduced into the courses studied by so many young people, for example young people studying at the City and Guilds for their National and Higher National Certificates. If their curricula contained the study of the basic knowledge of the regulations, and if the students were examined in these matters, they would make themselves acquainted with this information. It would mean that a student at the School of Ceramics, at Stoke-on-Trent, would know the basic requirements of the Pottery Regulations—not as a lawyer, or as an hon. Member arguing about them, but sufficient to give him an overall knowledge of them.
Equally, a student who was learning to be a cabinet maker would know about the Woodworking Machinery Regulations, or, at least, their basic requirements. An engineering student would know the basic safety requirements of the Factories Act. No one wishes to 55 overburden young people and to load more and more stuff on to them, for they are already studying for certificates and qualifications of different types. But this is so important to themselves and to those who will work with them and under their guidance that I think what I am saying constitutes a reasonable request.
The Leader of the House will remember that the 1948 Building Regulations required every building contractor employing more than 50 persons on a site to appoint a safety supervisor who was responsible for the observation of those regulations. There has been a change. Under the new safety codes for construction work, a safety organiser is needed if more than 20 persons are employed. What does this change mean? It means, I gather, in effect, that we shall need an additional 6,300 people. Their qualifications, and I quote from the regulations, must be… experienced in such operations or works and suitably qualified.They are not easy to find and I am suggesting, therefore, that it is obviously desirable that students in building or civil engineering should have in their training some positive education of the regulations which are designed to protect the workers and themselves in the very industry in which they hope to supervise. I hope that the Leader of the House considers my remarks as reasonable. If so, I urge him to press the two Ministers involved—the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Education—to co-ordinate their efforts and to institute these courses so that, in the work done by these young people, they receive some basic knowledge of the regulations which make for health and safety.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
This is a wide-ranging debate and I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) will acquit me of discourtesy if I do not attempt to follow him into the vitally important subject which he raised and in which the House knows him to be especially qualified to give the benefit of his experience. I want, like the hon. Member, to take a narrow example of Government co-ordination, but a 56 different one from his, and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), I also must draw on a constituency example, being the one that I know best.
The specific matter of co-ordination to which I want to draw attention is that between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Board of Trade, with specific reference to the problem of co-ordinating the requirements of industry in a growing area with the requirements of housing. The area, a part of which I have the honour to represent, is rather a conspicuously good example of problems which arise in the United Kingdom. This area in east Berkshire was predominantly agricultural until a comparatively few years ago, but it has changed dramatically since the end of the Second World War. It has become an area—and there are other hon. Members who represent similar parts of the country—under the strongest pressure from the person who wants to live within reasonable distance of London, with reasonable communications, and in pleasant surroundings.
We have changed from an agricultural to a dormitory area in part, and in so doing we have been subjected to the greatest pressures, for instance, in terms of the price of land. This is an excellent example of the sort of place, frequently quoted, where land prices have risen sharply, an area which presents great problems for the young married couples anxious to set up on their own in a house of their own. It is an area where substantial building has taken place in recent years.
But this injection of persons, this great search for pleasant places in which to live within a convenient radius of London, has brought great pressures not only upon land, but also upon labour. Land, as is appreciated, is from a Ministerial point of view the responsibility of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Labour, in the sense of its employment and its opportunities for employment, is the responsibility of the Board of Trade. It is because I am not happy that, in spite of great efforts by the officials of both Ministries and their Ministers, there is yet a close working co-ordination between housing, on the one hand, and 57 trade, on the other, that I am intervening in this debate.
Let me deal, first, with land and housing. I read in the Housing Returns that some other areas of the United Kingdom statistically are reaching something near sufficiency, near balance, from the point of view of the need and the supply of housing. That emphatically is not the case in my area, and I am well aware that it is not the case in other areas. Large numbers have been housed. A glance at the landscape will show that fact. Large numbers have been attracted by the comparatively good communications. But when a commodity of this kind—land within striking distance of London—is desirable its price rises, and this is unquestionably the primary difficulty in my area.
I do not believe that any hon. Member can suggest that there is a simple and easy answer to this problem. As one whose livelihood is the practice of that branch of the law which deals mainly with the buying and selling of property, I am certain that where a commodity is desirable, people will always find ways of overcoming any difficulties which may exist. Anyone who suggests that in taking some political decision, by transferring ownership or by some form of control there lies a simple panacea, is ignoring human nature.
It might be that one could be successful in controlling the price, but the price could then be paid in two parts. The first would be official and the second would be in the form of a fur coat, or its equivalent. That is really the lesson that we learned in the days when we attempted to do something of that kind—
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that officials running private enterprise would accept fur coats?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I am suggesting precisely that. I am also suggesting that persons anxious to get a house are disposed, on appropriate occasions, to do that. I think that in saying that I am probably being more realistic in my view of human nature and of what happens in connection with the law of supply and demand than the hon. Gentleman is. The evidence lies in what 58 actually happened when we sought, as a nation, to take development rights from people. The real reason why the planning Acts of those days were ineffective was that property did not change hands at existing use value. That is the short answer to the hon. Gentleman, and I commend him to study the situation as it arose. At the same time, an area like mine, subjected not only to these pressures on land—
§ Mr. Willis
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but he has made a serious charge, that officials administering public bodies receive fur coats for their wives. I assume that in the case he was talking about he was not referring to officials—
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
No, the hon. Gentleman is not being fair. I was merely seeking, in a sentence, to illustrate that if we try to control the price of land in some way—and there are methods which hon. Members opposite are fond of advocating—those who desire a commodity will find a way of obtaining that commodity by giving what, in effect, is its market price. To say that land prices should be controlled is not the answer to the problem. I cannot permit the hon. Gentleman to put into my mouth allegations that officials in this country, particularly Government officials, are accepting bribes in the form of fur coats. That is not what I said, and the hon. Gentleman should not suggest that I said so.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
I think what the hon. Gentleman said was that officials would receive fur coats if a certain policy were adopted. I think that that is what he was really saying.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
If I used "officials" in that sense, and if the ownership of all land were centralised in 59 some way, then I concede that I think this is a very real danger in the abstract. That, as I say, is if all land were nationalised which, as far as I know, is not the intention of the party opposite.
At the same time, however, as we are subjected to these many pressures which I have attempted to outline, we are subjected also to a second pressure, that of industrial expansion. Here comes the point which I want to make on the subject of co-ordination. In the area which I represent we have received, first, an overspill new town which I regard as one of the most successful social experiments of our day, and if that requires a tribute to the party opposite I am not such a narrow bigot in party terms that I am not prepared to pay it.
We have also been an area receiving new industries not necessarily located in a new town. For instance, the immediate neighbouring market town of Wokingham, which, of course, the right hon. Gentleman knows, is also changing its character as are other similar previously quiet market towns in the area of which I am speaking, or those within striking distance of London. Young and enterprising industrial firms are coming, or have come, to these towns, some of them with a very strong content of their business going for export. The same applies to other areas in the immediate vicinity.
With this injection of new, expanding industries comes the pressure upon labour about which I sought to say something earlier. I do not think it is appreciated—it is certainly appreciated within the House of Commons, of course, but not outside—what strong powers Parliament has vested in the Government of the day for controlling industry and its location. I am well aware of the strong powers added only last year to the industrial development certificate procedure. I think that it ought to be emphasised again that the Government of the day have by what I might call their negative powers of refusal very strong powers, which, of course, I appreciate they exercise in areas under pressure like my own.
The difficulty is, however, that by its very nature an enterprising industry expands. It is inherent in a successful 60 enterprise of this kind that it gets larger, and here the dilemma presents itself very sharply. There are, on the one hand, the pressure on housing which I have attempted to describe, and, on the other, the pressures on labour which I have just outlined.
One asks oneself whether, in an area such as this, there is under consideration sufficient co-ordination between the Board of Trade, which is responsible for the admission of industry or its expansion, and the Ministry of Housing which is responsible for the authorisation of housing programmes in local authorities, and with the Ministry of Housing, once again, as the ultimate court of appeal, it I may so loosely term it, in terms of planning policy for private housing. For instance, does someone in the Board of Trade relate the housing programme authorised to the expected expansion in industry and the actual expansion? It is because I am not quite certain that there is sufficient co-ordination between the two that I venture briefly to raise the matter.
I wish to give two short practical examples. I think that I can claim to be—I have to say this with some reticence, as I could not prove the assertion—the first person in my area to collate the likely expansion plans of industry into one set of figures. It has always been possible to do this for the new town of Bracknell, because that is more closely organised and planned as a unit than the others, but, in regard to the remainder of the area, I am not at all sure that I was not the first person to lay my hands on the figures in question. When related to the pressures of housing they are frightening, though only in the sense that they show not only a present but a continuing and growing pressure upon our stock of housing.
For instance, in Bracknell the expected increase in the number of employees due to the mere expansion of existing industry is just under 1,500 whereas at Wokingham the expansion is projected to be just under 4,000. These figures, 4,000 in one town and 1,500 in another, relate to industry as it stands at present, with no new industries coming in at all.
I wonder whether, in considering planning for the area, the Minister of Housing and Local Government has had 61 the advantage of the technical advice of the Board of Trade as to what the likely expansion will be of the industry which he is planning in the area. Is it possible to do it, I repeat, in the new town of Bracknell now under expansion. Is it sufficiently done in an area where there is not the close central supervision of a statutory development corporation?
It is very easy to outline the problem, but it is extremely difficult to suggest a simple answer to it. I certainly do not for one moment pretend that I alone have thought out the complete solution. Of course, I make no such absurd suggestion. I am also well aware of conflicting pressures of opinion. I have been present at trade union meetings where a very reasonable fear was expressed that all that employers want to create is a pool of labour, preferably with plenty of surplus labour, which, in turn, would drive down wages. This is a fear which I can very well understand, and I do not for one moment believe that there are not some employers who have precisely that thought in their minds because, like every other area, we have our bad employers as well as, I think, a vast majority of good employers.
However, I have generally found at such branch meetings that there is a greater understanding than the pundits in the depths of West End clubs always realise about how the prosperity of the individual member of the branch is bound up with the general prosperity of the country, and a greater understanding of all general economic principles than I think we should find in a very great many other places where people congregate.
I believe that both employer and employee are vitally concerned in the problem of control of expansion. I can also well understand the feeling of the person born locally concerning labour brought in from outside areas to deal with industrial expansion and thereby housed. This is not a simple problem and I am not suggesting that the greater co-ordination for which I plead should necessarily result in the allocation of housing merely for the one or other group. It seems to me reasonable that there should be a certain allocation for both.
While, therefore, I am well aware of the existing procedures and of the con- 62 sultations which I am assured take place, I find a feeling in my area that the one hand is not always as closely aware as it should be of what the other hand is doing. It is because I represent an area which so clearly expresses the coincidence of these two pressures that I have ventured to take a moment or two of the time of the House to ventilate it.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) deserves some credit for attempting to speak to the Motion, which is more than can be said for the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) who moved it. She spoke about everything but the Motion, and took a very long time about it. I think it was the Minister for Science who said the other day in the other place that we were in danger of becoming a nation of bellyachers.
With all due respect to the hon. Lady, I think she was the longest-winded bellyacher I have heard for a very long time in this House. She ranged from dry closets to window panes, and from schools and teachers' salaries to nurses' salaries, and to rates, and she made the astonishing suggestion that she had always believed that the Tory Party believed in taking from people according to their ability to pay. If she had taken the trouble to read some of the speeches made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) at the weekends she would have seen how the very reverse has been happening in the last several years—and that, of course, is what one expects from a Tory Government.
Having said that, I want to address my remarks to the co-ordination of various Ministries particularly as they affect the Scottish economy. We have got in Scotland, as the Leader of the House will know if he was in at Question Time, a very great number of problems emanating from the nature of the basis of our economy. We have got declining industries, we have got an unemployment figure which is more than twice that of the national average. The right hon. Gentleman knows these problems very well. One would expect the Government to seek to tackle these problems 63 by recognising that there are difficulties peculiar to the Scottish economy, that it has peculiar problems which need peculiar treatments. This is precisely what we are not getting.
We sought this afternoon at Question hour to focus attention on just one of these problems, the discriminatory price increases for coal both to the domestic consumers and the industrial consumers. We have the Minister of Power sanctioning these discriminatory price increases and at the same time we have the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland both saying that above all we have got to attract more and more industry to Scotland. There can be no denying that these discriminatory increases in the prices of Scottish coal must have the effect of retarding industrial expansion in Scotland.
I can cite a specific example from my own constituency, where there is a paper mill employing between 600 and 700 people, the only industry in a small burgh. They have written to me saying that the 10s. increase per ton of industrial coal will have either of two effects, changing to oil or going out of business. In either case there will be a loss to the coal industry on which my division depends almost exclusively. This is an example of how we get one Minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and indeed the President of the Board of Trade, seeking to bring industry in, with the Minister of Power and the National Coal Board doing things to jeopardise that prospect. This seems to me to be quite absurd.
We have got another example, which I have on good authority from a spokesman of the Coal Board. The Coal Board has got in stock about 20 million tons of small coal. The only possible consumer of that small coal is the electricity industry. The Minister of Power is charged with co-ordinating the policies of the nationalised fuel industries. That is specifically stated in the original nationalisation Measures. But what happens? The electricity industry, far from consuming additional quantities of this small coal, is allowed to bring into the country enormous quantities of oil, bought with hard foreign currency, and 64 to the detriment of our balance of payments, and at the same time that the National Coal Board has got at least £80 million worth of capital locked up all because the Minister of Power refuses to carry the policy of co-ordination to the extent which was visualised and hoped for when the original nationalisation Acts were passed.
I can mention another example of the lack of co-ordination. Dr. Beeching has been charged by the Government with making British Railways pay. We know what that means in Scotland. If Dr. Beeching looks as he is now looking at the Scottish railways and applies to them an exclusively commercial test we shall have a least one-third of the railway system in Scotland closing down—at least one-third. Dr. Beeching has stated quite specifically, as, indeed, has Lord Robens on behalf of the Coal Board, that when they close coal mines or when they close railways the social consequences of those actions are not their responsibility. So we are going to get Dr. Beeching closing down railways, which will mean a diminution in the quality of the transport system of Scotland, and that again will jeopardise the policy of the Board of Trade and of the Secretary of State for Scotland of attracting new industry into Scotland. One of the first questions an industrialist, a would-be developer making his inquiries, asks is, What is the transport system like? Then the Government have got to say to him, "We have reduced the transport system, we have instructed Dr. Beeching to close the railways".
On this very point of co-ordination I would ask what co-ordination was there, what discussion was there, between the Home Secretary, the Home Department of the Scottish Office, and Dr. Beeching when the Government drew up their plans for the evacuation of the civilian population in the event of nuclear war? That population presumably will be evacuated to outlandish rural areas, and it is in those very areas that the railways are going to be closed by Dr. Beeching. Unless the Government intend by road to evacuate these people, millions of them, out of the industrial centres, I do not see how they can possibly get them out. It would be very interesting to know what discussions there were between the Home Departments north 65 and south of the Border and Dr. Beeching before he embarked on his rampages on British Railways.
Now let me refer to the question of co-ordination between the Minister of Aviation and the Board of Trade. Not many weeks ago—only a fortnight ago, I think it was—we had a very strong deputation to the Minister of Aviation on the rundown in the Rolls-Royce establishments in the west of Scotland, the only part of the aircraft industry in Scotland. Of course, we got any amount of sympathy from the Minister of Aviation, but, nevertheless, he said that this had to happen, and the chances are that before very long hundreds of men will be on their way from the west of Scotland to south of the Border. This is at a time when the President of the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for Scotland and everybody who is conversant with this problem say that this is the kind of industry that we have to sustain and increase in Scotland. There is not very much evidence of co-ordination in that respect.
We are to have shortly some long, arduous debates on the Finance Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is taking, and has taken, measures, first, to boost the economy when we are in danger of being in a deflationary spiral and then to damp it down if there is an inflationary tendency. These measures are applied generally. Our complaint is that when there is an inflationary tendency in London and the Midlands, it does not necessarily follow that the same tendency applies in Scotland and, therefore, the measures that the Government take are not only irrelevant in Scotland, but are very damaging.
We shall seek during the course of the Finance Bill to move either Amendments or new Clauses to emphasise the need for discriminatory action in favour of Scotland. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the Toothill Committee, with whose recommendations we do not always agree, has had pertinent remarks to make on this point that the Government must be more discriminatory in regard to the Scottish economy. The Coal Board, as I am reminded, is being extremely selective, but in the wrong way for Scotland. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be discriminatory in the right way, in view of all the facts with which everybody is 66 conversant, Scottish economy would be in a much healthier state than it is today.
I want to refer to another aspect of this, in my constituency, which concerns two Government Departments—the Admiralty and the Board of Trade. I refer to the former Royal Navy aircraft repair yard at Donibristle. The Navy evacuated this site three years ago. It is a wonderful site, with all the facilities for industrial development. The Board of Trade, whenever I have asked a question about this site, have stated, "We are trying to direct some industry in." But I believe that there are squabbles and differences between the Admiralty and the Board of Trade about this site. This has been going on for three years. We have had to suffer from unemployment and lack of alternative industry while the two Departments settle their differences as to the future of this site. This is becoming more pressing now that we know that almost every coal mine in that area is to close within the next five years.
This is a very real problem in Scotland and I have very inadequately expressed it. We shall have greater opportunity in the Scottish Grand Committee tomorrow and subsequently before the Summer Recess. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to recognise the great problem that we have in Scotland, and the very real need for the kind of co-ordination which the hon. Lady did not talk about. She missed a great opportunity and I very much regret it.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
Like the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), I do not intend to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) in the wide field that she has covered. My main concern in this context is in the sphere of town and country planning, which has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). I should, however, like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth on two points which she made, and which, I think, do involve some question of co-ordination or lack of co-ordination.
67 The first is that of income policy. I would emphasise that, although I fully agree with the general proposition that it must be right to endeavour to keep increases in income in line with increases in productivity, the corollary must be some sort of machinery to ensure that something is always left over for those who are not backed by a strong industrial union and who are unable not only to keep pace, but in certain circumstances—the nurses are an obvious case—are unable to move up the ladder relative to the rest of the community.
A nurse in my constituency, who was talking to me on Friday, goes as a part-time nurse to take over an old person's home as matron. When she goes there on Sundays she gets about 6s. an hour but, owing to the domestic staff getting double time on Sundays, the people who come in to wash the floor get 7s. or thereabouts an hour. I cannot see how it is any less hardship for this nursing constituent of mine to give up her Sundays, when her husband is at home, than it is for the people who scrub the floors.
This is an anomaly. If nurses' pay is adequate, as the Minister of Health maintains, there is something very wrong about the standard of pay to the people who scrub the floors. The Government cannot have it both ways. If this is due to a lack of co-ordination between those who decide one rate of pay and those who decide the other, it is a good example of the mess we get ourselves into when there is insufficient co-ordination and co-operation.
I believe that it is in this question whether or not we can provide this machinery to see that people do not get left behind that the Government's income policy will stand or fall. I agree with my hon. Friend that there is very little evidence that the Government have ever established such machinery, or the form that that machinery should take. Whether or not they have it now, I agree with her that there was no evidence at all that they had it at the time they introduced that policy, and that this is an apposite time at which to think about it.
Another matter is one in which perhaps I ought to declare an interest. It concerns the question of Service widows, 68 and as a former Regular soldier myself and the son of a Regular soldier, I have an interest in it. The Service widows discriminated against are not the widows of present serving soldiers, but the widows of those who served, by and large, before the First World War and between the two wars, covering in most cases both wars.
They served at a time when stationed away from their wives and they had to serve in almost every climate in the world. The climate often enforced prolonged separation between the husband and his wife and children. This was in the days long before the Government thought about allowances for education or for travelling backwards and forwards, and long before there was air conditioning and the welfare services of the Army fell on those service wives who are now widows.
Whenever I have taken this up with the Chancellor of the Exchequer—whether it is lack of co-ordination with the War Office, I do not know—the has told me that it is quite impossible to differentiate between those people and the widows of other people in the home Services. They are people living in entirely different circumstances. If we are to differentiate between Service widows at all, it would be more sensible to differentiate against the younger widows whose husbands have served in much more comfortable conditions than against the older ones.
This is a most ludicrous differentiation. It is quite absurd to say that there is no means of differentiating between these people and those within the Colonial Service, and the like, on the one hand and those people on the other hand whose wives or husbands never lived outside the Greater London area.
To return to the matter of planning, the points which I wish to make run parallel to some extent with those already made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham. Planning in its simplest sense is about land, and because one of the greatest if not the greatest pressures on land is for land for housing, planning is largely concerned with finding land for housing. But it is not the least bit of good finding land for houses except where people want to live, and what dictates where they wish to live or have to live is the location of 69 industry. The precise place where they can live is dictated by the pattern of communications to get to and from residential areas and places of work. Similarly, new factories inevitably have to follow lines of communications because it is no good putting up factories if there are no roads for the carriage of raw materials and for access to markets.
Similarly, when we build motor roads these largely follow the line of existing centres of industry. These are entirely outside the influence of the Minister who is responsible for planning. They are the responsibility of the Board of Trade, on the one hand, and of the Minister of Transport on the other. But when we are told, as we have been told from time to time, that there is the closest co-operation, the difficulty in matters of this sort is that if we are to obtain the confidence of the public that there is this co-operation, it must be seen to exist. The appearance that it exists is very often as important in these matters as the fact that it exists.
There are certainly occasions where it is quite apparent that the co-ordination between Government Departments is noticeable only by its complete absence. Here again, like hon. Members who have spoken before me, I refer to a constituency case, for the simple reason that it is the one I know best. I am concerned with the proposed route of the M.4 motorway. Here we have a road which, it is the almost unanimous opinion of all the people who are concerned with planning, represents bad planning.
We have the statement to that effect of the county planning officer. We have the evidence to that effect of his assistant, the area planning officer, given at the public inquiry into the review of the Gloucestershire Development Plan, and we have the findings of the inspector who held the inquiry. But the Minister of Transport has dismissed these expressions of opinion entirely. He has said in the one case that they are merely personal opinions and that he does not regard them as authoritative and he feels under no obligation to refute any such chance remark. This is at the same time as he is impressing on people, and particularly on local authorities, the necessity of making their objections known well in advance and to take such 70 opportunities of doing so as were afforded by the Gloucestershire Development Plan Review Inquiry so as not to hold up the building of the motorway.
While the Minister was doing this he had before him the inspector's report which said:The alignment of this section of the proposed motorway will, I understand, be the subject of a Ministry of Transport inquiry very soon and I make no recommendation on it. But I am without doubt that the present alignment is unsatisfactory in relation to existing residential development.The inspector also said:One of the main purposes of planning is to protect the irresponsible or ignorant public from its own actions. But in this instance the planning authority themselves admit that had they known earlier the character motorways would take they would not have permitted their development. Surely then the public could not be expected to know what was in store and is, therefore, more to be commiserated with and helped rather than blamed for its lack of vision.The Minister, without disclosing that that report was on his desk, is castigating people for not having made more use of planning inquiries so as to save time. In fact, the correct time for making objections is when the order is published and before the official time for putting in objections under the Highway Act has lapsed.
If this sort of thing happens it is bound to undermine the confidence of the public not merely in Ministry of Transport inquiries but in all efforts that the Government have made in appointing the Franks Committee and broadly accepting its recommendations, in passing the Tribunals and Inquiries Act and setting up the Council on Tribunals, and in all the vigilance which hon. Members show when they feel that something goes wrong under the planning structure, such as in the Essex chalkpit case.
We have a situation which looks very much as if the Minister of Transport has not been here when these things have been going on and the Minister is adopting a view which is quite different from that laid down for the Government generally. His attitude appears to be based on the supposition that the Act requires him to consider objections after the publication of a scheme but to hold an inquiry only if the objection comes from a local authority. The Parliamentary Secretary has made it quite clear in an Adjournment debate that this is his conception of his duties. But this is not what the Act says.
71 The relevant provision in the First Schedule of the Highways Act, 1959, makes it quite clear that where an objection is received… the Minister shall cause a local inquiry to be held … except …and it gives certain circumstances in which, if the objector is not a local authority, an inquiry may be dispensed with. It is clear that Parliament intended that a public inquiry should be general and that dispensing with it should be exceptional, but the Minister of Transport has made it clear that he intends that it should be the other way round. The Minister has gone almost as far as to say that he will use this procedure as seldom as possible and will take remarkably little notice of it when an inquiry is held. That is very nearly what is on the record in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House.
I regard this as a serious state of affairs. If it is true that public inquiries, or the possibility of having them, produce an obstacle to getting on with the road programme, the Minister of Transport should ask the House to look at the Act with a view to amending it. I should take a long time to be convinced that that would be justified, but the present way is the wrong way of doing it—leaving things on the Statute Book and then misinterpreting them and saying, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, that public inquiries were never intended for this sort of thing. It is precisely for this that public inquiries are required. For the Minister of Transport to give his interpretation of what he thinks Parliament meant when it passed the original Act, quite irrespective of the words used, which are quite different; is a grave constitutional departure. It is one which the House would be failing in its duty if it did not face and if it did not ensure that the Minister kept not only to the letter of the law, but to its spirit as well.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
I have been fascinated by the three speeches we have heard from hon. Members opposite. They have been speaking to a Motion about co-ordination between Government Departments. Between them, they have said hardly anything about co-ordination. They 72 have launched severe attacks on their own Government about a wide variety of subjects.
The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) said that she was horrified by the Government's attitude towards pensioners. She said that she was horrified by their attitude towards cuts in education. She said that she was horrified by their attitude towards the ratepayers and that she was horrified by their chaotic attitude towards economic planning. I lost count of the number of times the hon. Lady used the word "horrified". She launched an attack on several of her right hon. Friends in language which I thought was most appropriate and to be welcomed but which had very little to do with co-ordination.
The hon. Members for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) spoke rather more mildly, but their speeches boiled down to attacks on the Government's town planning policy, nurses' pay, Service pensions, and so on. The two hon. Gentlemen and the hon. Lady laboured away at many themes which we on this side of the House have hammered at for a very long time. We welcome their support, and we hope to welcome it in the Division Lobby when we raise these subjects, as we shall, in more appropriate form during the coming weeks. The logic of their speeches is that what is needed is not so much co-ordination between Government Departments as a change of Government. That is what they were saying, even though they may not have intended to do so.
I intend to be less controversial than hon. Members opposite and to make a few remarks about co-ordination between Government Departments. It would be a truism to say that, as Government becomes a more and more complicated affair and as the society in which we live undergoes more and more rapid change, the old Departmental divisions within Government tend to become out of date and raise serious problems of co-ordination. I shall identify three points which seem to me to be important points of friction about which there is need for serious constructive thinking. First, I shall say something about the way in which the Government 73 appears to the ordinary citizen with a problem who wants to go along to a local office and is not quite sure which one will deal with it.
In every one of our major communities we have local offices of the Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, the National Assistance Board, the Ministry of Labour, and so forth. A great many people get very confused about the dividing lines between their responsibilities, particularly as those responsibilities often overlap. For example, the Ministry of Labour pays out unemployment benefit which is an integral part of the National Insurance scheme. One could give many more examples.
This situation has three lessons for any Government looking at the problem. One is that a great deal has to be done about the training of civil servants who deal with the public so that they not only know their own Department but are at least aware of the outline of the work of other Departments which may overlap or come very close to the work of their own. A great deal has been done along these lines. During the last two years, I myself have been invited to lecture to training courses within the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance for executive grades in that Department and I have been impressed by the extent to which the managers of local Ministry offices appreciate this sort of problem. But often there are gaps here, and I think that the situation requires intensive and imaginative training of those who deal with the public.
Second, we should aim, as far as possible, at grouping in one centre local offices of Departments which deal with the public. This is something which has been done in some new towns and elsewhere. It is easier to say than to do in relation to older communities, for obvious reasons, but I think that we should aim at a situation where there is some sort of centre in which may be found in close proximity the local offices of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, the employment exchange, the National Assistance Board, and so on, with, I suggest, an inquiry desk—a sort of Government-organised advice bureau—to which people can go with their inquiries and be sent to the right officials.
74 Third, I think that the situation requires that we should consider the merger of some of these Departments. One obvious example, which we on this side have argued for more than once, is the merging of the National Assistance Board into the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. There are several reasons for this, not only the reason that confusion arises, as I have suggested, but also that, if Assistance payments were made from within the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and made, preferably, in the same room to which people go about pensions matters, this would remove part of the psychological barrier which prevents some pensioners from applying for supplementary assistance from the National Assistance Board.
We have learned in recent surveys in more than one part of the country—it seems to be a general pattern—that for every two retirement pensioners drawing supplementary benefit from the Assistance Board there is another one who is entitled to a supplement of that sort but who does not apply for it either because he is unaware of his rights or, more probably, because he is too proud to go and apply. I think that a great deal of hard thinking should be applied to this matter to find a way of removing that psychological barrier. If the Assistance Board were part of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, this would be a help.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
In his suggestions about the merger of Ministries, would the hon. Gentleman go a stage further and say that there is a possibility of this being considered also in relation to the payment of family allowances and other forms of assistance and pension as well?
§ Mr. Prentice
I think that that is a reasonable suggestion. I should have thought that what was required was, as it were, a Ministry of Social Welfare which would take over a great many of these functions.
The second point I identify is the need for co-ordination between the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education. Here, I welcome the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and what he said about industrial safety 75 and industrial diseases. I shall not follow him there except to say that I worked for some years as a member of the staff of a large trade union on the problem of people injured at work, and I believe that this matter demands a lot more public attention than it receives. A great deal of publicity is given to the amount of time lost in industrial disputes in this country, but, on the average, we lose seven times as many working hours by industrial accidents than we do by industrial disputes. More people are injured in industry every year than are injured on the roads. These things should be better known than they are. There are serious problems involved, and I thought that my hon. Friend made a very valuable speech on the matter.
I wish to emphasise, in relation to these two Ministries, the problem of industrial training. There has been a classical division, which has been accepted by all Governments for a very long time, by which technical training in technical colleges is considered a matter for the local authorities and for the Ministry of Education, but apprenticeship and training of that kind is considered a matter for industry and, therefore, so far as there is any Ministerial responsibility at all, it is the responsibility of the Minister of Labour, a responsibility which, in my view, is not pursued actively enough. I think that there should be a much more positive policy on his part. However, I shall not go into that now.
The point I make is that as industry develops, and as changes in industry become more rapid, a much greater part of industrial training must take the form of formal training in technical colleges. In France, at the present time, an apprentice in industry spends about half his training period in training colleges organised by the State. In my view, we should move towards something like that. I do not say that one should be dogmatic about the actual proportion of time, but we should regard industrial training partly as an introduction to a job, but partly, also, as an extension of education. We should regard it far more as training and far less as simply serving one's time at a skilled trade. To achieve this end, we shall have to overcome a lot of conservatism on both sides of industry, and, particularly, the 76 Government themselves ought to give a more positive lead.
This applies not only to the training of the traditional craftsman, but to the training of the semi-skilled worker and workers of all kinds who, I believe, should be receiving in their early years at work a good deal of formal education. This ties up with the concept of county colleges, which was written into the 1944 Education Act, but never implemented, so that, in fact, the transition from full-time education to full-time employment can be something done by stages in which people move, as it were, from one to the other and education is not something just cut off on the day they leave school. Again, that is something on which a lot of planning should be taking place between the two Departments concerned.
Thirdly, and lastly, a sphere in which a great deal more co-ordination is needed is in aid from this country to underdeveloped parts of the world. Last summer, we passed the Act which set up the Department for Technical Co-operation. I spent the early part of this afternoon reading the Report, recently produced as a White Paper, of that new Department. As far as it goes, it is a good Report, but, like many of my hon. Friends, I regret that that Department is responsible for technical assistance only and not for capital aid from this country to under-developed countries.
Whereas this new Department has taken over certain functions from the Colonial Office, Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office, it has not taken over relationships with the specialised agencies of the United Nations, which are still maintained by a number of other Departments. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food still maintains our relations with the F.A.O., the Ministry of Education with U.N.E.S.C.O., the Ministry of Labour with the I.L.O., and so on.
I am pleading for a much larger Department, with a Cabinet Minister at the head, responsible for all our relations with the under-developed parts of the world and for capital assistance and technical assistance, because I believe that a Department of that nature with a Minister of that nature would give the sort of drive which is required. Last autumn, the Government voted for the 77 concept of a "United Nations Development Decade" at the General Assembly of the United Nations. They therefore voted as being in favour of a tremendous expansion of aid from the richer parts of the world to the under-developed parts with the object of doubling their present rate of growth by 1970. This demands a much bigger and more imaginative effort. It is relevant to the Motion in that we want a senior member of the Government with a high-powered Department organising the whole and not merely parts of the programme.
I realise that I have made a stab at three very wide subjects, each of which could have been debated at much greater length. What I have been saying comes to this. We are living in a period when the whole machinery of Government needs to be adapted to rapidly changing situations. We in this country suffer from too much conservatism—with a small "c" as well as with a capital "C". We have administrative conservatisms in Departments in Whitehall. We have had too much of that for far too long. I take the stand that we have to move against both sorts of conservatism. Taking the Motion literally, I think that it should have been directed more against conservatism with a small "c". I say this without wishing to be disparaging in any way, but obviously there are people in Whitehall with vested interests—quite legitimate ones—as there are in many walks of life.
It is difficult to make overdue reforms in the organisation of Departments, yet we need to do it. We need a fresher approach to our problems and to match our administrative machinery to the revolutionary age in which we live. We also need a Government with a policy which matches up to that age. I do not believe that these changes or other desirable changes will be made until we have a Government in power which approaches these problems with a modern outlook.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) made three extremely constructive and practical suggestions for better co-ordination between Departments. I wish to take a few minutes in asking the Leader of the House to deal with one question: 78 why is there not a co-ordinator of the Government information services? Until last year, the present Minister of Housing and Local Government was responsible for the Government information services, and, although a number of criticisms could be made in detail of our information services at home and abroad, we must agree that they were considerably expanded during the period that he was responsible for them. He was a senior Minister in the Cabinet and his responsibilities were clearly defined.
Since then, for no reason which has been given to the House, that responsibility has been broken up. We now have a quite different situation. The Minister of Housing is still partly responsible for Government information services at home, but Government information services abroad have been made the responsibility of the Secretary for Technical Co-operation. In addition, this year, responsibility for co-ordinating Government information services at home has been further divided. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury has been given a share in the responsibility.
The present position, therefore, is that three Ministers are responsible for co-ordinating Government information services. If we want a Minister to reply in the House about information services in foreign countries, the Lord Privy Seal answers. If we want a Minister to reply about information services in the Colonies, the Colonial Secretary replies. If we want a reply about information services in a Commonwealth country, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations replies. If we want a reply on overseas trade publicity, the President of the Board of Trade replies. If we want a reply on the co-ordination of overseas information, the Secretary for Technical Co-operation replies.
If we want to ask a Question about home information services, we ask whichever Minister is responsible. We can ask the Secretary of State for War about recruiting publicity or we can ask the Economic Secretary to the Treasury who has been given some responsibilities for co-ordinating home information. We we can ask the Minister of Housing, who is also responsible for co-ordinating home information. If we want to ask a question about the Central Office of Information, which serves everybody, we 79 ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, not the Economic Secretary. Do not let us get muddled about that. For some reason, we table a Question to the Financial Secretary.
I ask the Leader of the House: what possible reason is there for this nonsense? Why have we not been given a reason for these changes? He may say, "What practical difference does it make?" If he does, let me give him one or two instances. When a Minister of Cabinet rank was responsible for our information services, they expanded. But the moment that that Minister loses his job, now that no Cabinet Minister is responsible, for the first time for several years expenditure on overseas information is cut. I do not think that it is the wish of the House that it should be cut. I am sure that many hon. Members opposite will agree that the time is not appropriate for Britain's voice overseas to be stifled. On the contrary, there is a very good case for expanding the work of the B.B.C.'s overseas services. A great deal of its work should be expanded, but in the Cabinet the Chancellor of the Exchequer now has everything on his side. There is no one in the Cabinet to take the case for the information services as a whole. The result is a cut in our overall budget on information services.
That is the general result of the lack of co-ordination, but if we consider the detail of it more carefully we find instances of specific muddles which take place. I give one instance relating to the teaching of English overseas by television. It may sound quite a small thing, but in the years ahead it is capable of developing into a vitally important and useful function of British overseas information. All over the world television services are developing, sometimes in quite backward countries where one would think that television could not be afforded.
If this country had, as it could have got, a series of first-class films for showing on television for the teaching of English in a practical manner, this would not only represent a gigantic commercial market but it would be an enormous means of spreading knowledge of Britain, and good will towards Britain, in countries where that is badly needed. 80 There is a tremendous demand for this kind of material.
Recently, same broadcasters came here from Indonesia under the auspices of the Central Office of Information. They told us how they wanted and were looking for that kind of programme for radio and for television. I have talked recently to a broadcasting director from Thailand, who said the same thing to me. He asked why we have not developed in this way. The simple answer is that no one has known who was responsible for the job in this country. Some people say that the B.B.C. should do it and others the C.O.I., and some people say that the British Council should do it. The whole chain of responsibility has been unclear. As a result, patently nothing has been done. Three or four years have been totally wasted and we have been overtaken by the United States of America, even though the countries concerned would far rather get their English-speaking material from Britain than from America.
I put those two small points to the Leader of the House to show that there is need for a single Minister of Cabinet rank to speak for the information services as a whole, to stand up to the Treasury against the cuts and to ensure that the kind of muddle of which I have given an example does not continue. I hope very much that if the Leader of the House cannot reply to these simple but important points this evening, he will make sure that the matter is properly taken up and the situation rectified.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
We are grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who has launched a debate in which the Government have come under heavy fire and in which a number of knowledgeable and constructive speeches have been made. The hon. Lady put us in a dilemma, namely, whether to follow her in her speech, which was critical enough, or to follow her in the terms of her Motion, which were even more critical. The two things were not related one to the other.
I admired the skill with which the hon. Lady used the device of the Motion to let loose on her Front Bench colleagues many of the bees that are 81 buzzing about in her bonnet and with which she set forth to sting them, sometimes with effect. When the hon. Lady started praising some of her colleagues, I knew that we were in for some fairly slashing attacks.
Preliminary personal praise from the hon. Lady is dangerous music. She lashed many Ministers and she attacked the pay pause, quite rightly pointing out that it should have been thought out before rather than after it had been adopted as a policy. The hon. Lady thought that there was no policy for economic growth, she said that the Government had broken their election pledges and she threw interesting light on the way in which Tory Party conferences are managed by means of less objectionable motions being chosen in some way by the Establishment. I hope that on some other occasion, the hon. Lady will tell us exactly how that is done.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
We do not do it. Our motions are not picked in that way. I understand that in the case of the party apposite, it is done by some sort of self-appointed body at the top which picks them out and puts stars against them.
The hon. Lady raised a number of important human and constituency questions. She started a debate in which a number of hon. Members have made extremely important points, to which, I hope, the Leader of the House will reply or, at least, will take note of those on which he has not been able to discover the facts. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) made some points about accidents at work and a number of important suggestions. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) showed the lamentable lack of co-ordination in regard to the economic development of Scotland, where, as far as one can see, the Ministry of Power and the Board of Trade are in direct conflict one with another, much to the loss and damage of Scotland.
The hon. Lady was speaking to a Motion which raises important questions in highly critical terms, almost in terms 82 of a Motion of censure. It raises a number of extremely important matters that go to the root of our administrative problems, including the whole question of whether we can get better co-ordination of Government. This raises two sets of problems. One are those which are related to the sheer organisation of Departments, and so on, and the others relate to questions where the real trouble is defect of policy, because mismanagement and muddle can flow from either or, sometimes, both of these things.
The organisation of Government raises grave problems, because any Government today operates under immense strain. This comes primarily from the fact that Ministries are overworked. I do not think that anyone works as hard as Ministers, even Conservative Ministers. Ministers of the Crown have to work extremely hard. Of course, they do not work for the whole of their working life; they get a rest from time to time when the electors allow them to have one. Some Administrations tire more quickly than others. There is no question that the present Administration, as the hon. Lady showed with a lot of detail, is a weary, worn-out Government which after ten years of being in office still produces the sort of problems that she attacked.
The hon. Lady said that she thought that Conservatives could solve these problems best, but if she considers that they still exist after ten years of Tory Government, I am not sure that she can logically sustain that position. Nevertheless, I understand her saying it in that pleasant overture before she opened her real attack.
I do not believe that there are any tricks that can get us out of the difficulty of an overworked Administration. The present Government have tried a number, including overlordship, double-banking and tricks of that kind. They do not really solve the problem. They often make it worse by multiplying the committees and the co-ordination that has to be achieved. The truth is that with our system of Government, we cannot get away from the central feature of it—that is, Cabinet Government.
Ministers are responsible to Parliament and are collectively responsible as well as responsible for their Departments. If we insist, as we should, on 83 that type of Government, it involves a great deal of work. Some of the experiments which are being tried are extremely dangerous—for example, the idea that it is a good thing to have the Foreign Secretary in another place because it is more comfortable and there is less to do and it is a more affable and amiable place.
I have heard hon. Members opposite say that this is a principle which should be carried further. It is a most dangerous one and a great breach of our constitutional conventions. The House of Commons is the sovereign Chamber which is responsible to the people and all important Ministers, including the Foreign Secretary, should sit here and be responsible to us. We continuously resent this, we regard it as a dangerous innovation, and we want it to be brought to an end.
In the main, the double-banking arrangement suffers from the same defects as the overlord system in leading to lack of co-ordination and to jealousies and confusions among Ministers. Nobody knows quite where the channel of responsibility to Parliament lies if there is some sort of double-banking or overlord Ministers alongside Departmental ones.
There is, however, one case for double-banking which is good and which has been carried out and is right: that is, in the case of the Treasury. The Treasury has two completely different kinds of work to do. One is related to Supply and Government expenditure and the other to planning. It seems perfectly proper that these two should be divided. They are most important and easily distinguishable. The rest of the double-banking, however, seems to be nonsense and should be abandoned. This seems to be sensible. It is better to have this distinction between responsibility for Government supply and expenditure, on the one hand, and responsibility for planning, on the other, especially if one has a Government which believes in planning. In any case, it is a good idea.
Planning, about which a number of hon. Members have spoken, is not only a matter of organising government and of organisation. One needs the will to plan, which is lacking with the present 84 Government. One needs the will to create an atmosphere which makes democratic planning possible. It is an atmosphere which can be created only if there is a feeling in the country that the Government are trying to create greater social equality, not less.
The planning must be revelant. We have had very important speeches from the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) on one aspect of planning which underlies practically everything else, because it concerns the ground on which things can be built and done, particularly urban land the prices of which are going up very high.
I did not agree with what the hon. Member for Wokingham said, although I was very interested. It seemed to me that he missed the essential point here, namely, that if one has town planning with green belts, zoning and the rest, one is artificially restricting the amount of land available for building—deliberately restricting it by public act—and the prices go up if one does that but nothing else. We have to face here that we either abandon town planning and let people build anywhere, or, if we keep town planning, we must artificially restrict the market, and then we must do something about the price of urban land or it will skyrocket.
I agree with the hon. Member when he says that this is not an easy, simple thing to do. Nobody thinks that. But I believe that we can do it with the sort of proposals—ours are only broad ones—that we put forward with respect to the Land Commission, which would pay something in order to make it worth people's while to sell. That has to be done. This would canalise some of the great artificial profit which comes from urban land because of town planning, which artificially restricts the amount of land. It would channel some of the artificial price to the community, including local authority areas.
This is one of the ways in which we could help with rates. The hon. Lady made a very important point there. The burden of rates is getting very heavy indeed. Some of the money which the Land Commission could channel off from very high urban prices could be paid to local authorities—not from the central Government, for that has certain 85 dangers because control goes with it, but the Land Commission would have no means of controlling local authority policy. At any rate, we cannot stand still now and say that it is human nature and that people will get round these things. We have created this problem by town planning, and we must face the further consequences of it.
One of the essential things to grasp in this problem of the co-ordination of Government and the great strain on Ministers, Departments and civil servants is that one must have a small Cabinet. It is one part of the problem. If one has a Cabinet which is too big, there is too much co-ordination to do and too much time is spent upon it. One must have a relatively small Cabinet. I do not suppose we shall ever get back to the Cabinet of ten or twelve members suggested by Haldane in his report in 1918, but we ought to have a smaller Cabinet.
Also, we ought not to have in that Cabinet many Ministers without portfolio who have all these co-ordinating and supervisory duties. It is better to have Ministers to look after the Departments and reorganise them, having some of the Departments bigger, with a wider and more sensible sphere of activity. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has been talking about how this could be done in the field of Government information.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) put forward a very important and sensible proposal, the idea of a Minister of Social Welfare who would look after all those things which impinge upon the human being. One of the troubles of government to which I do not think we have given sufficient thought is that we have to departmentalise administration for the sheer possibility of administration. If one does not departmentalise between Ministries, and so forth, one will not be able to administer at the top at all. But down at the bottom all the administration is designed to serve indivisible persons, and we do not reunite at the bottom the endless activities that we set off at the top so as not to bewilder persons who do not have to be departmentalised, but are concerned with human things. We have not given enough thought to this. We have not 86 remerged together all the trends and flows of administration which impinge on the human being. The proposal put forward by my hon. Friend is one very important way of achieving at any rate a very considerable part of this.
I think that we could save a very great deal of the strain of government and also achieve something which ought to be achieved if we reorganised the Ministry of Defence and our defence Services radically. I realise that there are problems—such as problems of loyalties—here; and there are also the actual differences between the Services. I do not want to see a single co-ordinated Service, but I should like to see one Minister and one Ministry looking after the three Services. I cannot see why we should not have a Minister of Defence with a Ministry of Defence responsible for the three or, if we count the Royal Marines, four Armed Services.
We could then have a Minister of Defence alone within the Cabinet, and we could also have Ministers, not, as now, Secretaries of State responsible for particular services, but responsible for the great broad activities—supply, getting weapons, recruitment; four or five of the very important things which are common to the Services. We could then question Ministers on those subjects. At the moment, we cannot raise such questions in the House because of the way each Services is organised.
As a result of this—this is extremely important—we could have one accounting officer responsible to Parliament instead of three or four officers as we have now. If we had one accounting officer responsible to Parliament for military expenditure it would make a very much greater reality of the answerability of the Services to Parliament for their expenditure.
One can give great thought to these matters concerning how to co-ordinate and improve our system of government—I am grateful to the hon. Lady for tabling her Motion, even if she did not speak very closely to it—but in the end there is no substitute for a harmonious Government, for a fresh and vigorous Government and for one that pursues right policies.
One can co-ordinate and organise as well as one likes, but if one has a weary, 87 tired, disunited, compromising Government one will not get good government. Much of the present lack of effective co-ordination, about which the hon. Lady and other hon. Members have spoken, is due not to bad co-ordination, but to wrong and defective policies.
The Ministry of Power is an example of this. It is bad because it has not a fuel and power policy. Indeed, it boasts about not having one. The hon. Lady rightly points out in her Motion that co-ordination inside Departments is as important as co-ordination between Departments. The Ministry of Power is a wonderful example of a Ministry which has no policy and, therefore, no co-ordination at all.
Transport is much the same. One cannot begin to have a proper transport policy unless one can co-ordinate road haulage and railways together. What has happened here is not through lack of co-ordination. It has happened because the Government have the wrong policy in this case. Many of our troubles, including some referred to by the hon. Lady, flow from this defective policy.
Although I have said one or two things about the hon. Lady which were not altogether favourable, I am glad that she has raised this matter. She has pointed out that the Government are pretty well at sea. Her Motion is wide-ranging and hostile. In terms, it expresses lack of confidence in the Government. It says thatin the opinion of this House, the country would be better governed"—therefore, it is not well governed—and happier"—therefore, it is rather unhappy—and more injustices and inequalities eliminated"—which means that there are unnecessary injustices and inequalities—if there was greater co-ordination …This is, therefore, a Motion of censure. If I were sitting where the Leader of the House is sitting, and looking after the debate, I would resist a Motion in these terms. I, of course, support it. I hope that the hon. Lady will take the matter to a Division, if necessary. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the Motion we 88 shall regard it as a great victory—as a unanimous vote of censure on the Government.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod)
I hope that hon. Members will not resent it if I say that I could have done with a little co-ordination in the speeches to which we have listened during the last three hours. I shall do my best to answer each speech, taking them in turn. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) did his best to argue that the Motion was a hostile one, but he knows that I will accept it. Even if we were angels and Ministers of grace I dare say that the "Noes" Lobby would collect a few Members in defiance of that proposition. I cannot believe that co-ordination cannot be improved. If my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) thinks that the country would be happier with greater co-ordination it is pleasant for me to be able to start in agreement with her.
I shall try to answer all the points that have been raised, although I know that the House will realise that it will be difficult, because the majority have been raised without notice, and it is rather like answering a series of Adjournment debates with an impromptu speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth started with some points of which she did give me notice—for which I am grateful—concerning Whitley Bay.
First, there is the question of access to the new secondary school being built there. She cites this as an instance of bad co-ordination between the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Education. Her case is that these matters should have been settled before the construction was approved. To me that is nothing like so important as getting the matter settled before the school is open, which will happen next year. We have every confidence that the matter will be settled by then.
Three years ago the Minister of Education dropped the requirement that proposals to acquire new sites for schools should be submitted for his approval. This was part of a move, of which I am sure we all approve in general, giving local authorities greater 89 freedom to manage their own affairs. In general the move has proved to be justified, and whatever the case of my hon. Friend may be in this instance it would not be right, because of one difficult case, to go back upon that policy which I am sure is right, especially when the difficulty to which she has referred will be resolved.
Nor did I think that she was on a good point when she complained about the expenditure—which comes to about £20,000, which is not extravagant, and is in fact within the ordinary allocation for minor works—on the provision of a hall at the further education college at Whitley Bay. These colleges have about 150 full-time students and about 200 students attending evening classes, and it is of great importance to provide some place where there can be large gatherings of students, for lectures, concerts and physical education. It is very important that the college should have a focal point, as it were, where these people can come together. Having been able to consider the case quite dispassionately, I can say that I regard this as a good and wise expenditure of money.
On the other small points about education that my hon. Friend raised—the question of the improvement of old schools, earth closets, and blinds used in schools—she has put down Questions to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. As she knows, my right hon. Friend has recently announced that a comprehensive survey of maintained schools will be conducted this year. This will give us a fairly precise and up-to-date picture—and we need it—of the deficiencies of existing premises and the estimated cost of remedying them.
Her next main point concerned differential rates. Our traditional rating system has its imperfections; no one would deny that. On 2nd March this year the House spent a considerable time, in a debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), in going into this matter. But the more one studies the problem the more one is driven to the conclusion that the only reasonable alternative to our existing rating system is something like a local Income Tax. This proposal is by no means new; it is always introduced when we consider the matter, 90 which is one reason why I doubt whether we need an inquiry. This proposal was produced by the Royal Institute of Public Administration—I believe it was in 1957—and its main recommendation was for a local Income Tax from which companies would be exempted, and which would be operated without allowances. If my hon. Friend will reflect on this I believe that she will find that the very people that she cares about most would be the hardest hit by precisely such a proposal.
I would also remind the House of a very important point made at Question Time a little while ago. In response to a Question from the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs), concerning the effect of the recent local authority rate increases, the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance said that the National Assistance Board normally takes full account of rates in assessing the needs of householder recipients. These people are therefore, in general, unaffected by rate changes.
A small but important point was raised about fuel appliances in smokeless zones. About one in five of our old-age pensioners receive National Assistance, and only a minority of those live in smokeless zones. Only a few of those receive special assistance. But it is possible for the National Assistance Board to take this into account. It does so. A considerable number—I cannot give the precise number—of temporary payments are made if the need should arise while such a system is being operated. In connection with the wider field of allowances for fuel, the latest figures that I have been able to obtain, up to last November, show that the payment of extra allowances is involved in over 400,000 cases, the majority of whom are old people.
Another very important point raised by my hon. Friend, and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), was the general question of all the payments made to public service pensioners, colonial pensioners and others. Pensions in the public service are related to length of service and salary at the time of retirement, and where they are contributory the contribution's are assessed accordingly. Once made, they are not normally 91 varied, although it is the common practice of good employers—and we like to think that the Government are good employers in these matters—to do what they can to help people who have been pensioned in the past.
I am bound to say that—although most of this has been done under Tory Governments I am not claiming it as a party point—I think we have lived up to this. Since the war there have been five Pensions (Increase) Acts, in 1947, 1952, 1954, 1956 and 1959. I am ready to give the figures since 1959. The retail price index since then has gone up by 8.1 per cent. With one exception, I think that is less than the amount by which it rose between any of the previous Acts. It is rather more, I think, than the increase between 1956 and 1959.
The question the Government have to decide—I have put this frequently when we have discussed business on Thursdays—is whether it would be right in these circumstances to bring forward a new Pensions Bill. All I can tell my hon. Friend is that we have watched very carefully this position in relation particularly to hardship, to the principles that have been established in the past, and to the movements in particular of the price index.
§ Mr. Macleod
No, with respect, not to the election. This is a matter which does not come into those considerations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South made the particular point that there might be some lack of co-ordination here between the Treasury and the Service Departments. I assure him that that is not so. It is always terribly easy to blame the Treasury—we all do it from time to time—but the opinion that it is not right to make Forces' pensions an exception to the general principles which I enunciated a moment ago is not just the opinion of a Department or of a particular Government. We have always held that this view is right. I think I could also cite the Grigg Committee's Report in support because, although it had a number of critical things to say, it concluded in paragraph 205 that it would be wrong to isolate Service pensioners for special treatment from the body of State pen- 92 sioners generally. I believe that to be sound doctrine.
I make one point on the question in which I have always been enormously interested, for obvious reasons, the colonial pensioners. There is a Motion on the Order Paper on this. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) has devoted himself to this subject, perhaps above all others, for many years with most admirable fidelity. The principles are well known. The view of the Government is that these pension payments are the responsibility of the successor Governments. That does not of course end the question by any means. It is nevertheless true, partly because of prodding from the Government, that something like two-thirds of all the pensioners concerned are receiving as much or more by way of pension increase as they would under United Kingdom legislation. Therefore, for most of these people it would not be an advantage for them to rely on the hardship provision, which is the basis of the pensions increase Measures to which I have referred.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth turned to the question of the National Economic Development Council and was critical of its membership. I shall make two quick points on that. It is not meant to represent special interests or sections of the community. To have attempted such representation would, I am certain, have landed us with a hopelessly unwieldy body. It is obviously not meant to discuss individual wage claims. As such it would have a very different composition. I am certain that the trade union members, the employers—and for that matter the Ministers—would shy very hard indeed from such a proposal.
Quite apart from the Ministers, there are independent members—Professor Phelps Brown and Lord Franks—men of great standing in this country who one is certain will, as all the members will, bring detached, impartial and brilliant minds to the problems which are in front of us. I quote one of the three objects of the Council, the second one given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer:To consider together what are the obstacles to quicker growth, what can be done to improve efficiency, and whether the best use is being made of our resources.93 If we can answer that and match what is needed with action from the Government, I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth realises that no one would benefit more than the people to whom she is most devoted.
The last point in my hon. Friend's speech, after dealing with which I shall pass to answer points made by other hon. Members, was on the question of the nurses. On that subject I say only this. Everyone in the House longs to see this dispute settled. The offer of 2½ per cent. increase on salaries was made within the limitations imposed by the Government's incomes policy. I now answer one specific point, because we are to have a full debate on this matter. Arbitration is available, the arbitration of the Industrial Court. I was asked if it were genuine. Of course it is genuine. No one who knows anything about the Industrial Court can doubt that for a moment. As one who has been Minister of Labour and knows many of its members, its President, the independent members and the ordinary members. I can say this with real authority.
I turn to the fascinating speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who reminded me of one of the happiest experiences I have had in this House, particularly in Committee upstairs, when I piloted through the Factories Act. 1959. He asked about surveys. There have been no general surveys since the two to which he referred, the Halifax and the Potteries Surveys because the Industrial Health Advisory Council itself advised that general surveys would not discover new matters which had not been brought to light in one or other of the earlier ones, and that it was more important to inquire into specific topics.
As to co-ordination between the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education, the best example one can give in this field is the way in which the inspectors of the two Departments keep in touch. In the technical schools and colleges the Ministry of Education does not conduct general investigations but it has circularised L.E.A.s about safety and safety training. The hon. Member's third, and in some ways most interesting, point was about bringing into the different forms of syllabus some study of aspects of safety in factories. 94 A good deal of work is done along those lines, including especially some of the courses mentioned by the hon. Member. The basic legal requirements in relation to safety are studied and there are "safety" questions in the examinations.
The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), referring particularly to the new town of Bracknell in his constituency, pointed to the need for co-ordination between the demands of housing and industry in an area which is very difficult from the point of view of the supply of labour and also where there is considerable pressure on housing, as there is elsewhere.
He was right to point out the formidable powers which we have, even though they are largely negative powers, by the refusal of an I.D.C., but there is a dilemma even in an area such as London. If the parent factory is there and the firm wishes to expand, and needs an I.D.C. to expand, of course we should prefer that expansion elsewhere, for example on Merseyside or in the North-East or in Scotland, but we cannot compel the firm to go there, because if we refuse permission in some of the congested areas, the development may not take place at all, and not only will that be a loss to Merseyside or Scotland, as the case may be, but the added wealth which would have been created will not be created.
This is a real dilemma which we always try to meet in the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour by steering expansion projects to those parts of the country in which there is a good supply of labour and by giving I.D.C. certificates only in the sort of circumstances which I have outlined. I can assure my hon. Friend that there is the closest co-ordination in this matter not just between the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour, as one would expect, and with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on exactly the sort of point which he mentioned, but also with the various interested local bodies, in his case the regional controller of the Board of Trade, the Bracknell Development Corporation, the Bracknell Industrial Group and others.
The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) continued a discussion which took place at Question Time today.
§ Mr. Macleod
I agree, why not? This was a perfect opportunity, and he took it. It was a discussion centring around some Questions put to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power. The hon. Member for Fife, West suggested certain flaws in the co-ordination which exists. With respect, I think that he is on the wrong point. The machinery for co-ordination, of course, exists—and here I come to the point made by the right hon. Member for Smethwick about machinery for co-ordinating these matters.
That is essentially the Cabinet itself. Most of the Ministers concerned with the points which he raised are involved in these discussions. In all these matters the Secretary of State for Scotland stresses the case for Scotland in the Cabinet. The Minister of Transport, the Minister of Aviation and the President of the Board of Trade are members of the Cabinet. Those who are not members, such as the Minister of Power or the First Lord of the Admiralty, attend when these matters are being discussed. The hon. Member for Fife, West may dislike the results of co-ordination, but the machinery for co-ordination exists, and it is the Government machine itself.
The hon. Member raised a specific point about Donibristle, where there have been rather long-drawn-out discussions. This is a matter largely between the Admiralty and the Board of Trade. I cannot go into details, but perhaps the hon. Member will take it from me that he will have only a few days to wait before an announcement is made in relation to Donibristle.
§ Mr. Macleod
I am afraid that the hon. Member will have to wait to find that out, too.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South, with part of whose speech I dealt earlier, raised an important point in relation to an inquiry which he has already pressed on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. There is a real dilemma here, and we recognise it—the conflict between a need for speed in the road programme and a need to give the fullest opportunity 96 for all reasonable objections to be heard. My right hon. Friend has ventilated the matter in the House, and I will ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport whether he thinks that further comment is needed on what has been said today and, if so, to write to my hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), coming a little closer to the Motion, raised some very interesting points about the merging of different Departments. The first was the possibility of merging the National Assistance Board with the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. There is a case for this, but there are two points which we should bear in mind about it. First, the whole object of having the National Assistance Board was to separate it from party politics, and if we followed his suggestion we should be going back on a decision in that sense taken deliberately by the House. Secondly, we are all very concerned about people who may be entitled to National Assistance benefits but who are not applying for them because of the so-called stigma—which is nonsense, but it exists, as we know. Might it not be—I put this rhetorically because I admit that there is a good deal in the point which he made—that it would be more difficult to persuade people to apply for these benefits to what, in fact, would then be part of a Ministry than to a Board which is separated from it?
The other main point which he made concerned the underdeveloped territories. The Department of Technical Co-operation was set up so that all the strings from all the aid to all sorts of countries could be held in one hand. The hon. Member made a very interesting suggestion that the Department should concern itself with the sepcialised agencies of the United Nations. I think that I should look with a good deal of care on this proposal—and I dare say that my experience as Minister of Labour is talking when I say that.
There has been a most marvellous link between the Ministry of Labour and the I.L.O. over the years—this is the example which I know best—it has existed ever since the beginning of the I.L.O., which started in the Ministry of Labour. It was an idea which came from the infant Ministry of Labour in this country at the end of the First 97 World War. I should be very sad indeed to see that link broken. All the same, the setting up of the Department of Technical Co-operation is clearly the first, right step, although obviously it is not the last step in this matter.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) seized the opportunity to have a swift gallop on his favourite hobby horse of the information services. He said that there should be one Minister in the Cabinet responsible for Government information services. First, I point out that that situation existed when my predecessor, at the Duchy of Lancaster was in office and that he was attacked for it from the other side of the House. No doubt it is possible to have it both ways.
§ Mr. Macleod
The principle of the appointment was also attacked.
Secondly, the hon. Member for Woolwich, East put a direct question about the Central Office of Information when he asked why it was dealt with by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. It is a sub-department of the Treasury, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is responsible for its financial side. I think that it is fairly logical that responsibility should follow in that way. The hon. Member suggested that there was some connection between the level of the Budget and the system of responsibility which we have for Government information services. Of course that is not so. It is the general financial consideration of Government expenditure which governs these matters.
Finally, the right hon. Member for Smethwick, talking about the machinery of Government, made a number of points 98 with many of which I sympathise. He agreed—and I am sure he is right—that the complexity of the work at the Treasury demanded that there should be two high-level Cabinet positions there, and he approved of what he called double banking. But he did not approve of double banking at the Foreign Office. I dissent from him there, with respect. Quite apart from whichever House the Foreign Secretary is in, and apart from the complications which may arise from the need for the Foreign Secretary constantly to be at international conferences, the fact that we have these enormously difficult negotiations in Europe makes an overwhelming case for having two Ministers of Cabinet rank in the Foreign Office, certainly at present.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there was a good case for having small Cabinets. There is much to be said for that, but the argument conflicts somewhat with his earlier observation with which, on the whole, I agree, that systems such as that of overlords have been tried out over a period of years and by many different Prime Ministers and have not always been very successful. It seems to me that there is something of a conflict in these arguments.
I have tried to answer every speech made in the debate, and if I have missed any points, they will be dealt with. I recommend the Motion to the House. We shall do everything we can to further it.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That, in the opinion of this House, the country would be better governed and happier and more injustices and inequalities eliminated if there was greater co-ordination in Government Departments internally, and between Government Departments externally on both policy and administration.