§ Mr. Speaker
I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended Her Majesty in the House of Peers, and Her Majesty was pleased to make a Most Gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament, of which I have, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy, which is as follows:
§ My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
§ My Husband and I greatly look forward to our coming visit to Australia and New Zealand. I have the happiest recollection of our visit in 1953 and 1954. and it is a source of deep pleasure to Me that we can renew our acquaintance with those great and growing members of the Commonwealth.
§ My Government have been shocked by the invasion of Indian territory by Chinese armies. They fully support India's decision to defend her rightful frontiers.
§ My Government regard the development and improvement of relations between East and West as one of the most important aims of their policy. They will maintain their support for the United Nations, and they will continue to work for international agreement on general and complete disarmament. They will persevere in their efforts to secure a treaty banning nuclear tests.
§ My Government were gravely concerned at the dangers of the recent introduction of offensive missiles into Cuba. They have played their full part in close consultation with My allies, in efforts to deal with the critical situation which arose. My Government were glad to learn that those missiles are to be dismantled under the supervision of the United Nations. They will co-operate with My allies in seeking wider agreements in the field of controlled disarmament.
§ My Government will continue, in conjunction with My allies, to seek to achieve by negotiation a settlement of the Berlin question which will preserve the security and freedom of the people of West Berlin.5
§ My Government will seek to strengthen the bonds which link the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, which has a powerful contribution to make in maintaining the peace of the world. My Government will also take a full part in the work of other international bodies of which the United Kingdom is a member and will strive by all possible means to ensure the security and increase the prosperity of all countries in the free world.
§ In co-operation with My allies, My Armed Forces will maintain their contribution to the prevention of war.
§ My Government have welcomed the proposals put forward by the United Nations for conciliation in the Congo. It is their hope that the fair implementation of these proposals may lead to the co-operation of all elements in the Congo in the vital task of reconstructing that country.
§ My Ministers recognise the great political and economic importance of the development of the European Communities and the opportunities which British accession to these Communities would bring. In close consultation with the other members of the Commonwealth and of the European Free Trade Association, and having full regard for those interests in the United Kingdom which are particularly concerned, they will use every effort to bring the current negotiations to a conclusion acceptable to Parliament.
§ In pursuance of the plan for the proposed new Federation of Malaysia, detailed discussions are proceeding and in due course legislation will be laid before you.
§ You will be asked to make provision for extending the present powers of the Colonial Development Corporation.
§ My Ministers will encourage men and women from this country to offer their services for work in developing countries overseas, whether in the service of the other Governments concerned, as specialist advisers, or under schemes of voluntary recruitment.
§ Members of the House of Commons:
§ Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.6
§ My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
§ My Ministers will continue to promote efficient and sound expansion of the national economy, with a high and stable level of employment.
§ My Ministers will pursue their aim of improving the balance of oversea payments and maintaining the strength of sterling. In co-operation with other Governments they will give constant attention to means of sustaining a rising level of world trade.
§ My Government are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agricultural industry. They will lay before you proposals on certain miscellaneous questions affecting agriculture. The fishing industry will continue to receive help and support.
§ My Government will promote further improvements in the social conditions and in the housing, health and welfare of My People.
§ Plans will be laid before you for the development in England and Wales over the next decade of the health and welfare services of the local authorities, in parallel with the development of the hospitals.
§ A Bill will be introduced to extend the powers of local authorities in connection with the care of children, and to give effect to other recommendations which have been made by the Committee on Children and Young Persons.
§ Fresh provision will be made for securing the health, safety and welfare of persons employed in shops and offices.
§ A Bill will be introduced to increase the pensions of retired members of the public services and their dependants.
§ The position of war pensioners and those who are receiving national insurance benefits will be kept under close review.
§ My Government will continue to give attention to measures for the further protection of consumers. They will introduce legislation to bring up to date and extend the Weights and Measures Acts and they will establish a Consumer Council to represent and promote the interests of consumers.7
§ My Government propose to introduce a Bill which will require employers to give their employees written statements about terms of employment and will prescribe minimum periods of notice.
§ Continued attention will be given to improving the supply of teachers for the schools. The expansion of university and technical education will continue.
§ Legislation will be proposed for the reorganisation of local government in Greater London.
§ A Bill will be introduced to provide for the conservation and development of water resources in England and Wales.
§ Bills will be laid before you to amend the criminal law of Scotland and make provision regarding legal aid in criminal cases, to revise the arrangements for paying grants to Scottish local authorities and to amend the law relating to education in Scotland.
§ Other measures will be laid before you.
§ My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:
§ I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Aitken (Bury St. Edmunds)
I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.I am quite sure that I express the pleasure of the whole House that Her Majesty has herself in person opened today the present Session of Parliament. Her opening words in the Gracious Speech will remind us all that we in Britain have no monopoly of the deep regard and affection in which Her Majesty and His Royal Highness are held, but that this is shared by those other British lands over which she reigns and will soon be visiting.
8 If Her Majesty is received with any-think like the joy and enthusiasm with which she was received on her State visit to Suffolk last year, her welcome, and that of His Royal Highness, in New Zealand and Australia will indeed be a memorable one.
I am aware that in choosing an hon. Member to address the House on this occasion, the House honours those whom the hon. Member represents even more than himself. For that reason, by very wise tradition, he is allowed, in the course of his speech, to tell the House something about his constituency and perhaps even a little bit about how he feels about it.
I am the fifth member of my family to be a Member of Parliament, either in Parliament in this country or in the House of Commons in Canada. The first of these, a maternal kinsman, became Postmaster-General of Canada in the very early days of that great country. He was so overcome with the consciousness of the importance of his office that he put his own head on a stamp. When Queen Victoria got to hear of this, she demanded and obtained his immediate dismissal. One of the very few of those stamps ever to be issued now commemorates that act of royal displeasure in Her Majesty's own stamp collection. Since that time, of course, many distinguished statesmen in the Commonwealth have had their heads on stamps, but never a Postmaster-General.
The last member of my family was my sister, who was a Member of the Canadian Parliament, and this, I think, provided the only example I have ever heard of where brother and sister were at one time Members of Parliament in two different parts of the Commonwealth.
As a Canadian, I confess that it has always been a great satisfaction to me that I should have been chosen to represent and live in an area which, with the possible exception of some parts of Scotland, has the closest links of Ml with Canada. Among the many proofs of that, of course, is the surprising number of Suffolk place names which one finds particularly in eastern Canada, where I was born.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) and I received the usual admonition about not 9 being controversial on such an occasion as this. I am sure that I am perfectly in accord with this injunction When I assert that the Bury St. Edmunds division of Suffolk is the most beautiful and has the most interesting and varied land and people in the whole of the United Kingdom.
It comprises most of the County of West Suffolk—in fact, practically all of it. It extends from the Essex border in the south to the Norfolk border in the north. It is a grand rolling country, with splendid farms, great forests, fine animals and very well mannered human beings. It is a countryside of villages and towns and no cities—and I am quite sure that that is one reason why West Suffolk has one of the lowest crime rates and juvenile delinquency rates in the United Kingdom. It has one of the lowest divorce rates, too. Perhaps for exactly the same reason we have had for many years, from county council level down, a fine tradition of vigorous and efficient local government.
West Suffolk, with its many magnificent Tudor, Elizabethan and Georgian buildings, was one of the very first counties to interest itself in the town extension schemes under the Town Development Act, 1952. The towns of Bury St. Edmunds and Haverhill have already reached agreement with the London County Council in connection with overspill plans, but, at the same time, every local authority concerned has made it quite clear that the needs of these expanding communities must always be reconciled with the many beautiful buildings and local amenities which are the heritage of that lovely countryside.
Most of the people of West Suffolk make their living either directly or indirectly off the land and the breeding of animals. In addition there are a good many small industries ranging from the ancient art of flint-knapping and a pottery where one can still see a Roman kiln and Roman pottery moulds, to the manufacture of electronic devices for the nuclear age, to say nothing of the best beer in England. It is the centre of the bloodstock and racing industry in Britain. Newmarket is the home of the Jockey Club, which governs racing in Britain. It is also a world centre of equine and canine research. It has some 10 of the highest yields per acre in the world of barley, wheat and other cereals, to say nothing of sugar beet. It has the largest sugar beet factory in Europe.
There is a surprisingly high number of record milk yields, attesting to the high quality of the dairy herds. Beef production is of very high quality, due to very intensive feeding methods. There is also the breed of Suffolk sheep which is famous all over the world for crossing with other breeds. The pig population is almost twice as high as in almost any other country. At the same time, the astonishingly high prices paid for Suffolk breeding stock are proof of the knowledge and expertise of the pig breeders of Suffolk.
It is also the centre of the nuclear defence of this country. I think that hon. Members will be glad to know that living in the middle of a nuclear arsenal has never seemed to perturb the people of West Suffolk unduly, except during the last few days. I had a letter from a constituent expressing the gravest apprehension in connection with this matter, but I am glad to tell the House that his apprehension and fears were concerned mainly with the rising cost to the ratepayers of dealing with and removing the not infrequent visits of nuclear disarmament demonstrators.
§ Mr. Aitken
There is also the lovely town of Bury St. Edmunds, which has a long and somewhat turbulent history. It is known throughout the world as the place where democracy began, for there, in 1214, the barons swore by the high altar of the Abbey of St. Edmunds that they would force King John to sign Magna Carta.
The Gracious Speech rightly attaches the highest importance to the development and improvement of relations between East and West—I nearly said East and West Suffolk—to disarmament and to the banning of nuclear tests as constituting one of the most important aims of Government policy.
The Government are also determined to maintain their support of the United Nations. I think that we all realise that the United Nations has its imperfections, which have not diminished in the efflux of time, but whatever the difficulties and 11 irritations I am certain that Great Britain must always be there to play her part. She roust always be constructive and see to it that she sends as her permanent representatives to that body the very best we can produce.
I have had the privilege of serving on two occasions as one of the Parliamentary members of the United Kingdom delegation to the United Nations, and it has always seemed to me that the unique influence and power of initiative of the office of Secretary-General, which I observed being so skilfully used and developed by the late Mr. Dag Hammarskjold, is of immense value at this time.
Right hon. and hon. Members will have noted the tribute which President Kennedy paid yesterday to the present Acting Secretary-General of the United Nations for the part which he has played and will no doubt continue to play in connection with the solution of the crisis over Cuba. I am also quite sure that, here and elsewhere in the civilised world, grateful tributes will also be paid to President Kennedy himself and to the American people for the high courage and steadfastness which they have shown these last few days.
The House will attach the highest importance to that part of the Gracious Speech which refers to the opportunities which accession to the European Economic Community could bring to this country. It affirms the importance of close co-operation with the Commonwealth and with the members of the European Free Trade Association as well as the regard which must be paid to the interests affected in this country. It is dear that Her Majesty's Government are now determined to do their best to get us in on terms acceptable to this House.
As this part of the Gracious Speech will clearly be a matter of controversy in the days, weeks and months to come, I will say only that, as the representative of a great agricultural constituency and having a deep devotion to and belief in the Commonwealth and, like many of the rest of us, having given very much very earnest thought and study to this matter, I earnestly hope—and I believe that there are many hon. Members on 12 both sides of the House who will agree with me—that Her Majesty's Government will bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion.
I am sure that the majority of the people of the nation—and, I am glad to say, the vast majority of the Conservative Party as well—now seem to realise that the length and complexity of these negotiations, which have been so skilfully and patiently conducted by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, are mainly, if not entirely, due to Her Majesty's Government's concern with the interests of the Commonwealth and British agriculture. That is all I feel impelled to say at this stage, but I certainly hope to catch your eye. Mr. Speaker, at later stages of the great debate which is bound to take place on this subject.
All hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies will welcome in the Gracious Speech the Government's assurance of their intention to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agriculture, and that legislation will be introduced on certain miscellaneous questions affecting agriculture. I hope that the Bill will take cognisance of the need further to develop the Farm Improvement Scheme. I am sure that what British farming needs above all, whether in or out of the Common Market, is modern buildings and other fixed equipment which will enable it to take full advantage of the great advances in technical efficiency which have been made in recent years.
This means more money, but I am sure that it will be justified, because one of the most successful forms of agricultural support which has ever been devised has been the Farm Improvement Scheme. The £55 million originally allocated to this scheme over a period of ten years is beginning to run out and I think that shrewd farmers all over the country have begun to realise that it is a very good thing for their industry. Most of them are only too willing and able to pay the two-thirds of the cost involved to achieve these improvements.
The whole House will support the proposals to increase the pensions of retired members of the public services and their dependants. Equally welcome is the undertaking to keep under review the 13 position of war pensioners and those receiving National Assistance. It is my hope that very careful consideration will be given to the older public service pensioners on whom the burdens of the cost of living, and perhaps of failing health, fall most heavily. I hope that the Government have not excluded from consideration in their future legislation the position of former colonial and overseas pensioners whose pensions are anything but in line with modern conditions—mainly because some of the overseas Governments responsible have not met the obligations which they should have met in this respect.
There are many points in the Gracious Speech which hon. Members will wish to discuss and which touch us all here, in the Commonwealth and in the rest of the world. There are other things which many of us would have liked to have seen in the Gracious Speech, but one thing is clear—it will provide us with plenty of work, plenty to think about and plenty to talk about in the weeks and months ahead.
I Pray that Her Majesty's Government's plans and policies will redound to the credit of our country and contribute to the prosperity of our people and towards lasting peace and stability in the world.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip N. Hocking (Coventry, South)
I beg, to second the Motion.
I am, indeed, sensitive this afternoon of the honour done both to myself and to my constituency and of my responsibility to the House in seconding the Motion so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Aitken). So far as I know—and I have carried out some research into this-—this is the first time that a Member from Coventry has had the privilege either to propose or to second a Motion such as this.
The City of Coventry, the South division of which I have the honour to represent, is well known throughout the world. It is a city with 1,000 years of prosperous history. In its early days, it had a very close association with Parliament. In fact, Parliament sat in Coventry on three occasions during the fifteenth century. One occasion was unique; the King found the lawyers of 14 the time troublesome and so he ordered that no one who had studied law should be returned. I understand that that Parliament was known as the "Unlearned Parliament". No doubt there are many hon. Members today who are relieved that that is not now the order of the day and that lawyers are now allowed to sit.
Coventry is an industrial city. Until the middle of the last century its principal industry was weaving woollen cloth and silk. It may not be well known to hon. Members that at the time it was famous for its true blue cloth, the colour of which was guaranteed not to fade. Coventry has since added to its industries watches, cycles, motor cars, aeroplanes, machine tools, telephones and radios, man-made fibres and tractors. With the exception of watches, Coventry still manufactures all those goods and is famous the world over for many of them, and others besides.
To some people, however, Coventry conjures up a picture of destruction arising from the terrible night twenty-two years ago. But today we are proud of our new city with its shopping precinct, new theatre, art gallery and museum and the host of other buildings which go to make up a modern city centre. This year has been momentous in the history of Coventry. The new Cathedral Church of St. Michael has been completed and consecrated. This act of Christian faith has left its mark not only in Coventry but throughout the world. Since the end of May there has been a constant stream of visitors to the Cathedral and I am told that it is estimated that two and a half million people have passed through its doors since the consecration, a large proportion of them from the four corners of the earth. That is a good sign and augurs well for international fellowship. Many young people have come from overseas and have travelled to Coventry to help in the International Christian Centre at the Cathedral, doing very valuable work. I am pleased to note from the Gracious Speech that the Government are to encourage men and women to go from this country to help others in the underdeveloped countries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds has drawn attention to that part of the Gracious Speech which dealt 15 with the Government's determination to work for disarmament and peace. I hope that in this matter we may all, united, support a policy worked out in the best interests of our country and the world, and I am sure that we all welcome the recent developments in the Cuban situation and the lowering of tension.
Similarly, I believe that all hon. Members are equally determined to see Britain in a strong economic position, and I welcome the statement in the Gracious Speech which promises the Government's determination to give constant attention to the means of sustaining a rising level of world trade.
I consider that far too little is known by the public of the great difficulties experienced by industrialists and traders in this country in the world markets where they have to sell their goods. Unless we can obtain an increasing portion of the world's trade, we shall have to face many difficulties and searching questions concerning not only our standard of living, but also the future of our social welfare services.
I have always been proud of the part played in the export drive by those engaged in industry in Coventry. I understand that the national average export value per head of the population is £40 per year. A few months ago, the Coventry Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of Coventry's industries and their export record and found that the average value exported each year from Coventry was £400 per head of the population. This is a very high figure. Of course, it is true that the motor industry, at present Britain's largest export industry—and I trust that the Government will always look kindly upon this industry in their policies—helps to build up this figure, but the other industries have a large export trade. I believe that there is a moral in this for the rest of the country. It is that those engaged in the industries of Coventry are not afraid of change: they welcome it and grasp every new opportunity with enthusiasm.
I was pleased to note in the Gracious Speech the intention of the Government to introduce legislation which will require employers to give written terms of employment and minimum periods of 16 notice of termination thereof. This should also help to bring about stability in industry and at the same time give those who have to change their jobs reasonable time to do so, giving them time to think and, I hope, alleviating some if not all of the hardship which comes at such a time. I am also pleased to see that attention is to be paid to the conditions in which shop and office workers have to work.
We live today in a world of change My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds spoke of the Government's intention towards the European communities. It is essential that satisfactory terms should be arranged in order that we may use our native talents to the utmost. I am pleased to hear that the Government will give continued attention to educational matters and that particular attention is to be paid to the training of teachers so that the latent talents of children may be properly aroused. Proper schooling, together with an expansion of the technical colleges and the universities, will ensure future of our country. In this respect I am pleased that Coventry is to become a university city.
Before I became a Member of this House, I served for a number of Years in local government and I am pleased to note the intention of the Government to place more responsibility in the hands of local authorities, Particularly in the spheres of health and welfare services in collaboration with the development of the hospital system, and at the same time to extend the powers of local authorities in connection with the care and welfare of children, those in unfortunate circumstances, and young persons. These are important matters and I think that they should properly be dealt with by local authorities working as they do in close collaboration with the communities they serve.
It seemed to me today that, while not containing all that we would like, the Speech covered a wide field of activity. Indeed, every facet of our national life will be affected in due course. I trust that our deliberations—and no doubt they will be lengthy—will result in the plans and intentions of Her Majesty's Government redounding to the advantage of not only the British people, but also countless others beyond our shores, 17 and that when the present frost in international relations yields to the thaw of the conference table, as yield it must, then the proper hopes of men and women everywhere for peace and lasting security may be fulfilled.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
I rise in accordance with the traditions of the House to offer our warm congratulations to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Aitken) and the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) who respectively moved and seconded the Address. This is not the first occasion on which I have followed the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, and not the first occasion on which I have congratulated him, for it so happens that I had this pleasant task to perform when he made his maiden speech in 1950. On that occasion he made an excellent speech in support of an Amendment to the Finance Bill, and the fact that the Government were unable to accept the Amendment—which is not uncommon in a Finance Bill—is no reflection on him.
The hon. Gentleman gave us an attractive picture of his constituency, and described the countryside and the old City of Bury. He did not mention, perhaps it was pardonable, that most of the forests to which he referred are a splendid example of the work done by public enterprise—the Forestry Commission.
I have had the pleasure of knowing the hon. Gentleman for some time, and I have been with him at overseas conferences. He is a most likeable and popular Member of the House. He bears a famous name, and I must confess that in view of this, and in view of his origin, his family and his business connections, I wondered whether the choice of him as the mover of the Address had any special political significance. Was it, for example, a sign to the Lord Privy Seal to take a rather tougher line at Brussels, or was it merely a sop to obscure a new surrender? We did not get any very clear picture from the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I thought that there was a certain contrast between his attitude to the Government's negotiations in Brussels and the attitude of the enterprise with which he is associated. There seems to be a certain difference of opinion, which 18 is legitimate, but of considerable interest to us all. Perhaps it was none of those things. Perhaps it was just something which was given to him as a personal honour because of his services to this House, and because he is a well-known citizen of the Commonwealth.
The hon. Member for Coventry, South gave us perhaps more history than geography, but it was well worth doing. I understand that he is an architect and builder, and certainly will be in great demand by the Government. I do not mind his proclaiming the "true blue" character of Coventry. So long as two-thirds of the voters are Labour, and the council remains solidly Labour-controlled, the hon. Gentleman is entitled to whatever colour he likes.
I understand that he is very fond of gardening, and I am delighted to hear it. At the moment he must find very little time for that, but let me reassure him. He has a very slender majority, and before long he will be able to indulge his favourite pastime to his heart's content.
With the events of last week fresh in our minds, I think that we must begin this debate with some discussion of the Cuban situation. It was a week of intense crisis for the whole world, and I do not suppose that there was a single one of us who did not feel the most profound sense of relief when we heard the news on Sunday evening of the exchange of letters between President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev.
I do not intend this afternoon to attempt any full analysis. I understand that there is likely to be a debate on foreign affairs tomorrow, and there will be much more opportunity to discuss the subject then. I do, however, wish to make a few observations. I am sure that it would be a grave mistake if we were to treat what has happened as just a major triumph for the United States. I think that it would be a grave error if there were to be any kind of gloating over what has happened, and I think that it would be an even graver error if we were to draw over-hasty conclusions —conclusions, for instance, that all one has to do in dealing with the Soviet Union is to be exceedingly tough and the Soviet Union will always give way.
Not the least of President Kennedy's achievements has been his absolute 19 refusal to proclaim this as a victory for himself and a defeat for Mr. Khrushchev. President Kennedy was exceedingly firm on the subject of the missile bases in Cuba, and we all understand why, but he was also ready to give Mr. Khrushchev a very important assurance, that provided the missile bases were removed the United States would not attack Cuba. There was therefore an element of give-and-take in this whole situation, and it is far better for the peace of the world that that should be so.
My.second point relates to our relationship, and that of our N.A.T.O. allies, to the United States. I am sorry to have to return to this, but I think that it is my duty to do so. It was a matter of great concern, I think to us all, that the British Government were not consulted before the decisions were taken. I know very wed;] the difficulty of timing, and I know very well the difficulties which no doubt must have occurred to President Kennedy that if he had consulted us he would have had to consult the whole of N.A.T.O. as well. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the decisions which he took could have had the very gravest consequences to Europe, and it is not satisfactory that such decisions should be taken without the Governments at least principally concerned in N.A.T.O. having an opportunity to give their views on what should be done. I am sure that the Prime Minister is aware of this, and I am sure that he will be aware, too, of the need, should such a terrible necessity arise in the future, to make arrangements for better consultation than occurred on this occasion.
My third point is this. One of the most disquieting features of the whole affair was the Soviet breach of faith about the establishment of the missile bases. It is really impossible to defend the action of installing these bases while at the same time assuring the United States that no offensive missiles, and, as I understand they said, only ground-to-air missiles, were being installed. This is important, because, after all, confidence between nations and Governments is of the essence of international concord, and without this confidence it is profoundly difficult to reach any satisfactory agreement whatever.
I think that we must say this because it is important that the Soviet Govern- 20 ment should understand it. If there is a marked contrast, and I am delighted that it should be so, between the breach of faith at the beginning, as it were, of the whole crisis situation and the tone of Mr. Khrushchev's letters to President Kennedy—they could not have been more moderate, or reasonable, or indeed friendly—one can only hope that the further talks which will no doubt go on will take place in the spirit of Mr. Khrushchev's latest letter and President Kennedy's reply.
Lastly, there is the question, what happens now? We have drawn back from the brink, and perhaps we can get some advantage out of having been so near to it. One has the feeling that it is only when Government's and countries, and especially the two greatest powers in the world, are confronted with this appalling prospect that perhaps they realise the desperate urgency of securing real peace for the world. I feel that this is the psychological moment, which we must make every possible effort to grasp, for a real break through towards peace.
What precisely should be done is, no doubt, a matter which will be considered in the debate tomorrow, but it seems to me, in the first place, enormously worth while trying in this atmosphere to reach a swift agreement on the banning of nuclear tests. I should like to make this appeal to the Soviet Union. The West at any rate have said that we are prepared to have a treaty banning atmospherics tests because the question of inspection does not arise. It would be, after all, of very great service to humanity to have these tests abolished, even if, for the time being, an agreement on underground tests, owing to the difficulty of verification, does not prove to be possible.
Then there is the question of the spread of nuclear weapons. I do not know what other hon. Members feel, but I suppose that one of the things that worried us all was the fear that the control of these missile bases might have been not in Soviet but in Cuban hands. I must say for my part that I am glad that that was not so. I mean this in no particular reference to Cuba, but some smaller countries are, after all, rather less responsible in their attitude in circumstances of this kind than are the great 21 Powers. I think that it therefore brings home to us the urgent necessity of doing something to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
Another lesson that we all have learned is this. We have been inclined to say, "Well, the location of these missiles does not really matter; we can fire them 10,000 miles, or whatever it is, and it does not matter where they are or whether they are near to or far from Russia on the one side or America on the other." It is just the same. The danger is just as great. We must all realise now that that overlooks both technical and psychological factors. Therefore it is very important to reexamine the various proposals for nuclear free zones and possibly the reduction at any rate of bases, always provided that this does not upset the balance of security between the two sides. I think that this should be done.
We have many times urged upon the House the importance of trying to establish in Central Europe a zone of controlled disarmament. I feel that if we could have such a zone, nuclear free, with proper inspection, this would not only be a pilot scheme of disarmament under international control but would also serve to reduce tension and the danger of surprise attack. Lastly, I think that we can draw from this episode another conclusion—a rather obvious one but it is worth drawing—and that is the importance, despite the criticisms that are made from time to time, of the United Nations. After all, it was through the United Nations Security Council that these exchanges began to take place. It points the moral to all of us, after we have been right on the brink, that we can no longer look upon an attempt to establish a world authority—a world Government if we like—as the farfetched dream of a few cranks. We really have to get on with this job and make some advance towards it, if we are not to be faced with a repetition of the same sort of crisis that we have had in the last week.
If we had any doubts about this, if there was any danger of our forgetting what had happened, the Chinese attack on India and the fighting now taking place there would be a reminder that the danger is still with us. There can be no doubt about this.
22 The Chinese attack is a straightforward example of aggression—an attack upon a peaceful neighbour. In this case there is no question of nuclear weapons pointing at China. No one could conceivably have supposed that India had aggressive intentions of any kind whatsoever.
Furthermore, the Chinese a few years ago accepted the McMahon line. In 1954, when Mr. Nehru went to Peking, he complained to Mr. Chou En-lai that some maps published in China had shown what he called an inaccurate boundary alignment, showing the Chinese claim on what Mr. Nehru regarded as part of India. Mr. Chou En-lai explained that their maps were merely reproductions of old Kuomintang maps which the People's Government had not had time to change.
When Mr. Chou En-lai went to India in 1956 and discussed various things with Mr. Nehru, according to the account given, he said that although he did not think that the McMahon Line was fair, nevertheless it was an accomplished fact, and because of the friendly relations that existed between China, India and Burma, the Chinese Government were of the opinion that they should give recognition to this McMahon Line.
Even more recently, in April, 1960, after the new Chinese claim had come along, Mr. Chou En-lai said:The border dispute is only an issue of limited and temporary nature compared with the fundamental question of preserving friendly co-operation between our two countries.There can be no doubt, I am afraid, that this is, as I have said, a plain act of aggression.
Let us not imagine that it is something that is solely the affair of India. What happens on this north-east and north-west frontier, and what could happen, might be of very great significance for us. I do not know—and I do not suppose any of us know—exactly why the Chinese have done this. They must have had some motive, but it is obvious that if they were to achieve an outstanding military success this could have very big consequences indeed throughout the whole of South-East Asia and if they managed to secure control of access to India, so that they were poised at any moment to descend on the plains of Assam, they would be in a very powerful position in any dealings with India in the future.
23 There are also the dangers inherent in the situation for India's economic progress. If there is political trouble, or if there is a grave economic weakness in India, this again will have very big effects on the whole relationship between East and West. I am therefore very glad that both Britain and America are helping the Indian Government. I hope that they will continue to do this, and that they will also look sympathetically on the provision of any further economic aid which India may need in view of the new situation. It is not only economic aid. The need that India has in the coming years is not merely or mainly for aid; it is for trade. Let us remember that, and that if we do not open our markets to them—and by "we" I do not mean Britain alone, but the United States and the Western countries generally—they will never be able to solve their economic problems.
There are one or two other remarks that I should like to make about overseas affairs. I do not propose to say anything on the Common Market, because I understand that arrangements have been made for a two-day debate to take place independently next week, and I think that it is much more satisfactory that we should devote attention to it then.
I welcome at long last the change in the powers of the Colonial Development Corporation. Many of us on both sides of the House have for year after year pressed that the Corporation should have been allowed to operate in countries which become independent members of the Commonwealth. I understand that at last this is to be conceded.
There is the question—not referred to in the Gracious Speech—of Aden and the proposed federation of South Arabia. It is a rather urgent matter. I want to ask what the Government's intentions are. Not long ago they announced that they proposed to establish this federation, of which Aden would be a part. At the time we expressed our opposition to this proposal. We do not think it was a wise thing to do. We were aware that the people of Aden were by no means enthusiastic about it. What has happened in the Yemen since then throws a new light on the situation and makes it even more important 24 not to rush into this thing. I hope, therefore, that the fact that there is no reference in the Gracious Speech to any legislation about the South Arabian Federation means that the Government have had second thoughts about this problem.
Nor is there any mention of another very vital part of the world—Rhodesia and the Central African Federation. If anybody looks at the situation there—both in Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia—I cannot see how he can really be satisfied with the policies that have been followed. Can anybody really suppose that the Northern Rhodesian Constitution will last? We do not know exactly what will be the result of the election today, but there seems to be general agreement that it is most unlikely to lead to any stable Government. If it does not lead to a stable Government it will not lead any distance at all along the path of constitutional reform and towards independence. The plain fact is that this question will have to be looked at again by the Secretary of State, with a view to giving to the people of Northern Rhodesia a constitution that corresponds far more closely with modern democracy. It is not satisfactory as it stands to make an arrangement which might just, perhaps, possibly, give an African majority in the Legislature when the Africans are in the overwhelming majority in the country.
Much the same is true of Southern Rhodesia. I do not know exactly what the Minister concerned feels about this, and whether he is intending to do anything more about it, but we have a very curious situation here. Sir Hugh Foot has resigned because he can no longer support the policies of Her Majesty's Government at the United Nations. As I understand it, he resigned partly because he did not think that Her Majesty's Government were right in trying to make out that they had no further responsibility for the affair. Yet Sir Edgar Whitehead is now apparently speaking as British representative at the United Nations. The Government cannot have it both ways. If he is representing Britain there he is very closely tied up with us, and we must accept our responsibilities.
As we all know, in 1923 a great measure of independence was given to 25 Southern Rhodesia, but the fact remains that it was this House that had to approve the recent Constitution, and that this Constitution plainly is not adequate to the situation today. To give a large African majority—a majority of ten to one—a quarter of the seats in the Legislature is too little and too late. In my view the only thing to be done now is for the Government to approach Sir Edgar Whitehead and the leaders of the African movement there and work out with them another constitution. Unless that is done there will be no peace in Southern Rhodesia; that is all too clear.
There is one other matter related to overseas affairs to which I must refer, and which also is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech. I refer to the recent secrets trial. It really is an astonishing thing that we should have had three official secrets trials in two years, all of them of the greatest possible importance. First, there was the one at Portland, involving the Admiralty. Then there was the major one, which involved the security services, and was followed by the setting up of the Radcliffe Committee. We now have yet another one involving the Admiralty—the second scandal in the Admiralty within two years.
What makes it even worse is that what has now come out happened after the Report of the Romer Committee, when all these loopholes were supposed to be stopped. All that the Government have done is to appoint a Committee of three senior civil servants to look into the matter. We do not think that that is enough. It is not enough, because it cloaks the fact that Ministerial responsibility is involved here. The fact that, for reasons of security, Ministers cannot say very much to us in this House about these matters, must not obscure their own responsibility for what has happened.
When the First Lord of the Admiralty has twice been involved in this kind of thing, and when the present Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—formerly Civil Lord of the Admiralty—is specifically mentioned as having known and seen quite a lot of the person who was convicted, it is necessary that some independent inquiry should be made. I can well understand the feelings of some of those Ministers who lost their jobs in July—the seven who were sacked from 26 the Cabinet and the fifteen fired from the Government. Some of them must be asking themselves, "Did we do as badly as those two? Were we as incompetent?" So important do we think this matter that we shall return to the subject on Friday, when I understand that the debate is to be general, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for Smeth-wick (Mr. Gordon Walker) will expound our views at greater length.
I now turn to the legislation at home. We welcome the proposals for improving the pensions of retired public servants, but apart from this Measure the Gracious Speech is most unimpressive and unimaginative. We have three long-promised bits of legislation. First there is to be a weights and measures Bill—eleven years after the Report of the Hodgson Committee, and after all the muddle which took place in 1960 and 1961. Even now it is not clear—and I should like an answer on this point—whether or not hire purchase is covered by the new Bill. This was one of the major features of the Molony Report and all of us, as Members of Parliament, must know of many cases in which our constituents who complete hire-purchase transactions are nothing less than cheated in the process. It is high time that this was stopped.
Then there is to be a shops and offices Bill. Here again there is a long, long story of Ministerial delays and evasions, ending with the refusal of the Government to implement the Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) managed to get through with great difficulty only a few years ago.
Then there is the terms of employment Bill, which comes fifteen years after the so-called Workers' Charter in the Tory policy statement of 1947.
Thus, we have 11 years, 13 years, and 15 years respectively as the measure of delay between the introduction of these proposals and their execution, and even now we do not know how far the last Bill will go. While we welcome anything which gives the workers greater security, workers today are concerned not only with the question of getting from their employers a period of notice longer than a week; they are concerned with two other things—the ability 27 to find another job at roughly the same rate of pay when they are made redundant, and, at the same time, redundancy payments, especially for those who have served an enterprise for many years.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
That was the appropriate and natural applause—if I may use that phrase—of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond), because he was the Member who introduced a Bill to provide precisely for this. Unhappily, the Government managed to suppress it.
Then we come to a really bad Measure—the proposed London local government legislation. We do not deny the need for change here, but we say again that these proposals—if, as I suppose is the case, they are the same ones as those that the Government have advanced in their most recent statements —do not solve the problem. The proposed Greater London Council is still too small to deal with the great issues of planning and transport, which was one of the main reasons why the Committee of Inquiry was set up. And it is, while too small for some things, much too big for others. Already the Government have been forced to take education away from it and set up an ad hoc authority for this purpose.
I see a reference in the Gracious Speech to improving the services provided by local authorities for children's welfare. I am glad to hear that, but why then, in that case, break up one of the best child welfare services in the country? All who work for it—and plenty of those are not Labour people —are proud of the service and believe and know that it is one of the best services in the country. Let us remember that none of this is wanted by the people of London. The last May elections showed that very plainly indeed. This comment sums up the position in probably the best way:I wonder whether the whole underlying fact is not political, an attempt to correct by law something they have not been able to achieve by the ballot box.28 That was said by a Conservative alderman, a member of the Bromley Borough Council.
For the rest of it, we have some pious assurances; three in fact. There is one on housing containing a vague reference to improving conditions. We shall be debating that in detail later in the week. I will only say now that we all know about the delay in the slum clearance programme—with 120,000 houses behind sohedule—so much so that the Minister of Housing has now talked of doubling and trebling the rate of slum clearance in our larger cities. But what a confession of failure that is. What exactly does he propose to do? We shall be looking forward to hearing his answers.
There are three major obstacles in the way. The first is the high price and scarcity of land. Are the Government prepared to do anything about that? The second is the shortage of labour. Are the Government prepared to do anything to ensure that the clearing of slums and the building of homes for the people should come in front of the building of offices and shops? The third is finance —money. Are the Government prepared to provide loans at low interest rates to local authorities? If they will not do any of these things I do not see how we can solve the problem. This brings me to another matter in connection with housing which I must mention. It is a bitter disappointment to us that the problem of leasehold reform is still left untouched.
I must also make reference to education; the Gracious Speech refers to the supply of teachers and also to university education. The facts here are striking enough. Merely to overcome the present overcrowding and to get the classes in the primary and secondary schools down to the level they should be in size—that is, below forty for primary schools and below thirty for secondary schools—we shall need, by 1970, 100,000 more teachers. At the present rate of turn-out from the teacher training colleges and other institutions we shall get not 100,000 but 50,000. That is the problem which faces us.
That is by no means the end of the problem, for is it not time the Government really faced up to the need for raising the school leaving age? They 29 will have seen Sir Geoffrey Crowther's letter in The Times today reminding them that there is a last chance in this Parliament for the Government to do it. Will the Government take it or has the whole idea been shelved?
Then there is the question of university expansion. I hope that the new Minister of Education is a good deal tougher with the Treasury than was the last, and that he will throw his weight into this particular struggle. We all remember what happened earlier in the year; they way in which, for the first time, the Government cut down the grant proposed by the University Grants Committee which, of course, was substantially below what the universities themselves had already asked for.
The third pious hope about which I spoke relates to economic expansion and employment. One cannot help being somewhat amused by the phrase:My Ministers will continue to promote efficient and sound expansion…"… continue to promote …"? What does it mean? After all, there is not much sign of it being promoted at the moment. Production is still stagnant, virtually the same as it was a year ago. Investment is falling; the amounts given by members of the F.B.I. show in every respect that these expectations are worse than they were. Unemployment is rising and is now over half a million. Imports are again rising and exports, having risen for a while, have now flattened out.
If we had doubts about the need for urgent action in this field I hope that they have been removed by two items in today's news. The first is Dr. Jacobsen's warning to the whole of the western world to counter deflationary tendencies. Anyone who knows him would never say he was an alarmist. If anything he tends to be, in my view, rather complacent in these matters. The second piece of news was the announcement of short time working in the Pressed Steel Works. This is another example of the state of industry at home. We shall have more opportunities to debate this matter on an Opposition Amendment if, as I hope, you select it, Mr. Speaker. We shall then be able to debate more fully the parlous state of the economy.
I close with these words. Three months ago the Prime Minister carried out his great massacre. There was a 30 purge of the old, unfit and incompetent and the new dawn was brought in so that the young, progressive Radicals were promoted and given positions of responsibility. What has the change meant? If the Gracious Speech is to be a test, it has meant nothing at all.
It contains one really bad Measure, a few Measures which have been for so long on the shelves that they had collected cobwebs around them and had to be brushed up before being produced, and some vague aspirations about social Measures. That is all. For the rest we can only say that in these three months we have had one more secrets scandal and a steadily worsening economic situation. This is all that this new Administration offer. If they go on like this they will suffer the same fate as their predecessors, not at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman but at the hands of the British people.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
I shall, no doubt, find it necessary from time to time in this new Session of Parliament to disagree with the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. However, it is very pleasant to begin the new Session by supporting without any reservation his tributes to the mover and seconder of the Address.
The right hon. Gentleman's congratulations were generous and felicitous and, I thought, very well deserved. It is not the first time that the House has heard the right hon. Gentleman, as he reminded us, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Aitken). When my hon. Friend made his maiden speech the right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped that the House would have the pleasure of hearing him again. That hope has, happily, not been disappointed and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has had no reason to regret having given it expression.
We all know how much my hon. Friend has done to strengthen Commonwealth links, particularly with Canada, where he was born. He reminded us today of the enterprise of one of his forebears, who certainly chose an ingenious way of perpetuating his portrait. But, apart from that, my hon. 31 Friend has made his own mark on public affairs without resorting to any devices of that kind. He has shown himself again today not only to be a very popular and respected hon. Member of this House, but also to be a man of wide views and one to whom we all feel that it was right to entrust this task today.
I would also like to join in the right hon. Gentleman's congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking). He represents a constituency that certainly belongs to modern Britain. The new cathedral, the plans approved for a new university, will add to the fame of that city, which has contributed so much to our new industries. It is fitting that a city which has been rebuilt should be represented by my hon. Friend, who has so wide an experience of the building industry. His knowledge will be of great use to us in the changes and improvements Which we hope to see in this work.
It is now my task, before I embark upon what I have to say—which, I hope, will not take too long—to make one or two announcements. The House will no doubt hear from you, Mr. Speaker, about the arrangements for the debate on the Address. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will tomorrow move a Motion proposing 20 Fridays for private Members' time and the four additional half-days which, by agreement, we have had for the last three Sessions.
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I anticipate in one respect the usual business statement. I think that the right hon. Gentleman made some allusion to it. I understand that it is agreed that there should be a two-day debate upon the Common Market and problems connected with it beginning on Wednesday, 7th November and continuing on Thursday, 8th November. Although it is, of course, for you, Mr. Speaker, to decide, I think that perhaps right hon. and hon. Members will find it convenient to postpone their observations on this important issue until that debate because we have other important subjects to fill up the rest of the days on the debate on the Address.
Since Parliament was prorogued, of course, foreign affairs have been upper- 32 most in our minds. They have certainly been uppermost in my mind. I hope that the House and the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I follow the first part of his speech and leave some of the other questions he touched on to arise, as they must, in the wide-ranging debate on social, economic and other matters which will be unfolded in the next few days and which, of course, will arise when the Bills to which the right hon. Gentleman called particular attention are introduced. There is only one question to which I make reference now. That is the unhappy spy trial which took place. Since I understand that the matter is to be debated on Friday, perhaps I may be forgiven for leaving any comment on it until that debate.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
May we take it that if the Prime Minister himself will not be speaking on Friday—presumably he would not be able to do so—some other senior member of the Government will be dealing with the matter?
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, I think that the Minister of Defence will probably be dealing with it. I think that a good arrangement.
This is the first Parliamentary occasion since the really rather serious situation we have been passing through and I should like to refer to the first part of what the right hon. Gentleman said and say how much I agree with him in many of the points he made. Certainly, to many people reading the headlines in the news last week it must have seemed that, whether by coincidence or calculation, Communism was on the move in a big way.
First, India. Although it is true that Chinese troops entered into Tibet in October, 1950, relations between India and China remained friendly. Indeed, in 1954 the famous Five Principles were announced, and the high peak of that amity was scaled. This was confirmed at the Bandung Conference, a year later.
In the subsequent years, although there were some border incidents, they were not of great consequence and it was not until 1959 and 1960 that serious clashes took place. Even then the Indian Government, with characteristic moderation, tried to solve their differences by arranging a meeting between Mr. Nehru and Mr. Chou En-lai. The talks were 33 successful and since that time the Chinese Government advanced a claim to 50,000 square miles of Indian territory. Recently, events have taken a much more serious turn.
On 9th September the Chinese forces crossed a ridge which the Indians regard as part of their frontier with Tibet on the eastern sector of the border running between Bhutan and Burma. The Indians sought to resist them, but in the main attack which the Chinese began on 20th October, casualties were heavy on both sides. The Indians, suffering from an inferiority of arms and equipment in this difficult terrain, were steadily forced back until, on 25th October, they lost the important road-head at Tawang.
Other Chinese attacks were launched on widely separated points along the whole northern border. On 26th October a state of emergency was declared in India. Meanwhile, of course, one must accept that winter will close in on the western sector round Ladakh and, in a few weeks' time, on the eastern sector along the McMahon line. Therefore, it is possible that hostilities will not continue on the present scale but that a serious situation will persist, with implications to which the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly drew attention.
The British people have seen with the deepest sorrow the heavy stresses to which the Government and people of India are now subjected. Our connection with India, covering so many generations, was not severed by the constitutional changes of 1947. There are still, happily, the most intimate links in trade and commerce between our countries. Indian students come to our law schools and universities in even greater numbers than before. Recently, all Britain rejoiced at the tumultuous welcome given by the Indian people in their thousands, their hundreds of thousands —almost their millions—to the Queen when she made her historic visit as head of the Commonwealth.
Britain has given much to India—unity, the defence of her frontiers, the development of a Civil Service of high quality, a judicial system based upon our own and a Parliamentary and democratic Government. It is true that there have been divergencies, or some diver- 34 gencies, of thought and policy on some of the great issues which have dominated politics in the last fifteen years. We have not always agreed, but we have always had, I think, a deep respect for each other's point of view.
Those of us who have had the privilege of personal contact with Mr. Nehru must know how keenly he feels the importance of these moral and spiritual values for which he has striven. If some of us doubt whether the Indian point of view has been sufficiently realist in the past, if, carrying as we have, the heavy burden of defence, we are sometimes impatient of what is called neutralism or non-alignment, we must in fairness remember how deeply based in Indian philosophy are some of these concepts.
We therefore feel the tragedy which has come to the Prime Minister, a tragedy which he himself expressed in some very poignant phrases, when after all his efforts to build with the new Chinese Government and with the Chinese people a friendship based upon high and moral ethical principles he found the sudden, brutal and ruthless application of policies based upon the most naked and realist concepts of power.
I have tried to make our feeling clear both in personal messages and now in this public statement. In the words of the Gracious Speech, the British Government support the decision of India to defend her frontiers. If she has suffered temporary setbacks, we know well enough from our own experience how these initial reverses may be only the prologue to final success. What they ask us to do to help them we will do. Nor are we unaware of the deeper and more sinister possibilities that lie behind these movements.
While the situation between India and China remains a most serious one, the crisis which has primarily attracted our attention and engaged our attention since the House was prorogued is the Cuban one. I should first say that it is not true that we in this country have played an inactive role in this great trial of strength. As I indicated to the House last Thursday, activity can take different forms. A febrile, excited, nervosity which expresses itself in frantic demands that somebody ought to do something or other is not always the most useful contribution.
35 Nor does it help when some commentators—and I regret to say that there have been some who have taken what I would call a position of exaggerated neutrality —try to throw doubt upon American good faith, seem to hesitate to accept the evidence of photographic and other recon-naisance, and, without going quite so far as the Soviet Foreign Minister, to deny facts that he must have known, are yet inclined to be more sceptical of the statements of the allies than of those of the Communists. As before in great crises, so in this one there are always the weaker brethren in our midst. Happily, they have not prevailed.
A question has been widely raised as to the shortness or lack of consultation between the President and his principal allies. The right hon. Gentleman referred to this in very moderate language, but he referred to it, so perhaps I should state the facts. As the House knows, for a long time the American Government have been much alarmed by the developments in Cuba and of the Castro Government and by the close co-operation between the Cuban Government and the Soviet Government.
§ The Prime Minister
I say that they have, and that is a fact.
We have known that for months. There is nothing new about that. This particular crisis boiled up very quickly. President Kennedy was on an electoral tour a long way from Washington when he was informed of a sudden and dramatic change of the position in Cuba. The new feature which led him to make a sudden return was the discovery by American surveillance of the great rapidity with which the offensive military power in Cuba was being developed, both in weapons and in very large numbers or considerable numbers of Soviet military technical personnel.
This caused the President to return on the Saturday. During the course of Sunday he reached the decision and prepared his public statement. Immediate arrangements were made to inform the allied Governments. Naturally, the precise final terms of the President's announcement could not be finally settled, but the broad account was given 36 to us, and I was given it on the Monday morning. At the same time all the other allies were, by different means, sometimes personal visits and sometimes diplomatic visits, given the same information. It seems to me, therefore, that having regard to the rapidity with which the crisis was developing the American Government not only preserved diplomatic propriety but maintained the closest possible co-operation with their allies.
That was true then, and ever since then we have been in the closest communication, both in Washington, where we are admirably served by our ambassador, and in New York, where we are equally well served by the head of our mission, and through all the other machinery of different kinds which is open to us and which has been very freely used.
Although the House will no doubt have followed the events through the newspapers and the radio, I should like to add perhaps a brief account of the developments from day to day. In the diplomatic field, the attempts to reach a negotiated settlement were carried on by two methods, on what one might call two tracks simultaneously—one through the United Nations in New York and the other by direct communications between Washington and Moscow. We were very fully informed by both and took some part in them.
The vigorous efforts of the Acting Secretary General of the United Nations, to which I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman paid a tribute, were certainly of great value, particularly in limiting the possibilities of conflict between United States naval forces and Soviet or other Communist bloc shipping. This, incidentally, also relieved the anxieties of neutral and allied shipping countries. It avoided a situation in which they might become unwillingly embroiled.
In the same way, the United Nations, which played its part at the beginning of the crisis, will have an indispensable role to play in providing that measure of independent verification of agreements without which confidence is so difficult to establish.
By the afternoon of 26th October the shipping position and the shipping problem began to fade out of our thoughts. 37 We received information from Washington that the Russians had not only turned back some of the leading ships—the House may remember that I referred to this on Thursday—but that it was likely that the following ships which were causing some anxiety would not proceed. They did not. Indeed, by late on Friday night I felt that the President had won the battle of the ships.
The main question at issue then became the continued construction and continuing construction and maintenance in Cuba of the offensive ballistic missiles. These, incidentally, are the non-existent missiles which are now to be returned. As I said, the ships and the blockade and all the dangers that might arise from that began to fade away. We hardly thought about them after Friday. Everything now depended on the ballistic sites. These not only continued, but work was feverishly going on to bring the ramps into perfection and to place the missiles in position upon them.
The difference of time has made the getting of news and sending it back quite complicated, but I am speaking in our times. On the evening of Friday, 26th October, Mr. Khrushchev appeared to have adopted a more forthcoming attitude and in a message which was handed to the United States Ambassador in Moscow on that day he seemed to indicate that the Soviet Union would not transport armaments of any kind to Cuba while negotiations were being conducted—that was the purpose of the standstill, as we thought of it then—provided that the United States would abandon its quarantine. He also said that, if President Kennedy would give an assurance that the United States would not participate in any attack on Cuba, and would restrain others from similar action, the situation would change. That message was given in the normal diplomatic way to the American Ambassador in Moscow, and after being enciphered was sent on.
Before the United States was able to consider and formulate a reply, another message came through Moscow radio from Mr. Khrushchev to President Kennedy. This message took rather a different tone. He now proposed that Soviet offensive missiles should be removed from Cuba provided that the 38 United States would remove the missiles from Turkey.
Meanwhile, on the United Nations front, Senor Roa, the Cuban Foreign Minister, who had been expected in New York, did not arrive, but instead Senor Castro suggested that the Acting Secretary General should visit Havana for a general discussion. Therefore, in effect, no progress towards a solution was being made by the Secretary General, in spite of his devoted efforts. I mean no progress on the second great question of the sites—the building of them and the continuing of them.
Negotiations, discussions, debates, examinations, reports by experts—all these are very valuable instruments for what in the current jargon is called the reduction of tension, but they are useful to reduce tension only in a situation which is at least stable or static. This was not so: it was deteriorating hour by hour.
The President therefore decided to deal with the Russian communications chronologically and in accordance with their official status. To the public demand that we should sell out Turkey he contented himself with a public repudiation from the White House spokesman. His decision was certainly supported by the British Government. I feel sure that on reflection everyone in this country must have reached the same conclusion. You cannot avoid your own danger by making an ignoble bargain at the expense of an ally. Nor, in spite of a specious and superficial geographical parallel, was there really any comparison to be made between the situation in Europe, where the two great armies of N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact have ranged and facing each other for many years—this situation has been known about and not concealed and has gone on as a result of what happened in 1947—and the gratuitous and stealthy introduction of a new threat into the Western Hemisphere.
To the earlier formal Note delivered in accordance with diplomatic proprieties the President made his formal reply. Although the public did not hear of the formal Note, only the radio Note, I want to be clear that the President's reply was made to the formal Note. In this letter on the Saturday he made it 39 clear that the missiles must be removed from Cuba and that after this was done the United States would abandon the quarantine measures and give assurances against any invasion of Cuba. The crisis was, therefore, now approaching its climax. There was no more to be said on either side. It was a trial of will.
At this point, and only at this point, I thought it right, after consultation with some of my senior colleagues, in contrast with the private communications which we had had through various channels operating in Moscow, in Washington and in New York, to say nothing of frequent communication with all the Commonwealth capitals, to make a public intervention, as I told the House on Thursday I would do when I thought the moment had come. Therefore, after consultation—the Foreign Secretary has played a most splendid role throughout —I decided to send a letter to Mr. Khrushchev in the following terms. I venture to read it again because I think it has some importance to the point which I wish to develop at the end and to which the right hon. Gentleman called our attention.
I said this:Dear Mr. Chairman,I have now had an opportunity to study your letter of yesterday to President Kennedy and his reply.The essence of the position reached is that, once the problem posed by the offensive missile bases in Cuba has been dealt with under effective United Nations control and the situation in the area normalised, the way would be open for us all to work towards a more general arrangement regarding armaments.For instance, we should be able to reach an early conclusion of an agreement about the banning of tests of nuclear weapons on which much progress has already been made, as well as to give firm directives to settle the main elements in the first stage of disarmament.I would hope that this might mark a new determination to resolve the problems from which the world is suffering.I therefore ask you to take the action necessary to make all this possible. This is an opportunity which we should seize.This was telegraphed about noon on Sunday as an emergency telegram to our Ambassador in Moscow for immediate delivery. It was also presented in London at about the same time as we thought it would be delivered in Moscow —about half past two—to the Chief 40 Diplomatic Officer in the Russian Embassy.
The purpose of this letter was simple; it was to range the British Government squarely and publicly with the President now that the climax had been reached. It was to support his demand that the missiles must be, by one means or another, taken away, and I am bound to say that if, after having made their position clear, the Americans had receded, or if they had been driven back then, in my view, the whole Alliance would have suffered a most serious and, perhaps, fatal injury.
What would peoples in the distant parts of Europe bordering on Russia, whose soldiers, in Mr. Khrushchev's words,… face each other day by day upon the frontier lines …have thought of the value of a guarantee to people 3,000 miles away if the United States was not able to enforce its will 90 miles distant? "How," they would think. "can America defend us? She cannot even defend herself against such a threat." This would have been a kind of super Munich, and might easily have led to the collapse of the defence of the free world.
This seemed to me and to my colleagues one of the great turning points of history, for, after sending this message which made it clear where Britain stood, one could not help wondering what would happen next. There was no more that we could do except just wait and see what would happen.
By a strange coincidence, with an extraordinary sense almost of anticlimax, just at the moment when our message was being delivered in Moscow we heard on the wireless—not through diplomatic channels—Mr. Khrushchev's public statement in which he accepted, in effect, the American proposals that the missiles would be, in his own words,… packed up, crated, and returned to the Soviet Union under the supervision of the United Nations Organisation.This wasߞ
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Did the right hon. Gentleman get a reply to the message he sent to Khrushchev?
§ The Prime Minister
It answered itself, because he undertook to take away the 41 missiles, which was the one thing we asked him to do—[Laughter.]It is easy to laugh now, but I am bound to say that, having made that decision, we awaited with some anxiety what would happen.
It did not happen. We had made our decision and sent our telegram, and I must ask how anyone who bore any responsibility—and I bear some—could not have had a sense of relief when that message came at 2. 15 across the radio. And it was a particular satisfaction to feel that on this occasion we could enjoy that sense of relief without a sense of shame, or the haunting fear that that relief would only be temporary and that worse might follow.
Throughout this critical week, where so much more was at stake than the Cuba problem itself, two things stand out. First, the firm and calm deliberation, not merely of Governments but of all the peoples throughout the whole Western Alliance. Had Soviet policy driven a wedge between us, had we allowed ourselves to find arguments, however specious, to excuse weakness or to palliate indecision, I think that this structure, which so many statesmen of different parties in different nations in Europe have created, would have begun to crumble.
The second thing that stands out, and I add my own tribute to the generous tribute which the right hon. Gentleman made, is the supreme example of resourcefulness, judgment and courage displayed by the President of the United States.
The right hon. Gentleman asked a question which, of course, it is too early to answer in detail, though it is, perhaps, the one to which, most of all, we must now apply our thoughts. Almost all other matters, important as they are—and there are many other things about which we debate, and on which we sometimes disagree—have no importance equal to this. The right hon. Gentleman asked, in effect, "Where do we go from here? What can we do?".
I can, of course, understand why the Soviet Union should have supported the Communist Government in Cuba in every possible way—that is normal—but what was the real purpose of the introduction of the ballistic missiles? It is 42 hard to say. The action must have been planned some months ago, although only carried out in the last few weeks. Could they have hoped that the missiles would get there unnoticed and that then Mr. Khrushchev would have been in a position of considerable power, or, at any rate, would have had a considerable additional card in his hand before embarking upon negotiations upon other subjects? Was it the reason for his continued undertakings to wait until some time in November before pressing these issues? All this is very obscure, and perhaps it can best be left to the historians to try to disentangle.
But the right hon. Gentleman has asked, and I have repeated: what are we to do? How can we make the best use of this situation? How can we, somehow, get some good out of all this evil? It is to that that I referred in the latter part of my letter to Mr. Khrushchev. It is this hope which inspired the President's last message to Mr. Khrushchev. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the world has had a shock. It has been my good fortune not to have been in office when some of these similar crises took place before the war, and one realises perhaps more than one did what is implied in them.
The world has had a shock. We have been very near the edge. Can we use this experience, not for recrimination or debate, not to expect one side or the other to obtain a narrow advantage, but for the common good? Can we use this for a renewed effort to rule out some of the dangers and resolve some of the problems that confront us all?
Let us take, for instance, the question of the ban on nuclear tests, to which I referred in my letter and for which we worked so hard. Here was a matter in which we have reached a very wide measure of agreement. Up to now, of course, any idea of separating the atmospheric from the underground tests has been rejected. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned it today. It would be a great advance even to get that. But we have reached quite a lot of agreement even on this problem of discovering the underground tests, and could we not now, perhaps, use this moment to clinch agreement?
43 I am sure that it is the wish of the Americans and ourselves, and perhaps we might now hope that the Russians will be in the same mood, because one of the few advantages of this incident has been the acceptance of the principle of independent verification. That is the main point, perhaps the only good point, which has come out of all this, and it has been the main point that has up to now defeated the parties. I am hopeful that the Soviet Government, by the acceptance of this principle in one sphere, might be willing to accept it where it is of equal significance in the other.
Then there is the question of the first stage of disarmament, both nuclear and conventional. We all know what a vast relief it would be if these burdens were reduced, and if these frightful instruments of destruction could gradually be brought to an end. On the question both of tests and of disarmament, on which the right hon. Gentleman has so often spoken in Europe and in other parts of the world, we and the Americans have certainly made sincere efforts.
I must once more recall President Eisenhower's agreement, taken under great pressure, to continue the moratorium from one period to another, but we must not hide from ourselves the experience that followed President Eisenhower's forbearance. Again, the recent experience, to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention, of the flat denial of the existence of these missiles in Cuba must make us realise that, however vigorous may be the spirit of accommodation agreements must take the form in which they are not merely morally binding but physically enforceable by methods which cannot be evaded or undermined.
Apart from these problems, on which, I believe, we should be able to make progress, the question goes really deeper. Is it possible that we might all, after this experience, find some basis of confidence between the divided world? This, perhaps, raises the most difficult problem with which those in authority are faced. We must not be cynical, and believe nothing but ill of certain classes of our fellow men—much as we may dislike the doctrines they follow. One cannot live in a world which is just nothing but sus- 44 picion and fear the whole time — life becomes almost intolerable.
It was in this spirit that I have tried in my own way, as many others have, to operate in my personal relations, and those of the British Government, with the Soviet leaders to make some progress. It was in this spirit that I went to Moscow in 1959, and I have continued those contacts. But if one must not be cynical, one must not be naive; it is impossible to shut one's eyes to actual events. If, therefore, we are to accept the task, as I believe the whole House would wish us to do, and as I know the President is determined to do, we must do it in a spirit of what I might call practical optimism, where charity and prudence are combined.
Since many of the questions that divide us are questions of confidence, and capable of sensible solution if confidence exists, this is the real problem. In some ways, it is not the superficial issues that are the real ones, but this thing that lies below. At any rate, and I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said, all these various trials of strength, of which this is the most recent —and, had we weakened, would have been fatal—ought not to be followed on one side or the other by resentment due to failure or intemperance due to success. That is not the spirit which will lead us to better things.
It was for that reason that I have repeated today what I said in my message to Mr. Khrushchev, because I want it on the record. I believe that this House as a whole and the country as a whole are with me in my last message to Mr. Khrushchev. Let us agree to undertake negotiations in this spirit and, after what we have been through, let us see if we cannot find a new determination to resolve the problems from which the world has suffered. That is the message that I think that this House and our people would wish to send, and it is in that spirit that we intend to resume our work for peace.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Sutton Coldfield)
I wish to take up the theme of change brought before the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr.Hocking) in his, forward-looking 45 speech, and to urge the need for adapting to change the circumstances in two important fields, one social and the other economic. These two problems have shown themselves clearly to us in the Midlands during the Recess, and they both affect the country as a whole.
The first point is that the hunger for home ownership among young married people is stronger today than ever before in British history. This is the most important general conclusion to emerge from a careful, factual survey of the problems of young married people carried out on behalf of the Birmingham Conservative Association. The report states:No less than 84 per cent. of those interviewed were emphatically in favour of home ownership. Some had already achieved this objective and the remainder were making determined efforts to do so. A further 4 per cent. of the young couples expressed the desire to own their own homes at some future date but doubted whether they would find it within their means.In other words, nearly 90 per cent. of young married couples want a home of their own, with the vast majority of these meaning it really seriously.
The report continues:It is our view that the strength of this feeling has not been fully recognised by successive Governments. We believe that the time has come for reappraisal of the whole subject of home ownership with a view to a big leap forward in this vitally important social matter.My first request to the Government is that they shall do exaotly this, and do it bearing prominently in mind that the social and economic changes of recent years give it a higher priority than ever before. It would, in my view, be fatal to hug to ourselves the very considerable progress that has been made in this field in recent years and to miss the vital fact that the prize of a far greater advance is within our grasp. I do not want the Government to feel that we are underestimating the importance of the surge forward in slum clearance. On the contrary, we are delighted about this and the energy that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is putting into it. We in Birmingham know how much it will mean to our city. But we recognise that even with the new techniques of building there must be an upper limit to the amount of building that is possible in a given time.
46 I want to make the point now, and to make it at the planning stage of this great new effort, that slum clearance by itself, if carried out only in the form of the normal local authority development schemes, will not do anything directly to help home ownership. I select two matters to put to the Government. Would the Government consider it practicable to set aside in slum clearance schemes some areas for private development, and will the Chancellor give more aid to housing associations, which I think are one of the best methods in the private sector of providing houses to let?
If we accept that the building industry cannot possibly give us all the new houses we want, both to let and for sale, as quickly as we would like, it is clear that one very important way of satisfying the demand for home ownership is by bringing in the older houses. That is exactly What was done only last year under the House Purchase and Housing Act. 1959, under which the Exchequer made advances to building societies particularly for the purchase of older type houses. These facilities are undoubtedly especially useful to the lower-paid family man who wants to own a home of his own but finds new houses altogether too expensive. I would urge strongly on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should restore the facilities under the 1959 Act, even if it involves further legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) will, I hope, have an opportunity to develop the theme of home ownership in greater detail later in the debate. She, of course, speaks with special authority on social questions and will undoubtedly express the real enthusiasm that is felt on this subject in Birmingham and the Midlands.
If we want our young married couples to have homes of their own, they must be able to earn their own living, and in Birmingham and the Midlands an increasing number of our people, especially the younger generation, depend on the motor industry. Birmingham is still a city of 1,200 trades, one of which is very large indeed. This Midland-based industry is also our greatest exporter, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all British exports. In this field also change is big and fast. The motor car has ceased to be a luxury 47 of the rich, and it is safe to say that almost every young man in England today hopes to own his own motor car and is only held back for the time being by price.
The great change in the export market has been that it is now highly competitive, whereas in the years immediately after the war almost any car that could be withheld from the home market could be sold overseas. As late as 1955 we had to import large quantities of sheet steel at a high cost in foreign exchange for motor manufacture. All that has changed. There is only one thing that has hardly changed at all, and that is the crushing burden of Purchase Tax which holds back and constricts the home market. Our Purchase Tax is roughly three times the level of the equivalent German tax. If we had German tax rates here, our popular family saloon cars costing around £600 would be selling for £100 less. Is it any wonder that with such cars carrying £100 less in tax per car, the German industry is selling about 350,000 cars a year more in Germany than our own industry is selling in England?
The tragedy is that by fiscal policy Germany is immensely strengthening the exporting power of her motor industry while we, on the other hand, are crippling continuously and cumulatively the industry which is our greatest exporter. The motor industry is, so to speak, our champion horse in the export race. It is like having a Derby favourite, backing it heavily and then, by a strange aberration, slipping an extra stone of lead under the saddle as a handicap. This dynamic modern industry is highly geared financially by reason of the vast capital expenditure necessary for efficient and automated mass production. Production of low capacity in these great factories spells an inefficient high cost operation. Every extra car produced spreads the overheads over more units and thus lowers unit costs and generates more financial resources for further advance. This is 'the governing factor in this industry.
In practice a bigger home market stemming from a reduction in Purchase Tax would immeasurably increase the competitive power of this industry in the export markets. We are dealing with 48 an industry which could go a long way to carry "Neddy's" export target for the whole country on its own back. If we give the British motor industry equality of treatment with the German industry and strengthen its competitive power by a much larger home market, we can begin to think in terms of British motor exports being doubled as compared with present figures. I do not need to underline what a tremendous development like this would do for our balance of payments and indeed for the health of the whole economy.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) last year forecast the streamlining of Purchase Tax. I wonder whether it might not be reasonable to have a simplified structure of two rates, perhaps 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot be very forthcoming in this House in advance of a definite decision on a tax matter like this, but I ask him to take the case for action very seriously indeed, especially with the Common Market in view. I hope he will press ahead with reform, making it his governing principle to reorganise and reduce these taxes in a way that will release to the maximum extent the enterprise and dynamism of British industry especially in the export field.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Much has been said today about Cuba, India and China, and foreign affairs in general. I ask the House to look a little nearer home. For many years it has been my sad and painful duty to criticise Gracious Speeches drafted by Tory Governments on the grounds that they neglected Scotland, that they showed little understanding of Scottish problems, that they sometimes promised for Scotland wrong solutions, and even when those promises were made later events showed that those promises were either broken or ill performed.
The result of this invidious and un-statesmanlike conduct for many years by a series of Tory Governments has been condemned, as I shall show by quotations from distinguished political philosophers and British newspapers—newspapers without party prejudices, such as 49 The Times, the Scotsman, the Sunday Times and the Aberdeen Press and Journal, a local paper which is always on the spot and has good and accurate knowledge of Aberdeen affairs. I choose those newspapers because they are not Labour newspapers, and when I wish to prove a case I seek to do so out of my opponents' mouths if I can because that may be more persuasive to a Tory Government.
This Gracious Speech is no exception. It has many of the defects of its Tory forerunners. The Gracious Speech proroguing Parliament looks back of course. Last Thursday's Gracious Speech showed little to record of benefit to Scotland. It had this to say about the visit to Scotland of the King of Norway:This was the first State Visit to be held in Scotland since the Union of the Crowns in 1603.It is sad to find that there is nothing about Scotland in the Gracious Speech apart foam the visit of a foreign king.
The Gracious Speech made no reference to the tragic fact that during the period covered by it certain Scottish trades and industries were shamefully neglected and damaged. I mention only some of them: fisheries, shipbuilding, engineering, coal mining, shale oil, railways, steel and knitwear. As the Scottish Office knows, a great many other industries have suffered in the same way under this Government.
Today's Gracious Speech offers no cure for the ills which those industries were made to suffer. It is just a mass of generalities and clichés. It looks forward but holds out little hope for those great industries which are now languishing in Scotland, nor for the terrible and growing unemployment there. It hold out no hope that the pernicious policy of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer will be reversed by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. This policy is unpatriotic, is wasting our national resources, is increasing the slump in British trade and in world trade, and is increasing unemployment generally.
I invite the House to look at the unemployment situation. The October unemployment figures show the accuracy of the argument that I am seeking to present. They are the worst for this time of year since the 1958 recession. 50 They show a steep rise since last July. They have passed the 500,000 mark. There are now 325,000 more unemployed than there are jobs vacant. The demand for labour is at its lowest level for 4½ years. Yet this Gracious Speech offers no solution, nor a promise of a solution, of this great problem.
The regional figures are very bad. Unemployment is 2.2 per cent. in Britain as a whole. It is 4.3 per cent. in North-East England, 3.9 per cent. in Scotland, 3.4 per cent. in Wales and 64 per cent. in Northern Ireland. Is not this a disgraceful and shameful state of affairs? It should be sufficient to drive this Government from office? Such a state of affairs should not exist in any civilised country. Certainly it should not exist in a leading civilised country like Britain. This is a terrible picture of poverty and unhappiness and a terrible indictment of the Government. Why does not the Gracious Speech offer an explanation for this state of affairs?
What is the cause of this situation? I say that it is sheer incompetence on the part of the Government, and I am not alone in saying this. Here I wish to quote the Sunday Times.As I say, I choose the Sunday Timesbecause it is not a Labour newspaper and therefore I am proving my case not out of the mouths of my own supporters but out of the mouth of a reputable and distinguished newspaper which is not a supporter of the Labour Party. A heading in last Sunday's Sunday Timesstated, '"Maudling's sixth chance." Today, the Daily Herald,which, of course, is a Labour newspaper, I think—I am not sure—carried a paragraph headed, "Let Maudling stop dawdling."
Under the heading, "Maudling's sixth chance", the Sunday Timessaid:One has seen Chancellor after Chancellor miss opportunity after opportunity. One should not go back over Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's tenure of office in which the present Treasury view was formulated. Yet already Mr. Maudling has had three months at the Treasury which is his old and familiar Department. In that three months he has had five major opportunities to give a lead to the economy—the censure debate in July—the I.M.F. Conference—the Mansion House speech—the Conservative Party Conference—the first N E.D.C. report. None has been taken. Now his next opportunity is at the O.E.D.C. meeting in Paris at the end of next month, where he has said he will support the Per Jacobsson initiative for world expansion.51 There the House has condemnation from an independent source. I ask hon. Members to take the view that that in itself condemns this Government and this Gracious Speech for not taking cognisance of the terrible unemployment in this country. These are crimes against our public welfare and they are made more disgraceful by the breach of Government promises.
As recently as February this year the Government issued a White Paper, Command 1626, in which, with a bogus appearance of frankness, they said in the first paragraph:The Government's policy is to promote a faster rate of economic growth and a more vigorous development of our export trade.The figures which I have just quoted show that neither of those promises has been kept in Britain at large nor in Scotland. They are not even mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
On the contrary, the Government have insisted on implementing a different policy and on appointing a President of the Board of Trade who is not a Scot, who does not understand Scotland's needs and who neglects Scotland's needs in favour of England's needs. Like other Ministers in this Government over the last eleven years, he is only one of the Presidents of the Board of Trade appointed by this Government who have their eyes and interests fixed on the southern part of this island, as if it were like Cuba, different from the rest of the island, as if Scotland were an island separate from England, and, indeed, as if Wales were separate from England. That is a disgrace. There should be integration. This island should be treated as a unit, and Scotland as well as the rest of the island should be given equal treatment.
The Government have not promoted a faster rate of economic growth in Aberdeen or in month-east Scotland. They have not promoted more vigorous development nor improved exports. They have not diminished unemployment. Indeed, they have done nothing to give equality of treatment to the Scots.
Dr. Beeching subscribes to a doctrine which he expressed in a letter to me. He said that density of freight and population must be considered. He construes 52 that as meaning that the thinly populated parts of this island should be deprived of their transport facilities and thereby made more thinly populated, whereas the thickly populated part should have adequate transport facilities and thereby become more thickly populated. That is a non sequitur.It is unpatriotic. This policy is bad for the people of this country and it should not be pursued.
The view which I have put forward is supported by other political thinkers. The Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce Journal, published in Aberdeen, is written by Scots who know the facts of the situation. They call this Government… economic visionaries who fail to realise that we are in a period of doubt and uncertainty rather than of hope for the future.They go on to say:Those who live north of the Scottish Midlands—perhaps even a considerable proportion of the population of the rest of Scotland—? are in that unenviable plight today… the North-East of Scotland has suffered several such buffets within the last quarter.I quote this as authoritative, showing that my argument is not controversial. It is supported by the English Sunday Timeson the one hand and by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce Journal on the other.
That Journal particularises the buffets which I have not time to deal with today. Suffice it to give one more quotation from that editorial.Unfortunately, the Government, as the recent Budget revealed… is seeking to evade its responsibility and to hide its inability to economise by insisting that subordinate bodies should carry more of the burden.That carefully considered and well-informed article deals with other injustices inflicted on what it callsthe Scottish camel or should it be the Scottish donkey?Indeed, it supplies an argument for those Scottish Nationalists who regard the Scots as donkeys for remaining within the British yoke. These injustices contrast with English conditions and include the price of coal and the price of electricity, which are dearer in Scotland than in England. The article properly mentions what I call the Government's 53 uneconomic and unpatriotic policy. It says:The decision to make Treasury grants for the building of fishing vessels available to foreign equally with British yards is unpatriotic and uneconomic.That doctrine, to give grants and loans to foreign shipyards in competition with our own shipyards, is a disgraceful example of bad economics, bad politics and bad patriotism. It was opposed by the trawler owners as well as by the shipbuilders, regardless of party politics, because they saw the inherent wrongness of it. There is unemployment in the Scottish shipyards now as well as, unfortunately, in the Belfast shipyards. The article ends by stating:It is difficult to decide whether the economies of the coal increase or the shipbuilding subsidy are the more fantastic.After many years of Tory government the north of Scotland remains unpopulated, lacking in trade, industry and employment, lacking in those advance factories for which I have asked in this House time and time again. This Government misunderstands and misgoverns Scotland. Its conduct points the moral that we should have Ministers dealing with Scotland who are Scots and not English. I note that there is a Scottish Minister on the Government Front Bench who is laughing with approval at my suggestion, and I welcome his support.
Another aspect which I wish to mention briefly is the fact that the north of Scotland is close to the markets of Northern Europe—Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Germany. Intelligent and understanding Scots Ministers would promote direct transport facilities and increase trade with those countries. Instead, we find that our coastal shipping service, even from London to Aberdeen, has been discontinued. Not only have we the incubus of the ignorant Dr. Beeching wrecking our railway service; not only has our coastal Shipping service been stopped, but our roads are being cluttered up by a Minister of Transport who does not understand that aspect of the national transport. The three aspects of transport in this country are being ruined. The trade and commerce of the country is being ruined and unemployment is increasing.
I offer these criticisms of a Gracious Speech which I consider is not equal to 54 the occasion which it is supposed to serve.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
I am grateful for this opportunity to make some short remarks on the Gracious Speech. I would say, first, that it appears that hon. Members will be pretty hard worked during the next few months. I wonder whether I may, with humility—and perhaps to the surprise of some hon. Members—congratulate the Prime Minister on the speech which he made this afternoon. During the last week this country has been through a pretty terrible experience, as indeed has the whole world, and I think that the Prime Minister's speech, by its moderation, by its firmness and its explanation of the part—which is incalculable, not in the sense that it was necessarily overwhelming but because no one can calculate it —that Britain played—as a "third force" if hon. Members like to put it that way—in trying to help in the situation which had arisen and trying to stop it getting worse and to reinforce the proposition that the President of the United States put up.
I think that this country has done much to bring down the international temperature and to help President Khrushchev to come to the decision which he finally made, which was to bring the temperature right down and relieve the world of the possibility of having to bear this terrible and impossible burden. I have as little hesitation in praising the Prime Minister on this occasion as I have had sometimes in the past in attacking him for what I believed at the time, and still believe, to have been a wrong policy which he had adopted.
I believe that on this occasion the Prime Minister has played up well in the great role which should be assumed by British Prime Ministers in international affairs, which is to give a lead to the world. Britain is the centre of a Commonwealth. Let us not be mistaken about that. Notice should be taken of Britain because of her position as the centre of a much envied and very great association of nations.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
In view of the praise which is being showered on the Prime Minister by the 55 hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) over the part played by the right hon. Gentleman in this crisis, does not the hon. Member for Yarmouth think it would have been wise of President Kennedy to have told the Prime Minister what was going on and to have consulted him?
§ Mr. Rankin rose—
§ Mr. Fell
I do not wish to make a long speech on the subject of the speech of the Prime Minister and I am sure that, despite the stupefaction of hon. Members opposite, sooner or later one of them will want to make a speech.
I was pleased to see in the Gracious Speech the statementMy Government have been shocked by the invasion of Indian territory by Chinese armies. They fully support India's decision to defend her rightful frontiers.I was disappointed that the Prime Minister did not go a little further. I do not wish to sound Pompous, but I think that everyone would agree with what the Prime Minister said about India and particularly that we shall attempt to supply any aid for which India asks. But perhaps we have got this a little out of perspective. 56 Edmund Burke spent a long time trying to condemn Warren Hastings for his policies in India. We did not condemn Warren Hastings, in fact we did the opposite. In those days we did not, in my 'opinion, give a very good example in so doing. Despite that, we have had many generations of responsibility for administering the lives of hundreds of millions of people in India. That country is as much a part of the British Commonwealth as is Australia, New Zealand. Canada, or the Rhodesias, or Nigeria or any other of the Commonwealth countries. This should be borne in mind.
There can be no distinction between India and Ghana, between India and New Zealand, between India and Australia or any other free and independent nation of the Commonwealth. They are all equal and our duties to them all are equal while they remain members of the Commonwealth. If New Zealand were attacked by a foreign Power, or if Australia or Canada were invaded, however dubious might be the success of any such invasion, I have no doubt that any British Government would be at pains not only to say that they would give what assistance was asked for, but would immediately have a conference to see in what way we could help to concert action.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Will the hon. Member consider the Nehru policy of non-alignment and tell the House how any Government could overcome that difficulty?
§ Mr. Fell
That illustrates the extraordinary misunderstanding which exists about the basis of the Commonwealth. Quite simply, that basis is that we are all independent members of an association of nations which uphold each other. There can be no division. We may not like what goes on in Ghana but, unless the Prime Ministers' Conference inadvisedly decided to throw Ghana out of the Commonwealth, it is up to us to treat Ghana in the same way as every other member of the Commonwealth. That is the inalienable principle which we have established for the British Commonwealth of nations. There is no getting away from it. When the hon. Gentleman talks about the non-alignment policy of India, he might as well talk about vicious, wrong and evil policies in Ghana. But that is not the 57 point. The point is that a member of the British Commonwealth is under invasion and attack by foreign forces on her soil. This is a situation in which it is a British responsibility to give leadership to the other members of the Commonwealth in order to combat that invasion with everything which they are capable of doing.
There is nothing that we ought to deny to any member of the Commonwealth whose territory is being invaded by foreign forces. Is there anybody who does not accept that principle? Is there anybody who says that we will defend New Zealand but not India? If they say that today, they should have said it long ago.
§ Mr. Fell
I am sorry, but I am not the Government of the country. It is very easy for the hon. Gentleman to make this little party point, but he should be fair enough to agree that the job of a Member of Parliament, as he knows perfectly well from historical precedents, is to give the House the benefit of his own opinions, on whichever side he may be, whether supporting the Government or the Opposition.
It is my view that our duty, as the leader of the Commonwealth association of nations, is absolutely and utterly undeniable. It is that if any single member of that Commonwealth of nations, be it Jamaica, Ghana, New Zealand, Australia or India, is attacked by foreign forces, it is our bounden duty not only, as the Prime Minister said this afternoon, to offer them all the assistance for which they ask, but to lead—and perhaps in recent years as far as the Commonwealth is concerned we have not been keen enough about this, 'though I must not make a party point here, because it would be unfair after what I have said—but to lead the rest of the Commonwealth in some sort of design to help the country which is being beleaguered. It may not be inappropriate to suggest that perhaps out of this it might be be a good thing if some sort of Commonwealth brigade should be sent to India. It might not be a very big thing, but it would give moral support and would show that when any country 58 within the Commonwealth is being invaded, it must be defended by every single member of the Commonwealth, when it is under attack from outside forces.
We do not know how serious this attack is. The Prime Minister said very wisely that it may stop when the winter arrives, but I seem to remember the same sort of thing being said about Korea, and the attack did not stop. We do not know at the moment what is going to happen or whether the threat may develop into a major invasion of India, but we must resist it with all the forces at our command—not just Britain, but the whole of the rest of the Commonwealth, for in its way this is just as dangerous as the Cuban threat to America.
I sincerely hope that the British Government will lead the way, and not only give moral support to India and promise all the aid which has been asked for from Britain by India, but that they will in fact get the Commonwealth together and try to give an assurance to India that the whole of the British Commonwealth—of course, Britain alone cannot do this, but every member of the Commonwealth can do it individually—will do everything it can to defend India from foreign aggression.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Like you, Mr. Speaker, I have read a good number of Gracious Speeches, and I think I can say quite frankly that they indicate merely what the Government wish to do and are not necessarily any guide as to what they actually will do. If anybody looks over the Gracious Speeches of the last twelve years, they will see that the intention as stated is no guide to the end product.
I mentioned to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. G. Lloyd) as he was about to go out that I should make a reference to his speech. It is the usual reference which I find I have to make to anyone who has been a Cabinet Minister, because the right hon. Gentleman has been a very formidable figure in this House for a number of years and has sat on the Front Bench for longer than he has sat on the bench which he now occupies. I should have thought that once right hon. Gentlemen had sat on the Front Bench for so long 59 they would have learned to be more responsible when they returned to the back benches.
What, in effect, the right hon. Gentleman was saying this afternoon was that the Government should substantially reduce Purchase Tax, because what he advocated would mean a substantial reduction. It would be substantial if we had only the two rates which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned of 10 and 20 per cent., and it would be possible for the British motor car industry, upon which we depend so much for our exports, to make the progress which we all want it to make. I want to see the British motor car industry substantially increase its exports, but I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell me from where, if we slashed the Purchase Tax to the extent which he as a back bencher now demands, the money is to come. The right hon. Gentleman has been a responsible Minister. He has been a party to the decision which imposed the Purchase Tax, and I wonder whether he argued so strongly against the Purchase Tax when he was in the Government as he is doing now that he is outside. If the right hon. Gentleman did not argue when he was in the Government as he has done now that he is outside, I think he has become like the rest of the ex-Cabinet Ministers, who have one voice when there and who acquire another voice when they have to move further back.
Quite frankly, it is not competent for a right hon. Member of this House who has been a member of the Cabinet and who has taken Cabinet responsibility for the imposition of burdens on our people, once he has lost his Cabinet post. to say that those who have taken his place are wrong in what they are doing when they are only doing what he did when he was in their place. I think that we have a right to know, if there is to be a reduction of £300 million to £400 million in the Purchase Tax—for that is what it means—which of the services for which the Government are responsible are to be cut to that extent, or where the additional taxation will be imposed to compensate for the reduction in the Purchase Tax. The right hon. Gentleman's demand becomes a little hypocritical and nauseating unless he 60 can tell us that. It is the easiest thing in the world to demand reductions in taxation and increases in the social services, but it should be done with some sense of responsibility, and it seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon did not display the same measure of responsibility speaking from a back bench as he displayed when he sat on the Front Bench.
I want to refer in particular to this paragraph in the Gracious Speech:My Ministers will continue to promote efficient and sound expansion of the national economy, with a high and stable level of employment.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I should like to know when the sound expansion of the national economy is to begin. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that two years ago we had a Budget which gave £80 million of Surtax relief to the supertax payers for the purpose—of what? Stimulating exports. If the right hon. Gentleman had joined with us on that occasion and said, "Instead of giving relief in that direction we should give it in Purchase Tax," he might in that way have helped to stimulate the export trade. That relief would have stimulated the export trade more than it has been. If the Government are satisfied with the present efficiency and the present rate of employment, then I must say we have got some Ministers whose services are no longer required.
I see on the Treasury Bench an hon. Gentleman who was promoted after the "assassinations "some three months ago. He has made the usual trip to the North-East Coast, the trip which every Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade makes and every President of the Board of Trade makes. What in the name of fortune they go for, I do not know. The figures are there. We know how many are unemployed; we know why they are unemployed; we know the industries in which they are unemployed. But the hon Gentleman went, and I presume that shortly the Minister himself will be going. It is one general trail up and one general trail back. They go up there, and the people are full of hope; but when Ministers come back again things are just as bad as, or probably even worse than, before they went.
61 What was the purpose of the visit? Was it to ascertain that we have an unemployment problem in the North-East? We have had it for many years, and for 10 years the Government have done nothing about it. We know they are beginning to try to do a bit. The Government are going to do in 1962 precisely what their predecessors did in 1958. Remember that in December, 1958, unemployment rose to 750,000, and the General Election was not too far off. What happened then? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was asking the local authorities to increase their capital investment which should be completed in twelve months, and that he was asking the National Coal Board to increase its investment programme, and that he was asking the gas industry and the electricity industry to do likewise—in other words, to give a blood transfusion to that part of the economy which is in the nation's hands in order to provide 100,000 new jobs ; and he hoped from that stimulation the private sector would be encouraged to follow suit.
Whenever we have unemployment rising and an election very close the only instrument which the Government have in their hands to stimulate the economy is the public sector. The Government cannot tell the private sector that it is its job to increase investment in order to create new jobs. They can only do it with the public sector. We often wonder what would happen if they had not got the public sector at their disposal. They would not be able to stimulate work, they would not be able to provide more jobs, and they would not, in those circumstances, be able to reduce unemployment in time for a General Election.
This is a serious problem in the North-East. We all know the problems facing the shipbuilding industry; we all know the problems facing the mining industry and the railway industry; and this Government do not appear to have any intention of doing anything to help any of those industries. We all know the tragedy of the young children who left school this August and who still, three months later, have not yet got jobs. We talk about child delinquency, about the irresponsibility of adolescent youth. I wonder whether we have any right to 62 condemn boys and girls, who have left school full of hope, thinking they are going to start on their big journey of life, and who then find that they are not wanted, if they become anti-social and irresponsible. I do not know what their feelings must be. I know full well what the feelings of their parents are. I say that, in the North-East, and in Scotland, and in several other areas, the Government have done nothing but talk, and have taken no real, active steps to bring new jobs to the areas which so badly need them.
This criticism applies not only in relation to employment. It can be applied likewise to housing. We have had the new Minister of Housing and Local Government making the Cook's tour which every one of his predecessors made. He suddenly discovered in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne that there are some slums. Why was there any necessity for the Minister of Housing and Local Government to go to any of those cities in order to find out how many slums there are? Had he not seen a slum before? If he had not, he was not fit to be put in the post he has been given. I should have thought that any Member of this House would have known something of the housing conditions of the people of this country. I very much doubt whether there is any Member who has not got in his constituency some people living in conditions which are a disgrace to a civilised community. But the new Minister of Housing and Local Governmen has to make a Cook's tour to ascertain at first hand what the conditions are like in those industrial centres. The information was already all here in Whitehall. He could have saved time and trouble. What will he gain from it? He just builds up hopes, hopes Which never materialise.
There need not have been a slum problem, there need not have been a housing problem, if the Government had been prepared to utilise the labour and resources of the nation to solve the housing problem. We have seen blocks of offices after blocks of offices go up at the same time as hundreds of thousands of people are living in conditions which are a disgrace to a civilised community. The Minister need not have gone anywhere to ascertain these facts.
63 As for the problems of the North-East, we have bricklayers unemployed, we have plumbers unemployed, we have bricklayers' labourers unemployed, we (have joiners unemployed, we have unemployment at brick works—we have all sorts of people unemployed who would be employed if the housing of the people were going on faster.
What a reflection on the Government it is that the people who build houses and who create materials should be unemployed. Any sensible Government would find a way of bringing together manpower and material to build the houses which the people so badly need. But, of course, the Government are only just beginning to discover that there are hundreds of thousands of people living in the most impossible conditions.
The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) came into the House, spoke and immediately went out. He was very proud of President Kennedy, and he was very proud of what the British Prime Minister had done. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not share that admiration. If any little nation has ever been bullied and has ever had the right to acquire the power to defend herself, it is Cuba, having regard to her experiences over the last two years. The United States forgets her own history. She had her revolution. She threw the British out. Almost every nation has had a revolution, but afterwards it is a case of the poacher turning gamekeeper. The attitude becomes one of, "It was all right while we did it but real history must start from then." Cuba has been subjected to wicked treatment from Florida by refugees, largely inspired by the Americans.
Now people get up here and say that they were proud that President Kennedy was prepared to drop the big bomb. I wonder if they realise what they are talking about. The world was as near to mutual suicide last weekend as it could be. That position was created without any of the peoples of the world being consulted.
The hon. Member for Yarmouth talked of the part played by the British Prime Minister. But the Prime Minister was told after the decision had been made. He had no more influence on President Kennedy than I had. What did the 64 Prime Minister do? He said "Yes" to everything that President Kennedy had said.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Yes. The Prime Minister said "Yes, Sir" to everything that Mr. Kennedy said. Mr. Kennedy made the decision and our Prime Minister acted as the office boy carrying the message to the British people. The people of Britain were not consulted. The Prime Minister committed us, if necessary, to complete destruction—for that is what could have been involved.
I told the annual conference of my trade union that Mr. Kennedy may have the right to defend himself with all the weapons at his command, and that Mr. Khrushchev and the Prime Minister may have the same right. Indeed, this generation may have that right. But what this generation or any other has no right to do is to destroy this world. The world was not given to this generation alone. It was given to mankind in perpetuity, and the little children not yet born have as much right to inherit it as we had. They will not be able to inherit it if these men, who think that they are big and strong and powerful when talking about blowing the world too pieces, have their way.
These are not sane men. They are insane. They are men whose military might is far beyond their moral stature. They are not men in whose faith and trust I can believe, because I believe that they are dangerous men—dangerous for the people of Russia, for the people of America, for the people of Britain and for the common people of the world.
I hope that all the people of this country, of America, of Russia and of the world have learnt a lesson from that weekend and will make it clear to their respective Governments and statesmen that there can be no more decisions of that nature which may destroy the world completely.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Box (Cardiff, North)
Unlike the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) I welcome much of the legislation foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech. I was interested to hear of the position both in Scotland and the North East of England. All I can say about 65 the unfortunate circumstances in which those parts of the country find themselves is that the more I hear about their predicament the happier I feel about the state of affairs in Wales. Certainly we have much on Which to congratulate ourselves and the Board of Trade in this respect.
Inevitably I shall refer to two omissions from the Gracious Speech rather than the legislation foreshadowed. The first subject was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and it concerns leaseholds. I have no intention of wearying hon. Members with a further dreary dissertation on the undoubted iniquities of the leasehold system. However, it has come as a bitter disappointment to people in many parts of the country, not least in South Wales, to find that no legislation is intended in this Session to deal with the difficult problem of leasehold reform.
This is despite the inquiries made of professional bodies working in the areas concerned—put up at the instigation of the Lord Chancellor—despite the fact that it is reported that the majority of these professional men are strongly in favour of some measure of leasehold reform, and despite the indication given by the last Minister of Housing and Local Government that the Government had under consideration the possibility of giving owner occupiers of leasehold properties the statutory right to extend their leases on fair current market values. Despite all these things legislation has not apparently been possible.
I remind hon. Members that it is now twelve years since the Jenkins Committee submitted, in comprehensive form, its Report on this problem to the House of Commons. Since then there have been many changes—for instance, the Rent Act—and the prices of properties and land have risen to unprecedented levels, which has resulted in higher prices being asked for freeholds as well. But perhaps the most important aspect is that a further twelve years has lapsed from the life of these too-short leases.
I am of the opinion that the problem should be tackled now, before the leasehold system spreads its tentacles throughout the country. The leasehold system is spreading at the present time, I think for two reasons. First, if a prospective buyer 66 of a new property has the choice between a leasehold and a freehold, the leasehold is deceptively cheaper. The buyer does not realise that he may be paying, through ground rent, a very much larger sum over ninety-nine years.
Secondly, I am afraid that it is still a fact that many people do not mind signing solemn contracts for ninety-nine years which they know they cannot possibly complete themselves. Thus, this problem is mounting into huge proportions at the present time. Unless we tackle it now it will prove to be a tremendous legacy of woe for a future generation. We have no right to leave such a legacy.
We in Wales know the sort of problems, the difficulties, the acrimony and the bitter feelings which are aroused when these leases are nearing their end. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will even now find it possible to decide that before long he can at least set up a committee to bring the Jenkins Report up to date. If we have a report before us, it will be seen that some action is necessary.
The second omission is the need for an amendment to the Prevention of Fraud (Investments) Act, 1958, with particular reference to Sections 13 and 14. I remind hon. Members who are not familiar with those Sections that in effect they say that people who make reckless, false or misleading promises or forecasts for the purpose of obtaining deposits from the public can be prosecuted and are liable, upon conviction, to a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment.
Those terms would seem pretty comprehensive and one would have thought them sufficient to cover most cases which might come before the courts. However, the limitations of those Sections were shown recently by an appeal heard by the Lord Chief Justice on 24th July and allowed. It was 'the case of Hughes v. Traprell, who was acting for the Board of Trade.
The limitations are also shown by the fact that no proscutions have yet been possible in the case of, or against the promoters of, what we now know as Casino Enterprises which, during the Recess, advertised in all parts of the country.
67 I am confident that most hon. Members have seen these advertisements in or near their constituencies. The promoters invited deposits to be used for what they described as an infallible system of roulette. They offered a guaranteed return of £6 a week, tax free, for every £100 invested. Hon. Members will be able to judge for themselves whether this was a reckless, false or misleading statement. For example, the interest offered was 300 per cent. tax-free per annum, while if the interest had been reinvested and compounded it would have made the investor of £100 a millionaire An just over three years.
I think that it is fair comment to say—and I agree—that any one who invests money on these terms deserves to lose it, but, at the same time, the law has heavy responsibility to the public, however gullible it may be, and certainly a responsibility to prevent people obtaining money by dishonest means. One will inevitably always come across the case of the pensioner, the widow or the widower who can ill afford to part with savings yet is persuaded to do so by one of these schemes.
Hon. Members will also be able to judge the merits of that enterprise when I tell them that it was not difficult to find out that, in almost every case, the promoters were men with a criminal record. Within a few weeks, almost before one would have thought, the interest payments stopped, the doors were closed, and the promoters bolted with tens of thousands of pounds from the public. So far, no prosecutions have been possible.
There are two slightly alarming features to be taken into consideration at this stage. First, the police obviously knew of the activities of these "no-gooders" and yet appeared to be powerless to stop their activities, or even to warn the public against participating in such schemes. Secondly, the newspapers, usually the watchdogs in cases like this, in almost every case were afraid of suffering libel actions if they said too much at the wrong time.
I realise that the police have to be careful and the fraud squad very discreet in its inquiries and very certain that it is following up a real criminal case, but in cases of obvious fraud—and there 68 have been several in recent years—do we not sometimes tie the hands of the fraud squad a little too tightly? One of the most useful functions which newspapers can perform is to warn their readers against participating in schemes of this sort, but in this case, although almost every newspaper had bulky files dealing with these gentlemen and their activities, they were so afraid of the libel law that, with one exception, they did not dare to publish anything about it until the doors of the first company had been closed and people had lost their money. As soon as the doors of one company were closed, the rest went down like ninepins.
I do not want to pursue this aspect of the problem, but it serves to show how much we rely on newspapers in this respect and what a loss it would be if our libel laws were so strictly applied as to prevent newspapers from carrying out what is a useful function for the public. There are other examples of applications for deposits of this sort. Recently, I was invited to join yet another of those dreary piggy syndicates. This one had a farm in Derbyshire and a West End address. I completed the form which invited me to ask for particulars, but I suppose that I made a grave error in asking for a copy of the balance sheet, too. The net result is that, after some six or seven or eight weeks, I have not had a reply.
More recently, hon. Members will have received an invitation from Mr. A. W. Herbage to subscribe for shares in a company called Euro-Trust Limited. He has sent hon. Members and many members of the public what purports to be a prospectus offering shares in a trust which is to operate in European securities if Britain goes into the Common Market, but at the date of the publication of this so-called prospectus the company had no assets, and never traded and, as a result, had no accounts. I think that some £3,000 had been incurred in initial expenses and that was presumably to come out of the money subscribed by members of the public.
It is sheer impertinence to invite the public to subscribe to schemes of this sort. These are three good examples of the sort of people who ought by law to be prevented from soliciting for deposits, 69 whether by advertisements, circularisation, or other means. Hon. Members will know that building societies, issuing houses, bankers and brokers all have to obey stringent regulations when seeking money from the public whether by form of deposit or application for shares, or even when circularising them over other matters. There has been some tightening up since the Radcliffe Report, but from recent events it seems that there is still great scope for further tightening of the law. I hope that the Government will take note of what I have said and that before very long we shall see some amendment of the law along the lines which I have indicated.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
On both sides of the House and throughout the country there will have been great relief at the fact that the crisis of last weekend has moved away, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) that we ought to look beyond that crisis. The dangers of brinkmanship may still be with us.
The fact that Khrushchev gave way on this occasion and agreed to withdraw missile bases from Cuba is very welcome to all of us. We can understand the Americans' perturbation at finding these missile bases to the south of them and at the deception to which they were subjected by the Russians in order to enable the bases to be put there. But we ought to ask ourselves what would have happened if Khrushchev had refused to remove the missile bases. Would the Americans then have decided to pinpoint and bomb them? Would the Russians then have decided that they were threatened by the missile bases in Turkey, and possibly in this country, and then have decided to bomb the missile bases in Turkey and possibly in this country?
That is a possibility and what frightens me is that, having by their strong line won in this instance—and they have won, although it is an important concession that they have agreed not to invade Cuba—the Americans may try the same policy again when a future crisis arises, a crisis in which the Russians might feel themselves in a stronger military position than they were over Cuba. Might not a situation then 70 arise in which both sides finally decide to "go for it"?
That is the danger facing the world and I hope and trust that every effort will be made by Her Majesty's Government and by the people of this country to impress upon our American friends that we do not want any more brinkmanship and that they should not feel, having been successful on this occasion, that they should go out of their way to bring about a similar kind of situation when some other crisis arises.
We should frankly tell our American friends that the situation which has arisen in Cuba is largely of their own manufacture. The Cuban people are as entitled as every other people to rule themselves and make their decisions in their own way. The Cubans, having decided to throw out the Batiste regime and as part of that to get rid of what they considered to be American colonialism, namely, the large sugar estates and holdings, America should make up its mind to come to terms with the Cuban revolution.
Years ago, President Roosevelt very wisely came to terms with the Mexican revolution. As the House knows, the Mexicans confiscated the American oil holdings in Mexico. There was a great deal of feeling and friction in America, but President Roosevelt took the view that the past was past and that the American people must come to terms with Mexico. The Americans have done so, recognising the right of Mexico to run its own affairs in its own way. It is high time that the Americans recognised the right of Cuba to run its own affairs in its own way.
On both sides of the Iron Curtain there has been much lip-service to the doctrine of co-existence, but what has disturbed me throughout this recent crisis has been the large number of quotations in the American Press of statements by responsible Americans that they did not really believe in co-existence; they believed in victory. But there cannot be "victory" without atomic war and it is high time that people in this country brought home to our American friends the fact that there cannot be a victory in a war—hot or cold—but only agreement and compromise, compromise based on the right of each nation to do 71 what it likes in its own way in its own country. I hope that that will be brought home to the Americans by people like Walter Lippmann, a great American journalist who has done great service in the articles which he has written in this recent crisis.
We in this country have concluded that colonialism it outworn, and although Americans dislike the word "colonialism ", there has been American colonialism in the Caribbean area. It is right sand proper that we should make quite clear to our American friends 'that American colonialism must also come to an end if we are to have a peaceful world land friendly relations between ourselves and the American people. I hope the various statements and suggestions made in the debate will be followed up and that we can go forward from this crisis to exploring possible disengagement not only in Central Europe, but also in the Middle East, especially in Turkey and other countries in that part of the world.
I now turn to one or two questions on the home front. I very much regret that there is no proposal in the Queen's Speech to deal with the transport problem. This is very serious. There are proposals for closing down many railway lines. An enormous amount of money is being spent on building motorways and the amount of money being spent on repairing the M.1 is fantastic compared with the initial expense of building it.
It is high time that the Government made an effort to plan and co-ordinate our transport system sensibly. Rightly or wrongly, this country has spent a great deal in the past on building up a very comprehensive railway system. To many of us it seems tragic and extraordinarily wasteful to) scrap it. Along with other hon. Members, today I received from the British Transport Commission a suggestion that there was no real reason why the amount of freight carried on the railways should not be doubled. It was said that £90 million worth of suitable traffic a year more could -be taken on the railways. The Commission suggested that the railways should set out to 'try to get the traffic. I hope that the Government will make every effort to encourage the development of railway services and their modernisation, but whilst doing this they should take steps to see that we 72 have some kind of planning of the transport system.
With the initial proposal of the Labour Government in 1947 to nationalise the railways was the proposal to coordinate them with long-distance road transport, which was also nationalised. The idea was to see that goods were carried by whatever form of service was most suitable from the point of view of the nation as a whole. Denationalisation of much road transport broke up all attempt at co-ordinating the services. We need not only to renationalise long-distance road transport, but also to have some kind of taxation policy—as has been suggested in The Times—to encourage traffic to go by rail, not only to use the railways, but also because of the amount of money being spent as a result of heavy loads being taken by road and the danger to the public when these enormous loads are taken by road.
The Government should see that heavy loads are taken by rail in preference to to road as much as possible I do not suggest that we should ease up on the modernisation of our roads—we should certainly carry on with that—but, at the same time, we have to recognise that, however much we spend on the roads, we will never be able to match the increase in the number of motor cars and the increase in public safety which Is desirable. I very much regret that no suggestions are made in the Queen's Speech for tackling this problem of transport, particularly that of seeing that the railways are fully used and are used in preference to the roads for heavy loads, nor for co-ordinating the two services.
We are also told that railway and air services must pay for themselves. Most of us agree that, basically, it is desirable that they should, but, if we are to provide services for the public, there must be many branch lines in the remoter parts of Scotland and Wales which can never pay for themselves, any more than a rural post office pays for itself.
I think that it is the Government's responsibility to investigate this problem and tell Dr. Beeching, or whoever is responsible for running rail and air services, that certain services must be provided as a social service. The cost of 73 providing such services should be investigated and the money provided as a social service to enable the authorities reponsible for these services to provide them. It will be necessary to do this if we are to provide at least minimum services in the remoter parts of the country.
It must be remembered that the running of the Post Office is based on the fact that enough money is made in the big towns to enable services to be provided in rural areas where the services provided cannot pay for themselves. It is only right and proper that the community as a whole should provide these services in the remoter parts of the country.
I regret that the problem of land has not been dealt with in the Gracious Speech. It contains only one short reference to housing, and I regret that the Government have not put forward specific proposals for dealing with the housing problem. In the south-east of England land prices are making it more and more difficult to build houses at reasonable prices. I think, therefore, that the Government should have put forward suggestions for dealing with this problem of the high price of land.
If houses are to be built at reasonable prices it will be necessary for the Government to take over, either directly or through the municipalities, the ownership of urban land for development. The Government will have to do this if the land is to be properly developed and the profits enjoyed by the community, and if we are to have houses built at reasonable prices which can then be let at prices which people can afford to pay.
The rising price of land is an example of Tory planning having broken down. The Government rightly insisted on keeping the green belt and on planning the general layout of building around the big industrial areas, but it is not possible to have that kind of planning unless, at the same time, the price of land is controlled. For it is a matter of accident whether one owner makes a large profit from the sale of land while another is not allowed to. So long as this state of affairs exists there is bound to be great pressure to avoid proper planning, and the price of land will continually rise. I therefore repeat that I regret that nothing has been said about dealing with this problem of 74 the high price of land in connection with the housing proposals of the Government.
Lastly, I dealt with the proposals for the Greater London area. My local authority is very much against this plan, as are the majority of local authorities around London. One sometimes has to choose between the best democratic units and the best administrative ones. It may well be that a large borough or large authority is a better administrative unit, but with any large-sized body it is difficult to get people voluntarily to serve on it. The reason for this is that people serving on the authority are dealing with problems which arise in areas remote from their doorsteps, and in most cases, possibly not in inner London but certainly in outer London, the present sized units are about right from the point of view of being the best democratic ones on which people will serve.
I think that in Dagenham we have a borough of about the right size, and the same is true of other boroughs in the neighbourhood. It is on this point that there has been the strongest criticism of the Government proposals, and I do not think that the changes will bring about better democratic Government, although I agree that better administrative units may be created as a result of them. I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider this problem again when the Bill comes before the House.
The Gracious Speech neglects a number of important issues of the day, but I hope and trust that it will not be long before the country chooses another Government.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
I hope that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he said about foreign affairs. I should, however, like to comment briefly on what he said about transport.
Although I appreciate that a great deal of money is now being spent on repairs to the M.1, this is true of almost any motor road in Germany or elsewhere. During the last two years I have visited Germany many times and driven along the motor roads. One finds, particularly in the spring, the most appalling bottlenecks caused largely by repairs due to frost damage, and a good deal of repair work is inevitable on any motor road.
75 Dealing with the co-ordination of road and rail transport, I agree that there is a great deal to be done in this connection, although I do not necessarily accept that it can be done only if they are both under public ownership. There is still something to be said for competition between the two. As the hon. Gentleman said, it would be wasteful and absurd to scrap the railways. It would be equally wasteful to continue trying to run services which do not pay, particularly when road transport can provide an efficient substitute. The hon. Gentleman and I are agreed on what we are trying to do, but I do not accept that it ought to be done by State ownership.
The hon. Gentleman made a brief reference to the air services and said that they, too, did not pay. I believe that it is wrong to continue this mania for supersonic aircraft and faster and faster travel. By way of a change, I should like to see something done to bring down the cost of air travel and make it more comfortable instead of merely aiming at speed. I am sure that this would be a better way to try to make the airways pay.
Still dealing with air travel, a point about which I feel most strongly is the amount of time wasted in getting to the airport and hanging about there before boarding one's plane. A monorail from Victoria to London Airport, or one from Manchester to Ringway, would speed up air travel much more than the introduction of supersonic aircraft, which, in any event, cannot be used between London and Manchester. I hope that my suggestion will be considered in due course.
I think that it would be wrong to say more than a few words about the Common Market, but I have one comment to make on what my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. G. Lloyd) said about the motor trade and about it being our greatest exporting industry. What we must press for above all else in the Common Market negotiations is nil tariffs on certain raw materials from the Commonwealth. This is vital not only to us, but to the Commonwealth. We must press for nil tariffs on zinc, lead and aluminium, all of which are important to the motor trade 76 and to many other industries in this country. We shall defeat our object of trying to provide better opportunities by entering this large market if, at the same time, we accept regulations which will force up the price of the goods we are trying to sell abroad.
The Gracious Speech recognises that it is the responsibility of the Government to create the best possible conditions for industry in this country so that firms may sell more abroad. The Common Market will not be the solution of all our problems, but it will provide us with a great opportunity for expansion, and industry will need the help of the Government to take full advantage of this opportunity.
My right hon. Friend referred to the question of Purchase Tax, with particular reference to the motor industry. I agree with what he said.
I should like to say something about the question of Profits Tax on undistributed profits. I always felt, although I do not claim to have any but the most rudimentary knowledge of taxation matters, that it was a mistake when we put the tax on undistributed and distributed profits on the same level. It used to be different. Now we find that the tax on undistributed profits is five times more than it was in 1958. That is a very serious matter for those firms which do what I would have thought the Government and the country as a whole wished them to do, which is to plough back as much as they can of their profits into their businesses. I think that it will be generally agreed that this alteration in the taxation of profits hits some firms much harder than others, because obviously some firms have to plough back a much larger share of their profits if they are to keep themselves efficient.
I think that a study of the Stock Exchange indices over the years since about 1958, would show that, in general, the non-manufacturing industries or businesses, like banks, insurance companies, and stores, have benefited very much more by the change in taxation than engineering, electrical industries, and so on. Yet I believe that it is industries like the electrical and engineering industries which will make the greatest contribution to our export trade.
The present system hits some firms very much harder than it does others. 77 I could quote one firm of which I have some knowledge—I think that there are many others like it—which now has to pay five times as much in Profits Tax on undistributed profits as it did eight years ago. It is now at the highest level that it has bean for eight years. During those eight years, while taxes have been going up on undistributed profits, the cost of replacing plant has also been going up, in some cases by about 45 per cent. There we have the manufacturer who is doing what we all agree is right in the interests of the country catching it both ways, in increased costs and increased taxation on what he is ploughing back into his business.
It is said, and it may be the view of my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, that any form of increased tax on undistributed profits has been made good in the form of investment allowances. That is true, but it is only partly true. It is an undoubted fact that the investment allowances do not provide some firms with anything like as much money as they would have had through ploughing back the profits into their businesses. Although investment allowances might at first sight seem to be reasonably generous, they are not adequate for the present time. I think that it is true to say that the rate of technical development over the last few years has been more rapid than ever before in our history, with the result that it is necessary each year to put back more into one's business if one is to keep up with one's competitors.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, but I wonder Whether he has overlooked the statement of his right hon. and learned Friend the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was his aim to find a separate tax for company profits which would obviously eliminate Profits Tax as we understand it, and, therefore, do away with the feasibility of the differential rate of tax on distributed and undistributed profits.
There is a second point. Does the hon. Member remember that last year the Government made substantial reductions in Surtax and recouped the Exchequer for about £84 million of tax relief by increasing the Profits Tax? Did he think that that was a wise thing to do? It 78 aggravates the very point which he is now making.
§ Mr. Johnson
Was it Surtax that the Government recouped by increasing the Profits Tax? The hon. Gentleman is a great expert on taxation and I am regrettably ignorant of the subject. I can hardly do my own Income Tax returns, let alone venture to answer some of his comments. Whatever the Government may have said, I still think that it was a mistake to make the level of tax on undistributed profits the same as that on distributed profits. I know that that is a view not universally shared on this side of the House, and possibly not on the other side, but, knowing the effect which it has had on some businesses, it is a view to which I adhere.
I have one more comment to make on the Gracious Speech. I very much welcome—and I am sure that I speak for hon. Members on both sides of the House—the proposal to increase the pensions of retired members of the public services and their dependants. Some of us have been trying in various ways to get this brought forward a little earlier than it has been. I hope that, now we have it in the Gracious Speech, it will be dealt with as an extremely urgent matter, and that when the increases are made they will be very generous.
I have never been able to accept the principle of the immutability of pensions. I know that that view will not commend itself to the Treasury Bench, but I cannot see why it should be so. As people get older, they want their pension even more than when they were younger. I would not make the pensions entirely catch up to the current rate, but they should not fall more than one or two stages behind the current rate. It is only fair that the pensioner should be treated a little better, because, whatever the theoretical ideas may be about the immutability of pensions, when we see this in terms of human beings, of elderly ex-officers and officers' widows being compelled to have recourse to National Assistance, we realise that there is something quite wrong.
Reference is also made to something which I am sure we all welcome and in connection with which we look forward to seeing some results. That is the 79 position of war pensioners and those receiving National Insurance benefits. I hope that in their case special consideration will be given to the position of the aged limbless. There is no doubt that the older one gets the greater is the discomfort and hardship of wearing an artificial limb. The Government have behaved generously towards limbless pensioners during the past few years, but there is room for more generosity, and I hope that their case will not be overlooked.
On the subject of war pensioners, I wish that a little more could be done to publicise what they are able to get. I have a certain amount to do with the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association. In co-operation with the Association, I went to see all the limbless and war-disabled people in my constituency whom I could find to discover whether they were getting the pensions to which they were entitled. Quite a lot of them were not. When I took the matter up with the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance this was immediately put right. It ought not to have been necessary for me to point this out. I know that pamphlets are sent out for them to read, but they are not easy to understand, however simply they may be put. If, by publicity on the radio, television or through the Press, more could be done to let them know their rights, it would be a very great advantage.
I have spoken for longer than I intended. In conclusion, I would only say that the Gracious Speech has provided us with plenty of work for a long time to come, irrespective of what may happen in connection with the European Economic Community. A few matters which might have been included in it may have been omitted, and no doubt there are others on which we are not entirely agreed which find themselves in the Speech, but in general this is a most valuable and constructive Speech, and I hope that it will commend itself to hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I take an entirely different point of view from that expressed by the hon. Mem- 80 ber for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson). The policy outlined in the Gracious Speech contains some of the most hypocritical professions I have ever read in any speech in my seventeen years in the House. I want to draw the attention of the hon. Member to some of them.
Paragraph 4 says:My Government were gravely concerned at the dangers of the recent introduction of offensive missiles into Cuba…I am glad to know that the Government are now expressing some concern about nuclear missiles, but I wish that they had done so when such missiles were being introduced into Turkey, Pakistan and the Holy Loch. I am surprised that they are displaying concern only now, when those missiles have been introduced into the island of Cuba, which is independent—in many ways more independent than Scotland, and as independent as Pakistan or Turkey If the Government do not recognise that independence they ought to be honest and say so. Do they regard Cuba as being under the suzerainty of the United States? Is it because the Government recognise that claim that they are concerned about the dangers of the recent introduction of offensive missiles into Cuba?
§ Mr. E. Johnson
Does not the hon. Member agree that the Government were equally concerned about the introduction of offensive missiles into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany?
§ Mr. Rankin
I should like to know where those missiles are stationed. Will the hon. Member tell us? Russia has not permitted any of her allies to have nuclear weapons. If the hon. Member denies that, I shall be extremely surprised.
Nevertheless, the Gracious Speech expresses concern at the introduction of these offensive missiles. Here we come back to the old discrimination. We used to talk about strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, saying that there was a difference between the two. That sort of talk went on for a long time, until the issue became so cloudy that nobody knew exactly which was which. This discrimination has now been largely dropped. But apparently in some parts of the world it is permissible to have 81 defensive nuclear weapons but not offensive nuclear weapons, that is to say, it is permissible to have nuclear weapons which will fire a warhead only 25 or 30 miles, but not nuclear weapons that will fire a missile 1,000 or 2,000 miles. Only those countries which are so small that they can do nothing about it are being limited in this way, however.
In putting forward this policy America and this country are denying the independence of Cuba. They are interfering directly in her internal affairs. Today, the Prime Minister might have taken the opportunity to justify this interference in the internal affairs of a country that has been no enemy of ours.
The interesting point is that although we lay down this law for Cuba, we ourselves, in our defensive policy, accept the principle of retaliation. We have heard it said time and again by the Government that the best policy of defence is to ensure that one is able to retaliate with an even greater power than the opponents whom one fears. We must. therefore, accept the principle that offensive weapons are necessary as our means of defence. We regard them as necessary for ourselves, but we deny them to another nation. That is an entirely hypocritical attitude.
The Gracious Speech goes a little further. It says:They"—that is, the Government—have played their full part, in close consultation with My allies …I should like to know what allies were consulted. France, West Germany, Holland, Belgium, America—none of them was consulted. Today, the Prime Minister showed a confidence that he entirely lacked last Wednesday, when he had to admit before the House and before the world that he had not been ignored. Now he tells us that the Government have played their full part in a consultation which never took place at any time during the crisis. That exposes as false something that he had always claimed, namely, that between him and the Presidents of the United States there existed a special relationship. We now see that there is no special relationship, and never has been. That belief was blown completely sky- 82 high when America went ahead without consulting him or any other member of the Alliance about its decision over Cuba.
Some of our newspapers are beginning to use words like "victory" and "defeat", and are saying that Mr. Khrushchev has had to give way, or surrender, to American nuclear power. Those are very dangerous words to use at this monent. I would have thought that when he was expressing such grave concern about the dangers to peace during the last few days the Prime Minister might also have said a word of thanks to the man who took the first step in preventing the outbreak of nuclear war.
I do not think that it does our cause any harm to recognise that President Khrushchev was the one who took the initial step in preventing what might have been a war in which the entire world could have been blown up. The Prime Minister did not play the part we might have expected from him today when he failed to pay his tribute to the Chairman of the Russian Federation.
I turn to a different part of the Gracious Speech which emphasises another hypocritical aspect.My Ministers"—we are told, dealing with the problems at home—will continue to promote efficient and sound expansion of the national economy, with a high and stable level of employment.The phrase,with a high and stable level of employmentis familiar to us. Exactly the same phrase was used last year and the year before. In fact, it has been used since this Government took office.My Ministers will continue to promoteassumes that they have been doing it all along. There might have been some sense in it had the words "continue to" been dropped so that the paragraph could have read:My Ministers will… promote efficient and sound expansion of the national economy…We might then have waited to see what the results would be.
In Scotland, the effect of Government policy in this direction has been disastrous. The continuation of their 83 attempts to promote efficiency and sound expansion of the national economy has resulted in the number of unemployed in Scotland rising from 62,000 two years ago to 88,000 today. That is the practical outcome of their continued efforts at promoting an efficient expansion of the economy. No wonder so many people in Scotland tonight will be fearing its continuation.
It has been suggested that by the end of this year the number without jobs in Scotland will rise to 100,000. It seems, therefore, that the Government's policy of dealing with the national economy has, in two years, increased in the number of unemployed from 62,000 to 88,000, with the possibility of the figure reaching 100,000 by the end of the year. When I say that many Scottish people fear the continuation of that policy, the figures I have quoted show clearly why that fear is held.
What can be done to remedy this tragic state of affairs? In considering the solution we must bear in mind the plight of the shipbuilding industry. Since September, 1960, the number of vessels on order has dropped sharply. In 1960, 245 ships were on the order books. By 1961, it had fallen to 224 and in September this year it fell to 167 ships. The gross tonnage has fallen in these years by 589,000 in 1960, 712,000 in 1961 and 563,000 in 1962.
In 1962, there were 3,494,000 gross tons of shipping on the order books. At present, the gross tonnage has fallen to 2,147,000 and, taking into account what was on the order books in 1959, the gross tonnage has dropped from more than 5 million to just over 2 million at present. That is a serious situation which affects the whole country, and my constituency especially, in a most serious way.
In Govan, which I have the honour to represent, 10,000 people are employed in the shipyards. Three weeks ago Messrs. Harland and Wolff Ltd. launched the last ship on its order books. The following week Messrs. Fairfield and Co., Ltd. launched the last ship on its order books. The only shipyard with something on order at present—in a constituency which employs such large numbers in this type of work—is Messrs. Stephens and Co., Ltd.
84 Three years ago the Prime Minister came to Glasgow and stated that he recognised the serious situation which was developing in this industry ; an industry on which Clydeside largely revolves and on which Glasgow largely depends for its prosperity. It must be realised that if Glasgow is not in a prosperous state the whole of Scotland will be affected, since Glasgow carries about one-fifth of the entire population of Scotland.
On that occasion the Prime Minister recognised—and this was on the eve of the General Election, when he was speaking in the Queen's Picture House, in Glasgow—the dangers involved and promised that the Government, if returned to power, would, as part of their programme, deal with the problem and replace the two great ships, the "Queen Elizabeth" and the "Queen Mary". It is three years since that promise was made. We are told that, in all probability, this will be the last Session of the Parliament in which the Government can carry out that promise. It has not yet been honoured; yet the unemployment position in my constituency and in Scotland generally is growing worse every day.
Parliament, more than a year ago, put on the Statute Book legislation to enable the Cunard Company to go ahead with the building of one ship—half the promise—but although that legislation is there, and action can be taken, the company docs not know whether or not it wants an 80,000-ton ship. The decision of Parliament and the promise of the Prime Minister are being sabotaged by the Cunard Company in not proceeding to fulfil Parliament's purpose in that Measure.
That being the case, I ask what the Government propose to do to see that that promise is met and to find out whether or not the company intends to build this ship. If it does not intend to build it, the ship should be built by a company designated by the Government—there is no reason why that should not be done—or by a company created for the purpose. The promise was made, the necessary legislation has been passed, and although the money has not been appropriated I assume that it will be as soon as the company decides what it wants to do.
I suggest that in view of the increasing unemployment in Glasgow, and in 85 Scotland generally, the idea of building an 80,000-ton ship should be abandoned and that, instead, we should build two 40,000-ton liners. I make that suggestion, because, during the period of gestation into which we seem to have fallen, most people who are interested in the problem believe that a 40,000-ton ship is now a better financial proposition than is an 80,000-ton vessel.
I suggest that the Government should consider abandoning the Act, and introduce a new one enabling the building of two 40,000-ton vessels. I suggest, further, than one of those ships should go to the Tyneside—because we have heard tonight of the need there is for work there—and that the other should go to Clydeside. The day of putting companies in competition, which is largely fanciful, to get the order is dead.
This should be a Government decision. We do not put shipbuilders into competition with one another in order to get ships of war. The Government take the decision, considering all the prospects in the area that will be concerned. Exactly the same thing should now be done with commercial vessels. I hope that what I say will be conveyed to the Prime Minister, because he is the original sinner in this matter. It is his honour that is now at stake.
I make that serious suggestion of a ship each for Tyneside and Clydeside because I do not believe that our shipping prestige will be as seriously challenged by air travel as many people believe, and it must be remembered that in the building of these vessels today it is not simply the area in which they are built that benefits. Because of all the work that has to be put into them, the building of ships of that size stimulates employment all over the United Kingdom.
One of the closing paragraphs of what I describe as a hypocritical statement of policy in the Speech says that the expansion of university and technical education will continue. But where is it to continue? There is more than England in the United Kingdom. In Scotland, the demand for a fifth university has been almost unanimous, and it has been particularly supported in educational circles. The need of a fifth university is obvious, not merely because of the 86 stimulation that it will give to the building trades but in the interests of higher education. I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for Scotland has found his way into the Chamber. I hope that he will note that we want another university in Scotland.
The Gracious Speech states that university development will continue. Will the Secretary of State see that we get some proof of that continuation in Scotland as well as in England? The figures of current need in Scotland for accommodation for those desiring university education comprise one of the strong points in enforcing our claim. The figures I have are not up to date, but the last return for Edinburgh University, which I got today, shows that 1,194 applicants for entrance were rejected, and that covers every faculty. In Glasgow, the number was 180, and in St. Andrew's it was 622. That is a notable number of persons in Scotland who desire university education but cannot get it because there is not sufficient university accommodation.
I have spoken a little longer than I originally intended, and I apologise for it—I know that I shall be forgiven ; I usually am when I speak too long—but the three topics to which I have addressed myself are of tremendous importance: two of them to my own country, one particularly to my own constituency, and the first one to the whole world, because it involves peace, and without peace there can be no progress. I hope that in the Session that lies ahead the Government will display a better approach to the fundamental problems of peace than they have during the Session that finished last week.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) reminded us at the beginning of his speech that he had spent seventeen long years in this House.
§ Mr. Cooke
In the six years that I have spent in this place I have had the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for many hours, both during the day and during the night—indeed, for perhaps longer than the present Secretary of State for Scotland has. I know that my right hon. Friend is better able than I, in all 87 the years that I may stay here, to deal with the hon. Member's problems.
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member in much of what he said, except to make one observation on the international situation. As I see it, we are in this House doing Khrushchev's work if we do anything to weaken the Anglo-American alliance. Whatever our motives and however pure they may be, if we do anything to destroy our relationship with the United States we shall be helping our Russian enemies.
The opportunity of saying something about financial matters comes to me because I see one of my West Country colleagues, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, on the Front Bench. I want to say something in his presence about some of the uncertainties for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible and which affect my constituents considerably. The City of Bristol has prospered in the past on slave trade, drink and tobacco. We still have the drink and the tobacco, and it does not need much thought to realise that when the Chancellor may at any moment change the duties on these two necessities of life at whim, it is difficult for my friends in the city to know where they stand. In addition, it results in a considerable loss of revenue to my right hon. Friend because people hold back in their purchases, thinking that the duty may come down. Therefore, the sales drop and the revenue becomes less as well. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear that fact in mind.
This is the sixth Gracious Speech which I have had the privilege of hearing, and in some ways I find it the most disappointing because after more than ten years in office our Government do not seem to have included in this Gracious Speech enough forward-looking material. I know that the whole situation is overshadowed by great events which may take place possibly in the New Year, when great decisions will have to be made, and they will occupy much time in this House, but in spite of that and without wishing to stray on to that topic, the Speech still disappoints me.
One of the subjects which are mentioned is that of housing, and I want to put that in the wider context of planning. A good deal has recently been 88 written on the subject of urban renewal. I think it is in that way we should tackle the problem. Although the housing situation is a continuous problem, and much has been done and remains to be done, we have in fact done a great deal of damage to the country by what we have already achieved. We may have provided homes for the people, but we have ruined the countryside around many of our cities and we have created grave social problems by moving people out of the centres of cities to places which are not proper communities. Although they are perhaps beginning to become proper communities, many people find themselves in isolated country districts with very little local life to fall back upon.
By uprooting people, even from unfavourable housing conditions in the middle of a city, one removes them from their friends and relations and their particular circle. They are not much happier when they are taken to better conditions. That sort of thing has happened in my own constituency recently. When an old lady of 80 is moved more than a mile from the place where she has lived all her life, even if she is in a beautiful centrally-heated flat, she is not much happier than she was before.
Urban renewal does not involve just housing. It involves the balanced redevelopment of the middle of our cities. We would not have half the terrible traffic problems if we had taken a grip of this situation at the end of the war. Tremendous opportunities existed then and we did not grasp them. We have allowed far too much speculative development and bad planning. I know that it is the fault of Conservatism that one believes in the absolute maximum amount of freedom, with every man for himself, but that does not necessarily produce the right results when it comes to planning. After all, one can alter a piece of legislation if it does not work well, but it is difficult to move a great building which cost £250,000 to build or a housing estate which is in the wrong place.
In the City of Bristol any further housing needs could be met completely within the existing boundaries of the city. Indeed, the housing needs of Bristol could have been met after the war by rebuilding within the city boundaries. None of 89 these housing estates which have spread out and ruined the countryside would have been necessary if we had taken the trouble to deal with the problem within the area of the city. Much more can still be done there.
I want to say something on the question of proposed legislation for shops and offices because this follows on what I have just been saying. It seems to me that a certain amount of Socialism will creep in here and that a good many rules and regulations are going to be made which will make a lot of people miserable and will not achieve very much. I will not say anything about shops but I Should like to mention the question of offices. I have a local problem, and many hon. Members will have the same trouble, in that large numbers of private houses became offices as a result of wartime conditions and they remain offices today. I have failed to get any of my right 'hon. Friends who have been Ministers of Housing and Local Government to tackle this problem.
Office users should be removed from all these premises and a date should be set by which they are vacated. I know that the question of compensation is usually raised, but, after all, somebody made money out of getting the accommodation in the first place, and if a date is set sufficiently far ahead I do not see why anybody who may lose by a house going back to private occupation should not get ready to meet that loss. Provided the date was set far enough ahead, it would not result in enormous hardship.
It is obviously wrong that these private houses should be perpetuated as offices, and I am rather worried about this proposed legislation for dealing with these premises. If we indulge in enormous expenditure to bring them up to the standard required by the legislation a great deal of money will be wasted, because they will not be really good offices and there will not be much chance of them going back to private occupation. One only has to walk a few yards from the Palace of Westminster to see houses in Queen Anne's Gate which ought to be private houses occupied by humble souls like Members of Parliament who cannot find anywhere to live near this place. One only has to see those houses to realise that the Government should do something to put this matter right.
90 One of the subjects in which from time to time I have tried to interest the House is the question of historic buildings. We even had legislation about it in the last Session. I wonder Whether the Government have considered that we have created a society in which it is impossible for the owner of a fine historic building to be able to afford to live in it. We have taken away the resources of the people who try to live in these places. We have overtaxed them and we never allow much in the way of concessions to them for living in these places, so that they now have to apply to a Government Department for a grant to assist them, with the consequent enormous expenditure that that involves not only on their own part but on the part of the Government Department.
I wonder whether it is possible for the Government to think again about this. Could they give some form of concession whereby people who live in buildings which are of enormous merit could be helped to continue to live in them? It is not much good if all these places become museums or if they all have to be managed by the State. We cannot all be the Duke of Bedford. We cannot all manage to run a circus and coin in half-crowns. I was recently offered a glorious machine for counting the coins which I was supposed to collect from the public at my house. I wrote back and said, "Thank you very much, but I cannot afford £30 for this machine because I have never had enough coins to need counting—and never will have."
§ Mr. Loughlin
Do I understand that the hon. Member is living in one of these historic buildings and is asking for a subsidy for himself?
§ Mr. Cooke
I did not say that, but I do live in an historic building. I am not saying that I want a subsidy to help me. The House well knows my position. I have declared my interest and I declare it again if the hon. Gentleman is not happy about this. It is ridiculous that one's income should be taken away in taxes and given back by a Government Department, with all the wastage and expenditure which that involves.
A much more important matter is the question of preserving the amenities of these places of interest. In the case of a 91 house called Mawley Hall, a fine building so damaged by bad planning decisions connected with?the vicinity of the building, the whole future of it was in jeopardy. That could easily be avoided. Surely it is possible to protect the surroundings of grade one or grade two buildings, certainly of all grade one buildings, of which there is not an enormous number, or, at any rate, to protect them to the length that any proposed development is notified to the owner of the building. Under the present planning Acts, it is possible for an unknown person to get permission from a local authority to place 500 caravans in a field next to an 'historic building. If that 'happens, the building's whole future is very much in doubt, as every hon. Member knows. These things can so easily happen secretly that there is a need for amendment of the law.
I notice that there is to be further legislation on health. I hope 'that we shall not lose sight of the fact that the status of the general practitioner is all important in running a proper health service and that we should do nothing to destroy his position. Doctors are becoming more and more just parts of a machine, and all too often the general practitioner, perhaps through overwork sends a patient on to someone else or to a clinic. That will not make for a good health service in future. We should concentrate our resources on providing more and better general practitioners.
I turn to education. We are told that more money is to be spent on universities and technical colleges and to provide more teachers. But it is not merely money which is required. Surely it is far more important that we should have quality in the teachers and, even more important, that what is taught in the schools is worth while. Last Session I asked my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Education what he was doing to improve the curriculum in certain respects. Although he said that he had certain things under consideration, he was not very forthcoming about what was being done. Although no one wants an education system dictated by this House as to what should be taught in schools, a great deal more can be done to improve the teaching and the standard of the education. General guidance from the Ministry would not come amiss.
92 Broadcasting is to be the subject of legislation in this Session. I hope that we shall have real competition in commercial broadcasting and television. We had a debate on this matter last Session. It was an extremely unbalanced and unrepresentative debate and things were not said which might have been said. I do not propose to go into detail about this matter now because I hope there will be other chances to do so. However, I hope that real and not, as we have now, phoney competition will result from this legislation.
The Gracious Speech ends by saying that other Measures will be laid before us. I only hope that some of them will be more forward looking than some of the Measures which I see outlined in the Speech and that they will not be merely materialistic Measures. We have the phrase "the affluent society". At the last election we had the phrase "You've never had it so good", which I think has been mangled and misused, but not by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister because he used it on a particular occasion to a particular audience. It is one of those unfortunate phrases which is picked up and bandied about and which has become attached to my party. I never used it once during the last election, and I do not subscribe to it now.
We may live in an affluent society which may have been created by my party, but I hope that the Government realise that it is a society in which many sicknesses exist and that mere materialistic legislation will not put matters right. I hope that the Government will do their best in the coming Session to deal with some of the questions to which I have referred.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I suggest that three lessons can be learned from the terrifying events of the past week. The first is that we can trust neither the American Government nor the Russian Government since both have taken us to the brink and very nearly over it. The second is that we should not be aligned to either of these Governments, as, unfortunately, at present we are. The third is that our reaction should be to ask the American Government to remove their bomber, Thor and Polaris missile bases from our country. I condemn the building of Russian bases in 93 Cuba. Equally, I condemn the American blockade of Cuba. These were risks which neither Government was entitled to take.
Last Monday midnight, I listened, probably like many other hon. Members, to President Kennedy's broadcast. It had a chilling effect. I went upstairs and looked at my children, who were asleep, and wondered what kind of future, if any, they were going to have. I guess that parents throughout the world had the same sort of reaction.
I have maintained for some years that mankind's chances of survival are only fifty-fifty. In the light of the events of the last few days, however, I would say that the odds have considerably worsened. While I think and hope that we shall survive this immediate crisis, which is now subsiding, do not let us "kid" ourselves that there are not further crises round the corner, whether they be in Berlin, Vietnam or in any of the other places where the Big Two clash. I am convinced that if we and the Russians continue along the present course there is no chance of avoiding a third would war.
I understand that there is a game called "chicken". I have never seen it played, but I am told that two motorists drive towards one another along the White line in the centre of the road at 60 m.p.h. Eventually, as they come very dose together, one of them swerves aside. He is the loser ; he is "chicken". This may be great fun for the motorists but we have had two Governments doing that and unfortunately they have had unwilling passengers, the passengers being every man, woman and child in the world. They would be the victims if there were a clash.
At the last moment it was Mr. Khrushchev Who swerved aside. Let me make it clear that I have not come here to defend the Russian Government, which I do not like any more than the American Government. But I am extremely grateful that Mr. Khrushchev swerved aside at the last moment. If he had not done so, my children might not have been able to sleep in peace in their beds tonight. I very much resent a political correspondent on the B.B.C. television typifying Mr. Khrushchev's withdrawal as a retreat. Perhaps it 94 was a retreat, but it was a very valuable retreat from the brink.
Let us consider last week's events. I was immensely relieved when Mr. Khushchev stated that he was going to prevent his ships from sailing into Cuban waters. But I was very disturbed at Mr. Kennedy's response. He refused to end the blockade. Next day, Mr. Khrushchev made a further concession. He said that he was prepared to stop immediately the construction of the sites in Cuba if the Americans would do the same in Turkey. Mr. Kennedy's reply was that he would talk about Turkey when the Cuban situation had been settled. I think that everyone was enormously relieved when on Sunday Mr. Khrushchev anounced that he was instructing his men to dismantle the bases in Cuba. It is essential that on this third occasion President Kennedy responds not only by welcoming the statement, which of course he did, but by ending the blockade and removing the tremendous forces which have been amassed on the Florida coast.
What I am trying to say is that, although both Governments are guilty, so far the concessions have come from Mr. Khrushchev. We should not pursue this too far, because, just as there are tough men in the Pentagon at Mr. Kennedy's elbow, there are tough men in the Kremlin at Mr. Khrushchev's elbow. If Mr. Khrushchev makes concessions without receiving counter-concessions, the tough men at his elbow may elbow him out. It seems to me that, among those in the Kremlin, Mr. Khrushchev is our best bet. It would be very dangerous if we forced him to the point at which he had to take some dangerous action or else be replaced by a tougher customer.
What was Mr. Kennedy's excuse for the blockade? I say "excuse" because I think that he supported, financially and with arms and training, the invasion of Cuba eighteen months ago. There is no doubt that there was some pressure in America for the invasion. But that was not the main reason for the blockade. The main reason was that these sites in Cuba were a serious threat to every American city. That is perfectly true, and they should never have been built there. But I believe that the missile sites around Russia equally are 95 a threat to the Russian cities, whether the missile sites be in Turkey, Italy, Greece, West Germany or Britain.
Do not let us forget West Germany. We have placed the Mace and Matador, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead 900 miles, in West Germany. Frankly, I have about as much faith in West German generals as I have in Castro's generals. I can understand alarm on both sides through having missile bases in these areas.
There is no doubt that the world has been in terrible danger during the last week. Mr. Max Freedman, the American correspondent of the Guardian, whom I read every day with some respect, reported that on Saturday in America three courses were being discussed in Washington regarding Cuba. The first was invasion. The second was the pinpointing of the missile sites with conventional bombs, and the third was the use of nuclear weapons on Cuba. If any one of those three steps had been taken I do not believe that it would have been possible to have avoided a third world war. If the Americans thought that they were justified in wiping out Cuba as presenting a danger to American cities, Khrushchev could have maintained that he was entitled to wipe out Britain because we are a base from which his own country could be bombed.
Not much attention has been paid to it, but it is significant that during the past week it was reported in the Press that a Polaris submarine had left the Holy Loch. As we sit here tonight that submarine is probably prowling somewhere on the bottom of the ocean near the frontiers of Russia. If Khrushchev had reacted, that submarine would have escaped any retaliatory blow. It would have been safe. But we in Britain would not have been safe. We would have been the victims if an atomic attack had taken place.
What has been the part of the Government in this past week? It has been to say, "Yes, sir" to everything that Mr. Kennedy has said. Clearly, there was no consultation. The Prime Minister said in the House last week that he had received a letter, and Mr. Kennedy, again according to the Guardian, was maintaining "freedom of action"; which 96 means that he would have acted as he thought fit without consulting any of the allies.
As for the Foreign Secretary, Lord Home, who evidently considers himself as the "Minister for Cold War" rather than as the Foreign Secretary, he made a speech which was televised, and many of us watched the television broadcast, in which he drew attention to the evils that the Russian Government had committed—which I accept—?without mentioning that the American and British Governments had done almost exactly the same things.
What should we have done in these circumstances? What should a real British Government have done? It should have done what Bertrand Russell did—appeal to both Governments neither to provoke nor to be provoked. And Bertrand Russell was listened to with respect because clearly he was not a pawn of either side. He was non-aligned. He was uncommitted. I am not saying that the result was entirely due to his speech, but nevertheless he did speak with some effect. Surely it should not be left to one individual, however great, to make this appeal to the two Governments. Our Government should have taken the line that Bertrand Russell took.
What should we do now? I am convinced that we should say to the American Government, "Your bases in this country are making it a very vulnerable place." That is what the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once said. These bases are a danger to our country. They are a danger to world peace. They are just as much a threat to Russia as are the Cuban bases to America.
We have, I hope, overcome the present crisis, but further crises lie ahead. Why should it be that we are threatened with a world war in the near future? I believe that neither the American nor the Russian Government want a war, because nobody outside a lunatic asylum wants war. But both Governments are so frightened of the other—this is really the root of the matter—that they are saying, "If I am not stronger than he is I am likely to be defeated; we can only argue from a position of strength." Therefore, both Governments are building up their armed forces, and that can have only the same result as all previous arms races.
97 I take the view that in this situation our country should give the lead that so many other countries would like to see given. We should say, "We want peace and friendship and trade with both America and Russia, but we are not prepared to fight for either of them." I am convinced that were such a lead given there would be an immediate response from such countries as India, Scandinavia, Yugoslavia, the rising countries of Africa and Asia and eventually from the peoples of America and Russia who do not want war any more than we do.
This point of view, that we should keep the two "giants" apart, is growing so that today at the United Nations 59 of the 109 nations represented there have accepted the policy of non-alignment.
It is to stop Britain joining up with these nations that we are being pushed by the Government into the Common Market. This must be a very difficult operation for the Prime Minister. I do not think that the 50 to 100 delegates at the Conservative Party Conference who opposed our entry into the Common Market represents the total strength of the opposition. One need only note the number of hon. Members opposite who are against our entry into the Common Market to appreciate that inside the Conservative Party there is very strong opposition to the proposal. That is only natural if only because of the attitude of the farming community which plays a very important part in the Conservative Party.
In East Salford I do not have to worry much about the farming vote because "there ain't any". But in most Conservative-represented constituencies the farming vote is very important and therefore it is not easy for the Prime Minister to proceed with his present policy. I believe that one reason why he is doing so is that eighteen months ago Mr. Kennedy told him to do so. I believe that the entry of Britain into the Common Market and the imposition of the pay pause were the conditions for granting this country a £ 750 million loan through the International Monetary Fund.
For these reasons I am against our entry into the Common Market; not because of trading advantages or disadvantages, but because I regard it as a step in the cold war. It would tie us 98 politically within the Six and prevent us from having an independent foreign policy. It would also result in our being subjected more closely to America and prevent us from aligning ourselves with the neutralist nations. We should also be subjected more closely to German foreign policy. I feel that the giving of nuclear weapons to Germany, directly or indirectly, is one of the motives for pushing us into the Common Market.
We did not go over the precipice this time, and while there is life there is hope. But the future will depend on those people who oppose war and who have been alerted by the nearness of war in the last few days. Because of the survival instinct which is in nearly all human beings they are growing in force and I am confident that if we have the courage to say what we believe we shall still be able to avert the final disaster.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
I hope that the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks. I have one point in common with him; I also do not depend on the farming vote because none of my constituents exercises his ancient right to graze cattle on Clapham Common. I agree with the hon. Member that Cuba was a menace to American security.
One of the advantages of speaking today is the wide range of subjects to which reference may be made, but there is the great disadvantage of not having an answer from the Government Front Bench. During the last few weeks this country and the world has been through a crisis which was as great as the blockade of Berlin in 1948 and the appearance of the Russian tanks in Korea in 1950. But I am glad that in the Gracious Speech the question of the invasion of Indian territory is put in front of all these events, because I think that an attack on India is an attack on the Commonwealth and upon this country. It is an attack on one of the greatest families of nations in the world, but I hope that our Government will carry out the policies which they have promised and give every possible support to India.
I regret that we cannot or may not be able to go as far as we should like and give active assistance with our own 99 forces. This attack may illustrate to Mr. Nehru, who has been a great exponent of neutrality, that in the modern world one of the disadvantages of non-alignment and neutrality is that it prevents one from receiving active support from other nations.
The crisis in Cuba must be aligned with the Russian attitude towards world Communism, with the Berlin crisis and, indeed, with the invasion of India. None of these events can be isolated. They are part of the force which is pressing forward with the creed of Communism throughout the world. Someone said that Khrushchev put the weapons into Cuba. No one can argue that this was for the defence of Cuba. If this action was not for the defence of Cuba, if it represented aggressive action against America, it appears to me that the question of the independence of Cuba does not ring as true as some people would like to make out.
I have been to Cuba and I think that no one would disagree that the Batista regime was foul and was a dictatorship. Our allies on the other side of the Atlantic were foolish to bolster it up. When the crisis came they did not, perhaps, act in a way which would have benefited them in the long run. Many people have doubted whether Cuba is a Communist State. I talked with the leaders about a year and a half ago and I think there is no doubt that the leaders have Communist tendencies, but the people are not actively in support of that régime.
It is difficult to judge the attitude of ordinary people, but no one could deny that conditions in Cuba have improved enormously since the revolution. The problem of unemployment during the winter season when the sugar crop has finished has been tackled and other agricultural industries have been brought forward. I would say without hesitation that the standard of living has been raised. But we must realise that the country is Communist dominated. It is only 80 miles from the shores of America, so it represents a grave danger.
The crisis in Cuba has been cured through the grave and, I believe, right action by Mr. Kennedy and the American Government. But I submit that that does not represent the end. There are many 100 other Central American republics which are now in the same position as Cuba was three years ago. They have regimes which we all dislike intensely. They are dictatorships and many of them are still being bolstered up by American money and business interests.
Although we have passed the crisis in Cuba I am confident that unless there is a change of policy in Central America and on the part of ourselves and 'United States we run the danger of having continuous trouble in that area. There are a large number of people living a short distance from America who have a low standard of living and, with the possible exception of Mexico, their Governments are unstable. I hope that recent events will have provided a lesson for our allies on the other side of the Atlantic and that they will regard Central American republics as possible sources of danger because of the low standards of living and particularly because of their extremely distasteful and corrupt dictatorship Governments.
The question of Tibet and India, as I said earlier, is of great importance to us all. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to help India in the greatest possible measure. When it came to Tibet, we all regarded that as a very sorrowful occasion, because there was little that we could do about it. In this particular instance, her neighbour, India, is involved, and we in the Commonwealth should make quite clear what our attitude is. We should make sure that we and our Commonwealth friends give India every possible assistance.
The great struggle in Africa and Asia continues. Whatever we do the Russians will make every effort to spread their influence in these spheres. That brings me to an important point. Everywhere in Africa and Asia we are losing ground, for the simple reason that the Russians are getting there first. They are giving contracts, offering loans at lower rates of interest, and selling goods at very favourable rates, with low initial payments and the remainder spread over a long number of years. It is up to, us to make sure that we combat that effort as quickly and as forcefully as we possibly can. We have to make it clear that we are in Africa and Asia to help the people there, and not allow the Russians to get ahead of us in these areas.
101 If, as the Gracious Speech suggests, our negotiations with the Common Market are successful, I am sure that as part of one enormous unit in Europe we shall be in a much better position to help the backward African territories, and not only the African but the Asian as well, because by doing this we shall probably be giving the greatest encouragement to those countries not only to be friendly disposed to us but to exclude the Russians from these spheres of influence. This is the best way of combating Communism in Asia and Africa—by helping the people there in every possible way we can.
By help, I do not mean only Government capital, but private enterprise as well. Many countries have systems of guarantees, and this is one matter into which our Government might look very carefully, in order to find some form of guarantee by which private investors who are free to invest in Africa or Asia may have a margin of security. This is something which would encourage investors and which would help our own nation's finances in giving aid to Africa and Asia.
I should like to touch on two other points in the Gracious Speech. One concerns the question of the disabled, and this we all welcome, though I would emphasise a point I have made before, that I hope that the Government will look a little more carefully into the provision of vehicles for the disabled, and more particularly, for the partially disabled. At the moment, the gap between the disabled and the partially disabled is rather severe, and I should like to see the present regulations relaxed, so that those who have a real disability and are unable to walk long distances do get vehicles, thereby giving them a tremendous help and encouragement to live normal lives.
I wish now to say a word on the subject on which I have spoken in almost every housing debate—but on which very little is said in the Gracious Speech. I hope that in any housing programmes there will be included some long-term provision for the redevelopment of our cities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) has said, we need to look at a much bigger picture. My hon. Friend said that Bristol could rehouse the people in its own area, and I believe 102 that in London still, under a proper plan and with the Government initiative and backing which is so essential, we could rehouse the people of this city in less than fifteen years.
I have always subscribed to this view. I have said that on many occasions, and I make no apology for saying it again, but the problem is of such magnitude in London that no authority, whether it be the London County Council or a local authority, is capable of tackling it. I hope that the Government, with Exchequer grants, and, what is far more important, with an overall plan, will be able to help the people of this great city to have decent housing.
In conclusion, I should like to say that the introduction of a workers' charter, which was suggested so many years ago, is welcomed by us all, but what is the use of a workers' charter or any other charter if we cannot enjoy decent security in this country? I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the careful way in which I know he must have dealt with the situation in the last few weeks. Whether or not the negotiations between America and ourselves are made public, I feel sure that the people of this country feel that the association between ourselves and America is close, and that even if the discussions are not of a public nature the people appreciate that the Prime Minister has been working with President Kennedy for the peace of the world. We all agree that peace has been preserved by the wise conduct of our own Prime Minister and President Kennedy.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
One of the difficulties in examining the programme which the Government have laid out in the Gracious Speech is that if one examines the speech paragraph by paragraph one finds that in some instances it is too vague to mean very much, that in others it is misleading, and in others, and in one instance in particular, it is downright dishonest. While it is true that this is supposed to be the programme upon which we are to embark, if past experience of Tory Governments' promises is taken into account, much of the legislation that is envisaged will not find its way into the House in the new Session.
103 May I draw attention to a paragraph which has been referred to already once or twice in this debate? It is that on home affairs, on which the Gracious Speech says:My Ministers will continue to promote efficient and sound expansion of the national economy, with a high and stable level of employment.This is perhaps the most important paragraph dealing with home affairs. I do not think it is true to say that Ministers—will continue to promote efficient and sound expansion of the economy,because the fact is that the economy has been stagnant for some time, and the introduction of successive Chancellors of the Exchequer has not in any way improved matters. Indeed, one of the things about which most of the economists in the weekend newspapers were commenting was the lack of impact which the new Chancellor of the Exchequer has had since he took office.
There are a number of economists today who are seriously concerned about the possibility of a decline, not only in the economic sense, and not merely in this country, but in other countries as well. Increasingly, there is a realisation now being accepted that the momentum of the post-war economic recovery is, if not coming to a halt, slowing down considerably. Even in those countries in which, as in Japan, there has been a most miraculous expansion, there is extreme difficulty in maintaining buoyancy in the economy. The West German economy is likewise experiencing a much slower rate of growth than it has had for some time.
In this country, what are the prospects? We cannot tell precisely from the Gracious Speech what the Government are likely to do to bring aboutefficient and sound expansion of the national economybut we do know, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition mentioned in his speech, that in recent months there has been an investigation by the Federation of British Industries and that there is among the greater proportion of industrialists in this country complete lack of confidence in the prospects for the immediate future. I should like to see the Government place before this House pre- 104 cisely their proposals for what they intend to doto promote efficient and sound expansion of the national economy".We have had some remarkable confessions this afternoon from one or two back benchers on the other side of the House. They are beginning to talk glibly about planning of one kind and another. Whenever they refer to any problem at present they now talk of overall planning. Does this mean that the Government have decided to forget the concept of allowing the country's economy to be determined by unco-ordinated decisions in a multiplicity of board rooms, and are to plan the resources of the nation for the purpose of maintaining a "stable level of employment"? Or does it mean that we are to see a further increase in the unemployment?
I am rather surprised that we have not heard from some of the Government's supporters from Northern Ireland. Indeed, we have not seen them for the greater part of the debate. In Northern Ireland there is far froma high and stable level of employmentand there is a considerable unemployment problem which is becoming increasingly worse. Fortunately, Scotland is represented in the main by Members on this side of the House. We have heard Scottish speakers refer to Scotland's particular problems. It is dishonest of the Government to say, as they do in that paragraph of the Gracious Speech, that they are promoting efficient and sound expansion of industry. They have done nothing, so far as I can see, to that end.
I do not want to take too great a time, but I do want to make some comments on one or two other paragraphs in the Gracious Speech, which refers tofurther improvements in the social conditions and in the housing, health and welfare of My People.My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) referred to the traipsing about of Presidents of the Board of Trade and of Parliamentary Secretaries looking for unemployment, and we have had successive Ministers of Housing go to the various areas. We had the predecessor of the present Minister of Housing and Local Government looking at slums and "discovering" the problem. It is perfectly true there is 105 a slum problem in some towns and certainly all the major cities in this country, but from what we hear I sometimes think that Ministers of Housing believe that the slums are solely in towns and cities.
There are, equally, slums in the rural areas, and yet there does not seem to be any urgency on the part of the Government to try to meet the particular difficulties of the rural communities. We have many slums in areas of the type I represent. In rural areas people are expected to live in conditions in which it would be a disgrace to house cattle. It is remarkable that, in the main, these areas are the ones which have been represented by hon. Members on the other side of this House.
We also get other problems arising from the lack of amenities in the rural areas. I have yet to see the Government, or any single Minister, be concerned at all about the lack of amenities in the rural areas. Recently, in my constituency, the water in the wells became polluted, and we had the difficulty of getting fresh, clean water into a number of houses where there is no piped water at all. The Government show no indication in the Gracious Speech of an appreciation of difficulties of this kind, which exist in many rural areas, and in constituencies which traditionally have been represented by hon. Members on the other side of the House.
References have been made to transport and references have been made to Dr. Beeching and his rationalisation programme for British Railways. It is one of those remarkable things that I can get on a plane in London and be in Frankfurt in an hour and yet it takes me an hour and twenty minutes to get from Gloucester to my home, which is approximately 19¾ miles from Gloucester. But this problem of transport in my constituency is infinitesimal compared to the problems of transport which other people have in rural constituencies.
The Government have not told the House in the Gracious Speech that they are prepared to look in any way at the transport difficulties of the rural communities. Why not? Do they think that because people Jive in the countryside they do not matter, that the only ones who matter are those who live in towns 106 and cities? We have the same problems about roads in my constituency as there are in all rural constituencies, and there is no attempt on the part of the Government to look at the problems of the minor roads in the rural constituencies. There is no reference in the Gracious Speech to any programme for the roads or to any consideration being given to it.
I come to an instance of really criminal negligence—and I use that term deliberately—in the way in which the countryside has been denied one of the normal amenities of civilisation. We have not yet, in many parts of the countryside, piped sewerage. I know that this subject is not attractive or exciting, but it is important to people living in the countryside.
We are still playing about with soak-always, cesspits and septic tanks. The Government show no inclination to provide finance for the extension of normal sewerage facilities to the rural areas. It is a fantastic situation that, in a time when we can very nearly put a sputnik on the moon, when our ingenuity has devised all sorts of luxuries, when we have almost reached the position in which technological developments produce an abundance of goods of every kind, it is impossible for people in our countryside to have piped sewerage.
I have recently been dealing with a case of the rejection of an application for building permission in a part of my constituency, at Down Hatherley. I shall not deal with the application in particular, but with its significance, reflected in the case presented by the planning authority. The authority's case is partly shown in the following quotation:If further development is permitted in the area the local planning authority fears that difficulties in sewerage disposal would be increased and that conditions may result in the local authority being required to provide a main drainage system. This is not proposed at present and if undertaken may be uneconomic. Further development would also be likely to result in an estate road of standard specification being required to serve the particular development.That is the situation with which many of my constituents are faced. They live within a rural district, part of which is built up. Those living in the built-up areas have all the normal facilities such 107 as roads, sewerage, piped water and, generally speaking, reasonably good housing. But the people in the areas which are particularly rural, though they pay rates similar to those in other parts of the district, and also pay taxation on the same basis, do not get these amenities.
Is it not time the Government took the lead in giving to those who have paid for so long for so much they have not received the basic needs for civilised living? The way in which the Government have brushed off once again the rural areas as though they are of no consequence is a scandal.
The same thing applies to schools. Last Session we heard wonderful descriptions by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education of the fine progress made in school building and of the hopes for the future. In my area, during the war, prefabricated bungalows were put up for war workers and a prefabricated school was built for the children. The county council has done what it could with this building, and I am not criticising the local education committee. But the building is impossible as a school. It is dilapidated and should be cleared away. But it is in a rural area and, therefore, does not matter apparently. It is not to be pulled down at least until 1963–64.
Again, I quote the position in Down Hatherley, where the toilet facilities consist of buckets. That is not particular to my constituency, but is general throughout the rural community. Yet in the main the rural communities have traditionally been represented by the Tories. It is time we faced up to the problems of the rural areas.
The Government talk in the Gracious Speech of the introduction of a Bill requiring employers to give employees written statements about their terms of employment. Is this the Industrial Charter? Is the Industrial Charter to be a Bill compelling employers to give employees such statements and prescribing minimum periods of notice? Members opposite have referred to it as the Industrial Charter. I can tell our workpeople how to get all this without a Bill from the Government. Any member of a trade union can get from his union offices a written statement about terms of 108 employment because, to all intents and purposes, where there is an agreement between unions and employers, it details the conditions of employment. One way in which workpeople can ensure that they get not only written statements of conditions but adherence to those statements is by being members of a trade union and not relying on a Tory Government.
I believe that the new item is the prescription of a minimum period of notice. But workpeople do not want minimum periods of notice. They want jobs. This proposal, I take it, relates to the present changes taking place in older industries and the technological progress and changes in some of the newer ones. This idea that because there is the introduction of new processes all that is required is a formula to determine who shall go first and who last, and to say how much compensation will be paid, is tragic. We introduce new processes into industry for the purposes of increasing productivity.
We had a case of this kind in the steel industry recently. The Press has been claiming that it was a dispute between the builders and the steelworkers. It was nothing of the sort. It was a dispute between the builders and the management because the management was introducing a new process of lining which increases productivity tremendously.
Instead of consulting the unions before the process was introduced and taking the sensible attitude that, out of the increased productivity there would be allocations for retraining those who became redundant and, in the initial stages, for the retention of excess personnel at skilled rates—even, if necessary, giving them skilled work—the employers were prepared to announce that the new process was to be introduced and that they were not interested in the building workers who would become redundant. Yet it was not only the building workers in that plant who were becoming redundant, but also building workers almost throughout that sector of the industry.
People are not interested in redundancy payments or terms of notice. They want positive plans for continuity of employment 52 weeks a year. If a man holds himself available to work 109 then he is entitled either to the opportunity to work or to maintain his existing standard of living. Let us be quite clear. The prosperity of this nation is determined in larger measure by the skill and crafts of the people in industry than by any other section of the community. We cannot have prosperity without them. Yet we are archaic in our attitude to workpeople. Hon. Members opposite evidence a contempt for them.
We still take the archaic view that there is a difference—I do not know what it is—between workpeople and staff. I do not denigrate the contribution which the staffs make to prosperity, but the skilled craftsman, on whom our factories almost entirely depend, is treated as a manual worker, while a typist is, by virtue of a particular attribute, made out to be different from him and becomes "staff". Really! That sort of attitude shows that we are living in the Middle Ages. Staff have staff conditions. They have superannuation and sickness payments and certain other benefits. If they have a puncture while cycling to work and they are a little late, it does not matter, whereas the skilled craftsmen has to clock in and gets no superannuation because he is not staff.
The Government have to face that we are not living in the end of the nineteenth century, but are in the second half of the twentieth century. Industry has to be told clearly that men have a right to a job 52 weeks in a year and are not interested in notice periods or in redundancy payments. If the Government once get that idea, they might from that starting point be able to honour their pledge, spurious though it may be in the language which is used, that they will continue to have an efficient and expanding economy.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
The Gracious Speech is so full of promises for the future, casts such an illumination on the progress that this nation is to make in the next year, that the benches are unusually crowded. Mr. Speaker, you are clearly being pressed by hon. Members anxious to get into the debate and to discuss the Gracious Speech, and I therefore propose to make my contribution comparatively short so that the eight Members on my side of the House and the three hon. Members 110 opposite who are bothering to be here can add their words to what is being said.
The trouble with the Gracious Speech is that it is not only bankrupt of ideas, but suffers from a poverty of language which does not make it worth the five-pence which is being charged for it. I refer particularly to the fourth paragraph which begins with this example of meiosis:My Government were gravely concerned at the dangers of the recent introduction of offensive missiles into Cuba. They have played their full part, in close consultation with My allies, in efforts to deal with the critical situation which arose.I do not want to make too much comment on the last sentence, about the full part which Her Majesty's Government played on receiving information from the United States about what the United States proposed to do, but to use a phrase like:My Government were gravely concerned at the dangersis to refuse to accept the lessons of history.
This crisis did not begin on 16th October when Mr. Kennedy was told, as a result of reconnaissance flights over Cuba, that missiles were being built on that island facing towards the United States. The crisis began years ago and the Americans are largely to blame for it.
I yield to no man in my detestation of imperialism and colonialism, but I get sick and tired of the Americans complaining about British colonialism and imperialism while they carry on a colonial policy themselves in Latin America which should put them to shame. The United States Government knew what sort of thug Batista was, how corrupt and wicked his regime of terror was. It knew that Havana was being handed over by Batista to American gangsters who were opening brothels and running gambling saloons and making Havana the widest open town in Latin America. It knew of the destruction and murder by Batista of his political opponents.
But there was never a complaint from the American Government at the way in which the Cuban people were being ground down by this man. For nearly a century the United States has been 111 engaged in setting up and maintaining banana republics in Latin America. It is only a few years ago that an American pistol-packing ambassador in Nicaragua got rid of a prime minister or president whom he did not like because he was a progressive. Never—I repeat "never "—in contemporary history has there been a day when the United States has gone to the assistance of a progressive Government in Latin America. On the contrary; through its instruments of imperialism and colonialism—the United Fruit Company for one example, and Standard Oil for another—the United States has always been on the side of the despot against the people who have been struggling against despotism.
Suddenly, the Americans find with the overthrow of Batista in Cuba that they are not loved by the Cuban people. The Americans had the opportunity four years ago of going to the assistance of the Cuban Government when it started to run into trouble, but the witch hunters in Washington and the sabre rattlers in the Pentagon were not concerned with that. They were concerned with branding as Communists before they were Communists those people in Cuba who had raised the flag of revolt and had got rid of Batista. Unless we understand the history behind this crisis and unless we learn the lessons of history, the outlook for this country will be even more bleak that is expressed in these miserable words in the paragraph to which I have referred.
When the crisis started to be over, I thought that we should be inundated with the sporting metaphors which we British always use on solemn occasions. I was waiting for the Foreign Secretary on television last night to say that Kennedy had got Khrushchev middle stump. I thought that he would go down to that low level of the sporting metaphor to illustrate his position. Other hon. Members and those self-appointed inquisitors known as television interviewers and commentators have talked as though the traumatic experience we went through a week ago was all part of a game, with somebody winning and somebody losing. Yesterday, one of them, speaking from Washington, asked Marques Childs of the St. Louis Post, Scottie Reston of the New York Timesand a man from the 112 Sunday Timeswhether it was not a fact that Mr. Khrushchev lost, as though those words had any meaning in the context in which we are discussing this situation. This was not a game of tennis. This was not game and set to somebody. This was not a question of somebody being swept off the court.
This was a case where "brinkmanship" had given way to cliff hanging to such a degree that there was not a thinking person in this country or anywhere else in the world who did not fear that at any moment the world would be incinerated. I beg the Government and the hon. Member in charge of the Government's propaganda—who has been turning out all this pro-Common Market stuff with the taxpayers' money—not to use these silly and absurd schoolboy expressions in trying to explain what has been going on.
I want to tell the House why I think Mr. Khrushchev acted as he did, and I do so for the following reasons. On 31st August, last year, I was invited by Mr. Khrushchev to see him at his house in Yalta. I spent four and a quarter hours discussing a whole range of subjects with him. Mr. Khrushchev started, after observing the social graces at which he is very good indeed, by telling me that he had a piece of news which I would dislike intensely. Indeed, I did, because it was news that he was that afternoon to announce the resumption of nuclear tests by the Soviet Union.
I argued with Mr. Khrushchev as strongly as I possibly could that this was a tragic and terrible step for him to take, if only for the reason that I feared that it would add to the war psychosis which already existed in the United States and that it was an act of "brinkmanship" and that in any case, apart from every other consideration, it was wholly and absolutely immoral. I asked him why he was doing it. I asked, "Are you doing this because your military experts have urged this upon you? Are you doing this because your scientists have urged this upon you?" He said, "Not at all. I am doing this because I have got to shock the peoples of the world into a realisation of the appalling peril in which they live. That is the reason I am doing it. Look what happens in the world today. You in Britain go on electing Conservative 113 Governments and look what they get you". I made no comment on that because I never like to attack my own Government when I am outside the country. I left it to Mr. Khrushchev. He said, "Look at the French and look at the Italians. How am I to make the world understand that it is sitting on a gunpowder keg and smoking at the same time? I can only do it by shocking people to their very marrow and that is what I propose to do ".
That is what he said and if it was not the only reason—and I am not naive enough to believe that it was—it was one of the reasons. I believe that he organised the introduction of missiles into Cuba with the intention of shocking the world into a realisation that the disposition of nuclear forces throughout the world in bases controlled by the United States, or in bases controlled by the Soviet Union, is at any time liable to bring us to the very verge of war. I think that that was one of his reasons. Has he not succeeded? Has he not riveted the attention of the world on the fact that there are bases ninety miles from the Russian frontier in Turkey, just as there were bases ninety miles from the American coast in Cuba? Has he not awakened the people of the world to the fact that they live in daily peril while the nuclear arms race goes on and while we fail to get not a disarmament agreement about nuclear weapons, but a general disarmament agreement, an agreement which covers all weapons?
There is a great danger which we always face in this country and which is that our people get inured to a situation. I remember how in 1940 people were frightened—that is too strong a word—were worried about the effect of bombing, particularly Londoners. After the first few raids, they got, not used to it, but able to reorganise their lives to meet the situation. That is to say, after the first shock the British have a habit of reorganising themselves, realigning themselves, as it were, so that they are then ready to face the next shock.
Are we ready to face the next shock? Is it right that we should wait for another crisis? Is not there a danger that we shall become so inured to crises that our people will regard them with a blasé attitude, with a "This is where we came in" sort of attitude? We shall not get 114 into that position, which would be dangerous, if we have a lead from the Government, if we have a real expression from the Government that they will learn the lessons of history on this occasion and will use every possible effort to see that this, in my view quite artificial, military tussle between the two ideologies is stopped, and that the two nations, the Americans and the Russians, start talking to each other, and acting towards each other, in a civilised way.
It can be done only by an expression of determination by the Government, through the United Nations, and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, that they will exert every single influence, in fact make every possible sacrifice, of sovereignty itself if necessary, towards a general disarmament agreement. We will not do it by the sort of speeches that we have had from the Foreign Secretary who seems more eager to beat up the United Nations than to criticise some of our allies who are not behaving themselves. I do not believe that we can get agreement on general disarmament while the present Foreign Secretary occupies the position he does. I do not believe that the Government can get it, but at least they can try. They have the future of this country in their hands, and that future must be safeguarded by an expression of their determination in words which the world can understand, and not in the fustian language of the fourth paragraph of the Gracious Speech.
The last line of the Gracious Speech says:Other measures will be laid before you.Why, may I ask, have we not had a Measure to deal with the strengthening of the Public Order Act? This was to be the subject of a whole Session-long investigation by the Home Secretary as a result of the introduction of "punch-up politics" in London and other great cities. The Home Secretary has had three months in which to get the information from chiefs of police, from the "copper" on the beat, from the political parties, and from his own advisers. He had time to introduce into the Gracious Speech a declaration that we would stop "punch-up politics" in Britain and that we would prevent people from being insulted, humiliated, and abused because of their colour, their race, or their religion.
115 The right hon. Gentleman could have done that. He has had the time to do so, but, unfortunately, I have no confidence that the man who as Minister of Housing and Local Government saw to it that my constituents who were tenants of rack-renting landlords were left defenceless, or made so, will step in and safeguard our ordinary decent behaviour, our ordinary system of debate, our right to hold meetings, and our right to express ourselves without damaging in an offensive way other people.
This Gracious Speech to which we have looked forward with such interest is unimaginative. It is not progressive, and it certainly is not worth the paper on which it is printed.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)
At this time last week many of us must have doubted whether this debate would take place. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) that it is deplorable that the interest shown in the start of a new Parliamentary Session is reflected in the attendance of hon. Members, particularly those on the Front Bench opposite. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once described the debate on the Gracious Speech as the grand inquest of the nation. I think that that is what it ought to be, and that the issues contained in the Gracious Speech, and those which have conveniently been left out, are ones which every hon. Member ought to relate to his own constituency.
My hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely in the points he made, but one point ought to be stressed. A little less than a week ago we hovered on the brink for a number of days. For the Gracious Speech to refer to the fact that the Government have played their full part, in consultation with their allies, in efforts to deal with the critical situation which arose is not in conformity with the events of those days.
I add my criticism of the Foreign Secretary's role in this matter. Less than eight months ago, in a Question to the Prime Minister, we asked whether it would not be better for the present occupant of this office to be replaced by someone who was better able to voice the hopes and aspirations of the British 116 people in the second half of the twentieth century. To talk, in the terms used in the Gracious Speech, of support for the United Nations while our present spokesmen are acting and talking on our behalf is to fly in the face of the facts.
It would have been better if the purge of Ministers last July had included the Foreign Secretary. In fact, it would have been better if the entire Front Bench had suffered that fate, but if efforts are to be made, and the opportunity is to be taken, to see that the events of the last four or five days are not repeated, with possibly worse events to follow in their wake, obviously some of the action that we have described is necessary.
I believe that we have come out of the situation considerably stronger than when we went in, because the fact that we hovered on the brink has led thinking people everywhere to re-evaluate the situation. President Kennedy's description of Mr. Khrushchev's attitude as statesmanlike was the most hopeful thing that emerged from the troubled negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States, and it is because we have moved out of these troubled times that we can now afford to look a little more closely at the industrial, social, and economic measures contained in the Gracious Speech.
Here again, we find a failure to get to grips with reality. We get—I have listened very carefully to most of the hon. Members opposite who have contributed so far to this debate—a warm welcome for a number of Measures with which I shall deal. One would have imagined by their tone and enthusiasm that the Government had just embarked upon their first period of office. One would never have imagined that we were dealing with a Government which had been elected so far back as 1951—a Government that had controlled the destinies of the British people for more than a decade.
How can it be stated, as it is in the Gracious Speech, thatMy Ministers will continue to promote efficient and sound expansion of the national economy, with a high and stable level of employment?Last week, a Minister of the Board of Trade took part in what has been an endless procession to the north-east of England and to my constituency over the 117 last tan years. The Government have been endeavouring to promote Measures during those years to ensure a high and stable level of employment. The net result has been to increase year by year (the number of people signing on at the employment exchanges and the number of people leaving the north-east of England for the South. This is not good enough towards the end of 1962 when, in some parts of my constituency, the unemployment figures have doubled compared with what they were only twelve months ago. If we talk in terms of a high and 'stable level of employment, we must talk in terms of the high level of employment operating in every part of Britain.
The disturbing factor to us in the North-East and other areas of high unemployment in Britain is that even some of the supposedly affluent areas are beginning to show signs of strain, and that unemployment figures in the main have risen considerably. So the criticism that has to be laid at the door of the Government is not merely that we doubt their ability to do anything in the months that lie ahead, but that we have had ample evidence of their complete inability to tackle this problem for more than ten years.
The same is true of all the other social and welfare schemes which have been proposed, such as the question of the development in England and Wales of the health and welfare services of the local authorities, in parallel with the development of the hospitals. When one examines the plan for the hospitals over the next ten years, we find that many communities like my own constituency will be deprived of the hospital services that they already have, without any guarantee that the alternatives to be provided will be adequate to the needs of their type of community.
There again. as with employment, the importance of the individual is only secondary in the policy which the Government have carried on in the period that I have mentioned. We are rather cynical when we find, something like fifteen years after the Gowers Committee reported on the question of health, safety and welfare of persons employed in shops and offices, a paragraph in the Gracious Speech still devoted to this aspect of legislation.
118 In a similar debate last year, we asked the Government why legislation covering this matter had not been included in last Session's Gracious Speech. We may ask what sort of complaints have been made to make the Government, at long last—fifteen years afterwards, eleven of them being under a Tory Administration —take the opportunity of placing this item on the legislative agenda. The Gowers Report, excellent though it was when it was introduced, now needs to be brought up to date and geared to the requirements of the 1960s instead of the 1940s. I shall not say a great deal more on that point, because there will be ample opportunity at later stages to deal with the steps which the Government will take to put this into effect.
The Gracious Speech says that the Government will continue to give attention to Measures for the further protection of consumers. I can say without fear of contradiction that if there has been a neglected section of the British community in post-war years it has been the consuming public. It is indeed disturbing to find, after the many excellent recommendations and proposals included in the recently issued Molony Report, that all that we are to get is the bringing up to date and the extension of the Weights and Measures Acts, and the establishment of a councilto represent and promote the interests of consumers".We are not complaining about these proposals, but we must complain bitterly at the inadequacy of the proposals contained in the Gracious Speech for the protection of consumers.
There is no mention of the vast sums of money which axe being spent by the advertising interests, although the expenditure on advertising—about £ 500 million a year—is double the amount which private industry is prepared to spend on research and development. There is no guarantee that the Consumer Council which is mentioned in the Gracious Speech will be able even to get to grips with the tremendous problems confronting consumers. Unless such councils are set up in various remote parts of the country, and not only in London, I cannot see how the numerous complaints that emerge as a result of purchases of articles made all over the country today can be dealt with.
119 What measures do the Government intend to take against firms which have been proved repeatedly to act contrary to the interests of consumers? How will aggrieved housewives be able to get to grips with the tremendous problem arising from their purchases of substandard articles in shops all over the country? How will they be able to deal with the problem of buying articles which prove to be of much less value than they have paid for them, or articles that are not designed to give the service promised of them? We welcome the establishment of a Consumer Council, but we still wait with trepidation to see the amount of energy that the Government are prepared to give to the solving of this problem.
As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said earlier, no mention is made in the Gracious Speech of legislation concerning hire purchase. Hon. Members will recollect that the Molony Committee had a great deal to say on this subject, so much so, I would have thought, that any Government would, after reading what the Committee had to say, have been virtually compelled to take drastic action. We are bound, since this is the grand inquest of the nation, to express our disappointment at the contents of the Gracious Speech, at its complete inadequacy to assist the people in general and its inability to face up to the problems which confront us in 1962. This inadequacy applies not only to events at home, but also to foreign affairs. The Government lack intention and drive to tackle these problems.
Perhaps it is too much to expect that a Government still suffering from the hangover of Suez is capable of tackling the tremendous problems which face us at home and abroad. Perhaps this will be the last Gracious Speech we shall have to receive from the Government which is at present in office.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I hope that my hon. Friends will forgive me if I do not follow them in the issues they have been raising, except, perhaps, in an indirect way. I, too, realise that a number of hon. Members still wish to speak and I do not propose to delay the House for long.
120 The remarks we have heard about the Gracious Speech from hon. Gentlemen opposite have indicated, in one sense at least, that they place great reliance on the United Nations. I am sure that none of my hon. Friends would in any sense urge that they should do anything different. The question is whether they are really serious about the statements being made and whether they are prepared to accept unpleasant decisions of the United Nations, particularly on occasions when those decisions clearly call for acceptance.
What disturbs me is the fact that on one very important matter, about which the United Nations has declared itself in no uncertain way, the Government are still not prepared to commit themselves. Despite protestations to the effect that they regard this—I am referring to the Genocide Convention—as being of great importance, although they have admitted that they consider the present position as being terribly serious and although they agree that the crimes to which the Genocide Convention refers are an abomination, they still make excuses why they should not abide by those terms and accede to the Convention.
I cannot understand this position. Many people throughout the world cannot understand why, since more than 60 nations, including some members of the Commonwealth, have seen no difficulty in accepting the Convention and either ratifying or acceding to it, Britain should stand aside. A report dealing with the early stages of this Convention—and I am not going into the details of the Convention except to say that it is designed to outlaw anything in the nature of racial attacks—a report issued by the publicity department of the United Nations stated:There was no difference at all on condemnation of genocide or on the necessity of measures to prevent and punish the crime. And, as we have noted, the convention was eventually passed by the General Assembly by a vote of 55 to 0, with no abstentions.Although that does not mean that there were no differences of opinion about some of the terms of the Convention. it certainly means that everyone realised the terrible nature of this crime, particularly in view of the holocaust that had taken place not so many years before, when millions of men, women and children were tortured and slaughtered by this serious and abominable 121 crime being perpetrated against them. That being so, I cannot understand why there has not been a change of heart by the Government in their approach to that Convention.
Events that are happening in this country now clearly indicate that something to check them must be done. Everyone realises that the incitement to racial hatred that now goes on day by day in various forms in public places is contrary to the spirit and ideas of British people. If one talks to anyone at all on the position—with the exception of a lunatic fringe—one finds strong condemnation of the actions of those parties which are holding meetings that are obviously intended to stir up racial hatred.
As human beings we cannot afford that kind of action in our midst, and we certainly cannot afford it as a country which is associated with nations of differing colours and creeds. We cannot let the idea continue to go abroad, as it is going abroad, that we are not doing what is essential to prevent this sort of approach. The Genocide Convention says that any action inciting towards that crime is a crime in itself.
We should not now stand still and say that nothing can be done, but that is virtually the present position. We were told that the position would be investigated. We all know that huge numbers of police are being diverted from their regular work of dealing with the prevention of crime in order to attend these meetings. They are being diverted from their regular work in order to prevent speakers from being disturbed who themselves are doing everything they possibly can to incite audiences to disturb the peace. Hundreds of police have to go to meetings at which racial hatred is being stirred up. We all know that responsible bodies have tried to stop people going to those meetings, but men and women cannot be stopped attending meetings at which they know insults are to be poured out against them. They are determined to stop this.
Perhaps the best way in which I can illustrate the position is to quote from an editorial which appeared in the Leicester Mercurysome short time ago. The editorial referred to the attacks which were being made on people 122 because of their race, religion and colour, which, of course, includes people of my own religious belief. This editorial was headed "Enough of these brawls "It referred to Sir Oswald Mosley who now states categorically that he is not anti-Semitic, and it went on to say:It is the older people who remember the British Union of Fascists and are appalled that anything like it can appear in Britain again. They look on with apprehension while these fights give the Mosley movement an importance it does not deserve.A case can be made out that freedom of speech is sacrosanct. There are immediate dangers in preventing any minority section from expressing its views. But there are limits to which decent people with the right democratic ideals can be pushed.The country is sick to death of the repetition of these week-end brawls. Mosleyites and the breakaway group, the British Nationalist Party, have had a fair innings now. Let us cry, Enough!It is up to the Government now to find a way of drawing their teeth. The suggestion that any movement aiming at racial discrimination, expressing admiration of the Nazis, or Jew-baiting be proscribed, might be sufficient. Without these references there would be nothing to inflame public opinion. The fact that these meetings merely provide an excuse for fighting should be sufficient to salve consciences about freedom of speech.Anyone with a grain of sense must realise that something in this direction must be done. I know that the argument is put forward that the law as it stands is sufficient. But is it sufficient? How can it be sufficient if these incidents occur and nothing can be done by the authorities which stops them, while hundreds of innocent people who are abused at these meetings and whose sense of decency is disturbed are arrested? Men and women who fought in the war and who have done all they can to be good citizens have been arrested and charged, but very few of the people who are inciting them to breaches of the peace.
There has been a case in which the judge said categorically, "you are entitled not to allow a meeting to be started if there is an apprehension of the breach of the peace." How much more do we need to convince ourselves that there is bound to be a breach of the peace if certain people use the kind of offensive and insulting terms that are used at many of these meetings today?
I had hoped that we would have had in the Gracious Speech a clear statement that legislation would be introduced to 123 improve the Public Order Act so that the kind of incidents to which I have referred would be stopped. I am hoping that the appropriate Minister, after due consideration, will see to it that this is done by one of the "other Measures" to which reference is made in the Gracious Speech. We certainly would not stand alone if this were done.
May I say in passing—and I am sure that this is the experience of many hon. Members—that people in foreign countries cannot understand how this kind of thing can happen here. Many of them point to the manner in which this type of meeting used to be held in Germany before 1933. The lunatic fringe here declare themselves to be Nazis quite openly. The same thing happened in Germany. It will be within the knowledge of hon. Members who were in the House at the time that the Nazis came into power that we had books delivered to us by the Nazis in which it was alleged that responsible people, including Jewish people, in Germany were declaring that there was nothing to worry about. Hitler instructed statements to be made that not a hair on the head of any individual had or would be touched. Nevertheless, six million Jewish people were done to death, apart from millions of others.
There are examples in other countries of laws dealing with this subject. They are not unenlightened countries. Let me quote some of them. The Dutch penal code has been amended to include the following clause:Anyone deliberately and publicly expressing himself either in speech or in writing, or by means of a pictorial representation, in a manner offensive to a group of the population or a group of persons belonging partly to the population, is liable to imprisonment for a maximum of one year",and so on.
According to the criminal code of DenmarkAnyone who, by spreading false rumours or accusations, persecutes or incites to hatred against any group of the Danish population because of its belief, descent or citizenship, is to be punished with light imprisonment, or, in extenuating circumstances, fined".Heavier penalties are imposed for wider publicity of such rumours.
Under Sweden's penal codethreats, calumnies, or insults against an official national group of a certain descent or religion 124 are to be punished by fines or imprisonment as incitement against national groups".The Federal German Republic, in the light of bitter experience of the methods used by the Nazis to undermine democracy by the abuse of freedom of speech, provides thatWhoever misuses for the fight against the free democratic basic order the freedom of expressing opinions, especially the freedom of teaching, freedom of meeting, freedom of association —forfeits these basic rights ".Moreover, specific reference is made to incitement to hatred in Article 130 of the Basic Law. It is stated:Whoever attacks the human dignity of others in a manner capable of disturbing public peace by (1) incitement to hatred against parts of the population, (2) calling for violent or arbitrary measures against them, (3) insulting them, maliciously exposing them to contempt or slandering them, shall be punishable by imprisonment of not less than three months. In addition, a fine may be imposed.We have had all too much evidence of the terrible results of the unrestricted preaching of hatred and racial prejudice. Surely enough lives have been lost and sufficient suffering endured for the danger of public incitement of race hatred to be clear and for it to be generally realised that there is an overriding and urgent necessity for legislation on this subject to be introduced.
Our own country imposed the following legislation on some of the Colonies. This is still valid. Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, as amended in 1898, provides:Promoting enmity between classes. Whoever by words either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise promotes or attempts to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both".I give these quotations in the hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is present, will bring them to the notice of the Government so that they may see that the passing of a suitable Measure would not be a question of an isolated instance or of ourselves doing something which other enlightened Governments have not been prepared to do. This is something which we ourselves have done when acting in the capacity of a sovereign State in respect of certain Colonies.
125 The following addition was made to Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code in 1927:Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. Whoever with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any classes of Her Majesty's subjects by words either spoken or written or by visible representations insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class shall be punished",and so on.
Section 138 of the penal code of Kenya as revised up to May, 1961, provides that:Any person who with deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any other person writes any word, or any person who, with the like intention, utters any word or makes any sign in the hearing of any other person or makes any gesture or places any object in the sight of any other person is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment…This legislation was introduced by us because of the multi-racial form of society of those countries. Britain as the leading member of a multi-racial Commonwealth has within its shores members of many different races who are surely entitled to protection from abuse and attack.
I repeat that I hope that the Financial Secretary and the Economic Secretary, who are present, will bring this matter to the notice of the Government and will ask them to ensure that something is done about it quickly. It is not a question of protection against a criticism, a rightful criticism, which one is prepared to withstand and everyone is prepared to answer; but the pernicious kind of propaganda which can ultimately result in the vicious attacks and murders to which I have referred is something that must be stopped in any civilised country.
I should like to refer to one or two other matters which have not been mentioned in the Gracious Speech. Some time ago I raised a question of the jury system in this country. At present the set-up is nonsensical. By the act of raising the rateable value of their premises we make people competent to serve on a jury when before they were not considered competent to do so. That surely is sheer nonsense. Because the rateable value of my house is increased 126 above £20 and I am living in the house I am considered capable of serving on a jury, something I was not considered capable of doing before the rateable value was raised. No sensible State ought to tolerate anything of that kind.
Women seem to be regarded as almost outside the whole business. From the register in my own constituency I calculated that there were about 228 women—or some such ridiculously small number—who were entitled to serve on a jury. Why? Because they had not the good fortune—or perhaps the bad fortune—to be born a man. I know that jury service is not regarded by many as a pleasant thing. But it is not an unreasonable obligation and if, as I believe we should, we retain jury service, it is an obligation which should be shared by everyone. At one time those who could serve on a jury were decided by the number of windows in their houses and there was a time when no women were allowed to serve at all. Today a university professor who may be lodging in a house is regarded as being incapable of performing jury service, but his landlady, who prepares his tea in the morning, could possibly serve on a jury because she is a householder. I hope that the Government will see to it that this situation is remedied. It may be thought by some to be a minor matter and perhaps it is when it is compared with the big issues with which we have to deal at the present time. But in my view this is not such a minor matter that it should not be attended to in a democratic State.
When is it proposed to do something to improve the road system in this country? Time after time we have been told of the ridiculous waste of money caused by dealing piecemeal with this matter. Road engineers have the machinery available to tackle the problem on an extensive scale but they are forced to disperse their manpower and leave their machinery idle. When shall we wake up to the fact that our road system is hopelessly behindhand? When shall we realise that unless we provide a proper network of roads, including motor roads, we may lose millions of pounds, not only because of the expense involved but through loss of exports because goods cannot be transported quickly or economically from one place to another?
127 Railways are being closed down. When will the Government realise that the railway service is not merely something which must be made to pay? There are people living around Leicester and other towns who are being prevented from journeying to the towns because railway communications are being closed down. A lot of decent citizens have not adequate methods of transport. They are having to live in areas which 'are already overcrowded in order to satisfy the whim of those who wish to close down a great part of our rail transport system so that the small portion which will be left will be made to pay. Is not it time that there was proper coordination between rail and road transport? What sensible businessman would deal with the transport system without ensuring such co-ordination?
The Government must not feel peeved because they have made a mistake over the road and rail services. Let them recognise that the only way to deal with this matter is to co-ordinate these services and put them back where they were.
I am sorry that I have spoken longer than I had intended, but at least I have got a little off my chest. Perhaps at some other time, when we are dealing with these matters again, I may have the opportunity to return to them.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)
I will not detain the House for long, because I know there are some hon. Members on this side who are eager to express their views on the Gracious Speech, and I expect that hon. Members opposite axe also desirous of entering the debate.
Looking at the Gracious Speech delivered today, I find that there is a great deal of provision in the plans of the Government to fulfil certain obligations, to make certain promises and to give guarantees in the most definite words of charters for the strong. One thing which is very obvious to me, and which I regret very much, is that in the Speech there is very little reference to the weakest section of the community. In the 1930's, when we were living under jungle economics and philosophy, the slogan of the day was, "Eat or be eaten "The meat went to the strong. Those were the days 128 when survival depended on the tooth and claw.
I thought that in 1962 we had escaped from that immoral social atmosphere, but in the Gracious Speech I find that there are promises to the strong, to the organised people, whether they are institutes of directors or industrial workers, who are well fortified in the defences provided for them by the trade unions. All these are catered for, but there is one class or group in the community which has to be disappointed by the Gracious Speech because in it there is no reference to them or their state.
One paragraph says:A Bill will be introduced to increase the pensions of retired members of the public services and their dependants.The next paragraph states:The position of war pensioners and those who are receiving National Insurance benefits will be kept under close review.Every hon. Member will agree with me that those people are accustomed to the full meaning of that phrase, which is a Parliamentary method of indicating that being kept under "close review" simply means, in the common jargon, "jam tomorrow, but no jam today".
The section of the community with which I am concerned is, in my opinion, the weakest and least protected group of all. These are widows and their dependent children, whose position is one of the greatest social tragedies of the 1960s. Imagine the dilemma, the fear, the mental anxiety, of a woman who has been accustomed for many years to rely upon a steady income of between £12 and £15 a week, when she is suddenly confronted with the social nightmare of being reduced to a standard of £5 7s. 6d. on which to maintain herself and her two children. That she should be expected to in 1962 is an indictment of a society which is so glad that it has escaped the terror and the horrors which might have followed on the Cuban incident.
I would not myself gloat over a society which is, on the one hand, proud of its survival and yet, on the other, treats its widows and dependent children in the manner I have indicated. I hope the Government will give consideration to this matter, and that the words I have referred to, that the position of war pensioners and people receiving National Insurance "will be kept under close 129 review", will be rendered into a very definite, firm and specific promise that this group will be given immediate consideration.
Then there are the anomalies within the several categories of widows and dependent children. To me, a widow is a widow "for a' that." Why is it that today we put widows into separate categories and give different treatment to different types of widows? We have the war widow, we have the industrial widow, and we have what we call the normal widow whose husband died from natural causes. These three categories of widows and their dependent children are paid different rates of benefit. Why is it that this inequality should exist between one widow and her two children —that is, the natural or the normal widow—and the industrial widow, and between both of them and the war widow?
We talk about equal opportunity. Where can there be equal opportunity among widows in this way? Where is there equality of opportunity for a widow's dependent children to be nurtured and reared up to manhood? I say that in 1962 there is no justification for these differentials as they are applied to widows.
One of the most grievous anomalies which still persist is in the earnings rule. The normal widow who, owing to her economic circumstances, is compelled to seek employment in order to rear and educate and clothe and feed her dependent children, once she earns £6 17s. a week, loses all her pension, whereas a war widow or an industrial widow with two children can find employment and can earn up to £20 a week, her pension remaining unimpaired.
Probably these are very small points in the public image compared with other problems referred to in the Gracious Speech and by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. Nevertheless, this is one of the biggest human problems we have to face.
Then there is the fourth category—the widow receiving the 10s. established in 1948. I appeal to the Government. These widows have no strong militant organisation with economic power to enforce their claims. It is, therefore, the duty of the House of Commons to give them protection in their present situ- 130 ation. I trust that the Government will give this matter very serious consideration.
There is another very important omission from the Gracious Speech. There is no reference to leasehold reform. This will be a bitter disappointment, particularly to those in the industrial part of South Wales and Monmouthshire. The problem is more peculiar to that part of Britain than, I believe, it is to any other part generally, although there are black spots in London, Liverpool and elsewhere.
The Government base their philosophy on doing everything possible to encourage a property-owning democracy, yet no reference is made in the Gracious Speech to enabling people to become members of such a democracy. In the valleys of South Wales, 75 per cent. of people own their own houses because of the fruits of their own industry and their desire to possess shelter and security for themselves in their old age. But hundreds, if not thousands, of them are, in the absence of reform of the leasehold system, likely to lose their houses in the next ten to twenty years.
The evidence in South Wales clearly indicates the malpractices of the owners of these estates. I want to give credit to many of the estates, particularly in the Rhondda Valley, which are dealing with their properties in a very just manner. But I want to single out one of the greediest estate owners in South Wales. Whereas other estates in the vicinity are prepared to sell freeholds at sums of from £ 60 to £ 70 for a five-room or six-room house, Western Ground Rents —known as Royd's, of Cardiff —is charging £500, £ 600, or even £700 for similar properties.
The Government should act not only in fairness to the householders whose houses are worth £1,000 or £1,200 and who are, because of the exorbitant demands of this estate, faced with these heavy bills for purchasing their freeholds—with the result that in their old age many will have to surrender their homes to the ground landlord—but also in fairness to those estates which are prepared to be fair.
Probably I am wasting my breath in appealing to the Government to introduce legislation to bring about reform. But if the Government are not prepared 131 to do so, they are open to the accusation of wilful deception and that their philosophy of encouraging a property-owning democracy is a sham and hypocrisy. The omission of reference to leasehold reform in the Gracious Speech is confirmation that the Government's words are hollow.
I hope that when the opportunity comes at the General Election the people of Wales in particular will show their indignation and resentment at the omission of this very important matter from the Gracious Speech.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. M. Bingham (Liverpool, Garston)
I want to deal with a number of miscellaneous matters arising out of the Gracious Speech. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) referred to leasehold reform. I can understand and sympathise with many of the points he made, but it should be borne in mind that the 1954 Act has already given a very salutary measure of protection to people with long leases which are expiring. If one wants to take a form of protection further, the question is not one of a demand for leasehold reform in the void or abstract, but one of the respects in which the leasehold system should be reformed so that the inherent difficulties in any scheme of reform can be explored.
The hon. Member for Leicester, Northwest (Sir B. Janner) referred to the jury system, and I took him to mean that he was in favour of extending the jury franchise on some basis to all women.
§ Sir B. Janner
It should be extended to those who are on the ordinary voting register, with the exception of people like the police, who ought not to be called to the jury. Everyone who is capable of voting ought to be capable of serving on a jury.
§ Mr. Bingham
Without going into that too deeply, it should be remembered that jury service for women on that basis would not be welcome to the average housewife and would make an already full life almost intolerable in some cases. Some form of generous system of exemptions, to say the least, would have to be provided if any such reform were made.
The hon. Member also referred to the extension of the jury franchise and he 132 agreed that the rating reforms would probably lead to some extension of the franchise though perpetuating an anomaly which he does not like. As with leasehold reform, it is easy enough to attack the existing system. The problem is to put up another which will not be open to other equal or weightier objections.
I was disappointed with the Gracious Speech because of the absence of any reference to the perennial problem of crime. Unfortunately, there is little sign that the increase in crime in recent years, particularly among younger people, is being held or slowed down and there seems to be some danger that apathetically we will accept this current unprecedented rate of crime as something which is with us and will remain with us for all foreseeable time.
I hope that the Government will continue to give this problem urgent consideration. One suggestion stems from the fact that the real criminal of our times is often the man who, in one sense or another, has been a failure in his teens. It is at that age that the seeds of a criminal career can so easily be sown. Equally, one so often finds in a person who resorts to crime in his teens that a vital flaw in his environment is lack of parental responsibility. I would like to see some realistic measures which went right to that root source. It may be a novelty to enforce some measure of parental responsibility in the courts beyond those measures which already exist but which are so hedged round by restrictions that they are seldom if ever used, but it would make as real a contribution to the solution of crime as any which has yet been undertaken.
The other points are frankly constituency paints, but they affect both my constituency and the whole of Liverpool and Merseyside and it is only right that I should briefly refer to them. In the Gracious Speech there is a welcome reference to the promotion of a high and stable level of employment. Unfortunately, the hopes which were held out for Merseyside by the attraction of the motor industry under Government sponsorship to Merseyside have not been entirely fulfilled and Merseyside has a far higher level of unemployment than anyone would like to see, particularly among young people and school leavers.
133 The real solution, as I think everyone on Merseyside agrees, lies in introducing a number of different measures, the most important of which would be to restore Merseyside to the schedule of areas qualifying for assistance under the recent Act, and thus bring more industries to the area. The motor industries which have been attracted have not as yet provided the number of jobs which it was hoped they would, and in some ways progress has been disappointing. The provision of new industries on Merseyside by rescheduling the area would be a most welcome step.
The Gracious Speech also refers to further improvements to be promoted in housing. This will be specially welcome in Liverpool, where the city council is introducing vigorous schemes for dealing with the appalling problem of slum clearance. I ask the Government to pay special attention to the needs of Liverpool in this connection. The problems that arise from some of the slums in Liverpool are fearful, considered in terms of human misery.
Another point in connection with housing which is causing considerable dissatisfaction is the existing system of improvement grants. To the man in the street these grants appear to be a hit-and-miss affair. One man gets an improvment grant for a bath on the very good ground that he has no bath in his house, while another man who has a bath Which can only just be counted as a bath finds, through an interpretation of the rules, that he cannot obtain a grant.
If it is not possible, as I appreciate it may not be, to widen the present scheme, I ask the Government to consider some form of subsidiary assistance by way of improvement loans which could be paid back over a fairly lengthy period. There are many houses which could be modernised if such assistance were available.
Lastly, in a somewhat disjointed set of points, I refer to hospitals, because the lack of hospitals in south Liverpool, Which is where any constituency lies, is a source of considerable anxiety in the area. There is one hospital in my constituency. This is the Garston Hospital, which, under the Hospital Plan, is either to be closed or curtailed. It is not a big hospital, but at the moment no new 134 hospitals are envisaged in the area. This means that if someone in the south end of the constituency is run down in a traffic accident a very long time may elapse before he is taken to a hospital nearer the centre of the city. I ask the Government to pay urgent attention to this constituency point, which, though a small one, is of great importance to my constituents.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden,West)
The debate on the Gracious Speech inevitably ranges widely over a number of topics, and the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Bingham) touched on a number of important points which had been dealt with by some of the previous speakers. I shall not follow the hon. and learned Member too closely, but I shall hope to deal with one or two of the points raised by him in the course of my remarks.
It is rather unfortunate that there is a kind of Parliamentary Parkinson's Law which means that when an hon. Member is able to address the House there are few Members to address, and when the House is full it is very difficult for him to get an opportunity of making his contribution. It is particularly unfortunate this evening, because there have been a number of extremely thoughtful contributions on problems of great importance and on the smaller human problems which the House so well understands, such as the point brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iowerth Thomas) about the injustice to widows, which has made this debate an interesting one and worthy of a much larger attendance.
Throughout the debate there has been a consciousness of the grave dangers through which we passed last week. I suppose it is inevitable that if one has been at death's door it has a profound effect on one's thinking for the ensuing period. Those of us who watched with trepidation the events and moves of last week inevitably felt that we could not start our discussions of the most important matters that are in the Gracious Speech without some reference to what has happened in the world as a result of the Cuba crisis, and what possibly can be gained as a result of this experience.
135 I think that most of us are appalled by the fact that it seems that in 1962 statesmanship becomes rather like a gigantic game of poker, and one is no; quite sure whether one's bluff will be called, and if it is, it would inevitably mean not only complete disaster for the two players concerned, but for all the onlookers and for the rest of humanity. We approach this current Session with some sense of relief that at least we have passed that particular hurdle last week, but I hope that as a result we shall be able to pay greater and more serious attention to that part of the Gracious Speech which refers to the overriding and overwhelming need for controlled disarmament. It is rather disastrous, in my view, that the whole of the Government machine is geared to talk about armaments and about foreign policy, but the amount of weight that is attached to disarmament and the number of high-grade civil servants whose job it is to look after the problem of disarmament is woefully small.
We have had the ten-Power disarmament conference that went on for three years at Geneva and during that period, on 7th June, 1960, there was a categorical acceptance by the Soviet Union of controlled disarmament, with inspection, within the framework of the United Nations. It is now 1962 and no progress has been made. We have had the eighteen-Power conference, which rose only recently and which will be meeting again in the course of the next ten days, and again it seems that outside Geneva no one is very much concerned, and certainly this House has very little opportunity of getting to grips with the disarmament problems which have been discussed at Geneva, or even supporting some of the steady progress which has been made in those deliberations.
One of the things of greatest concern which occurred at the toil end of the recent deliberations at Geneva when the eighteen-Power conference rose was the American statement that within three years it was likely that China would also have nuclear capability and that within the next few years there would be a spread of nuclear weapons to a number of other nations throughout the world. This would make it practically impossible to reach agreement. It is in this 136 kind of situation and urgency that the Government should pay more than lip-service to those words in the Gracious Speech which talk about a determined effort for disarmament, but should really grapple with the problem to the extent that, if possible, there should be a Cabinet Minister for Disarmament with the responsibility of piloting Parliament and the Government through the great problems involved.
No one pretends that the problems are easy and not of a profound and difficult nature to solve. If we have learned one thing more than another in the last few days it is that we can no longer by-pass the United Nations but that we must fully support a way of finding a settlement of disputes through that machinery. Perhaps from the troubles of last week we may find a new determination and even a practical solution—not words, not speeches, but the reality of two different systems of society finding ways and means of functioning day by day alongside each other.
I should like to touch on the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Garston about the need for the preservation of a stable level of employment. I, too, like him, have a constituency point. In my constituency I have a number of residents who have been working for many years, sometimes for a lifetime, in a very old and renowned engineering firm, D. Napier and Sons. Older Members of the House will remember the Napier motor car of the inter-war years and the contribution that the Napier firm has made to engineering, aircraft design and the internal combustion engine, and certainly the great part that that concern played during the last war. Now it is to be closed down, and within twelve months its total staff will be disbanded and made redundant.
When the Gracious Speech talks of a stable level of employment I realise that it is referring to the whole area, but it is surely wrong that in the highly-competitive, export-minded period in which we live, a group of people in Napier's—a team of qualified and expert technicians who, as a team, have made great contributions in aircraft and car production—is to be entirely disbanded, so that their collective skill will be thrown away.
137 Like the hon. and learned Member for Garston, I am very concerned about the rather pious and platitudinous approach to housing which the Gracious Speech revealed.
§ Mr. Bingham
I was not speaking of that kind of organisation. I am interested only in asking the Government to put into effect the results of the inquiries which they have had held.
§ Mr. Pavitt
I, too, am concerned with that from a constituency viewpoint. I am also concerned with housing in my constituency. It is precisely because the Gracious Speech does not mention the factor which governs housing—that is, the land upon which houses are built—that I think there is a grave omission in the programme of the Government as put before us for the coming Session. Last week in my constituency a demand of £ 28,000 was made for a quarter of an acre of land. Can the Government tell my local authority how this can be a viable proposition in its effort to rehouse the 3,000 people on its housing list? What answer can I give to the young married people who are coming to me week in and week out, at a time when 700 slums are to be pulled down, together with 400 prefabs, when land in my constituency is fetching £ 28,000 for a quarter of an acre? It is not merely a question of housing but all the facilities that go with it. In that respect I find the Gracious Speech woefully lacking.
Nevertheless, I welcome the fact that from the Ministry of Health at least we shall have some additional progress in connection with the two important sectors of the Health Service which were omitted from our consideration during the whole of last Session, namely, the kind of planning that will take place for the general medical services and for the family doctors, and for local health authorities. Even so, the very fact that the Gracious Speech approaches this question in a tripartite fashion means that we shall not have the comprehensive, overall planning which is the only answer to the next stage in our National Health Service which the country so badly needs.
There is no mention in the Speech of the important addition needed by the creation of an occupational health service. We need to prevent people from becoming ill. The service has done a marvellous 138 job in curative medicine, but we have passed the stage of making much spectacular headway in that field. The time has come to broach the question of preventive medicine, and the place to prevent illness is the place where people work. The idea of an occupational health service was accepted by Her Majesty's Government in the International Labour Organisation's recommendation in 1959, but nothing has been done about it. It has been accepted by the British Medical Association and by all the people who have any concern with health, but it is still omitted from the Gracious Speech.
I welcome the fact that the development of hospitals will continue under the 10-year plan. A grave omission is the fact that we are talking too much in terms of buildings and equipment and not enough in terms of people. This brings me to what is, perhaps, a smaller point but an important one concerning the hospital development programme. I refer to the mid-Victorian way in which we treat our married resident doctors. In some cases they must say good night to their wives at 9.30 p.m. because there is hardly any accommodation for married doctors with wives who happen to be resident in hospital. I have an appalling number of letters on this subject. Is it known, for instance, that in one of our greatest teaching hospitals in London ward maids are sacked if they do not inform on a doctor whose wife has stayed the night in the hospital in which he happens to be a resident? This sort of treatment for grown-up, qualified people is absolute nonsense in the twentieth century.
I hope that although we shall continue, as we are informed we shall, with the development plan for hospitals, some attention will be paid to the people inside those hospitals and not merely to the bricks and mortar which surround them. If we are to have a hospital service worthy of its name we cannot ignore the plight of young resident doctors who deserve our attention, and need to lead normal lives just as much as do the senior consultants who, perhaps, make ultimate decisions.
For these and many other reasons I claim that the whole Gracious Speech is riddled with platitudes, has grievous omissions and makes vague promises instead of giving a lead to the country. One of the surprising things 139 throughout this debate has been the fact that so many of my hon. Friends have expressed surprise at its weaknesses. We rose for the Summer Recess with a tired, weary and fatigued Government. Now we have a tired programme from them. In the past three months we may have expected their rehabilitation but that has not occurred. At a time when we should be receiving leadership on vital problems of the day we are receiving a weak, wishy-washy, hotch-potch jumble of words which can mean anything or nothing.
This is not leadership. It is an abdication from any attempt to grapple with the problems of the 1960s. It is a betrayal of the younger people who are eager to make something of their lives and of the world in which we live. Only if we can find a more vigorous background to this bare skeleton will this coming Session of Parliament be worthy of the efforts of hon. Members who are trying to make something better for our people and the future of mankind.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
I listened with astonishment to the description given by the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) when he talked about a betrayal of the younger people of this country because there is, according to him, an absence in the Gracious Speech of any mention of a dynamic policy which would appeal to them or in which they could involve themselves. I wonder whether the hon. Member has carefully studied the Speech. If he has, he would have seen that the Government are to encourage men and women from Britain to offer their services in developing countries overseas. Surely this is one of the most stimulating and rewarding of all services which young people can undertake?
I am happy to see the hon. Member for Willesden, West nod in acknowledgement of the fact that we have so many young people in voluntary services overseas. For example, many of them go out on a voluntary basis to give their services in whatever capacity they are best able to serve—for no payment other than their clothes, food and shelter, living on the same level as the people they serve and doing without special homes, special motor cars and special rates of pay.
140 These are the young people who are serving overseas in the name of this country and who are proving beyond all measures its reputation. I believe that one of the things that they are accomplishing, to their everlasting credit, is a solution to what has appeared so frequently to have been the implacable problem of racial misunderstanding. I welcome the mention of the encouragement that will be given by the Government to these people.
I should like also to deal with the mention in the Gracious Speech of the problem and dangers of Cuba. There is one omission that I find disturbing, and it is that Cuba is not the only danger centre of Communism in the Caribbean, or in that part of the world. There is a country, which is one of our own Colonies, which could become, and which may well threaten to become in the future, a second Cuba, and that is British Guiana.
Let no one mistake the potential threat and danger that is inherent in the present political situation in British Guiana. Let no one misunderstand the nature of the Prime Minister of that Colony. At the inquiry that was held in Georgetown in February of this year into the racial riots that had taken place earlier and which had such a devastating effect on the people's nerves, and on the possibility of a peaceful future for that country, Dr. Jagan was under cross-examination in the witness box for six hours.
Counsel asked him if he was a Communist, and Dr. Jagan said, "I am a Communist. I believe in the tenets of Communism. I regard Castro as the greatest liberator of the twentieth century." This was his evidence in the witness box on oath under cross-examination. He said," I can see nothing in any policy which Mr. Khrushchev puts forward with which I disagree."
Mr. Justice Wynn Parry, who was one of the three commissioners sitting to inquire into the reason for those riots, and the damage they caused, said—and this comes from the transcript of the inquiry:Counsel can take it that Dr. Jagan is an avowed Communist, and beyond peradventure a Communist.This is the man who at this moment is Prime Minister of British Guiana, and 141 this is the man who is asking the Government to give British Guiana independence at once, without any further elections. I would beg the House and the Government to recognise and appreciate that if such independence came without an election the danger to our friends in British Guiana—and we have a multitude of friends there—would be one that we should long have to look at with sadness and regret.
There is no doubt in my mind—and, indeed, I have this on some authority which I regard as being entirely reliable —that if elections were held in British Guiana today the Muslim voters, they having heard what Dr. Jagan said in the witness box, would turn against him, and so would the labour unions, and Dr. Jagan and his party would no longer be in the control of power which they have at the moment.
Unhappily, the majority of Dr. Jagan's followers are Indians. They support him not because they are Communists, but because they are Indians. Indeed, the Indian as an individual is the least 142 natural of Communists. The only Africans who support Dr. Jagan are Africans whose faith in Communism is so great that they are prepared to overlook the possibilities of racial conflict in order to support and promote the interests of Communism.
The African, on the other hand, might be regarded as a natural Communist, but the Africans, as a whole, support the People's National Congress, and both the People's National Congress and the United Force, which is led by Mr. Peter D'Agar, are anxious that there should be, not only elections before independence—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.