§ [FIRST DAY]
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
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 recognise that in choosing an hon. Member to propose this Motion the House honours the constituency far more than the person who happens to represent it. I know that I am speaking for all my constituents as well as for myself when I say that it is an honour for which we are deeply grateful.
The conventions of the House require me to be completely non-controversial in all I say today. I am sure that I am obeying these conventions, as I want to do, when I applaud the references in the Gracious Speech to the signing of the Test Ban Treaty and to Britain's part in making the treaty possible. All of us want to see an end to the nuclear nightmare. All of us welcome with eagerness the hope that that end is in sight and that Britain may bring mankind nearer to it. We all recognise that by contrast with this everything else is a trifle. We all have a vested interest in survival.
Our conventions permit me also in moving this Motion to say something about my own constituency. I want to do that against the background of the Gracious Speech. My constituency, the Uxbridge division of Middlesex, stretches from London Airport to the border of Buckinghamshire, and contains half a dozen communities representing a thousand years of English history. Most of them were there when the Domesday Book was compiled; one of them, the village of Harefield, was the family home of Nicholas Brakespeare, the only Englishman so far to occupy the Papal chair.
Uxbridge is the best known place in my constituency. At one end of the main street is a building called Treaty 10 House, where representatives of Charles I met in order to seek peace by negotiation. At the other end of the same street is the R.A.F. station from which Fighter Command fought the Battle of Britain in 1940. My constituency, therefore, is no anonymous slab of subtopia, but a region with traditions and roots. But it is also a region that recognises that tradition is not enough. It has supplied itself with modern industries and a modern trading estate as well as with memories, for in this country we cannot live on memories—not even the memory of the Battle of Britain.
As the representative of Uxbridge, therefore, I welcome in particular one sentence in the Gracious Speech in which we are promisedfurther proposals for the modernisation of Britain, covering many of the economic and social aspects of our national life.Nothing in our domestic politics is more important than this. If we are to survive and thrive as a nation we must adapt our past to our present. We must transform our old social structure. We need not, and we should not, destroy it, but change it—and change it drastically—we must. We cannot allow this country to become a museum, not even a museum with all mod. con.
Recognising that, I welcome the pledges given in the Gracious Speech to expand still further our whole educational system. I welcome the pledge to act on the Robbins recommendations; the pledge to enlarge the universities and the colleges of technology; the pledge to multiply the numbers of our scientists and engineers. It is not controversial, I hope, to say that all these steps are urgently needed in the national interest, and the sooner we take them the better. My constituency has a particular interest in these plans for educational expansion, since one of the colleges of advanced technology is to be sited at Uxbridge. We shall receive it with enthusiasm, all the more if, as we hope, these colleges are to be given university status. That is one status symbol at which nobody will cavil.
I want, if I may, to address myself to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I suppose I may say without being controversial that my right hon. Friend's accession to the high office he now holds 11 has provoked a certain amount of discussion in this country. I suppose I can add that this discussion has not been entirely one-sided, either.
I have a personal interest to declare here. It may be called an inherited interest, for the region that now composes my constituency of Uxbridge used to form part of a much bigger constituency, namely, the ancient county of Middlesex, and Middlesex sent to this House 200 years ago a politician who did not approve of Scottish Prime Ministers. His name was John Wilkes—"Liberty" Wilkes—the eighteenth century agitator who is supposed to have provoked Dr. Johnson's remark that "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel".
Wilkes did not approve of Scotsmen, in Downing Street or anywhere else. He laid it down that a Scotsman had no more right to a job in this country than a Hanoverian or a Hottentot. Consequently, when the Earl of Bute became Prime Minister of George III, Wilkes "burst into flames", for Lord Bute was the first Scotsman to occupy Downing Street, and in Wilkes's opinion this precedent was utterly deplorable.
There was, of course, a case to be made against Lord Bute. To start with, he was an earl—it is true that he was merely the third earl, but he was a Scottish earl all the same. Secondly, he was a Knight of the Thistle, and, particularly—and here I come to the brand of Cain on Lord Bute's strawberry leaves —he was the first Scottish Prime Minister who was an Old Etonian. As a Prime Minister who was an earl, and is a Knight of the Thistle and an Old Etonian, I think that my right hon. Friend will agree that Lord Bute may be accurately described as a trend setter.
What did my predecessor in the representation of Uxbridge have to say about this first Scottish Prime Minister? I have been looking up the records, and, reading Wilkes's attacks, I find that they have a familiar, contemporary ring. He said, for instance, that there had been nothing like Lord Bute's appointment since the Emperor Caligula made his horse a pro-consul. So far as my researches go, this was the first time that Caligula's horse entered British politics—but he has been running ever since.
12 Wilkes had a good deal to say also about Lord Bute's Ministers and the other people to whom the Scots Prime Minister gave jobs. Wilkes complained about what he described as Bute's "gross partiality to his own beggarly countrymen". I suppose it is possible, Mr. Speaker, that during this coming Session you may hear some comments about the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other Treasury Ministers whom my right hon. Friend has appointed.
But I wonder whether anybody will say of any of them what my predecessor in the representation of Uxbridge said about the man whom the first Scottish Prime Minister made his Secretary to the Treasury. This was a harmless, fameless gentleman named Samuel Martin. Wilkes said about Martin, inter a good deal of alia, that he wasThe most treacherous, base, selfish, mean, abject, low lived and dirty fellow who ever wriggled himself into a job.Then there was Robert Adam, the great Scottish architect who with his brothers built Adelphi Terrace. He got two jobs from Lord Bute. After holding both jobs and drawing both salaries Adam was then rewarded with a seat in this House. He was provided with a pocket borough. Robert Adam came into this House as the Member for Kinross.
Wilkes asserted that the Speaker whom Bute installed in the Chair was no better than he should be. This was Sir John Cust, and Wilkes discovered to his disgust and delight that a number of politicians had been allotted shares in a public loan at cut-price rates and were themselves able to make large tax-free capital gains.
One of these lucky men, said Wilkes, was the brother of a man whom he described asour able and impartial Speaker.My right hon. Friend might like to be reminded of some advice given to the first Scottish Prime Minister when he took office. This advice came to him from his wife and his wife got it from her mother, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, with whom Bute was supposed to have fallen in love. She gave the Prime Minister three pieces of advice. She urged him, first, to look after the politicians he liked. She advised him, secondly, to have nothing to do with 13 politicians who were unlucky. Her final piece of advice consisted of two words. The two words were "trust nobody". I have exhumed all these details from the past in order to persuade my hon. Friend that it has all happened before. This House of Commons has seen it all and heard it all. There is nothing new under Big Ben.
We live in an uncertain and unpredictable world. Despite that melancholy fact, I will allow myself to make one forecast for the benefit of my right hon. Friend. No matter how long he stays in office I assure him he will never hear from me the kind of language which the first Scottish Prime Minister had to put up with from my predecessor in the representation of Uxbridge.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Mrs. Patricia McLaughlin (Belfast, West)
I beg to second the Motion.
It is a singular honour for my constituency and for Northern Ireland that an Ulster Unionist Member should have been chosen to second the Motion. To the best of my knowledge it is the first time that a Northern Ireland Member has been so honoured. I am deeply conscious of the responsibility and I am grateful for the traditional indulgence of the House.
West Belfast is one of the largest industrial constituencies in the whole of the United Kingdom and it has long been known as the cockpit of Ulster politics. It has a large share of the traditional industries of Britain—shipbuilding and engineering—and linen has been manufactured there ever since the beginning of this craft industry in Ireland. It has also all the problems which industrial life today, in the face of the changing needs of these industries, brings into areas which are practising and carrying out alterations in the patterns of industrial life.
I am sure that my colleagues who represent other Belfast constituencies will not consider me controversial if I say that West Belfast is the heart of our capital city and that all of us who represent Belfast enjoy and respect the sturdy and outward-looking attitude of our constituents who earn their livelihood by producing goods which are required all over the world. Belfast is the sixth largest port in the United Kingdom, and 14 through it Northern Ireland trades directly with the Commonwealth, the United States, Europe and the Iron Curtain countries as well as Britain.
Northern Ireland is also concerned with the new as well as the old industries. We shall soon have one of the largest tyre manufacturing concerns in Europe in full working order within our boundaries. Unfortunately, it is not in my constituency, but it was in a small corner of my constituency that the first pneumatic tyre was invented. We have part of an aircraft factory which makes and sells as valuable exports guided missiles to many countries which require their protection. American, Canadian and European firms have established themselves in Ulster, and the name "Belfast" has been given to many important things.
One of Her Majesty's cruisers as been so named. A new air trooper is to be called the "Belfast", a new plane for which we have great hopes. There is the famous old Belfast glass and there are towns in Commonwealth countries which carry the name. There is a big future for us in man-made fibre and in Ulster one can obtain any kind of textile which is in demand today. My constituency depends on industry for its living. I should like to think that the constituency also depends upon its Member. When I first came to the House, in 1955, I read with great interest in The Times Guide to the House of Commons thatAt Belfast, West, by a freak of local politics, an Irish Labour majority of 25 was converted into an Ulster Unionist majority of 18,141.Occasionally, I have wondered since whether I was the freak or whether it was the constituency that had elected me.
Northern Ireland has great ties with the Commonwealth through education as well as industry. When I was in Ghana and Nigeria, last year, I met many constituents of mine and a large number of other Northern Ireland citizens teaching in the schools there, helping in engineering development and working in the hospitals. Our young people use their training and education to advantage and they are valuable citizens of many Commonwealth countries to which they 15 take their knowledge and their enthusiastic desire to help and share in the community in which they live. We also have a special invisible export of our own because I understand that fourteen Presidents of the United States have had Northern Irish blood in their veins.
I should like to pay my tribute to Her Majesty's Government and to the Northern Ireland Government who have worked and are working very hard to keep Northern Ireland in the forefront of our modern development, and to help us solve our long-term problem of unemployment. This is something on which we have to concentrate and it is caused largely by the lack of indigenous raw materials.
When one considers the difficulty of remoteness of markets, now largely overcome, one realises that to date Ulster is the success story of Great Britain in this century. Anyone who says otherwise has failed to see the progress that has been made. We steadfastly refuse to accept defeat or to become a second-class part of the United Kingdom. Our present unemployment figure of 32,354, in October of this year, or 6.6 per cent., is almost as low as the wartime average taken over the years 1940–45, which was 31,109, and that was the nearest that we have ever come to full employment. Today we have a far larger working population than we had in those years.
We know the problem; we realise that we have already achieved a great development, and we want to continue and are determined to improve this figure and solve the problem. The amenities offered in Northern Ireland, as well as the inducements to industry, are the best in the United Kingdom, and the flexibility of legislation means that individual firms wishing to develop there can have their own requirements met by tailor-made arrangements, so to speak. The Gracious Speech says:
Plans for comprehensive regional development will be laid before you for central Scotland and North-East England. Plans appropriate to other regions will follow.The development of these areas is one of the most important problems with which Her Majesty's Government will be grappling during the coming months. We await with great interest the White Papers on Scotland and the North-East 16 which will shortly be available. I hope—indeed, I am confident—that within whatever new plans may be brought forward the pressing needs of Northern Ireland will not be overlooked.
The Government of Northern Ireland have announced that they are preparing their own economic plan, and I hope this will make it easier to tie in the needs of this area with the national policy for economic growth. One of the many services that the National Economic Development Council has performed has been the focussing of attention on areas such as Northern Ireland, with their under-used labour resources, as these are a great potential national asset.
I am particularly pleased to read in the Gracious Speech that the rate of house building will be increased and that all possible steps will be taken to achieve a larger building programme and to help secure better conditions for tenants of houses in multiple occupation. It is right that we should concentrate on this fundamental requirement of families. Homes are still our greatest national asset, and we must use every means to see that our children get a sound start in life.
The most important thing is a decent place in which to live. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) stressed the importance of education in this context, but I still believe that a child needs a good home in which to start his life.
I am glad that the Gracious Speech includes the promise to provide relief for certain householders who are suffering hardship from increased rates following revaluation; and, although it is not in the Gracious Speech, I hope that the Government in their wisdom will find a way to solve the problems of widows, and of widowed mothers who have to act as father and mother to their children, for all these people need our earnest consideration and help. The House will be asked to consider arrangements for the payment of compensation to victims of crimes of violence. I hope that we shall soon know what these proposals are. I am sure that the whole House will be anxious to support any plans which will alleviate the suffering of those who have 17 been criminally assaulted and suffer physical damage. It is very sad to think that in our modern society it should be necessary for us to make such arrangements because of the high incidence of these types of crimes.
The Gracious Speech makes clear the Government's intention to strengthen and develop Commonwealth ties and to increase trade between all countries in the Commonwealth, as well as to strive for world trade expansion. In this context I welcome the statement that Her Majesty's Governmentwill sustain, to their best, the developing strength of the European Free Trade Association."It is valuable that the Council of Europe and the Western European Union should be fully used in maintaining close communication with Europe. As a United Kingdom delegate to those Assemblies for the past three years, I have seen their importance to Great Britain in her determination to keep a close connection with Europe, despite the failure of our efforts to join the Common Market.
It is right that the G.A.T.T. tariff negotiations should be stressed as of major importance, and that Her Majesty's Government should pay great attention to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The Government's programme for expanding financial and technical assistance to developing countries will depend upon and be greatly helped by the success of these negotiations.
Agriculture is one of our major industries, both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain as a whole. Our farmers have worked hard to produce both quality and quantity. I am very pleased to note that the Government are to take measuresto prevent imports from undermining the market …I am equally pleased to see that legislation on plant rights is to be brought in. The problem of plant rights has worried many horticulturists, and in Northern Ireland we have had this problem with us for a long time. Our opportunities for exporting rose bushes, alpine plants, among other items, should be greatly helped when this legislation comes into force. The intention to adapt guarantee arrangements for 18 cereals and fatstock will be of vital importance to the future welfare of this country.
This Session of Parliament will be very busy if we are to carry out all the proposals contained hi this Gracious Speech. We must tackle vigorously the problems of balancing general material prosperity with the needs of those areas where there is under-use of manpower, for both prosperity and the lack of it will create great problems. This is a challenge to us all.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge has stressed the importance of aims for peace, of our expansion programme and of our educational development. We must give our young people not only education, but the opportunity to put their knowledge and skill to work in the country. None of us can be interested only in the material advances, for our deliberations and our legislation here must set the standards and the policy for our country, with the proper emphasis on the needs of our people, giving each one of them the means to achieve his own place in the United Kingdom and his right to work for Great Britain.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
It is certainly no empty formality, and I am sure everyone on this side of the House—indeed, I believe in all quarters of the House—will agree, when I offer our congratulations, irrespective of party, to the mover and seconder of the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech. Both have performed their duty in the manner we would have expected of them—the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) with rugged vigour and independence, and the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) with charm.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge is not one of the most frequent speakers in the House. We tend to see him more on the television screen, or read his thoughts in the evening Press. We know now what we have been missing, and I am sure the whole House will wish to hear more speeches of that kind. I must make it clear that the selection of the hon. Member for Uxbridge to make the speech was not the responsibility of this side of the House. Presumably, the selection was made by the Leader of the House, and we congratulate him on his perspicacity.
19 The hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West, too, is universally liked and respected by all parties in the House. Despite her unshakable loyalty to the Unionist cause, she has, on occasion, fought with great courage for the right of her constituents to have a job, even when she knew that she was fighting against the overwhelming odds which sit on the Treasury Bench. We on this side will always treasure the memory of her, with one of her hon. Friends, marching through our Lobby in protest against one of the less felicitous proposals—I think that it was the payroll tax—of the Leader of the House. Indeed, on that occasion the hon. Lady felt so moved by what was happening that she came and sat on our side of the House during the debate, on the Front Bench.
Congratulations to the mover and seconder are not the only congratulations which are in order this afternoon. A few minutes ago, the House was enriched by the accession of two Scotsmen. Taking them in order of chronology, I welcome, first, my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Howie), and I congratulate him on the size of his majority. To the right hon. Gentleman who followed him, I offer the welcome which all parties will be ready to accord him. In his campaign he did better than many recent Conservative candidates. This is what the Press call a personal triumph. It has been calculated that if he stood personally in every constituency in the country and suffered only the same proportionate adverse swing as he had in Kinross there would be a majority in the House of 40 for the Labour Party, although, of course, it is possible that not all of the other 629 constituencies would show quite the same appreciation of his abilities as has Kinross.
In welcoming the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps I ought to refer to the prognostications which we have read recently of gladiatorial combat across the Table. We have been treated by the Press to a wealth of cricketing, footballing, boxing and even duelling metaphors. As one who has sat in the House for many years, the right hon. Gentleman will know that he will be judged by us and by the House, and he will stand or fall, by the policies which he expounds, by his defence of 20 them and by the conduct of his Administration, just as we on this side will be judged by our criticisms of those policies, when criticism is called for, and by the alternative policies which we shall put forward. If I may add to the sporting analogies, we intend to play the ball and not the man, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman intends the same.
If in the twilight months of this Parliament we can have real and constructive confrontations on policy, their policy and ours, and if we can use them to achieve a deeper analysis of the causes of the sickness which has assailed our society over the past few years, these months will not be entirely wasted and, whatever the ebb and flow of party advantage, the country will benefit.
It is in this setting that we must now examine the Gracious Speech. The issue is not so much what is said in it or even what is left out; the issue lies in the fact that it was made at all save at the opening of a new Parliament. The House and the country know that the political health of the nation demands an early dissolution and an appeal to the country, that whatever Government sit on that side should be clothed with the authority of national support, not an authority fatally eroded in by-election after by-election and in every test of public opinion to which they have been subjected.
In a television broadcast, the Prime Minister said that he was greatly tempted to have an election—I think that was his phrase—and he was reported yesterday to have said that he is spoiling for a fight. He can have one. What is stopping him? It is not this programme of legislation in the Gracious Speech. It is not the state of international negotiations. One thing only gives him pause, the thought of Luton, of Stratford, of the earlier by-elections, and the lessons they carry in terms of election defeat.
I remind the House that the by-election in Luton took place in conditions uniquely favourable for the Government. We have just had two weeks in which the Prime Minister was free, without interruption, almost without riposte, to make upwards of 70 speeches—72, in fact—all of them fully reported. I read them all, or, more 21 accurately, I read the six speeches twelve times. [Laughter.] I make no complaint, really; we all do it at election times.
But we have had two weeks, with the House not sitting, two weeks of government by T.V. and Press statement. We have had two weeks in which right hon. Gentlemen and their sycophantic Press could behave as though the slate which bore the record of the past 12 years had been wiped clean, as though everything had gone, as though all that is evil and unpopular were washed away by a change in the Premiership, by what we forecast some weeks ago, an orgy of de-Stalinisation. I am sorry for the former Prime Minister. I have said some hard things about him, but I have said nothing as hard about him as the things which the Tory Press and Party are now saying.
We have had two weeks during which there have come from the Government vast financial commitments for years, almost for generations, ahead, announced almost daily—certainly, at a rate of announcement which they cannot, I believe, hope to maintain. Yet, after all that, in one of the most prosperous constituencies in the country, a constituency described by the Chairman of the Conservative Party as a "microcosm of the kind of Britain we are trying to create", there has been a reversal of party voting of over 8,700 votes.
There are over 170 hon. and right hon. Members opposite with smaller majorities, and they provide 170 cogent reasons why the right hon.' Gentleman, who is spoiling for a fight, chooses discretion at this time rather than valour. The myth which sustains these 170—they were the first to get up when the right hon. Gentleman came in—is that somehow the country, unhappily, does not know what Conservative policies are, but that now that they have a new leader dedicated to expounding those policies all will be well. In fact, of course, the country knows only too well what Conservative Party policies are. It has had twelve years in which to know, and the longer that a determined electorate has to wait, the more will hon. and right hon. Members opposite find that the choice is not between defeat and victory but, as a Conservative newspaper recently said, between defeat now and disaster later.
22 The Prime Minister regards the election as already having begun. When he returned from the Palace to No. 10, his first words to the country on television were, I think, that he and his colleagues—at least, some of them—would work together to win the next election. Then, in his second television appearance a few hours later, he remembered himself and said something about working for the good of the country. Yesterday, he said:From this moment on, the fact that there is a General Election ahead of us must never be out of our minds. Every act we take, every attitude we strike, every speech we make in Parliament or elsewhere, must have that in mind.We have been warned. Certainly we have all the pre-election signs. We have the carefully staged election boom, carefully fostered, carefully held back for a couple of years while the country suffers and now forced on at fever heat. We have had it all before.
I remember that in 1959 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer [Interruption.]—hon. Members do not like being reminded of this but they are going to get it anyway—now Lord Amory, told us, "We are all expansionists now". So they were—until the votes were in the ballot box.
Then, in 1960, we had the 6 per cent. Bank Rate. In 1961 came the weary round again, with a 7 per cent. Bank Rate, prescription charges, two Budgets in three months, the pay pause, and all the other broken bargains. We had the teachers' salary question, the nurses' case, the cuts in council house building, the cuts in the university expansion programme—everything that a defeated and demoralised Chancellor could think of.
Now the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) is back to remind us of those days. The skeleton has returned to the feast. But the present Chancellor, who, a week ago, was warning the country about the dangers of going too fast, told us on Saturday that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), in drawing attention to the Government's outburst of election commitments, did not realise the nature of the expansion we were experiencing. But we had exactly the same words from the 1959 Chancellor and that expansion quietly expired within months of the election.
23 A Government who, two years ago, kept the House up all night bitterly protesting that the country could not afford a shilling or two a week more for the nurses, are now pledging thousands of millions of pounds on an election appeal, and the country is asked to believe in their sincerity. We were told two years ago that the country would be bankrupt unless we took a few millions from the sick in additional prescription charges, and today, without waiting for the House to meet, the Government have announced an expenditure programme of £3,500 million for higher education alone, motorways and road improvements costing well over £1,000 million between now and 1969, hospital building costing £800 million over ten years, a school building programme costing £3,500 million over five years, with big increases to come later, technical education to cost £160 million for current programmes and welfare services costing £152 million in the next five years. There will also be the cost of the housing programme, while the shipping subsidies to be spent before the election total £75 million.
These are formidable commitments [Interruption.] Some of us find it a little difficult to reconcile all these commitments with the attitude of hon. Members opposite who are barracking now but who willingly went through the Division Lobby for the proposition that the country could not afford to pay nurses a decent salary.
The Prime Minister has said many times that he intends to speak frankly to the country, so perhaps he will promise us a White Paper so that we can see exactly what these commitments are that are being entered into, day by day and week by week, while the election is approaching. While on this subject I should like to quote the report published by the Daily Express under the heading, "We'll soon cut arms". The report quoted the Prime Minister as saying:I think we will be able quite shortly to begin the physical process of reduction of armaments and use the expenditure for other, more peaceful purposes.That is a hope we all share, and we await the Defence Estimates with more than usual interest. In the last election, Lord Hailsham, who himself is shortly to cross the Great Divide, warned the 24 country that the expenditure programme of the "spendthrift Socialists" would add £800 million a year to Government expenditure. But the promises of the past fortnight add up to many thousands of millions of additional expenditure.
I am glad to see that the Government are now using the argument we used then—but an argument which they rejected. Now they are telling us that this programme can be afforded by the country if, and only if, we mobilise all the productive resources of the country for a programme of steady expansion—not the lurchings of the quadrennial election cycle of the last twelve years but steady expansion year by year.
Last night the Prime Minister, with great skill, was explaining the difference between a 3 per cent, and a 4 per cent, expansion rate. That is what we did in 1959. But if he is to explain it today, as I hope he will, no doubt he will say that we can afford these commitments if, and only if, we get expansion steadily year by year at a 4 per cent, rate at least. But the Government cannot get it if they hold production down for three years at a time, as his Government did in 1955–58 and in the three years of deepfreeze from 1960 until last summer.
Let me remind the House that in February, 1961, we on this side put forward a four-year plan for increased production, with programmes for productive investment and for exports, and that the figures we gave were singularly close to the figures which the N.E.D.C. reported on some time afterwards. If that programme had been adopted then—and even to use the word "plan" in February, 1961, drew guffaws from hon. Members opposite—instead of the long stagnation which followed that debate we would have had a gross national product this year £3,000 million higher than we have and the tax revenue, without any increase in tax rates, would have been £1,000 million higher.
This is how this programme could have been achieved a good deal earlier. This is the basic issue underlying the great debate of our age, underlying the proposals in the Gracious Speech, underlying the fundamental question of how this country is to pay its way in a world in which, as we must recognise, no one owes us a living. This is an issue of maintaining expansion, providing 25 élan and a degree of innovation and change in industrial attitudes which can move mountains
§ Mr. Wilson
That is an extraordinary remark from the hon. Member. Does not he remember how we on this side of the House, after Suez, when this country was facing a desperate economic situation, supported the Government in measures to save the pound, even though we had objected to the operation which had endangered it? That remark was not worthy of the hon. Gentleman.
A fortnight ago I put a question to the Prime Minister. I had read and been impressed by his repeated statement that the difference between this Government and the last was that the public were to be told everything, that there was to be a national partnership, a full disclosure of the Government's thinking and policy. I was very impressed by this statement, so I asked the right hon. Gentleman this question, which I repeat: what changes in Government economic policy and organisation is he now proposing to ensure that this pre-election boom does not grind to a halt as its predecessors did?
When I put that question to him a fortnight ago—I think we heard it on the radio going up a glen somewhere—he gave a quick answer. He did not give his mind to it but made an obscure reference to Socialism. If his pledge to take the country into his confidence means anything, he will answer it now, because it is fundamental to the whole problem of expenditure commitments? I hope we shall be told. There is not a word in the Gracious Speech which gives a clue to the answer.
There are other significant omissions. There is not a word about the millions of casualties in the "affluent society"—about the old, the sick, the disabled, or, as the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West mentioned, the widows. There is no suggestion that retirement pensions will be increased or that the Government will take up our proposal of providing an adequate guaranteed minimum below which none will be allowed to fall and which they will have as of right without a means test and without recourse to National Assistance. 26 There is nothing about the future of the National Health Service, and I put this question: I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks that some of us fail to understand the nature of the expansion we are experiencing, but will he tell us whether we would be failing to understand the nature of the expansion if we were to demand now that the prescription charges—the individual charges introduced by the late Prime Minister in 1956 and the double charges imposed two years ago—should now be removed? They were put on in times of great financial stringency. We are now told that that stringency is past and there are these enormous promises. Will the Prime Minister tell us this afternoon whether he cannot find a small amount of money to remove this burden on sick people? If he cannot find the money, will he explain to us why?
There is in the Gracious Speech a great deal on housing, but not a word on how the land for that housing is to be made available, not a word on how the Government propose to stop the racket in land profiteering. There is not a word about what they are to do about interest rates, which are vital both to local authorities in their housing programmes and owner-occupiers alike. There is nothing on leasehold. One gets the impression once again that when it is a question of a stand-up fight with the landlords, the Government are beaten before they start.
I should explain that we propose to table an Amendment to the Address on the housing situation, so I will not anticipate my hon. Friends' speeches, but I must confess myself amazed—at least, I would have been amazed if I had not read this part of the Gracious Speech in the Daily Telegraph last week and heard it as the first item on the B.B.C. news yesterday morning—by the decision of the Government to introduce legislation to deal with the evils of Rachmanism.
When we debated this in July, the Minister of Housing was affronted. He disparaged our motives in raising this question of Rachmanism. He vigorously denied that additional powers were needed, and he was supported by his hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). He voted against our proposals, as did hundreds of hon. Members opposite who will now, of course, 27 troop faithfully through the Division Lobby to support this new legislation which we were told was not needed, just as two days later they voted against a Ten-Minute Rule Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) to deal with Rachman abuses. The Minister of Housing admitted last July to having known about Rachman since 1960, but it is only in 1963, when an election is near, that we find legislation designed to deal with the matter.
Again, we are to have legislation to deal with what is called,the systematic improvement of many more houses each year".What, again? How many more tries are the Government going to make? We had the Macmillan Act in 1953 to encourage landlords to do this. We have had the Rent Act, which was to solve all our problems. We have had grants, subsidies, doles, bribes and inducements, and still the job is not being done. And it will not be done until the law provides that a local authority can designate houses, streets and areas and serve the necessary notices on a landlord, with power where the landlords refuse or neglect to make improvements, to take over houses, first offering the sitting tenant the option to buy.
Again I notice that we have proposals in the Gracious Speech to introduce legislation to ease the burden of rates. This at least was predictable. We had exactly the same kind of Bill for exactly the same kind of reasons and at exactly the same kind of time—12th February, 1959—when the last rate relief Bill was introduced on the eve of the last election. The extraordinary thing is that although we on this side of the House have made repeated demands for a proper and independent inquiry into the whole subject of local finance, it has been voted down by hon. Members opposite. When in March we put forward a five-point plan for dealing with the rating problem, it was rejected by the Government, and when one of their hon. Friends raised the question of providing relief for elderly ratepayers, the House was told that this was quite impossible and quite unworkable. Now, of course, the machinery of revolt in the Conservative Party has ground to just the point where 28 the Government, on the eve of an election, finally promise the legislation we could not have before.
We await what the Gracious Speech callsPlans for comprehensive regional development … for central Scotland and North-East England.and what it calls
Plans appropriate to other regions"presumably not comprehensive or regional. We have had this promise before. In 1959, after the Government had fought the election on fulsome promises to bring work to these areas, we had these words in the Gracious Speech of 1959:
My Ministers will given urgent attention to the problems of those areas in which there is need to provide further opportunities for employment, and a Bill will be introduced to replace the Distribution of Industry Acts.That was in 1959 after fighting an election. But in the North-East, over these four years, unemployment has risen from 40,000 to more than 57,000 while in Scotland it has risen from 87,000 to 91,000. If this is all we have had as a result of their last efforts in the situation, what are we supposed to get now?
I put these questions to the right hon. Gentleman. I know that he will answer them, because he has promised to tell the people and I think that Parliament would be a good place to begin. He went to the Scottish Office some 11 or 12 years ago and since that period, since 1951, the number of mate workers in Scotland has barely increased. If it has increased—we do not have the latest figures—it has been by only a few hundreds. Does he expect, with all these new powers, to equal that record? If he expects to do better, will he tell us why it is that over these twelve years, with all the powers the Government needed and more available if they asked for them, the Government, of which he has been a senior member, sharing full responsibility for policy, have so manifestly failed to increase employment?
During this week, my right hon. and hon. Friends will deal with all the issues in the Gracious Speech with which I have not time to deal now. There are many that we welcome. Apparently, we are to have severance payment to employees who become redundant. I 29 do not know whether this will apply to the former editor of the Spectator—it may not be restrospective. We welcome the provisions for industrial training because we have been pressing for something to be done about this for years. The House will remember my former right hon. Friend Lord Robens in March, 1959, pressing for something to be done, and it will also remember the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) two and a half years ago, I think on 31st May, and the repeated speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) and our pressure in Finance Bill debates. Of course we have had promises that something would be done in almost every Gracious Speech for years. This year there has been a serious fall in the number of apprenticeships, coming at a very critical time, and so we welcome anything that can be done and hope that something really is to be done in time.
We note, too, that the Government willencourage the provision of a modern transport system by all appropriate means, including planning, investment and research— and, of course, closures. I should have thought that we would have had a Bill to provide the transport users' consultative committees with real powers, with teeth, because they have become an utter farce, denied even the information which they need for the discharge of their totally inadequate functions.
On transport, I must put this question to the right hon. Gentleman—I hope that he is making notes of these questions. Repeatedly in the by-election he gave a pledge that no line would be closed in Scotland unless the responsible Minister, in this case the Secretary of State for Scotland, was satisfied that there were adequate alternative transport facilities. That was the pledge he gave and I think he will confirm that. What about England and Wales? Will he now tell us that this pledge goes for England and Wales as well? If not, will he tell us why the discrimination? If he is to give this pledge this afternoon, will he announce legislation to enable the T.U.C.C's to report on these matters? The right hon. Gentleman said many times in Scotland that he did not like to leave things of this kind to White-
30 hall which was too remote and not sufficiently in touch with people. Can we have a clear statement from the right hon. Gentleman on this subject?
There are several questions suggested by the Gracious Speech which are left unanswered by it, and there is one important question which I must not fail to refer to. There is a reference in the Gracious Speech to Central Africa, for which the Prime Minister bears a very heavy personal responsibility. Indeed, his selection as Prime Minister raised the hopes of several embattled opponents of democracy in the dying Federation. Within hours of his appointment he received the dubious support of both Mr. Martell and Sir Roy Welensky, and I wish him joy of both of them. Then, predictably, in less than a week the Southern Rhodesian Government formally renewed its demand for immediate independence, a demand which for months had been stalled and evaded with conspicuous diplomatic skill and, for once, constructive equivocation by the Foreign Secretary, then the First Secretary of State, and we all congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his skill.
Now we must ask the Prime Minister to be utterly unequivocal about this demand he has received. Already our good name has been besmirched by our handling of the Central African question. Too much is at stake for Britain's standing in Africa, in the United Nations—to which I see the Government, even this Prime Minister's Government, pay Hp-service in the Gracious Speech—and in the world for him to evade this issue. I ask him, and the House will expect him to tell us this afternoon, will he give a clear and specific assurance that Her Majesty's Government will not concede independence to Southern Rhodesia until a new constitution is in force which accepts, as the present constitution rejects, the principles of democratic government?
Will he tell us whether he regards as democratic an electoral system which denies the vote to 99 per cent, of the Africans who outnumber the Europeans by 15 to 1? In view of the admitted inability of the Government to solve this problem—because the cup is too full for that—will he tell us that he will convene a Commonwealth Prime 31 Ministers' Conference for the purpose of achieving an agreed Commonwealth solution to this problem?
Whilst I am referring to the Commonwealth—and I am glad that there are words in the Gracious Speech on this subject—I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman that we should like very soon to have a debate on Commonwealth trade. When he was in Kinross he gave some extraordinary answers to my questions about the Common Market. He seemed to think that at one time in the negotiations we refused to go in because the terms were all wrong. That was not the story which the then Lord Privy Seal and the then Prime Minister told us at the time. They told us that negotiations had reached virtual success and then there was this intervention from France. We are all deeply concerned about the serious reduction in our trade with the Commonwealth over the past years. I think that this was partly affected by the willingness with which some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were willing to sell the Commonwealth down the river in the Brussels negotiations, but there are other reasons as well.
There was no right hon. Gentleman more keen to get into the Common Market than the Prime Minister. He made a powerful speech on this subject in another place two months before the Government made up their mind to apply for entry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] All right. I ask the right hon. Gentleman what I asked him a fortnight ago. Will he give a pledge that no Government of which he is the head will go into the Common Market on terms which will mean a substantial reduction in Commonwealth imports to this country? I ask that because if we had gone in on the terms already negotiated, and which this side of the House voted against on 8th November last year, it would have meant a substantial reduction and virtual destruction of trade between this country and the Commonwealth. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this question.
Lastly, I come to those passages in the Gracious Speech which express the new theme of the Government—modernisation. In 1959 we were all expansionists, though that did not last long. Now 32 we are all modernisers. I never undervalue the power of repentance, but it has taken a very long time.,We have had thirteen Gracious Speeches from this Government. This is the first one which expresses any interest in the modernisation of Britain, or the modernisation of British industry. I concede that the word "modernisation" has appeared before. It appeared two or three times in relation to the modernisation of the Scottish Law of Succession, promised again this year, twice in connection with the railways in the pre-closure era, and once in a dynamic passage about the modernisation of our gaming and betting laws. But for any reference to the modernisation of our society and our industry we have waited 12 years.
I welcome the fact that both sides of the House are unanimous about the objectives, on the need to mobilise the talents of all our people to enable Britain to play her full part in the scientific and automotive revolution. The right hon. Gentleman in his party political broadcast from the Guildhall, or the Mansion House, last night, put automation as the No. 1 problem. I think that he had a little difficulty in denning automation. He seemed to get mixed up with mechanisation. He had better have another try. We welcome the fact that he gave such high priority to it, because imitation is certainly the sincerest form of political desperation. It is clear that what Scarborough thinks today Blackpool rushes to bring to the forefront tomorrow. I do not intend to repeat what I said elsewhere, nor to anticipate what I hope we shall have the chance of saying if the second Amendment which we propose to table on science and education is selected by you, Mr. Speaker, for next week, but I must ask the Prime Minister, because I gather that we are to get a modernisation speech, why we have heard so little about these things over the past 12 years? There was the election gimmick of the Minister for Science, an appointment which has achieved precisely nothing and taken four years to achieve it.
We have just had the Trend Report. This Government do not take action. They set up a Committee under a permanent official to find ways round practical difficulties which Ministers seem to have neither the wit nor the resolution to deal with. The Trend
33 Report is a brave but not very imaginative attempt to reconcile powerful departmental vested interests. We shall give our views on this in next week's debate, but are we to be told that we have had a Minister of Science for four years and that even now the Government cannot decide on the appropriate departmental machinery for handling the task and we need months more of negotiation and manœuvre to settle it?
I hope that next week the House will have a chance to debate both the Robbins and Newsom Reports, because after years of inadequate provision for higher education the Government, apparently for electoral reasons, have rushed into accepting this vast, imaginative, costly programme. A figure of £3,500 million is the programme for higher education. We welcome this fact, but does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise, as the Robbins Report says, that there are 30,000 students who will not get a place in the next two or three years because of the failure to make provision for them?
The right hon. Gentleman has been a member of the Government all the time. Does not he remember that only 18 months ago in this House we were told that we could not accept the U.G.C. programme for university expansion? That programme was slashed and hon. Gentlemen opposite trooped into the Division Lobby in defence of national solvency against university expansion. Now we are told that, although 18 months ago we could not find a few millions for university expansion, today we can pledge £3,500 million. I shall not quote all the speeches made on that occasion, but I remember the Home Secretary telling us that everyone who was qualified would have a place and there would be no diminution in the proportion of students getting into universities. I remember him telling us that we could not afford the few extra millions for expansion, and the present Minister of Education was telling us the same. We had from the Home Secretary this pearl of wisdom which I commend to the House:But, as I have said in every debate"—
§ Mr. Wilson
I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that by the decision of the 34 Government this House has not been sitting for the last fortnight. I remind them that during that fortnight they have had it all their own way at the hustings and on television, and that we on this side of the House have not had the right to reply. If it is the last thing I do, hon. Gentlemen opposite will hear the words of the Home Secretary. He said:But, as I have said in every debate on the right management of public expenditure, to govern is to have the courage to stand up to those who argue for embarking on everything that is desirable in all directions at once, because that way, inevitably, lies overstrain, inflation and national disaster."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1962; Vol. 657, c. 742.]I hope that the Prime Minister will tell us specifically this afternoon why the Government are so brave about higher education now, yet 18 months ago could not make plans, which has had the effect now of leaving this forgotten generation referred to by Robbins.
I hope that he will tell us, too, what his plans are for modernising industry, about which we have heard so much. Let me tell him this: the solution must be found in industry He was profoundly wrong when he said last night that the City of London is the source of the nation's wealth. The new approach that we need in industry will not be achieved in an industrial system where too many of our firms are still dominated by patronage, where thousands of highly qualified young scientists and engineers, technicians and design teams are frustrated by the incompetence of superiors who owe their positions to family connections or to the manoeuvrings of financial speculators or take-over bidders.
The Foreign Secretary expressed at Blackpool what he thought was the philosophy of the Conservative Party on the question of equality of opportunity for the people we are talking about in these historic words:In a Conservative society, we mean to see that incentives are maintained and improved, that initiative and skill are rewarded, that there are a variety of ladders to the top and that positions of responsibility are not reserved for any coterie or class, or brand of education.The right hon. Gentleman must, I think, have pondered those words a few days later. But the philosophy which he expounded was not a true description of Britain's industry today; there are honourable exceptions. But until 35 we can see that, not only in our political life but in our industrial life, we are a true democracy, for so long Britain will fail to deploy in the world the influence and the power to which by virtue of the skill of her people she is entitled.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Alec Douglas Home)
It is twelve years since I last spoke in this House, and I should like the first words which I speak now to be in the nature of a pledge renewed. I believe that I can say with truth that my absence has not dimmed my respect and reverence for the customs and procedures which are traditional in this Chamber, and I hope that I will be able to co-operate with both sides of the House jealously to guard them. I must say that there are no rules of order in another place and that if there were there would be nobody to enforce them. I may be a little rusty in this respect, but if that is so I have no doubt that I shall be reminded gently or tartly according to the need.
Further, I hope that I may be able to share and cherish the friendships and tolerances between political friends and foes outside the Chamber, which is the basic reason why democracy works in Britain and why, if we are wise enough to nourish them, democracy here will endure.
It is, therefore, very agreeable to me that the first of the traditional duties which it falls to me to honour is to add my congratulations to those which have been so generously given by the Leader of the Opposition to the mover and seconder of the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech.
My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) reminded us that his was a constituency which had benefited from the diversification of industry, which has been a feature of recent years. I therefore hope that he has found in the Speech encouragement for himself and his constituents. I knew that he used a fluent and pungent pen. I was not so prepared for the picturesqueness of his language or his historical researches. I felt myself lucky, as he revealed my past and that of other Scots Prime Ministers, that he revealed that part of mine which was comparatively respectable. I think that he verged on
36 the controversial when he suggested that the Scots might have a right to jobs in England. I am content to say that they seem to get them: that is enough for me. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) has been, I know, because I have read her speeches, a tireless advocate of the claims of Northern Ireland on the ears and time of Parliament. Her constituency need never fear that while she is here they will go unheard. There are two qualifications shared by Ulster Members, loyalty and zeal, and to them this afternoon my hon. Friend added charm. She certainly captured the House on this important Parliamentary occasion. I hope that what the Gracious Speech has to say about regional development and stimulating industries to go to areas which, so far, have not shared to the full extent in the overwhelming national prosperity will bring hope to her and her constituents.
I should now like to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for his really generous welcome to me on my return and to thank his supporters for the good-humoured tolerance with which they received one whom they could hardly have expected to find among them. I rather fear that the Peerage Bill has worked out in a way which they could not have envisaged, and I am sorry if I have put them in a jam; they have all my sympathy. But I quite see that it is almost impossible for them to argue that what is right for the former Lord Stansgate is wrong for the former Lord Home, to say nothing of the future portent, Mr. Hogg.
Only this morning I had a letter from an astrologist, who said that he thought that I might like to know that there was a new comet in the sky, and he added that a feature of it was that it was wagging its tail. I am very glad that the Leader of the Opposition said that from now on we should no longer pursue personalities, that we shall not hear, I hope, any more of the 14th this or the 14th that, but that we shall be able to compare our policies, because that is what both sides of the House ought to do.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman misunderstood one thing. I did not say in my speech last night that the 37 City of London was the source—[Interruption.] I said that the City of London was the source of wealth in this country in the sense that it was the first great trading centre—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Perhaps hon. Members opposite will have patience and wait. If the right hen. Gentleman had read the whole of my speech, which I hope he will do, he would have seen that I said that it was the industrialist, the inventor, the worker on industry and the worker on the farm who produced the wealth of this country.
There is only one other matter which I was slightly surprised the Leader of the Opposition raised, and that is the question of prescriptions. My memory may be at fault, or, from the point of view of hon. Members opposite, it may be inconveniently long, but I seem to remember that when I was last in this House it was the right hon. Gentleman's party which forced through the prescription charges. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman himself was not keen on this proposal.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
I apologise for interrupting, but we did not quite hear the last few words of the right hon. Gentleman's sentence. He will, however, know that prescriptions were introduced into this House in 1952 by Mr., later Lord. Crookshank.
§ The Prime Minister
Perhaps we can turn from a review of the past—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—on the interpretation of which, perhaps, we may differ, to a comparison of policy.
I shall follow the right hon. Gentleman's example and deal with the second half of the Gracious Speech, which deals with the country's economic development. The theme—the Leader of the Opposition is quite right—is modernisation and efficiency, a modern and efficient nation. The formula is growth without inflation and the method, acceleration from positions previously prepared.
No Government, of course, can guarantee to the country that it can be re-equipped with the latest machinery—which is automation—or give all the services which we all want to see for our people unless—and here again the right hon. Gentleman, in his analysis, was quite right—output exceeds demand. If, however, all concerned co-operate 38 and the overall increase in national productivity is raised by 4 per cent., or 4 per cent, plus, a year, we can embrace all the programmes which are outlined in the Gracious Speech.
This is my answer to the Leader of the Opposition. Provided we can secure—and this must be a proviso for any Government—an increase in the overall national production of 4 per cent., or 4 per cent, plus, a year, and that is the position this year, we calculate that all the programmes within the Gracious Speech can be completed. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be speaking tomorrow afternoon and he will be able to show that our calculations are sound.
Therefore, our plans and our programmes can in no sense be said to be castles in the air. They are not like that. They are programmes which are being accelerated after long preparation and they have—[Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite will have a little patience, they will see the kind of preparation and the kind of results that we have achieved in a number of fields.
The first example that I should like to take is the one taken by the Leader of the Opposition, and that is the Report of Lord Robbins on Higher Education. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we had thought up this programme for higher education at very short notice. In fact, we asked Lord Robbins two-and-a-half years ago to advise us on what kind of programme would be needed. The groundwork for accepting Lord Robbins' proposals is that we have expanded and improved the primary and secondary schools and we have already made great extensions to the technical colleges and universities.
If one measures these things in terms of money, which is not, of course, the only measurement, expenditure on education has been doubled since 1951 and expenditure during the same time has risen by one percent, of the gross national product. The House will expect, and has a right, to know about the extent of school building and the increased supply of teachers, because it is clear that unless we increase the numbers of schools and improve those which are in bad condition, and unless we can have the necessary increase in 39 the supply of teachers, we would not be justified in going on with the schemes for higher education.
The value of schools built since 1951 has been to the tune of £815 million, and whereas 64,000 teachers are now in training there were 37,000 four years ago. That is what 1 mean by preparation. All this is not only important in its own right, as hon. Members will recognise as they have read, no doubt, the Newsom Report, but it is, as I have said, the necessary preliminary to the expansion of higher education.
The Leader of the Opposition talked as though we had done nothing for the extension of universities or adding to the number of university students. I will take the same time scale, from 1951 until today. Contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest, the number of students has almost doubled, from 120,000 in 1951 to 230,000 today, and if we take the universities alone, from 85,000 to 125,000.
§ The Prime Minister
I said "almost doubled", from 120,000 to 230,000. I am, perhaps, not quite as good a mathematician as the right hon. Gentleman, but, surely, that is almost double, if my mathematics are right, and the universities figure has gone up from 85,000 to 125,000. [Interruption.] The Leader of the Opposition understands this perfectly well. The number of students in the technical colleges and universities has almost doubled. If we take the universities alone, the figure has gone up from 85,000 to 125,000.
Lord Robbins has given us a very clear picture of the pattern of advance for the future, and the Government accept—the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) had better know this, because, no doubt, he will be talking on all this tomorrow—the challenge of 328,000 students for 1967–68 and 390,000 for 1973–74.
Our aim is quite plain and it can be expressed in a sentence. It is that every father and mother in the country should know that if they have in the family a child who wishes to pursue a course of higher education, there should be a place at technical college or university for that 40 boy or girl to fill. If that prospect does not excite hon. Members opposite, it does us. What is more, this does not imply a lowering of standards of higher education, but a widening of opportunity. I repeat that this is one of the most exciting social prospects that we have faced in this country for a generation.
What is true of education is also true of housing. The right hon. Gentleman says that we seem to have stuck in our housing programme, but he surely recognises that there are now at this moment more houses being built than at any time—
§ The Prime Minister
We will in the housing debate, if the hon. Member will wait for that debate, divide these figures into those for England and those for Scotland, but the hon. Member should, I think, be pleased that housing is running at present at the rate of 350,000 a year. We shall reach 400,000 houses in the next five years and we shall be able to sustain that.
Again, if I may take the rate of clearance of slums, the rate there has been doubled, and the number of houses improved adds up now to 100,000 a year, and they are helped, of course, by Exchequer grants. The intention is to double that programme, and shortly—and this the right hon. Gentleman may be glad to know, because he made quite a point of what he thought was our failure in housing—we shall reach the target of 1,000 new houses built every day and 500 houses reconditioned.
I know of no evidence in the past which suggests that the party opposite could improve on that. Indeed, I remember that it got stuck at 160,000 to 180,000 houses a year itself and said that it was impossible to do more.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman himself must take the point which was made by the right hon. Gentleman his leader, because he asked 41 me to describe why it was that we were able now to achieve those targets which he thought we were unable to achieve a few years ago, and my answer is that all this preparation has been done. I have, I hope, shown him and his right hon. and hon. Friends on the other side of the House that that preparation has taken the form of a concrete advance over the whole field of education, over the whole field of housing.
If I may turn now to the hospitals, an essential part of the health service, the right hon. Gentleman may like to know that a new hospital is now being started every 19 days.
The right hon. Gentleman turned to transport. I would take it that both sides of the House would agree that if we are to have an efficient nation we must have an efficient transport system, and that goes for both rail and road or the combination between rail and road. As he knows quite well, the plan put forward by Dr. Beeching was to enable the railways to do the job for which they are best fitted. This provides problems, as as we all know, particularly in the Highlands of Scotland.
The answer there—and I know the area and its problems very well—is not to keep open lines which are hopelessly uneconomic, but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and, as he recalled, as the Secretary of State for Scotland has said, if there is a line which has to be closed in the Highlands, where there are these long distances and great difficulties, then adequate alternative transport must be provided.
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Gentleman would like me to do so, this time I will give him a Scottish figure. Expenditure on roads in Scotland in the last three years has been trebled. If we take investment in motorways, trunk roads and classified roads, it has risen sevenfold in seven years.
§ Mr. Manuel
Will the Prime Minister tell the House, if the railroads in the Highlands which are unprofitable are closed, how many hundreds of millions of pounds it will take to meet the expenditure to do away with one-track roads with passing places and lay two-track highways?
§ The Prime Minister
Our whole purpose in the Highlands is greatly to improve the roads, which have already, in my own personal knowledge, been greatly improved, and—
§ Mr. G. Brown
Could I just ask the Prime Minister whether the principle he has just adumbrated for Scotland, namely, that railways will not be closed unless facilities exist in other ways, also applies to England and Wales?
§ The Prime Minister
Certainly, if railways are closed, somehow alternative transport must be found.
To take another part of the transport system, the Rochdale Report has been largely accepted and its findings are being implemented.
Lastly in this category, so far as energy is concerned, the demand, as the House knows, is growing fast. That is one of the surest signs of industrial and social advance. We have approved a very large investment programme for 1964–65, and here, the House will be very glad to know, the coal industry is showing a great increase in productivity—in fact, I think, up 8 per cent, last year.
I would follow up what I have said with three particular comments. These programmes, I think, go just about as far as is at present prudent to go. Secondly, if they are to be achieved, it would be dishonest to suggest that there could be early and substantial tax reductions. Thirdly, I would again, emphasise what I have said a number of times, that no Government can succeed in sustaining operations on this scale unless they have the ready support of all who are concerned with output, and output is kept ahead of demand.
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman, on the whole, made a speech which was unusually wary on this subject, but he has not put the same disciplines on his lieutenants, and I notice that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), a day or two ago, said
43 that we were embarking on a spending spree. All right: the only deduction which we can draw, surely, if this is so, is that the Socialist Party would cut here and prune there. Where would it do it—on our programmes for education, on our programmes for roads, on our programmes for health? [Interruption].
The right hon. Gentleman must concentrate on the present. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has said that our programme is a spending spree. What would right hon. Gentlemen cut? If they are to cut down on our programme for education or health or roads, then the country should know where the cuts are to fall.
But I gather from the reaction of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that not only are they not to cut, but that, on the whole, they will probably suggest that they can do more. In that case, they have to explain why our programme is a spending spree and how they can do more without inflation.
While I am at it, although I must say that I am rather reluctant to drive the questions home because they are perhaps a little unfair, I shall be greatly interested if the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, when he is speaking tomorrow, would tell us what the Socialist tax bill will be—we have never heard it—and if he will say what on earth is the relevance, when one is trying to stimulate expansion, enterprise and thrift, of his tax on capital, which he has put under the carpet and of which we have heard little? On the whole, I think that on these matters we are obviously going to have a very interesting Session of exchange.
§ The Prime Minister
The weakness in an otherwise buoyant economy overall has been, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, certain regions—the north-east of England, central Scotland and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West has reminded us, Northern Ireland. In these places there have been stubborn pockets of unemployment, and these areas have not been able to pull their full weight in the national economy, nor to enjoy to 44 the full the prosperity that other areas have enjoyed. It is just because we recognise that fact and recognise that we cannot afford to have labour, skill or facilities unused, and particularly when there are young people who are coming from school and cannot, in some of those areas, get work, that I have asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade to tackle afresh the task of regional development.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how we can have 10 per cent, redundancy throughout many areas of the North-West and 14 per cent, shortage of staff in the South?
§ The Prime Minister
Is not the kind of problem which the hon. Gentleman has posed exactly the kind of problem into which my right hon. Friend will inquire and about which he will make recommendations? My right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] I thought that the House was interested in trying to bring employment to those regions and in trying to help them, and I am trying to say how it will be done.
My right hon. Friend will work in co-operation with the industries on the spot and with the local authorities, which know the needs and services required to attract industries to their districts. He will not do this by direction from Whitehall. He will do it by using the resources of the Government in the way that they should be used—to stimulate and assist those on the spot who know their job and their needs.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me what has been done for Scotland. I think that he must have overlooked lately the Local Employment Act. We have already spent £45 million to £50 million, more than half the money allocated for the whole of the United Kingdom, in attracting industries to Scotland. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about central Scotland?"] An hon. Member asks me about central Scotland. I will come to that in a minute. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes, I can give some figures. Into Scotland from England there have come in the last few years 200 firms, into Scotland from America 60 firms, employing more than 50,000 workers directly and a good 45 many more indirectly, and from Europe into Scotland there have come 20 firms Nobody can say that the Local Employment Act has had no effect.
The loans which Her Majesty's Government have lately given to the shipbuilding industry, if I am not wrong, will revolutionise the prospects on the Clyde, one of the areas of most stubborn unemployment of all.
The Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade will be greatly assisted by the pioneering work done by the Lord President of the Council in the North-East, and we shall look forward to the report which is coming out very shortly on the North-East and on central Scotland.
By these measures and in these ways we intend to combine growth with steady prices at home and competitive prices abroad so as to keep exports vigorous and the balance of trade healthy. We are constantly working, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, for the lowering of tariffs, first, in E.F.T.A., and, secondly, in the Kennedy Round.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West reminded us—I am very glad she did so—that there is one industry which is absolutely basic to a healthy society, and that is agriculture. At present, this is a time of adjustment in our agricultural policies where the support system needs strengthening against the pressures of a buyers' market. To that end there are two conditions which must be fulfilled in any agricultural policy. They are inherent in the Act of 1947, for which the right hon. Gentleman's party was responsible, and the Act of 1957. The first is a reasonable and steady return to the efficient producer year in and year out for his produce, and the second is that the producer should have the prospect of adding to his income by increasing his efficiency and producing more. To this end, our support price system needs strengthening, as I have said, against a buyers' market.
I think that it is common knowledge, and accepted probably on both sides of the House, that in recent years the market in cereals and the market in meat have put the support price system under increasing strain, and that, if we 46 do not act to prevent the market price collapses which have happened from time to time, the support price system itself, which suits us in this country, will be put at risk. Therefore, to preserve and adapt it, we are going to introduce import controls with the agreement of the overseas suppliers. The right hon. Gentleman will have seen the first example in the bacon agreement a few days ago. We shall extend that system to cereals and meat, and we shall extend the standard quantity system at home.
We intend that these arrangements should give our farmers a proper share of the growth in demand and provide the foundation and framework for a prospering agricultural industry. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, too, will be putting forward proposals to deal with the special problems of the horticultural industry. In this part of the Gracious Speech, therefore, there are practical measures and constructive policies for the next years of a Conservative Government.
Pride of place in the other section of the Gracious Speech, which deals with overseas affairs, is given to the nuclear Test Ban Treaty—on merit, because it has removed poison from the air. We hope that it will do more than that; we hope it will mark the beginning of the end of the cold war. I must here recall the part played in this—some would say a decisive part—by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). I am very glad—and I am sure that the House is glad—that that treaty was signed and ratified before he was taken ill.
Anything that I can say under the heading of the end of the cold war must be conditional. The Communist aim is clearly still unchanged—to destroy, if possible, our way of life. There are certain situations—one is Berlin and another is Laos—where they are tempted to use force as a pawn in the game, but there has been accumulating evidence in recent years that the Soviet Government have concluded that war can be avoided and must be avoided, and that they are therefore no longer ready to run the risk of war with the West in pursuit of their Communist aims. If that is true—and I think it is—the prospects for peace are improved, because in this modern world 47 there is no doubt that if war once begins in Europe—and it may be only a small war—there is the obvious danger, or the near certainty, that it will escalate quickly into a nuclear exchange.
I have long been convinced that there could be no real progress in East-West relations so long as the Soviet Union kept to its interpretation of Communism as including the use of force. In recent years first Laos, then Berlin, and then Cuba have underlined the danger. In each case there could have been fighting between Soviet and Western troops—and it was not very far away If that had taken place nobody could have guaranteed that this would not have degenerated very quickly into the nuclear exchange.
Cuba was a dramatic turning point. Ever since then, although the Soviet Union has not changed its ultimate aims it has seen the need to modify its tactics, and it has recognised the necessity of abandoning the attempt to use nuclear terror to cover the advancement of its own policies As we now know, some years before Cuba, the Soviet Union refused to supply China with nuclear weapons. The ground on which they refused to do so was that it would increase the risk of war. That refusal was a major issue in the dispute between the Soviet Union and China. Rather than compromise on Mr. Khrushchev's new interpretation of what Communism stands for—I will not call it a new doctrine—he has been willing almost to split the Communist world in half. We must take note of that.
I would add to the question of Cuba two other factors, one of which I have already mentioned. The first is the nuclear ban and the second is the fact that China—the largest country in the world, and a country which extends along a frontier of Russia which is largely undefended—will, in a few years from now—I would not measure them, but they are not very far ahead—have nuclear weapons of her own.
There is another factor which tends to confirm the Russian interpretation of Communist doctrine: the Russian people undoubtedly want a fuller life, and are actively demanding it. All this brings the Soviet leaders to recognise that there are areas—not large areas, but some areas—in which their interests and the interests of the West coincide. The 48 Foreign Secretary will be speaking to the House this week, and he will be discussing with his opposite numbers in Europe, in the N.A.T.O. Alliance and elsewhere, the possible areas of agreement which we might be able to add to that of the nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
I think that the most likely is an agreement for observers over the whole of the N.A.T.O. and Warsaw Pact area, including Russia and America. The next most likely is probably an agreement for the non-dissemination of nuclear weapons, part of which would be an agreement that the existing nuclear Powers would not in any circumstances transfer nuclear knowledge or nuclear control to any country which has not got nuclear weapons. Then, when we come to the first stage of disarmament, we should very actively have to consider whether we cannot include in the programme the destruction of some nuclear delivery vehicles.
It is, therefore, implicit in our foreign policy that while we have to remain on our guard, ready with the United States and our Western allies to contain Communist aggression if there is a temptation once more to embark upon it, nevertheless the other side of our foreign policy must be to conciliate and to find, wherever we can, areas of agreement to be negotiated with the Soviet Union.
The right hon. Member for Huyton did not accuse me of it today, but I have sometimes been thought to be inflexible in my opposition to Communism. In a sense, this is true. I am adamantly opposed to Communism so long as it includes force in its doctrine. But I should like the House to know what I said to the Russian people—and I was the first British Foreign Secretary to be allowed to broadcast and televise to them. I said that we in this country—and I thought all the countries of the world—had been waiting for one thing, namely, for Mr. Krushchev to reinterpret the Communist doctrine and to say that Russia would no longer include the use of force or the threat of force as an instrument of her national policy, and that the moment that he was able to say that, and give evidence that he meant it, we would have an opportunity to create agreements with Russia and to have a coexistence with Russia which was genuine and real.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought that we had said it long ago.
The first section of the Gracious Speech reminds us that Britain is a great Power among the allies, and, what is more, is a nuclear Power. The right hon. Member had peculiarly little to say about this, and about defence. I agree that he could not cover everything, but he had little to say about it. At the start of this Session I must make the position of the Government crystal clear on this matter. The Government mean to retain our long-range nuclear forces—our V-bombers and our Polaris submarines—under our own control.
They are, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, subscribed to the N.A.T.O. Alliance, but they will ail remain ultimately under the control of the British Government. A decision to abandon them would, in my opinion, mean that we would no longer have a place at the peace table as of right. The United States, the Soviet Union and soon France—these are the facts—will have their own nuclear weapons and they will be independent nuclear weapons.
There is another factor.
§ The Prime Minister
No, Germany has renounced nuclear weapons, and I have just said to the right hon. Gentleman that any arrangement made in this field, in so far as non-dissemination goes, will mean that there will be neither from this country nor from the United States of America—and I know this to be true—a spread of nuclear knowledge or of nuclear control to countries which have not got them now; and that includes Germany.
Then, again—I am coming to this point, if the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East will contain himself for a moment—if this country now were to abandon its nuclear arms, that would be irrevocable. We could never again get into this business—that is quite certain. I cannot, and no one can, foresee the pattern of arms in the world ten or twenty years from now, but I do know that these three countries, at any rate, have their own independent nuclear deterrent—France, the United States and
50 Russia have all got their own, or will have their own, independent nuclear deterrent. I intend in due course to put this question of Britain's independent deterrent to the electors.
I thought that I would keep what I said about a General Election right to the very last sentence in my speech. But before this goes to the electors, I think that the House and the country would be interested in the policy of the Opposition. Indeed, they must know it—[Interruption,] The right hon. Gentleman put this question aside at his Scarborough conference—
§ Mr. Wilson
After what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I shall be perfectly willing to send him the text of a very full speech at Blackpool both on this and on the mixed-manned force, which he entirely failed to mention. If he would like to discuss this or any other aspects of Labour Party's policy, I shall be delighted to discuss them, either in this House or in public on television, with him
§ The Prime Minister
Of course, that is all very good news and makes it all the more necessary for me to put in advance certain questions to the right hon. Gentleman, so that he shall have timely notice of them.
The first question which I should like to ask him is this. If he were Prime Minister would he maintain the nuclear deterrent? Would he, as Prime Minister, abandon control over Britain's nuclear arm? Would he repeal the Nassau Agreement, under which we get the Polaris submarine, the most powerful second-strike weapon in the world?
§ The Prime Minister
If the right hon. Gentleman is going to answer me that the British deterrent is not, in fact, independent, is he really going around the country as Leader of the Opposition and later, possibly, as Prime Minister, questioning—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Perhaps hon. Members will allow me to go on. I have always faced facts even if they have not. Would he go around 51 the country now as Leader of the Opposition, or possibly later as Prime Minister, questioning the good faith of Britain's greatest ally? If the right hon. Gentleman really is going to abandon the control of the British Prime Minister and Government over the British nuclear arm, then he must go to the country and plainly say so.
I must not, on this occasion, take up too much of the time of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "GO on."]—but I should like to turn now for a moment to the passage in the Gracious Speech which says that Her Majesty's Government will sustain the authority of the United Nations.
I wish that it could be a more effective force for keeping the peace, as the authors of the Charter envisaged. The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that we have supported the United Nations—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—because we think that it is a good thing. We have subscribed our assessed contribution and paid up in respect of the special operations, even though we did not sometimes approve of the United Nations' methods of handling them. If I have any qualification to make, it is this: we are, in this next year, going to approach a financial crisis in the life of the United Nations.
§ The Prime Minister
Everybody agrees that there should be a representative there of every independent country in the world. In other words, its membership should be universal, but what they do not all accept is that it should be supported universally.
The only qualification which I would make on this is that it would be quite wrong for the nations who refuse to pay their subscription to have a vote on the issues concerned. Further, if the United Nations ever applies double standards, or advocates a policy outwith the Charter, then we shall say so. Above all, we shall not allow emotionalism to put into disarray or disorder the last stages of our programme of decolonisation in Africa.
Some years ago I was at the Montreal conference where we started up a scheme for Commonwealth education and the 52 exchange of teachers, and a great success it has been. Increasingly we have managed—although we have had some financial difficulties sometimes ourselves—to find very large sums of money to help the under-developed countries of the Commonwealth.
The House will, therefore, notice in the Gracious Speech that it not only marks another stage in decolonisation, in that a number of important countries will become independent in their own right, but, also, we wish to examine every possible way, with our Commonwealth colleagues, of building on the work which we have already started and which has already made good progress in the Commonwealth Economic Council—which meets at official and Ministerial level—and in the various activities one of which I particularly value, and which I mentioned—the exchange of teachers with different Commonwealth countries. Therefore, by every means we shall try to strengthen the Commonwealth ties.
I trust that I have answered, in the main—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—a number of—
§ The Prime Minister
So far as Southern Rhodesia is concerned and, indeed, my own attitude to these problems perhaps, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded me, I might—[Interruption.] I did not get the relevance of that interruption. There are two short passages which I should like to read to the right hon. Gentleman as a prelude to anything I might say on Southern Rhodesia, because it explains what is our attitude towards decolonisation in Africa and elsewhere.
I said in a speech to the Royal Commonwealth Society:I believe that the greatest danger ahead of us in the world today is that the world might be divided on racial lines, I see no other danger, not even the nuclear bomb, which would be so catastrophic as that. There is no doubt that racialism is rearing its ugly head in many places, and I hope the Commonwealth will watch this and guard against it.Then again, I said in the United Nations Assembly:We have accepted the principle of self-determination without qualification; we have 53 accepted that the majority should rule. We insist, as far as we are able to do before independence, that minorities must be protected because"—and I will paraphrase—this is the very essence of democracy.
So, when we come to the question of Southern Rhodesia—and let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are not there yet, we have yet to complete the dissolution of the Federation—these questions will guide us in any decisions we may have to take in respect of the rights of the majority—
§ Mr. H. Wilson
I think that the House will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for taking up this question of Southern Rhodesia and for what he has just said. He said there must be protection for the rights of minorities. Will he make clear that in Southern Rhodesia there will be protection for the rights of majorities as well as minorities—[HON. MEMBERS: "He said so."] He did not say that. Will the right hon. Gentleman now give a pledge that there will not be independence until there is a democratic Constitution?
§ The Prime Minister
I thought that implicit in what I said. In fact, I did say that we accept the principle that majorities should rule.
The second principle which I was enunciating was that it is the very essence of true democracy that minorities, whether black or white, should be protected. Therefore, as we proceed to consider the question of the independence of Nyasaland and Northern and Southern Rhodesia those principles will apply.
I trust that I have reviewed, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, our home domestic policies and some of the wide field of foreign affairs and that the House will feel that these policies and the Gracious Speech represent a complete policy for the nation.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I do not know the etiquette for following a Prime Minister on his second "maiden speech" on the day of 54 his introduction to the House of Commons. But as an individual we welcome the right hon. Gentleman. We like to see him sitting among his friends on the Front Bench opposite. I need not say that we look forward to hearing from him again—that no doubt will happen in any case. What I think we also can say is that we admire the physical performance which the right hon. Gentleman has put up. If there existed any idea that a fourteenth earl was a languid, hothouse figure, that would have to be given up in the light of what has happened in the last few weeks. Not only has the right hon. Gentleman made a record number of speeches but he has made a major speech on the day of his introduction to the House.
I imagine that the one moment of relaxation which he might have expected was when the hon. Member for Ux-bridge (Mr. Curran) moved what is usually an uncontroversial matter—the vote of thanks for the Gracious Speech. I can only assume that Uxbridge is no longer a marginal seat but that the hon. Member has written it off altogether. It struck me that he was saying all those things about a "headmaster" which one longs to say all through one's school career but dare not say until one is actually leaving. I much enjoyed his remarks about Scottish earls but I thought that possibly they were a little near the bone, but as this was an uncontroversial speech we must assume that it accords with opinion in the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs. May I say also how much we enjoyed the speech of the seconder of the Motion. I think that one must come right away to the part of the Prime Minister's speech dealing with the independent nuclear deterrent because that is a matter for major disagreement within this country. The first point I wish to put is that if it is to be in the forefront of Conservative policy at the forthcoming General Election what will be done by the not inconsiderable or uninfluential members of the Conservative Party who constantly speak against this policy in this House?
It is not only the Members of the Liberal and Labour Parties but a substantial and influential element in the 55 Conservative Party which totally dissents from what the Prime Minister has said.
I do not believe that the influence of this country in the world depends on strategic nuclear arms. I believe that it is wholly against the interests of this country to pretend that it does. Furthermore, I find it peculiar that in the same speech the Prime Minister should pay a compliment to Mr. Khrushchev for restraining the Chinese from attempting to get nuclear weapons while maintaining that it is only by having nuclear weapons that we are asked to the major diplomatic meetings of the world. It is the constant argument on the lips of the French that as the British insist on maintaining their own nuclear strategic weapons they must have them as well.
It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that this does not apply to the Germans. But how on earth can he think that for ever they can be denied nuclear weapons unless there is some international agreement that the spread of nuclear weapons shall be limited and in that agreement we play a leading and effective part? The Germans will acquire the nuclear "know-how"—they are acquiring it now. I do not say that by giving up our weapons we shall necessarily stop the spread. But it makes it impossible for us to argue against the spread so long as the line of the Government is what was indicated this afternoon by the Prime Minister. It was also said by the Prime Minister that if the Leader of the Opposition repudiated the Bahamas Agreement this could only be because of a lack of trust in the American people, but one of the constant arguments put forward for retaining strategic nuclear weapons is just that lack of trust in the American people.
As to the United Nations, I have never blamed the Prime Minister for his Berwick speech. I think one of his virtues is that, unlike some of his predecessors, he occasionally speaks from the heart without consideration. He answers telegrams and acts in a wholly unpompous way, which is a great relief. I do not blame him for a moment for saying that many things are wrong with the United Nations, but I think it dangerous for the country to go on saying it. It is all right to say it once, but then I
56 should like him to have put the other side of the case.
The new nations of Asia and Africa have shown remarkable responsibility. They have not been taken in by Soviet propaganda. Again and again they have lined up with the free world, which has not always been easy for those countries. We know that in this country for certain politicians it is not always easy to say what they think regardless of party advantage, or what they believe to be popular. This country above all has an interest in building up the prestige of the United Nations and should give full credit to the Africans and Asians when they resist the blandishments of the Communists and stand up for some of the values in which we believe.
I come now to an earlier part of the Prime Minister's speech. He has made it perfectly clear that his policy is to modernise Britain. Of course one can only modernise something which has fallen out-of-date. We are entitled to know how it comes about that after twelve years of Conservative Government Britain needs modernising. There is no escape from that question. I thought that the Prime Minister fell with remarkable facility into the House of Commons manner. He showed no evidence of having been related to the House of Lords for the last ten years. He seemed to be back in pastures familiar to him. I wondered why he did not give up his title sooner. He was adept at the party debating point. But he cannot evade this question.
If we talk about modernising this country, why has this not happened before? His answer is that the Government have been laying the foundations for modernisation. He has one of the main foundation-layers sitting beside him, the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). This is a new line of argument. We are now told that the tablets brought down from the mountain by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer were foundations. We were told that nothing was wrong and that this was not done in order to take in the people, but that the Chancellor of the time had to lay the foundations. Of course, it is true that if we have a high rate of unemployment we have some slack in the economy which has to be taken up, but I doubt if last winter the 57 Conservatives felt that they were laying foundations. To do them justice, I do not think they visualised massive unemployment in quite those terms.
The Prime Minister says that we can now accelerate, but of course one can accelerate if one has not been moving at all. Then it is easy to accelerate. I do not believe this is a basis for economic policy. The aim should be to keep the economic train running steadily, not first to stop it and then to start again and say that is accelerating. We heard from the Prime Minister that the aim was expansion without inflation. That goes back to the time, when he was in the House of Commons before. I have never heard a speech in a debate on economics in which that has not been stated as the aim, but we have to ask why this had not happened before.
What I missed from the Gracious Speech was any indication that the Government are looking at the machinery by which they run the country. There is no mention in it of Parliamentary reform, no mention of the need to have international agreement to have a larger free trade area and no mention of increased international liquidity. Without these it is extremely difficult for this country to maintain a steady rate of expansion. There is no mention of improving the machinery within the Government. There is no mention of the need to have a Ministry engaged in trying to attain the long-term economic objective, apart from the budgetary work of the Treasury.
The Prime Minister is now a Scottish hon. Member. We look forward to his attending meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee. We hope that he will look after the problems in Perthshire as he promised. One of the great difficulties about development in Scotland is that there is no machinery within the Scottish Office which is adequate to this task and no development within the regions. I shall be interested to see whether under the plan for regional government there is to be any regional democracy or the building up in the regions of a machine capable of undertaking development. I have pressed again and again that there ought to be a Highland Development Authority. Gradually people are coming to see that we shall never get development of the country until we have a new sort of machinery both in central and regional government.
58 The Prime Minister, like other Conservatives, has said that now we have the Robbins Report we can have a tremendous surge forward in education. Why have we not had it before? All the figures about the children who in the next two or three years will be entitled to a university education were known long before the Robbins Report—or if they were not known the whole staff of the Ministry of Education ought to be sacked, because the figures could be found merely by a calculation of the number of children being born and the likely proportion achieving a certain standard in the A and O levels. But this has been put off for two or three years while waiting for the Robbins Report. There is no question but that irreparable damage has been done to one or two classes of school leavers and it can never be put right. We simply cannot now deal with these people. The universities cannot deal with them. The fault for this is the absolute refusal at the time to give the modest amount which was demanded by the University Grants Committee. That falls squarely on the shoulders of the Government of which the Prime Minister and his colleagues were members.
The Robbins Report is an indictment of the Government. It points out that we must have a crash programme. It is astonishing to find the Government now writing to universities asking them to tell the Government what they want—"Finance is no object, we must cure this". We cannot cure this illness in education in a matter of a few weeks. The damage is done and it cannot be undone. This should make the Government think, why do we need all these commissions, the Trend Commission and the Newsom Commission—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Will the right hon. Gentleman include the Newsom Commission?
§ Mr. Grimond
I have just mentioned the Newsom Commission. Why did it not stir the Government to do something about schools, for schools are more important than further education? Where is the machinery in Government itself? Why cannot the enthusiasm be generated in the politicians and the facts be provided by the Civil Service? The fact is that we shall never modernise this 59 country unless the Government have a tremendous driving will to do it, and that driving will has to cut through a great many of the existing institutions.
I have a great admiration for the Prime Minister and for many other members of the Government, but they have never shown this desire—or if they have, where is the evidence?—with the exception of the one senior member of the Government who was deprived of the leadership. I think there is evidence that some years ago the Foreign Secretary showed that he appreciated the need for structural changes. Without making personal criticism or any attack whatever, I think it unlikely that the people to whom this has never occurred until a few weeks ago will generate the energy that the job requires.
I also note the absence from the Gracious Speech of any reference to reform of the way in which we do things. The only way the Government move forward is on recommendations of Royal Commissions. I do not believe that we should be satisfied with a form of Government in this country by which progress can be made only when a certain amount of enthusiasm has been whipped up by publication of a Commission's Report.
Let us look at one or two other things which the Prime Minister said. He told us of many things which had been done and were being done. Let us not denigrate what has been done. Much of the country is prosperous. More schools are being built, more houses are being built, more slums are being cleared, and we are glad about that. But when he says that the country needs modernising, implicitly he admits that not nearly enough has been done—and the setting of targets at this stage is not enough, either.
I find it alarming that as we get into the election campaign—and we are already in it—there should be this endless setting of targets, this challenging of other parties of what they would cut, when the House has lost all control over finance and what we are having now is immense financial offers made to the electorate which I think will lead to a gigantic amount of waste. I do not believe that setting targets at this point is enough. It is not enough to say to 60 the people, "Admittedly we have not done what we ought to have done over the last twelve years, but give us another six months and all will be put right."
The Government claim that in the past years many things have been achieved. But we come back to the fundamental point that if the Prime Minister says that the country needs modernising, then he must modernise the machinery by which it runs its affairs. It is an implicit admission that the progress which has been made is insufficient and that all that he can do is to run into the election promising to do all sorts of things without being certain that he has the means to achieve them and without having taken any steps to ensure that within a year or eighteen months we shall not come up against a balance of payments crisis in which the outflow of money will have to be stopped.
There is nothing in the Queen's Speech except promises of more money. The country has already been through this cycle of pouring out more money until the moment comes when everything has to stop. That is the criticism of this debate. Certainly the Prime Minister gave us a much fuller speech than usual, but I cannot say that at the end of it I felt that he had appreciated the true lesson of the last twelve years which is, "You may go occasionally but all too soon you have to stop."
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
May I first of all congratulate the Prime Minister on his magnificent speech? As one would expect from his great experience in the Foreign Office, it was a lucid exposition of our defence problems and our foreign policy, but, if I may not be considered presumptuous in saying so, I was particularly impressed by the remarkable grasp which he showed of our domestic problems after such a long period not only away from this House but carrying out an entirely different task in the House of Lords as Foreign Secretary and previously as Secretary for Commonwealth Relations. I was very greatly impressed by what we heard today.
I was not surprised that the Leader of the Opposition omitted all reference to the Test Ban Treaty, but I believe that the 61 first paragraph in the Gracious Speech is possibly the most important of all. Our prospects of peace are undoubtedly somewhat better, to put it at its lowest level, than they were a few years ago, and that is far more important than anything else, because if we do not have peace, then we can forget all the other points which are set out in greater detail in the Gracious Speech.
The paragraph devoted to the expansion of the economy states that the Governmentwill continue to encourage growth without inflation, aided by the work of the National Economic Development Council and the National Incomes Commission and supported by a sustained export effortThere are other references to expanding our trade with the Commonwealth. Nobody, wherever he sits in the House, would question the great importance of expanding our exports, and we all welcome the tendency shown this year for an increase in exports. But I have been disturbed about a number of things, including our balance of trade with Canada, which has led to some criticism—I do not think that all of it was entirely fair—of the Canadian Government. The facts are that during the past few years our imports from Canada have been running at a steady rate of about £350 million a year but our exports have been falling year by year. There has been some slight improvement in the last half year. But in 1961 they were £238 million; in 1962 they were £194 million; and in the first half of this year they were only £83 million.
If I may turn to one part of Canada which I happen to know fairly well, the Province of British Columbia, we find that the position there is just as disturbing, indeed in some ways rather more disturbing. Our imports from British Columbia have been steadily increasing, but our exports to British Columbia have been falling. They have been buying more and more from the United States and Japan and less and less from us. I find that disturbing because there are certain factors in British Columbia which ought to be particularly favourable to us.
First, it is the most rapidly developing province in Canada, and a higher percentage of the people are of British stock than in any other part of the 62 Dominion. There is a great fund of good will in British Columbia for this country and a great demand for our goods. There is an enormous potential market for British goods of all kinds, and we enjoy an advantage by virtue of the fact that freight rates from here to Vancouver via the Panama Canal are lower than those from Central Canada to Vancouver.
I do not accept that the reason for the fall in our exports to Canada is that the Canadian Government have been trying to discriminate against our goods. I do not believe that to be true. Trade missions have come to this country from Canada not for the purpose of selling to us but for the purpose of buying—for the purpose of explaining what their requirements are. I know that the Canadian market is very difficult; it is a highly competitive market. But for all that, I do not think it unreasonable to point out that sales of the German Volkswagen to Canada have been increasing despite the 15 per cent. Commonwealth preference which we enjoy.
I feel that the High Commissioner put this matter very well in a speech which I heard him make at the end of last month when he said that Canada sought to encourage British exporters to sell in that country by the only method available in a free country—hard continuous selling on the spot, good quality, top delivery, the maintenance of parts for all operating equipment, and service. I am not happy that we are doing this. Obviously the proximity of Canada to tbe United States makes it imperative that we should carry our stocks there, and delivery and after-sales service are of supreme importance. But this is something which people do not like doing. Undoubtedly it involves a great deal of expenditure. Although Canada is a large and expanding market, and one in which one should have no difficulty in getting paid for one's goods, it is nevertheless a very difficult market and superficially not particularly attractive.
That gives rise to the question which I wish to ask—whether the Government could do more than they are doing to assist exports. I believe that they do a very great deal to help firms which must look overseas for their business. However, I am not so sure that enough 63 is being done for firms which do not have to export. It is no good exhorting people to export and telling them that it ought to be done in the national interest. The Government must take a direct interest in the export trade. If a firm can sell its products without any difficulty in this country or in much easier markets than Canada, it is unlikely that it will go to the expense of breaking into a new and very much more difficult market.
In 1884 the German economist Gustav Schmoller said this:It is clearly those Governments which understand best how to place the might of their fleets and the apparatus of their customs and navigation laws at the service of the economic interests of the natives with speed, boldness and clear purpose which thereby obtain the lead in the struggle for the riches of industrial prosperity.I do not argue that in these days of international agreements it would be possible, or indeed desirable, to try to follow that advice given nearly eighty years ago. I believe, however, that the Government should seriously examine the possibility of using some form of financial inducement to make exports worth while. I know that export subsidies are against the rules of G.A.T.T. We have been told on several occasions that such a policy would lead only to retaliation by other countries. The fact remains, however, that practically every businessman is firmly convinced that foreign firms receive help from their Governments in some form or other.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade, whom I should like to congratulate on his appointment, has had much experience in dealing with matters of foreign trade. In a recent speech he said that he would fight strenuously for a fair deal for our friends. I am sure that the experience he gained when negotiating with the six members of the Common Market will stand him in good stead. I hope that he learned something at those negotiations which will enable him to help our exporters without breaking the rules.
I was disappointed to learn that the Air Ministry has recently ordered a computer from the United States on the 64 ground that it was available off the shelf whereas British computers were not. A great deal is being said at present about the need for scientific research and development—I entirely agree with that—and the Government have rightly expressed their intention of spending a good deal to that end. Much of that money may be wasted if there is not also a commercial policy to exploit it and if the Government are not prepared to use their immense purchasing power in accordance with a policy designed to help the balance of trade.
I am concerned at the loss of the order for the computer. Perhaps it can be justified in terms of the needs of a Government Department, but it seems wrong when looked at from the point of view of national economic welfare. It is a very different policy from that pursued by the United States. They interpret the Buy American Act as meaning that all offers of foreign equipment must be rejected, unless competing American equipment is 50 per cent, more expensive, irrespective of the technical advantage. I do not say that we should go as far as that, but we should lean over backwards to help British manufacturers of such machinery. I was indeed very glad to learn that the Atomic Energy Authority has recently bought an Atlas II computer and thus expressed official approval of and official confidence in a British product.
I recognise that the Government have done much to help industry, but I wish they would examine the possibility of doing more to make exporting more financially attractive.
I am also very disappointed at the regrettable omission from the Gracious Speech of any mention of increasing the pensions of Service widows. This is more disappointing because on 26th June last the Minister of Defence said that it was a matter deserving proper consideration and that he was devoting consideration to it. On 1st August my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) told my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) that he was considering the representations made to him and that he hoped to make a statement within two months. It is possible that his regrettable illness prevented that statement being made, but I had hoped that something would be said about it in the Gracious Speech.
65 This matter, especially the treatment of widows who lost their husbands before 4th November, 1958, has been debated in the House many times and innumerable Questions have been asked about it. The plea for better treatment has had the support of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is true that last year there was a big increase in the Service pensions paid by Royal Warrant. It was the largest increase ever awarded. However, at that time no measures were taken to rectify the many inequalities suffered by retired members of the Armed Forces, and suffered by them alone.
In particular, there is the case of widows bereaved before 4th November, 1958. They were left on miserably low rates. They were granted only a 12 per cent, increase, which amounted to very little. I shall not weary the House with many figures. I and many other hon. Members have given them on many occasions. However, I must point out that half the widows of all officers—a figure of about 6,000—are the widows of commanders, lieutenant-colonels, wing-commanders and less senior officers who died before 4th November, 1958. They receive very low pensions. The widow of a captain or officer with corresponding rank in the other armed Services would, if under 70, receive a pension of £149 2s. a year. If over 70, the pension would be £162 9s. Those widows who are over 75, and many of those who are younger, were unable to qualify for the National Insurance widow's pension. Thus, if they have no private means, they have only their Service pension to live on.
Not so many figures are available in relation to the widows of other ranks. If their husbands were discharged before 1st September, 1950, they do not receive any pension at all, so a 12 per cent, increase granted last January did not help them. The widows of those discharged between that date and 4th November, 1958, received a very small pension, provided only that their husbands had completed very long service. In the case of a private or corporal with thirty-two years' service, the widow's pension amounted to 11s. 7d. a week. By contrast, the widow of a corporal discharged after 4th November, 1958, with equal service—thirty-two years— 66 receives 42s. a week—nearly four times as much.
The Minister of Defence said last year that the cost of putting all these widows' pensions on the basis of one-third of their husband's retired pay would be about only £237,000 a year. I do not wish to give more statistics. I merely repeat that the present state of affairs is not good enough. The case for these people being more fairly treated has been proved time and again and I take what little comfort I can from the concluding sentence in the Gracious Speech which refers to other Measures being laid before us. I would feel happier in this debate if we were given an assurance that the widows about whom I have been speaking will not be forgotten.
Not included in the Gracious Speech is the important, though somewhat complicated, matter of the possibility of making it compulsory for a worker insured under a private pension scheme to be able to take his pension rights with him when changing his job. I mention this because the N.E.D.C., in its Report entitled Conditions Favourable to Economic Growth, stated in the section dealing with the mobility of labour that, although the housing shortage was undoubtedly the greatest obstacle to this mobility, the fact that many private occupation pension schemes did not provide for the transfer of pension rights on the exchange of employment resulted in a handicap towards achieving this mobility. I hope that consideration will be given to this important topic.
While my right hon. Friend was speaking one hon. Member opposite interrupted him and referred to over-employment in some parts of the country and under-employment in others He asked my right hon. Friend to account for this. There is no doubt that people find extreme difficulty in moving from one part of the country to another, particularly because of the shortage of houses. But the transfer of pension rights has an important bearing on the mobility of labour, especially in the case of older workers.
There are many other points to which I would like to refer, but I have delayed the House for too long already. Suffice to say that I welcome in particular the 67 reference to house building and what my right hon. Friend has said on this subject. Great progress has been made in Manchester and enormous strides forward have been achieved in my constituency, but a serious house shortage problem still persists. One of our main difficulties in Manchester has been the lack of building land.
The Leader of the Opposition seemed to have no fault to find with the contents of the Gracious Speech. Indeed, it would be difficult for any hon. Member to pick out any one aspect in the Speech and say that there is something wrong with it. This lack of criticism augers well for a speedy passage of the necessary legislation to implement what the Gracious Speech contains so that time may be found to deal with other proposals which many hon. Members have in mind. This year's Gracious Speech is a fine one. It puts forward a constructive Government programme, some of which, I hope, we will complete during the next calendar year and the remainder in the many calendar years of Conservative Governments which still lie ahead.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) mentioned that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition did not find much fault with the Gracious Speech. He is right, for this is an extraordinary document. It is not the normal sort of Gracious Speech to which we are used. Incidentally, I think it is a shame to call it the Queen's Speech; it is more like an election manifesto. Far from criticising its contents, the Opposition will this time be continually reminding the Government of what the document contains and urging them to carry out their promises, for it is obvious that they have no intention of carrying through very many of these Measures.
Today we heard the Prime Minister talking about Mr. Khrushchev reinterpreting Communist doctrine. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to reinterpret Tory doctrine and, as far as we can gather, it is on this basis that he speaks of modernisation. We hear that we are to have a great deal of modernisation, but it is interesting to note that when
68 questioned on the subject—in connection with transport, for example, and what kind of alternative transport system will be provided when railway lines are shut down—the Prime Minister said something to the effect that "somehow alternative transport must be found". If that is the kind of modernisation idea we are to have we will not get very far.
What do the Government have to say about helping the areas of unemployment? Unfortunately up to now there have been black and white areas of unemployment. The black areas receive help while the white ones do not. My constituency happens to suffer from unemployment. It suffered severely last winter, but it is just over the line of being a black area and therefore receives no help. This is a mistake. The grey areas like mine should receive special help to prevent them drifting over the line and becoming black areas of unemployment.
When discussing housing the Prime Minister rather unfairly produced the old argument about more houses having been built by this Government than were built by the Labour Government. He and his colleagues know perfectly well that during the period of the Labour Government we were not only building new houses but were also engaged on the terrific task of doing war damage repairs. Hundreds of thousands of houses throughout the country needed repairing after the war.
§ Mr. Hynd
I thank my hon. Friend. I do not remember the exact number, but I recall that a terrific job had to be done and it was not merely a question of building new houses. The time has come when likening recent house building figures to those of previous Labour Governments should no longer be used as a valid argument. I am surprised that the Prime Minister descended to that argument while embarking on his new career.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
I have taken the trouble to obtain the latest housing returns. They show for last year that we are building fewer council houses now than the Labour Government built in 1948. The figures for the first three 69 quarters of this year show that the Government are still building less than the Labour Government built in 1947. Even if we do not have a bad winter and we go on building at the same rate as in the first three quarters of this year, we shall still have built fewer houses than we did in 1947.
§ Mr. Hynd
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for giving the House those figures; and that brings me to my next point because the Gracious Speech says that the Government will stimulate house building by housing societies. Why should this be confined to housing societies? Why will the Government not continue the successful building programmes that have been undertaken by local authorities? These programmes have been successful in many parts, particularly in London. If the Government continue their policy of withdrawing support from local authorities and discouraging building by them of houses to let we will not get much further with solving our housing problems.
A few minutes ago I left the Chamber to have a cup of tea. I happened to pick up an evening paper and I read that during the last seven months the London County Council has loaned £10 million on 100 per cent, mortgages to enable people to buy their own homes. There we have direct help by a local authority. That is the sort of thing the Government should be looking at—in addition to supporting housing societies I have nothing against these housing societies—they have done a good job, and good luck to them. I hope that the Government will help them, but not to the exclusion of supporting local authorities.
We have heard nothing today—in detail, at any rate—about the new aeroplane, the TSR2, which has been the subject of such great controversy recently. My constituency is very much concerned with this because many of my constituents are employed in building parts of this plane. The Minister of Aviation made a mischievous speech the other day to the effect that it was all the fault of the Labour Party that the Australian Government had not ordered the TSR2, but the country wants to know something more about this plane. What is to happen to it? What is its cost? Will it go the same way as Skybolt, Blue Streak and the rest? My constituents, whose livelihood depends on this sort of work, want
70 to know where they stand and, if the Government are to drop this project, what other plans they have. In view of what has been published we are entitled to more detailed information about the Government's policy.
The Prime Minister has said that the Government intend to retain long-range bombers and Polaris submarines but, with great respect, I do not believe that the Government can afford to keep on with the present long-range bomber programme, the Polaris submarine programme, this expensive new aircraft carrier, and all the other things. It all contrasts so much with the Prime Minister's other statement that the Government will make economies in defence expenditure. We are entitled to know where we stand.
Of the omissions from the Gracious Speech, I pick out three. The first will, I know, command support from all sides of the House—there is no mention of payment of post-war credits. If the Government can find all this money for these great projects set out in the Gracious Speech, the time has surely come when they ought to pay out this money which belongs to the people who paid it in during the war.
I have no interest to declare here—I have already drawn my post-war credits, so I can speak quite independently—but there are many people, particularly in valids, to whom this little bit of money —which, it should be remembered belongs to them—would be a great blessing at the present time. I ask the Government to consider carefully in their next Budget whether they cannot afford this year to make the post-war credit payments, as part of their General Election propaganda, if nothing else—
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
On this subject of post-war credits, it might be helpful, if not to my hon. Friend to other hon. Members, to know that I recently applied to the appropriate Department in regard to certificates which for one reason or another during the war were mislaid, and I was informed that a complete record exists of all payments due to all those people concerned. It may well be worth our constituents being informed that they need not worry if they have not got the actual certificates, because it was all on paper for them.
§ Mr. Hynd
That is very helpful, and I am sure that it will be taken note of in the Press and elsewhere
I support what has been said by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) and by the hon. Member for Blackley about widows. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman confined his argument to Service widows. I know that he has taken a special interest in those in that category, but all widows are now in a very anomalous position. Only the other day I heard of the case of a lady whose husband died just before he was 50 years of age, with the result that she gets no pension. There is the earnings rule for widows. There is the 10s. widow—surely it is time that was done away with. We should sweep away these anomalies. The Government must do something about widows before the General Election.
Another omission of a national character is the lack of any reference to the other place. Surely the time has now arrived when something must be done about that. In the last few days it has become a complete farce. We have this business of the hon. Member for St. Marylebone being sent to the other place simply in order to make way for some one who wants to come into this Chamber—
§ Mr. Hynd
I do not know whether he will have any sons or not—that is beside the point. The fact is that if he has any sons they will sit in the other place in perpetuity, as will their sons and grandsons. We are having the other place being made up of people sent there because they are unsuccessful Ministers, or because one of their ancestors won a battle.
It is high time something was done about the hereditary principle. I am not against a second Chamber, but if the hereditary principle could be done away with, and if the other place were 72 made up of people sent there for some personal reason or other, it would at least be a great improvement on the present situation. However, I must admit that we sometimes hear some very interesting remarks from members of the other place. One was reported in the Press the other day as asking:How much longer can we go on exploiting every feature of this country purely for gain?I hesitate to name the noble Lord who said that, but hon. Members will probably recognise the quotation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name?"] It was the Duke of Edinburgh.
I repeat my view that this is not a normal Queen's Speech but an election manifesto. It will receive great support from the Opposition. We will continually push it in front of the Government, and ask them when they intend to hurry up and carry out all these promises.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I cannot help but have a modest sympathy with both the official Opposition and the "shadow" Opposition—because that is, I think, what the Liberal Party is; I can hardly distinguish the one from the other. I must have sympathy with both, because on the second of the two major Parliamentary occasions this year they have had to say that they can find little fault with the Conservative point of view.
When the Budget was presented, every speech from the Opposition pointed out, "Everything is excellent. We thought of that first, and if we had got there first we would have done the same." Therefore, instead of those in Opposition having fire in their bellies, and trying to persuade the country that something was wrong, we found them having to agree with almost every word in the Budget.
The Budget has passed, and we now have the Gracious Speech. Here, again, we have the admission, almost at once, by the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) that he can find no fault with it; that he looks on it as an excellent document, and will be a watchdog to take good care that all the things said in it are implemented. He will be in very good company—hon. Members on this side intend to do just that.
73 It will not be a very hard ride for either of us—either for the hon. Member or for my hon. Friends—because we will be riding a very willing horse. The Government intend to implement the items in the Gracious Speech which find favour even with the hon. Member, who can usually find criticism to make in the most sacred of documents.
I therefore want to put on record—if the hon. Member for West Ham. North (Mr. A. Lewis) will accept it from me very sincerely—that I sympathise with his problem when he tries to make his normal election speeches during the coming months, because the two major documents have already found favour with official Oppositions, as is shown in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debates in the House.
The light hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) tried hard to find something which he could criticise. He tried so hard that he must have forgotten the things which he must have read within the last seven days. He said that he could see no sign of a change in Government machinery either at Ministerial level or,in the Departments to tackle the obvious new and changed demands upon us. Surely the right hon. Gentleman remembers that in the announcements of new Ministerial duties, we saw a completely new line-up. We saw that my right hon. Friend who will now be responsible, under several departmental headings, for looking after areas where unemployment is worse than in the rest of the country, has been given new powers and a new directive. I know that the whole House wishes him success.
It is surprising to me that a right hon. Gentleman who leads a party should not have noticed that. Has the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland not noticed the new look given to the old Ministry of Works? I held the high and important office of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works for three years. I urged during the whole of that time that because of its history, because of the information it had and because of the leadership it gave to vital industries that Ministry ought to have more powers. Now the powers have been given, including the giving of Cabinet rank to a reconstituted Minister of Public Building and Works. This is a major alteration
74 in the machinery of government. I am not suggesting that there is anything wonderful about it, but it is surprising that the shadow Leader of the Opposition should have said that none of these things had happened when they had happened as recently as seven days ago.
Hon. Members who speak in opposition will have a real problem in securing a platform which will give them anything like their old look. I appeared on a platform three or four days ago with my two opponents, who are very able and delightful gentlemen. I have no doubt that we shall be battling hard against one another whenever the General Election comes. One of the questions put to a joint meeting which we attended was whether the panel could say "what harm the Conservative Government had done to the working man over the past twelve years".
It is a difficult question for an Opposition supporter to answer. It is difficult to find at what level the working man has been harmed. It will be found that his wage level has been almost doubled. If it is a question of the possibilities of employment, they are healthier now than anybody could have thought possible at this time of year, with 1½ million more people in employment. Pensions have gone up five times and the rate of house-building from less than 200,000 a year to more than 300,000. We have also had the figures which the Prime Minister quoted today of the extra advantages given by way of education. There has been a terrific spurt everywhere in road building to attain a level which is something in keeping with the vehicles that travel on the roads.
I regard hon. Members opposite as my friends as well as my political opponents. I want to give them a chance to do their homework because this is the sort of question which will be levelled against them. My opponents at that meeting had some difficulty in finding a reasonably good answer.
§ Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)
Is that the reason why we on this side of the House are winning so many by-elections?
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
It is sad that at the moment both the Gallup polls and the by-election results do not reflect the true facts of the situation, but before 75 the hon. Member gets too complacent, and he is a very experienced campaigner, I would beg of him—
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
Then may I suggest to the hon. Member that he and his hon. Friends would be wise to reflect on the general position in 1958 in terms of election results and of the Gallup polls and to remember that just twelve months later we on this side of the House were returned with an increased majority?
It could be that, sadly, the same thing will not repeat itself next time. I merely warn hon. Members opposite to bear in mind that by-election results and Gallup polls between elections are quite different matters from the occasion when the nation knows that the result of its vote will decide the kind of Government that it will have.
I have been trying to pick up one or two points made by hon. Members who have spoken earlier and there is one further point with which I should like to deal before I say what I stood up to say. The last point is on the question of nuclear power. As I understand the position, the Government are quite clear and unanimous. Although they dislike the terror of possessing this great weapon they believe that in the interest of the world and in our own interest we should remain a Power with this nuclear deterrent in our own hands. The Government believe, and there is unanimous support on this side of the House for it—I was surprised to hear it suggested otherwise —that the results which have flowed from our having the deterrent are considerable.
I know that hon. Members opposite will try to laugh it off, but we ought not to disregard the letter which the President of the United States sent to the ex-Prime Minister a few days ago. Some of us were in America during the elections and when the Democratic candidate became President of the United States it was generally thought in this country that a Democratic President would be one who would not have much sympathy with a Conservative Prime Minister in this country on normal grounds of political differences. Therefore, when there comes from a Democratic President of the United States the 76 sort of letter which the ex-Prime Minister received, full and proper weight ought to be given to it.
The letter was a spontaneous tribute from the President on the signing of the Test Ban Treaty to the personal intervention and leadership of the ex-Prime Minister, not necessarily because of his personal skill but because he represented a policy which meant that we had this nuclear power behind us and it had played a big part in making possible this first step towards disarmament.
I think that we can claim with some sort of confidence that so far, through many tremendous crises which in the past could have resulted in war, we have had results which have preserved peace. The view of the shadow Opposition is that if we were to give up nuclear power the moral power which would come to us would put us in a stronger position than we are in by having the nuclear power. I do not agree with that, though I understand their point of view.
The other point which they make is that though we have a nuclear deterrent it depends on the United States giving us the switch-key and, therefore, in fact we have no nuclear power. They say that for that reason we ought not to go on spending money on nuclear power because at the end of the day we cannot compete with the "big boys" and we are really wasting our time. The Liberal Party, as I understand, are prepared to leave it completely in the hands of the United States of America to provide the deterrent that the Western world wants. When I asked the representatives of the two other parties whether they wanted to save money and to have no defences at all, they said "That is not our view".
I did not expect that it would be. They said, "We feel that this money ought not to be spent on the nuclear deterrent but on conventional armaments". They said, "This is much too important a matter to consider merely in terms of the saving of £ s. d. We think a conventional build-up would not be wasted. It would give us flexibility and enable us to do things which we would not be able to do with nuclear weapons". They admit that there is no question of saving money.
Therefore, the argument cannot be used that if we do away with the nuclear deterrent it will leave money to be spent 77 on social improvements. If the Opposition are not concerned with saving money, and they want to build up conventional forces, are they prepared to return to conscription? Are they prepared to say that if they want to expand our conventional forces to the scale required if we are to have any power at all, they would support conscription?
§ Mr. H. Hynd
I do not think that the alternative is as the hon. Gentleman is putting it. It is not a question of nuclear power or conscription. If the hon. Member insists that it is desirable and even necessary for this country to be a nuclear Power in order to play its part and to have a say at the negotiating table, how far would he take that argument? Is it necessary for France, Italy, Egypt and China?
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I understand that question. I have had it often. This is my answer. I think that there is a difference. I do not want France to have it, although I think that it will do so. I do not want China to have it. I think that it should be restricted if possible. That is why I believe in the Test Ban Treaty.
But I think there is a special case for us having that power. We thought of nuclear power first. The beginning of nuclear power was in this country. It was only taken out of this country because the hazards of war were such that it was advisable that the necessary research should be transferred to America. If France, Egypt or China could claim to have invented nuclear power, they would have had a special case. I am arguing—and it is not illogical to do so—that we have a special case and we ought to have this power. In fact, during the time that we have had it, we have seen good results. That is my answer to some of the points which have been raised in this debate.
May I now make my constructive contribution. I should like to direct my words to the Government Front Bench. I hope that hon. Members opposite will consider the advice that I have given them if they want to stand even a chance of winning an election, and I hope that the Government Front Bench will now listen to the advice that I want to give to them. The whole success of this modernisation and acceleration Gracious Speech will depend upon our being a successful 78 trading nation. The whole thing depends upon our having the will to carry out these great schemes which are desirable and which can be achieved. If we want to do our duty in this direction we must pay attention to the one outstanding factor which is revealed when we look at the balance of trade. We must increase our exports, for everything depends upon that.
I do not think the only big requirement is to increase productivity. Of course, we have got to do that as well, but the important thing, once we have increased our productivity, is to see that we have a sale for it, to ensure that we are turning that productivity into something that can be exchanged for all those better things that we want to bring about. Exports are going reasonably well. There is not a lot to grumble about in terms of their present speed. Nevertheless, it is essential that we should improve upon them.
I have lived for many years in the middle of industrial England and I claim to know the industrial Midlands. I think that I understand the environment and the reactions of people in that part of the country, whether they be owners, managers or people working on the bench. I believe that exhortation and asking people to make special efforts merely out of duty—although that duty is well based—will not produce the results. There must be an obvious and tangible inducement from the Government to encourage these industries which are not exporting to do so.
I have urged in three successive Budgets that we should find ways and means of giving a tax concession to that part of an industry's production which actually earns foreign currency. I believe that the part of a firm's production which goes to export ought to have some special consideration when we are thinking in terms of taxation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, at various times, has seemed interested in this suggestion and then he has gone cool after having spoken to the Federation of British Industries or some such organisation.
I believe that the 15 per cent. Profits Tax, which it is perhaps right to levy on normal business turnover, ought to be at a lower level on the part of a business which exports. Not much 79 administrative machinery is required to do this. The accountant's certificate on which the normal tax is paid could have an addition certifying that a part of the business goes to export, and that proportion in relation to the total amount of tax should have this tax concession.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Whilst I am not disagreeing with the hon. Gentleman, may I draw his attention to the O.E.E.C. Report which I have been reading? It appears from that Report that during the whole of the time that the Labour Government were in power we led the whole of Europe in exports. During the whole time that the present Government have been in power we have been at the bottom of the league. When we were in power there was no question of any export incentive. We did it under a Labour Government. Why are we not doing it now? Why are we at the bottom of the league?
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I had finished my party contribution, but I will answer the hon. Gentleman nevertheless.He said that his Government were responsible for this country being at the top of the league, but that was at a time when other members of the league had not got their teams together. We were top of the league when Germany, Italy and Japan were still under the rubble. We have an excellent football team in Peterborough. That team had no trouble to keep at the top of the Fourth Division. Now, excellent though it is, it is only half-way up the Third Division because it has to compete against different quality.
Surely the hon. Gentleman can see that when we are talking of competition there is all the difference in the world between the time when Germany, France, Italy and Japan are going all out, and the years when the Labour Party were in power. Not only were those countries not in the hunt in those years, but in the intervening years they have had thousandsof millions of dollars from America, which has enabled them to have the most up-to-date factories compared with ours. It is only in recent years that we have had to meet full competition from these new factories built by this American money because they lost the war. We are having to pay the price of having won the war.
80 That is the last of my party points. What I am urging on the Government is this. Whatever may have to be done in our approach to the G.A.T.T. or in finding ways and means round various agreements we have signed, we must encourage our exporting industries to increase their figures. I have pointed out before that 33⅓per cent, of our total exports are done by 40 firms only. There are 8,000 members of the Federation of British industries. Too many medium-sized and smaller firms, because of the easy home market, find that it does not pay to undertake the risks and expense of exporting. There is no great profit in exporting.
I ask hon. Members opposite to look into this; they will come tothe same conclusion. Many of our exporting firms find that there is hardly any profit in it. Of course, people keep businesses together, maintaining a part which does not pay, in order to keep their staff and plant going. In innumerable instances, those who at present are playing a big part in exporting find that it is not so profitable a part of their business as home trade. A tax concession would encourage those who are not prepared to take the risk to make the effort and do some exporting.
I could well understand the argument used in past years in saying that we should not give export incentives. In 1938 and 1939, for instance, it was in the interest of the nation to say, "If we can freeze the position as it is now, not getting everybody to give these incentives, it will be best for this country". But that was when we were doing about 28 per cent, of total world trade. If we could have frozen the position at that level, we should have been sitting pretty with the present volume. But now our share represents about 16 or 16½ per cent, of total world trade, and this is not big enough. We must make our share larger, and we can do this only if there are clear and tangible inducements of the kind I have suggested.
One could argue that the giving of similar incentives by other countries would harm us. This is not so, but I will confine myself today to making the one point—no doubt, we can come back to it on the next Budget. I say that, if we want to implement the great programme outlined for us, we must get our balance of trade figures right. To do
81 this, we must increase our exports, and for this purpose a tangible lead and contribution must come from the Government. I urge that there should be a tax concession to ensure that our industries do better in this direction.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) has made a very lively speech. Whatever one may think of his party arguments, he carries the whole House with him, I think, in stressing the importance of exports, and the need to increase them as much as we possibly can. I shall leave aside the question of the methods by which this might be done, because I have several rather different points which I wish to discuss. Fortunately, we have these two free-wheeling days at the beginning of the debate on the Address, when we need not follow each other's arguments but can bring forward our own separate points.
I listened to the Gracious Speech with, among other things, one particular matter in mind, the Scottish law of succession. The subject has been mentioned already today, though only in a somewhat sardonic tone. I was very relieved to find a reference to it in the Gracious Speech. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will "have his leg pulled" about the fact that, when it last appeared in the Gracious Speech, no action followed. But I presume that, after the exercise at the end of last Session, we shall have a proper legislative approach to the matter now. The Scottish Office knows that there are many people now seriously concerned that there should be such legislation as soon as possible.
Now, another matter. The Robbins Report suggests that there ought to be at least one new university in Scotland, and I imagine that this will probably meet with general agreement not only in Scotland but elsewhere. I take it that, by their general acceptance of the Robbins Report, the Government have accepted the idea that there should be at least one new university in Scotland.
Two parts of my constituency are closely interested in this matter. The Royal Burgh of Stirling has advanced an argument in favour of locating a new university in or near Stirling. Similarly, 82 at the other end of my constituency, a dozen miles away, Falkirk and Grange-mouth are concerned in a local committee promoting the advantages of location in that area. I am, therefore, much concerned about the new university in Scotland.
I have two questions to put to the Under-Secretary of State, and I am glad that he has found it possible to be present. First, I should like him to tell us as much as possible about the University Grants Committee's position. The University Grants Committee knew the candidates for a new Scottish university a long time ago, and it must by this time have familiarised itself with the claims of each locality. Moreover, one assumes that the U.G.C. had at least a reasonable guess at the likelihood of a further Scottish university being recommended. Therefore, the situation in which the Committee has to make up its mind about recommending a location is not an unexpected one, and one assumes, therefore, that there will be no delay in its making a recommendation. I hope that either the hon. Gentleman, or one of his colleagues, perhaps, at a later stage in the debate, will be able to reassure us about that.
I hope, also, that, after the University Grants Committee has made its recommendation, there will be no delay on the part of the Government in implementing it. I have a recollection, which, I am sorry to say, I have not been able to reinforce by actual reference to any report, that the Secretary of State for Scotland suggested in a speech that the new university might be accepting students by 1970–71. My memory may be wrong. I have not been able to find any record of hiswords. However, if that date is in his mind, it is absolutely indefensible. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office will have in mind the periods which elapsed between the settlement of location of the recently planned new English universities and the actual opening of the doors of some of them. We must make sure that there is no greater lapse of time in the case of the new Scottish university. I see no reason why there should be if the Government are seriously concerned to get things done without undue delay.
I turn now to the subject of roads, in particular two roads which affect my own constituency. For a number of years 83 now, there has been projected a new road, a motorway, which has come to be known as the Falkirk by-pass, to run from the Edinburgh road down through the southern border of Grangemouth and then on in a westerly direction. We have been promised this motorway for a long time. Following the Prime Minister's speech today, I suggest that it really is time that the whole project was accelerated.
For the benefit of the Under-Secretary of State, I quote from a resolution passed in December, 1959, by the town council of Grangemouth, through whose territory the road will pass for part of its length. The council recordsits dissatisfaction at the complete tack of progress … which is having serious effects on the roads within the burgh of Grangemouth and the property fronting thereon. …These industrial developments in Grangemouth have put far too heavy traffic on the roads for them to bear. The council's resolution went on:
… as a result of the ever increasing heavy traffic which will increase in the near future as a result of the expansion of existing Industrial Development in the Town …"Industrial development and increase in traffic are very considerable.
A month later, on 18th January, 1960, a report was made to the town council of a meeting held in the Scottish Home Department. The report indicated that an order would shortly be published covering the whole section of the trunk road from Gilston, near Polmont, to Bells-dyke Road, with construction to be commenced within two years.
That has been the story for many years, but the new road never appears. This very important road is still "on the stocks". That is not quite the appropriate phrase for a road, but the Undersecretary of State knows what I mean. We want a definite statement. We want publication of the order and the timing of the road brought forward as much as possible.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. R. Brooman-White)
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will have to be patient for many weeks more on that matter.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I am glad to hear it. There is another road in the same area, from Bathgate, where the B.M.C. factory
84 is situated, to Grangemouth, a port which exports a considerable amount of the production of B.M.C. There is undoubtedly a need to improve this road.
Generally speaking, the trade from Grangemouth docks to the South depends on whether there is to be industrial expansion in Scotland, but there must also be good access, and in this area there is need for a better road from Bathgate to Grangemouth not only for the exports of B.M.C. to get to Grangemouth but also for the various cargoes going south from the petrochemical combines at Grangemouth. Both these are expanding activities.
I want next to talk about the ports on the River Forth, of which Grangemouth is one. Here, the main responsibility lies with the Ministry ofTransport. The Gracious Speech foreshadows legislation following the Rochdale Report. This has been expected and I look forward to proper provision in that legislation. But I wish to touch on a more specific matter—the future of the ports on the Forth.
On 10th July last, when we debated the Rochdale Report, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport was inclined to walk a little warily. He put in a proviso when referring to the Forth and its ports, including Leith and Grangemouth, and was not sure about the possibility of Scottish industry developing. But industrial development in Scotland must come. We have had one or two very forthright statements about this since then, and we are expecting another statement which, I hope, will be equally forthright when the White Paper appears shortly.
The new Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade has been very emphatic about the need to develop Scottish industry and it is worth noticing the terms in which he is quoted by The Times:The Government's job is to produce the basis for the regional social capital. This really means the amount of public investment necessary to provide a modern communications network—roads, airports, ports, docks, schools, hospitals and housing …All this is just what Scotland needs. The words are all right, but they must be followed by deeds. The Gracious Speech has reinforced this point of view. I hope that the Government will be 85 vigorous about building up the Scottish economy.
If they do expand the economy, we shall need rather more in the way of port facilities in Scotland. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will glance at Table I in the Rochdale Report, where the traffic of major ports is listed. The major Scottish ports—those dealt with in the Report—are Glasgow, Grangemouth and Leith. The table shows that the imports of these three ports together amount to only 6½ per cent. of United Kingdom imports. The exports, thanks to Grangemouth's handling of B.M.C.'s products, total 10 per cent. of the national figure.
This would suggest that, up to date, the Scottish ports have not by any means taken their fair share, or have not been enabled to take their fair share, of the foreign trade of this country. Add to this the prospect, suggested by the Rochdale Report, of doubling foreign trade within a period up to 1980 and one can see the definite need to develop Scottish ports generally.
I am particularly concerned with the Firth of Forth ports, but before dealing with them specifically I ask the Government to give some indication of what replies they have received on this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport told us in July that the Ministry would ask various bodies about these ports and that he would pass on the replies to the Ports Council. We should be informed of the position reached in this interchange of views. The Parliamentary Secretary left unsettled the question of which port developments should take place, but Leith and Grangemouth have schemes both of which should go ahead.
There is no doubt that, if the development of international trade takes place as the Rochdale Committee envisages, the development of both ports will be necessary and will be beneficial not only to Scotland but to the United Kingdom as a whole. The two ports are not rivals in trade, but are complementary. The developments in each will produce a total satisfactory result.
The Rochdale Report is wrong in saying that the two ports have the same hinterland. They have not. The hinterland at Grangemouth overlaps much
86 more with the hinterland of Glasgow. The Rochdale Report does say, however, that the ports are complementary, and I agree. Grangemouth is definitely one of the growth points in the Scottish economy. The Under-Secretary of State knows that as well as I do.
An article in The Times of 8th March last was headed:Chemicals a growth point for Scotland.The oil refineries in Grangemouth and the petro-chemical complex around it constitute the most rapidly growing and potentially most considerable growth point in Scotland. The article comments on these oil and petro-chemical products and points out the very rapid rate at which one chemical development after another is following in Grangemouth.
The most recent is the considerable increase projected in the size of the refinery itself, an expansion which has just gone through the preliminaries and will soon be put in hand. The petro-chemical complex is growing very fast. It has been growing spectacularly in a way which very few Members or people outside the House will appreciate.
Since 1948, the population of Grangemouth has increased by 50 per cent.—I am giving round figures. The number of houses has risen by 70 per cent. and of jobs by 70 per cent., while available water supplies have increased from 2 million to 14 million gallons a day. What is perhaps an even stronger indication of the industrial potential of Grangemouth is the fantastic increase in rateable value, which has risen from £135,000 in 1948 to £1,130,000 in 1963, an increase of about 740 per cent. I do not know of a better indication of the rate at which Grangemouth is growing. There is no indication of a stop, at least in the immediate future, of the increase which has been going on for the last fifteen years. Growth is continuing and the potentialities for growth are still there.
In that situation there is no doubt that greatly increased dock facilities will be very valuable to the economy. The Times leader, when the Rochdale Report first appeared, pointed out that in recent years there were two success stories among British docks, those of Bristol and of Grangemouth.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I am glad to have the support of the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke). We are both in the same boat in this matter and we can both be proud of our ports. Both Bristol and Grangemouth have had considerable capital development which in Grangemouth has lead to a considerable increase in deep-sea liner cargo routes. The port of Grangemouth is cheap and efficient and in its labour relations is, thankfully, trouble-free.
All this arises not only from the petrochemical complex, but from the other great element in the importance of the port, its geography. It is half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh and thus right in the centre of Scotland's industrial belt, that is, taking it from East to West. Even on the North-South axis it is still central.
This combination of geographical situation and the petro-chemicalcomplex makes Grangemouth one of the ports in which considerable development is most likely to pay off handsomely in increased trade, and I hope to hear more in the near future of what is proposed for Grangemouth.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter H. Loveys (Chichester)
I shall confine my remarks to saying a few words about Britain's biggest industry, which has had special mention in the Gracious Speech. Most people would say that that industry was coal mining or the motor car industry, but, in fact, it is agriculture. Agriculture has a production figure of £1,750 million, which is double that of either coal mining or the motor car industry. Over the last decade, British farming has had a success story. The British farmer has increased production at greater rates than those of manufacturing industrialists and this increase has been a major asset in the national economy because of its important part in our balance of payments position.
The public does not sufficiently realise what a tremendous part agriculture plays in our balance of payments. We so often read of the export figures of motor cars and other industrial goods, but only rarely of agriculture's production figures and the record amounts saved every year on our import bill. The case for supporting agriculture should be made not
88 on any sentimentality or social need, but simply on the solid fact of its indispensable contribution to our balance of payments.
If food production in the last decade had not increased at a rate far greater than the cost of food imports, it could well be argued that we could not have had a balance of payments surplus at any time during that period. Much credit for the success story of agriculture must go to policies followed by both parties in support of agriculture. But we have also to think of the farmers and farm workers, without whose skill and hard work the story would not have been such a success.
One would confidently have expected that they would share in this success, but the fact is that the net income of the British farmer in the last decade has fallen, in terms of purchasing power, while die industry is not capable of paying farm workers a wage comparable to those received in manufacturing industries. It will be appreciated that farmers consider that this is not a fair reward for their contribution to the national economy.
That is a rough picture of British farming in the last decade. It is a picture of an industry which has played an unrivalled part in the economy but whose principals have not shared in the greater prosperity enjoyed by most people. It is true that agriculture receives an annual mention in the Gracious Speech, usually in terms like, "The Government intend to maintain a healthy and prosperous agriculture". But this year the Government have had to go much further to announce plans to readjust the industry to the plain fact that agricultural output in the developed countries has tended to outstrip the level of commercial demand for food, with the resulting growing surpluses and depressed prices and unstable marketing conditions.
In this country we have to be thankful for some of the protection afforded by the Agriculture Acts, but during the last few years this has resulted in increasing demand for Exchequer support, particularly for meat and cereals, although in the latter case the position has been greatly helped this harvest by many traditional Commonwealth suppliers of cereals finding markets in Russia, which 89 has helped the wise farmer to stick out for the guide price.
But the position is serious and some months ago the Minister of Agriculture announced the outline of his plans to secure greater stability in the market for cereals and fatstock by a system of control of imports, which is mentioned in the Gracious Speech, combined with an extension at home of the concept of standard quantities, which is an accepted principle under the Agriculture Acts and which already applies in one way or another to milk, pigs, eggs, sugar beet and potatoes.
The words "standard quantities" are not mentioned in the Gracious Speech. The words are:to adapt the guarantee arrangements for cereals and fatstock …but I appreciate that this will mean some form of extension of the concept of standard quantities. This intention of my right hon. Friend has undoubtedly necessitated extremely complicated discussions with our traditional suppliers from abroad and our farming community at home. No doubt we shall shortly be hearing about these protracted negotiations and discussions in detail.
The home farmer will, of course, welcome with open arms any means of controlling imports which could result in stabilising the prices of home-produced cereals and meat without calling on exorbitant Exchequer support, but with regard to the extension of standard quantities there is, of course, a natural apprehension. It is not that the farmer wants to have his cake and eat it too. It is not the case that he will say that he will accept all import controls but when it comes to standard quantity arrangements he will have nothing to do with them. That is not the position, because the farmer realises that for future efficiency there must also be room for expansion.
While it can be argued that it will not be possible to obtain arrangements with regard to import controls unless we are prepared also to accept some form of extension of standard quantity arrangements—indeed, it will not be possible to achieve import controls without the agreement of our Commonwealth and traditional overseas suppliers with whom we have obligations under international agreements—at the same time it is 90 essential to allow some room for expansion within the industry. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister make a point of this when he referred to the Gracious Speech. He mentioned specifically the need for expansion because we all realise that no industry can maintain efficiency unless it has opportunities for growth.
During last Session my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture said that the opportunities for growth would consist in the increase in the population—I understood him to forecast that by the end of the century there would be 70 million people in this country—and in an increase in standards of living. It is not possible to translate this into precise figures, but Mr. Houston, of Glasgow University, recently prophesied that the demand for meat may rise by 25 per cent, in the next ten years, the demand for eggs by 15 per cent., and the demand for milk by 10 to 15 per cent. I do not know how he reached his conclusions, but if figures of this kind are realised they will give some confidence to the industry, because if farmers are to be expected to accept quantity controls, they must, at the same time, be given an idea of what opportunities for growth will be available.
We are all aware of some of the difficulties with which the Minister must be grappling at present in trying to obtain import controls. Perhaps his discussions withour home producers with regard to quantity regulations are even more difficult. For example, cereal producers on our arable farms are not likely to see eye to eye with beef producers. This is a difficult problem, and one can imagine the National Farmers' Unions of England and Scotland being unlikely to agree on the exact proportion of quantity controls.
My experience as a farmer leads me to believe that Scottish beef producers are able to look after themselves. I used to breed pedigree Aberdeen Angus bulls in Sussex and send them to Perth. Iremember sending one particularly fine bull to be sold there. At the ringside, and just in front of me, there was a man who was very interested in my bull. He looked at his catalogue with the obvious intention of putting in a bid for this fine bull, but when he saw who owned it, he let out an oath and said, 91 "That is a stupid Sassenach from Sussex", and shut his catalogue with a bang, which meant that he was no longer interested in my bull. This story is perhaps irrelevant, and has nothing to do with standard quantity controls, but I have told it to illustrate the toughness of the Scots and their ability to look after themselves.
It is unfortunate that within the industry there is disagreement as to how standard quantities are to be arrived at. Many farmers reject outright the idea of standard quantities, but I consider that if we reject that idea we also have to reject the idea of import controls as our suppliers of meat and cereals will not accept a reduction in their shipments and allow home producers to break the market with the aid of Exchequer support.
There is also, as I mentioned earlier, the question of our obligations to the Commonwealth and to our other traditional suppliers under international agreements whichare essential to our trading arrangements. If we tried to impose these controls there would soon be retaliation, possibly similar to that in the recent chicken war between America and the E.E.C., and we should land ourselves in all sorts of trouble.
I think that the Farmer and Stockbreeder summed up the matter fairly and properly in its leading article when it said thatthe political reality is that as a trading nation we cannot shut the door on imports, nor can the British farming industry remain virile beneath a rigid ceiling of output.This is the problem which my right hon. Friend is trying to solve, and in finding the solution there is no doubt that, in view of the vital part it plays in the economy, everyone engaged in Britain's largest industry hasa right to expect fair treatment in terms of the eventually agreed price levels and Treasury support. This is what the Minister must fight for in the Cabinet. It would appear that the Prime Minister would support it, because in that same bull ring in Perth, to which I have referred, he said that if we are to have a healthy nation we must also have a healthy agricultural industry, and this is surely the spirit in which we must look at Britain's greatest industry.
§ 6.58 p.m
§ Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)
I agree with the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Loveys) about the importance of agriculture. It is right that year after year agriculture should be mentioned in the Gracious Speech, but I am a little surprised at the kind of mention that it has received this year. There is a reference to banning imports, or preventing imports from coming in, and support prices as a means of assisting the farmer to compete against competition from outside.
I am surprised that in a Gracious Speech which is dedicated to the idea of modernisation there is not some reference to the need for further modernisation of the agricultural industry. With my limited knowledge of agriculture I agree that since the war there has been enormous improvement and that a great deal of mechanisation has been carried out, but I know that an enormous amount remains to be done in other spheres.
I would have thought that a great many of our farms are too small to be viable units. I would also have thought that some farms which are large enough to be viable, in terms of acreage, are nevertheless inefficient because that acreage is split up into a number of parcels. In the villages where I have lived—and I have lived in a great many—I have seen animals and machinery being moved from the top part of the village to the bottom and back again because the farm was not one whole, but was split up, having been created haphazardly. There is a consequent waste of time, transport and inconvenience to people living in the village as the result of this continual movement to and fro.
I support the hon. Member for Chichester in his plea for the importance of agriculture. It is a plea which hon. Members on this side of the House echo. But I say to the hon. Member and to the Government, for goodness' sake let us try to make agriculture as efficient as possible.
A number of hon. Members opposite have expressed surprise and sympathy that the Opposition should find so little to criticise in the proposals put forward in the Queen's Speech. It is not surprising. Most of the things proposed are things which we have been proposing 93 for many years. Indeed, we should want to add to some of them. The Queen's Speech rightly talks about the importance of improving higher education. We all agree with that. It has been known ever since there was a great increase in the birth rate at the fag end of the war that within about eighteen years of that time there would be a tremendous bulge bursting towards the universities. This was something that anybody could foresee, and it surprises us that the Government, almost alone, appear not to have foreseen it in their twelve years in office, and not to have tried to take action to meet it.
The increase in university education is important, but other forms of education are at least equally important, and in spite of the announcement about further expenditure on primary and secondary education, I am a little alarmed lest, in this natural desire to increase university places, primary education is once again forgotten. Something, but not much, has been done about primary education. Primary schools are still desperately short of teachers, especially male teachers, and in spite of the building programme there are still many old primary schools which should be knocked down.
There are other primary schools which are on the old side but which have been renovated—to the extent that space has been taken up in providing such luxuries as lavatories, or assembly halls, or what not. That is a very good thing to do, but thetrouble about it is that there is another bulge in the population which has not been noticed. It is not the bulge that occurred at the fag-end of the war but a bulge that occurred about six years ago. There was then a particularly large bulge in population, leading to a tremendous increase in the number of children now going into primary schools.
We have to cater for that. Those renovated schools will not be adequate to deal with the new bulge, because space has already been used up for things that were necessary. We shall have to extend those schools and renovate other old buildings, besides building a large number of new schools.
Far from disagreeing with the intentions of the Government as expressed in the Queen's Speech we would wish to add to them. We are suspicious not about the intentions, but about the sincerity with which they will be pur- 94 sued, and secondly, whether the Government have the ability to carry them through.
Let us consider the proposals for expenditure which have been put before us.We shall have expenditure on roads, hospitals, universities, housing and schools. All these things have one thing in common: they require a large and efficient building industry. But all that the Queen's Speech says about the building industry is thatSteps will be taken to help the construction industries to increase productivity and to achieve larger building programmes.That is a very good intention, but it does not tell us very much.
What sort of means are the Government going to suggest to the building industry for increasing productivity? What are the proposals? When we know what they are we shall ask how the Government will ensure that the building industry will accept them. Will the builders be subject to direction? Will they be told, "This is the latest way of doing your job. Go ahead and do it in our Whitehall way"? I do not believe that the Government will suggest that, but unless they do I do not see how they can say that within the urgently short time referred to in respect of this programme there will be the necessary much-needed increase in productivity in the building industry.
Even if there is such an increase, as I hope there will be, there will still be a tremendous strain on the industry at its present size. That being so, in order to carry out their programme are the Government seriously proposing to increase the size of the industry? That might be a good thing, but there are limiting factors, not of labour but of materials, especially materials like timber, which must be brought in from abroad. If we are not going to get an immediate and great increase in productivity, and if we are not able to afford—as our balance of payments position suggests—all the increases in building raw materials which the programme would call for, what other steps are the Government proposing to take to make sure that their programme can be carried out by the building industry?
As far as I can see, the only thing that they can do is to establish a series of priorities for the industry. It is nonsense 95 to say that the Government will build houses, hospitals, schools and the rest under a system of laisser faire and free-for-all. We must have some control over the resources of the building industry if the programme is to be successful, as I hope it will be, but I see no sign whatever in the Gracious Speech that the Government are thinking upon those lines.
I now come to the main burden of the Gracious Speech—the question of the modernisation of Britain, and particularly its industries. That means automation. It means making machines do the work, partly because that provides more leisure for working people, and therefore a better chance of a full life, and partly because it is cheaper and more efficient, and gives our country a better chance to stand on its feet and face the rest of the world.
But there are enormous difficulties about automation. We on this side—and, I am sure, every thinking person in the world—wouldsay that provided we can do it properly it is a good thing to make machines rather than hands do the work, but that is the difficult thing to put across to people who are still allowed to feel that the introduction of the machine means the expulsion of themselves from their jobs. Ludditeism is something that we scoff at, but it is a very natural feeling. It is still there, and it is very natural that it should be, unless we can alter the attitude of mind of the Government and, indeed, of industry as a whole. Unless we can convince people that if they lose their jobs by the introduction of machinery—as they will—other jobs will be readily available for them, we shall have Ludditeism in a more or less active form.
The Gracious Speech makes some acknowledgment of this problem by referring in various phrases to severance payments. A man thrown out of a job will be paid some cash for a period. That is very nice. It is better than a kick in the pants, but it is not enough on its own to give people a feeling of security. It is just three or four weeks off the dole and then on to it again. Severance payments are one point and retraining is another.
Retraining is an excellent thing provided that we know what we are 96 retraining for. What are the people to be retrained for who are turned out of their jobs by the advent of automation? I do not think that the Government have begun to consider that position at all. What work is to be made available in what other industries for people who are displaced from the industries that are to be modernised? This afternoon, the Prime Minister mentioned once again the Local Employment Act. During my eighteen years in this House I have seen three Local Employment Acts, one by "our lot" and two by "the lot over there". Although they have made some advance, and, of course, they have provided some good, in terms of percentage of unemployment in the special areas for which they were intended to serve, they have virtually made no difference at all.
It was pitiful to hear the mover of the Address talking this afternoon about Northern Ireland being in the van of progress. What awful nonsense. Unemployment in Northern Ireland is as high now as it has ever been. It is a tragic place. The Local Employment Act has virtually made no difference whatsoever to the displaced men there. These Measures, trying to bribe private enterprise to provide new jobs, will not work at all, and they never have done.
The only time that automation has been successfully broughtabout in recent years was in the tinplate industry in South Wales just after the war. It was an old-fashioned industry and machines were brought in to do the work. Instead of 27,000 people making tinplate, the working force was reduced to 4,000. It was reduced by that tremendous amount with the full cooperation of the trade unions and the workers for one reason only, that the Labour Government of the day were able to guarantee those men jobs in a nationalised industry in the great new steelworks of South Wales. It is only the State, only public enterprise, that is capable of giving that sort of guarantee.
I should like to think that private industry was there mainly for public service, but it is not. It is mainly there for profit. That is its job. Public service becomes quite secondary. It is not its business to find work for people displaced from their industries. But it is 97 the business of the State. Unless the State is prepared to accept that responsibility, I cannot see that the great ideas of modernising British industry can possibly be carried out. So I say to the Prime Minister, in his absence, "He has newly come into the House. I wish that he would go out again, leading his Government with him." I wish that he would go out and make way for a Government which really believes in planning.
"That lot" do not believe in planning. I remember that in the days of 1945 to 1950 they did their best to make planning a dirty word. Even now, when they utter it, one feels that it leaves a nasty taste in their mouths. We believe in planning. We believe in public enterprise, and without either of these two things it will not be possible to bring about the modernisation of Britain.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Whatever the analysis of the debatetoday, I have never enjoyed one more. Perhaps that is because I have never listened so closely to a debate as I have to the one today. I am referring not so much to the quality of the speeches as to the interest which has been shown and the many constructive things that have been said on both sides of the House. May I join in the congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Address—a very good choice of Members—and also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—this is a great day for him—on his achievement. I hope that anything that I say today will not detract from my appreciation of the policy which has been put before us in the Queen's Speech.
Before I mention the few important things that I want to say, I should like to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Loveys) who made some interesting comments about agriculture. If what I have to say is called criticism, well, so be it. But, with all the honesty and sincerity that some of us see in our new Prime Minister, I wonder whether the words that are printed in the Gracious Speech are really quite so convincing. There is a reference to preventing imports from undermining our farmers' market, or words to that effect. I wonder whether 98 the people who drafted this document, and those who checked it, really considered what has recently been done in agriculture by the agreement about pig meat, with Denmark, Poland and other countries having a much greater share of our market for pig meat.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester, were he present, would have been able to clear the air about this. But if one studies the import and export figures for past years, it is apparent that Denmark has not given us a very good deal. Year after year Denmark has exported far more in sterling value to us than we have exported to Denmark. There has been that unfavourable balance continuously, long before E.F.T.A. Yet, as I understand it, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has guaranteed to Denmark a greater proportion of the home market for pig meat than will be allocated to our own farmers.
I realise that if arrangements are to be made with those countries who send us food and if limits are to be created so that our own farmers may be given a chance in the future, it is necessary to make a start somewhere. But why should not we start with the pre-war figures relating to the Danish and the English contributions to our home market? Then our farmers would at least have had a decent basis on which to work. I am not sure what is to happen in the future, in view of the words in the Gracious Speech, but I understand that a deal has been made—I do not know whether it has been ratified—to the effect that Danish farmers will be able to provide a higher proportion of the pig meat which we consume and will be placed in a more favourable position than the British farmers.
I wish particularly to refer to what is said in the Gracious Speech about housing societies and I hope that I may be forgiven for referring to the problem in Birmingham. I do so because I am one of the hon. Members who represent Birmingham and because the housing problem there is as great as, or greater than, in any other part of the country. Valiant efforts have been made by several housing societies to become established in Birmingham and to get things moving there. But so far, and despite their energy, I am afraid that these efforts have not met with much 99 success. The reason, I understand, is that the local authority is unable or unwilling to help. I am told that it is difficult for local authorities to give the necessary land to housing societies or, if hon. Members prefer, for housing societies to get land from local authorities. In the few cases where land has been offered I believe that quite a penal ground rent has been demanded, something quite extraordinary. I have heard figures of £50, £60 and £70 a year mentioned.
If the Government intend to do something to help housing societies I think it absolutely essential to ensure that local authorities which control land, as is the case in Birmingham, are forced to help housing societies by providing land at reasonable rents. The suggested length of alease in Birmingham is 75 years. It is never a question of freehold and that I can understand. But the period is not the usual 99 years. Not so long ago the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) advanced a case for home owners to be given the opportunity to buy a freehold property. But the Birmingham authority is going to the other extreme and suggesting, or indeed commanding, that there be a prohibitive ground rent for housing societies and a comparatively short-term lease of 75 years.
I suggest to the Minister of Housing and Local Government that, if Birmingham is to solve its housing problem, there must be a recognition of the need for some control over office building. I suppose that hon. Members who represent London constituencies could tell me a great deal about this matter, but I am absolutely amazed at the excessive amount of office building which goes on in Birmingham. I am sure that there are thousands of brand new offices which are vacant. Some have been empty for years. I do not blame the people who build this office accommodation. Planning permission was given by the local authority and that permission continues to be given although there is an obvious shortage of houses and a surplus of offices. I wish that the Government had restricted local authorities in providing planning permission for office building.
There is a continuous complaint from local authorities that there is not sufficient building land unless they encroach 100 upon the green belt. Yet every week when I go to Birmingham I see that a new office building project has been started. I am sure that in coming weeks new office building programmes will be started. I admit that I cannot support what I say with figures, but I am sure that I am not exaggerating. Sooner or later, if they cannot see the light, local authorities must be restricted by the responsible Minister or whatever Government are in power. I cannot understand how it is that some of the quinquennial plans submitted by local planning authorities come to be passed by Whitehall.
I wish for a moment to refer to the question of a Royal Commission on the police. One cannot disabuse one's mind of the unfortunate affair in Sheffield and I hope that the Government will refer to the debates which have taken place in this House on the proposal to have an ombudsman in this country. I think that the sort of thing that happened in Sheffield occurs because if there is a complaint about the police, it may be made only to the police and can be referred only to some other police authority, to a watch committee or to the Home Office. There does not appear to be a properly appointed person or body to look into these complaints. If we look at the excellent speeches made from both sides of the House on suggestions for an ombudsman or Parliamentary commissioner, we can see the solution to this problem, which may arise again.
Finally, I wish to speak about education. The hon. Member for Hudders-field, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) referred to scarcities in education, shortages of teachers, school buildings and the like. It is generally recognised—I hope that the hon. Member recognises the fact, although he did not mention it—that an enormous amount has been done in this direction. Let us face it, the school building programme has been going on for only 11 or 12 years, but before that there were 11 or 12 years when nothing much was done. I am not trying to make a party point against the Opposition. I understand the difficulties they had after the war.
Whether those arguments are valid does not concern me at the moment. The fact is that the Government of today and 101 the previous Government have made this tremendous advance in the school building programme. I understand that now at least one new school is built every day—
—more—and that has been going on for years. It is very difficult to start new schools, but a programme has been put in hand, and is now effective, for increased teacher training. I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend say how much this would be improved. Of course we have to have more schools and more teachers, but the Government have not done too badly.
I wish particularly to make a point about: the Robbins Committee's Report. We are all delighted to hear that the Government have accepted that Report. We are all anxious to see what the detailed proposals will be. In Birmingham we have an interest in colleges of advanced technology. We have a very fine one there. Many people share my view that these colleges should have university status. They are doing a fine job and it is most important that they should be fully recognised. The argument for that is that, at least, many universities abroad are not so good as our colleges of advanced technology.
I am very concerned about the quality of education. Although I accept the Robbins Report and support everything the Government propose, I see a danger of a reduction in the quality of education. Figures are bandied about with reference to other countries and their standards, but more particularly about their quantities of students, how many students they have in primary, secondary and further education right up to university level. It is never possible for anyone to justify quotation of those figures without quoting standards. So far as I know, experts have not yet been able to show a fair comparison of standards.
Colleges of advanced technology in this country, as I am sure all hon. Members who have seen and studied them will agree, are doing a fine job. I hope that the Government will give them university status. At the same time, we must be very careful if we are not to ruin the very high standards of education we have achieved.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
This Gracious Speech divides the nation topographically. In my submission, it does so quite unfairly. It envisages schemes of expansion ranging across some areas while ignoring others. It does not do that on an industrial basis or on a basis of trade, commerce or unemployment. It affects some and not others.
I speak for Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland. I hope that that reference will fall pleasantly on the ears of the Prime Minister. Here we have a new Government, a new Session and a new Prime Minister. Parliament and the nation are entitled to know what the policy of this new Prime Minister and new Government is. We are entitled to some detail, but, although the Gracious Speech refers to central Scotland and to the north-east of England and various other places, not a word is said about the north-east of Scotland, or Aberdeen, which make a considerable contribution to the wealth of this nation. Nor is a word said about the great need to provide more trade, industry and commerce and to solve the problem of unemployment in that area.
Therefore, this Gracious Speech is unworthy of a great occasion. It does not tell Parliament or the nation what they are entitled to know. The Gracious Speech treats the north-east of Scotland as if it were a foreign country, but it is not a foreign country. It has a great contribution to make to the nation and it also has great correlated problems arising from efforts to make that contribution. Why is there this split in the view of the Prime Minister and the new Government? Why is there this split in the nation? Why does he foster this split, and why does he do it in this arbitrary way by selecting some areas and neglecting others?
The idea of this split is not entirely my idea. The "Thunderer", The Times, in an article a short time ago, made very relevant reference to it. The title of the article was, "Drift to the South-East", and it said:For some months public anxiety has been building up over the so-called 'drift to the south-east', over the danger of Britain splitting geographically into 'Two Nations'. The processes at work are not new: the anxieties created have been familiar for long for those who studied such problems.103But the development of the welfare state and the growth of the affluent society have thrown into relief the differences that can exist between prosperous and less prosperous parts of the country. The recent rise in unemployment has heightened the contrasts.I give another brief quotation, from a remarkable letter by Professor Jewkes, Professor of Economics in Manchester University. Curiously enough, in the same issue of The Times, he asked:
Why do we try to petrify the distribution of population?He went on to suggest that workers who moved from the North to the South in search of work should be deprived of social services, and in my submission that is a very reactionary doctrine. But these diverse views in the leading article of The Times and Professor Jewkes' letter show that this problem is approached from different points of view and is worthy of consideration by the new Government and of some reference in the Gracious Speech.
Aberdeen has its unemployment and other trade and industrial problems. Statistics show that unemployment in Aberdeen is high. The unemployment percentages are in this order: in England alone 1.8 per cent.; in Great Britain as a whole, 2.1 per cent.; in Wales, 3.1 per cent.; and in Scotland, 3.8 per cent. This shows that England has the smallest percentage of unemployment, that Great Britain as a whole comes next, that Wales comes next and that Scotland fares worst.
This is only one aspect of Scottish problems, and they await attention. They have been brought to the attention of the former Government from time to time by means of Questions from me and speeches. Promises to solve the problems have been made, but in 12 years the former Government have failed to solve this problem of unemployment not only in Scotland but also in other parts of this Island. In 1948 the Scottish Trades Union Congress suggested a solution, but it has not been accepted or implemented, and it is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
May I mention some of the contributions which Aberdeen has to make to the nation: shipbuilding and repairing, fishing, granite, marine engineering, other engineering, textiles, agriculture, cattle, transport, paper making and 104 other industries. The unemployment which is afflicting Aberdeen inhibits Aberdeen in her contribution to the nation and exports to other nations.
That is a real problem, and I may well be asked what is the solution. My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), in a recent book offered a solution. He wrote:The experience of the United Kingdom since 1945 overwhelmingly argues the necessity for collective planning if we are at the same time to achieve reasonable price stability, rapid growth and a balance of payments surplus. Since 1955 the United Kingdom economy, with controls dismantled, has resembled a car having to be driven at walking pace, and stopped dead every 20 yards to avoid the ditch because the driver is suffering from a neurotic inhibition against the use of a steering wheel.That is a very fair description of the Gracious Speech. It is full of vague generalities. It has no concrete plans for the solution of any of the problems which afflict this nation—the problems of trade, industry and commerce. Our contribution to foreign nations by way of exports and imports all suffer as a result of that. Yet there is no detailed plan in the Gracious Speech. Perhaps it would be too much to expect that. But there is no indication in the Gracious Speech of an appreciation of the problems which wait to be solved, much less an indication of the solutions which the new Government and the new Prime Minister offer to the nation.
I hope that the absence from the Gracious Speech of these helpful ideas will be noted by the Government and that these policies will be indicated to Parliament and the nation in a way which will help us towards a solution of the problems which I have indicated, particularly as they affect Aberdeen.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
Iwelcome the Gracious Speech. Its predominant keynote and theme is progression, development and growth without the fear of inflation, but that principle cannot be put into practice without the prerequisite condition of continuing increased productivity. The two go hand-in-hand. Because of this prospect, we can look at the Gracious Speech and ally development and growth with increases in the services, benefits and conditions of our social system.
105 There are one or two points in the Gracious Speech to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. The first is the reference to education. In the Gracious Speech we are told that the Government willbring forward proposals based on the recommendations of the Committee on Higher Education.We are also told that they willpress forward the measures needed to provide for a rising school population and to improve the standards of school education.I welcome the Robbins Report, which is specifically mentioned in the Gracious Speech, but I also welcome the Newsom Report and the Report of the Trend Committee on Civil Science. No Government can look at education in separate watertight compartments. They must look at the whole edifice of education. We therefore cannot look at the Robbins Report as a separate set of proposals. When we look at the educational pyramid, we must remember that we start in the infants' schools, as the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) said; we cannot separate infants' and primary education from the top of the pyramid, the university, because at the top they depend on the system at the base of the pyramid.
We therefore cannot neglect the report of the other Committees, particularly the Newsom Committee, on the average child in our secondary modern school, right down to the infants. I am glad to see in the Gracious Speech the phraseto improve the standards of school education.We have heard suggestions that we should split the educational hierarchy in the Government and have separate Ministers for the higher levels of education and for the lower levels of education. I deplore this suggestion.
If I am right in saying that the Government must consider education as a whole, it follows that there should not be two separate Ministers. I would prefer one overlord, a term we used in the House at one time, with two or three Secretaries of State or Ministers of State responsible for separate Departments, but with one person responsible for the whole system. I deplore splitting the functions of Ministers into separate compartments where they will be competing and not co-ordinating and co-operating.
§ Mr. Jennings
I believe in competition where it is appropriate. I do not believe in one Government Department competing with another Government Department when they are both Concerned to make the end product of the education system the best possible, whether it is the child who leaves school at 15 or the person leaving a university at 22 or 23.
Another matter connected with higher education is the status of training colleges, about which I have campaigned in the House for years. I am sad to say that I have not received much encouragement from my righthon. Friends on the Front Bench. I hope that they will at last see the light. Recently, we have instituted a three-year course. A student going to a university for three years can obtain a degree, whether it is a pass degree or honours degree. A student going to a training college for three years will leave with the ordinary Ministry of Education parchment, but without any degree qualification.
Geographically, we are a small community. No training college is far removed from a university. It is proposed to expand the university system. It should not be beyond the wit of government to see that in future training colleges are associated or affiliated with a university or degree-giving authority so that at the end of three years student teachers can be given a degree in education. The content of the course can be changed if necessary. I am enunciating the principle.
§ Mr. Jennings
I agree, but I said it long before Robbins; so did the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King). We have advocated this for years. Robbins has simply reiterated what the hon. Gentleman and I have said for years. I am delighted that this proposal is in the Robbins Report. That is why I am "plugging" it now, particularly as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is here, listening so graciously to the debate. It is a great pleasure to 107 see him here. When the Government's policy on the Robbins Report is made known, I hope that what I have advocated will be done at last.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
I am sure the hon. Member would like to know the difference between what he is proposing and what Robbins suggests. Robbins suggests a four-year course.
§ Mr. Jennings
I am grateful for the intervention, because I had that in mind. I believe that it must be done gradually. We must recognise that the natural corollary would be a four-year course. We should take advantage of the three-year course now and make a start towards an all-graduate profession.
For years I have foreseen, as many others have, that in time, with the developments which have taken place, the burden of education on local rates will be far too great. The Government must examine the financing of education. I have said in the House many times that a start should be made by taking some of the expenditure away from local authorities and placing it on the central Exchequer. I shall be told immediately that the same people pay. We should be spreading the load if we did that. I have suggested many times that we should start with teachers' salaries. If it is wrong in principle to make the central Exchequer responsible 100 per cent, for teachers' salaries, let us make it responsible for 95 per cent., with local authorities finding 5 per cent., thus giving them the autonomy which they are afraid they will lose.
I have a long memory. Over the years education was a Cinderella under all Governments. I am thankful that in these post-war years education is no longer the Cinderella, either of the social services or of the Ministries. It is abundantly apparent from the Gracious Speech that education is a first priority if we are to survive as a competitive nation in a competitive world.
I am delighted to read in the Gracious Speech a reference to our relationships with Europe. The Gracious Speech says that the Government willseek harmonious relationships with the European Economic Community and its member States. They will work for the strength and 108 unity of Europe, through the Council of Europe and the Western European Union.In the Common Market controversy, I was one of the Members who fought strenuously against joining on the conditions offered to us. I went beyond that. I was afraid of the political and constitutional consequences. I shall now state my personal view. It does not matter to me whether it is the view of the party Whips or the party hierarchy. I say quite bluntly that I hope that these words in the Gracious Speech mean what they say and that there will be no more nonsense in this Parliament about our joining the Common Market.
I come from a mixed constituency. The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) knows it well. It has a country market town, Uttoxeter, and a large expanse of agricultural land. Although our main interest in Burton is beer, we have other interests in the division. The other important industry is agriculture. In the whole economic history of the world agriculture has been the largest single industry. It has employed more people than any other industry. By its demands it has kept other industries going. History has shown that, if agriculture languishes, the rest of the economy languishes.
This is a vital industry. I am glad that over the years Governments have carried out a system of price support. The Labour Government were responsible for the 1947 Act, which has been continued by the Conservatives. I urge the Government to continue with the good work and, despite criticism, protect and safeguard this vital industry.
The Gracious Speech is significant not only for what it contains, but for what it omits. No Government programme for a year or longer can contain everything which hon. Members would like to see done. However, I was interested to read the paragraph beginningMy Ministers will ensure that economic growth is matched by social advance.Included in any social advance must be consideration of the position of pensioners. It is right and proper, as the Government have continually recognised, that pensioners of all descriptions should receive their fair share of the country's increased material wealth. I hope that, in this connection, the Government will bear in mind the present 109 earnings rule and, if they will not abolish it altogether, which I would like to see happen, at least do away with a lot of the viciousness contained in it.
I hope that the social advance referred to will include the plight of what we used to call the 10s. widows. It is time that this anomaly, affecting a dwindling population, was removed and that these widows were absorbed into the ambit of pensioners generally. I hope that the Government will also consider the earnings rule in relation to the arbitrary division which occurs at the age of 50, along with the whole question of retired public servants. I have been interested in this subject for many years and I hope that the Government will initiate a scheme which will prevent our having to introduce Pensions (Increase) Acts every two or three years. Retired public servants should have their pensions brought in line with modern conditions and should be treated as if they retired now.
With these qualifications I commend the Gracious Speech and give it practically my wholehearted support.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)
I have read the Queen's Speech and have noted not only what it contains but what is omitted. I am wondering if it is the sort of Government programme the Prime Minister says it is or whether it is an imaginary one.
Misleading statements often appear to the effect that the North-East is to be provided for. The fact is that an even larger region is affected. When the Report covering this area is published next Thursday we will have a lot more of the facts. In the meantime, it should be remembered that the northern region includes West Cumberland as well. Do the Government feel that we who live west of the North-East are being provided for, or are we too far west of the area generally called the North-East? We in West Cumberland have been neglected in the past. We are determined not to be neglected in the future.
When the North-West is spoken of it seems that West Cumberland is too far to the north and the area hit by unemployment about which we hear so much seems to end half way up Lancashire. West Cumberland is an important part of this area of the country. It has often 110 been said, particularly in connection with the defence programme, that but for West Cumberland many things would not have been achieved. I have in mind Calder Hall.
In Aspatria, Maryport and Workington the unemployment rate is running at 5 per cent., and 297 boys and girls are out of work. In Whitehaven, my constituency, 170 boys and girls are out of work and the total unemployed population is now 1,015. The average unemployment figure in my constituency is 4.2 per cent. In Workington it is 5 per cent. In some parts of West Cumberland—parts of Workington, Maryport and Cleator Moor—the unemployment rate is running at 9 per cent. No mention is made of this corner of the nation either in the Gracious Speech or in the remarks of the Prime Minister today.
Why should West Cumberland be excluded from the calculations of the Government? Or have the Government decided to ignore us;that our men and women and boys and girls can remain unemployed—boys and girls who have been unemployed for twelve months and who have never held a job since leaving school? Do the Government wish the unemployed of West Cumberland to leave their homes and sell their houses if they can and obtain jobs in the South of England? Is the Prime Minister aware that many of those who are in employment in my constituency are receiving less than £10 a week, despite our being told that the average weekly wage in Britain is £16?
We read in the Gracious Speech that the number of scientists and engineers will be increased. At Windscale and Calder Hall men are now being told that they will become redundant and will receive redundancy pay. Here are men whose skill and capability has been responsible for the production of pure plutonium, much of which has been exported. Do the Government intend to allow these men to be thrown on the scrap heap while, at the same time, making arrangements for more scientists and engineers to be trained to help in our export drive? At Calder Hall the technicians are available. They have the "know-how" and there is nothing to stop the Government from spending more money in the area. What about a new advanced air-cooled reactor? The new advanced gas-cooled reactor will
111 greatly assist the unemployed in Sea-scale and in the Whitehaven division.
The Government claim that an expanded export trade is vitally necessary if a lot of things are to be done. There could be a lot of expansion in West Cumberland. More trade could be developed with Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and other places if the docks at Whitehaven and Maryport were enlarged and modernised. A private firm has now started a number of sailings from Whitehaven in an effort to increase trade, but that could be still further increased by the spending of Government money. If the docks were expanded in this way an opportunity of employment would be provided for men and women in that area.
It appears, that, once past Lancaster and Carnforth, the next place is Carlisle. The whole of West Cumberland has been forgotten in the past, but if the West Coast road could be extended, developed and broadened, greater opportunites would be given for employment and, in addition, the export drive that could be undertaken in the Whitehaven division would be encouraged.
I should like the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade to see to it that more industry comes to West Cumberland as a whole. We are in the northern region for labour exchanges, and if a White Paper can be issued, perhaps on 14th November, dealing with the North-East, surely a White Paper could be published outlining proposals to ease the unemployment situation in West Cumberland. The people there can stand this sort of thing for so long but they will not stand for it all the time. They feel that this Government have put them in a position to draw unemployment benefit until there is a means test but they will not stand for that all the time, and will make it plain to the Government that they will not be neglected.
Certain omissions from the Gracious Speech have already been mentioned and I do not intend to dwell greatly on them. One concerns ex-Service men. Amended Regulations might have been brought in by the Government. Sunday last was Remembrance Day, and at war 112 memorials throughout the country we heard the words of the great poem: "…We will remember them.I wonder what a large number of ex-Service men in receipt of unemployment benefit, pension or perhaps National Assistance thought of those words when their pension was raised from 30s to 40s. and they were told that, as a result, they could not have any more money from the National Assistance Board? I know of no alteration in the Regulations that will give help to ex-Service men, not only in my division—although I have had two or three cases there and have had to plead for something extra to be given to them by the National Assistance Board to help them over this winter—and I hope that the Government will note that the present Regulations are operating against our ex-Service men, who have been the saviours of the country on more than one occasion.
I want to reinforce the pleas made on behalf of the 10s. widow. That woman at present has 10s., and what she earns, but if she were to be given a pension equivalent to that of other pensioners she would feel that she was part of the nation which her husband helped to make great. Another pension matter that seems to have been forgotten in the turmoil of other things isthat when a woman has lost her husband she starts to buy insurance stamps. She may have paid for those stamps for 8, 9, 10 or 12 years, but the Regulations state very definitely that the number of years from 1948 to the present time shall be divided intothe total value of the stamps she has bought and that that fraction shall be the basis of the amount of pension to which she is entitled. There is no reference in the Gracious Speech to any alteration in those Regulations, although it would assist people to lead a decent and a good life. Finally, I repeat that the people of West Cumberland will not forget that they have been omitted from the Gracious Speech on this occasion.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his argument. I thought that he made a very sincere and thoughtful speech on the problems of his area and I hope very much that some of the policies mentioned in the Gracious
113 Speech will help in solving these problems, I endorse what he said about Service pensions, although I believe that the Government have a good record there.
I want to look at one or two wider issues, and take, first, the nuclear deterrent which was spoken of by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and which, perhaps, occasioned some heat on both sides.
I am sorry that the nuclear deterrent has become a party issue, because although there appears to be a clear-cut division between us I am not sure whether it is as clear as all that. An hon. Member opposite said that some hon. Members on this side of the House were against it. I disagree with them, but it is true that some are. Though I confess I could not name one, I should not be surprised if some hon. Members opposite were for it, because it is not so long since the late Leader of the Opposition was arguing in favour of it.
I never quite see the logic of some hon. Members opposite who argue that because Blue Streak was dropped an independent nuclear deterrent is, therefore, no longer feasible. We have the V-bomber force which I am sure it will be agreed is independent.
§ Mr. Rankin
Surely the hon. and gallant Member will recollect that the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in his own Government declared that the bomber force would be obsolescent by 1965.
§ Captain Elliot
I was going to deal with that point in a moment. I entirely agree. A military weapon, almost as soon as it is produced, becomes obsolescent, but the fact remains that we still have a V-bomber force. I will deal with that.
§ Captain Elliot
Hon. Members opposite might ponder on the fact that if a Socialist Government comes into power they are not going to drop the V-bomber force. They will keep it and it will be there for three, four, or five years. That seems illogical to me. If it is no good, why not drop it at once? The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) argued, and I think that many 114 hon. Members opposite have done the same, that the possession of a nuclear force by this country encouraged other countries to have it also. I do not believe that that is the case. I do not believe that if we dropped it China would drop her ambition to have it. I do not believe that France would slacken her efforts to get it. I cannot accept that argument.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said this afternoon that it enabled us to take our place at the conference table. On another occasion he said that it enabled us to assert our influence on the side of reason, and in a speech last night he said that the whole world was looking to us to do this. I believe profoundly that the countries of the world look to this country to do this, whereas they do not look to other countries which I shall not name.
Let us not forget that the real reason for the nuclear deterrent is to deter. To take up die point made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), I believe that if our nuclear weapons do not deter, either because there are not enough of them or because they are obsolescent, then they are dangerous and expensive and we might as well get rid of them. It may be argued that the V-bomber force does not deter, but I do not know on what one would base that argument. One would have to have a great deal of inside and expert knowledge to reach a decision on that, but whether it does or not it is becoming obsolescent.
I believe that if we replace that force with the Polaris submarine, backed by the TSR2 aircraft, if successful, our deterrent will deter. We must remember that this country does not need a vast nuclear force like that of America to deter Russia. We need only enough to inflict unacceptable damage on that country.
§ Captain Elliot
Let me put the matter to the hon. Member very simply. If Norway, for example, possessed one Polaris submarine, and we were at daggers drawn with that country, there is nothing that we could gain from 115 Norway which would compensate us for the damage which she could inflict on this country with one nuclear submarine.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I was trying to find the logic in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's case. He said that wein this country did not need the vast nuclear forces that America needs as a deterrent, and I took that remark in the context of our relationship with Soviet Russia. If it is true that we in this country need only a small measure of nuclear power to be a deterrent because of the annihilation prospects of our smaller nuclear unit, it is equally true to say that the United States needs only the same measure of nuclear power as a deterrent. The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He supports the vast nuclear deterrent of the United States and then argues that if we have only one little bomb we are just as strong.
§ Captain Elliot
May I put it in another way? Perhaps I did not make myself clear. Let us take countries like China, Russia, the United States and ourselves. If China were hostile to all three of us, that country might be prepared to accept 70 per cent, of its industry being wiped out if it wiped out the whole of the United States industry. It certainly would not accept 70 per cent, of its industry being destroyed in order to wipe out this country. I do not know whether that makes my point any clearer.
§ Captain Elliot
I will not delay the House on this point, because I do not want to deal with the nuclear deterrent any further.
I want to come now to the theme of modernisation and of planning in the Gracious Speech. An hon. Member opposite said that in the mouths of hon. Members on this side of the House "planning" is a dirty word. What he should have said is that our approach to planning is different from that of hon. Members opposite. They say that we do not accept the idea of planning. I should like to draw their attention to what I believe is one of the most sensitive and responsive plans the world has ever seen—that devised by private enter- 116 prise. I ask hon. Members why, when they want two pints of milk, they find two pints on the doorstep in the morning, and, if they want four pints, they get four pints? If they want none, no milk is left on the doorstep. That demand goes right back to the point at which the milk is produced. If there are goods in shop windows for which there is no demand, why do they disappear to be replaced by goods which people will buy?
Behind all this is the commercial structure, finance, the banks, the docks, the ships ploughing the seas half way round the world bringing to this country raw materials and finished goods to satisfy the consumer demand. That is the private enterprise plan. The consumer decides what is going to be bought, and his needs are satisfied. As I see it, hon. Members opposite want to drive a bulldozer through that plan. They want to put a rigid framework round it. On the other hand, we on this side of the House want to create the environment within which that plan can work.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said that the word "modernisation" in the Gracious Speech was an indictment of the Government. He asked why, if there had been a demand for this, had we not done it before? I cannot follow the logic of that remark. Modernisation is a continuing process, going on all the time. It is absurd to say that one can modernise one year and do nothing the next. One hon. Member said that the point is that the modernisation envisaged is not enough. Of course it is not enough. It never is. On education, on roads, or anything else, it is never enough and never will be enough.
The great thing is that we should do all we can, and, in the words of the Gracious Speech, that we should have growth without inflation. If we try to do too much, we get inflation, and inflation causes more injustice and hardship than anything else. I hope that the growth without inflation spoken of in the Gracious Speech is what we shall get, however unpopular we may be in obtaining it.
§ Captain Elliot
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who mentions the name of the Leader of the House has read during the last week the remarks in the journal of O.E.C.D. about this country. It says that we are the one country in which incomes and production have been kept in line. It gives us a pat on the back, and I believe that much credit for this is due to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd).
§ Captain Elliot
I turn now to a problem which affects my constituency and others on the fringe of London. I was glad to see the references to transport in the Gracious Speech, but the problem which affects us on the fringe is to a considerable extent, I believe, caused by the success of the Minister of Transport in getting traffic in central London moving.
As a result of what is happening at the centre, problems are building up in the outer areas. We have our rush hours and long traffic blocks. Pedestrians have difficulty in crossing the roads. We are having trouble in establishing pedestrian crossings and getting traffic lights with an "all red" phase. The police tell us that there is not a constant flow of traffic throughout the day and that, therefore, we cannot have the pedestrian crossings which we want. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will bear this problem in mind and deal with it before very long.
We are told in the Gracious Speech that the Government are in consultation with the unions and the employers about severance payments for employees. Sometimes, hon. Members opposite are inclined to imagine that we on this side do not know much about the men who work at the bench, on the shop floor, or in the mines. I have not been very long in industry—two or three years, and some connections, also, in the last job I had—but I know that they are exactly the same men whether they wear light blue, dark blue, khaki, or overalls, or, indeed, whether they are covered with coal dust.
§ Captain Elliot
The hon. Gentleman says that, and we all know the problems. But the men are exactly the same, and I believe that I understand their feelings very well in these matters. I entirely agree that one of the greatest causes of irrational behaviour in industrial relations is fear of being out of a job and fear of financial hardship. If we could get rid of that fear the results might be quite astounding. However, I do not believe that the solution will come from private industry. After all, the problem often arises because a firm is going out of business or is having to reduce its labour force. That is when it is in the most acute financial situation and when it is least likely to be able to afford severance payments.
The Government are engaged in these discussions and I believe that they must take a leading part in providing resources for severance payments. One could argue that unemployment benefit in itself is a severance payment. Perhaps we might consider a payment which would taper away gradually or the provision of a lump sum on severance of employment, or some scheme like that, but I do not believe the solution will come only from private industry.
One aspect of modernisation which is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech—perhaps rightly so—is a problem which will emerge more and more in the future—the modernisation of social benefits. I believe that, with rising prosperity and rising wages, more and more people can and will want to do things for themselves. Occasionally, hon. Members opposite give me the impression that as a matter of principle they believe that everybody should have the same and that there is a catch in it if everybody does not. I do not really believe that they think that. I am quite sure that they believe, as I do, that those who need most help should get the most.
I believe that, basically, what people want is to be able to earn enough to save for themselves and pay for what they want. One often hears of cases of people too proud to seek National Assistance. They do not want it because they believe that it would be a slur on them. I believe that people 119 want to be able to do things for themselves. That time has not come yet and it may be a long way off, but I believe we should be thinking about it now.
I was very glad to see the reference in the Gracious Speech to rating relief, but was disappointed that the terms were so narrow. It said… providing relief to certain householders suffering hardship from increased rates as the result of revaluation of their houses.There is a lot of hardship because of the rate burden and it comes not only from revaluation of houses. I hope that, when rating relief is considered in more detail, it can be made over a much broader field. It seems that there are two aspects to this. First, there is the need to assist those in poverty—people who just have not got the money to feed, clothe and warm themselves. For these cases even an additional few pounds on the rates is a very serious problem.
There are cases also, for instance, where people have bought their houses, whose children have grown up and left and who have budgeted for their needs in living a reasonably comfortable life in retirement. When rates suddenly go up their budget is upset. It may be that they are not suffering poverty, but they are certainly suffering hardship. I hope that such cases will also be considered. I believe that the proposal for rating relief gives the Government the opportunity to help the local authorities financially without divesting them of their responsibilities.
I hope that the Government will make this concession the beginning of a great scheme. In spite of these small objections, I believe that the policies in the Gracious Speech are dynamic, courageous and will tax our resources to the utmost. I hope that they do not tax them too far.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton(Captain W. Elliot) will not think me discourteous if I do not comment on his interesting speech in detail.
There are many graphic records which bring our interest to bear on the
120 honoured ceremony which accompanies the opening of Parliament. By taking full account of the Gracious Speech from the Throne one is able to catch the first glimpse of the Government's intentions in the forthcoming Session. Therefore, I am interested to note that the Gracious Speech refers to recommendations for further developments in the North-East.
Those of us who are representatives of constituencies in the North-East are anxiously awaiting the presentation of the Government's White Paper on that area. We are keenly anxious to learn what the Government's plans are to reduce unemployment by creating new jobs with the introduction of new industries and making the economy thriving by endeavouring to halt the serious migration of population to other parts of the country. We shall certainly study the proposals to which the Government are prepared to commit themselves. It will be our purpose to evaluate the proposals so far as they can be implemented in various parts of the area.
Nevertheless, we fully appreciate the magnitude of the task which faces the North-East. I think it is safe to say that every great period of social and economic upheaval has invariably led to a great change in the mode of thinking. Everyone of our generation who has the mental capacity to understand the great changes which we have witnessed in our lifetime will agree that those changes are far greater than the changes which took place in the long period from the fall of Rome to the outbreak of the 1914–18 war.
There is nothing which can offer any parallel to the period in which weare now living. The modern doctrine of economy is only one long chain of consequences, but the changes which these have already effected outweigh anything previously experienced. Whatever our activities lead us to think, I believe that nothing can be more out of place than trying to make comparisons between what was instituted in society fifty years ago and the present time, for the simple reason that in their great wave of industrial expansion advanced nations are inevitably submerging many of the old landmarks of society. The past may be history and sometimes it affords us pleasure in the pastime of idle moments, but nothing happens without cause and 121 nothing happens without leaving behind some results or consequences.
I agree that progress is a necessity from which there is no escape, but in many instances progress in the North-East has been suspended for some time now, especially in the great iron and steel industry, in engineering, the shipyards and coal mining. Looking around us, we find that economic changes have been extraordinary. This presents many disturbing features which can hardly fail to lead to the conviction that no limit can be set to the direction where our duty lies.
It is almost startling to be reminded of the contrast between the rate of industrial growth in the south of England and areas like my own constituency where the livelihood of so many people is continually threatened by the economic shifting of the competitive system, posing as it does the most acute social and economic problems for the families concerned,
I think that the first step towards obtaining any true grasp of social and economic problems must be to look fairly in the face the facts which lie behind them. Any unwarranted assumption would be an error, but, in contradistinction, the adverse changes of experienced facts oblige us to view the prospects of the future with some disturbing concern.
Just as the economic side dominates the situation, so we cannot accept blindly any activity that is aimed towards a retrograde step. Whether or not a little observation is made, we are forced to face problems which have become accentuated in providing alternative employment, particularly in view of the painful process of disintegration which the mining industry is going through at the present time, representing as it does unmitigated confusion.
We have been told by the former Prime Minister that the solution to our difficulties in the North-East lies entirely in our own hands, and over the last twelve months the North-East Development Council, in spite of the difficulties, has striven very hard to work out its salvation. Its work has been of tremendous significance. It has succeeded in the major task of welding together different parts of the region into one that completes the North-East.
122 It may be natural that the North-East is receiving more national attention than ever before, for the reason that when people think in terms of redundancy the North-East comes to their minds. One could only wish it could be otherwise, because that would mean no unemployment problem, but, circumstances being as they are, we must make it more apparent than ever that the North-East is not to be written off economically. There are a number of factors which prove that it has a sound basic structure with a high potential to promote economic development in removing the black spots of redundancy.
We recognise that we cannot escape the hard fact that the real source of our difficulties cannot be solved by the North-East Development Council alone. It also needs activity which only Government help can bring. Government help has been asked for time and time again, both to underline and to support a programme of growth and development.
It seems to me that by endeavouring to solve the problems of industrial civilisation it would permit an adequate perspective of its true relation to human welfare, but one of the most terrible aspects of life alarms us when we come to think of the future for unemployed youths whose disastrous start in life is consigned to idleness, and who are constantly enmeshed in its attendant evils. I believe that unemployed youths must be saved from the dreaded consequences of idleness, quickly and at all costs, because when they leave school and are expected to make a way for themselves in the world they meet problems which render them increasingly conscious of the way in which their lives and their young hopes become frustrated. There are none who know so well as those workers who shoulder the full burden of a long-contained demoralisation which is brought about by unemployment that nothing can more thoroughly undermine or make impossible people's confidence in the future.
In general we have looked for guidance and assistance to devise ways and means to achieve a full measure of civilised living. We hope that in relation to present demands a sense of urgency will be expressed, and that the industrial value of the workers will be recognised in any organised plan for industrial change. It is in the grip of 123 such a situation that we want to be able to say that remedial action is being taken against the scourge of unemployment. We expect the purpose of any new strategy to be to supply the means by which people can retain their economic status instead of being made to feel a liability upon society. Whatever other characteristics we may expect to be associated with the need for industrial growth, or to proceed from industrial growth, if employment is to grow at the rate we require, so that we fill the vital gap in our industrial pattern—and if we are to build something in the nature of a transitional economic status, setting a task which we should be capable of carrying through some unavoidable difficulties—we shall need substantially greater support between now and 1970.
It is not too much to say that increased production and employment are inseparably bound up with the desire for a happy and prosperous people, able to take their place in useful production, but from this point forward, when we proceed to scrutinise what is needed to boost production and relieve unemployment, we would expect employment in the North-East to expand at the rate of 4 per cent., which is the target set by the National Economic Development Council.
Let me take my constituency of Blaydon as an example. It is scheduled as a development district, but it has inherited the wreckage of former prosperous industries, and because it was unprepared for this terrible dislocation, unemployment and the fear of further redundancy has inevitably followed. It is beyond question that everyone wants to know what can be done for the best. Can we, or can we not, improve the outlook? With things drifting from bad to worse, everything is uncertain, and demands for alternative employment must continually be made.
I would not go so far as to say that nothing has been done. Local authorities are doing their best. They are trying to take effective action in co-operation with the Board of Trade. But the relatively slow progress proves that not nearly enough has been done to fulfil the urgent need to offset the rapidly declining industries, and the need for protective measures to be brought for- 124 ward in the interests of workers who are thrown upon the industrial scrap heap. It is essential to concentrate exclusively on this main task by bringing about changes which will salvage derelict industries and create a planned system of industrialisation.
Planning naturally comes first in the order of progress, especially when it endeavours to solve the cruel and difficult problem of redundancy, the location of industry, and economic policy in general, but whatever the object may be it is clear that the job of industrialists is to control the policy of industry—to decide what forms production shall take, and many other matters that are vital to the successful conduct of business. In a very real sense this is an age of big business. During the past ten years we have witnessed the formation, one after another, of gigantic combinations of commercial and industrial interests, each of which has come to be virtually supreme in its field. I am in favour of an economic order based on different principles and a different appeal to human motives, and I believe that the days of our present trials will not pass without a challenge to our chaotic system. It is easy to prophesy what is behind the Government's belated new thinking. It is the need for the Tories to look adventurous, modern and progressive, in an extensive publicity campaign.
In the great tasks which we see immediately before us, we are conscious of the economic struggle, mainly through its effect on our own country and on ourselves. In this connection, it was reported in the national Press yesterday that Mr. George Ball, the United States Under-Secretary of State, is coming to Britain. It is understood that his mission is to persuade this country and other United States allies not to seek too much trade with the Russians. I think that it should also be made well known that Western Germany is meeting with success in its drive for trade with the eastern bloc countries. It is reported that they have signed agreements to exchange big permanent trade missions with Hungary. Similar agreements have already been signed with Poland and Roumania, and further efforts are expected to be made with other Eastern countries.
125 But in view of the need to increase exports, which has been talked about quite a lot this evening, and to acquire new markets, and in view of the sentence in the Gracious SpeechMy Ministers are determined to maintain the expansion of the economy in all parts of the country based on a high and stable level of employment".I think that the Government should also be equally serious by standing firm and steadfast and making it clear to the Americans that we want more trade with the Russians and the Eastern countries.
Coming back to constituency problems, we especially note the remarks of the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade when speaking to the annual gathering of the Institute of Directors on 6th November. Speaking of his responsibilities for regional development, it is interesting to note that the Government may have a new regional concept in mind and that we may get a shock when the White Paper for the North-East is published, with development districts being pushed to one side.
It is the development districts that stand in need of industrial readjustment by proper systematic forward planning of industry to reduce redundancy. After all, development districts were created by unemployment being over a certain figure, or likely to persist, or where there is an imminent threat and danger of large-scale unemployment.
If it is possible to bring about the restoration of industry, so much the better. Anything gained is something gained. But evidently the Government are desperately anxious to acquire a new posture. We shall have to wait and see whether the new election strategy is just another political gimmick. Further to that, it is rather late in the day to await whatever the Government's new thinking on policy for the North-East may be, but as we are now within measurable distance of the next General Election, we on this side of the House are looking forward to putting our precepts, into practice. In face of the many complex tasks, in an endeavour to overcome them, we would hope, with the ultimate object, to strive to pursue a policy of consistent and persistent 126 challenge, based upon the control of powers that are receptive to new ideas if given the responsibility to do so.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) since I represent a constituency which could hardly be further from the North-East, there being only two constituencies between mine and Land's End in the extreme South-West.
I welcome the Gracious Speech. There are many points in it which are relevant to the South-West. We should be interestedin legislation to improve the position of industrial training. Contrary to popular belief, Cornwall is not only an agricultural and tourist county. Historically, it is a mining area. One hundred years ago and earlier many Cornish people were engaged in mining. There is still a substantial engineering mining machinery works in the area and there is also the important china clay industry. A great many Cornish youths have a particular interest in engineering. Most of them have to find employment elsewhere than in Cornwall so that for them training is a matter of concern.
My constituents would be interested in legislation to secure the ordered development of major ports under a National Ports Council. We have not a major port in Cornwall, but there are a number of smaller ports. I have particularly in mind Parr Harbour, in my constituency. The rationalisation of ports as a whole and the conditions of work there are matters of interest to my constituents provided that a National Ports Council would not interfere too much with the details of small port administration.
My constituents would be interested in any proposal to prevent imports from undermining agricultural markets and the adaptation of guarantee arrangements, particularly in respect of fatstock. Legislation designed for the well-being of the horticultural industry would commend itself to them, and a welcome would be extended to arrangements with European countries to discuss fishing problems including the question of access to fishing grounds and markets. There has been a lot of trouble in the South-West because of the encroachment by foreign vessels on the fishing grounds 127 of our fishermen. Questions of compensation to victims of violence would also interest my constituents.
Hon. Members have criticised the Government and hon. Members on this side of the House regarding modernisation. I wish to comment on that with particular reference to the subject in which I take a great interest, namely, transport. There, modernisation has been going on for a considerable time. It is my experience that this country is the only one in Europe which is tackling the matter in the right way. There are transport crises all over the world. Air and shipping lines are subsidised although there is a surplus of shipping in the world. Railways are running at a loss and they are under-used.
Everywhere there is congestion on the roads, to such an extent, particularly in towns, that traffic is brought to a standstill unless elaborate and expensive methods are used to avoid this. Various methods have been tried by different countries to solve these problems. In some cases the steps taken may appear advanced when compared with what has been done in this country. But there are other countries which are well behind us in their efforts to tackle various problems and in no country is the problem as a whole being tackled in the manner in which this country is attempting to tackle it.
I do not think that it is generally appreciated that we are examining the problem in its different aspects and building up a picture. We began with the Rochdale Report on docks. Our transport does not stop at the coast because we live on an island. We depend on exports and imports. It is, therefore, important to ensure that conditions in the docks are satisfactory.
We had Sir Robert Hall's Report on The Transport Needs of Great Britain In The Next Twenty Years. Unfortunately, that Report has not had much attention paid to it although it is one which we should consider. Then we had the Beeching Report. It was not about making the railways pay, but was on how to revise the modernisation programme which had already been in existence, and how to remodel the railways to a pattern which would fit the modern age. That is what Dr. Beeching was 128 asked to do and we see that in the first sentence of his Report. Soon we are to have Professor Colin Buchanan's report on roads.
If we consider those four Reports together, we have the possibility of building up a co-ordinated transport system.
§ Mr. Rankin
I think that the hon. Member would agree that we need to put the Kilbrandon Report along with them.
§ Mr. Wilson
There have been all sorts of Reports. There was one about traffic signs. We are not dealing with this matter piecemeal, as many countries are doing.
The Leader of the Opposition, I believe, certainly some hon. Members opposite, asked the Prime Minister whether the statement he had made about the closure of Scottish railway lines applied to railway lines in England and Wales. I think that they did not remember what was said in this House. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said in his statement on the Beeching Report, on 27th March:Under the Transport Act, 1962, each proposal must be published in advance. Objections can be made to the transport users' consultative committees, which will report to me on any hardship involved.No opposed closure may be carried out without my consent, and I shall take into account all important factors, including social and defence considerations, the pattern of industrial development and possible effects on roads and road traffic.He went on to say:I shall see that, where necessary, adequate alternative means of transport are available before a railway passenger closure takes place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1963; Vol. 674, c. 1320.]What is more, that promise has been implemented in at least one case in which a railway closure was refused.
§ Mr. Manuel
We have crossed swords on this before. Does the hon. Member realise that the Beeching Report listed variousbranch lines and stations to be closed, but that now we have other Reports which are to set an industrial pattern, although the pattern is already set and in many places the industrial potential has been knocked out because of lines being closed?
§ Mr. Wilson
None of the Beeching proposals can be carried out until they have been through this procedure under the Transport Act, 1962.
§ Mr. Wilson
That is not the end of the story. A railway in my constituency was closed, not under the Beeching proposals but before the Beeching Report was published. It was the branch line between Chacewater and Newquay. That was done under the old procedure after apublic hearing by the area transport users' consultative committee at which local authorities were represented by counsel—my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). After the public hearing, the committee recommended that the line should be closed subject to there being alternative bus services. It added a proviso that it would like the matter to be referred to it again after six months.
The committee had no authority to ask for the matter to be referred back to it either under the old or the new procedure, but there is a provision to do so in the 1962 Act and I requested that it should be referred back. The Minister has agreed that it should be so referred back. It is now more than six months since that closure took place. My right hon. Friend wrote to me on 8th November as follows:I am writing to let you know that I have now decided that it would be best in this case to ask the area transport users' consultative committee to look into the matter.That is, that the allegation that hardship has not been met by the bus services.I have therefore referred the question to them for a report in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 11(4) of the seventh schedule of the Transport Act, 1962.Thus, the Minister has power to refer the matter back to the area transport users' consultative committee even though it has already been before the committee. That, it seems to me, will meet the case of any Scottish railways which may have been prematurely closed, if that is the allegation. We are amply covered in all these matters.
I have great pleasure in welcoming the Gracious Speech.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr.Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
A number of hon. Members have referred to the agricultural industry, and I think that it is beyond controversy that we must sustain a healthy 130 agricultural industry in this country. But I begin to wonder whether people have carried their arguments far enough as to the role and responsibility of the agricuJtural worker, whose interests, it seems to me, are always subordinated to other economic factors. The average Conservative supporter seems to visualise the agricultural part of the country as filled with big fat pheasants, an enormous amount of mechanical equipment and as few workers as possible. But do they realise that the average age of the workers in agriculture is rising steadily? There is a shortage of the younger entrant into the industry.
What is the cause? It is that the conditions of work and, chiefly, the pay of the industry do not attract young me in sufficient numbers. There is a continual drift away of the young and not-so-young. The older element dare not leave the agricultural industry because they are not trained for factory work. Until we realise that the agricultural wage must be equated with the average industrial wage, this wasting process will continue.
It is a great pity that those people who attack the economics of the industry and talk about the industry receiving too many subsidies do not bear in mind that every increase in agricultural production makes a saving in the imports bill. But we shall not save in imports if in due course there is a shortage of skilled agricultural workers—and we are moving head on towards that position.
I plead with the Government to take this problem seriously and to try to change the mental attitude of people towards the agricultural wage. It is a mental attitude which seems to regard the agricultural worker as nothing but a semi-skilled worker in a poor industry. People seem to think that life in the country is cheap. It is not. It costs more, for instance, for the wife of an agricultural worker to get into the good shops in the nearest town. The old-fashioned ideas of agricultural workers being given free milk and free produce are no longer true in 90 per cent, of the cases. I am not talking necessarily about housing, but the amenities which go to make life a little more pleasant are lacking in the countryside, and to that extent the agricultural worker is being
131 grossly underpaid. The whole thing is illogical in view of the place of agriculture in the total national economy.
For some years past I have interested myself in the utilisation of land. This started when I attended and asked questions at a public inquiry held to consider the appropriation of land by the Atomic Energy Authority, some years ago, for the establishment of the Brad-well nuclear power station. I was shocked when the chief witness for the Authority stated that he had no information about available land held by other Government Departments which might be used for this purpose instead of the farming land the subject of the proposed compulsory purchase order, an order which eventually went through. For some years past I have approached various Prime Ministers to see whether they felt satisfied that there was sufficient inter-departmental consultation about the use and economy of land.
This is a land-hungry nation. I have been interested to notice the reaction of Conservative propagandists in my part of the Midlands and in my constituency when I have advocated the Labour Party's policy of taking steps to stop speculation in land. The reaction of Conservative propagandists has not been, "If you can think of some scheme to prevent inflation prices we will listen to it". Their first reaction has been—I now quote—"Will the Labour Party pay cash for the land it takes over for a Land Commission?" The interests of the people who want land at reasonable prices for housing and the interest of local education authorities which want land on which to build more schools are to be subordinated—a typically Conservative way of thinking—to the interests of the land speculators.
In my constituency of Lichfield there is an area surrounding the city which at present is scheduled as agricultural land. Sooner or later it must be scheduled for residential purposes. Sooner or later part of the land must be used to build new schools on. Yet if it is scheduled for residential purposes the purchase price of the land will rise about tenfold. This is the logical result of successive Conservative laws aimed at the abolition of the original conception of 132 betterment envisaged in the Uthwatt Report.
We are now paying for this Conservative policy. Many hon. Members will have read the interesting analysis of the expenditure per pupil in various counties and county boroughs contained in—I make no apology for this—last Sunday's Illustrated Supplement to the Sunday Times. A careful examination of the figures impresses one with the fact that in those examples of county and county borough expenditure there is reflected the cost of school building, that being adversely affected by the grossly inflated prices of land.
In my examination of the use of land I have approached the Minister of Defence for two successive years for an analysis of the amount of land held by the Service Departments. Latterly I have been investigating also the amount of land held by the non-Service Departments. I do not propose to burden the House too long with an analysis of land held by the non-Service Departments because the vast bulk of it is agricultural land held for agricultural purposes. I do not quarrel with that.
I want to draw the attention of the House to the amount of land held by the Service Departments. I will give some figures. Take, for example, land held by the War Office. In my inquiries I asked the Minister of Defence how much land was held by the War Office, excluding barracks and holdings of less than 50 acres. I was told, believe it or not, that in the United Kingdom, excluding Northern Ireland, the War Office holds nearly 389,000 acres. No doubt many hon. Members will be telling themselves that much of it is in remote parts of Wales, Scotland and elsewhere. This is not so, but I will come to that later.
The Air Ministry holds more than 17,000 acres, excluding barracks, airfields and holdings under 50 acres. The Navy, the Admiralty, far from reducing its holding of land, has increased it in the last year and now has 44,000 acres, excluding airfields, barracks, harbours and holdings of less than 50 acres.
These are fantastic figures in a country which is short of land. No hon. Member wants to restrict the land which is necessary for our national defence. But is there proper economy and inter-departmental consultation? I would like to cite 133 some examples to scotch the idea that all this land is held in northern Scotland and distant parts of Wales. Consider the holdings of the Navy. Why, for example, is it necessary for the Navy to have 11,300 acres in Dorset? We all appreciate that the Navy needs land for the training in amphibious warfare and so on—but surely not 11,000-odd acres in one county.
Also in Dorset the Army holds another 10,000 acres. Appreciating that the Army needs land, does it need it in an area where it could be used for agricultural and residential purposes when there are vast areas of the United Kingdom which would probably be better for the Army's training purposes? It is difficult for the Admiralty to furnish any reasons for these vast holdings of land. In this connection, consider the holdings of the Royal Air Force at Holbeach in Lincolnshire. The R.A.F. there holds 1,000 acres, excluding airfields, barracks and holdings of less than 50 acres. I am speaking of some of the best land in the country and I could go on with this story, citing other examples of land held by Government Departments.
I have asked successive Prime Ministers, beginning with Sir Anthony Eden, to look at this question of interdepartmental land usage. A lot of the trouble stems from the abolition of a Committee which was established by Mr. Attlee, as he was then, which inquired into departmental land use. That Committee was abolished at the time of Critchel Down because, apparently, someone got into a panic.
The holding of land is not restricted to Defence Departments. The Atomic Energy Authority holds, excluding holdings of under 50 acres, more than 8,000 acres—this in a country which is terribly short of land for housebuilding and other purposes, including agriculture. There is an obvious case for urgent attention to be given to this matter.
I turn to a matter arising out of the Beeching Report. I have in mind the farce of inquiries which take place in connection with proposed line and station closures. One does not want to throw out accusations of bad faith, but there is a strong case building up about inadequate, half-hearted evidence, which may be out of date, about the use of stations and the amount of passenger traffic. I am referring, of course, to information brought before inquiries
134 which are held at the instance of the public who may object to proposed closures.
One element of our society continues to suffer by the prejudice that I believe the Government hold against the railways. I refer to the living conditions of some of our railway workers. As we go up and down our great main lines, time after time we see squalid poverty-stricken looking little houses that are, in fact, occupied by railway workers. They are houses largely built in the last century. They have neither indoor sanitation nor hot water supplies. They are built close to the lines and are, for that very reason, not very desirable, but because of the Government's attitude towards the railways, through the Minister of Transport, there is very little hope indeed of these workers getting better housing conditions.
In my constituency, I have the City of Lichfield and also the Lichfield Rural District Council. In the City of Lichfield there are eight of these houses. An attempt was recently made by the local authority concerned to draw the attention of the Ministry of Transport to the fact that these eight houses, which had outside sanitation and no hot water supply or bathrooms, would attract an ordinary housing improvement grant if the Railway Board would pay the rest. The answer was: "No, it is not one of our priorities. Nothing for the time being can be done".
In the Lichfield rural district area, 41 houses coming into the same category were examined. The chief public health inspector reported that of those 41 houses 32 were capable of modernisation and being brought up to normal local authority standards—which are not very high standards; they are not luxury—yet, when appealed to, the Railway Board said in effect:It is true that we shall not be wanting certain of these 41 houses. We shall, in fact, want 30 of them, but we shall not have the money to modernise these except gradually and over a period of years.I think that it would be a great deal more to the credit of Dr. Beeching and his administration if he paid a little more attention to the comfort and living conditions of some of the railway workers than to closing lines about which there has been an inadequate economic survey.
135 I turn to another question concerning land. Why has no action been taken by the Government to implement the recommendation of the 1958 Royal Commission on Common Land to register our common land? This has an importance to local authorities that is sometimes not quite appreciated. In my own constituency, for instance, certain common land was required for the development of an industrial estate. It is poor land, it is not amenity land in the accepted sense of the term, but the very greatest difficulty and delay took place in finding out who was the lord of the manor. In the end, it turned out, for some reason, to be the Corporation of Birmingham.
In November, 1961, the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) asked when the registration was to start, and the then Minister of Agriculture stated that owing to pressure of work it would not be possible to start the registration of these common lands for some time, although he accepted that it was a very important matter.
The matter was again raised in May, 1963, by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). The Parliamentary Secretary then said that owing to pressure on Parliamentary time there had been no time available to introduce the necessary legislation butIt remains our firm intention to legislate for common land registration broadly on the lines of the Royal Commission Report just as soon as Parliamentary time will allow."—[Official Report, 28th May, 1963; Vol. 678, c. 112.]I raised the issue myself in October this year, and the reply was that the Minister had nothing further to add to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey.
It would not take an immense amount of discussion in the House to start this procedure for a registry of common lands. It is a matter, not only of interest but of economic importance, and it is something that the Government might well have included in their programme. I suppose that a debate in the House would not be likely to be more than one of one day.
Lastly, I should like to talk about industry. At this stage of the debate 136 it is not always easy to make new points, but as the representative of a west Midlands constituency I would ask the forbearance of the House if I draw attention to the chaotic state which has arisen in the west Midlands as a result of the high rate of unemployment in other parts of the country. Under an agreement signed five years ago, between the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the City of Birminghamand the overspill receiving local authorities and counties in the west Midlands, there should have been a decanting of industry and of population from Birmingham. The whole thing has been snarled up by the fact that because of high unemployment elsewhere no industrial development certificates, or very few, have been given to the overspill receiving area.
We therefore have a situation at present where industry which ought to get out of Birmingham is being very actively discouraged from going into the overspill receiving areas and is being encouraged to go away to the areas of high unemployment. We therefore have practically 90 per cent.by rough computation of the overspill population which has left Birmingham to go to the county areas still commuting backwards and forwards because their employment still remains in Birmingham. It is not as though these industries particularly want to go to the overspill areas, but many of the industries must technically be in close proximity to new factories which are being sent into the dormitory areas.
This demand for modernisation which has been a recurrent fact in this debate makes very sad reading to some of my constituents, for instance in Rugeley. There has been references, for instance, to the consequences of automation. If there is one common technical requirement of automation it is the control equipment, and the control equipment is invariably electronic. We pride ourselves on being a nation not only able to export cheap manufactured goods, but, in this century, highly technical and sophisticated goods. Yet in Rugeley, which incidentally will have its station closed under the Beeching plan, in a highly thriving industrial area, an electronics company has had to lay off 137 80 skilled workers. A statement issued on behalf of the firm says:The company has been going through a period of reduced demand for modern schemes of electrical and electronic controlled equipment. New orders, particularly for large equipment, are not coming in at a sufficient rate at the present time and until the national economy is stimulated this state of affairs will continue.Where are we going? We know that automation is to come, yet these industries which are part and parcel of getting automation established are being starved of orders and having to lay off workers. Laying off workers is bad enough for the workers themselves, but what about their skill? We lose that as well. It is all very well to talk about schemes of higher education and colleges of advanced education, but the material forthese skilled workers are the young men who are going to such industries as the electronics industry. Once we have lost them and they go to less skilled industries, we have "had it".
I want the Government to realise where their policies are leading to. In this present mood of exhaltation about education I should like to draw attention to the case of the poor parents whose child is capable of receiving and has qualified itself to receive, if not university education, then education at some higher, possibly local education authority, type of organisation. If we examine the allowances that they receive we find that if the parent is really poor or, as in the case which I have in mind, if the parent is disabled and is in receipt of some form of National Assistance, the allowances for the young person are hopelessly inadequate for him to maintain himself in the establishment concerned. We must adopt a much more generous attitude to these young people. Otherwise their work will suffer because they cannot keep up with the social requirements of educational life at that level or because they are so worried about the finance of their homes.
I must say how much I disagree with the speech which was made at the Conservative Party Conference by a certain gentleman who, as reported in The Times, said that we are running into the danger of over-educating our young people and that they will be demanding better cars and better houses. The day 138 when young people stop demanding better houses and better cars will be a great tragedy for this country. I regard this Gracious Speech as a catalogue of missed opportunity and doing things too late. The programme of the Labour Party, which has been well in advance, is a great improvement on the Government's programme.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister proved beyond all doubt at the beginning of this debate that he is no museum piece, as he has been called by hon. Members opposite. Nor, indeed, is the Gracious Speech a mere dusty parchment. I remember being in my place on this occasion last year and, indeed, in previous years, and complaining that the Queen's Speeech did not contain enough forward-looking policies. One certainly could not make that complaint of this Speech today.
If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was at fault in the early part of these proceedings, it was because he was too kind and almost too courteous to the interruptions which he received, almost all of them of a rather trivial nature. In the other House, where my right hon. Friend was until recently, all interruptions are invariably dealt with on the spot, and they are few. But I feel that my right hon. Friend would certainly have the support of many on this side of the House if he did not give way to all the points which are raised by hon. Members opposite because some of them we have heard all too often before.
My right hon. Friend gave as good as he got in the debate today and, no doubt, will do so in the future. When the Leader of the Opposition challenges the Prime Minister to debate in this House my right hon. Friend can certainly deal with the situation, and indeed on television, too, because, having seen the spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition tied in knots by television interviewers, how much greater contortions will there be when he debates with the Prime Minister face to face.
I do not wish to devote my remarks this evening to contentious political matters. I wish to concentrate on some of the items in the Gracious Speech which concern my part of the country.
139 It might be said that it was rash and ill-considered of me to intervene in this debate on the first day, but we are told that this is the age of opportunity for youth, and, although my youth has long departed, I have discovered that unless one seizes one's opportunities in this House one may never get a chance again to say what one feels needs to be said.
To look abroad for a moment, we used to be able to exert profound influence in all quarters of the world by force of arms and by economic strength, by sending our manufactured goods to the other side of the globe. Now I feel we must exert that same influence with men and ideas, and not by force of arms. The world is a very changed place, though I would not subscribe to the anti-colonial sentiments of many nations, and I feel that our contribution in the world has been great. It is in men and ideas that we can make our contribution now.
I do not entirely share the criticismexpressed by some hon. Members about the so-called drain of brains abroad. Many people whom we train in this country could not possibly find work here. There are nuclear physicists who could never have facilities in this country; the machinery for their experiments could never be provided here. We have quite enough of them already. We train surgeons, but, if they all practised here, everyone would have to have at least one major operation each year in order to give them something to do. This is our contribution to the world at large. We can supply these people who will train others in countries far away and exert British influence for good in all parts of the world.
At the time of President Kennedy's election we heard a good deal of a Peace Corps, a band of dedicated young people who would go out to the under-developed and under-privileged areas of the world to do good and to disseminate a civilised influence. We have not heard quite so much about this recently. Perhaps it was a new idea to the Americans. To us it is a very old idea. I feel that we could give a fresh impetus to it in sending out some of our young and enthusiastic people, and older ones, too, since we have a tremendous contribution to make in solving the world's problems.
140 Living in a very changed world, we should not be too depressed when we see our people going abroad, because it is our mission to play a part in the whole world, not to remain a small island next to the Continent of Europe. This is why I was not among those who were very keen that we should be politically amalgamated with Europe, even though the economic arguments, no doubt, are good.
Another speaker earlier reminded us very forcefully that we should not have any home affairs if we had not got our foreign affairs right, and here, of course, our new Prime Minister has made a great contribution, as, indeed, our former Prime Minister did. Those who talk about the affluent society and about how many washing machines or motor cars people have seem to forget that the foreign field is much more important. My right hon. Friends the present Prime Minister and the former Prime Minister have made a great contribution in foreign affairs and will, no doubt, continue to do so.
Much of the Gracious Speech is concerned with home affairs, and there is a good deal about regional development. I see that the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) is just about to leave the Chamber, and I wish to address a few sympathetic remarks to him. He was a candidate at Yeovil in 1945, when I first took an interest in politics, and I remember that he made a great plea for his part of the country. He talked about his docks, which, no doubt, are splendid; they must be, since he said that they were as good as Bristol's. The hon. Gentleman need not be detained longer, because I am now leaving his part of the country and I wish to make a point with special reference to the South-West.
A good deal is said in the Gracious Speech about the North-East, about areas of Scotland and about Northern Ireland, but there is a hint that there will be plans for the development or redevelopment of south-western England as well. I want the House to look forward for fifty years, to consider what Britain will be like in half a century. It is very easy to say that we must provide jobs for people, that we must expand this or that, because we see a problem arising in five or ten years.
141 But in fifty years the whole face of Britain may be very much changed and there may be a spread of development of one kind or another all over most of southern England.
Already, the country around London is for many miles nothing but nameless suburbia, and I should not like that sort of thing to happen to the South-West. I can well understand that we shall have to have an industrial area there. South Wales is already an industrial area, as is some of the land around Bristol. But, in fifty years, the people who will have so much more leisure and prosperity because of the very things happening now, the advances of automation, and so forth, will need somewhere to enjoy their leisure.
We must plan now to ensure that counties such as Dorset, where I have the privilege to live, Somerset, Devonshire and Cornwall, are not spoiled, so that, in half a century from now, they are still splendid places in the countryside where people may enjoy themselves. We may find ourselves with temporary problems of unemployment, but we must not industrialise these places just to get a quick gain for a short time. We must look fifty years ahead and preserve some part of the south of England for the future.
We hear of comprehensive developments. I should apologise for taking up this time because, at six o'clock in the morning on the Consolidated Fund Bill, just before the Recess, I was complaining of lackof co-ordination between various departments in West Bristol as between hospital, housing and education schemes. I was told then by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government that it was really nothing to do with him, and he queried why I should raise it at that time in the morning. I did not say that I would raise the subject today and, therefore, I make no complaint that my hon. Friend is not here now.
But the Government have a responsibility, and sometimes a gentle shove from Whitehall can make sure that various interests come together and that we get some of these developments moving. Some of these plans have been moving between Ministry and Ministry ever since I came to this House, seven years ago.
142 I am not entirely happy, even with the great railway reconstruction going on, that railway land is being properly used and planned. There are great tracts covered by sidings which may become obsolete, and large numbers of coal yards, all of which couldwell be used for balanced housing development. I hope that the Government will take the initiative in that direction. My correspondence with the Railways Board has not got me very far, but I hope that it will get me further in future.
I am aware that another hon. Member might be able to speak if I sit down fairly soon and I will try not to go on much longer. But I want to say that I am impressed by the proposals in the Gracious Speech for a new drive to increase the number of houses being built—although, heaven knows, we have built a great number already, and before pledging ourselves in recent new plans to build more hospitals and schools we have already made great progress in that direction. I wish to comment, however, on the strain on the building industry.
At present, we are suffering from the rise in prices of building work and the difficulty of getting jobs done because the industry, certainly in some aspects, is not able to cope with the work. We have all had experience, as private individuals, of the smaller builder and very few people have ever employed any particular small builder more than once. That is a poor judgment on the state of affairs among these small builders.
It is not only their fault. They cannot hold skilled people, who tend to work for the bigger firms. But a great deal could be done and I hope that the Government will give thought to the problem. I have already had a go at my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works on this. I feel that the building industry may well become greatly overstrained if we try to put too much on it and that in the end it will not be able to produce all the improvements and the expansion we want.
We have been told a great deal about the affluent society and in its way it is not a bad thing. But if we are to have this greater affluence and more leisure, and if our society is to some extent to 143 be planned by Parliament or by Government, surely the provision of things to occupy new-found leisure and to take people's minds away from material benefit should be, to some extent, in our minds.
I am not at all happy about the way in which some forms of entertainment have been going recently. Television, which occupied much of our time last Session, is not by any means allright, and no doubt there are a number of other things which hon. Members will wish to discuss before this Session is over. I do not take the view that public entertainment should necessarily set out to give the public just what it wants. That is a cowardly approach. It should try to improve public taste and to lead the public into better and more interesting fields.
I hope that the new Prime Minister, with his intimate connection with Robert Adam, the great architect, although rather an airy-fairy architect, in my view, will be able to link his interest in politics with his interest in the arts. Perhaps we shall see a more robust approach and link between the two, rather like the great Sir John Vanbrugh, who was a Member of Parliament and a great architect and many other things as well. I hope that the Government will not lose sight of their responsibility in that direction.
A Minister of Fine Arts is not the answer and although tribute was paid to the expansion of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, that, to some extent, has been at the cost of the other side of that Ministry. It is no good thinking that the artistic side of that Ministry can be left to the responsibility of a Parliamentary Secretary. This is a subject which is far too important and which should be dealt with by a man of at least Minister of State rank. I hope that I shall be able to persuade my right hon. Friend to make a change in that direction. This is not a reflection on any of the personalities involved, but this subject is so important, and is so regarded on both sides of the House, that it should be given an enhanced status.
The arts are not the only field for leisure. Sport will no doubt figure increasingly in our debates, as the Minis- 144 ter for that subject is shortly to reach this place. I have already said something about the countryside.
My last thought about everyday life is that all our lives to some extent are spoiled by the inconsiderate actions of a very small minority. There is nothing in the Gracious Speech about legislation to deal with noise, although we are told that the Minister of Transport is to declare war on noise. Perhaps he has the powers already. But surely there is some strength in the argument, which was advanced by the medical profession a few years ago, that modern life has become so involved that stress plays an enormous part in it and that many people are unable to cope with life simply because of the stresses which bear upon them—noise and all the other things like it, and smoke, and so on. They all have a lot to do with it and they make people's lives miserable. Many of these troubles are due to a very small, inconsiderate minority. Although I see nothing in the Gracious Speech about it, no doubt we shall be able to have action by regulation. I hope so, because this sort of thing has been going on long enough.
With the years of steady progress which we have had in big matters, surely now, after all these years of progress, we can begin to look at some of the refinements of life. Perhaps the Government will find time in this, their last Session of this Parliament, to deal with these matters.
The Gracious Speech contains great issues and small, but there is one issue about all else with which the Government must deal and with which Parliament must deal. It is that the affluent society alone is not enough. It is the business of the Government and of Parliament to make sure that Britain has both a place and a purpose in the world at large.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) has attempted to visualise our country and its great cities in the future. He reminded me that Senator Fulbright has just written a book in which he searches into the shape of things to be, as the hon. Member has been doing. The Senator sees the cycle of our daily lives divided into four 145 quadrants. In the first there will be the journey to the job, which will occupy three hours, the journey from the job occupying the same time, consuming the first six of the twenty-four hours which we are granted in each day. Anyone who tries to pass through the streets of London today at their busiest times realises that three hours to get to the job is no fantasy, and that three hours to get back from the job, leaving between five and six o'clock in the evening, might almost be an understatement.
Having arrived at the job, the next six hours will be spent watching little black boxes. Into them will be pumped the data, and out of these electronic monsters will come the answers. Procrastination will no longer be the thief of time. There will be no debate, and no argument. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Bristol, West will live to see the day when all those who presently adorn the Front Bench will disappear and little black boxes will take their places, and from them will come the answers to the questions which are put by the Opposition.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
I have no doubt that if I survive I shall see all the right hon. Members depart from the Front Bench, but I hope to goodness that they will never be replaced by black boxes.
I cannot, and do not, grudge the hon. Gentleman his wish
We still have twelve hours of the cycle. Haying returned from the job, the next six hours will be spent watching television, and when one thinks of the time spent by some people in watching television, that seems to be no exaggeration. The final six hours will, I suppose, be spent on some form of recreation and getting the necessary sleep to prepare us for the next cycle.
Many people may think that the Senator was satirical and ironical, but I think the emphasis that we have to lay on the prospect that he has visualised of the future in an age of automation is the need to plan, and to plan carefully, in case the human of today becomes the robot of tomorrow. That, of course, has detracted me a little from what I hoped might have been my main topic, which of course cannot be concluded this evening, and, to use a popu- 146 lar phrase, must be continued in the next serial.
I have here a document entitled, "The Queen's Speech on the Opening of Parliament." In fact this document represents the Prime Minister's speech on the opening of his election campaign. It was delivered a fortnight ago last Saturday in the bull ring at Perth, and earlier today we heard something about that bull ring. It is the auction market, the auction has started, and now it is going to mount. That is the simple and true explanation of it; it is an election speech which is going to set the keynote for what all the Tories opposite will be saying to avert any more Lutons.
It has set the keynote provided by the Prime Minister in what I think will be a futile attempt to stave off the disaster which they have so richly earned by their policies and practices during the past twelve years. It is difficult to overcome in a few brief months the misdeeds of the last twelve years.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.