§ [SECOND DAY]
§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question[12th November]:
§ 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.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that it will be for the convenience of the House if I report what I believe to be the desired arrangements for the continuation of this debate. It is proposed, I understand, to continue the general debate today and to concentrate attention on Thursday on the economic situation and on Friday on overseas affairs. What we debate on Monday and Tuesday will depend on the selection of Amendments which I have not yet selected.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
When the House adjourned yesterday evening I was referring briefly to a recent book published by Senator Fulbright in which the challenge is offered to the politician as to whether man shall control science or science shall control man. The Senator describes a somewhat highly compartmentalised society which I am certain that, if it is possible, both sides of the House would want to avoid.
To me, therefore, it was rather strange that the Queen's Speech and the Prime Minister in most of his speeches made in Kinross and also in the one he made in the House yesterday have made little reference to this major problem. Rather, the right hon. Gentleman has concentrated on offering us certain very difficult questions which he calls upon us to answer. Today I want to put a question to him. 176 Before this debate terminates next week, will the Government tell us, at least as clearly as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition put it at Scarborough, exactly what policy they have in mind to control the increasing powers of the robot in shaping human affairs.
There are a great many more questions that I should like to put to the Prime Minister but, unfortunately, circumstances somewhat determine the length of the speech which I must deliver today. However, I want to put to him another question which I also think is of great importance to the country as a whole. The Queen's Speech contained the following statement:My Government will continue their efforts to promote peace and stability in South and South-East Asia."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 5.]Reading that, I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman had seen the Baltimore Sun of 14th October in which this statement is made:When Robert S. McNamara was inspecting South Vietnamese defences recently, he paused curiously before a display of weapons captured from the Communist Viet Cong. Pointing to one in the pile, the Secretary of Defence asked: 'This one's from Communist China, isn't it?'. 'No' replied a Vietnamese officer.' It's an American 57 mm. recoilless rifle, seized by the Viet Cong and recaptured by us.' McNamara, blushing, turned to General Maxwell D. Tavlor, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and said, 'My God, I didn't recognize it'. McNamara had reason to feel embarrassed. For the biggest supplier of modern weapons to the Viet Congguerillas is the United States.I put that statement before the right hon. Gentleman because he was the Joint Chairman of the Geneva Conference which was supposed to bring to Vietnam and to South-East Asia the peace and stability referred to in the Queen's Speech.
If he is unaware of what is happening, will he now, as Prime Minister, take up the matter with his Foreign Secretary and see what can be done to prevent America supplying arms to her opponents to continue a war which she tells us that she is trying to bring to an end?
I wish to deal particularly with two points which were made yesterday by the Prime Minister. He is reported as saying:…if there is a line which has to be closed in the Highlands … then adequate alternative transport must be provided."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1963; Vcl. 684, c. 41]177 I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the Report issued recently by the Kilbrandon Committee entitled, "Transport Services in the Highlands and Islands". This is a Report by a Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. Among the members are people whose names are distinguished in Scottish life and in the country generally. On page 28 of the Report appears this statement:It cannot be too frequently stated that if the Highland road system is to catch up with the development of road transport, and still more if road transport has to expand to fill the vacuum left by any contraction of rail transport, then substantial capital expenditure is needed on these main roads and at a much higher rate of progress and investment than is contemplated at the moment.These concluding words give us reason to think. Because in spite of all the good things that the Prime Minister said yesterday are contained in the Queen's Speech, here we have a Committee, which reported in the first quarter of this year, saying that at present the Government are not in this instance even contemplating the necessary expenditure to achieve their desires.
In the same paragraph of the Report—dealing with specific road difficulties in the Highlands—we are told:The desirability of improvement is recognised but we record with concern that no early date for construction is contemplated; in particular, the trunk roads to Mallaig and Kyle will not be completely reconstructed until before the mid 1970's.That is being said by this Committee at a time when the Government are actually in the process of closing essential railway services in the Highlands of Scotland;where now, and for the future, there will be no effectvie alternative transport services.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay attention to the conclusions of this distinguished Committee which I have quoted and will tell us that he has decided to stay the execution of the death sentence on certain Highland railway transport and amend the words which he used yesterday so that they read:No railway line will be closed in the Highlands of Scotland until adequate alternative transport has been provided.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
Would not my hon. Friend be inclined to change even the wording 178 which he suggests so as to cover not only the Highlands but Scotland as a whole?
§ Mr. Rankin
I am dealing with one point on which the Prime Minister was cross-examined pretty closely yesterday, and I am providing a reply to the false atmosphere which he created when he was referring to this matter. The Kilbrandon Report deals only with Highland transport. I have no objection to what my hon. Friend has suggested. I am sufficiently broad-minded to embrace the suggestion of my hon. Friend who comes from the farming area of South-West Norfolk. I am no mere nationalist.
The Prime Minister is reported as having said yesterday:…there are now at this moment more houses being built than at any time since the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 40.]If the right hon. Gentleman means what, in their literal sense, those words actually say, of course no one can confute him. But if he is telling us what the yare generally understood to imply in the dialectics of this House, which is that they are based on the most recent annual report of the Government, then his claim, so far as it concerns Scotland, is completely unjustified by the figures provided by one of his Departments.
To prove what I say, I have extracted figures of the houses completed in Scotland in 1962. I take the return which was issued to Parliament in the closing days of July this year. That return shows that in Scotland, in 1962, 26,761 houses were built. In 1957, the number built was 32,437. I choose 1957 because in that year, during the Committee stage of the Housing Bill, the Scottish Minister in charge of the Bill, speaking for the Government, said that they had more or less solved the housing problem in Scotland. In that same year the housing shortage in the City of Glasgow was standing at the appalling figure of 100,000. Some of those on the waiting list had been on it for 15 or 20 years. Others had been waiting even longer.
That was what the Tory Government in 1957 called "solving the housing 179 problem". Today, the number of homeless in my city is 80,523. Nor will that number disappear in the next quarter of a century because, under the redevelopment plans now in operation, to clear the 100,000 houses which have to be cleared by 1985, 60,000 families will be left homeless; for only 40,000 new houses are permitted in the place of the 100,000, while at the same time a mere additional 5,000 persons to meet that waiting list surplus have found accommodation since the overspill solution of the Government was imposed upon us in 1957.
An analysis of the figures in the Housing Report for 1963 shows an even more alarming picture. The fall between 1957 and 1962 in housing output was 5,666; not the increase which the right hon. Gentleman claimed was taking place. If we look at the figures more closely we see that in 1962, of the 26,000 houses produced, 18,788 were built by local authorities in Scotland, as against 28,327 which had been produced by local authorities in 1957; a fall of 9,500 in local authority output.
We must remember that the great majority of working-class people depend for their new houses on the local authority. While this fall in local authority output of housing was going on, the number of houses built by private owners in the years I have mentioned rose from 3,500 in 1957 to 7,784 in 1962. In other words, while the housing output by local authorities decreased by 9,500 the production of private owners had increased by over 4,000.
I want to make clear that I welcome the growth in output of houses by private owners, but these figures lead to this conclusion: that the increase in private output was obtained at the expense of the decrease in public output. Which is wrong. It leads to this second conclusion. The Government should have increased the resources available for new houses in order that both sections which produce houses, private or public, should have the chance to increase their output at the same time, and it is obvious that this was not done. Otherwise, the local authorities which are only too anxious to increase output would not have reduced, or been compelled to reduce, the number of houses between 1957 and 1962.
180 I leave the matter at that point, to my regret; but perhaps to the relief of hon. Members on both sides of the House who, naturally, are anxious to hear what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has to say. I have dealt with two very important issues affecting Scotland; also two other issues to which I hope the Prime Minister will devote his attention at a very early opportunity because they involve the peace of the world, about which he committed himself and his Government yesterday.
I say to him, and to hon. Members opposite, that Scotland has long rejected Toryism and all that Toryism means. We hope that when the General Election comes our friends in England will follow the example set by Scotland in many General Elections of the past. If they follow in our footsteps the next Government which meets in the Palace of Westminster will be a Labour Government. And that cannot come too quickly.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
The setting of the debate which began yesterday on the Queen's Speech quite clearly is the remark which the Prime Minister made not to the House but to the party meeting which elected him as Leader the other day. The Times reported that he said:There can be no good Government unless there is a Conservative Government. From this moment on, the fact that there is a GeneralElection ahead of us must never be out of our minds. Every act that we take, every attitude that we strike, every speech that we make, in Parliament or elsewhere, must have that in mind.A more open declaration by any Prime Minister that his whole horizon is bounded by party considerations surely can never have been made. I wonder what is made of it by any Conservative who tries to pretend in the country that he is a democrat, because by definition democracy means more than one choice of party government. A declaration that there can be no good Government unless there is a Conservative Government is but a short step from a declaration that one is entitled to make sure that the process of democracy never happens. It may well be that the Prime Minister did not mean what he said and that he was merely feeding something to the goldfish who were voting for him.
181 But certainly the Queen's Speech seems to have been put together with that outlook in mind. It includes a large number of things put in obviously to satisfy what are regarded by the Prime Minister, or by those who advise him, as political considerations with the election in mind.
Even so, there are some odd omissions. The Prime Minister was asked about some of them yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and, perhaps understandably, he preferred not to mention them. I want, therefore, to repeat them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer who has been put in to bat today. I am not very clear whether he is in as a displaced person from the economic debate tomorrow or as a candidate for the office of deputy Prime Minister, which is vacant. If it is the latter, let me tell him that I am not sure that he is wise. This is quite clearly an off year for deputies. He might be well advised to defer that until 1964. Even years may be better.
Why is it that in the Queen's Speech there is no reference whatever to the need for attending to social security benefits? Why is there no reference to the needs of the old-age pensioners, the sick orthe widows, every category of whom have a very great claim and, I should have thought, a prior claim compared With some other groups? Is the answer that they do not figure in the list of election targets which the research experts have given to the Tory Party? Or is it that the Tory Party honestly regard these people as not having a claim for attention at this moment? We ought to have an answer about that.
Secondly, there is no reference at all to Wales or to any of the substantial problems there. It is interesting that when the Prime Minister yesterday referred to areas which were to have special attention, he remembered what he called the central area of Scotland, he remembered the North-East, he said that he had been reminded by his hon. Friends of Northern Ireland—and there he finished.
There are great problems in Wales, although Wales is not the only other area with special problems. Under the Conservative Party even Cornwall has become an area with very serious problems. But Wales has many special 182 problems calling for attention—not only the problem of an under-developed declining area in one part of the country but also the depopulation of mid-Wales and the problem which hits South Wales very hard, as it hits other parts of the country—the problem of leaseholders, who have long been overdue for a measure of relief. But there is no reference whatever in the Queen's Speech, even though it includes so much else, to these problems, and we ought to know why.
There is no mention of the Newsom Committee or of the problems which that Committee presented to the nation. It is odd that space was found in the Queen's Speech for reference to the Robbins Committee and the need for the expansion of university and other higher education facilities but that there is no reference to what is, if one reads the Report, possibly a much greater tragedy—the failure to provide adequately for the great bulk of our younger teen-agers. Iam bound to ask whether the fact that the Newsom Report is not mentioned and we are not offered any indication of special action there means that the Government are burying the Newsom Report under some attention to the other Report. We ought to know what they have in mind.
In addition to surprising omissions, there are some odd ambiguities. I return to something which the Prime Minister discussed with my right hon. Friend yesterday. At the bottom of the first page of the printed version of the Queen's Speech there is a reference to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which reads:proposals will be laid before you to transfer the responsibilities of the Government of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland to the territorial Governments.As it stands, that is a little worrying to those of us who feel that something must happen in Southern Rhodesia before that could be carried out. When asked about it the Prime Minister volunteered a phrase of his own. He seemed to me to say that despite those words, he regarded himself and his Government as absolutely pledged to see that in that area, as in others, the majority must rule.
I took that to mean, therefore, that there will be no transfer of responsibilities to a Government in that territory 183 until a constitution is evolved which provides that the majority in that territory in fact rules. That is what I understood the Prime Minister to say and to mean. In the absence of any dispute from him, I must assume that that is so. In that case, I welcome it, but I hope very much that (ion. and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite understand equally clearly what the Prime Minister said.
In the same way, there is an ambiguity about the proposals on agriculture. We are told in the Queen's Speech that we are to have proposals to prevent imports from undermining the market. The Prime Minister gave as an example of this the Danish bacon agreement, which was promptly violently attacked in a speech from the Conservative benches towards the end of the debate as being unsatisfactory. He went on to say that these proposals would be made by agreement with other nations.
In fairness to the producers, one is bound to ask what happens if we do not get agreement with other nations. Is that the end of the matter, or does the Prime Minister envisage proposals which would impose compulsory quotas? If it is intended to impose compulsory quotas, we want to know in which way the consumer, the housewife, will be protected. What is the machinery by which this is to be done? If there are to be compulsory quotas, will this be in accord with our international trading obligations? Between what is in the Queen's Speech and what the Prime Minister said there is a tremendous gap, and we are entitled to ask the Chancellor to tell us this afternoon something more about what the Government have in mind.
Having raised these points of omission and ambiguity, I wish to pick out the three main areas into which, as the Prime Minister said, the proposals in the Queen's Speech can be divided and in which it seems to us that the proposals are inadequate, irrelevant or still ambiguous. The three areas are those of external relations and defence; the proposals relating to the social capital programme; and the proposals which relate to the economic policy required to support both. I should like to look at the three areas, just as the Prime 184 Minister did yesterday, and to pick up some passages and points made by him, but first of all to tell him that there is one fact which must be stated clearly: if Britain is in a run-down state, then that is totally the responsibility of the present occupants of the Treasury Bench, including the Prime Minister. It appears to be the basis of the Prime Minister's submission, judging by his speeches in Kinross, that Britain is in a run-down state, is in need of modernisation and is in need of a crash programme of construction and building in all kinds of directions. If he says that, then in his view Britain must be run-down. If we are not, I do not see that we need his crash programme. If we need it, we have not got it.
Hon. Members opposite may play with this inside the House, but the general public is of the view that these gaps exist. The Prime Minister is trying very hard to persuade the general public that, unlike his predecessor, he and his Government mean to fill the gaps that exist. My point is that, if the gaps exist, there should not be any misunderstanding: this is not the responsibility of some Prime Minister and some Government not now here. This is the total responsibility of the present occupants of the Treasury Bench, including the Prime Minister himself. They are the guilty men. They are the men who have presided over our affairs for twelve years. The Prime Minister has been a senior member of that Government for a large part of that time. The record cannot be expunged merely by a set of new promises. We have had the promises before in the same words. I commend hon. Members opposite to look at the Gracious Speeches of 1954 and 1958. We then had the same promises in virtually the same words.
I think that the electors of Luton and—let us be clear—rather more than half the total electorate of Kinross either voted against or did not vote for the Government candidate, because they are very clear about this. "To be fooled once", I think the electors of Luton and many of those of Kinross said, "is a mark of trust. To be fooled twice can be a mark of grace and a forgiving nature. But to be fooled three times by the same people in the very same words would cast doubt upon one's equipment in the upper storey".
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is basing this part of his speech on a wrong premise. I have never suggested that the country was in a run-down state. What I have said in speech after speech is that we have created a sound condition from which we can accelerate.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not think so. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite who are laughing will find that they are laughing too soon. I think that the reference was to Britain, but, as I have not the reference here. I will not pursue it at this moment. I will merely say that somebody who has just come from the place at the other end of the corridor is not too well placed to talk about museum pieces.
I want to examine the Prime Minister's defence of the record, which he said yesterday, and in a way said again this afternoon, was a record of preparation for what they are now about to do. This seems to me to be rather like an habitual criminal justifying a record of twelve years' continual robbery and other crimes with the plea that, if he had not been guilty of all those things for twelve years, he could not reform now, so it was really all preparation for him to be able to improve.
I will now look at the three areas that the Prime Minister chose. I take first that of external relations and defence, on which the Prime Minister spent some time yesterday. The record here is again well summed up in the Prime Minister's own words at the Guildhall, which I had the pleasure of watching him deliver on television. The right hon. Gentleman was addressing himself to the Foreign Secretary who was about to undertake the enormous task of changing men's hearts and minds all over the world. As the Prime Minister wished him well and sent him off he said this, "I have recently been 186 in one or two capitals in the world. Others have been to other capitals. You will find"—he said to the Foreign Secretary—that the whole world is longing for British influence and leadership to be exercised.I could not put it better. After three and a half years of the right hon. Gentleman himself, after the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) some time before that, and after the previous Prime Minister's term at the Foreign Office, the Prime Minister's summing up to his successor is—You will find that the whole world is longing for British influence and leadership to be exercised.What is required in order that Britain should be able to exercise influence and leadership in the world? I believe that it is not to exchange one man for another. As the television cameras swung rather conveniently from the Prime Minister to the Foreign Secretary, my doubts were answered. I saw why he got it and the other chap did not. Therefore, I do not think that changing one for the other, and not necessarily in the right direction, is what is required here. What is required here is a fundamental change in British attitudes and actions in relation to four things—first, a fundamental change in our attitude at the United Nations; secondly, a fundamental change in our attitude to and behaviour about the racial conflict in the world to which the Prime Minister referred; thirdly, a fundamental change in our attitude towards and our degree of assistance to the developing countries, not exclusively but particularly those in the Commonwealth; and, fourthly, a fundamental change in our assessment of the inter-related issues of policy, strategy and weapon provision within the Atlantic Alliance.
On every one of these crucial areas the British Government's national policy has been out of step both with our own best national interests and with any essential moral basis for leadership and influence in the world. Despite the Prime Minister's words yesterday, the Tory Government, of which he has been a leading member for so long, have supported the United Nations only when they have judged it convenient to do so. After all, the Prime Minister himself was the man responsible for a speech at Berwick-upon-Tweed on 26th December, 1961—I have the handout which the Central Office took the 187 trouble to issue at the time—in which, among other things, he complained of the serious falling away from the principles of the Charter, which, in his view, placed Britain in an appalling dilemma. The whole of that speech consisted of an attack upon the United Nations and an attempted alibi for actions which he knew were not in accordance with the requirements of our membership.
But, in addition to speeches attacking the United Nations and bolstering its enemies, the Government have used the veto on occasions—and very recently—when they have thought that the decisions of the rest of the world were inconvenient to us. Again, when racial issues have arisen, when questions of liberty and oppression have been discussed in the United Nations, the Government have consistently either placed us with the abstentions or have left us voting with the only remaining defenders of colonialism and oppression. That has to change.
Secondly, the Government have been chronically unable—rather than unwilling—to make an adequate contribution to the aid which is essential in the short term to the under-developed countries. We have not provided a real contribution of technical and scientific aid in the form of men, machines or money to help the attack on hunger and poverty in the emerging nations.
Thirdly, the Government have also repeatedly reached the wrong conclusions in their assessment of the requirements of the Alliance and of Britain's place in it and, therefore, of our whole defence strategy and provision. All of this will be gone into in more detail by both sides on Friday, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and others hope to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. But I must refer—and the House would expect me to do so—in some detail to the issue which the Prime Minister raised yesterday about the independent nuclear deterrent.
We noted and accept his declaration that he proposes to carry this issue to the British people So far the Government have tried to carry two other issues to the people. The first was the cost of the proposals we were making for the rebuilding of Britain—and it is one which they are not in a very strong posi- 188 tion to carry to the people now. The second was the issue of nationalisation, which died a rather marked death at Luton. We shall be very willing indeed to argue the question of nuclear weapons before the electorate.
I believe that the nation is further advanced on this question of the nuclear deterrent than some right hon. and hon. Members. I believe that the people outside recognise that this is much too complex and too vital an issue to be dealt with by slogans or by the loaded, issue-begging questions of the wife-beating variety which the Prime Minister asked yesterday. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I hope that hon. Members opposite will support the Prime Minister in wanting to have this out between us and will allow me to develop our case. There are some issues which we in this House and the nation as a whole must get clear.
The first thing that the Prime Minister is not quite clear about is that the whole question of nuclear policy has changed radically over the last five years with the enormous change in the balance of nuclear power and of nuclear possibilities between East and West. The right hon. Gentleman has frequently said that this changed nuclear balance between the two blocs has also changed much else in international relations, policies and possibilities. It has also changed radically the whole nature of nuclear weapons policies, but perhaps in no respect as much as it has affected the small, essentially marginal additions to the nuclear arsenal of the Alliance.
The case for these additions, whatever its merits before the change, has become quite different. Unless one sees the small, marginal, national addition as a first strike weapon, it has no relevance at all, for it will have no place in a second strike. One must be careful how far one goes here, but I think that this is pretty well known and has been written about; but in the targeting of our forces and the American forces we all know that this situation has been allowed for and that the Royal Air Force has been targeted in accordance with that fact.
The issue is now much less a matter of ability to produce nuclear weapons than the ability to provide a modern delivery capability. The development of missiles, of orbiting satellites and other 189 delivery platforms has changed completely the whole dimension of the effort required, not only in money but in science and material, to be a nuclear Power at all.
1 It becomes pretty impossible at this point to see Britain, with her size, her annual output of science graduates and her limited resources, as a nuclear Power in any real sense of the word. We have not got the resources, and it was indeed this that made the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson), as Minister of Defence, reverse the decision made by his predecessor. That was the issue that led to the cancellation of Blue Streak, and when the Government—not us—took the country out of the rocket delivery capability business they took the irrevocable decision.
The Prime Minister, who was a member of the Government at the time when this was done, said yesterday that our policy would produce an irrevocable decision. The absurd thing is that the Government took the irrevocable decision three years ago. When the right hon. Gentleman says to us that if this decision were ever taken it would be impossible to get back into the business, he is repeating what I said to the Government in the debate on the cancellation of Blue Streak. The difference between us is that I accepted the logic of the Government's decision, which they took unilaterally and inescapably for reasons they believed right and proper. The Government took us out of the delivery capability field, and therefore, in my submission, out of the independent, the truly independent, nuclear deterrent field.
I made no secret at the time of the fact that I was changing my position on the question of an independent deterrent largely as a result of the decision the Government had made. But the difference between the Government and myself is that I faced the logic then and have accepted it since, whereas they have been behaving like ostriches and trying to pretend that it did not happen.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
In order to get into perspective what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, would he say whether he discounts the French effort to become a nuclear Power, as that has a bearing on our future?
§ Mr. Brown
I shall be coming to that n a moment, but I will say immediately that I have recently said to leading Frenchmen, and will be saying again in Paris in a fortnight, that all the facts of life from which we have been unable to escape will apply to them and that they will find that they will be unable to escape and that in the expenditure of vast effort, time and money the same lessons will apply to them in due course. I shall come to what I think are the consequences of that.
The next issue to try to get clear is that the Government have consistently tried to deny the logic of the position, and the Prime Minister himself tried to escape from it. Successively, we have had Blue Steel, which was to be a stand-off bomb to keep our V-bombers flying, Skybolt, which was to replace Blue Steel when it turned out that that could not be continued, and the Polaris submarines when Sky-bolt could not be made to continue. I now see it suggested that it is to be the TSR2. Those who know about these things know that it is not until now that part of the case for the TSR2 has been its use as a continuation of our strategic nuclear force. This is very much an afterthought.
There is a very large question mark over the TSR2 connected with its cost and its lateness and the problems of its black boxes, and a very large question mark over its suitability for this role, especially remembering its limited range and limited warhead-carrying capacity.
All of these devices have been or will be fabulously expensive. Blue Steel dropped out earlier on and we do not yet know about TSR2. There are, therefore, two left, Skybolt and Polaris. Sky-bolt has been currently replaced by Polaris, but there is one argument which applies to both Skybolt and Polaris but not to TSR2 or to Blue Steel. Neither Skybolt nor Polaris could be regarded in any real sense as in the independent possession of this country.
However we obtain them and on whatever terms we obtain them, some facts remain true. We are dependent for their supply, for the fulfilment of the contract, on the United States of 191 America. Not so long ago, on 24th December, 1962, in relation to something else the Minister of Defence made it clear that he was not sure that we could always rely on the Americans to fulfil contracts. He was then talking about Skybolt, but the same argument could obviously be applied to Polaris.
We are dependent on the Americans for fulfilling the contract and dependent on them thereafter for any replacements, for it is obvious that replacements for all time could not be part of the initial contract. What is much more important is that we are dependent upon them for all time for the continuing "know-how". We are not discussing inanimate pieces of concrete. These are highly sophisticated weapons whose characteristics are developing and changing all the time. It would be very little use having today's mark of missile if we could not be kept up to date with changing and developing techniques and scientific "know-how" and could not be sure that we would get the next mark or the next but one.
When the Polaris agreement was signed, there was some discussion between the previous Prime Minister and me about which mark of Polaris we were to have. I will not bore the House by reading large chunks of HANSARD where the former Prime Minister's replies can be seen. He said that we were to have one which I was criticising and another which was to be called the A3. When I was in America a fortnight ago, I discovered that the A3 had already gone and that the current version was a mark which could not have been part of the arrangements made at Nassau. So we are totally dependent at every stage on the willingness of the providing party to keep providing us with the new developments. Whatever else that is, it cannot be called independence.
The next issue to get clear is that even if that did not apply, we could not in practice go independent, go it alone, nuclear-wise. Situations in which we could do not exist. I believe that the Prime Minister has indicated that the Suez context, the Middle East context, would not be one in which he would foresee us acting as a nuclear Power. If we are not to use it in the Middle East context, in what context are we proposing to act as an independent nuclear 192 Power, that is to say, to threaten and, if need be, to use nuclear weapons irrespective of whether anybody else comes to our aid and support? Such situations do not exist.
There is only one claim that stands up. It is the claim with which the Prime Minister tried to charge us yesterday. This is a claim to which he must be guilty, if "guilty" is the word. I have in my hand not only the speech of the present Minister of Defence, but a whole host of quotations from the previous Prime Minister, the former Minister of Defence, the secretary of the Conservative Party Defence Committee and individual hon. Members opposite, as well as the present Minister of Aviation. They all make the point that the only claim for us trying to be an independent nuclear Power, or, to put it more rationally, pretending we are, is that we are afraid that we will not at all times be supported by our American Allies. The claim is that the Government want to be in a position where they can blackmail our American allies into a policy. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite must let me put it this way because the Prime Minister thought yesterday that he was putting us on the political spot with words and phrases which he chose not because of their literal meaning, but because he thought that they would be good political catch phrases outside the House. That is why I said that we were willing and ready to accept his challenge to go on with this argument.My right hon. Friend has offered to meet him and between us we will meet anybody on the Treasury Bench who wishes to debate this issue anywhere.
The Government must say whether they believe, as at various times they have said or implied, that the Americans are not to be trusted as our allies, or whether, as the Prime Minister tried to say yesterday, they are to be trusted as our allies and how it was that we dared to spread the contrary story.
I do not believe that the Prime Minister was right yesterday. His case was that only nuclear Powers would be allowed at the conference table. What conference are we talking about? If only nuclear Powers are to be there—and let us assume that they include us—think of the nations of the world who will not be there. What conference issue 193 do we think we are going to settle when only Russia, America and ourselves are present at the table? I do not believe this. Indeed, every time American Ministers, or their advisers, or Presidential aides, go to the Continent they go out of their way to assure the Germans and other Continental nations that there is no question of anybody going to the conference table without them. They are the people who not only do not have, but, as the Prime Minister said, have renounced nuclear weapons. and yet they are the ones whom the Americans are assuring will always be at the conference table.
Why do we assume that the Americans would exclude us from the conference table if we did not have nuclear weapons, although they are assuring the Germans that they would not exclude them? Why do we make this assumption? Has the right hon. Gentleman any basis for it? Has any American ever told him this? I have seen members of this Administration in America as often as most people, and I also knew the leading members of the previous Administration. I have absolutely no ground for believing that the Prime Minister in turn has any ground for believing what he said yesterday.
§ The Prime Minister
There is one obvious example, of course—we should not have been at the nuclear test ban treaty talks at all.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not know that there is any evidence that we would not have been at the test ban treaty talks. But is the Prime Minister really saying that there would not have been a test ban treaty but for us pretending to be an independent nuclear Power? I heard the President of the United States pay lavish tribute to the previous Prime Minister for his part in that. I was glad to hear it, and I welcomed it—since I was not there as a politician—but no part of that statement was intended to convey that only the British Prime Minister desired it, and if what the Prime Minister is saying goes out it will seem pretty ungracious to our American friends who have been pretty gracious to his Government.
When the Prime Minister was talking yesterday about a conference table, he was not talking about that kind of treaty, 194 because that kind of treaty was merely a declaration, welcome as it is, by the Powers who have nuclear weapons that they will not test in the air again until they have notified each other. The Prime Minister was talking about a conference table around which one settles problems and political issues in the world, and I am answering that point.
A further point arises from that. The Government's continual reiteration of this fear of being let down in some form or other by the Americans leads to other problems. The Nassau Agreement was itself the birthplace and the midwife of the multilateral force.
§ Mr. Brown
Much as it clearly surprises the hon. Gentleman, he is right in that respect. I trust that he will listen as much to the merits and meanings as to the words themselves.
It was because of, and out of, the Nassau Agreement that the multilateral force achieved its present status, and I will tell the Prime Minister why. When the Americans were persuaded that they had to agree to some special arrangements with us to maintain some kind of a nuclear force in this country—leave out whether it is genuinely independent or not—they were faced with this consequence, that they then came under pressure from the Germans and others who said, "We cannot have a situation where you make the British into what they call an independent nuclear Power, de Gaulle makes himself into an independent nuclear Power, and we are left out". It was because of—and this contradicts some part of what the Prime Minister said yesterday about Germany—subsequent pressure from the Germans arising out of what happened at Nassau that President Kennedy felt—or his advisers felt—that some nuclear force had to be invented in which the Germans could have a large share of the provision of the systems and of the cost.
At the moment they do not get the same large share in the command, in the capacity to order its use, but does anybody believe that if we ever start on this road with them paying 40 per cent, of the cost and taking 40 per cent, of the manning provisions that it will stop there from the point of view of command and 195 control? We have started—if it ever goes through—on a slippery road, but we got on to it because of the arguments we put forward at Nassau because of our being unwilling to move away from our own illusory independent position.
I shall now deal with what I think ought to be done.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
I want to clear up one point. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Labour Party will not proceed with the equipment of British defence forces with Polaris and the TSR2?
§ Mr. Brown
I like to be polite and give way, but that intervention was a waste of time. I had just said that I would deal with what I think ought to be done.
There are two issues to be made clear. One is that there is no argument—and the Prime Minister must understand this—which Britain can use in support of her remaining an independent nuclear Power which cannot be used by every other nation in the Western Alliance and by every other nation in the world. It is impossible to say, as the Prime Minister sought to say, that one can draw the line somewhere after America, Britain and France and leave out everybody else. It is not possible to do that. The same argument will be used by them all.
The second argument is that any attempt to maintain this position—which in my view is not a real one—will divert vast sums of defence money from the already inadequately equipped conventional forces, or vastly increase the total defence bill, and yet in Kinross the Prime Minister talked about the kind of savings that are to come.
What is our position? First let me say what it is not. When we come to power, it is not our intention to destroy the nuclear force which the Government leave behind. We have never been committed to destroying the V-bomber force if it exists when we come to power.
§ Mr. Brown
That is not what we shall do. Thereafter, we shall certainly cease trying to maintain beyond the present credibility of this force the illusion of being an independent nuclear Power. We will stop this very costly effort to project into the future, into missile after missile, and into who knows what, what becomes increasingly the sheer illusion of being a nuclear force. [Interruption.] I ask the House to do me a little justice. [Interruption.] Then I will withdraw that and let hon. Members opposite behave as they please.
§ Mr. Brown
I thought that they might respond, but I take it all back.
Of course, this decision involves our having to review the position of any programme for future weapons that they leave behind them. That applies to the TSR 2 and to the Polaris submarines. What the incoming Government do depends on the point which that programme has reached when we arrive, and on what other purposes those weapons or vehicles can serve. It is therefore obviously impossible, in advance—[Interruption] Ministers do not know what they are going to do with the TSR 2, and there will be no submarines for a long time yet. Ministers have cancelled things that they have ordered before now.
What we shall do is to use the position that we take over in respect of existing weapons that are still credible, and existing programmes which they leave us, in order to negotiate within the alliance for a genuine Atlantic alliance nuclear organisation in which we can obtain a greater sharing of the command and of the control of other weapons—not our own alone. We shall use what we have got as the basis for the negotiations and for the creation of some other alliance force that will enable us to do away with—as we hope—the pressure for proliferation.
Finally, we will use the money thus saved to help us in our desperate need to replace the gap that now exists in our conventional forces.
Mr. Farcy-Jones (Watford)
§ Mr. Brown
I am sorry I cannot give way. There will be ample opportunity during the rest of this week for the statement that I have tried to make very carefully to be examined and questioned, and I think that it would be for the convenience of the hon. Member and of the House if I brought my remarks to a conclusion as quickly as I can. I have taken the occasion today to go into some detail on defence, simply because I wanted to pick up the Prime Minister's challenge at the first opportunity. But this is not a defence day and there are one or two points about internal problems to which I wish to refer before I sit down.
First, I trust that the Chancellor will give us some answers to the questions that the Prime Minister slid over yesterday. The Prime Minister seemed to misunderstand the basis of our criticism of the enormous programme to which the Government have committed themselves in relation to houses, schools, hospitals and transport, in particular. Our criticism is not, as the Prime Minister put it, concerned with what we should wish to cut; our criticism is not that we want to cut at all. Our criticism is contained in the question: does the Prime Minister accept that his programme can be carried out only on certain terms, and does he accept the fact that all the promises contradict past performance because, in the past, the Government have refused these terms?
On the question of cost—in terms both of money and of physical resources—I ask the Chancellor what is the total annual commitment, and for what period ahead? Does the total annual commitment start next year, or only after the election—and for what period ahead is it envisaged? Secondly, by how much does it exceed the commitment which the previous Prime Minister said would have been involved in our 1959 election programme? Thirdly, since all this and the additional defence bill to which the Prime Minister is also committed must, by definition, exceed the infinitesimal 1 per cent, extra about which he spoke the other night—a figure of 1 per cent, would amount only to £250 million a year, and it must exceed that—where is it coming from?
198 Next, how is it physically to be done? How shall we build all these houses—quite right, too—and modernise all the others—quite right, too—and build all the schools—quite right, too—and all the universities which the Prime Minister, in a wonderful phrase at Kinross, said would soon be rolling off the production lines, and also build at the same time the training colleges, and a hospital every 19 days, and all the factories which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development will get into the regional depressed areas—and carry out the vast new road programme? [An HON. MEMBER: "Which would you cut?"] I assume that the Government will not cut any. It happens to be their Queen's Speech and not ours.
How are they going to do all that at the same time and still leave a totally unrestricted private building construction programme? How are they going to do it? Assuming they are, how will they do it without imposing restrictions upon the private building programme and, at the same time, with a building industry and a building materials industry in their present state of organisation and their present out-of-date techniques?
I am bound to ask the Chancellor this question: are there to be any priorities in this programme? If so, what are they to be? By what machinery will the priorities, if selected, be made effective? We accept that we can have a public programme of this size, but we also accept the consequences, in terms of priorities and restrictions elsewhere. Do the Government? That is what the internal political argument will be about. It is the difference between, in our case, a plan, and in their case, a mere vague declaration of intention. How will the Government do all this unless at the same time they deal with the spiralling increases in land prices?
Hon. Members will have seen in the Observer last Sunday the amount by which the wealth of one of our honourable and noble colleagues is likely to rise as a result of the releasing for building use of land in the north-east of England—something over 1 million and one hundred odd acres. If this goes on as it is going on now and the Government try to reach the programme of the size they have announced, they will 199 break the back of the Treasury and the local rates. Thus how will the Government deal with land prices? What machinery will they introduce to ensure that land use can be planned over wide areas and how will they bring down the cost of the money that will need to be borrowed to finance this enormous programme?
Their proposals are not only unanswered in the Queen's Speech. They were unanswered in the Prime Minister's speech yesterday and they have not been answered in any of his speeches in recent days. Unless there is an answer there is only one conclusion to be drawn; that when the right hon. Gentleman said that from this moment on the only thing in their minds must be electioneering, he was speaking the exact and literal truth.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) covered a wide range and I will endeavour to do the same. I shall particularly concentrate my remarks on that section of his speech in which he asked for a demonstration of how our programme can be financed and how the resources can be provided. I intend to make that demonstration but I want, first, to comment on his remarks on external policy.
The right hon. Gentleman said—and we can go into this at greater length later in the week, when there will be a debate on this issue—that there must be a basic change in our attitude to several things; first, the United Nations. The right hon. Gentleman produced a travesty of a speech by my right hon. Friend. I must make it clear that it is not our view that support of the U.N. necessarily means shutting one's eyes to attempts either to distort the original purposes of the Charter or to apply double standards in the operation of the United Nations.
The right hon. Gentleman talked, secondly, about our attitude to racial conflict. Having had some responsibility at one time at the Colonial Office I can recall what we have done—Kenya, Northern Rhodesia, and so on—and now there is a list of Measures for this 200 Session to bring independence to countries of the Commonwealth. For these reasons his remarks were wholly unjustified. Even more unjustified and unfounded was his remark about our aid to the under-developed countries. If he does not recognise how large is our aid and how substantially it has been growing, other countries overseas certainly do. They have read the recent White Paper.
They know what the British Government have been doing. They know that our aid from Government sources has doubled in the last four or five years and is on a strong upward curve. I welcome this. Nothing gave me more personal satisfaction last year than developing a scheme of aid from surplus capacity, which has linked the surplus capacity of this country to overseas needs and has given greater aid than the balance of payments position would otherwise have made possible.
The right hon. Member for Belper then spoke at length about his party's attitude to the nuclear deterrent. As he said, he made a statement which we shall study with great care and to which we shall revert. The impression I had was that his main argument was not that we should not have an independent deterrent, but that our independent deterrent was not strong enough. That emerges from his argument. We will continue to advance with confidence the proposition both that we have and should have an independent means in the ultimate to protect our own interests and that the possession of such means has been shown by experience to add to the influence, status and position of this country in the counsels of the world, with benefit not only to us but to the free world as a whole. It will be on these issues that the battle will be joined.
I turn to the Gracious Speech, which produces a broad plan of continuing and accelerating advance both economically and socially with emphasis particularly on education, higher education, housing—new houses and improvements to houses—productivity in the building industry, industrial training and regional development. As with the Budget, as I remember very well, once again the Opposition cannot or dare 201 not find any criticism of what is contained in our proposals. There is a singular coincidence between the two occasions. One further coincidence is that they seem unable to make up their mind whether or not we are doing too little or too much. They must make up their mind on this if they want to be taken seriously as an Opposition.
Do hon. Members opposite think that our plans are inadequate or excessive? Would their plans be bigger and more expensive or smaller and less expensive? There are the questions we shall want answered. Their criticisms are twofold, as I understand it from the right hon. Gentleman's speech today. First, that our plans are too ambitious, and, secondly, that they are not a development but a change of course. I intend" to demonstrate that both of these arguments are wholly false. But let hon. Members opposite recognise that if they talk about the biggest spending spree and about promises flying like confetti—and these sort of phrases were used by the right hon. Member for Bel-per—they will not be able to advance themselves an even greater and more expensive one. However, I think that they will try to do so when the election comes.
I intend to give figures on which our plans are based. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) asked yesterday if we would publish a White Paper. I have been considering this. There are many advantages in doing so, but there are technical difficulties, such as timing in relation to the Vote on Account and Estimates. However, there would be a lot of advantages in giving these calculations, as far as possible, in a White Paper. Certainly, as Chancellor of the Exchequer I am concerned that the country as a whole, like the House, should be aware of the weight of burden that we are taking deliberately upon our shoulders. I hope that if we publish the detailed calculations underlying our plans the party opposite will do the same. If it does not I do not see how the public can choose between them.
It may be that the party opposite does not know the cost. I know that the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) was once very coy about costing his plan for social security. He knew what would happen if he did. If 202 we are to put forward the costing of our plans we shall expect the party opposite to have the courage to do the same.
Since the publication of the Plowden Report we have been working on a five-year forward look at public expenditure. This covers capital and current expenditure of Government and local authorities, investment by nationalised industries and the outgoings of the National Insurance Fund. Public expenditure on this comprehensive definition, to sustain our programme which has been announced, will rise at constant prices, that is in real terms, by about 4 per cent, a year from now until 1967–68.
I will deal with some of the items as an illustration, but the broad picture is clear. On the figures I have given, our plans are wholly consistent with a 4 per cent, growth rate, but because the public expenditure items do rise in price a little faster than the rest it is likely that the proportion of public expenditure to gross national product may rise from something below 40 per cent, to something above 41 per cent. This is why, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made perfectly clear yesterday, it would be quite wrong to hold out expectations of early or substantial reductions in taxation generally when we have a programme on this scale. We do not intend to delude the public in any way on this matter—we have the disastrous precedent that the Labour Party gave at the last General Election.
But, of course, the level of taxation on the basis of a public programme on this scale will be intimately affected by the level of savings. This has immensely improved, and that level of savings that has been so formidably high under our administration should not be subjected to the possible dangers of a capital tax and the other things put forward by the party opposite. Therefore, the level of savings that a Conservative Government can look forward to will enable the programme to be carried out at a lower level of taxation than the party opposite could ever hope to achieve.
I turn now to one or two individual examples of our programme. We shall continue to accelerate the great expansion in education that has taken place over the last ten years. Total expenditure, at constant prices—March, 1963
203 prices—will rise from about £1,250 million now to £1,570 million in 1967–68. These figures take account of both the Newsom and the Robbins Reports. They mean an increase in real terms of nearly 6 per cent, per annum in the total expenditure on education.
I think that this is right, and is in line with our priorities. We, too, have priorities, and education is one of the foremost of them. We are meeting it by providing funds on this scale, and by allowing for both the greatly increased school and technical college building programme recently announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, and acceleration elsewhere throughout the education programme.
The point I want to make is that it is a further instalment in the progress that has already carried educational expenditure from 3 per cent, of the national income, as in 1951, to 4 per cent, in 1960, and will have carried it before the end of this Parliament from 4 per cent, to 5 per cent. The party opposite scoffed, or tried to scoff, when my right hon. Friend talked of accelerating on the basis of a programme already carried through, but those are the figures that prove it. I know that hon. Members opposite do not like the figures, but they asked for them. I am sorry they do not like them when they get them.
Road expenditure will rise, at constant 1963 prices, from roughly £360 million now to about £475 million in 1967-68, compared with £150 million when we came into power. Here is the measure of the progress already made, and from that basis we are adding acceleration. Hospitals—increasing capital expenditure over the years referred to by about 10 per cent, a year. We have had expansion in housing based on the recent expansion of housebuilding to the current record level of house construction, and recent increases in productivity in the building industry.
I have been giving these figures at the request of the Opposition, and it is with great pleasure that I have given them. They show quite clearly that the programmes we are putting before the country are both practical and sustainable, and are an extension and a logical continuation of all that has been achieved 204 in the last years. Moreover, they are possible because they are based on the enormous increase in investment that has taken place in those years. Fixed investment as a proportion of the national product has risen from 14½ per cent, to 18½ per cent., and productive investment, on which all this rests, is up during our term of office by no less than 75 per cent.
This, again, is what my right hon. Friend was referring to. This is the foundation of productive investment and achievement already recorded on which our future programme is solidly and with confidence based-
§ Mr. Maudling
We accepted in the Budget the N.E.D.C. target of a 4 per cent, growth rate. As I have said, all our calculations of social expenditure are reckoned on acceptance of that growth rate, because they ought to be. Having accepted that postulate, that objective, we base our programme on it. That is quite right, because all the parties in the N.E.D.C.—Government, employers, the trade unions and the rest—accept that a 4 per cent, growth rate is achievable, and much more nearly achievable than the party opposite gives us credit for—
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South East)
The right hon. Gentleman is basing it on promises and hopes for the future. Is he now to tell us what changes in policies we can expect from a Government whose average rate of growth over the last twelve years has not been 4 per cent., or even 3 per cent., but 2½ per cent.? On this basis, are not these just confetti promises for the future?
§ Mr. Maudling
I intend to give figures to disprove that point. I know that figures are inconvenient, but in our case they are the basis of policy.
The 4 per cent, growth rate needs a 3.2 per cent, yearly increase in productivity. These are all the N.E.D.C.'s own calculations, and in its Report the hon. Gentleman will find it saying that whereas before the war 1½ per cent, was the annual figure, productivity rose between 1951 and 1961 by 2 per cent, and between 1955 and 1961 by 2½ per cent. The N.E.D.C. now says that 205 probably it is rising by nearly 3 per cent. The gap between nearly 3 per cent, and 3.2 per cent, is not all that wide, and the steady increase in the rate of growth of productivity over these years given by these figures is a final answer to the charges of stagnation that we so often hear.
It is quite possible to achieve a 4 per cent, growth rate, and the House will remember that I based my Budget proposals very largely and systematically on the proposals of the N.E.D.C. and its recommendations for sweeping away—[Interruption.] No—the N.E.D.C. did not recommend that. The right hon. Gentleman recommended it, and gave it up. The right hon. Gentleman makes a very agreeable grave digger to the ambitions of his friends.
The Gracious Speech carries further the proposals I made in the Budget, particularly in regard to industrial training, local employment and regional development. Industrial training will be dealt with by a Bill shortly to be put before us, so I cannot speak about it in any detail now, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade will speak on regional development tomorrow. In the meantime, I want to stress again how much has already been achieved in this field.
Under the Local Employment Act, projects have been brought forward involving some 90,000 jobs. If it had not been for the Local Employment Act there would have been no B.M.C. at Bathgate, no Ford's at Mersey side, none of the great development at Linwood—all these projects came into being because of our policies-
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. The House knows the rule quite well. It is that if the right hon. Gentleman is in possession of the House and does not give way, other hon. Members must resume their seats.
§ Mr. W. Hamilton
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer chooses to make accusations, and deliberately deceive the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—he should give way to an hon. Member to correct him.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I do hope that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) will abide by the rules of the House.
§ Mr. Maudling
I was about to say that I would give way when I finished this section—and if the party opposite had made a little less noise I would have been able to say it much earlier. In addition to the measures under the Local Employment Act there was the free depreciation in the Budget, the surplus aid provisions, to which I have already referred, the grants to local authorities for improving derelict sites, the new standard grants already announced in the Budget, of 25 per cent, and 10 per cent., and the £75 million shipbuilding scheme since. This is the complete picture which I want to put before the House, and now I will certainly give way.
§ Mr. W. Hamilton
Has the right hon. Gentleman studied the unanimous Report of the Estimates Committee where it indicated that the Local Employment Act had been virtually valueless concerning Scotland, that we have, in fact, lost almost as many jobs as we have gained, and that some of the motor corporations went there before the Act was on the Statute Book?
§ Mr. Maudling
If the hon. Member thinks that the Act has been valueless, the workers of Linwood and Bathgate would not think so.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question which I raised with the Prime Minister yesterday. I am in a constituency which has had development status for approximately six months and, incidentally, the situation has deteriorated so far as employment is concerned. We have this anomalous situation.
§ Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not wrong for the hon. Gentleman to get up under the guise of asking a question and then make a speech?
§ Mr. Monslow
I completely ignore that interjection. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I am putting this point in no other way than for information. We have in my constituency a situation of 10 per cent. redundancy whilst in the South we are 14 per cent, understaffed. I am asking, inasmuch as attention is being given to other parts of the country—I make no complaint—are areas such as mine, where there is 10 per cent, redundancy, to get a balanced economy? Are they to receive attention, which has not yet been given, in due course under the scheme?
§ Mr. Maudling
My right hon. Friend will be dealing in detail with this tomorrow. My point was that the general benefits available under the Budget to the development districts are producing substantial results. I could quote a number of instances. In fact, many hundreds of new projects have come forward in the districts, as as whole, with the largest numbers in the North-East and Scotland, since the Budget proposals were put forward. My point is that what has already been done, in housing, education and everything else, is a substantial basis on which we shall make further progress. I do not think that the jobs created in Scotland were nonsense, whatever the hon. Gentleman may think.
§ Mr. Ross
I will quote what the right hon. Gentleman said when the Local Employment Act was going through, because he conducted that Measure. He said that it would lead to success, at that time, when in the development areas in Scotland there were 60,000 unemployed.
208 Three years later, after the "successful" Act, there were 92,000 unemployed.
§ Mr. Maudling
If tens of thousands of new jobs in Scotland are not a form of success, I do not know what is. I have been dealing with the broad basis for a 4 per cent, growth programme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why"?] Because it is the basis of our future plans, because it is accepted by N.E.D.C, including the trade union representatives, because I think that it is acceptable to the party opposite, because it is the only coherent basis upon which to operate, and because we prefer on this side of the House to have a coherent basis upon which to operate.
I want to refer to the other obstacle which has held back our expansion in the past. That is what is called the stop-go, start-stop, whichever way you like to put it—the fluctuations in activity which have arisen from two main causes. First, the exposed position of sterling as one of the great reserve currencies of the world, responding to the fluctuations of international monetary movements; and I think that it will be agreed that whatever Government is in power the strength of sterling and all that depends on it must take prority over all other considerations. I am sure that that will be agreed by the party opposite. It was said by the Leader of the Opposition.
Secondly, what has held us back has been the tendency for incomes to rise too fast in times when productivity has itself been rising. Time and again, we have overpassed ourselves by going too fast. We must not do that again. I think that the position is a good deal stronger than it has been. Certainly the resources available to support sterling—the International Monetary Fund in its new and improved form, the bilateral arrangements that we have, the Basle arrangements, the 500 million dollar swap arrangement with the United States—in all these ways resources available to support sterling against temporary fluctuations or temporary difficulties are much stronger than they were. And I believe that we are strongly placed to meet any speculative movement, at a time of vigorous expansion in this country, so long as our domestic economy remains sound.
For our domestic economy to remain sound I come back once again to what 209 seems to me to be the one fundamental necessity—a rational incomes policy designed to ensure that real incomes in all forms rise as rapidly as the economy can bear, but are not pushed up in money terms so fast as to lead to a return of inflation, rising costs and rising prices. We have seen recently in the remarkable development of our export trade in Europe how important it is to keep incomes at a level to keep inflation under control. If we are to maintain the exports that we need we cannot rely on France, Italy and other countries running into inflationary difficulty. We must continue ourselves to exercise the restraint we need in this country, and I am glad to see that the party opposite have at their most recent conference been converted at last to this point of view.
I believe that we have reason to look forward to the future with confidence. I said in the Budget that our objective should be expansion without inflation, expansion that can be sustained. Since then we have seen a broad based expansion, starting with construction and motor cars and spreading down the whole range of British industry from the retail trade to the heavy steel industry. We have seen production in industry rising strongly, we have seen exports going up well, particularly to Europe, we have seen the rising confidence of business men and increasingly good reports from major companies. This has been accompanied by a remarkably stable level of prices and the very strong position of sterling in a difficult time of the year. In other words, the Budget objectives are being achieved and will go on being achieved so long as we continue, as we intend to do, with the policies to which we are committed. On the basis of those policies, and on the basis of what has already been achieved, as I have demonstrated today, we have calculated that we can well sustain this programme which will be of such immense benefit to the whole people.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
As I am sure that the House would wish that I should leave the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I do not propose to deal 210 with it. I would say at the outset that I thought that the unfortunate speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) yesterday was nevertheless singularly appropriate to a party which is attempting to substitute the image of John Wilkes for that of Dr. Johnson. The Prime Minister could well say to his back-benchers: "It is all very well to dissemble your love, but why did you kick me downstairs?" It is indeed a historic occasion when in thanking the Prime Minister in a debate on the Address Caligula's horse is brought in, as it was yesterday.
Speaking personally for a moment I am sorry that the ex-Prime Minister, whose brilliant leadership of his party nobody questions, should have had the last months of his ten years of high office clouded by misfortunes for which he was not responsible and that he should have had to end his career through illness. I need hardly say that everybody here is glad that the former Prime Minister is well on the way back to health and strength. The battle we have in the House is not between persons, even Prime Ministers, but between parties.
The Tory Party, having tried every change of Minister possible, is now trying the desperate expedient of changing its policy. As for those parts of the Gracious Speech which are favourable, I would ask why if the programme is all right the Government have not carried it out during the last twelve years. The simple fact is that everything that the Robbins Committee tells the country about the failure to provide university places for the first infant bulge, for the children who will be disappointed in our sixth forms this year, we on this side of the House have been telling the Government for the last eight or nine years.
A Government who are now accepting the Robbins Report, just as a drowning man clutches at a straw, only eighteen months ago were refusing the University Grants Committee the finances requested for a much smaller programme. I can remember telling the House that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was asking the University Grants Committee to make bricks without straw. The New-som Report on secondary education, on what we are doing for the average child, some of us asked for several years ago.
211 It reveals gaps and deficiencies in school building, teacher supply, equipment and amenities about which we have been protesting from this side of the House throughout the long life of Conservative Governments. The Report reiterates the demand made by the Crowther Report that we should name a date after which all children in Britain should receive education up to the age of 16, but there is not a word about that in the Gracious Speech. I hope that some day we shall debate fully the Newsom Report, which I regard as even more important than the Robbins Report. One point which I should like to make at this stage is that the emphasis in the Newsom Report on the spiritual and the ethical as distinct from the intellectual part of the education of all our children is admirable and something which the House will, I hope, consider very seriously.
But the whole of the Newsom Report, just like the Robbins Report, is a condemnation of the Government's twelve years' stop-and-go policy in education. If the Government are now proposing to ride on the bandwagon of educational advance, we have the right to ask what has prevented them from taking the lead during the long run of Tory Prime Ministers and Ministers of Education.
It will not be unknown to the House that the old Carthaginians used to crucify defeated generals. The modem Tory Party is not much better. It will do anything to hang on to power. The Tories got rid of a Minister of Education, the then Dame Florence Horsbrugh, to make room for Lord Eccles who was later thrown to the wolves just as callously as was his predecessor. The House is littered with ex-Ministers of Defence and ex-Prime Ministers, and ex-Parliamentary Secretaries are two a penny. Indeed, the Government benches are almost like the old pre-war French Parliament when nearly everybody was an ex-Minister.
And now the last ex-Prime Minister is dropped unceremoniously and, it appears, almost as cheerfully as he himself sacrificed Minister after Minister to regain the confidence of the country in the Tory Party. As for another place, it has now become quite patently, as underneath we always knew it to be, an 212 instrument of Tory policy to be manipulated with lords in, lords out, commoners up and lords down by a party which, unlike the Labour Party, had always professed a veneration for blue blood and the Second Chamber.
Now that the Labour Party has made it possible for them to do so, the lords will cheerfully throw away everything except their huge estates and wealth to preserve Britain from another Socialist Government. There has been nothing like it since that golden moment in the French Revolution when princes threw away their titles and the Duke of Orleans became overnight Philippe Egalite. Just as his predecessor hoped to blame those whom he dismissed for the faults of the whole Cabinet, so the new Prime Minister talks about a new drive, with most of the old horses, and a new policy of expansion here and vigour there and, above all, modernisation, clearly by implication putting all the blame for the lack of these things so far on the one important man not now in the Government—the former Prime Minister.
I pay tribute to the skill and ruthless-ness of our ruling class. As the Prime Minister said at the Lord Mayor's banquet on Monday:There is a direct relationship between wealth and power and influence.It is a relationship which we on these benches seek to destroy.
I went about America during the time of the recent Tory leadership crisis as a good non-party Englishman speaking for my country. I said that the Tory conference was becoming almost democratic, indeed almost like an American convention at moments, and I hazarded a guess as to which Member of Parliament would be chosen leader. I had to give up trying to explain when the Establishment decided that nobody on the Government benches in this House was fit to be Prime Minister.
I should like to turn now from what is the controversial part of my speech to something else. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am sorry that the Government benches do not like the truth.
§ Dr. King
Each year I visit the universities of the United States and talk to about 10,000 young people in colleges and high schools in Georgia. In that country, as everyone who has been there will agree, one receives a welcome whose generous nature and lavish scale is indescribable. This time in the deep South I found a warm affection for Britain and a desire to understand British politics and Britain's relations with Europe. We had deep and searching discussions on the implications of the Test Ban Treaty, a treaty which was voted by a large majority in Congress but where there was still a minority who did not want to move a scrap towards reaching an understanding with Khrushchev.
I felt this year that the Cuba crisis, during which I was in America last year, had brought American people, as I believe it brought the Russians, to face the grim reality, as never before, that a third world war is so horrible as to be unthinkable and that both sides must reach out to take advantage of the easement of tension in East-West relations.
I believe that there are forces in America and forces in the Communist world who regard compromise and the will for peace as "appeasement" and treachery. There are those who say, "Let us get tough with Khrushchev", just as there are those who say to Khrushchev," Let us get tough with Kennedy." To me the most significant remark of this year has been the Khrushchev quotation from Mao Tse-tung's talk with Nehru, when Mao said that a third world war might mean the death of 900 million people but there would still be 2,000 million left. This is an attitude, whoever holds it, which is abhorred by statesmen on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
The new Foreign Secretary has the good wishes of every hon. Member in all that he and his Department try to do, with Kennedy and Khrushchev, on the recent easement of tension, on the bridges that they try to build between East and West. But that bridge building cannot be on one side only. To me Russia's fear of a nuclear-armed Germany makes sense. It is time that the West openly declared that the Oder-Neisser line, which cannot be changed without a war, is a boundary which the 214 free world recognises as unchangeable except by free negotiation. Moreover, the long-term task of the free world and of Russia together must be to use their influence to win the great Continent of China to world peace.
Georgia is a State which I have known very well over a long period of years. The trouble about the nations is that they know only the worst of each other. Here I would pay tribute, from personal knowledge, to our own foreign service in America, to the British Information Service, to men like Mr. Alec Robertson in the deep South, recently decorated by Her Majesty for sterling services to the cause of British-American understanding.
I was pained that the first question to me at each of my seventy meetings was about Profumo, just as I am pained to think that to many Britons America is the place where four negro children were murdered. Democracy seems to be searching for its lowest common denominator. We need to get to know what is worth while about each other. We have got to improve our public relations, even between the free parts of the world, let alone between the free, the uncommitted and the Communist parts of the world.
I was happy to see in Georgia an advance towards integration, to meet the first coloured Americans in the universities where 1 lectured, and to find the Christian churches at long last debating what they would do when the first black Christian asked for admittance to a white Christian church. The way ahead in the South is not easy. There are deep complications on the issues of State rights and federal powers, but the southern States are moving steadily forward with the exception of Alabama and Mississippi.
If the climate is peaceful in Georgia, it is largely because nearly fifty years ago, and for the last fifty years—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but this debate is concerned with British affairs and I hope the hon. Member will bear that in mind.
§ Dr. King
I am sorry if I dilated, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was going to say that if the situation in the South has improved it is largely because of the 215 sterling work of a great American editor, Mr. Ralph McGill, one of the great journalists of the world, who has fearlessly denounced racialism and social injustice in the South. I believe that encouraging people of all kinds to meet each other—journalists and the rest-is a great contribution to world peace. Anything that the present Government can do in their last moments before the General Election to step up the exchange of teachers, professors and journalists is a contribution to world understanding and peace. I would hope that the Government—or the Press—would one day invite Mr. Ralph McGill to Britain. This could indeed help British-American understanding.
§ Mr. W. Yates
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I should like your guidance on the Ruling that you gave a moment ago. When an hon. Member desires to discuss any matter connected with his visits abroad, his constituency, his attendance on Committees either in this country or abroad, or anything else that he may wish to raise in this debate on the Gracious Speech, is that now out of order?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Anything that is concerned with British policy and with British foreign policy is in order, but not the internal affairs of a foreign State.
§ Dr. King
I accept your rebuke, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I admit that I wandered, carried away by my belief in the importance of British-American understanding and the need to bring together and to exchange wherever possible people of all ranks in furtherance of that understanding.
If I may say a word about Europe, it is only this. Whatever the difference of opinion in the House about the Common Market—and there are obvious differences—I am sure that it is common policy between both sides of the House that there are bonds between ourselves and Europe which we hope the Government will continue to strengthen. The mere fact that de Gaulle at the moment seems to want to cut off his nose to spite his face should not interfere with the long-established Franco-British friendship and our oneness with Europe; and in trade, defence and certainly in the realm of education culture I express the 216 hope that the Government will continue with the efforts which the former Lord Privy Seal made towards bridging the gap between ourselves and Europe.
On the question of culture I speak as a former Vice-Chairman of the Cultural Committee of the Council of Europe and a member of the British section of the European Cultural Foundation. Tremendously fine work has been done in the twinning of cities, in the breaking of the language barriers, in the exchange of young people, in the approach which is being made to the teaching of European rather than mere national history. I plead with the Government, in quest-of European unity, whenever they have the opportunity, deliberately to foster and encourage the work in the field of European culture.
Coming to the home front, I believe that the most important question facing this country is now, as always, the poverty of the poor. Like every other hon. Member, I have been asked to urge this Government to do something for the old-age pensioner. I hope that even if it is just part of a pre-election programme, the new Prime Minister will increase the old-age pension and the basic allowance which we pay to the old, the sick, and unemployed, and will have another look at the vexed problem of widowhood which some of us have been raising year after year, which we still treat inadequately and anomalously, and that they will do this before the winter begins.
The real lessons of the Christine Keeler business are twofold. First, there are in this country people who have so much money and leisure that they do not know what to do with either. The other is that those with the biggest incomes often do the least work for the country. I regret that here is nothing in the Queen's Speech which calls for an alliance of those who work in this country against those who do not work—against, for example, those who are merely what Hamlet described asspacious in the possession of dirt"and who, because Britain needs hospitals, houses, schools and factories, are today reaping vast unearned incomes at the expense of the ratepayers and taxpayers. I believe that such an alliance of all who work is beginning to be 217 forged, and that when the General Election comes it will sweep out the party which has made land and property speculation far more rewarding than any honest work by hand and brain.
I regret that there is not a word in the Queen's Speech about the land, rent, and property rackets. This week I believe the Government have set out to try to pull off the greatest confidence trick of the century, to steal the Whig's clothes while they are bathing, and to blame somebody else for what is wrong with Britain. The Government underestimate the intelligence of the British electorate. They cannot fool an educated democracy for ever, and I only hope that at the earliest possible moment they will give this country an opportunity of making a fair judgment on the fundamental difference between the two parties.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
One part of the Gracious Speech which has so far received no attention at all is that which deals with the administration and the machinery of the law. It is quite natural in a debate where great national issues on peace and prosperity are at stake that this should be so, but the fairness and efficiency of our legal system and our law are matters of great public interest, and it is desirable that we in this House should show that we are interested in them.
We may also hope that those matters will receive some mention or attention in the Press and on the air, so that the general public may be given something to counteract suggestions, so often made, that we in this "House, irrespective of party, are not really concerned with matters of public interest.
There are two legal subjects in the Gracious Speech of particular interest dealing with real grievances. The first is compensation for injuries caused by violence as a result of crimes, and the second is the question of legal aid costs. As regards the first, there is wide support, I am quite sure, for the principle of such compensation, but there is a great deal of difference of opinion and many difficulties concerning the application of that principle.
From the Gracious Speech it is not clear what attitude is being adopted to- 218 wards it because, if I may be allowed to quote the words, the Gracious Speech says:You will be invited to consider arrangements for the payment of compensation to the victims of crimes of violence.That does not suggest legislation, and it is consistent, as a matter of language, with our merely being told what is going to be done. But I hope that that is not all it means, because there are a number of very difficult problems involved—not party questions of any kind—in this. It is something which we all want to deal with and I cannot waste the time of the House on it now. But let us think for a moment or two about one or two questions. Is it the court which is to decide, the court which hears the case, or who is to decide? What is to be the basis of compensation in any given case? How does one define an innocent person—if we limit it to innocent people? Is there to be a general fund out of which the money comes?
There is a suggestion in one of the newspapers today that there is to be an ex-gratia payment. Some of us have had some experience of past Government ex-gratia payments, and the point is, I think, best illustrated by what happens when one does or does not have an independent tribunal to assess the ex-gratia payment. When one has an ex-gratia tribunal, as we know from matters arising out of the war, there is a very fair award, but when we have somebody who is not an independent tribunal I do not think that we can feel happy about it. Those are all difficult problems, and I venture to ask the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who I am very glad to see here today, if we may in due course have a clear explanation and a full opportunity of debating this matter if the public is going to be satisfied that the system is intended to be, and will be, not only fair but comprehensive and practical.
With regard to legal aid there is unanimous agreement that the present system is unfair. If a plaintiff is legally assisted and the defendant is not, and the plaintiff's case fails, the defendant has no redress at all as regards costs. Many of us know hard cases which have resulted from that. One wonders really why it is that we have not been able to get it more generally accepted that 219 this should be done. One supposes that the present proposal must be a victory over the Treasury, because no one else has ever argued against it.
Our main need in this case, I suggest, is speed. There is no real dispute about the matter and I do not see any difficulty about the Bill becoming an Act. It is true that it ran into some technical hitches in another place during the last Session, but there must be no question of sidetracking it here. It ought to be brought in and become law very quickly. I am sure that it will receive every assistance here.
The next matter is the reorganisation of the criminal courts in London, principally dealing with the amalgamation of the present London magistrates' courts and the petty sessional courts. Again there is no difficulty about the principle. The Aarvold recommendations have been generally accepted. Again, the main requirement is speed, so that the new system can be put into operation as quickly as possible.
Then there is a proposal which requires rather more consideration. It is the proposed right of the Court of Criminal Appeal to order a new trial. Such a power is, of course, a usual feature of appeal courts, for use in very special cases and not otherwise. The fairest example is one where new evidence becomes available of which no one could have known before and which transforms the whole case, between the first court and the court of appeal. So it is right that such a right of appeal should exist. But I think it would be generally agreed that it must not be used, as some enthusiasts in the past have suggested it might be used, for the purpose of "having another go "—they put it that way—at a man who is thought to have been lucky to get away with it, although he has had a perfectly fair trial with both sides being heard. That is the principle of nemo debet bis vexari. I do not feel that I need translate that. I think that the terms of the Bill should make that clear for all to read, and avoid any possibility of any efforts being made to get round it.
With regard to legislation and the legal field generally, it has been suggested in certain quarters that fundamental changes in our whole system of 220 law and its administration are necessary and in need of that requirement. I am told—I have not seen it myself—that the Gracious Speech has already been criticised for not including drastic proposals of that nature. I personally do not agree with that view at all, and I do not believe that it has the support of any great weight of opinion. Above all, I think it most important, especially when such things are said, that no countenance should be given to any suggestion or suspicion that our present standards of justice are in any way inferior to those of the past.
Certain things have been said in this connection and other things have been hinted which could have the effect, unless they are contradicted and kept in place, of shaking public confidence. In particular, remarks have been made, sometimes of a decidedly ambiguous nature, which have been understood, whether rightly or wrongly, as directly reflecting on the impartiality or independence of the judiciary. It has certainly been specifically alleged that the Government have sought to interfere with the independence of the judges, and some of the statements have undoubtedly been interpreted as going much further and implying that the judges have allowed themselves to be influenced by political considerations.
I do not wish to suggest that anyone has actually said that. I know of no such statements being made, but I have read statements which suggest that the Government have "debauched public life" and have allowed the administration of the law to come into suspicion and contempt. Matters of that kind have been alleged. I myself have had, and I know some of my hon. Friends have had, serious queries from constituents as to whether there is any truth in that kind of allegation. I believe, therefore, that any such allegations, implications or insinuations, whatever one calls them, ought to be repudiated and condemned whenever they occur. I know of no single case, since long before I came into this House and since I have been connected with public affairs in any way, where it could ever be properly suggested that any judge has been influenced by political considerations or has been subservient to any political party at any time. It is not 221 a justifiable suggestion, and it can only do immense damage to us all over the world. If ever the alleged behaviour of the judiciary became a counter in the party political game, it would be a very bad day for this country, and I hope that it never will be so.
In the same connection, I believe that there will be universal satisfaction in the House that certain accusations of alleged unprofessional conduct, made against my right hon. and learned Friend Her Majesty's Attorney-General, have been held by the appropriate professional tribunal to be unfounded. I do not intend to say more about it, not because nothing could be said but because I firmly believe that, where a professional tribunal of the highest standing and with ancient history such as the Bench of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple has made such a finding, it is more fitting to let it speak for itself.
I add only this. The Law Officers of the Crown perform an essential function in this House. Although they are members of the Executive, their first and overriding duty is to us, to the House of Commons, to advise impartially on any legal question which may arise, however inconvenient the answer may be for the Government. Those of us who have had the great honour to serve in that office know that there are occasions when it is necessary to make a decision of that kind and do what one believes to be right. The reason one does it is that one is still a member of the Bar, subject to all the traditions and rules of professional conduct, the unwritten rules which are so ancient and so firm and which are still binding although one might think it more convenient to give a decision favourable to the Government. Therefore, it is of the highest importance that no shadow of doubt should ever fall upon the integrity of one of the Law Officers.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. To clear my mind, has the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey finished his speech?
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
On this occasion, I find myself very much in agreement with the opening observations of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and, indeed, with the greater part of what he had to say. He began by emphasising that the fairness and efficiency of the administration of justice is a matter of first concern to this House. I agree that this should be well understood outside. The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to refer to the particular law reforms which are foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech. All I say about that is that I join with him in welcoming the proposalto alleviate hardship resulting from litigation between persons who receive legal aid and those who do notI entirely agree that this is a matter of considerable urgency.
The proposal"to empower the Court of Criminal Appeal to order a new trial of a convicted person on grounds of fresh evidenceraises a very controversial topic. Speaking for myself, I think that the power to order a new trial should be confined to those cases in which fresh evidence is available and ought not to be extended to cases in which a conviction is quashed because of some misdirection or irregularity in the trial.
The proposals set out in the Gracious Speech are all very well in their way, but I submit that, in present circumstances, they are quite inadequate. In this Session we ought to devote a good deal of time to reforming the administration of justice and considering the relationship between the police and the public.
In this country we rightly take great pride in the way justice is administered. We have two great assets. The first consists in absolutely independent judges who are, for the most part, of a very high calibre. I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey in repudiating any suggestion 223 that the judges are, or have been, susceptible to any kind of improper pressure from the Executive or from anyone else. Our second asset is something which I believe to be essential in any really free society, namely, a strongly organised legal profession. But, having accepted that, let us not assume, as the Solicitor-General appeared to do in a speech last week, that our system of administering justice does not need to be radically reformed and improved.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Peter Rawlinson)
The hon. and learned Gentleman may have been misled by a totally false report which appeared in, I think, two newspapers. If it is that which he has in mind, I hope he will accept that what I said at Harrogate, which I repeated at Cambridge, was correctly reported at Harrogate—it will shortly be published—and that both the newspapers which received a distorted report, not from a professional journalist, did, in fact, carry my correction a few days later.
§ Mr. Foot
I am delighted to hear that disclaimer. Perhaps this occasion has served a useful purpose in that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made it in the House.
One of the least admirable features of political life in this country is the delay experienced in bringing about even the most obvious and necessary legal reforms. I remind the House of two or three examples. In the 1890s, there was passed through Parliament one of the most iniquitous Statutes ever to find its way to the Statute Book, an Act called the Public Authorities Protection Act. That Act put public authorities in a position far more favourable than that of private defendants. Whereas one could sue a private defendant in tort within six years after a cause of action, a public authority had to be sued within six months. This led to a great deal of injustice in a number of cases. There were many instances in which litigants did not discover their rights or who the proper defendant was within six months, and they were out of time. It took over 60 years to put that right. It was not until the early 1950s that we changed the law and did what was obvious and necessary, putting public 224 authorities in the same position as any private defendant.
For many years, it was impossible in this country to sue the Crown in tort. There was an almost unanimous demand from the legal profession that we should have the Crown Proceedings Act. I remember the question being raised again and again in the years before the war, but not until the 1940s was the Act passed.
Again, those of us who deal with accident cases and claims for damages by injured workmen remember very well the defence of common employment. It was a doctrine condemned by almost every practising lawyer and condemned also by every trade unionist who had knowledge of accident law and accident claims. Yet this fantastic part of the law remained in our system until the 1940s, for something like a century.
In 1932, the Committee on Ministers' Powers, a very authoritative Committee, recommended what now seems obvious, that when a public inqury was held by an inspector who reported to the Minister, an inquiry affecting the rights of various people, the report of the person making the inquiry should be published and the Minister should give reasons for his decision. That seems obvious today, but it was not until 1957 that we managed to get it on the Statute Book and after we had had another inquiry
In each of those instances—and it would be very easy to multiply them—the case for reform was obvious and, I submit, overwhelming, yet in each instance the reform could not be accomplished until after many years' delay. That was not due, as some people seem to think, to the inherent conservatism either of the judiciary or the legal profession, because suggestions for reform of the law frequently come from the judges themselves who dislike having to administer an injustice or from those concerned in one way or another with the administration of the law. The fault lies not with the courts but with Parliament and the administrative machine.
May I take one particular example which is, I think, of great importance. About seven or eight years ago, following the Bodkin Adams trial, the Tucker Committee was set up to examine how far committal proceedings should be held 225 in camera and whether they should be reported. After a very full inqury the Committee unanimously recommended that evidence given in committal proceedings before the magistrates should not be published in the Press until all the proceedings were over or until the accused was discharged.
That was a most important recommendation. I suggest that its importance has been underlined by recent proceedings in our courts. I have in mind in particular the trial of Dr. Stephen Ward. How could any juror called upon to try that case have failed to form some impression in advance from the evidence given in the committal proceedings? The same observation applies to the forthcoming trial of Miss Christine Keeler.
The mischief of reporting committal proceedings in the Press is twofold. First, as a general rule, the defence is reserved, which means that only the evidence, for the prosecution is published. Secondly, evidence may be admitted and reported in the Press which is not afterwards sought to be called or which is held to be inadmissible at the trial. Those were the recommendations of the Tucker Committee which reported in July, 1958. No action was taken by Her Majesty's Government.
In January last year the Government introduced the Criminal Justice Administration Bill. It did not deal with this aspect of the administration of the law, but when it was in Committee upstairs my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney North, (Mr. Weitzman) sought to introduce an Amendment to give effect to the Tucker recommendation regarding the reporting of committal proceedings. The reply given by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), who was then the Home Office spokesman, was that this was a highly controversial topic but that the Government were setting up a fresh inquiry into the nature and purpose of committal proceedings. That announcement was nearly two years ago.
We therefore have this position. It is seven years since the Tucker Committee was set up and we have waited nearly two years for this fresh inquiry into committal proceedings. Meantime, 226 this procedure which may and undoubtedly sometimes does work real injustice is allowed to continue without reform.
I could easily cite other examples but I should like to refer to one or two. It was as long ago as 1923 that the Atkin Committee, which was considering the defence of insanity in criminal proceedings, recommended the abolition of the ridiculous verdict "Guilty but insane", which is for any lawyer simply a contradiction in terms. The same recommendation was made by another committee in the early 1950s. Only in September this year the same recommendation was made by the Criminal Law Revision Committee presided over by Lord Justice Sellers, which recommended a different verdict. It also recommended that there should be an appeal, which there is not at present, from the verdict of insanity. I hope that the Government will find time to deal with that recommendation, and with the other recommendation of the Sellers Committee, namely, that in a criminal trial the defence should always have the last word. That was a unanimous recommendation which is, I believe, supported by nearly everyone with experience of the criminal law.
Anyone who has been engaged in a defence knows the difficulty which arises in the case of a witness, other than a witness of character, who may be of some value but who is not absolutely vital and comes to support the defence. One is faced with a choice. One can either call him and lose the last word so that the prosecution gets the right of reply which it would not otherwise have, or one clings to the advantage of the last word leaving oneself open to the criticism that that witness has not been called.
I do not believe that the defence should be put in that kind of dilemma. It results in evidence which should be before the jury not being called. That is a simple reform which would not take very much Parliamentary time. It would, I believe, be acceptable on both sides of the House, and there is no reason why we should not deal with it in the present Session.
Everyone concerned with the law can think of many other examples apart from those which I have given, but I 227 recommend to the House the proposals recently put forward in a book entitled "Law Reform Now." It is the work of a number of lawyers associated with the Labour Party and students of the law, including Mr. Gerald Gardiner and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones). As I was not one of the authors, I think that I can say that, in my opinion, it is a very considerable achievement.
The authors make three proposals. First, that the Lord Chancellor's Department should be greatly strengthened; secondly, that there should be five law commissioners appointed for three years at a time in order to keep the question of law reform in all its branches under continuous review; and, thirdly, that there should be a vice-chancellor with the rank of Minister of State who would be exclusively concerned with law reform and would sit and answer questions in this House.
I come to the second topic which I wish to mention, namely, the question of police powers and relationships between the police and the public. Let me make it clear that I am not making a general attack on the police in this country. I have had a great many contacts with the police and I, like, I suppose, every other hon. Member, have the highest regard for them as a body. I think that most of us agree that they are overworked and understaffed and, I would add, underpaid, and that in dealing with the modern criminal they have a more difficult task than ever before.
However, that does not mean that we should refrain from criticism in cases where it is quite plainly called for. There is no need to make any comment on or to underline the findings of the Sheffield inquiry, which speak for themselves, but it is true, I think, that for a long time there has been great uneasiness in this country about the manner in which confessions are sometimes extracted and convictions obtained.
I remind the House of one passage in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police. It said, paragraph 369:There was a body of evidence, too substantial to disregard, which in effect accused the police of stooping to the use of undesirable means of obtaining statements and of occasionally giving perjured evidence in a 228 court of law. Thus the Law Society suggested that the police sometimes use guile, and offer inducements, in order to obtain confessions, in the belief that irregular means of securing the conviction of a person whom they believe to be guilty are justifiable in the public interest, and that occasionally police officers colour, exaggerate, or even fabricate the evidence against an accused person.These criticisms applied, in their view, only to isolated cases.Nevertheless, the criticisms were made
In this House, of course, we are concerned with the Metropolitan Police, for whose conduct the Home Secretary is answerable to us. I am bound to say that the answers which he gives to us are generally designed to furnish the minimum of information. Shortly before the House rose for the Summer Recess, I put to the Home Secretary a series of Questions. They had to be Written Questions because, under our procedure, Oral Questions to that Minister were no longer possible during the last fortnight of the Session. I was concerned about a particular incident, namely, the arrest and detention of Miss Marilyn Rice-Davies. I was not, as some of my lewder correspondents suggested, particularly interested in the lady herself, but was concerned with the fact that a citizen of this country against whom, we were told, no charge at any time was preferred should be prevented from leaving the country, detained in custody and then admitted to bail in the sum of £1,000. I suggest that the procedure adopted in her case was wholly irregular and, indeed, illegal. It is quite apparent that the police did what they did to ensure that she should be present as a witness at Dr. Ward's trial.
On 12th July, I asked the Home Secretary(1) how many persons have been prevented by the Metropolitan Police from leaving the country during the present year and in each of the last preceding 10 years;(2) if he will give particulars of persons who since the beginning of the present year have been prevented by the Metropolitan Police from leaving the country although not charged with any offence.The right hon. Gentleman replied:This information is not available."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th July, 1963; Vol. 680, c. 180.}On 15th July, I asked the right hon. Gentlemanhow many persons who have not been charged with any offences have been admitted 229 to bail by officers of the Metropolitan Police pursuant to Section 38 of the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1952, during the present year and in each of the 10 preceding years.The right hon. Gentleman again replied:This information is not available."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1963; Vol, 681, c. 21.]I should, I suppose, be out of order if I were to say that both those replies were patently untrue. Therefore, I will avail myself of the precedent set many years ago in this House by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and say that on each occasion the Home Secretary was guilty of a terminological inexactitude. Obviously, the information was available in each case. It might have been difficult and troublesome to collect, but it must have been there; and the only reason why it was not made available to this House was that the right hon. Gentleman did not choose to obtain it.
I suggest that the time has come to review the whole question of police powers relating to inquiry and arrest. We all know perfectly well that persons are sometimes convicted on confessions which are not really voluntary. We know that people are sometimes detained for questioning although there is no legal authority for any process of that kind. We know that pressure is sometimes brought upon witnesses to give evidence for the prosecution and we know that, in practice, the judges' rules on many occasions are not strictly observed. I know, too, that the answer is that if the police meticulously observed the law and the spirit of the law in every case, the detection of crime would become far more difficult than it is now. That is the dilemma which the House and the country must face.
A number of suggestions have been made. I do not agree with the suggestion put forward last weekend by Lord Shawcross that we should adopt some imitation of the inquisitorial procedure of Continental countries, but it would be worth while for us to consider how the problem of police interrogation and of confessions has been dealt with in other parts of the Commonwealth. Particularly I have in mind the experience of India for the last 100 years and in later years of Ceylon.
The law in those countries is as folio ws. A police officer who is investi- 230 gating a crime is entitled and empowered to put questions and require answers from anyone from whom he thinks that he can obtain useful information. When those answers are obtained, however, they can be used only for purposes of detection and they cannot be given in evidence for the prosecution, although, if they are reduced to writing, the written statements may in certain cases be available to the defence.
Next, no statement or confession made to a police officer or while a suspect is in police custody is admissible in evidence. There is, however, a different form of confession—that is, the magisterial confession. If an accused wants to confess to the offence with which he is charged, he is taken out of the police station or prison, wherever he may be, to the house or office of the magistrate. The police must not be present and they must not be anywhere near at hand. The magistrate must satisfy himself that it really is a voluntary statement. Even so, the statements are sometimes challenged. It is, however, obvious that in a very large number of cases this eliminates the feature that we have in so many criminal cases in this country, where a statement is challenged, rightly or wrongly, because, it is said, it has been extorted by the police or has been obtained by unlawful inducement.
I am not saying that we should necessarily adopt that system, but I do suggest that it calls for close examination. In relation to the police, it is not enough simply to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission as envisaged in the Gracious Speech. We need a fresh inquiry so that the powers of the police in relation to the citizen may be far more clearly denned and understood than they are at present.
There is one other matter which deserves the consideration of this House. Many of us feel that complaints against the police ought not to be dealt with simply by the police themselves. I have not the slightest doubt that the great majority of chief constables, when adjudicating upon a charge against a member of their force, exercise their judgment with meticulous fairness and impartiality. Nevertheless, it is wrong that the police or anyone else should be judges in their own cause.
231 That is why I hope that the Government will consider in the very near future adopting some such suggestion as that contained in Dr. Goodhart's Minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Police. He suggested that there should be a staff of lawyers attached to each police force and that when a complaint is made, the complainant should have the choice of choosing that the matter would be dealt with summarily by the chief constable, as at present, or that the matter should be referred to somebody in a position of greater detachment. I believe that we shall have to adopt some system of that kind, because only by so doing can we restore the confidence that ought to exist between the police and the public.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) will forgive me as an ordinary layman if I do not try to follow him into the intricacies of the legal system. Sitting as I do occasionally just as an ordinary magistrate, I find it quite difficult enough to follow the proceedings in the lower court, and 1 would not dream of trying to express my opinion on the matters which have just been discussed between the hon. and learned Gentleman and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald).
First of all, I think I should like, in his absence, to congratulate the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, on, from his point of view, his brilliant party speech this afternoon. From his point of view, I think he put it over better than anything I have heard since Nye Bevan those years ago, with vigour, force and good humour. If hon. Members opposite will forgive me for saying this, I could not help wondering, since he got such a wonderful ovation, far bigger than his leader got yesterday, if they had chosen the right leader.
§ Sir C. Osborne
The proposals made in the Queen's Speech cause me one great fear. It is a fear I have expressed in this House the last 15 years, the fear 232 and dread of inflation, which I regard as one of the greatest curses of modern times, and I want to know if the heavy spending programme which is outlined will not cause inflation. The Queen's Speech promises to encourage "growth without inflation." Now I want to know how. I want to know what detailed proposals are to be made to control and stop the inflationary forces. I have been asking this of different Governments since 1945, and I have not had a really reassuring answer. The magnitude of the proposals makes me fear inflation more today than I have ever done before. It seems to me that inflation penalises the thrifty in order to pamper the thriftless, and I am against this. I think that to defeat inflation should be our priority No. 1, and I am asking my own leaders, as I asked hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in the 1945–51 Parliaments, what are they going to do to cure inflation, which I believe is inherent in these proposals. I ask my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to carry my plea to his senior colleagues.
I remember that in 1948 a 2½ per cent. Treasury stock was issued at 100. It was strongly recommended to ordinary investors and savers as a good, sound, safe investment. It was so recommended by the then Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. A man who put £100 of his hard-earned savings into that stock would, if he wished to sell it today, get about 44 per cent, for it. Therefore, he would lose 56 per cent, nominal. But that is not the worst. Since 1948 the value of the £ has fallen from 20s. to 11s. 6d. Therefore, a man who put £100 into that stock in 1948 today would get back in real value £25. That is the measure of what he has lost since 1948. He has been swindled of 75 per cent, of his real savings.
I think this is a crime, a social injustice, and it applies not only to the 2½ per cent. Daltons but to Post Office savings, Treasury savings, National Savings Certificates, and to every stock bearing fixed interest. Therefore I plead, I plead hard, as I have done before on so many occasions, that we be given some assurance that this great expansionist programme will not be financed out of inflation. I plead for honest money.
233 Secondly, I want to make this plea which goes along with it. 1 welcome the proposal for £100 million for a housing corporation to help people either to buy their homes or to improve the homes they already own. I make this plea again. Is it not possible that the people who buy their own homes should be able to do so at a cheaper rate of interest? During the war and immediately after the war we had an artificially low Bank rate of 2 per cent. I am not suggesting it is possible to maintain a 2 per cent. Bank rate, but I think that 5 per cent, or 4 per cent, is too high. I would be satisfied with 3 per cent. Over recent years, however, I think the moneylenders have had a very good run for their money, and think it is high time that the borrowers got a fairer share of the cake.
If I am told that this would mean that foreign money would leave the country, all I would say in return is this, that hot money which comes to our country to earn high interest rates is not nearly so valuable to us as the encouragement given by low rates of interest to our own people to buy their own homes. I make a serious plea here for cheaper and honest money.
Before coming to the speech of the right hon. Member for Belper, who I see is here now, I want to refer to something in yesterday's Daily Express, a newspaper I do not always agree with; sometimes X violently disagree with it. It said that Mr. George Ball, the United States Under-Secretary of State, has come to this country to induce us not to trade as much as we are doing with Russia and other Communist countries. If it is true, then it is a scandal.
I can hardly believe that my American friends would be so unwise as to send one of their junior Ministers to try to stop us from trading, for the simple reason that the American economy is so home-based that they have only to sell roughly 3 per cent, of what they produce to pay for their imports, whereas in this country we have to sell 30 per cent, of what we produce to pay for our imports. Therefore, a restriction which falls equally on American and British exports hits us 10 times harder than it does the Americans. I beg my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, if he has anything to do with it, to resist any pressure at all from the Americans, if it does come, 234 though I hope it will not come, to prevent us from doing legitimate trade with any country in the world, because this country lives by trade, and if our exports are hampered, then unemployment is inevitable. I hope we shall tell this pretty straight to our American friends.
But the real thing I want to say about the Queen's Speech is what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition failed to say. We all admire his wit, his cleverness. Sometimes we think he is over-clever. But since hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are so sure that next year they are going to carry the burden of government—which they may well do, though I will do my best to see that they do not—it is fair to ask this fundamental question which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition failed to mention in a whole hour's speech yesterday. I ask him, why did he not discuss the question and the need of an incomes policy? Never once did he mention it. Yet this, in our economic situation, is the most vital of all factors. He never said a word about it. Neither did the right hon. Member for Belper, though I excuse him: he was so brilliant today I would excuse him anything—except winning the next General Election.
In recent months the Leader of the Opposition—I gave him notice that I would refer to this—has gone from conference to conference urging that when the Labour Party comes to power—if it comes to power—there will need to be wages restraint as part of an incomes policy. We ought to say of the right hon. Gentleman in his absence that it required great courage for him so to do, and I congratulate him on doing that. But why did he not mention it yesterday? There was not one word about it.
The reason is that hon. Gentlemen opposite are so violently divided about it. [Laughter.] I will prove it; it is not a laughing matter. The very security of our economic situation depends on it.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Alan Green)
My righthon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer did it this afternoon.
§ Sir C. Osborne
If my hon. Friend does not mind, I will tell right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite the reason why an incomes policy is so vital to us, no matter what party is in power.
There are 52 million people living in this country. We import about half our foodstuffs and the whole of our raw materials, and to pay for those imports we have to sell roughly a third of all that we manufacture. Hon. Members opposite must appreciate that no party can make the foreigner buy British. He buys British if our goods are of the right quality and, more important today, the right price. Wages and salaries, direct and indirect, represent 60 per cent, of our total industrial costs on average. Therefore, if our wages and salaries go up more than our productivity, what those wages and salaries produce must cost more, and if our costs and prices rise too high, the danger is that we shall price ourselves out of the export markets, and the 5 million jobs which depend directly upon exports will be lost. Whatever the Government in power, they will be faced with this problem of massive unemployment.
I repeat what I have said on many occasions, that to be socially just an incomes policy must include everybody. Speaking for myself, I am willing to support a statutory limitation on dividends; I am prepared to agree to stern rent control; I am prepared to agree to far sterner control of expense accounts and all other forms of private income, provided that within the package deal we also have equal restraint in wages and salaries. If we could do that, the British miracle—I should like to say "English miracle ", because I love the word "English", which we never use now—would arrive, and it cannot come without that.
I ask the leaders of the Opposition what their position is on this. They have not said a word yet. [Interruption.] Perhaps the Liberal Party, in the singular, will be good enough to listen, though I realise that it is most unusual for a Liberal Member of Parliament to listen. I tell both Front Benches that 236 I am convinced that we should put before our people, both the wage earners and the salary earners, the idea that it would be better to halve prices than double wages, for then everybody would be better off. I know that nobody would be more grateful for lower prices than the housewives. Many of them do not receive the increase in wages when their husbands get it but have to face higher grocery bills every weekend.
I should like to see a national policy on this and not a party issue. I should like both parties to say that the ideal would be for us to have lower prices and not more paper money. We should all be better off then. There would be no trouble. Our problems about finding work and selling our exports would disappear.
I put to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite the position as I see it from the Labour Party point of view. At Scarborough on 8th July the Transport and General Workers Union held its conference. The Leader of the Opposition went to that very high citadel of opposition to any wage restraint and with very great courage said that it was evident that the next Labour Government would have to ask for restraint in wages. For saying that, I honour him. He was serving not only his own party and himself; he was serving the country.
The Labour Correspondent of The Times said that the right hon. Gentleman led up to it so skilfully—we know how he can do that—and phrased it so carefully that his announcement was actually received with applause. The right hon. Gentleman had slipped a fast one in there, and they had not noticed it. The Times Labour Correspondent went on to say:Mr. Wilson was given an ovation, though some delegates bit quickly through the layers of sugar to the bitter-tasting pill.I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they are offering us the sugar coating or the pill.
This is what was said:I don't want wage restraint, brother," said Mr. L. H. Smith, of the London region, looking accusingly up at Mr. Wilson on the platform.Where do right hon. Gentlemen opposite stand? Do they want wage restraint? Are they prepared to come out, as the Leader 237 of the Opposition did on that occasion, and advocate it in the national interest?
Finally, The Times Labour Correspondent said:Apart from this minor diversion, Mr. Wilson's Plying visit to Scarborough has been a profitable electioneering exercise.Yet hon. Gentlemen opposite have the impertinence to talk to us about "electioneering." I ask hon. Members opposite to face up to this, because this is the issue that faces them in their own country, and it is vital that the people of the country should know where they stand.
§ Sir C. Osborne
No, I will not. I want to state my own case, because this is of vital importance to us.
At the Trades Union Congress in Brighton on 4th September the question was raised again. I have the greatest regard for many of the senior trade union leaders, who have a very difficult task to perform and do it in an extraordinarily good way. The Labour Correspondent of The Times wrote:In spite of all the efforts at accommodation and compromise, the Trades Union Congress made a characteristic muddle of its wage policy decisions here today …If we have that muddle on the opposite side of the House and they are going to claim to be the next Government, surely the nation is entitled to know where right hon. and hon. Members opposite stand on this issue.
I have armed myself with ail the facts. According to a document that I have, Mr. E. J. Hill—I take that to be Sir Ted Hill—of the United Society of Boilermakers, moved Motion 58 which said:This Congress declares its complete opposition to any form of wages restraint.
§ Sir C. Osborne
It is not in that motion. I beg the hon. Member to listen. He may learn some day.
That motion was carried at the Trades Union Congress meeting at Brighton on 3rd September, despite what the Leader of the Opposition had said a month ago to the Transport and General Workers' Union. The nation is entitled to know where hon. Members opposite stand.
§ Mr. Crosland
I am grateful to the hon. Member for showing such neighbourly courtesy. If he is so anxious to know about the policy of this party, would he be kind enough to read out the resolution which the party passed at the Scarborough conference?
§ Sir C. Osborne
I have it here. I am coming to that. I am trying to show—I think I am entitled to do so—the terrible difficulties which hon. Members opposite face and which, if they ever sat on these benches, they would have to resolve.
The Times account said that Mr. Hill carried the day. He had defeated the realists.Mr. Hill's speech, couched in tones of rugged reasonableness, was summed up in his scorn at the idea …Mr. Hill was having none of the common sense about incomes policy or wages restraint. But he was honest enough and blunt enough to say so. The nation is entitled to know where the Labour Party stands on this matter. Mr. Hill went on to say—hon. Gentlemen opposite should listen to this—that, as he saw it, it was,handing the Tories a wage freeze on a silver plate'Then Mr. Hill added this characteristic addition. Referring to the Tories, he said:With this and a good spring Budget they would get back to power.He is a fine prophet, is he not? We shall.
What did the other leaders have to say about this important issue? Mr. Frank Cousins, who had thrown the conference into confusion by supporting the conflicting resolution—I have done my homework on this—said:… they did not want a repetition of the situation under the last Labour Government, when the T.U.C. accepted a restraint policy and the unions went their separate ways with claims.What is the Labour Party going to do? Are we to have the same repetition?
239 Mr. Greene, the railwaymen's secretary, was even more blunt. He said he… could not accept Mr. Hill's explanation. If you believe in planning, he said, you should be in the plan.Can hon. Gentleman opposite honestly say that the whole of the trade union movement would be in the plan, as the Leader of the Opposition wants it to be, for an incomes policy?
Finally, Mr. Harry Douglass, secretary of the steelworkers,… roundly accused Mr. Hill of resisting wage restraint under the last Labour Government, and said that duplicity would destroy Labour's chances of getting back".Here are three or four different voices from responsible people who support the party opposite.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I am sorry that hon. Members opposite do not like this, but they are going to get it. At the Labour Party conference—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—The Times sums up the position in this extraordinary way. The same Labour Correspondent, a friend of the party opposite, saidMr. Cousins and Mr. Hill joined Mr. Callaghan, the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, and practically everybody else at the Labour Party Conference today in supporting an incomes policy covering salaries, wages, dividends, profits, and social security benefits as part of a programme to promote sustained economic growth.Can any hon. Member opposite tell the electorate that they could undertake that the trade union world—including Mr, Hill and Mr. Cousins—would support this? If they cannot, then on this issue they will be getting votes by false pretences.
This is how the situation was summed up.A major achievement of today's debate was the presentation of a new phrase to take the place of wage restraint—' the planned growth of wages "—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—just wait for it—Mr. Cousins introduced this to the delegates, who obviously approved, and Mr. Callaghan gratefully accepted it.240 Will anyone tell the House what it means? "Hear hear" say hon. Members opposite. Can the right hon. Gentleman opposite tell us what it means? He is a clever fellow. He does not know. Nobody knows.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
It means that the Labour Party stands for real growth in standards, and the T.U.C. conference, to which the hon. Gentleman referred earlier, demonstrated that, like all wise people, the T.U.C. does not trust the Tories.
§ Sir C. Osborne
What a stupid intervention.
May I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the National Union of Railwaymen filed a claim for increased wages which would have cost the nation roughly £30 million, and this from an industry already losing £160 million.
Sir C. Osbome
I am not saying that railwaymen are well paid. They are a long way from that. But does that pattern fit in with "the planned growth of wages" of Mr. Cousins which the shadow Chancellor gratefully accepted? Where do hon. Gentlemen opposite stand? They do not know.
§ Sir C. Osborne
No, I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman. He has only just come into the Chamber.
The Times went on to say, and on this I want to finish as quickly as I can—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."]—.
By incomes policy they did not mean wage restraint, Mr. Callaghan assured the delegates"—That is double-talk. That is "Mr.Facing-both-Ways". Hon. Membersopposite know that this is commondeceit—
§ Sir C. Osborne
—though it was only in July that Mr. Wilson was talking about wage restraint to the delegate conference of the Transport and General Workers Union".Where do hon. Gentlemen opposite stand on this? Because it is on this issue that our ability to sell our exports in the world markets will be decided.
May I remind hon. Members of what was said by a Socialist whom I honoured greatly? I wish to goodness that hon. Members opposite had followed his advice—
§ Sir C. Osborne
On 27th September, 1949, in this House, the late Sir Safford Cripps said:Any worker by hand or brain who goes slow, or is an absentee, or demands more money for no more output, is, in fact, doing his best to put up his own household bills, and to put somebody—quite possibly himself—out of a job".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th September, 1949: Vol. 468, c. 31-32.]That was an honest man speaking. That was not double-faced talk. And the country is entitled to know whether hon. Members opposite expect to be led by people who would follow the counsel of Sir Stafford Cripps or by those who indulge in the kind of double-talk we have had from the benches opposite.
Again in this House, on 26th October, 1949, Sir Stafford Cripps said:We can express our present situation, robbed of all its technical surroundings and explanations, in quite simple terms. Unless we can all quickly produce more and get our costs down"—and that is what I am pleading for—we shall suffer a tragic fall in our standard of living accompanied by all the demoralising insecurity of widespread unemployment"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1949; Vol. 468, c. 1352-3.]This is what Sir Stafford Cripps said. I ask hon. Members opposite, will they face this vital problem in the same way in which he faced it so many years ago?
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
It is very encouraging that the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) acknowledges the fact of a Labour victory at the General Election, because he spent almost the entire time of his speech in asking what the Opposition are to do with regard to certain important economic prob- 242 lems. It was significant that he did not address those questions to his own Front Bench, because he knows that the Administration led by the Prime Minister is merely a caretaker one; they will not be in for very long.
We must have a General Election before very long, and then the Labour Party is going to take over. I congratulate the hon. Member on his realism in acknowledging that it will be the Labour Party that will take over responsibility. My only regret is that towards the end of his speech the hon. Member did his best to qualify as the third clown in the Tory Party, so undermining some of the more useful points he made at the beginning of his speech.
We have seen unfolded in the last day or so the pre-election manifesto of the Conservative Party, but this is not likely to be even half enacted. In this manoeuvre in which the Conservative Party is using the Gracious Speech in order to present its election programme, we have the cynical disregard of what this place is really about. We wonder whether Messrs. Colman, Prentis and Varley have been consulted about this manoeuvre, because it is possible to detect the inspiration of the public relations expert rather than the statesmen behind the legislative programme Parliament is asked to consider.
The truth is that the Conservative Party, whether led by the Prime Minister of today or by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), is the same calculating machine. It is not a party of principle but a conspiracy to maintain political power. The present boom in the economy, generated by relaxing credit, and by the phenomenal increase in public spending on capital projects, is designed purely and simply to secure a Tory victory at the next General Election. It follows the pattern of previous pre-election booms. The snag from the Tories' point of view is that the public are now wise to the trick. It is the third time unlucky. Whatever disguise the Conservative Party may try to fit on to its tarnished visage, it can no longer fool the electorate.
The party of hon. Members opposite is divided and discredited. We ask, where is the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)? Are we to hear from him, the 243 eminent ex-Minister of Health? Are we to hear from the editor of the Spectator, the ex-Leader of the House of Commons? Why have they refused to serve in this Government although apparently they were invited to do so? I hope that we shall have some statement about the intentions of these right hon. Gentlemen.
The country is waiting for a General Election and the Labour Party is waiting to serve the country. Until a party has secured a mandate from the electorate, it cannot get on with the job either of revolutionising and modernising—a slogan which the Tories have stolen from us—the economy of Britain, nor of establishing proper relations with the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. Take, for instance, relations with Europe and the Commonwealth. The present Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade acknowledged, when he was Lord Privy Seal, that we could not start again negotiations with the Common Market until the General Election came.
It is obvious, also, that not only are our relations with Europe, with E.F.T.A. and the Commonwealth in doubt, but our relations with other countries in terms of trading relations and political relationship are bound to be in doubt until other Governments in the world know that they are dealing with a Government which has the confidence and support of the electorate here. We do not know whether the Conservative Party has fully repudiated the European Economic Community; we suspect that it has not.
We suspect that the Bow Group is still in the minority of the Tory Party and that if the Conservatives won the next General Election they would be starting negotiations again to go into the Common Market. There was, however, a curious discrepancy between statements made by the Prime Minister in Kinross when he suggested that the terms on which we were negotiating were not agreed and what was said by the former Prime Minister. He acknowledged that terms had been fully accepted by the Six and it was only General de Gaulle's veto which prevented us going in. The country will 244 expect the Conservative Party to come clean on this question well before the General Election. Have they repudiated the Treaty of Rome or are they intending to start negotiations again on the basis of that Treaty if they should win the next election?
In the Gracious Speech there is reference to the importance of industrial training. I welcome that reference. I hope it will also include retraining for workers of all ages made redundant as a result of new techniques and automation. This is a problem which will be increasingly important in my constituency where there are new techniques in the making of steel, in the nut and bolt industry, in the lock industry and most of the industries in the three towns which I have the honour to represent here. There is a nagging fear in the minds of many of the men in my constituency that if new processes are introduced into their factories and there is the possibility of achieving higher production with a smaller labour force that they may be putting themselves out of a job by adopting those new techniques.
Some of the leaders of industry in my constituency have been doing their best to persuade shop stewards and the trade unions to accept the wisdom of introducing new techniques, but I do not believe that the problem can be left wholly to industrial executives and shop stewards. The Government must play some part in securing stability and providing safeguards, particularly to workers in industries which are likely to be affected by automation. Industrial training, I hope, will include retraining of men likely to be made redundant.
I am also glad to see mention of severance payments in the Gracious Speech. Here again, I hope this matter will not be left merely to industries to be affected by new techniques which lead to redundancy among the men they employ and merely making the question one of a lump sum payment or few weeks pay to cover the number of years which men have worked for a particular firm. I hope there will be a more general provision by the State taking responsibility and enabling security to be given to men irrespective of the number of years they have spent with a particular firm. It would be unfair to discriminate against a man who has 245 changed his jobs over the years and who may have worked for only a few years with a firm which is then responsible for paying him redundancy or severance pay for the years he has worked for it. That is a reason why it is important that the State should take some responsibility in this matter.
I regret very much that there is no reference in the Gracious Speech to problems affecting millions of consumers in this country. Whatever jobs we have, we are all consumers. There is no reference to the protection of consumers, particularly housewives who are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the multitude of trade gimmicks with which they are faced today.
I regret that there is nothing in the Queen's Speech to strengthen the Monopolies Commission and to give it some teeth. I regret that there is no reference to the abolition of resale price maintenance, which should go if we are to have genuine competition in the retail trade. I regret that there is no reference to the Government's attitude to the growing stamp trading gimmick, which I believe is distorting retail trade and bringing no benefit to traders or to consumers. The effect of stamp trading is to put up costs, and there must be a full inquiry into this. I do not suggest that at the moment all stamp trading should be abolished; it is not as simple as that, because there are some methods which individual firms could use which would be of benefit to the consumer particularly if the firms give stamps which could be redeemed for cash at the end of a period. There would be no harm in that. But it is very dangerous indeed when stamp trading firms go into the business with the most ludicrous offers, the most outrageous promises, which there is no guarantee that they will honour at the end of the day.
The promises which are given to housewives to save particular coloured stamps border on the outrageous if not the dishonest. It is suggested that the housewife will get free gifts. This is ludicrously untrue, because the housewife must pay, as the trader must pay, for the stamps which she collects. Every trader giving out stamps has to pay for them an average of 2½ per cent, of the turnover, and he must recover the cost 246 of this from the consumer in some way or another.
If his trade increased by 30 per cent, or more, the extra cost could possibly be absorbed in the higher turnover, but such an increase in turnover is most unlikely. I have been investigating this matter, and during the past few months I have not come across a single trader who has managed to increase his turnover by anything like those dimensions as a result of the introduction of stamp trading. Admittedly, where a shop has gone over to new self-service techniques which did not exist before, it has been possible to increase the turnover because the shop has been made more attractive and the service has been quicker. But I have come across no example of a trade increase arising simply as a result of stamps being introduced.
As everyone knows who has been into a shop handing out stamps, the result of stamp trading has been an increase in the prices charged to the consumer. Hon. Members may have seen in the Guardian today a letter from a correspondent in Bristol comparing two supermarkets in Bristol; one is giving stamps, and it is charging a higher price on a range of commodities. This undoubtedly must be the case; these firms must recoup the cost of the stamps which they hand out, and the housewife pays extra for the dubious benefit of collecting stamps. At the end of the period, when she has managed to fill several books, she can exchange them for the gift which the stamp firm shows in its attractive catalogue.
There are other aspects of this problem to which I should like to refer if the House will bear with me. The stamp firm is paid in advance for the stamps which it gives to the trader, but it may be several years before the stamps which have been issued are redeemed. This means that the stamp firm has the use of that money over this period. This is one of the ways of creating the extra profits which are being made by these concerns.
A number of stamps which are issued by the traders are not collected by the customers who have them thrust into their hands. They are thrown on one side or possibly collected for a period, in the expectation of acquiring a gift, and then thrown aside because the 247 housewife gives up hope of ever being able to collect stamps in the quantity required. She throws the books away or puts them away and forgets about them.
What is the percentage of the stamp turnover which is not redeemed? I have discussed this with executives of stamp trading firms, and they admit that 15 per cent, are not redeemed. I believe that it may well be higher than that. It may be 25 per cent, or even more. We shall not know exactly how high this percentage is for some time because the quantity of stamps being handed out is going up and up and is likely to continue to increase if the boom goes on for another few years.
What would be the position if in a few years' time it were found that the stamp trading firms had over-extended themselves and spent so much money on promotion that they had insufficient assets to honour the stamps already handed out? With other financial institutions, such as the insurance companies, the Government step in to ensure that there are proper standards of control. I think that they must step in and ensure that there are controls over the operations of stamp trading firms so that housewives are not too much misled by all this trading propaganda.
At a Press conference this morning Lord Sainsbury suggested that stamp trading firms should be forced to put the actual value in cash on the stamps which they issue and that these stamps should then be redeemable for cash. This is a very sensible idea which needs to be examined, but the best thing that the housewife can do is to shop at an organisation or with a trader giving value for money at the point of sale. Nothing can equal this value from the housewife's point of view.
In declaring an interest in the cooperative movement I suggest that it has been from profit-sharing organisations like the co-operative societies that the consumers have been likely to get a better deal. A dividend which is a cash return is by far the best way of the consumer getting back any extra which can be made in this trading operation.
I hope that before we end the debate we shall have an indication from the Conservative Party that it has the con- 248 sumers' interests in mind and will do something to protect the housewife, in particular, from this development of stamp trading and from the increase practically every week in the number of stamp firms operating in this country—and the introduction of such ideas from the United States, although apparently in the United States the stamp trading craze is already beginning to wane.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
It is a great pleasure for me for once to agree with statements made by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house). I agree with his statements about the training and retraining aspects of the Gracious Speech and about severance payments. I am doubtful whether he is on such firm ground in his discussion about stamp trading. At the end of his speech he said that it was up to the consumer, properly protected, to make his choice. I am a shopper who objects very much to being given more odds and ends by way of change and ticket to put into my pocket. I believe that there are a large number of people who would prefer good service to stamps. I believe that it is up to organisations which do not agree with stamp trading to put up a notice outside their shops or petrol stations saying, "We do not give stamps. We give service". If such an attacking attitude were adopted, the customer would be able to choose for himself which way he wanted to go.
I want now to draw attention to this sentence in the Gracious Speech—My Ministers will bring forward further proposals for the modernisation of Britain, covering many of the economic and social aspects of our national life.The Government have made a start with many new plans. I wonder where their next attack will be. It is important that modernisation of our institutions should be properly planned and phased. "Modernisation" is not a very happy word to use in connection with the life of the country, but I admit that I cannot think of a better one at the moment. I think that it is suitable, because on the whole "modernisation" is used in connection with structures but not in connection with people or even with manufactured goods. One talks about modernisating a house. One does not modernise a car. One can modernise a 249 shop or an office building but one cannot modernise a play—or, if it is tackled, it is usually very unsuccessful. When a house is modernised it is important that the various equipment should be installed at the same time. A house should not be redecorated and rewired afterwards. Plumbing should not be carried out after decorating, thus spoiling the decorating. One does not then want to put in central heating. The different jobs must be carried out at the same time to a preconceived plan. Further, when modernising a building one must ensure that the foundations and structure are sound before going in for detailed work.
The two most important institutions at which we must look in the context of modernising Britain are the Government structure and the industrial structure. We should examine the foundations of the Government structure—Parliament, the Government Departments, and the Civil Service. In the industrial stucture, there are the manufacturing industries, those who work in them, and the trade unions.
Dealing first with the Government structure, I have been in the House for far too short a time to make worth-while suggestions about changes in Parliamentary procedure. Debates on this subject, occasioned largely by the publication of an article by a number of my hon. Friends—in which I collaborated—entitled "Change or Decay", brought to light many ideas for changes in Parliamentary procedure. The only contribution I feel able to make from my experience, having been in the House nearly four years, is that I am still convinced that it is important that hon. Members should have outside interests and then come to the House and contribute from their particular knowledge gained outside. It would be a great loss to the House if every Member of Parliament became a full-time professional.
I speak from personal experience from working in the manufacturing industry. As the years have passed I have found it increasingly difficult to make a worthwhile contribution to the House and do a decent job for my firm. Such things as morning Committees and the long hours spent in the House while Bills are considered in Committee of the whole House make it difficult indeed for Mem- 250 bers with outside interests to make a proper contribution in the two spheres. Therefore, I should have welcomed a statement in the Gracious Speech that a new Select Committee on Procedure was to be set up to examine our proceedings to see if we can modernise the way we work. I say this with the greatest respect, Sir, because I believe that the most important thing that a new Member feels on entering the House is the sense of continuity of the work at Westminster over hundreds of years. That sense of continuity cannot be retained unless we in the House are prepared to change our way of work.
I turn to the Government Departments and the Ministers and civil servants who work in them. I know that I am being presumptuous, but I hope that what I have to say will appeal to my hon. Friends now sitting on the Front Bench. I think that Ministers running Government Departments are grossly and absurdly underpaid. The salaries of all Ministers should be increased. The salaries of all Ministers should be increased. The status of junior Ministers should be greatly improved. The positions of Parliamentary Secretary and Under-Secretary of State should be abolished. We should substitute in their place Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers. It is important that those who are now Under-Secretaries should be clearly named to be the deputies of Ministers when Ministers are away. They should be given that name. That new status should be accepted by the House, by the Civil Service and by all organisations with which junior Ministers come into contact. I do not think that outside Whitehall the responsibilities carried by junior Ministers are appreciated nearly as much as they should be.
There is a great deal of unfounded criticism of civil servants. I genuinely believe from my short experience of contact with civil servants that in experience, expertise and knowledge, British civil servants are superior to people holding similar positions in industry. If any criticism is justified it is not of the civil servants themselves but of the antiquated procedures they must use in their jobs. A lot of the criticism of civil servants comes from people in the business and professional 251 world. Some company chairmen complain of the slowness of decisions made by Departments, although they do not appreciate the responsibility which civil servants have, particularly in relation to the making of mistakes and the taking of snap decisions.
Those who work in private industry have the great advantage that when they make mistakes those mistakes do not necessarily have to come to light at company annual general meetings. I doubt whether company chairmen would like to be made responsible for the snap decisions of their executives in the sort of way that Ministers are held responsible for the decisions of those who work in their Departments. The necessity to protect the Minister is probably more significant than anything else in the slowness with which civil servants seem to work. One must bear in mind the checking and re-checking that must go on before a decision is made. May I suggest a solution?
Two or three firms of outside consultants should be called in to examine some branches of different Government Departments and make recommendations on how modern scientific managerial practices could be substituted for some of the existing methods. These firms should be given access to Ministers and support by civil servants, and their object should be to see that their recommendations would produce a smaller number of people employed, the existing procedures more quickly carried through and similar improvements to produce a smaller and more manageable Department of higher paid civil servants. Their work might be called de-Parkinsonisation.
I have so far discussed the Government structure over which my right hon. Friends have great influence or direct control. I now deal with the modernisation of our industrial structure, over which they have no control or only indirect control and in which only their influence prevails. The two main groups which must be influenced are management and the trade unions. It is only in the co-operation of these two bodies that we shall get the 4 per cent, per year increase in productivity which we must have.
252 It is up to management and trade unions, with Government influence, to try to see that those who work in productive industry can become enthusiastic about industrial change; to see that employees find in modern machinery and techniques not a threat to their jobs but the possibility of increases in the standard of living of themselves and those in the service industries—people like teachers, nurses, policemen and so on, all of whom depend on productive industry to increase the wealth of the country.
How will we get this co-operation and these results? There is the human side—the people who can use the new techniques—and the technical side of the techniques. Taking the human side first, the Contracts of Employment Act, which was passed last Session, was a rather shaky but nevertheless important step forward. I have always regarded a contract of employment as a sort of safe in which the employee can store away the other fringe benefits and undertakings which industry, government and trade unions can give to him. It is appropriate, therefore, that the Gracious Speech should contain references to redundancy and severance.
I cannot wholly agree with the hon. Member for Wednesbury when he spoke of the Government's part in redundancy and severance schemes, except that initially the Government will probably have to underwrite schemes introduced by firms and industry because until funding can take place, particularly in contracting industries, there may not exist the financial background to make the required payments. However, I am utterly opposed to a Government redundancy scheme based wholly on National Insurance principles, with merely an increased payment by employer and employee for the stamp.
It is vitally important for the Government to produce their scheme urgently for severance and redundancy because until the employee really understands that if he becomes redundant he will be looked after he will naturally oppose the institution of new techniques. We must be quick about introducing the Government's scheme or the pace of introducing these new techniques will be slower.
Some hon. Members opposite may not have had the opportunity of reading an 253 excellent pamphlet produced by the Conservative Political Centre entitled "Industrial Change—The Human Aspect" in the production of which I played a small part. II might help the party funds if hon. Members opposite will buy copies for themselves rather than my relating the contents of the pamphlet to them. It is important to realise that the technical side of the modernisation of industry is the crux of the matter and is where the new productive effort will be felt.
New techniques can be introduced only into manufacturing companies that have sufficient technical "know-how" and financial backing to understand the possibilities of the new techniques and which are able to afford to install the new equipment and see that it is properly developed. I do not believe that at the present moment the structure of manufacturing industry makes it capable of accepting the new techniques and opportunities that are offered.
More than half of our employees in manufacturing industry work in firms with under 500 employees. That information comes from the White Paper on Scientific and Technological Manpower in Great Britain. Three-quarters of the technologists and scientists in general in industry are employed by firms with over 500 employees, and of the remaining quarter of technologists who work in the smaller firms only about 2 per cent, spend their time on research and development; all the rest of their time is spent on day-to-day technical working in the factory.
We therefore have the position today that over half of those employed in manufacturing industry are employed by firms that do virtually no research and development at all. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) yesterday rather sneeringly spoke of takeover bids, but I think that the merging of firms is something that we should all encourage so as to have a smaller number of larger units which will be able to afford to introduce the new technologies.
A solution to this state of affairs could be by the Government not placing orders for any projects, whether or not they are technical projects, with companies that do not have a sufficient manufacturing technical background. In the Service industries one has the Admiralty Inspection Department, for example, which sees that the companies that sell 254 them vital parts have technical backing. We should have, as authorised Government suppliers of any product, only those companies that are able to show that they are pulling their weight in the introduction of modern techniques and in the employment of the new technologists whom we are getting in greater numbers.
I have made the cardinal mistake in any speech in this House of covering very thinly a very wide and important field, but the main point is that the modernisation of our institutions must be carried out concurrently. I hope that my right hon. Friends will not be swayed by strong lobbies in the House against changes in procedure; by marches of senior civil servants from the Athenaeum, by marches of trade union leaders from Transport House, or even by marches of members of the Institute of Directors from the Albert Hall.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)
I have no desire to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page). He spoke of the information to be obtained by the purchase of a pamphlet, but judging by the complexity and diversity of his speech it is more a matter of purchasing an encyclopaedia than a pamphlet. The important aspects of the Gracious Speech have not received from him the emphasis one would have expected.
What is to me a very serious omission from the Gracious Speech, though it may seem slight to many hon. Members, is that though mention is made of Scotland and of the North-East there is a complete absence of reference to a very important region—Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Region"] It is a region in the context of the Government's proposal to attack on a territorial basis the problem of high unemployment. We have in Wales a Board of Trade controller and a Ministry of Labour controller, so that it has been acknowledged that the Principality has some significance in the central Administration. There is, however, a danger that the problems remaining in the pockets of high unemployment in certain parts of Wales may be obscured by the continued general references to Scotland and the northern part of England.
255 I want to point to certain weaknesses in the present administration of the Local Employment Act. The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot use the country's resources and expand our economy until such time as that Act, which is the basis upon which the Board of Trade and the Treasury operate, is fundamentally altered. Whatever may be in the mind of the Board of Trade in respect of the regions concerned, I do not think that the Government can attain their objectives unless we have a very different Statute.
Examination of the position of the Board of Trade under the present Act reveals the strange and ludicrous fact that the Board of Trade has no direct and positive power to implement the desires of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Who, therefore, has the power under the Act to deal with development districts and the unemployment in them? Is it the Chancellor? No. Is it the President of the Board of Trade? No. Is it the Cabinet? No. The people who have the right to determine the fate of our unemployed are five persons comprising a sub-committee appointed by the Board of Trade to make decisions on grants and loans. Once that subcommittee has made its decision, neither the Board of Trade, the Treasury nor this House has the right to challenge, amend or vary it.
This small sub-committee is known as B.O.T.A.C., a Board of Trade advisory committee appointed by the Board of Trade itself, to recommend whether applications from industrialists shall be accepted or rejected. This sub-committee is composed of a chartered accountant, a divisional manager of LCI., the secretary of a metal-sheet company, and an ex-trade union official. The chairman is a professional accountant. He works on the basis of payment of compensation. He devotes only one-third of his professional time to this task. The remaining four, being part-time members, receive only their expenses, and they all confess that they work on these projects to the extent of only thirty hours a week.
It is this small sub-committee, answerable to nobody, not even to the President of the Board of Trade, not even to this House, not even to the Chancellor of the 256 Exchequer, that has absolute power to decide whether a factory shall come to the Rhondda Valley, which has been an area of stubborn unemployment for the past thirty years. One knows of the distressed areas, the special districts, the development areas, and now the development districts under the present Act. This small body has the right to decide and the Board of Trade has no power to reverse that decision. To prove the point, I quote an extract from the minutes of evidence taken before Subcommittee F of the Estimates Committee, dealing with the administration of the local Employment Act.
In the course of cross-examination of members of B.O.T.A.C. and the official representatives of the Board of Trade administration, this is the type of question put and answer given on page 184, paragraph 1086. The Chairman of the Estimates Committee is inquiring about loans and grants:in the second and third lines of paragraph 3 you talk about the Board of Trade making loans and grants in accordance with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee.This was the question put to the representatives of B.O.T.A.C.Is the Board of Trade in a position to accept those recommendations in whole or in part? Can it omit or refuse to recognise some of the recommendations of B.O.T.A.C?This is what a gentleman of the name of Mr. Slimmings, who is the chairman, a professional chartered accountant, says:The position, as I understand it, is that if we were to reject an application that is the end of it so far as the Board of Trade is concerned. They have no power to do anything. If we make a recommendation the Board has the power to refuse our recommendation. In practice I cannot remember an occasion when that situation has arisen.Furthermore, paragraph 1087 states:Can the Board of Trade reject your recommendations?This was a question put to the Chairman of B.O.T.A.C. He replied:The Board of Trade have the power not to accept our recommendation if it is a positive recommendation.But there is a most important admission by a representative of the Board of Trade itself, a gentleman by the name of S. H. Levine, Assistant Secretary of the Distribution of Industry and Regional Division of the Board of Trade. This is the key man who represents the Board 257 of Trade on matters of distribution of industry. Answering a question he said:I think that that is so. As we understand it, and as we administer it, we have no power to amend or vary a B.O.T.A.C. recommendation.I think it is a very serious position that, in decisions that are so vital to the administration of this Act, that are so vital in order to use and harness the unused resources of this country to solve the problem in the development districts, no part of the Government administration has the right to question, to vary, or to reject a recommendation of this part-time committee. The Board of Trade itself appointed this subcommittee. It is their little infant and the infant has become an enfant terrible in that he can answer his parents back and say, "I can give you no reason whatsoever why applications for grants or loans are being refused to certain firms".
Up to January, 1963, B.O.T.A.C. dealt with 649 applications and rejected 306, and there is no Minister who is in a position to know why. He has no right to ask the reason for the rejection. He is compelled to accept this attitude and this decision from the sub-committee which he has appointed. It is a subcommittee of part-time members outside this House responsible to nobody. If this position is to remain, what prospects are there of the Government achieving what is indicated in the Gracious Speech? Therefore, there is no good purpose in announcing these great policies and that the problem of unemployment will be attacked by the Government with conviction and sincerity, if it cannot be done by means of the present instruments that are in the hands of the Government.
It is high time that some reorganisation took place of the machinery of the administration of the Local Employment Act. A part-time sub-committee works, as it says in the evidence, an average of 30 hours per week and the chairman gives up one-third of his professional time to it. Is it fair to these men and is it fair and just to the people who are unemployed in the development districts? Is it fair to the President of the Board of Trade? It is no good the Chancellor making speeches about the desirability of expansion of our economy and increased production in these circumstances.
258 I know that quite recently an application was made by an engineering firm, which I shall not name, which produces capital goods with an export percentage of nearly 45, which has been expanding during the past three years and which made an application to come into a development district in the Rhondda Valley. This was turned down. Let us concede that there might have been some justification for its being turned down. It could have been turned down on a general conclusion arrived at superficially. It could have been turned down owing to some marginal consideration—but nobody knows. Nobody is entitled to know. The House has no right to know. We are therefore in exactly the same position as is the Board of Trade.
When applications are considered by B.O.T.A.C, especially with the chairman being a professional chartered accountant, they may be rejected on very narrow, text-book, conventional, orthodox accountancy considerations. On the other hand, if social accountancy were applied to applications of this character, and this were within the full knowledge of the Board of Trade which had the power to intervene in the considerations and examine the reasons for rejection, the Board, on an assessment of an application based on social accountancy, could reverse the decision and grant the application.
When applications are considered on a strictly conventional orthodox assessment by a professional chartered accountant I have reason to believe that this is responsible in a large measure for rejection. If social accountancy were applied to one of the applications I have mentioned, how would it work out? It was promised that 300 men would be employed in a factory which was to be established in my constituency. These 300 men are today on the dole. They are paid £75,000 a year, on the assumption that the average income from unemployment benefit and National Assistance is £5 a week. I know that in loans and grants, and assuming that loans were converted into grants over a period of 15 years, the application involved a sum of £22,000 a year. All that would be required on the principle of social accountancy would be that the Minister of Labour, instead of paying out £75,000 a year to 300 unemployed men, would pay £22,000 a 259 year. He would save £50,000 and he would give 300 men the opportunity of being employed and of earning on an average £10 a week. This is what I mean by social accountancy.
The classical example of social accountancy is the agricultural industry. Agriculture was not a viable industry. The money which is being ploughed into it is not being ploughed in as a result of a narrow orthodox conventional assessment on an accountancy basis. It is the overriding social considerations in the application of social accountancy which have ploughed into agriculture in the past 15 years over £6,000 million of taxpayers' money. If that money can be poured into agriculture through social accountancy and can be poured into the TSR2 project, the Government can spend money in many directions if it is thought to be for the social benefit. I say, therefore, that the Board of Trade must revise the machinery and must have the power to decide whether development districts can have industries. This should not be decided by a committee outside the Administration. It should be decided by the President of the Board of Trade, using the machinery of the Board to make the final decision whether or not development districts should have these industries.
I trust that when we consider the high-sounding proposals made by the President of the Board of Trade, with his new designation, serious consideration will be given to these points to make sure that, when the Department itself is responsible, hon. Members on both sides of the House are in a position to question in a general way the reasons for the rejection of an application. I hope that we shall not be left in our present helpless position in which both we and Ministers are unable to challenge, vary, reject or reverse any decision made by B.O.T.A.C. Only in this way shall we find positive machinery to implement the desires of both sides of the House.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
The hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) has brought a valid point to the attention of the Government. As I have said earlier, we 260 are in the House with a primary responsibility to our constituents. The majority of us have represented our constituencies for some time and we have had ample opportunity to pay attention to the very sort of points which the hon. Member has raised. But there are few occasions when it is possible in the House to draw attention to major points affecting one's own constituents, unless it is done in a debate on the Adjournment or a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. The only other days in the year on which it is possible, unless one brings in a Private Member's Bill or a Ten Minute Bill, are during the first two days of the debate on the Address.
I want, therefore, to look directly at the words of the Gracious Speech. Before the craziness of the General Election is upon us, and it seems to be coming fairly soon, we should examine the speech fairly and should say quite honestly that in it there are many things which will benefit the country and our own constituents.
The most important point in the Gracious Speech is contained in the paragraph which reads:My Ministers recognise the importance of securing a substantial further expansion of the universities and of other institutions of higher education.This is my first opportunity to say that the whole problem of university education should be tackled straight away.
The other problem which all of us have come across when visiting the homes of our constituents is the anxiety of those who in their day have saved up money and bought a small house and have calculated what their pensions would be either from private industry or the State or a nationalised industry and have suddenly found themselves faced with a tremendous increase in rates far beyond anything they had ever expected. Time and again I have been worried by the plight of retired people who are faced with the anxiety of local rates. I am therefore delighted to see in the closing words of the Gracious Speech that:A Bill will be laid before you providing relief to certain householders suffering hardship from increased rates as the result of the revaluation of their houses.I want to see this Bill brought before the House at the very first opportunity.
261 I shall certainly judge the Government and so will the country, on the speed with which they introduce this Bill.
Those of us who know the cities have been extremely worried about crimes of violence and their victims. There was one in my own constituency. That person used to live a perfectly normal life and now is completely incapacitated However many difficulties the lawyers may say exist, I hope that the Government will see that this Measure for compensation is brought forward.
Having congratulated the Government on these excellent provisions, I hope they will give some attention to other matters. I was rather annoyed when I read the Order Paper and saw that the Liberal Party had already been discussing the question of the reform of this House. How many times have we had Select Committees considering the proceedings in this House? How many times have we asked that certain Measures should be discussed in Standing Committee instead of on the Floor of the House? How many times have we asked for the reform of this House?
Why cannot the proceedings be televised? We have the Postmaster-General with us at the moment. What prevents us having a television "HANSARD"? It may be that if the proceedings were televised and the viewers saw that it was only the hon. Member for The Wrekin speaking, they would not pay any attention to the broadcast, but that does not matter. If we believe that what goes on in this place is valuable, people should have it direct in their homes in an ordinary HANSARD television programme of the day. I cannot see that there is anything violently outrageous in the suggestion that the proceedings should be televised in 1964. Surely there is nothing in this House of which we are ashamed. We uphold the great heritage of Parliamentary democracy. If we are the upholders of Parliamentary democracy and if this is the cradle of Parliamentary democracy, why are we frightened of having our proceedings televised?
Let me utter another word of warning to the Government. Before the next General Election the Government will have to look carefully at the whole question of the land around our towns. We are to have a new town at Dawley.
262 Actually, my house will be almost in the centre of it. It is planned for about 90,000 people. Around the outside of the town, in areas which I hoped would have been kept clear, permission has been given to firms to undertake a little private development building on their own. When I questioned an official about this and asked why this building was to be permitted when the new town of Dawley was in the offing, I was told, "The Government decided to give way under very great pressure." My answer is: what pressure and by whom?
This is the sort of question that one's constituents would like answered. What great pressure was brought on whom, by whom, where and when? It looks as though the Government will have to reexamine the whole question of land required for new towns and town development. If it is possible to designate an area for a new town and to have a new town commission, what prevents the Government appointing a town lands commission? I am not stealing any ideas from the Leader of the Opposition, but it seems to me that this is the sort of question which many people would like to have brought to the attention of the Government.
Another matter which interests me is export trade. Let us consider the problem of the Export Credits Guarantee Department. In 1961 I said that matching credits for our exporters was a good idea, but do we really believe that in the rough and tumble of export business a Department of the Board of Trade is the right sort of body to be leading the advance and encouraging British business people in the export field? I am glad to know that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is taking a note of my remarks. I hope the Government will note what industrialists and others are saying, that although the whole system of E.C.G.D. is correct, it is very slow in administration. If we are to compete against European exporters, including the Germans, and against the United States, we shall have to have a simpler and better method of dealing with long-term credit for British exports.
I should like to turn to some problems which I have been examining in my own constituency during the Recess. The challenge is always offered to us 263 by the Opposition that during the last five or six years there has been stagnation and that the Conservative Party has suddenly come forward with a new idea—modernisation. It is palpably absurd to pretend that all of a sudden we have brought out a plan for modernisation and have said that it is a plan on which we are going to win the election.
I looked into this matter during the Recess. What are the important considerations? First, there is the question of communications, and this is not so good. One cannot build a new town catering for 90,000 people without first considering the access roads to the new town. It is no use wanting to build a new town and then taking up the railway lines in the areas where they might be required to serve the new town.
I do not know where the co-ordination is between the Government Departments, but, like this House, the whole of the Government machinery needs examining. It is not for me to initiate a debate on that subject, because a very able speech was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), who has spent some time studying this matter; but we want Parliament as well as the Civil Service administration examined and modernised.
Another question to consider is that of roads. County council officials go to a farmer, as they did in the area of Cold Hatton, Whitchurch Road, and say, "We want to take some land from you". The farmer says, "All right, you can have the land", and he expects to see a road constructed on that land in the course of the financial year. Instead, he sees the whole of the year's crop on that land wasted and no road going through. When county councils and Government Departments are working on these matters I wish they would co-ordinate a bit better and not put local farmers to the inconvenience of having their land taken away before the plans are ready for the roads to be built.
One of the best forms of communication is the telephone system. People ask what is being done about the telephone service. Let me give one example. A new telephone exchange has just been opened in Wellington. People have been 264 waiting for this exchange for some time. The total cost was £167,000. The building itself cost £52,000. We now have a dialling system which enables me to talk direct to the Whips' Office from Wellington. There has been a new post office planned for Dawley which is to cost £10,000. I do not know what the state of affairs is in other constituencies, but when I examine some of the things which have been done in my area I know that the Government have been doing something about modernising communications.
Next, what about schools? I have examined the school problem, too. I was staggered to find that in The Wrekin alone 12 major projects were completed during the past four years and 14 more are to be completed next year. During the past three years, a new college of higher education has been completed and a new Roman Catholic school has been built. One can go through a list of schools completed during the past two years or to be completed in the current year.
In my view, in all that the county council and the Government do together, their finest work for the constituency lies in the school programme for the past four years and for the next two. If they have spent £500,000, all I can say, judging from the schools which I have visited, is that it is money well spent in the best possible way. I have had the opportunity of seeing six of the schools, and I am delighted to be able to assure——
§ Mr. Yates
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman if he has not had sufficient service in his own constituency. He has only to ask the Government to see what they can do.
I note, also, that the county council has spent £30,000 on the new youth centre in Wellington. It has modernised two schools, one at Wrockwadine Wood, and it is building a completely new junior school at Teague's Bridge to cost £61,600. The Roman Catholic school at Wellington, which I have been asking for during the past four years, cost £120,000, and it is now taking pupils.
265 I do not know what other hon. Members find in their constituencies, but, for the progress and modernisation which has gone on in and around The Wrekin, I must on this occasion thank the Government.
It may be said that we have been lucky, that there has been some help with our schools, perhaps, because I raised the matter in Adjournment debates or went to see the Minister. It is the result of the planned progressive work of the Shropshire County Council and its education department, supported by the rates levied locally and supported by the great financial help which the Government have given to education. In this field, the Government can certainly be proud of the results.
People may say that we are all right for schools, but what about the old people? Much has been done for old people, too. There was a new welfare home built at Dawley in 1961 for 40 residents, at a cost of £52,000. The furniture and capital equipment cost £6,000. A new old people's home, "Summer Croft", is to be built in Donnington at a cost of £77,500, and the furniture will cost £8,500. In considering what has been done by the local authority to provide old people's homes, one hears it said, "Of course, there are not sufficient homes for them". There may not be in certain cases, but the Government are trying. For instance, in Dawley alone 20 dwellings for old people have been built, at a financial subsidy of £800 a year. In Donnington there have been 13 dwellings built, the financial aid being £735 a year. In Ketley there have been 19, and in Newport there have been 20 dwellings, at an annual subsidy of £620.
Throughout the area the W.V.S. are running a meals on wheels service. Old people in their homes are visited in Albrighton, Dawley, Newport, Oaken-gates, Shifnal and Wellington. The W.V.S. serves a total of 400 meals a day. If all this is what is meant by Conservative care and Conservative administration, I for one am proud of it. It is a very good start, and I am delighted at the work which has been done during the year.
Now, having given the Government congratulations on what they have done for old people and what they are doing for schooling, I turn to the problem of 266 hospitals. I know that many hon. Members have been to Oakengates and Donnington, to the combined ordnance depot, and they are familiar with the area. In that area alone more houses have been built than in the whole of post-war building in Shrewsbury. This gives some idea of the changing pattern and the changing face of The Wrekin in the past five or six years. But, with all the people coming from all over England to our industries, there are very many young families and, therefore, above all things we want a hospital with good maternity services.
Our local practitioners' committees say time and time again that, if it were not for the devotion of the matron, the sisters and the nursing staff in some of the maternity hospitals, the whole service would break down. I must be frank with the Government. I asked the former Minister of Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Powell), to see The Wrekin Hospital for himself. It was made by converting an old workhouse. Although the conversion was good, there are no lifts in the building for old people or for expectant mothers. A woman has to pass through the main wards in order to get to the delivery wards. The system is quite archaic and wholly unsuited to an area developing as The Wrekin is now. The situation is really tragic. People in the hospital, patients and staff, have to walk up and down the flights of old workhouse stone stairs. We reckon that in a day's duty a nurse will have gone up and down stairs equivalent to climbing The Wrekin. That is enough for anyone. No modern hospital should be built without lifts.
When a new housing estate is established, young people come in and it is at once essential to have sufficient maternity services for them. Now, we are told that at Dawley a new town designated for 90,000 people is to be accepted. Heavens above—what is to happen to our maternity services? How can we possibly manage? It was for this reason that I asked the former Minister to come to The Wrekin to see the problem for himself. As far as I can see, there is only one solution. Certain modifications must be made to The Wrekin Hospital and a complete new maternity wing must be built to cope with the influx of people. The population of my constituency has risen from 267 about 46,000 in 1955 to about 53,000 today. I must ask the Government to keep in mind the whole problem of the maternity services in the area.
When the Government and the planning authorities give permission for great new housing estates to be established, why do not they insist that there must be a nursery school in the area? Why do not they insist in their plans that there must be children's playgrounds? I remember that I drew attention to this matter in my 1955 maiden speech. It seems to me to show a lack of social conscience to allow an area to be developed by a developer without a Conservative Government insisting on the proper facilities being provided. The lack of nursery schools in the new estates, especially in Wellington, for instance, is quite unwarranted. As far as I know, I have in my constituency only one nursery school, yet there are all these young people coming in with their young children who could go to nursery schools if they were there. The Government must do something about it.
Now, I come to the worries and anxieties of our great and famous farmers around The Wrekin. I remember that, when I spoke before of Shropshire sheep, hon. Members opposite said, "What about the Welsh sheep?" Despite that, there have been great improvements in modernising farming in our area. Some of the plans are Government plans and some the plans of private industry. The Milk Marketing Board has extended its activities and is now processing larger supplies of milk, cream and dairy products at Crudginton. This is an advance for which the farming community is grateful.
Fortunately, we have at Allscot one of the greatest sugar beet factories in the Midlands. It is all right for me to say that since my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) is not here. It is far better than the one in his constituency. It has been decided that two new sugar silos should be put up to help to store the sugar. When one takes into account that farmers Li The Wrekin recently combined to build a grain drying store costing about £30,000, one realises that the Government and para-State organi- 268 sations like the Milk Marketing Board are making progress. Even if people do not want to believe it, Britain is modernising slowly but in its own particular way. I am delighted at the changes which have taken place in my constituency, and I hope that hon. Members can say the same for their own areas.
I know that other hon. Members are anxious to take part in the debate. There are very few hon. Members on this side present, so I hope that hon. Members opposite will excuse me for speaking at some length. Considering the whole range of business throughout the constituency, I have to decide whether it is true that business is stagnating and production falling. I am not an economic expert and I can only report on the industries which I have in my constituency. Let me give one example. Here I should declare an interest because I am business consultant for the firm which I am about to mention in its export work. The firm of Messrs. Joseph Sankey has in Hadley, near Wellington, the biggest wheel plant in Europe. It is not satisfied that its output is sufficient to take up all orders in the years to come. Therefore, rightly, it has said, "We will have a modernisation plan."
It has decided this year to spend £150,000 on the wheel shop. Looking back over the years, one may ask, "Has this concern been stagnating? Have people been thrown out of work in this engineering firm?" Of course not. In order to keep up with the Germans, Czechoslovaks, Russians and others, the company spent on modernisation £3£ million.
This is typical of business firms in the area in modernising both by themselves and with the help of the Government. One might say, "Taking into account that in The Wrekin there is one of the largest combined ordnance depots, what have the Government done about modernising it? The House and the country ought to know." There is nothing secretive about this, but one of the largest computors has now gone into operation in order to save money for the taxpayer. It will help in all the accounting and with the various orders which are sent to the depot to provision and supply the Army throughout 269 the world. I do not understand the Opposition's complaint about progress and modernisation in the area from which I come.
It is clear that if the country progresses as it is and modernisation takes place in a planned, logical and sensible way, there will be no major industrial upheaval and no major loss of impetus in industry. However, I must say this to the younger people of the country, and I do not mean any offence to hon. Members opposite. I had the opportunity to see what a Socialist Government was like when hon. Members opposite had the power to run the country. When I hear reports of Mr. Cousins' speeches at Labour Party conferences, I realise that they really want to try to bring Britain up to date, but they are stuck with the old tramlines of the past. One section of the party wants to go ahead in modernising Britain and another section does not really want to do that. It is sad that from time to time some Members of the Labour Party have said, "If there is unemployment we will safely get into power".
I hope that on reflection the country will consider that what has taken place over the last twelve years is something of which we can be proud. I have warned people before that if they throw away all that has been done for them, I should not like to promise the same things for them in future as they have had in the past.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
First and foremost, I should like to congratulate the Prime Minister on getting into this House. I am not sure that I congratulate him on the way that he got here, but, nevertheless, I am sure that we all wish him a happy but short time in the job. The hon. Member for Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates)—
§ Mr. Mackie
The hon. Member for The Wrekin has covered a multitude of subjects, mostly, as he said at the beginning of his speech, constituency ones. As it happens, I have made a note of almost all of them and they coincide with many of mine. Therefore, perhaps the hon. Member will excuse me if I do not follow 270 him in detail meantime. However, I should like to deal with two things that he said. First, he thought that the House should be televised. I do not know what his constituents would think if he were televised sitting there with rows of empty benches behind him. I have never heard a greater under-statement than the one he made when he said that there are not many hon. Members opposite wanting to speak. In fact, no hon. Member opposite, apart from himself, is present.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the question of co-ordination in taking over land. One thing which I as a farmer hate to see is pieces of land doing nothing with weeds growing on them and not being used. When one inquires, as I have done often, one finds that they are scheduled for a particular job and that the owner has been warned that something would be built on the land or that a road would go through it. But the hon. Member must realise that his own party is largely responsible for that, because local authorities and people who are given permission to start things and told that they can go ahead, with the farmer being warned to get off the land, find in six months' time that they are prevented from going ahead. The hon. Member must consider who is to blame when this sort of this happens.
Like all my hon. Friends and, no doubt, I hope, like hon. Members opposite, I am delighted and pleased to hear that the Government will do all the things which are absolutely necessary for the good of the country. We have been asking them to do these for a long time. I am certain that any number of hon. Members opposite, when one looked at them when their benches were a little more full than they are now when the Prime Minister was speaking, were just as surprised as we are at the suddenness with which the cash has become available for all this progress of which we have heard.
I will give just two examples. In April I wrote to the Minister of Education. In May I got a reply, which was simply a long explanation that the money was not available to build a new school in Enfield and that we could apply again, perhaps in 1964 or 1965. Less than six weeks later, £5 million extra came to the Middlesex County Council and the new school was made possible within less 271 than six weeks. I cannot think that the situation altered during that time. There must have been more to it than just a change of heart.
I have a relative who is a member of a hospital management committee. The hospital in question, like many other hospitals, was built just before the war and is not too modern. The committee had £20,000 to spend on various essential items costing up to at least £100,000 and an endeavour was made to allocate the right priorities first. In the middle of the discussion, however, the secretary was called away. He came back a few minutes later and said, "Forget our discussion, ladies and gentlemen. I have just had a telephone message that we can spend £100,000." This kind of thing is going on all over the country. There is no doubt that people are wondering why the money has suddenly become available. In his speech this afternoon the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that our progress has been gradual. If it has been gradual, the production of the cash should have been gradual and equal and not in spurts. We are all very suspicious of these spurts.
I want now to touch a little on the economic side of the Gracious Speech. As an amateur economist I stand to be corrected by the professional economists, whom I violently distrust because they are nearly always wrong. It has been fairly well proved that the economists who have been advising the Government in the last 12 years have been wrong at least four times, because during that period we have had, I think, three extra Budgets and last year we had what was equivalent to an extra Budget all within less than six months of the originals. Therefore, the advice from the professional economists could not have been very good and I am not at all frightened to come into the picture with my calculations. They are probably too simple for the experts, but here they are.
Our gross national product is between £24,000 million and £25,000 million, Four per cent, of that is roughly £1,000 million. Out of the gross national product, the Government get a figure of £7,000 million to spend; that is the national Budget. If that is the rate at which they get the money, all that they 272 will get out of the £1,000 million—and I am not so sure that they will get this figure—is the tax from it, which, if it is at the same rate, will be about £350 million. That is the extra money they will have from a 4 per cent, increase which they expect to get.
I am not so sure that the Government will get even that figure, because we on this side hope, as I think the Government would hope, too, that a lot of this increase in production and wealth will go to the underpaid people. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) hopes that a lot of it will go to the agricultural industry and agricultural workers and to other lower-paid workers, who will not be paying much tax. I doubt, therefore, whether the figure that the Government get will be as much as even I am allowing, about £300 million out of the £1,000 million. I admit that as a result of extra spending, there will be an extra yield by way of Purchase Tax and Excise Duty, but, on the whole, I doubt very much whether the figure that the Government get will do anything like touch the amount of money that they will spend. The country should be given an explanation of where this money is to come from.
We on this side have been accused of making promises and the like, but at least we have suggested some extra taxation to get hold of some of this production, particularly by means of a capital gains tax—I mean a proper capital gains tax—which will collect a certain amount of money. It will be interesting to see in the next Budget the figure that the present capital gains tax collects. We have mentioned also a wealth tax of some description to get some of the tax-free money that is going about the country.
I should like to raise another few points which appear in the Gracious Speech, the first being exports, which have a lot to do with our economy. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) made a long speech yesterday, in most of which he stressed incentives for export. He gave examples of tax relief, and so on, which he would give. I think it would be one of the most difficult things to give that type of incentive. Take, for example, motor cars alone. Half of them consist of 273 parts made by accessories firms, but the cars are exported in the names of the firms which make them. How are we going to help the accessories people?
§ Mr. W. Yates
I think I can help on this. The accessories people, from what I understand in the Midlands, are perfectly glad to have permanent contracts with the motor industry and would let the industry itself—the manufacturers—collect the rebate.
§ Mr. Mackie
That may be so, but I still think the difficulty of incentives to export on a tax relief basis is very great indeed.
I think it was the hon. Member for Harrow,, West (Mr. John Page) who a few minutes ago talked about modernisation. In the last speech he made he wanted to modernise six million houses with secondhand baths. What he wanted was a complete monopoly in industry. I doubt very much whether we would get that.
However, on exports I should like to emphasise what I have said in this House before, that I think there must be some channelling of our buying and selling so that we sell where we buy. Where we buy we must sell. Any amount of exhortation to export goes on, but nobody has said where or what we should export. Surely this is common sense? As the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) said, we require food and raw materials, and about half our food and most of our raw materials come from abroad and amount to a figure round about £4,500 million of imports altogether. We know where they come from. Surely we should try to sell in those countries where we buy those things. There are no directions at all about this, and there is not even exhortation as to that. For instance, consider the amount of wheat we buy from Canada. Yet nobody gives instructions, "Go sell such and such to Canada", with the result that there is an imbalance there. It is the same with Denmark, and so on. The haphazard way we go about our exports is quite ridiculous and we shall never get anywhere till we do something about it.
We could help our economic position by greater home production. In my own industry, agriculture, we could produce 274 more food and help in the balance between imports and exports through lesser imports of food. The Gracious Speech says that the Governmentwill ensure a proper balance between homegrown and imported food on the basis of an efficient and prosperous home agriculture.Well, this balance is, of course, where the argument is. We all agree that there should be an efficient home agriculture. I think it was the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) who was very worried about the question of the bacon agreement with Denmark, where Denmark has been given a considerably greater share of our market than we have ourselves. This is not an easy problem by any manner or means, because the price question comes in.
The hon. Member for Selly Oak did not mention this question of price, but this is where the great argument arises between farmers and the Government and the farmers and the other people of this country—the argument as to what is the right price. What is the right price? Is it a fair world price? Is it a surplus price? We must remember that a great amount of the food which comes into this country is just surplus in some other countries where it is produced and is not there produced specially for export, and so they sell it at low prices. It was the hon. Member for Louth who mentioned the fact that America has only to export 3 per cent, of her produce to pay for her imports. Therefore, the Americans do not have to worry unduly, but we in this country have to export one-third of what we produce to get the same result. A country which is exporting only a small percentage of its home-grown food, and exporting it as surplus food, can afford to take rather a low price for it. Is the right price, then, the surplus price? Or is the right price the price in the country of origin? Farmers in this country would be delighted to take the price the French get for their wheat.
It is a difficult problem, and I think that most would agree with the Sunday Times which had an excellent article a month or two ago pointing out that an increase of agricultural production in this country would be to the benefit of the whole country, and I look forward to the Government's plans as to 275 how they are to do this, and particularly how they are to control imports.
I do not want to go into details about this complicated subject, but I hope that we shall be told something definite. Gentlemen's agreements are all very well, but my experience is that the scarcest thing about them is gentlemen and that they mostly fall through. Anyway, we welcome the plans the Government have made, which should help considerably to even out prices and avoid the rises and falls, with their attendant increases to the taxpayer.
I welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to protection for producers of new plants and seeds. These people have done a tremendous service to agriculture and the nation. However, a person who raises a new plant, a new variety of oats or potatoes, never gets the benefit. It is always the developer who gets it. I understand that it is much the same with patents.
I think particularly of two varieties of potato—Kerr's Pink, grown in Scotland, and eaten in Scotland because the Sassenachs find it too dry, and Arran Pilot, which we will not eat in Scotland at all but which is very popular in England. These varieties were produced by men who got little benefit whatsoever. The developers got the big financial advantage. I remember my father, who was very interested in the Arran Pilot potato, being absolutely furious that Mr. McKelvie, the raiser of it, had been awarded only the M.B.E. or the O.B.E. when other people who had not brought half the benefit to the country got knighthoods and so on. My father was furious that Mr. McKelvie did not get a greater honour for producing something which was of far more value to the country than many other things which have been produced.
If these people are to benefit from the fact that they raise new seed, they must get the benefit quickly, particularly in the case of cereals, for because of the present rate of multiplication, it will be no good to them unless they obtain it quickly. I look forward to hearing how this is to be done.
Housing was mentioned in the Gracious Speech—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present:
§ House counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Mackie
Before that very necessary interruption, I had begun to mention housing. I notice that my audience will not be very much increased, but it is a little better than it has been during most of my speech.
Frankly, I find it very difficult to explain to my constituents why certain things are happening on the housing front. Local authorities have a considerable amount to do with housing and have an effect on housing. It is difficult to understand why the Government have managed to build only between 280,000 and 290,000 houses when they have plans to increase that number quickly to 360,000 or even more. If there is anything which it has been more necessary to provide during the last 12 years than housing I should like the Government to tell us what it is. Members of Parliament, no matter what constituency they may represent, have found this a burning question, but particularly has this been the case in the London area and in the big towns. We heard the argument today that if the Government have plans to increase housing the number of houses mentioned is too low. There is no question that a figure of 280,000 to 290,000 is far too low. It is difficult to think of an explanation. If more houses could be built next year why could not they have been built last year?
I think it is because of the extraordinary amount of building potential taken up by office building and the provision of new garages and things of that sort for which we could easily have waited. No doubt many hon. Members saw the excellent photograph in The Times. It was taken from a helicopter and showed the fantastic amount of office building which has taken place over the last 10 years in the area of St. Pauls in the City. I see that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) who is also interested in this subject, is present in the Chamber.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I should like to know whether the hon. Gentleman 277 is saying that we ought not to rebuild round St. Paul's, or replace the office accommodataion which was there.
§ Mr. Mackie
I think it an absolute disgrace that pure commercialism should have resulted in the view being spoilt. I agree that we need a certain amount of office building, but there should have been some priority exercised and not a wholesale go-ahead with office building to the detriment of house building. I congratulate the hon. Member for Selly Oak on raising this matter from the benches opposite.
The question of land is closely allied to housing. I do not wish to say too much on the subject now, because no doubt it will be dealt with during the housing debate next week. The hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) was worried about inflation. But nothing has caused inflation more than the free sale of land during the last five or six years. There is no question that land which formerly had little more than agricultural value is now being sold for sums like £20,000 or £30,000 per acre. That sort of thing should be noted by the hon. Member for Louth who is so worried about inflation.
§ Sir C. Osborne
My point was about inflation in our industrial costs which would make it difficult for us to sell our goods abroad.
§ Mr. Mackie
I remember that the hon. Member spoke about inflation and said he was worried. There are all sorts of inflation and the hon. Member cannot have it both ways. He ought to be worried about all types of inflation, and I hope that he is.
I wish to refer to the paragraph in the Gracious Speech dealing with rating. I hope that Members of the Government occupying the Front Bench opposite will make a note of this. I am copying the hon. Member for The Wrekin who insisted on notes being taken. In that paragraph there is a reference to "certain householders". I should like the paragraph to refer to "certain houses". There has been correspondence with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on the subject of the rerating of fiats for old people. In response to an appeal from my local council at Enfield where it is considered 278 that the rate is too high, the Ministry has stated that the old people could apply for National Assistance. The percentage for the country is a 2.8 per cent. increase for ordinary houses. It is about 3.4 per cent, for old people's flats and I think it wrong that these flats for old people should be rerated so highly. There will have to be fiats provided for old people only, for long enough. It is ridiculous for the Minister to say that they can apply for National Assistance.
I must repeat what has been said from this side of the House time and again. It is not fair to ask people to go on National Assistance when that is not necessary and the case can be dealt with in some other way. I think hon. Members opposite do not appreciate how these people hate going on National Assistance, particularly older people. I appeal to the Government to have another look at the matter and, instead of saying "certain householders", to say "certain houses", these to include old people's fiats.
I am interested in the reference to compensation, but I hope that this will cover more than victims of crimes of violence There is a case in my constituency of a Mrs. Brown of Ordnance Road, Enfield, who, four years ago, was walking on the pavement when a van passed her and the door was opened by a passenger in the van. It knocked her down and broke her leg. She has been incapacitated ever since. The passenger was a man of straw and could not pay any compensation. This lady has been an invalid for four years. Her husband had to change his job and work on night shifts so that he could look after her. She gets nothing by way of compensation. Surely that is as good a case for giving compensation as a case of anyone hurt in a crime of violence. There has been a legal battle over this.
§ Mr. W. Yates
I have dealt with problems like this. Surely the insurance company was liable, unless the driver of the van was driving without a policy of third party insurance?
§ Mr. Mackie
The passenger in the van opened the door and the driver of a car is not responsible for what his passenger does. This was a test case which was only drawn to my notice in the last month or two. There seems strong 279 grounds for something to be done. A clause should be put in to deal with compensation in things such as this. The way in which this poor lady has been treated is ridiculous. I have written to the Law Society and to others, but I have had no satisfaction. I notice some hon. Members connected with the legal profession are present. They often turn their minds to obtuse subjects which do not affect the individual. I should feel much obliged if they would turn their minds to this subject.
As has been said, there is no use in having a new town unless there are roads leading to it. In my constituency we have been waiting long enough for the building of a major road. When the House met for a short time, had a debate for a few hours and then adjourned in order to appoint a Prime Minister, the Minister of Transport handed a note to the Leader of the House. That was when the Government were accused of delaying business and it was said that the Minister of Transport would not be answering Questions until the end of January. I presume that the note which was handed said that we could write to the Minister. I wrote to the Minister at least a month, if not two months, ago, but I have not received a reply about this road. I should like to think that the Government's roads programme will proceed a little quicker than the way in which we receive replies.
A big programme of legislation has been put before us by the Government, but how long will it take to enact? It is obvious that most of it will not be enacted. When I walked with hon. Members from another place yesterday some hon. Members opposite had to admit that most of it would be only introduced. In other words, what we have been given is not legislation but an election manifesto. That is obvious to anyone who considers the time factor
. It is suggested that unless we have an independent deterrent we shall not be consulted in any conference chamber about disarmament and such matters. Most thinking people will not stomach that nonsense. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has dealt with that. Surely it is the negation of what the peoples of the 280 world want and it is completely divorced from the spirit of the United Nations.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)
I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) that the main proposals in the Gracious Speech are simply a Tory Party General Election manifesto. We have had more than twelve years of successive Tory Governments, and most of the things which they are now promising should have been done long ago. Now, within sight of a General Election, we have a long list of promises.
We in the Labour Party have had our conference and have issued our proposals on most subjects. It seems to me that the Tory Party philosophy contained in the Queen's Speech is, "Anything the Labour Party can propose we can propose better".
Agriculture is the main industry in my constituency in Norfolk, and I am always interested in any proposals for the benefit of agriculture. Three months ago the Labour Party published their proposals for the future of agriculture, and I am glad to say that they had a very good reception both by farmers and by farm workers. I am glad that there is a reference to agriculture in the Gracious Speech.
§ Mr. Hilton
There was last year and the year before that, and I will deal with that. This year we read that the Government willensure a balance between home-grown and imported food on the basis of an efficient and prosperous home agriculture".I am glad about this, and I wish that the Tory Government meant it, because the Labour Party, and I, have been advocating it for a long time. Agriculture deserves this.
This prosperity existed in 1951 when the Tory Party became the Government, but in recent years agriculture has been gradually undermined and the situation is not nearly as good as when the Tories took office in 1951. This proposal in the Gracious Speech is all right if it means anything, but the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) is quite right—it is not the first time that we have had such promises from the Conservatives. Last year the Gracious 281 Speech contained almost the same phrase:My Government intends to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agricultural industry".Let us briefly see what happened after that speech just over a year ago. There can be no doubt about the present efficiency of the industry. I do not say that it is 100 per cent., but there is great efficiency.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
May I ask the hon. Member to read the report in the OFFICIAL REPORT of a speech by his hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) in which he suggested that there was a great deal of scope for increased efficiency among British agriculturalists?
§ Mr. Hilton
I was coming to that point. I was about to say that we are not 100 per cent, efficient and that there is room for greater efficiency, but already there is much efficiency in agriculture, and the record since the war proves this. I will quote the record of farmers and farm workers since the end of the war. Production has increased by over 80 per cent. This has been achieved with only 4 per cent, of the working population remaining in the industry and at a time when over 200,000 regular farm workers have left the industry. The annual value of the industry's production—£1,750 million—is a tremendous achievement. Agriculture is our oldest and most important industry. I believe the figures I have just given prove that.
§ Mr. W. Yates
I am certain that those figures are absolutely correct, but can the hon. Gentleman tell me where in the last ten years a farm has gone begging? Does he know any case of a farm being sold where there have not been many applicants most anxious to join the prosperous farming industry?
§ Mr. Hilton
I will make my own speech. Time is getting on. I shall probably come round to that point eventually. Tributes are frequently paid to the efficiency of modern farmers and farm workers. These tributes are well justified. We should do well to remember the terrible conditions under which farm workers had to struggle during the recent corn and potato harvests; paying tributes is not enough.
282 I turn to the question of prosperity. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East will appreciate that I am not talking about the large prosperous farmers who have interest in other industries. I am thinking of those who farm for a living and have no other interests. The available figures show that many farmers have an annual income of only £500 to £600. The national minimum wage for farmworkers will not be £9 10s. a week until later this month. Neither the Government nor anybody else in their senses would argue that that is a state of prosperity in this important industry. Both farmers and farmworkers deserve much better.
I welcome the well deserved tribute that my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) paid last night to the efforts of farmworkers. He complained of the bad deaf they were having. He said, rightly, that in view of the importance of their work and of their splendid record they were entitled to wages and working conditions which were as good as those enjoyed by workers in other industries. I entirely agree. At present the average earnings of farmworkers are more than £4 a week less than the earnings of workers in other industries. Nobody can argue reasonably that small farmers and farmworkers are prosperous
. In last year's Gracious Speech the industry was promised prosperity. Early this spring farmers from Norfolk and other parts of the country marched on Westminster to protest at the way they had been treated by the Government. I met constituents of mine from Norfolk. Other hon. Members met their constituents. Later hundreds of farmers from Norfolk signed a petition protesting at the way they were being treated by the Minister of Agriculture and the Government. I handed that on their behalf to the Minister, requesting that he should meet a deputation of the farmers and discuss their problems with them. One of their complaints was that they were not getting sufficient income to pay then-workers the wages which they could earn in industry. The then Minister of Agriculture refused to see that deputation and the Norfolk farmers whom I represent are still anxious to have this discussion with the Government.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Would the hon. Member not agree that farmers cannot pay the wages they would like to pay unless the industry gets a better price for what it produces? Is it not our duty, therefore, to tell the country to be prepared to pay a better price for the food we produce?
§ Mr. Hilton
I agree. No section of the community would wish to have cheap food at the expense of the small farmer and his employees, but that is happening. Like myself, the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) represents a large farming community. He, too, must be wondering for how long the small farmer and farm worker is to be treated in this way. The only way to improve the state of the agricultural industry is to have a change of Government. The Labour Party's new statement on agriculture shows that we are prepared to give a new deal to farmers and farm workers.
The Gracious Speech makes a vague reference to horticulture when it states:Legislation will be introduced to promote the well-being of horticulture.I hope the Government will spell out exactly what is meant by this reference, because the horticulturists who are doing an excellent job in my constituency want to know what that vague sentence is all about.
I welcome the discussion that is taking place between both sides of industry about severance pay. However, will any scheme that is introduced apply to farm workers who become redundant? In January last, in the extremely cold spell, farm workers in my constituency, many of whom were in their sixties and who had been employed in agriculture for 40 or more years, were given a week's notice and dismissed. Elderly people cannot find jobs easily and if it is just for industrial workers to receive redundancy pay it is equally fair that farm workers should receive the same.
§ Mr. W. Yates
It has occurred to me that I made a mistake earlier when, while the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) was speaking, I said that all the timber in this House had come from The Wrekin. In fact, it was taken to Newport, in The Wrekin, from an 284 area about 50 miles around The Wrekin and was then supplied to the House.
§ Mr. Hilton
That interjection has nothing to do with what I am saying.
There has in recent years been a steady decline in the number of regular farm workers. They are leaving the land at a rate of about 15,000 a year. Most of them have so far been absorbed into the building industry or industry in the nearest towns but employment there has now reached saturation point. There is a desperate need in some rural areas and small market towns for the provision of light industry to take up these men who are now losing their jobs in agriculture. I hope that the Government will provide light industry in such areas to give work for them.
We all welcome the proposals—if they mean anything—for greater expenditure on hospital buildings, on houses, on better roads and on education. Although we want more universities, I hope that if they are to be built it will not be done at the expense of the village primary schools, many of which are in a shocking condition. The hon. Member for The Wrekin may smile; he has been telling us of the wonderful new school he has got, but he should come to Norfolk and see some of our old ones. I am glad that the Minister of Education is coming to see some of our relics, and I hope that we shall get more money to replace these village monstrosities.
I regret the lack of any proposal in the Gracious Speech to increase pensions for widows and the old, and to increase sickness and unemployment pay. I feel very strongly about this state of affairs, particularly at this time of year—Members opposite boast of the affluent society, but the people of whom I speak are the very people who helped to create our society, whether affluent or not. They should get a fair share of the cake, but those of us who see these people in their own homes have to admit that they are just not getting that fair share. I hope that even if it is a vote catcher before the next General Election some proposal will be made to increase these benefits. I have had personal experience of the pittance received in unemployment pay, and I feel just as strongly for those receiving it as I do for the sick, the retired and the old.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
Every hon. Member representing a Welsh constituency will deprecate as strongly as I the complete omission of any reference to Wales in the Queen's Speech. The people of Wales will note that omission, and next year an electoral price will have to be paid for it by the Conservative Party.
There is no mention of leasehold reform. This affects areas in England, but is obviously a problem that very grievously affects parts of Wales, particularly South Wales. There are difficulties attached to it, but they are not insuperable, and I cannot believe that there can be any argument on the very first principle of leasehold enfranchisement as it affects owner-occupiers. However, as we have dealt with the subject so often in this House before, I shall not now dwell further on it.
There is one aspect of the Queen's Speech with which I want to deal. It is the statement:You will be invited to consider arrangements for the payment of compensation to the victims of crimes of violence.Reference was made to this very important point by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). I wish that he had paid the deference, which I think should be paid, to the strenuous efforts made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) in this connection. I am sure that this will have the general acceptance of the House.
We have our National Insurance system to cover sickness, the Industrial Injuries Act to deal with accidents at work, burglaries are dealt with, by and large, by personal insurance, and compulsory third party insurance deals with motor accidents. But there is a small section of the populace which suffers grievously because there is no reparation made to them, particularly those who have been victims of crimes of violence.
I should like to express my agreement with the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey who made a plea that when this new legislation is brought before the House it will be as comprehensive as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) referred to a case of injustice to a woman constituent of his. I want to refer to what happened 286 to a constituent of mine to show that there is a real sense of grievance in these matters.
A constituent of mine was going to work on his motor bicycle when he was hit by a lorry, driven by a person who had stolen it, and who had not a driving licence. My constituent was in hospital for two years. He lost all the earning capacity of two years, and, of course, received no compensation. The man had stolen the lorry, and with a complete sense of irresponsibility perpetrated this terrible thing. That is the type of case I am thinking of.
A similar case occurred recently in Pontypool. It shows the incredible irresponsibility of a young person who had never even held a learner's driving licence. He stole a car, went to a dance, packed a car with youngsters, among whom was a young French student who was holidaying in this country and who accepted a lift in the car. This person, of course, ought never to have been near a road with a lethal vehicle like this. He could not take a bend, crashed into a wall and this poor girl was killed. I noticed in a newspaper only this week that he expressed his regret to the parents. What poor comfort for the parents. But there can be no financial compensation. I should like to think that this type of case will be borne in mind by the Government when they bring in this legislation.
I want to deal with a question which is causing me a tremendous amount of concern. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) referred quite moderately, and I take no exception to the tone of his speech, to the question of relationships between the police and the public in Britain. I think that the police are having a rough deal. I want it to be known and to be on the record that I say that. I do not think that they are having a square deal from the Press or from some hon. Members on both sides of the House.
We place the police in an impossible situation, and then sometimes their reactions are not of a perfect ethical standard. I know that some of these cases have been flagrant. The Sheffield case, in particular, left a nasty taste in the mouth of everybody, but I would ask tonight why we highlight these 287 exceptions. Why do we for ever refer to the way in which the police in some cases have used strong-arm methods and in other cases have put undue and unfair pressure on witnesses or suspects?
I would draw attention to something which occurs every week in my constituency. Young men are brought before the courts in the Western Valley of Monmouthshire because of the way in which they have ill-treated the police. I feel strongly about this. My next-door neighbour, a young married policeman, a fine type of man and a local Baptist preacher, only a fortnight ago was dealing with two ruffians on the streets of Abertillery. They were using obscene language and were under the influence of drink. The young policeman was shockingly bruised and knocked about. I am ashamed of some of my constituents who did not lift a finger to help him in that crisis, and it is to the eternal credit of a frail little woman who came out of a car and pitched into these hooligans with her umbrella. Why do we not realise that when one is dealing with a drunk and a lout one cannot reason with him? If one wants to take him into a police station is one any wiser for saying. "Will you come quietly?" One is dealing with a person who is not amenable to reason. If he is held by the arm he is liable to launch out and kick and punch. Recruitment to our police staffs is not helped by continual sniping at them.
The ordinary policeman does not want to be involved in these matters from personal predilection, but in doing his duty he is constantly involved in these circumstances in the valleys of South Wales and in the large towns of England and Wales. He can be pardoned if, starting with a reasonable amount of force, he goes further and uses what we would call stronger force to get these louts into the police station, and there follow the normal course of the law.
We are leaning over backwards to try and see the point of view of the criminal. I say strongly that there is a war going on in Britain today. This may be a highly dramatic statement to make but there is a war going on between crooks and society. They have declared war on society. These crooks do not intend to 288 do anything except extract gain from hold-ups, train robberies and bank robberies, and in a war there are certain measures which can be justified which could not be justified in the more sequestered and quiet and restrained atmosphere of peace.
I agree with Lord Shawcross in what he said the other day. I have made a short canvass today among lawyers in the House about the question of having examining magistrates. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich does not agree with the idea of examining magistrates as a system in this country similar to that employed on the Continent, but I think that the case has been made out. I know that there are dangers inherent in such a situation, but if our only reason for not accepting this type of system of taking evidence from crooks and criminals is that we have always done it in another way, then it is about time that that conservatism was abolished. We must be prepared to adopt new methods to deal with new circumstances.
We should take all possible steps to bring this war to an end. I can see nothing funny at all in this. I was aghast at the strange twist in the British mentality over the train robbery. What is funny about £2 million being stolen? Why should we always side with the people who succeed in these nefarious activities?
For all these reasons, I hope that in any changes which may take place in police administration the Government will have the backing of this House, as I am certain they will have the backing of the vast majority of the people.
§ 9.16 p.m.
Mr. John Bitten (Oswestry)
I very much enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. LI. Williams) and I agree with him that there is a new sophisticated kind of criminal operating today. The public are all too easily inclined to take a sloppy and sentimental attitude to the kind of criminal who has developed and seems still to be developing. I very much welcome the speech—particularly, if I may say so without becoming controversial, as it comes from the opposite side of the House. In saying that, I appreciate that the hon. Member has the support of many of his hon. Friends.
289 I did not intend to participate in this debate and therefore, as a sign of crude affluence, I have scribbled a few notes on the back of my cheque book. I should like to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) who, like myself, has the privilege of representing what is substantially an agricultural constituency. I hope I understood the exchange that took place between him and my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) about the consequences of some kind of planning of import controls and the effect this would have on producer prices of food. I think my hon. Friend used the words "better prices"; I think he meant "increased prices". There was some head shaking. Indeed, there is now some head shaking from the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, and this I find encouraging. I noticed that these remarks were met by a stony disregard by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) who doubtless, representing the co-operative interests, may not be entirely at one with his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West on the future of the Labour Party's agricultural policies.
I am delighted that the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West has clearly and unequivocally made that statement, because T believe it is one of the consequences of a policy of import control whereby one is going to keep out of the market dumped products, not least because although one may have fractionally, in terms of the housewife, obtained some benefit from the dumpings, it has been nothing like the benefits that one might have expected from taking cheap imports.
§ Sir C. Osborne
There cannot be increased prices for the producer unless the consumer pays for those increased prices.
Order. Double interventions in a speech are unfair to the hon. Member who is speaking and result in confusion of debate.
§ Mr. Biffen
I am sorry if I have caused confusion to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and to the hon. 290 Member for Norfolk, South-West. I suspect that I may also have caused confusion to hon. Members opposite some of whom represent agricultural interests and others of whom represent the interests of the co-operative societies.
May I turn to another point arising from the Gracious Speech concerning agriculture? I should like to register my disappointment that in the reference to some kind of regulation and control of imports no mention was made of dairy products. I know that there is already a quota system governing butter, but I should like whoever is to answer these points at some stage in the debate to give us an assurance about Government policy regarding dried milk and other forms of dairy produce, particularly cheese, the dumping of which has caused concern to both the Milk Marketing Board and many dairy producers.
Again, following the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, I refer with satisfaction to the suggestion that there may be legislation about severance pay. I think that the hon. Gentleman spoke of increased social benefits, and I am not sure that I followed him there because I take it that these could have considerable inflationary consequences, depending upon the size of the increases he envisages. However, if there is some kind of impasse among employers, the unions and the various other people who should be consulted before a policy for severance payments is introduced, a very acceptable short-term alternative, I believe, would be an increase in unemployment benefit.
I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman that, in the context of regional development, which, we understand, is to be a feature of Parliamentary activity this Session, consideration should be given to rural areas which themselves will inevitably have to accept the consequences of a changing employment pattern in agriculture. Even with its high level of productive efficiency, agriculture will almost inevitably tend to employ a smaller labour force. This is a trend which has continued since the end of the war and is likely to go on still further.
In the circumstances, I hope that the desire of many small market towns to industrialise themselves on a limited 291 scale will not De frustrated by an almost obsessive preoccupation in Government Departments with thoughts of certain specific parts of the country such as the North-East, Scotland and Merseyside. I say this fully conscious that such wildly controversial remarks will bring hon Members from those areas breathing hotly upon my neck.
§ Mr. Biffen
I notice that the attack has already started.
I can think of one case affecting my own constituency. There is a company there which makes agricultural products and which, on the whole, wishes to turn for its labour force to an agricultural area. It markets in an area which, substantially, is bounded on the north by Liverpool and on the south by Birmingham. It is totally unrealistic to think of sending this company to Jarrow.
In my view, the whole Government approach in the past to industrial development certificates has been far too narrow. I hope that, as a result of a broader approach to regional development, small market towns which are successful in attracting small industries to help them in anticipating changing conditions will not have their plans frustrated. After all, this is the whole point of intelligent and thoughtful social planning. One tries to anticipate changes in employment patterns. If the drive and initiative of the local authority, councillors, industrial development associations and others in an area are successful in attracting industrialists, it really is the height of frustration for them to find that someone in Whitehall says "Thou shalt not", because the company on which they had set their hopes is intended to go to Merseyside. Indeed, I would not mind betting 10 to one that, in fact, the company will never be browbeaten by Whitehall into going to Merseyside.
I have referred specifically to the problem facing Market Drayton. I referred to it in a speech I made during the last Budget debate, and I was totally unsatisfied with the consequences of what I then said. I hope that what I have said now, none the less vigorously, will have a happier outcome.
292 I conclude with a comment on the general theme of the Gracious Speech, expansion without inflation. This is a very honourable and noble aim and I do not suppose that many hon. Members will cavil or quarrel with it. A few remnants of the Gladstonian elements of the Tory Party like myself and possibly my hon. Friend the Member for Louth who feel that inflation is a fearful thing are inclined to view all these slogans with a certain degree of reserve. I say this knowing that I am liable to cause a certain amount of controversy, not least possibly on the benches behind me, but I am not entirely happy at the fairly confident way in which the Treasury Bench appears to accept the very considerable rise in public expenditure, particularly in what one might call public capital expenditure, over the next couple of years, especially in view of the F.B.I. Report which has come out today suggesting that we shall be running into a private capital expenditure boom in 1964.
Is it really confidently felt by the Treasury that the economy will be able to take the full impact of a private capital investment boom on top of the existing level of planned Government expenditure in the coming 12 or 18 months, because we are told that the whole Government programme rests on the N.E.D.C. plan for a 4 per cent, growth which in turn depends on the proposition that we can very considerably increase our exports? I readily admit that there has been considerable success in this respect, but I am not entirely happy about the balance of payments situation if, as seems likely, we shall be moving into a stock building situation at a time when the terms of trade are moving against us.
I am sorry to ask what may seem to be a querulous question, particularly at this stage of the Session, but I should like to know how confident the Government are that the export momentum can be sustained, particularly if the Western European markets show signs of slowing up their rates of expansion. I should also like again to press the question as to whether one can constantly disregard the fact that the planned increase in imports is being considerably exceeded at present, according to N.E.D.C.
293 These are doubts which lurk in my mind and I make no apology for expressing them now. However, having said all that, this is a Gracious Speech which sets before Parliament months of hard work. I certainly do not accept the view that this is to be an electioneering Parliament. If that is believed by the country it will reflect equally on both sides of the House. It will be neither one party nor the other which will gain. It will be the House of Commons and its standing in the country which will lose.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr, Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
I have sought to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in order to raise one specific action of the Government. However, before I do that I wish to make two general observations. The first refers to the whole tenor of the Gracious Speech and the flood of half-promises and half-commitments which emerge every time that the Prime Minister seems to make a policy speech—and that is not an infrequent occurrence. One must ask, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday and as the nation is beginning to ask, why it is that all these good things have suddenly become possible when so many far more modest advances have proved impossible during the last twelve years of Tory Government.
The Prime Minister and the Government remind me irresistibly of those traders who, seeing their sales falling, have just discovered the virtues of trading stamps, because all the measures and promises which we have before us are intended to appeal to a gullible public and to give them exactly the same illusion which trading stamps are designed to create, namely, that they are getting something for nothing.
The answer is simple and straightforward. It was given by my right hon. Friend the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. All this is not serious policy-making at all, but is desperately irresponsible electioneering. When the election comes, we on this side will look forward to seeing the party opposite marching into battle under the banner of the green shield.
My other general remark concerns the speech yesterday of the Prime Minister. Unlike most of my hon. 294 Friends and, I think, the whole of the Press, I was less disturbed by that part of the Prime Minister's speech dealing with home and economic affairs than with the part dealing with foreign affairs and particularly with East-West relations, Kremlinologists frighten me and amateur Kremlinologists terrify me. At least, the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) never made any pretence at being a Kremlinologist. He brought to his dealings with Mr. Khrushchev an empirical approach which from time to time produced dividends.
Now, however, the new Prime Minister, on the strength of a course of Marxist reading twenty years ago, clearly sees himself as an expert in Soviet philosophy. This worries me not a little. It is rather like a layman administering a course of psychoanalysis to a patient on the strength of having read Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" in his youth. It is slightly more dangerous than that. I found the Prime Minister's references to Mr. Khrushchev and the policies and philosophy of the Soviet Government unsophisticated to the point of naivety. I believe that Soviet policy is far more subtle and complex than the Prime Minister imagines, or, at least, appears to imagine. I only' hope for all our sakes that the right hon. Gentleman does not play his hunches too far.
The main point which I wish to raise this evening is linked with the passage in the Gracious Speech which talks ofthe provision of a modem transport system by all appropriate means, including planning …My protest is directed to the Ministers of Transport and Housing and Local Government for their wholly misconceived and disastrous decision, announced after many months' delay halfway through the long Recess, to reject Sir William Holford's plan for the redevelopment of Piccadilly Circus.
I should like briefly to recall the history of this matter as it affects this House, because I was, I believe, the first person to raise it here. There was a proposal by a developer, Mr. Jack Cotton, to erect on the Monico site a building which was not only architecturally hideous in itself, but which would have made nonsense of any 295 attempt to produce a comprehensive development of the Piccadilly Circus site.
I was by no means alone in protesting at that time. I was supported by a number of my hon. Friends and I remember the late Aneurin Bevan, in what must have been almost his last intervention in this House before his illness, supporting me at the Dispatch Box. There was protest in another place and also among some of the dissidents at County Hall. Some credit for the then happy outcome is due to the present Home Secretary, then Minister of Housing, who wisely bowed to the gale of opposition which grew up against the scheme, and he called in the application. At the public inquiry, the Civic Trust was the principal objector on behalf of the public, and the plan was quashed.
Up to that point, the whole operation was a very satisfactory exercise in Parliamentary pressure and control over the Executive, but we were only just in time. As the result of this, with the then Minister's approval, the London County Council invited Sir William Holford to produce a comprehensive scheme for the whole redevelopment of Piccadilly Circus, to which all future developers would be required to conform. Sir William produced a plan which I think was generally regarded as a most imaginative and even exciting plan, which in due course found its way to the Minister of Housing and Local Government and to the Minister of Transport for their approval.
Of this plan I should like to quote some rather felicitous words which The Times used:Its author saw the Circus as something more than a major traffic intersection bordered by valuable commercial sites: he saw it as a place of shops, theatres, and cafes, a place of concourse where people could meet, stroll, talk, gape, idle, look about them, fool around, and enjoy at leisure the endless variety of the metropolitan scene, without for ever blocking each other on narrow pavements or scuttling underground to seek refuge from the traffic.In short, it was to be a place where people could enjoy themselves on foot. I would remind the Government that people still do walk. Indeed, some of us, doubtless acutely eccentric, do not even own motor cars.
296 On 2nd September this year this plan was rejected by the two Ministers concerned, and it was rejected on the quite monstrous ground that it made insufficient provision for motor traffic. Sir William, with, I think, the greatest ingenuity and, I would guess, with the greatest reluctance, had provided for a circulation of about 5,000 vehicles for each hour of daylight. The Minister of Transport says, "You can take the plan back and recast it and provide for 7,000 vehicles for each hour of daylight." It is quite obvious to all concerned that this cannot be done without wrecking the essential features of this plan.
But why only 7,000? Is it thought that the traffic flow is going to stop at that figure? Because the demands of the motor car today are quite insatiable. They are governed by a kind of Parkinson's law. Indeed, I think I may claim to call it Robinson's law, which reads that "Urban traffic expands to choke any increase in road capacity."
I should like to ask, why has every amenity now got to be sacrificed to the demands of the motor car? When is some Minister of Transport going to have the courage to take steps to restrict urban vehicular traffic, at least in metropolitan areas like Piccadilly? I believe that when we get the Buchanan report it will not seek to avoid placing some restriction on traffic in urban areas. There is an excellent precedent, announced recently for the Mersey Tunnel, which is to be limited to four traffic lanes, and I assume that there will be some restriction of traffic at some future date.
Here everything points to the fact that this Minister wants to see London finish up like Los Angeles. Los Angeles is the one city, which I know, at any rate, where everything has been sacrificed to the motor car, where they have got 12-lane highways, multiple clover-leaf intersections, three-dimensional road planning, the whole thing swallowing up enormous tracts of urban land. It has produced two results. The first is that twice every day the whole system snarls up solid. The second result is that Los Angeles today is the most hideous, the most sprawling, the most nightmarish city on earth, and that is where we shall get unless some Minister of Transport has the courage to do something about motor traffic in this country.
297 I know the Minister has done something to improve the flow of traffic in central London. He has introduced some one-way schemes, of which some have been successful, and some have been less successful, but the price has been paid by the pedestrian. No longer is it any pleasure to stop to shop, and walking in the West End of London today is a very dangerous nightmare. The pedestrian is shepherded by iron railings, and is plunged down subways, and asked to cross the roads at inconvenient places, and is forced into long detours. I believe that it is about time that the pedestrian came back into his own.
The decision about Piccadilly Circus is, in my view, the result of a policy of wholly distorted and wrong-headed priorities. It is the very negation of planning. I hope that the Government will reconsider their decision and reverse it. I hope that they will allow the London County Council at long last, because the scheme has been very long delayed, to get ahead with building a kind of Piccadilly Circus which is worthy of the architectural and planning genius in which we in this country are very rich. If they fail to do that, it will merely confirm our suspicion that whatever the present Government may say about planning, they do not even understand its first principles.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) always talks so calmly and persuasively that one is almost wooed and seduced by his words. Nevertheless, I think there is a case for the planning of town centres for road traffic. The alternative is a stark one—prohibition of cars, certainly from the point of view of their going into the centre of cities, and eventually, perhaps, preventing certain people from owning cars. This is something which will require a very great deal of examination before being put into operation.
I agree that the alternative is often hideous, involving multi-laned traffic going in and out. Los Angeles is probably a good example of this. But we must live with the motor car and with the idea of trying to cope with an expanding motor car population. Apparently, we are now visualising the time when every family will have a car, 298 and even the time when many families will have two cars. I am sure that, whichever Government is in power, this will be an increasingly difficult problem as the years go by. There is no easy solution to it. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has tackled the problem realistically. He has had a great deal of abuse from some quarters. Nevertheless, I am sure that he has done a good job and quite apart from any political content, I believe that he enjoys the support of most thinking people in the House and outside.
I disagree with the hon. Member's remarks about "Kremlinitis". The hon. Member often makes remarks which I support, but I believe that on this occasion he is off the beam. I believe that the Prime Minister has a very sharp and shrewd appraisal of the Russian mind, and I believe that his interpretation of the way things are likely to plan out is nearer the mark than the opinions of many other people on the subject. I am sure that he is in no way jingoistic about it. He believes that we have to live and let live, even though we have different ideologies as between the West and the East. We must always be aware of the fact that so far this has not led to war, and we must play the ball accordingly. I believe that Mr. Khrushchev and the Americans realise this. This is one of the reasons why I believe fundamentally, that we must retain our independent deterrent—a point with which I shall deal more fully a little later.
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman opposite on the question of the seriousness of the Gracious Speech. Whether it is described as a serious policymaking speech or an electioneering one, I welcome it as a progressive and forward-looking programme. It has been, generally speaking, well received in the Press. It is more like the programme for the first Session of a new Parliament than that for the last Session of an old Parliament. I take some comfort from this. Unlike some hon. Members opposite, I do not stand here believing pessimistically that we shall have a spate of Labour rule following the end of this Parliament.
I think that advances are now possible in our economy because of the achievements of the Government over the last 299 two years. I want to deal with two particular aspects tonight. Perhaps they are slightly insular, but they affect me and my constituency and the whole of the London area. But first I want to say a word about modernisation. Surely modernisation has continued right from the start of time. All the way through the centuries we have been modernising this country, and the same thing has been happening in other countries. We have had enormous spurts in modernisation because, unhappily, of the two major world wars which occurred in this century. We are now reaching the stage, generally speaking, where the question of modernisation is occupying the minds of many people and the country will benefit from this in the long run. We shall not require the impetus of war in order to modernise. Having prepared our position, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, I am quite certain that we are now able to go forward and I look to an increasing awareness on the part of all political parties over the question of modernisation in our everyday life.
I believe that people accept the idea of modernisation and that they also appreciate the difficulties. Although hard things are sometimes said about the electorate—that they are selfish and think only of themselves—I believe that we are reaching a stage where people would be willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve modernisation. I am sure that the ideas and the plans of the Government are appreciated by the electorate and that as we carry them through during the next few months we shall be judged—as we have been in the past—upon our record.
I am sure that the majority of the people in this country—despite what has been said to the contrary, particularly from the benches opposite—believe in our independent deterrent and that its possession enables us to join in the councils of the world where otherwise we should not have been able to play a part. One can argue whether or not we have an effective first strike weapon and whether our second strike weapon is credible. I was surprised that in what was admittedly a brilliant speech, the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown)—[HON. MEM- 300 BERS: "Hear, hear."]—Well, one must give credit where credit is due. I do not agree with all that the right hon. Gentleman said. But he put it over extremely well. A good speech is not necessarily a worthy speech. But the right hon. Gentleman put it over extremely well.
I was surprised to hear him say that if the Labour Party won the next General Election the resulting Labour Government would almost certainly retain the V-bomber force. Yet, according to the general tenor of his remarks, the right hon. Gentleman indicated that the V-bomber force was irrelevant. If that is so, why should a Labour Government be prepared to hang on to it?
I believe that the majority of people in the country consider that the Polaris submarine would be a credible instrument of war. The remarks of the right hon. Member for Belper indicated that he did not think that it would be very effective and that, anyway, it was completely under American domination; that we should have little say in its control and that probably in due course we should abandon it. The right hon. Gentleman did not commit himself, but said that a Labour Government would examine the position.
I believe that the people of this country are of the opinion that we benefit from having an independent force even though there is an amount of interdependence about our alliance with America. But it is important and still gives us a standing in the world. We know that there are many vital negotiations to be undertaken regarding the future, and I am certain that most people do not want to see this country in a position which would make us inferior to de Gaulle and the French, who will have their own independent weapon at a time when, if the party opposite comes to power, we shall not.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
The hon. Member has praised the Prime Minister for his statement and he has supported the idea of the TSR2, which involves an amount of £300 million or £500 million, and the Polaris submarine, involving sums of £200 million or £300 million. Can he explain how we are to secure the cuts in defence 301 expenditure in the next year or two which were referred to by the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. Smith
I am not a defence expert, but I think the Prime Minister would not make such a statement unless that were possible. I think a large number of economies can be made in the conventional field and also with some new weapons. Although there has been much comment about TSR2, I do not think it has been authoritatively stated that it will not be a credible weapon. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Member for Belper say that he did not think Polaris would be all that effective. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not say that."] I am sorry if I misunderstood him, but that was the impression I gained.
The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) has raised the question of expenditure, to which both political parties are pledged. They are pledged to spend more; there is no dispute about that. I and most hon. Members on this side of the House feel that if the Labour Party comes to power we shall have a certain amount of defence saving by their abandoning the independent deterrent..
§ Mr. Smith
But we should then get expansion with inflation. If we had a strong incomes policy we would not get inflation. I believe that the price we pay at present is a heavy but a worthwhile one, which benefits the country and provides a very useful insurance policy.
I do not wish to go on, however, with the theme of international relations and defence. I wish to turn to a bread and butter subject in which I am interested and which is mentioned in the Gracious Speech. I am sure that many hon. Members look forward to the introduction of a Bill to provide relief to certain householders who are suffering hardship from increased rates as a result of revaluation of their houses. Hon. Members may know that a number of colleagues and I were active during the last Session in trying to impress on the Minister of Housing and Local Government that something had to be done about rates. We are very pleased that something is to be done, for this is a very vexed question. I am pleased that there will be some relief of hardship before the 302 Allen Committee of inquiry into rating has reported. Many complaints and suggestions are being sent to that Committee, which is making an exhaustive study of the subject.
The theme of the modernisation of Britain is an excellent one. I should have thought the rating system is something which has the greatest need for modernisation. It is out of date and extremely annoying to most people who have to pay, even though they realise that they have to meet their commitments. Although indisputably it is a burden which we must all carry if we are residents, there is an overwhelming case for a full examination of the rating system to see whether it can be reformed. We have heard in the last two days of growing expenditure. This poses a problem to whichever party is in power. It is becoming more and more urgent because a vast amount of revenue has to be raised by rates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon talked about a 6 per cent, increase in education costs. We have not been told whether that will come straight from the Exchequer or if some of it is to be raised by local revenue. I maintain that higher education costs ought to be transferred to the national Exchequer. Many of my hon. Friends think the same.
I hope very much that the Chancellor and his financial advisers will look at the matter again, particularly as we are getting under way with the increased educational drive and spending more and more money on it. The rate at present is about £1,000 million a year. This will go up steadily when we implement the Robbins Report and continue the drive for new and better schools, particularly in some of the poorer country areas which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Southwest (Mr. Hilton). It is time we did something about transferring some of the burden of local taxation to the national Exchequer.
It is agreed that local government should always aim at providing value for money. Ratepayers must feel that they are part of a service and that they are not isolated unfortunates mulcted at every turn. The householder today whether big or small feels that he is paying an undue amount towards local revenue resources compared with others.
303 Another fault in local government is that too much financial responsibility is attached to a local authority for things which are not of local concern. Having served on a local authority, I know that one is hamstrung right, left and centre, and however hard one tries to economise it is difficult to do so because directions come from Whitehall and there is no room for manoeuvre. I hope that the rating difficulties will be examined very carefully by my right hon. Friend, particularly in the light of the legislation which he proposes to introduce.
Another aspect of the Gracious Speech which very much affects people living in London was mentioned by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). It is the question of a modern transport system. Naturally, I welcome the statement thatby all appropriate means, including planning, investment and research",the Government will go ahead with the modernisation of our transport system. I believe that they have made a realistic start to this with the Beeching proposals. There is a great deal of controversy about them throughout the country, particularly where branch lines are to be closed, but I think that this is a realistic approach and that provided we get our alternative means of transport right, we shall have a highly up-to-date and modern transport system.
But there is one sector of the country in which the transport system is beginning to founder, and that is not very far from Westminster. I refer to the London Transport system. I have lived in London for the last fourteen or fifteen years and during the whole of that time, in my personal experience and that no doubt of every hon. Member, fares have risen consistently and the service, particularly the bus service, continues to deteriorate. I wonder how much longer we, in the largest and greatest city in the world, can tolerate a bus service which now operates so inefficiently and fitfully.
§ Mr. Smith
I agree with the right hon. Member that they are underpaid. I am coming to that. Complaints from constituents reach me, as they do hon. 304 Members on both sides of the House. I receive pathetic letters from people who have to wait in the rain sometimes for an hour or so because bus crews have not turned up for duty. I know of teenagers who have had to move away from home into the centre of London because they can no longer get to work on time as a result of the fact that buses do not turn up and there is no alternative means of transport. Not everybody owns a car. Indeed, if everybody owned a car and drove to London in it, we should soon have chaos.
The replies which we receive from London Transport are very polite but quite unconvincing and very stereotyped. We have a real grievance in the London area and something must be done about it. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport that we should have a full inquiry into the whole London Transport system. Undoubtedly this is not a one-sided business. The hon. Gentleman said that these men are underpaid. They probably are, and they may well feel that they have a grievance—and it must be looked into just as the whole management of London Transport must be looked into. We must be satisfied that management is efficient and that operating techniques are up to date—this I very much doubt—and that the role of the unions and the employees is a good one.
I think that the men and women who work for London Transport deserve more money, and in return for more money the public deserves more efficiency from both the men and the authority. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will consider this matter and will go into it in detail. Most Londoners, I am certain, will back him up in what he proposes to do.
These are perhaps not very important Measures in the Gracious Speech. Nevertheless, they affect thousands upon thousands of people and it is important that we should give our attention to them. One point which I wish to mention—because I was connected with it—is that I am sorry that there is no mention in the Gracious Speech of an amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881-I very much hope that this matter is still under urgent consideration by the Commonwealth Relations Office and that in 305 due course my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary will do something about it, because I am sure that that is the general wish of the whole House, irrespective of party differences.
In my view the Gracious Speech is a sound and relevant speech. I think that the Government's record is also sound and relevant. Despite all the taunts which the Opposition may justifiably make as party points—it is their prerogative as the Opposition—and despite the hostility of some sections of the Press, I believe that the Government's record is a fine and worthy record. I hope that I have not been too political in my remarks. Many hon. Members have been extremely political.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.