§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.I am, of course, very conscious of the great honour which has been done to me by having been given this privilege today. But I know that it is equally an honour for my constituency. The constituency of Jarrow is not unknown. I suppose that in the hearts and minds of hon. and right hon. Members on this side in particular it has a special place. It has a special place in the history of the working class movement of our country, and that is why I am very proud to have had the privilege of representing it—or misrepresenting it, as some would think—for 17½ years.
I suppose that as a result of the arrival of the Venerable Bede about 1,200 years ago in Jarrow men in small numbers were becoming civilised. Jarrow did not grow much for the first 1,400 years of its history, but in the last century, like Topsy, it just "growed". Anyone who saw the old Jarrow realised that it had just "growed" it was never planned
It was from Jarrow that the first iron ship ever built in this country sailed the seas. It was from Jarrow that about 100 ordinary men, whose only crime was that they could not find work, marched to London to ask for employment. I believe that that crusade did more than any other factor to arouse the social conscience of our country and to make both sides realise that mass unemployment could never again be tolerated in our civilisation.
However, my constituency does not consist solely of Jarrow. The electorate in Jarrow numbers only 17,000. It is comprised of Hebburn, which is of similar size, and the Boldons, which are numerically equal. Hebburn, like Jarrow, is a thriving industrial town. Probably 43 one of the greatest concentrations of industry in any part of Britain is to be found in that part of my constituency. The products which it turns out go to all parts of the world. It is making a magnificent contribution to our exports, and I know that it will continue to do so.
I am glad to include the Boldons because they are in as beautiful a part of Great Britain as one could wish to find. It has everything in the way of natural amenity and attraction which is endearing to the eye. These three communities—self-contained and sometimes rather parochial perhaps in their outlook—are, nevertheless, wonderful people to have the pleasure to represent.
I now turn to the Gracious Speech. I have, of course, had the usual disinterested advice. Everybody has told me to be brief. We all like the other fellow to be very brief. I have also been told to be non-controversial. During the 17½ years that I have been here, I have hardly ever complied with either of those two characteristics. I will try to do so very hard this afternoon, but, as you know, Mr. Speaker, there is an old proverb: one cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
The Gracious Speech states:New arrangements have been made to aid and encourage the economic and social advance of the developing nations …That paragraph ends by saying that efforts will be madeto stimulate fresh action to reduce the growing disparities of wealth and opportunity between the peoples of the world.The peoples of the world are today faced with some very big and overwhelming problems, but I believe, in my heart of hearts, that the biggest problem facing us is world poverty. No matter how we strive for peace, no matter how we strive for understanding, I think that it must be understood that hungry men are angry men, and that angry men are irresponsible men.
Whenever I think about this problem of world poverty, my mind always goes back to that great leader of the miners, Arthur Cook, who, in 1926, coined a phrase which, I thought, was one of the most beautiful I had ever heard. He said, "You cannot grow the flower of peace in the garden of poverty." We, the 44 wealthier nations, have to realise that, no matter how we strive and struggle for peace, the peace that we seek will evade us unless we are able to do more than has been done to close the gap between the have and the have-not nations.
Another part of the Gracious Speech to which I should like briefly to refer is that dealing withCentral and regional plans to promote economic development, with special reference to the needs of the under-employed areas of the country".No constituency needs this kind of planning, sustenance and support more than mine does. No area needs it more than the North-East. I acknowledge that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the former Secretary of State for Education and Science, whom we are delighted to see sitting on the benches opposite, rather than on this side, made a start, but it was only a start and we feel that he did not go fast enough or far enough. We are confident that the proposals suggested in the Queen's Speech will be of immense value to the people of Jarrow, of the North-East in general, and of all those areas which suffer in similar circumstances.
Another matter to which I should like to make brief reference is the question of helping what I would call the sick, the aged and the unemployed. I believe that the yardstick by which any civilisation must be measured is how it treats its young and the compassion it shows towards its aged. I am glad that in the Gracious Speech it is made perfectly clear that early efforts will be made to improve the lot of those to whom I have just referred.
I should like to make a further reference to the Gracious Speech. It states:My Government will pursue a vigorus housing policy directed to producing more houses … and will promote the modernisation of the contruction industry.It goes on to say:They will restore control of rents, they will establish as rapidly as possible a Crown Lands Commission with wide powers to acquire land for the community.All right hon. and hon. Members will realise that only a few weeks ago there was some argument about this at the hustings. It is something that I could never understand, particularly in relation to the land problem. I ought to 45 say that my political education began in the cradle. I was not very old before I was being taken to political meetings. At those meetings, we used to sing, "God gave the land to the people". It is perfectly true that he did, but somehow, in the meantime, they have lost it. Steps are to be taken to restore a little of it.
My constituents were completely put at ease on this issue when I explained to them that we had no intention of taking their grouse moors. When they understood that the hunting fields and lodges would still remain sacrosanct, they were quite generously disposed towards this modest measure. They felt some difficulty until I explained it to them because, they said, wise men had said that the land would dry up. I assured them that it would not stop raining on the land. I made it clear to them that that was only a verbal expression and that the intention was to suggest that the landowners might do what the engineers, the miners or the bus workers sometimes do.
When referring to drying up, the intention that was sought to be conveyed was that the landowners might take their place in the ranks of those who were striking against the community's interest. For my part, I do not believe that that would happen. I believe, frankly, that the patriotism of our landowners will be unequalled and that whatever this House may feel it is best should be done with part of their possessions, they will willingly accept it.
To refer again to what happened at the hustings, if we look at the Gracious Speech as a menu, there is no doubt that there is plenty of meat in it. There is no doubt that there will certainly be no short time in this House in getting through this rather substantial meal. I am, however, satisfied that that is what the country would want us to do.
The Gracious Speech has set hon. Members and Ministers a great task. If it is to be fulfilled it will mean hard work, but if it is fulfilled I believe that it will not only enrich the lives of our own people, but will enable us to make a contribution towards enriching the lives of those millions throughout the world whose eyes look to us for help. I hope, therefore, that no matter how thick the 46 political battle may become, none in this House will thwart Her Majesty's Ministers in carrying through this programme, which, I am sure, if it is successful, will do much to restore the economic health of Britain and bring increased happiness to its people.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Gregor Mackenzie (Rutherglen)
I beg to second the Motion so eloquently and sincerely moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough).
I do so with a due sense of the honour done to me and, through me, to the constituency of Rutherglen. Without entering into the delights of controversy, may I be allowed to say that I feel that it is perhaps a recognition of the part which has been played by Scottish Members on the Floor of this House and now in the Government of the country. We are a very active group, and long may that continue to be so. I am proud of the part which they have played. I do not want to say very much about this subject; natural Scottish modesty forbids me. I do recall, however, that in debate upon a similar Motion in 1946 one of the most distinguished Members of this House said:The efforts of Scotland and the contribution of Scotland are entitled to world-wide fame.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:I must remind the House that they"—the Scots—also voted extremely sensibly at the General Election."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 17.]Lest it be thought I am being controversial, these were the words of the former right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) speaking in 1946, and if they were true then, we on this side feel that they are even truer now in 1964.
My own constituency of Rutherglen—it means, the Red Glen—is one of the most ancient of the Royal Burghs in Scotland. We were founded by charter some eight centuries ago, and, as is right and proper for such a community, we have always played a full and active part in the councils of the nation. It was only on one occasion, some three centuries ago, that our people failed to 47 respond to the challenge of government. In 1672 the town council resolved that no member be sent to Parliament; later it had to persuade the town clerk of the time that he should act. I must tell you, having fought two very hotly contested elections within the space of the last five months, that the same situation does not obtain now. The town clerk of that time came to Parliament only on condition that he be paid the sum of £3 Scots per day. I am sure he would have welcomed at least one of the considerations in the Gracious Speech.
My constituency, however, is more than the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen. It extends into the county of Lanark, includes the village of Cambuslang, the largest village in Scotland and an important industrial centre; and in the constituency are some of the loveliest parishes in the west of Scotland. But no matter which part of the constituency one comes from, all have this in common—a pride of craftsmanship, a pride in skill, and a desire to see industry succeed and prosper. These over the years have made Scotland a great industrial power, and our miners, steelworkers and engineers made a very full contribution to giving Britain, in the first Industrial Revolution, the title of the workshop of the world.
Our fortunes these years ago were founded on coal mined in Newton and Hallside, and from coal stemmed steel and engineering. I regret that the last coal mine in my constituency closed only a few weeks ago, an indication, if any be required, of the changing pattern in industry and trade and the problems which it brings in areas like the one I am privileged to represent. I believe that we can and must play a full part in this second industrial revolution. We have a substantial contribution to make.
The unfortunate part of it is that our young people must leave home so to do. It is rather popular to refer to the migration move southwards of thousands of our fellow Scots as "the drift South". If ever there was an unfortunate expression coined, it must be this. No Scot drifts anywhere. He is, rather, compelled to leave his home in order to find opportunity. It is a sad reflection on modern 48 society that a man must leave his homeland, severing family ties and associations, to find work. For they do not all leave home to find fame and fortune but simply to protect their wives and families—to provide them with their simple needs.
So it is with genuine pleasure that I welcome the measure outlined in the Gracious Speech dealing with this problem and the central and regional plans for promoting development areas, and the legislation, too, which will introduce a Highland Development Board. Let me say just a word about this Board. I have just mentioned the problem of depopulation in this the second industrial revolution. It is not a new problem for Scotland. Depopulation took place in Scotland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and was one of the great curses at that time. Many men left the Highlands, my own grandfather among them, to tramp the weary miles to town in the hope of finding work and wages to look after their families. I have no doubt at all that those men would have preferred to stay in their native Highlands, to enjoy their way of life there and the advantages of natural beauty which is afforded in those northern counties.
They would have seen in the Gracious Speech today a new hope, an earnest of the determination of Her Majesty's Ministers to bring new and fuller life to the people in the North. They would have seen a desire to co-ordinate the activities of many public bodies—the Hydro-Electric Board, the Atomic Energy Authority, the Forestry Commission—to work for the development of the Highland areas and to create a full way of life for the Highlander.
We know this is not to be an easy job, but we count as one of our blessings the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in the task which lies ahead. However, apart from the enthusiasm of the Secretary of State we shall have to have the backing of other Departments of the Government and their active support. We think particularly of the First Secretary and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. It is regrettable that my right hon. Friend the First Secretary does not have the advantage of being a Scot, but I have discovered that the name borne by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary is 49 that of a very proud and ancient Scottish clan—it is the clan MacMillan. My right hon. Friend's fellow clansmen will no doubt look to him for an improvement in their lot during his term of office.
In this House we shall welcome the other measures dealing with industry and trade. Without straying from the paths of convention, it would be wrong if I did not, as one who represents a steel constituency, indicate the pleasure with which one measure in particular indicated in the Gracious Speech will be welcomed by those employed in that industry.
Our country's future, it is true, lies in the modernisation and diversification of our industries and in the promotion and expansion of those referred to as science-based, but the realisation of these hopes will depend not so much on whether we are willing to accept the challenge but on whether our people are ready to meet it, whether our youngsters are trained and equipped to deal with their new responsibilities. A lesson we in Scotland learned a very long time ago was this. We are not a rich nation, and so we have to compensate for our lack of natural wealth by developing the skills and talents of our young people. We realise, therefore, that the real wealth of the nation lies in its skills and its talents.
So I am sure that the House will be at one with me in welcoming the measures in the Gracious Speech dealing with education, for increasing the supply of teachers and for ensuring the status of the teaching profession in Scotland, in England and Wales. There are two further comments that I might make on education. In this scientific and technological age, we tend to regard education as a form of vocational training. I am sure that it is right and proper that emphasis must be given to training of this kind, but I hope that we shall never lose sight of the fact that education gives a youngster the opportunity to enjoy a fuller way of life, and, secondly, that it brings responsibility—responsibility of service to one's fellows at home and abroad. Our people left Scotland many years ago as missionaries, as doctors and as engineers, to build up countries less fortunate than our own. I trust that in this year of 1964 our young people will again go forward in the same spirit to help cement the bonds of friendship between ourselves and the Afro-Asian nations.
50 Mr. Speaker, I opened my comments this afternoon by telling you a little about my constituency. I close by quoting the motto of my constituency. The motto of the Burgh of Rutherglen is Ex fumo fama. It is a rather neat translation of a very old Scottish saying, and one which, I assure you, is not to be repeated at Hogmanay by other than a Scot. It reads:Ruglen's wee roon red lums reek briskly".It will be appreciated why I did not commend it as a feat of tongue-twisting at Hogmanay. It simply means that our chimneys shall smoke, and smoke briskly. It contains the simple hope that our industry will succeed, that our trade will flourish and that a man, with his wife and children, will enjoy contentment and peace at his own fireside. It is a simple yet noble hope; it must be the goal of Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
It falls to me to congratulate the mover and seconder of the Gracious Speech, the hon. Members for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) and Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) respectively, on behalf of the whole House, and I do so very sincerely because I am sure that all hon. Members will feel that they have fully lived up to the high standard set by those who have previously undertaken this formidable and very honourable task.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Jarrow was selected for this task because, like him, I, too, remember the old days in Jarrow. Not 1,200 years ago when Jarrow first became civilised—just after the Scots, but long before the English and Welsh—but the Jarrow of 1930, and the heavy unemployment, when we had to send the first regional commissioner to the north-east of England. I was glad to hear the marked contrast which he was able to draw between those days and now, when he said that there is a variety of industry in Jarrow and prosperity attending that area.
The hon. Member for Jarrow is an old Parliamentary hand, and those who have been with him in previous Parliaments—unluckily, I was away for part of the time—will remember the interest that he has taken in the subject that he mentioned 51 today—world poverty. In recent months I often called attention to the fact that I think that that is the greatest challenge of the generation ahead—the division between the North and the South if I might put it that way—which could so easily become a racial division of the world.
The hon. Gentleman is interested in regional development. He should have full scope in this Parliament to develop that, and also these matters of social insurance which he raised, which are of such enormous importance. I do not know that we shall get great satisfaction from the new slogan, "God gave the ground to the Land Commission". I thought that he was very considerate and kind when he asked after my grouse. There were no fewer this year, but no doubt they will multiply under Socialism, like everything else.
I have had many contacts with the hon. Member for Rutherglen. He is one of those Scotsmen who can be relied on to talk sense in Parliament, and to talk a lot. He is one of that long line of Scottish Socialists who have fought for the Parliamentary division of Kinross and West Perthshire, and retired and had to find other pastures before they could come to Parliament. The hon. Gentleman sits for a key constituency in Scotland, one which is closely concerned with the steel industry, and right at the heart of industrial Scotland. I share the hope that he expressed, that all Scotland, the Highlands included, will be able to contribute to the new industrial revolution which he foresaw, but I say to him that a great responsibility falls on his shoulders, in particular, to see that this great industry of steel in his constituency is not damaged.
I have put the most favourable construction on the views put forward by the two hon. Gentlemen today. In future, they must expect that we shall be more controversial, but no doubt they will hold their own.
Next, I should like to offer my personal congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on succeeding to the office of Prime Minister. I know something of the burden and responsibility which the Prime Minister carries, and in a moment I shall offer him good advice as to what to do with the office, though he may not 52 like it. Although I shall do my best over the months to come to change places with him, I wish him good health and strength to carry out his task.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me a few preliminary reflections on his new Government—not the whole range of them because I think that you, Mr. Speaker, would call me to order for filibustering if I did. The Cabinet does not really look like the prospectus that we were led to expect. We were told that it would be small and streamlined, and that it was to be a new broom. It numbers 23. One might be tempted to comment that it to some extent reflects the weakness of the Prime Minister that he had to make so many deals with so many people—not my words, but the words of the right hon. Gentleman to me.
I would leave it there if these new Britons in front of me did not look so old. They are much older than myself and my colleagues in the Cabinet. I think that there is only one principle on which the Prime Minister can have acted in his selection, and that is the old one of demobilisation from the Army—age, length of service, and, I think his colleagues will find, first in, first out.
One aspect of the Cabinet which gives me real concern is the number of unilateral disarmers, or what I thought were unilateral disarmers, in it. The Foreign Secretary had something to say about this. He said of the right hon. Gentleman:Mr. Wilson believes in collective security, but he has directed his main appeal to the unilateralists in the party. If he were elected leader he would be their prisoner.The Prime Minister seems to have appointed some of his own gaolers.
I must confess that I never thought that I should be glad to see the present holder of the office of Paymaster-General on the Government Front Bench—but I am. I gladly shoulder the responsibility for paying his salary as a taxpayer, whatever it is, because if, as I presume will be the case—judging by his previous form—he interprets his special duties as a Minister as foiling the unilateral disarmers, he has my deep sympathy.
I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether all the appointments have been made. Looking across the Floor of the House, and noting that the section of the House above the Gangway holds 100 Members, I see that the hon. Members 53 sitting there are all members of the Government. The House did not put a limit on the number of Ministers in this House for nothing. The House put a limit on because it did not wish the Executive to dominate Parliament.
There is the Ombudsman to come. Indeed, I take it that we shall need 1,000 Ombudsmen, judging by this Government. I see that the Prime Minister proposes putting what I believe are called publicity officers into different Government Departments. Are their salaries to be paid by the taxpayer? What is the taxpayer to pay for them? Are these people to see confidential documents? What security checks will be applied?
I now come to the most serious criticism, which is the attitude which the Prime Minister is revealing to the structure of government. We were promised a Government which would be modern and which would co-ordinate the Ministries. In fact, I do not see how anyone can fail to draw the conclusion that the Ministries are being deliberately fragmented. The Treasury is split in two, and so is the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Transport and the Board of Trade. The same thing applies in colonial affairs, and the Ministry of Education and Science. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, we shall return to this subject later, because we believe, with a lot of others, that the present Ministry of Technology, taken as it is out of the Ministry of Education and Science, is a real mistake.
Here the Prime Minister can only have acted on the agricultural precept of "Let two Ministries grow where one grew before". The tendency in the last few years has been quite different. The tendency—and we set the pattern in the Ministry of Defence—has been to co-ordinate the work of Ministries and to federate the great Departments of State. I am sure that that should be done over a wider field. But the Prime Minister has taken the opposite course, as I have shown, and the only verdict which is possible today—of course, we will have to see the results—is that this separation will slow down the administrative machine. It will lead to inefficiency and to ill co-ordinated government.
But in spite of these early defects which we find on the benches opposite, 54 and of the fact that the joyful surge to Socialism, so confidently predicted by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), in fact resulted in a Government with a smaller percentage vote than any since 1929, I want to make it clear from the start that it is not our intention so to exploit the Parliamentary situation that good government is made difficult. That is not the function of opposition, as I understand it.
We shall carry out our opposition—and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, with his long Parliamentary experience, will agree—by judging each proposal, as it comes from the Government, strictly on its merits. The test that we shall apply in every case is whether or not the action proposed is in the interests of the nation. If it is, we shall support the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends; if it is not, we shall oppose it and vote against it.
For example, we have left behind us detailed programmes of advance in health, housing, roads, education, and many other fields of public activity. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government said the other day—discovering this fact with pride—that the Government's target for 1965 was 400,000 houses. I should hope so, because those houses are now being built, and if they do not materialise we shall certainly have something to say. In all these matters, therefore, our function will be to keep Ministers up to the mark, so that the programmes which we set are fulfilled.
But when we come to the main Socialist measures—and some of them we consider to be inspired not by concern for the nation so much as by doctrine—we shall oppose them with all the strength and skill at our command. Such a Bill is in the Gracious Speech—at least, I take it that it will be a Bill. The Prime Minister will no doubt confirm it. I refer to the nationalisation of steel. Those are not the words used in the Gracious Speech, but I am giving it its right name, or at least I think I am, because not long ago the right hon. Gentleman said:When we say 'extend public ownership' in any industry we mean take over—nationalise.So I think that I am right in calling it the nationalisation of steel.
55 The right hon. Gentleman is going ahead with steel. In a moment of candour one if his Ministers was reported as saying, at the weekend:In the present political climate we will get away with murder.That is an echo. I remember somebody else saying, in other days of Socialist government:We are the masters now.He is on our side now, and I am not despairing of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke at the weekend being on our side some day. But on the votes cast against Socialism the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends cannot claim that they have a mandate to nationalise steel. I therefore feel bound to give notice that we shall do everything we can to prevent him and his Government destroying the competitive power of one of the major industries of this country.
May I give the right hon. Gentleman a little advice? Before he tries to nationalise steel, will he consult some of his hon. Friends about it? In particular, will he consult his hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt)? After the last Parliament, I have some sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman in having to deal with the hon. Member for Bosworth. I sometimes thought that he was a Conservative, and sometimes I thought that he was a Socialist. I think the truth is that it is a case of,How happy could I be with either Were t'other dear charmer away.We will see. The hon. Member was against the nationalisation of steel and so are we—and so is the country.
There are other proposals in the Queen's Speech upon which we have made our attitude clear, but which we shall probe more closely. One is the Crown Lands Commission, and another is rent control. No doubt we shall extract from the Government their true intentions on these, because we have not been given much detail up till now.
There is one question I want to ask in connection with the social insurance proposals. The right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), has said:Labour will see for a start that pensions are adequate.I am glad of that. We will await with interest the sum which will be cons- 56 sidered adequate from the point of view of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and we shall look with interest at what this will mean on the stamp. But as the right hon. Lady told us last year that all this had been costed and was ready, it is rather difficult to see why a sum of money has not already been revealed.
This part of the Queen's Speech contrasts strangely with the Socialist election manifesto. Their manifesto said that the Socialist Party was poised to swing its plan for social security into instant operation. I could find no mention in the Gracious Speech either of a minimum income guarantee, or half-pay on retirement or of the abolition of the earnings rule for widows, about which so much was said. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what has happened to these pledges, because I am sure that the House and the country would like to know.
With the general economic objectives of the Government, as expressed in the Gracious Speech, we have, of course, full sympathy, and we agree with them. We wish to see the Government's measures succeed because we all have to solve the economic difficulties in which we find ourselves. If you, Mr. Speaker, so will it, we shall have an opportunity, tomorrow or on another day, to discuss the economic situation. I take it—perhaps the Prime Minister will confirm this—that we shall have a Ways and Means Resolution concerning the 15 per cent. surcharge on imports, and I shall, therefore, be content with a very few observations now.
In paragraph 7 of the White Paper on the Economic Situation, which we had the other day, the Government record that… there is no undue pressure on resources calling for action.That is something which has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) many times. We all, of course, admit that there is an economic situation to be solved, a balance of payments problem to be solved. We have said so. And the sooner the better. But now, having selected the method—and the 15 per cent. surcharge is the method selected by the Government—I trust that the Prime Minister can say with his own absolute authority that it is the intention to end it as soon as possible.
57 I ask this in particular, because if one reads paragraph 6 of the White Paper—I do not believe that this is the intent of the right hon. Gentleman—that if one reads that paragraph it may be taken, along with some of the right hon. Gentleman's earlier speeches, to imply protectionist intentions—
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say "No" already. That would run contrary to the policy of G.A.T.T., E.F.T.A. and the Kennedy Round. The only defence which could be made of this economic measure would be that it will buy time, and that the time may be used to make British industry more efficient and competitive, and eliminate restrictive practices. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on at last having got those words into a Government document, because they have been absent from all Socialist statements up to now.
Paragraph 9 of the same paper states:The large public expenditure programmes which the Government found on taking office would, if left unchanged, fully absorb for the years ahead the future growth of revenue at present rates of taxation, even on the assumption of a regular 4 per cent. per year rate of growth of gross national product …That is in paragraph 9. Knowing that—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly knew it and recognised it—they deliberately went on—the Socialist Party at the election—to advertise a programme as coming from a Socialist Government, were they returned, which was far in advance of the proposals which we made.
Even in the few days since the election the promises are coming home to roost. I invite the Prime Minister to say—because the country has a right to know—on which of the Government's promises the Government will have to default, and which of our programmes they will have to cut. There are, apparently, to be cuts in this regard, where—again I invoke the White Paper—money is being spent without social or economic benefit.What are they? [HON. MEMBERS: "Ferranti"?] No, I think that hon. Members are wrong. The first casualties, it seems to me, will be in the field of technology, the Concord programme—and the executioner is the Prime Minister.
58 Is this the sort of decision—to do away with the Concord programme—which the right hon. Gentleman led us to expect from him after his passionate advocacy of the need for scientific technological pioneering in his Scarborough speech, when, as he will remember, he advocated the need for a scientific break-through? Is this the kind of thing which we were led to expect from him after his scathing denunciation of the brain drain of scientists to the United States only a few months ago? It is clearly right that the Government should examine every form of expenditure, but in the time which has been available to them they cannot conceivably have had time to arrive at a balanced view and judgment on the Concord programme.
I hope that the Prime Minister and his colleagues will remember this and give their attention to it when they do. Here is a product in respect of which we are four or five years ahead of the United States. Here is a field of technology in which we are leading the world and which gives us just the opportunity for the scientific break-through for which the right hon. Gentleman is looking, or was looking; a project enabling us to cooperate successfully with Europe and establish harmonious working with the European countries. These are enterprises of research and pioneering which cost a lot of money. We cannot have research on the cheap in these spheres, but the enterprises cannot really be dismissed as prestige projects.
Apart from the Concord programme, what is to happen to the enterprises which we had undertaken for E.L.D.O.? Are we to abandon all the major projects for the British aerospace industry? I am going to tell the right hon. Gentleman that we mean to try to save the Concord enterprise because of the employment which it gives; because we want the scientists and technologists to achieve the kind of break-through about which the right hon. Gentleman was talking, and because we want to develop opportunities to co-operate with our opposite numbers in Europe in this field.
As for stimulating exports, I hope that the measures proposed by the Government will succeed. But while everyone is striving to increase exports, I hope that the Government will not throw them away. I hope that we shall not repeat 59 the experience we had over equipment for the Spanish Navy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members may jeer, but there is coming a day when there will be substantial naval orders from the South African Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Hon. Members shout "Shame". I doubt whether the workers in the shipyards, who are looking forward to those orders, would say the same—
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
The debate on the Address is very often dominated by domestic affairs, but, if the House will allow me, I should like to say something about foreign affairs and a word about Southern Rhodesia. I am not criticising the decision of the Prime Minister to emphasise the possibility of the serious consequences of a declaration of unilateral independence. I thought though that the language used by the right hon. Gentleman was rough. But, nevertheless, although the extremists in Southern Rhodesia have to be convinced of the consequences of unilateral declaration, I trust that now the Prime Minister—and, in particular, the Minister of State, Commonwealth Relations Office—will do everything in their power to lower the temperature and gain a pause for sober thought and discussion with Mr. Smith.
If this is to be achieved, I say, with respect to the Minister of State, that he must abandon the kind of language which he used last week, that the British Government's statement was designed to swing the Southern Rhodesian electors away from Mr. Smith towards Mr. Garfield Todd, Mr. Whitehead, and Sir Roy Welensky. Anything more inept it is impossible to imagine, or anything better calculated to thwart the objective which I know that the Prime Minister has in mind. If that is not interfering in the internal affairs of another country, I do not know what is. That is something which, so far, all parties have been able to avoid.
When asked about military intervention, the right hon. Gentleman said that it had not been considered at the moment. 60 I hope that this kind of language will cease, and that it will be left behind us. This is one of the most difficult problems which we have to face. I must ask the Government to be sympathetic in this matter and to remember that these people, who are our kith and kin, are faced with one of the most desperately difficult problems which has ever confronted anyone.
Therefore, this is a matter, I think, of finding acceptable machinery for testing the opinion of Southern Rhodesians as to whether they wish independence under the present Constitution, or—as I think much more likely—on a variant agreed between the British Government and the Government of Southern Rhodesia. This is difficult, but it is not impossible and I hope that we will have the necessary patience to see that we find a solution.
I said many times in the last Parliament that no one can forecast with any certainty the pattern of international relations, still less the pattern of armaments or the balance of power in the world over a generation ahead. I have asked right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were sitting on these benches, not to commit themselves to too rigid policies because the rapidity of change in the world is such that would be a great mistake. This is a world in which power is the reality of politics. That must be understood, otherwise we shall go badly astray. Indeed, the events of recent weeks and months have proved time and again what I have had to say.
Mr. Khrushchev has fallen. One thing is certain, that none of the reasons given in public for Mr. Khrushchev's fall are the true and real reasons. The reasons are concerned with the kind of relation between Russian power and American power which Mr. Macnamara illustrated in his speech yesterday, and with Russia's relations with China, which is becoming a nuclear Power. Then there was the Chinese exploding of their nuclear device. This is not a kind of squib, or a Chinese cracker. The repercussions of this explosion have reverberated already right through South-East Asia. They will affect India and Russia and eventually the United States of America and the West. Even today 61 opinion is being freshly formed across the Atlantic.
In these circumstances—if I may and if he will accept it—I will offer the Prime Minister some advice—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and I hope that he will believe it is sincere. I would ask hon. Gentlemen not to jeer too soon. I was about to ask him not to rush his decisions on foreign affairs and defence, or to feel bound by opinions he expressed when he was not, as he could not be, in full possession of the facts. I am going to make three requests of the Prime Minister.
The first is that he should satisfy himself about the strength of the British deterrent, the real strength, now and when we have the Polaris submarines plus the TSR2. He has often described it as being irrelevant in terms of world power. So has the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. J. Grimond). I can almost guarantee that once all the facts are before the right hon. Gentlemen on this they will change their minds. I hope that if he thinks it appropriate, he will convey the facts to the right hon. Gentleman.
My second request is this. I hope that the Prime Minister will acquaint himself fully with the nuclear structure of N.A.T.O. as it is now. He will find that as a result of British initiatives, first, at Athens, then at Nassau and then at Ottawa, there are within the nuclear committee already in N.A.T.O. the most complete arrangements for consultation on strategy and on targeting and there is, in fact, a Belgian responsible under SACEUR for the nuclear activities of N.A.T.O.
Short of a finger on the trigger there is the widest recognition there and at Omaha of the right of the members of N.A.T.O.—who are not nuclear members, and have not nuclear arms—to know about and have full knowledge of all the N.A.T.O. strategy and targeting. I say this for this reason: when the Prime Minister goes to Washington he will come to recognise as true that there is no renegotiation of the Nassau Agreement in respect of N.A.T.O. which can be made which will give Britain control either over the United States or over the French deterrent. Therefore, if he continues to surrender the ultimate 62 control over Britain's nuclear arms there is nothing to compensate him in return. I beg him to consider this question very carefully. I hone that the right hon. Gentleman will also inform himself very fully about the balance between our conventional and nuclear forces.
The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are always talking in terms of a bigger Army and a bigger Navy. He will find, when he has studied the full facts, that we are to get no significant increase in the Army or the Navy or conventional forces without conscription. He will find that, certainly. I think that he will be bound to conclude that the present balance of strength—10 per cent. of the cost being nuclear and 90 per cent. Conventional—is about right for the British forces which we need. If he will study these facts, we will do our best to support Her Majesty's Government in their defence and foreign policy. But I must tell him that if he ignores the facts we shall have to oppose him, because we still believe most firmly that to give up control over Britain's nuclear weapons would not be in the interests of the country.
Lastly, I would say this. I called the Socialist election manifesto a menu without prices. The Queen's Speech is neither a menu without prices nor even a menu. It is a sort of a half-hearted advertisement for the restaurant, and that is about all. It is our object to see that our people are not choked by the fare.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I should like to join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), not in all he said, but in the compliments he paid to my hon. Friends the Members for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) and Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie), who moved and seconded this Motion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow has been a Member of this House for very many years and his contribution to its work both in the Chamber and outside far exceeds the length of his speeches, because he has been one of the most hardworking Members of this House, as hon. Members in all parts of the House know. The 63 House was genuinely moved by what he said about his constituency this afternoon.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen was a singularly fitting choice to second this Motion. He was concerned a few months ago in one of the historic by-elections of the last Parliament, one which showed almost the biggest swing away from the right hon. Gentleman's then Government, a by-election which, as a matter of interest, by the mutual desire of both parties, was fought on the issue of the future of the steel industry.
May I first say a word about the debate which my hon. Friends have opened. The House will no doubt be receiving a statement from you, Mr. Speaker, about the order in which particular subjects can be conveniently debated and, in the unlikely event of any Amendments being moved to so uncontroversial a Gracious Speech, your intentions about calling them.
On private Members' time, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council will tomorrow move a Motion proposing that the House sets aside the usual twenty Fridays and in addition the four half-days for which provision has be made in recent years.
I think I must take up a reference in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman about the composition of the Government. I do recognise that hon. Gentlemen opposite may find something unusual and strange about this Government. For one thing, there are no relatives of mine in the Government. There are none of my wife's relatives in the Government. Nor have I any intention whatsoever of appointing any relatives or in-laws either to the Government or to offices of profit or power in the State. If I may put it this way, the day of the dynasties and the era of nepotism is over. I know that this may be difficult for hon. Members opposite to comprehend, but there we are. Secondly, there is no one in the Government who was at school with me or, indeed, at any time attended any of the schools I went to—and I wonder what would have been said if half the Cabinet had consisted of schoolmates of mine from the past.
We are very glad to see the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) where he is, having successfully worked his passage back to the Front Bench, I think more by his silences than by his speeches. I am sure 64 that we shall have his support in feeling that the power of the magic circle has been broken.
On the right hon. Gentleman's point about the composition of the Administration, the House will be asked to give effect to a Bill to amend the restrictive clauses of the 1957 Act, which was the last in a series of Bills going back to Queen Anne about the number of Ministers who could not sit in the Commons. This is 1964 and we cannot, in any part of our national life, afford to perpetuate a principle which restricts the appointment of the men best fitted for the job and yet allows full freedom of appointment from an aristocratic caste. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite may still believe in the doctrine that noble Lords were born to rule. We do not. No Prime Minister should be in the position that if he considers Mr. X, M.P., as the best man for the job, he nevertheless has to appoint Lord Y or to try persuade Mr. X to go to another place.
Indeed, this is not the only effect of the restrictions. The 1957 Act places no restriction on the number of Members of the House who could be appointed Ministers. There is no restriction at all in that respect in the 1957 Act. What it does is to set a limit to the number who can draw a salary. A Prime Minister could, in fact, under the Act, freely appoint 50, 60 or 70 Cabinet Ministers or Ministers of State from this place so long as they had sufficient private means to live without a salary coming from public funds. That is what the Act says. Hon. Members opposite may think that this is suited to the age in which we live. We do not.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the total size of the Administration. Frankly, now that we have had a first opportunity of examining the books—the results of subsequent opportunities will be communicated to the House in due course—I cannot for the life of me see what he needed 90 Ministers for. My calculation is that we need about 80 to do what his 90 did, and to do it better, and about 20 to clear up the mess—and I shall come to that later. It is true that there are new Ministries, but at the same time there are some former functionaries who have been sunk without trace. For example, there is no Minister 65 on this Government's pay-roll who is paid taxpayers' money to act as a full-time chairman of a party machine. There is no Minister in receipt of taxpayers' money to operate as a party public relations officer. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in this Government will, among other duties assigned to him, have the task of co-ordinating the work of the social services to ensure that no longer do we have the scandal of poverty in the midst of great potential abundance or of an unbalanced social service sector which fails to hold its place in a society in which activities of considerably less concern are allowed to pre-empt far too much of the nation's resources.
Again, my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, whose position, we shall propose, will be assimilated to that of a Law Officer of the Crown—it is about time that we had a solicitor in this kind of work—will be working practically full-time assisting my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor with a dynamic and long-overdue programme of law reform which will be undertaken. No one who realises the kind of world in which we are living will carp at the appointment of a Minister of Overseas Development in the Cabinet. Nor again, recognising the key rôle of the United Nations and the need of this country to purge the reputation which we gained both by our votes and abstentions at the United Nations and by such speeches as that of the then Foreign Secretary at Berwick-on-Tweed, no one will, I think, disagree with the need for us to be represented at the United Nations by a representative who speaks with the authority of the Government.
Disarmament, Technology, the new Ministry of Natural Resources—I would have thought that the House would consider that these were essential. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that they would slow up the process of Government. I do not think that he knows very much about it. I should like to tell him, speaking purely as a constituency M.P., what was my experience in dealing with his Government about getting on with the housing programme in an area where there was an acute housing shortage. Despite many questions from myself in the House and deputations, it took three years to get a decision 66 out of the then Minister of Housing and Local Government that a small plot of land necessary to start a housing programme for that new local authority could be released for housing. I hope that we shall not be slower than that. Of course, the idea is to ensure that we shall be able to get the land necessary for the housing programme to which the right hon. Gentleman refers.
Again, I should have hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would feel that some of the new appointments were essential—for example, a junior Minister to concentrate on London housing—long overdue; and another to devote himself to industrial training, apprenticeship and training for skill. Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that these are not necessary? These are all neglected national priorities. Hon. Members may argue that these tasks could be performed within the old order of Ministerial dispositions. The simple fact is that they were not so performed, and they are going to be performed now.
I should like to turn to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, in which he referred to the subject of Southern Rhodesia. The first thing that needs to be said, and can be said, is that through the last months of the late Administration and the period since 16th October, there has been a national policy on this issue which did not, even in the election, become a matter for party controversy. In past years there have been deep differences—on Central Africa, on Hola, on Nyasaland, on Southern Rhodesia. But in this same debate a year ago I pressed the right hon. Gentleman hard for assurances, and I am bound to say that, at the end of his speech at any rate and after a little pressure, and consistently afterwards he showed on the issue of Southern Rhodesia a ready response to the challenge which we had put to him. We had anxieties before and during the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting, but the wording of the communiqué, as far as this subject was concerned, was clear and forward looking. If the House will permit me I will remind them of the words. The Prime Ministers of other Commonwealth countrieswelcomed the decision already announced by the British Government that, as in the case of other territories, the existence of sufficiently representative institutions would be a condition 67 of the grant of independence to Southern Rhodesia. They also noted with approval the statement already made by the British Government that they would not recognise any unilateral declaration of independence; and the other Prime Ministers made it clear that they would be unable to recognise any such declaration.In September, as the House knows, Mr. Smith came to London and met the then Prime Minister. I also met Mr. Smith, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember that I said that I could not meet him until his talks with the then Prime Minister were complete; and this Mr. Smith fully accepted and regarded as reasonable. As a result of the agreeable courtesies which make our system work, I was fully informed of the progress of the talks between the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Smith and I agreed with the line which the then Government had taken.
Cynical persons may have thought that there was an eagerness on the part of both parties to sweep this issue under the carpet until the election was over. Frankly, I do not accept that version. I feel that on this very grave question the nation, and I believe the world, has gained by the fact that it was not made an election issue and that there is no division in the House or in the country on where our clear duty lies today. Mr. Smith in the September talks outlined his proposal for consultations through his proposed indaba of chiefs. I do not question his sincerity about this method of consultation, but clearly—and I would like this to be understood beyond any doubt or argument—I am completely satisfied that the late Administration said nothing to encourage Mr. Smith in the view that they would regard the indaba consultation as either representative or adequate. In some quarters it has been suggested that the late Government were equivocal on this issue. I am completely satisfied that the position was frankly and fairly put. They made it clear that they could not regard this procedure as providing conclusive evidence of the feelings of African members of the community.
In the talks with the right hon. Gentleman, Mr. Smith undertook to think further about the method of consulting African opinion. In the event, the day before polling day—and when the then Ministers were inevitably fully absorbed 68 in the election—the Southern Rhodesian Government sent an urgent message asking Her Majesty's Government to send observers to an indaba of chiefs and headmen to be held within a week of our polling day. A reply was sent on 15th October saying that, as Her Majesty's Government could not regard the proposed method of consultation as satisfactory, it would be inappropriate for them to send observers; and immediately after the change of Government we took a very early opportunity of confirming this refusal on the part of our predecessors.
I come to the events of the past two and a half weeks. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, who represented the Government at the Zambia independence ceremonies, stated his willingness to visit Salisbury to meet Mr. Smith, but stated that if he were to visit Southern Rhodesia he would wish to obtain a cross-section of European and African views; and therefore, on the African side, in addition to seeing the spokesmen of the chiefs and headmen, he would want also to meet other African leaders, notably Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Sithole.
The Rhodesian Government did not feel able to meet this condition, and my right hon. Friend accordingly returned to London from Lusaka, having secured a notable success in the negotiations about the British South Africa Company (Chartered). In these circumstances, I then telegraphed Mr. Smith inviting him to come immediately to London for urgent, full, frank and free discussions. One purpose of this—and I want to make this clear—was to indicate to him privately, rather than through the public Press, our assessment of the inevitable effects of a unilateral declaration of independence. Courtesy, equally with a concern for the best possible relations between our two countries, would have indicated a private discussion; but Mr. Smith said he could not take up my invitation until after his referendum on 5th November.
In those circumstances, Her Majesty's Government had no alternative but to publish the terms of the warning we felt it our duty to issue. There was increasing talk in Rhodesia about a unilateral declaration of independence. If irrevocable action had been taken, and anyone, whether in the Rhodesian Government, in their Parliament, or any member 69 of the public, had been in ignorance of the consequences of such action, I believe that a serious charge could have been laid against us for not having made the position clear in advance. So, in the absence of any assurance from the Southern Rhodesian Government that no such declaration would be made, we acted.
One result has been that no one can now be in any doubt about the dire consequences of what clearly would be an act of defiance and rebellion. Another result has been the support which we have had from the entire Commonwealth, and many countries outside the Commonwealth, who share our common anxieties. I believe that one thing needs to be re-emphasised—I say this in the spirit of some of the words used by the right hon. Gentleman—and which was stated in the opening words of the statement of Her Majesty's Government:The British Government look forward to the day when Southern Rhodesia can take her place as an independent sovereign State within the Commonwealth".I hope that Mr. Smith will come to London now for constructive discussions. We are as anxious as, I know, his Government are to see this matter settled. We lay down no prior conditions for the talks. We shall enter them from the standpoint of the words I quoted earlier from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' communique. I am sure it would be the desire of the whole House that we should continue to seek to find a means by which Southern Rhodesia can be helped as a member of the Commonwealth.
For this reason, in the past few days we have considered the position of Southern Rhodesia in the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, and I am sure that the whole House will feel that Southern Rhodesia, as a member of the Commonwealth, should be entitled to benefit from one of the free quotas which exist under that Agreement. Equally—taking up a point about which I know the right hon. Gentleman the former Prime Minister has been concerned with in the past—we are considering urgently what we can now do to help with speeding up the process of African education with all the means open to a country such as ours.
I am sorry, because I have felt it necessary to speak at some length about Southern Rhodesia, that I have been so 70 long coming to some of the other issues raised in the Gracious Speech. I was not proposing to say anything at length this afternoon about foreign affairs, because I have no doubt that a further opportunity will occur for that in this debate. For that reason, I will not deal with that part of the Gracious Speech.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the concluding part of his speech, referred to defence and set out to give us what I thought was a certain amount of somewhat condescending advice. Certainly we are not rushing into any statement on this question. This matter will be carefully considered within the Government and with our allies. Already there have been a number of rather extraordinary Press stories about what was decided at meetings which have not taken place, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has had a lot of experience of that kind of newspaper reporting in the past. We have not reached any decisions on this question, but despite some of the remarks the right hon. Gentleman has made, there is nothing that we have learned in the past three weeks which does anything but confirm the views which we expressed before we had access to the material now open to us.
In due course we shall tell the House, very frankly, the real facts about defence; and in some respects they differ considerably from what the right hon. Gentleman has said. We shall not be unwilling, if we think it to be in the national interest, to tell the House frankly how far in the past year, when the Government seemed more concerned with electioneering than government, the right hon. Gentleman was willing to sacrifice the real defence strength of the nation to party politics and electioneering. It happens that we now have the facts, and we will not be slow to give them to the House on the appropriate occasion.
When foreign affairs are debated my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will not, I am sorry to say, be taking part in the debate. [Laughter.] I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite should laugh at that, because the reasons why he will not be taking part—making every allowance for the freedom of electors to make their choice and the freedom of political parties to seek to influence that choice—will leave 71 a lasting brand of shame on the Conservative Party, not excluding its leader, because in a television broadcast the right hon. Gentleman was induced—not readily, I admit, but nevertheless induced—without qualification to condemn the use of racialist appeals to win votes. He refused to dissociate himself from the utterly squalid campaign of the Smethwick Conservatives.
He cannot be happy about this outcome, and there are sitting alongside and behind him hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who, in the Midlands and elsewhere, acquitted themselves on this issue with courage and honour. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now make his position clear about this. Perhaps he remembers the phrase "Straight talk" which was used not long ago. Is he proud of his hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths)? Does he now intend to take him to his bosom? Will the Conservative Whip be extended to him, because if he does accept him as a colleague he will make this clear: he will betray the principles which not only his party but the nation have hitherto had the right to proclaim. And if he does not, if he takes what I think is the right course, and what, I am sure, the country will think is the right course, the Smethwick Conservatives[Interruption.]—hon. Members opposite will have to listen now—if, as I say, the right hon. Gentleman takes what I am sure the country would regard as the right course, the Smethwick Conservatives can have the satisfaction of having topped the poll, and of having sent here as their Member one who, until a further General Election restores him to oblivion, will serve his term here as a Parliamentary leper—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
I am most grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. I had the honour to fight the Smethwick constituency three General Elections ago, and I very much deplore the words that the right hon. Gentleman has used before my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick has had an opportunity of making his maiden speech. But I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary's vote in Smethwick has gone down consistently by some 3,000 votes in the last five General Elections. Laying racial prejudice and 72 everything else aside, the Foreign Secretary is a most unpopular man.
§ The Prime Minister
I am sure—[HON. MEMBERS: Withdraw."] There is plenty of time. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who has not yet had the courage to declare himself on this question, will be grateful to the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) for putting his point of view, and we will expect—[lnterruption.]
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you rule whether the expression "Parliamentary leper" is a Parliamentary way of describing an hon. Member who has just taken his seat?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that it is out of order. I do always deplore the use of language of that kind, because it does not assist anyone.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Whether or not the term "Parliamentary leper" was within the terms of order, is it not customary in this House, before an attack is made on an hon. Member, to give him due warning of it? Is it possible to inquire in this connection, through you, whether the right hon. Gentleman informed my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick of the attack he has just delivered?
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask where the protection for a Parliamentary minority comes in? Is it in order for the Prime Minister to attack one Member of Parliament?
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Lady is feeling in need of protection, I shall be very glad to give it to her at any time.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman who is addressing the House does not give way the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ The Prime Minister
I turn briefly to the legislative proposals of the Gracious Speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Only a moment ago hon. Gentlemen were asking me to turn to those proposals, and I am now doing so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] The House will have noticed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We have much work to do in the months to come. It is a curious factor that when we get to the hustirgs right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are the first to protest the necessity to allow other people to talk and to be heard, and in this House we shall have to set an example that follows what we there urge.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask you to give a considered Ruling on the phrase which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister used. I know that the phrase is not in the dictionary of abuse, so to speak, but it is out of order in itself. Surely it implies that my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick will be prevented in some way from carrying out his Parliamentary duties. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If it does so imply, which seems the very clear meaning of the words—
§ Mr. Kershaw
Unless it is an insult, the term quite clearly implies that my hon. Friend will be prevented as far as possible from carrying out the duties he has been elected by his constituents to carry out in this House. Will you, therefore, be so good as to consider the matter and to rule tomorrow on whether or not the expression is in order?
§ The Prime Minister
I turn to the legislative proposals of the Gracious Speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] There is nothing to withdraw. [Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
The House will have noticed the time-honoured formula in the Gracious Speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—I have left the matter in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
I have said quite clearly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—what the position will be if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition associates himself in that way. I have a little more respect in this matter, among the Birmingham M.P.s, for the right hon. Member the former Minister of Education—
§ The Prime Minister
I could be here until 10 o'clock, but I do not want to keep other hon. Members out of the debate.
I have referred to the use in the Gracious Speech of the time-honoured formula:Other measures will he laid before you.This formula—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
On a point of order. I understood you to say on your election to the Chair, Mr. Speaker, that it was your intention to protect minorities. In view of the turbulence for which hon. Members opposite are responsible, will you now protect the Government for a change?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is much in the interests of the House that we should make progress. No advantage will accrue to anyone if I have to suspend while noise subsides. Let us get on.
§ The Prime Minister
I have referred to the formula in the Gracious Speech:Other measures will be laid before you.This is no empty formula. It has been regularly used by Governments. In the last Session the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) introduced an unintended Hire Purchase (No. 2) Bill and other more controversial Measures. We 75 shall certainly have Measures not listed in the Gracious Speech. I refer to one now which I welcome and have fought for for many years. No one will welcome this Measure more than my right hon. Friend the Government Chief Whip. This is a Bill to restore the right of municipal transport undertakings to provide free and reduced fares for old-age pensioners. It is a striking reflection that it took a General Election to give this Bill a chance of getting on the Statute Book. We look forward to the enthusiastic support of the shadow Minister of Transport, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who has also returned to the Opposition Front Bench.
The House will not expect me to go on at length about the proposals contained in the various parts of this very full legislative programme. All of us on this side of the House spoke at some length in the election campaign about the important proposals, particularly those dealing with land shortage and land prices by the establishment of the Crown Lands Commission, our decision to repeal the Rent Act and provisions for the old-age pensioner and Service pensioner. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition wanted to know when he would hear more about these things, the earnings rule and so on. My right hon. Friend, if he catches your eye tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, will say what our proposals are in this field.
It is our hope to end prescription charges and to take the steel industry into public ownership. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the competitive force in the steel industry. I am sure he will realise, if he will study the evidence given to the Restrictive Practices Court by leading members of the steel industry, that whatever else may exist in steel there is no price competition whatsoever. On the question of steel, my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State for Economic Affairs will make a further statement later in the debate.
On the general question raised by the Leader of the Opposition, the question of mandate, there is one extraordinary argument being peddled in Conservative circles and by the Conservative Press. The essence of statesmanship, we are told, is measured by the extent to which a 76 Government—at any rate a Labour Government—disregards the programme on which it was elected and rushes to adopt the programme of right hon. Members opposite, a programme in which we do not believe and which the country has decisively rejected.
There is the growth of this new doctrine of a majority without a mandate applying only to a Labour Government and requiring us to allow our policy to be dictated by those who consider that they sit there with a mandate, even if they have not a majority. This doctrine was not advanced by Members opposite in and after 1951. The right hon. Gentleman opposite denationalised steel and road haulage and introduced prescription charges as well as many measures for which they had not even sought a mandate, and after an election in which they got fewer votes than we had and in which their popular vote was over one million less than that of their opponents. In 1955 they still had a minority of the popular vote, but that did not stop them embarking on the Suez operation and the Rent Act, which they were in fact pledged not to introduce; and still in 1959 they had a minority of popular votes, but we never heard of Conservative newspapers questioning their right to act as a Government. So I hope we shall hear no more of an argument which advertises nothing but their insincerity. We have a mandate and will carry it out.
We intend, therefore, to introduce early legislation to deal with pensions, pensions as of right, not in the spirit, I would remind the Leader of the Opposition, of condescending charity. We shall proceed with equal speed to deal with the insensate Rent Act. When that Bill was introduced the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West told us—seven years ago—that we were within six months of an equation of supply and demand for houses and that the Rent Act would end the housing shortage and even in London:the rents which it will be possible to obtain for this large number of rented houses coming on to the market at the same time will not be much in excess of the rents which will be permissible … for houses remaining in control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1770.]So far from reducing rents, freeing accommodation, helping tenants or 77 solving the housing problem, the Rent Act has aggravated the situation. The number of homeless in London has risen after eight years of the Rent Act to record figures. The Act has precipitated a stream of evictions and imposed harsh rent increases on tens of thousands.
So far from stimulating the landlord to put his property in order, it has permitted large numbers of them to pocket higher profits and let their properties sink further into decay. But we shall not try to put the clock back to where it stood in 1957. We see this as a great opportunity for moving forward to a new, juster and more humane relationship between landlord and tenant.
Turning to health, we shall, as a major step, end the prescription charges. One of the most unjust things of the past 13 years has been the disposition of right hon. Gentlemen opposite every time their election booms ran into difficulties to put fresh burdens on the old and sick. We had it in 1956 with the individual prescriptions charge. We had it in 1961 with the doubling of the charge. Somehow when things began to improve as the election drew near and hundreds of millions of fiscal largesse emerged from successive Chancellors' despatch cases there never seemed to be any money to relieve these burdens. "From each according to his means, to each according to his needs" is the principle on which we approach this situation, and this principle applies as much when things are tough as when they are easy. It is, in our view, a principle which is mandatory when the country is faced with economic crisis.
It is to the economic crisis that I now finally turn. Just over a week ago the Government issued our first statement on the measures immediately necessary to deal with the disturbing export-import gap. Let me say right away—I have in mind particularly our friends in the Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. and Europe generally—that we, all of us, deeply regret the necessity which has been forced on us of imposing these temporary charges on imports into this country. A freer trading world is the aim of all of us, and we shall work for it, but we had to stop the bleeding, and by the most effective means.
Of course we recognise that if we had imposed physical quotas, quantitative 78 restrictions on imports, we should not have incurred the criticism which not unnaturally arose both in G.A.T.T. and in E.F.T.A., because technically quotas are permitted in both those trade groupings. But we felt that they would have done more harm than these temporary charges. I have some experience of administering a quota system which was carried on from wartime into the immediate post-war shortage, and it has always been my view that it imports rigidities into the system where we want to get the maximum flexibility of response. Clearly, the endorsement given by G.A.T.T. and E.F.T.A. to quotas, to the exclusion of surcharges, suggests the need for modernisation of the rules.
I want to make this clear again. These charges are temporary. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will in due course have something to say about the legislative arrangements. The second thing I want to make clear is this. I hope that we have underlined our firm determination that these charges be not regarded in any protectionist sense, shoring up, sheltering, feather-bedding industries which by their lack of competitiveness are the main contributors to the worsening in our balance of trade. This is why we have laid such stress on urgent measures to make industry more robust and competitive, by purposive investment, modernisation, innovation and by an attack on restrictive practices wherever they are to be found. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who referred to restrictive practices—he congratulated me, rather kindly, on having said it for the first time, I think—may find that I dealt with this at rather considerable length at a place where I do not think he has dealt with it—at the Trades Union Congress at the beginning of September.
Equally, I hope that it will be understood that home industries which greet charges on their overseas competitors by unjustified unconvenanted increases on prices are acting in a sense completely contrary to the public interest, and we shall not hesitate to deal with it. The Government's economic statement declared our intention to set up a price review body, and we mean it to be effective.
I hope, therefore, that our friends abroad will take these measures as we 79 intend them, as urgent, necessary steps to deal with a serious situation, even if they are seen as measures which are acting in a sense contrary to what we want to see happening—freer world trade and greater competitiveness in British industry. I hope, too, that they will recognise that they were not lightly decided upon. The Government did not face a simple choice between doing this and doing nothing. Whatever we did, we were faced with a choice of evils.
One choice was rejected. We decided firmly against going back to stop-go-stop policies. Some of our friends in Europe I think feel that we should have dealt with the situation only by internal measures. [Interruption.] I did not hear that. If the hon. Member is suggesting that we have lost friends by what we have done, I will come to that point in a little while, because we had the authority of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) for the measures taken. They were his measures. Some of our and their friends in Europe feel that we should have dealt with the situation by internal measures, by deflation.
Let me say what this would have meant. The effects on their exports to us would have been just as great as the effects of what we have done, and more prolonged, because we have bitter experience that a decision to slam on the brakes leads to a prolonged stagnation and a prolonged restriction of imports. Secondly, we have learned the hard way that deflation and contraction, so far from making us more efficient and competitive, have the opposite effect—costs rise; essential investment is discouraged; restrictive attitudes on both sides of industry are encouraged; a policy which relates incomes to expanding production is made infinitely harder to achieve. Thirdly, we are not prepared to accept the unemployment and loss of production which economic defeatism of this kind entails.
The House and the country are entitled to know the situation which forced the Government to take this action and the reasons for it. The best estimate available for 1964, with no change in policy, was an overall balance of payments deficit of at least £700 million, possibly up to £800 million, with a continuing overall, if reduced, deficit for 1965. This clearly could not be 80 allowed to go on. It meant that we could get through this year and next only by running down our reserves and by prodigious borrowing. This year we have been kept going with aid from the Commonwealth in the shape of increased sterling balances, which we have supplemented by borrowings in New York and in Europe.
No one will suggest that we can go on like this. Even if it were tolerable, it would not even be possible, for unless we took urgent measures first to stop the bleeding and then to build up our physical strength, those from whom we have borrowed would understandably have doubts about extending further accommodation.
I would ask the House to discount suggestions in some papers last week that certain countries intend to make International Monetary Fund borrowing more difficult, except on the condition that we accept an interference we are not going to accept in respect of our economic and social policies. There is no foundation for these stories. Our friends realise what this kind of attitude would mean for the future of the Western trading community, and indeed they understand the constitutional implications of this kind of talk.
But they have a right to know that we are going to take measures, of our own volition and choosing, to limit in extent and in duration our dependence on them for help. What the House must realise, I think, is what this borrowing means for us. What it has to realise, too, is equally the responsibility of those who knew the facts but who failed to take the measures and were prepared, for political reasons, to avoid taking those measures and to disclose the situation until 15th October was safely past. I make these charges not lightly but in possession of the facts, and. if I may say so, as one who throughout this year sought to warn the then Government and the country what the facts were, only to have my speeches rigorously denied from every member of the late Government from the Prime Minister downwards.
The first fact is that after thirteen years of the easiest world economic conditions this country has known for half a century we are reduced to an unacceptable degree 81 of dependence on international borrowing, and this, I remind the Leader of the Opposition, from a party which tried to fight the election on the issue of an independent foreign policy. There is no dependence without economic strength. Secondly, throughout this year warnings went unheeded, and action which should have been taken was rejected or postponed because of the election situation. Thirdly, for the same reasons, the country was lulled into a false sense of complacency inimical to the kind of effort and aggressiveness which we urgently needed to see in our production and exports.
Having stated the charges, I now propose for a few moments to justify them. In the early months of this year it became clear, not only that exports were failing to rise sharply enough, but that imports were rising ominously, and at a time when on the official figures the preelection boom, we now know, was losing its momentum. On 25th January, in a speech in Swansea, I stated these facts. I said that while a financial crisis, in the sense of a run on sterling, could always be met by use of the reserves and international borrowing, urgent action was imperative to get exports and imports into balance in the long run. That speech was made before the grim January figures, but the warnings that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends then issued were rejected.
The then Prime Minister, whose successive pronouncements on the economic situation throughout this year have touched a new low in irresponsibility, went on record as saying thatthe economy has seldom, if ever, been stronger.That is what he said right through this year. It is what he said when he knew the January trade figures. I refer to a book of speeches of his which says this:The depressing trade figures for January 1964 gave the Socialists an opportunity to predict economic crisis. The Prime Minister's reaction was to go over to the offensive. Hinting that the next set of trade figures would show a dramatic improvement, (as they did) he drove to Coventry …Then this is what he said in Coventry:It is almost a shame to disappoint them, but I must tell you … 1964 should be a record year.It has been all of that. Taking seasonal variations into account, an adverse 82 balance of trade for the first half of the year of £237 million compared with a figure for the first half of 1963, a favourable balance of £17 million; an adverse balance of payments on current account for the first half of the year of £182 million, overall of £341 million; and an estimate today of £700 million, and possibly more, for the whole year.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have spent the last 13 years dining out on nostalgic memories of 1951. Let them realise that the trade figures for 1964 are almost exactly the same as in 1951, despite the fact that more favourable terms of trade are worth anything from £1,000 million to £1,500 million a year favourable to our balance of payments compared with 1951. The then Ministers wrongly attributed our 1964 trade gap to restocking of materials, but the fact is that it was in 1951 when imports were rising through restocking. Let us have no more stones flung at 1951, because right hon. and hon. Members are living in the 1964 glasshouse and are not in a position to throw them.
We had the right hon. Gentleman's Aberdeen speech in April. He said:You would think they really look forward to a gloat at the possibility of an economic crisis in the autumn. Well, they will be disappointed. They will not get either their crisis or their Government.So much for the former Prime Minister. While it is possible that he might, on these matters, be able to sustain a defence that it is not really his subject, that defence cannot be advanced by the right hon. Member for Barnet, nor his right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley. In the Budget debate the then Chancellor described the prospect for exports as encouraging. He rejected any idea of controls on imports of manufactures.Expansion now",he said,is heartening and vigorous.That was in April. In fact, there has been, on the official figures, no increase in production since January. He continued:The possibilities are great and the prospects exciting."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1964; Vol. 693, c. 274.]In April—and this should be said to his credit—he fought an unsuccessful campaign to get an early election. He was 83 right in asking for it, but he lost. Having seen the figures, we now know how strongly he must have felt. Having lost, he said in June:I think our economic prospects in the short term are certainly good.In July he explained away the trade gap by saying that increased imports were due to stockbuilding.
The right hon. Member for Bexley sung the same tune in the Budget debate. We all remember his impressive speech. He said that exports were steadily increasing and thatimports are high to support expansion …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th April, 1964; Vol. 693, c. 469.]Imports were rising and exports were expanding. He then spent five columns of HANSARD denying that there was any problem about manufactured imports.
The fact is that the Board of Trade returns show that in the first nine months of this year imports of manufactures were £350 million higher than in the same period of last year—an increase of 31 per cent. But we were told last Monday by the former Chancellor, when discussing our measures to cut imports of manufactured goods, that we have inherited both his diagnosis and his remedies. We were very glad when he said that, because he was not only contradicting the right hon. Member for Bexley; he was repudiating the whole misleading complacency of Conservative leaders in the election campaign. Now we are inheriting their remedies. He means that short-term measures were in preparation under his direction to cut imports.
But what did his leader say at his final Press conference on 3rd October? Referring to the then Chancellor, he said:think he is convinced, and everybody seems to be agreed, that short-term measures are not now necessary.On 3rd October short-term measures are "not now necessary." At the end of October the Chancellor said that the measures we are carrying out were the measures that he had prepared. The country knows now what it suspected then, that their whole story of a soundly-based prosperity was based on national borrowings not of £1 million a day, but £2 million a day. Not since Stanley Baldwin's "sealed lips" confession after another election have we had such a 84 conspiracy to mislead the public, a Prime Minister who had no other thought than to fulfil his pledge of a year ago that every act of Government and every speech be made with the election in mind, a Chancellor who knew the facts and suppressed them—
§ The Prime Minister
—a Government whose electoral claims were as "phoney" as that happy band of hired actors who proclaimed the unique qualities of Conservative prosperity. The serious thing has been that for two years we had no Government. Measures which should have been taken were held back by electoral considerations. The election itself was deferred for reasons solely of party advantage and the country was not only allowed but encouraged to sink into an unwarranted cosy complacency.
We have said what needs to be done by Government, by industry and by the British people—the need for a more dynamic drive to modernisation, a sharper cutting edge in our export drive an incomes policy which does not, as in the days of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), treat wage and salary earners, particularly those in the public sector, as residuary legatees, but an incomes policy based on social justice and fairness of treatment as between all incomes.
What this means in terms of the machinery of economic planning, of investment policy, of regional development, of priorities, of a new drive to harness science and technology to the service of industries which have lost ground in export markets and even in our own home market here in Britain, will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend later in this debate. As the House realises, legislation will be needed to give effect to the temporary charges on imports and to the new assistance which will help our exporters. But other measures are urgently needed to get the economy into shape, to fit it to meet the challenges that lie ahead, and to pay for the social measures announced in the Gracious Speech. It is, for this reason, the intention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to present a Budget statement to the House as soon as the debate on the Address is over.
85 I believe the House will be ready to give effect to the measures that are needed, conscious that we can no longer go on with a Government who, for electioneering reasons, failed to confront the nation with the facts, who failed to lead because they had no lead to give. For what is at stake is not only our prosperity, our standard of living, our ability to continue with social advance—our ability to make our contribution to the needs of others, as the right hon. Gentleman fairly said. What it falls to this House to give to the country now, this Session, is the inspiration, the spirit of dedication and the sense of economic and social purpose which alone can restore Britain to the real greatness which it lies in our people to achieve.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I should like to be the first to congratulate you on occupying the Chair. In all quarters of the House hon. Members will join in expressing to you their sincere good wishes for the future.
I should also like to join in the congratulations to the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Loyal Address. They both made interesting speeches and it was a pleasure to listen to them. I am not sure that they were altogether uncontroversial, but there was no harm in that and they were no worse for having a certain amount of controversy.
Here my congratulations must end. I paid very careful attention to what the Prime Minister said and, if I were to summarise his speech in a sentence, I would put it this way. If these are the Prime Minister's hundred best tunes, then it is going to be a sad day's night for the country.
I do not want to take up the points in the Prime Minister's speech which, no doubt, will be taken up by my hon. and right hon. Friends, because I have three points to make, and I have not much time to make them, for I do not want to detain the House.
The first point arises out of the Government's White Paper, "The Economic Situation" which, in paragraph 6, says:So far as imports are concerned a sharp distinction must be drawn between the increase in raw material imports required to service an expansion in production and the 86 disturbing increase in manufactured goods most of which this country should be perfectly capable of producing on a competitive basis.Paragraph 13(1) of the White Paper says:Decisive steps have been taken to reduce imports from all sources by imposing a system of temporary charges. These will be levied at a rate of 15 per cent. on all imports, with the exception of foodstuffs, unmanufactured tobacco and basic raw materials. Details of the scheme are given in the First Schedule.I am told by some industries which have factories in my constituency that the very reverse of what was intended is happening.
I take two examples of this, but there are others. Courtaulds, which has a factory employing more than 1,000 people at Carrickfergus, tells me that the 15 per cent. surcharge is being put on certain chemical raw materials which are basic to the synthetic fibres that it manufactures. They are just as basic to its industry as cotton or wool or flax or other natural fibres are to other branches of the textile industry. These materials and their tariff heading are as follows: acrylonitrile 29.27, caprolactam 29.37, nylon-6-polymer 39.01, polyadipate esters 30.01, and casein 35.01. These should certainly be excluded from the 15 per cent. impost. I hope that the Government will take steps to have this done. The surcharge goes against what is said in the White Paper. It affects these industries and it affects people in my constituency. I hope that attention will be paid to the point.
I take my second example from British Enkalon. This is a firm which has come from Holland to start a factory in Antrim. It has brought capital investment and prosperity to that area. The firm tells me that in exactly the same way the raw materials which it uses are being charged the 15 per cent. surcharge. These are basic raw materials which cannot be produced in the United Kingdom at this stage and will not be produced for eight months or a year hence. These are materials which the firm has to manufacture and which it can obtain only from abroad.
What sense does this surcharge make? This firm has come to Ulster and has given much-needed employment and now its raw materials have to carry this charge. This is not the way to encourage 87 new industry to come to the United Kingdom. It is not the way, unless the intention is simply to reduce production and, therefore, to stop the import of this raw material.
My second point is rather different. There is a reference in the Gracious Speech to the Law Commissioners. I hope that later in the debate a Government spokesman will tell me what are the functions of the Commissioners. After having been told by the Prime Minister today that we are to look forward to a dynamic law-reforming Parliament, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my making a suggestion which I think would be helpful. I suggest that the Government should consider the very much-needed reform of a consolidation of the Merchant Shipping Acts. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 was itself a consolidating Measure. Since that Act was passed, about 70 years ago, there have been over 60 statutory amendments to it, or almost one for every year. The consolidation of this vast amount of mercantile law would be of the greatest assistance to the shipping community. I commend to the Government this practical step for those who are thirsting for legal reform.
My third point may appear to the House to be a minor one, but I hope that it will not be so regarded, because it affects individuals. I think that the House would always consider an individual sense of injustice as important and, therefore, I make no excuse for raising it here. The best way of raising it is to read extracts from a letter from the wife of a Service man in the Army in Malaya. She says:I travelled from Belfast with two small children, one of two years and one of six months, to rejoin my husband. I was given a first-class warrant for sea and rail travel, but as my children were under three and travelled free I was not entitled to a berth for either of them. This would have meant three of us in one berth on the Heysham boat, a five-hour train journey to London prior to a long journey to Stansted and a 24-hour flight.I suggested that Service men should be paid in cash the cost of the lowest form of travel, giving them the option of paying the excess and travelling by air if preferred. This is done with civil servants in the Imperial Civil Service who work in Great Britain and travel home to Northern Ireland on leave. However, this was not found possible.I then paid £12 from my own pocket for air fares to London (£2 10s. excess baggage 88 alone). I was allowed 1¼ cwt. of luggage, incidentally, which I apparently was expected to take across London by tube or bus as the travelling expenses later refunded were only a few shillings. I feel the official attitude in this matter to be very unfeeling.This may appear to be a small point, but is it in fact? Surely regulations should not be so rigid that something could not be done to help in these cases.
Again, and this is really the same point put in a different way, a Service man on leave in Northern Ireland receives three free travel warrants a year to travel by rail and ship. The journey from London is 13 hours by rail and ship, and one hour by air, and for the general public on certain flights the air journey is cheaper than that by sea and rail. But if the Service man has to fly, he must pay in full. There is no sea travel from Ulster on a Sunday.
Why cannot leave warrants for air travel be provided for crossing the Irish Sea? It is done for the journey from the outer isles of Scotland and it is done for the journey from the Isle of Man to Great Britain. Why not from Northern Ireland to Great Britain?
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
If this cannot be done, why not credit the Service man with the difference between the free warrant which he does not use and the full air fare which he has to pay? Nowadays, air travel is regarded as ordinary travel from any place in the United Kingdom. I raise these matters without apology because they give rise to a certain sense of frustration and injustice in the minds of Service men. I believe that the change could be made easily, and the fact that it would involve details of administration ought not to present insurmountable difficulty.
I have made my three points. I ask the Government to treat this last one, though small, as one of urgency and to try to make this minor but important change for Service men travelling from Ulster to Great Britain.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maxwell (Buckingham)
It is with a great sense of humility that I rise to speak here for the first time. I am the representative for Buckingham, 89 one of the nicest constituencies in the Home Counties. Our people are known for their warm-heartedness, hospitality and responsibility.
It would be fitting for me to pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Frank Markham, who championed well the cause of Buckingham over the past thirteen years. He is a courageous man. During the recent battles on the Resale Prices Bill, he did not hesitate to vote against his Government in the cause of social justice.
My constituency, like the rest of southern England, by and large, is prosperous. It contains five towns, Bletchley., Wolverton Urban District, Newport Pagnall, Linslade and Buckingham, as well as over 100 of the loveliest villages of England, which, as a result of the recent railway closures, suffer from a severe lack of adequate bus services, a situation which is causing great hardship to many private individuals as well as to farmers and to businesses.
Many of our villages lack ordinary amenities such as sewerage and lighting systems. Most of our roads are not capable of handling modern traffic. There are hardly any amenities for our young people, and a great deal remains to be done to make the lives of our retired citizens more in keeping with life today in a highly civilised and prosperous industrial society.
In my constituency, the two major industries, in addition to the railways and railway workshops, are brick and cement manufacture. These industries are daily discharging into the atmosphere millions of cubic feet of harmful gases and dust, polluting the air in a way dangerous to health and often making life quite intolerable for many thousands of my constituents.
Working conditions in the brick industry leave a tremendous amount to be desired. In many respects, brick manufacturers, as the House knows, have failed the nation time after time by not providing sufficient capacity to produce the bricks we require and, more particularly, by their failing to explore and introduce quickly new scientific techniques of manufacture. Working conditions in the brick industry are shocking, with the consequence that manufacturers cannot attract sufficient labour from 90 home and have to import large numbers of people from abroad to man their works. This brings serious social and housing problems on all the people and communities living around brick and cement works.
I earnestly hope that the new Government, jointly with the brick industry, will take urgent steps to increase brick output and improve working conditions, as well as to tackle on a multidisciplinary scientific basis the grave problem of air pollution. It is not enough for the inspectorate of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to say that the industry is doing all that it can to abate the nuisance. The time has more than arrived for it to be tackled in a really serious way through the new scientific disciplines which are available, if there is the will in the industry and in the Government to do so.
I hope that the Minister of Transport will confirm soon that he will refuse to sanction the closure of the Oxford Bletchley-Cambridge line. People in my constituency have already suffered grievously from Beeching closures, and, because of the considerable expansion of population in this part of Buckinghamshire, it would be social as well as economic madness to close this important line. An example of the last Government's mistaken economics, which, I hope, the present Minister of Transport will re-examine, was the recent closing of Castlethorpe railway station in my constituency. The Government are paying a subsidy of about £3,000 per annum to a private bus company to provide an unsatisfactory bus service to the village, whereas Castlethorpe station could be kept open at a cost of only £1,300 per annum. My constituents and I do not understand why this valuable modern station, on which many tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money were recently spent, was closed down, particularly as it is on the main line along which trains continue to run.
I look forward to the Government lifting the restrictions on the railway carriage workshops which in the past have prohibited them from accepting contracts from private industry or from abroad. I hope and expect also that the Minister of Transport will use his good offices with the Railways Board to have 91 its workshops division substantially improved working conditions in railway workshops.
I very much welcome the Government's proposals to help our industries to gain the full benefit of advances in scientific research and technology. At this point, I wish to refer to the strictures which the Leader of the Opposition seemed to think it right to cast on the creation of the Ministry of Technology and on the Government's examination of the Concord project. The House may wonder what authority I have to deal with these matters. I was chairman of one of the working parties appointed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) in his previous capacity as Opposition Front Bench spokesman on science and education, and I had the responsibility and privilege of chairing the committee on science, Government and industry. Also, I am a publisher of scientific magazines and books, and I earn my living by being in the closest touch with scientists from all over the world. I can say without any doubt that many leading American scientists have advised the American Government not to enter into a project such as Concord because of grave scientific doubts about its real feasibility and its cost, and I very much support the Government in their determination to review this costly project for which there does not appear to be any real social or economic demand.
I hope to be able to prove to the House that the new Ministry of Technology is certainly one of the answers that the Government needed in order to get British industry to apply the results of research faster and better than it has done in the past. It is now well understood that the growth of our economy, the welfare of our citizens, our national security and the aid that we can afford to give to under-developed countries all depend to a growing extent upon the effective use that our industries make of new technology.
In recent years the rate of increase in our gross national product per worker and per capita has slowed down and has been substantially less than the increase of almost all highly industrialised nations. It is apparently not fully realised that scientific discovery followed 92 by technological research and development produces nothing, other than knowledge, for society. They must be followed by their applications through the combined use of capital, and equipment and human resources—labour and management—to produce an economic good.
It is commonly accepted that management in British industry, both private and nationalised, by and large has failed badly to make use of science and technology as an aid to increased productivity and profitability. For example, of the first fifty ethical drugs prescribed by doctors under the National Health Service, in order of sales value used in this country, only three were discovered and developed in this country—ordinary penicillin and the new Beecham penicillins, Broxil and Penbritin.
It is generally agreed that one of the major obstacles preventing the wider application and use of science and technology in British industry is that there does not seem to be, at present, an effective organisation or method to convey to individual companies, their management and foremen, the new technology in a form which points the way to its practical applications.
The other major problem is the great gulf, and lack of communication that exists between the pure scientists and the applied scientists, the universities, the technical colleges, the trade research associations, industry and government, and, finally, the gap that exists between management and scientists in individual firms.
The whole issue may, therefore, be summed up as being a problem in communication of information and the need to change attitudes of mind. I submit that the creation of the Ministry of Technology is a massive and positive step in bringing about the necessary alteration and to obtain the needed change of attitude.
The Government should provide something which has been lacking in our country for a long time—a sharp and independent means for recognising when the mission of a Government research and development establishment has lost its validity, and the practical means for re-directing the establishment into more productive channels either within or outside the Government Department that 93 originally sponsored it. When the independent nuclear deterrent is abolished, the problem of what to do with the Aldermaston Weapons Research Establishment is a good example of the kind of problem that I have in mind.
The present system of awarding development contracts tempts private companies to talk their way into a development programme with promises of results which wise technical judgment would deem unattainable. Blue Streak and various other failed home-produced missiles and weapons come to mind. The present arrangement does not provide for adequate penalties for failure to achieve promised results, nor does it give sufficient incentives for a high level of technical performance. It also offers incentives to contractors to make systems complex and expensive or to prolong the development work. All this is most wasteful of our vital scientific and engineering manpower as well as of the taxpayer's money.
Finally, the present defence research contract arrangement with its built-in competitive incentives and inadequate penalties for poor technical performance leads to the proliferation of many research and development groups in private industry of sub-critical size or quality. This is another important example of where the new Government's changes in the organisation of science and engineering may prove to be most helpful and valuable both in saving taxpayers' money and in making better use of our scarce national resources in science and engineering.
The Government and our scientific and engineering community should make it one of their major joint tasks to employ our new-found ability to combine the great diversity of scientific and engineering skills and disciplines to make a massive assault on very large-scale national problems. The effectiveness of employing this new Government tool has been demonstrated during the last war and in the massive U.S.A. and Russian space programmes. The social innovation of use in peacetime of this new Government tool is of even greater consequence in the long run than the scientific and technical innovations on which most of our attention is presently focussed. This is the spill-over from 94 defence of the greatest national and social consequence, and we as a country have so far failed to use this instrument in peacetime. There can be no doubt that the development of this new capability has endowed us as a nation with great new powers. I am sure that the new Government will use this social invention for peaceful purposes and not just confine it to the defence sector.
The Government should show the way how to use research and development in the modern inter-disciplinary way through industry to improve and raise the quality and excellence of the environment in which we work and live. Familiar examples of the material waste and erosion of the aesthetic environment which are very complex and which can only be solved on a multidisciplinary basis are traffic congestion and air and water pollution.
The strength of British science depends on the initiative, imagination and intelligence of individual working scientists and engineers. The best possible programme formulated at the top can be made entirely ineffective by the people who are carrying it out. The purposes of organisation for science and engineering in the Government must be to ensure quicker identification and support of new ideas and maintain support for basic research and development to guarantee that the most important national technological jobs are tackled by the most able people. I am convinced that the Government's arrangements for the organisation of science and technology will do that.
In conclusion, I wish to thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and hon. Members for tolerance shown to me this day.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Longbottom (York)
I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) on a very remarkable and fluent maiden speech. I know that the House has much enjoyed listening to him. He has brought to the House an obvious knowledge of science and technology which right hon. and hon. Members will enjoy listening to in many future debates. I would also like to tell him that he and I share the fact that we both have railway workshops in our constituencies. I hope that we shall both work to see that they are kept secure by the Government.
95 I wish to take up a theme opened by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Ferny-hough) in moving the Motion and taken up by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. This is the theme of international trade and development, the growing problems of the gulf between the richer countries and the poorer countries and the way in which this is causing a direct threat to peace and security in the world.
It is the duty of whichever party forms the Government to see that our relationships not only in terms of aid but in terms of trade with the developing countries are of paramount importance, and in this respect I want to congratulate from these benches the Government upon two things which have already happened.
The first was the achievement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in obtaining a settlement of the dispute over the British South Africa Company's mineral rights in Lusaka last week. I was present in Zambia for the independence celebrations and I think that the House should congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on achieving what was not an easy settlement of a very difficult dispute.
Secondly, many of us have advocated the setting up of a Ministry of Overseas Development, and the Government have been wise to do so. But there is nothing in a name. What the House wants to know—as, indeed, everyone will want to know—as soon as possible is what the Ministry is to do. We know that it is taking over the old Department of Technical Co-operation and we are aware of the importance of the work which that Department has been doing in helping to find and recruit in this country experts to do work of many different kinds in the developing countries. Of course, much more of this work is needed, but how far is the Ministry of Overseas Development to be involved in the decisions that will have to be taken on where aid is to go and how much of it is to go to particular countries and what the total bill is to be?
As the House knows, aid and development by Britain have so far been administered by the Treasury, the Board of Trade, the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Department and the Colonial Office. It is clear that the 96 Treasury must retain an overall control over the size and availability of the nation's aid programme, but how far will the Ministry of Overseas Development be able to take decisions on foreign aid—where it is to go and what projects are to be chosen? Or will this be merely a matter of co-ordination? Will the major decisions still be taken by the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Department and the Colonial Office?
How will the liaison between the new Ministry and these Government Departments work? The relationship of the Ministry of Overseas Development with them, as well as with non-governmental agencies, is most important. Members opposite always hoped that this new Ministry would be a stimulus, would give a fresh impetus in directing our aid overseas. Such impetus will not be given merely by setting up a new Department. It will be given only by the way in which that Department carries out its work. The developing countries will be looking closely at the new Ministry with a great deal of expectation about its activities. I hope that the Government will feel able to make an early statement on the purposes of the new Ministry and the way in which it will work.
As everyone knows, however, aid and technical assistance are but one part of the problem of poverty in the developing countries. The other part, of equal importance, is to see that where new industries are mushrooming in these territories we help as much as we are able to find markets and to provide the openings to carry on and to expand. These countries need trade as well as aid. That was a great cry in this country after the war and it is a great cry in the developing countries now.
Inasmuch as the 15 per cent. surcharge hurts these countries, it will aggravate what our aid programme is aimed at trying to cure. I appreciate that the proportion of goods from the developing countries at present hit by the surcharge is not very great since, basically, our imports from such countries are of raw materials. But where the surcharge does hurt, it will hurt greatly.
We are told that this is to be a temporary measure. Let us hope that it is. It would hurt even more in future as more and more new industries grow up in these 97 developing countries. It is no use our giving aid if, at the same time, we bar our own markets and the markets of our allies to the goods these countries make. Aid and trade must go hand in hand if we are to make a deep and lasting impression upon the problems both of the industrial giants and of the countries of poverty. I hope that the Government will soon enlighten us about the new Ministry.
Equally, I feel that we need enlightenment on another subject—the future of British Railways. It was suggested in the Press at the weekend that the Minister of Transport might make a statement this week. I hope that he looks very carefully before he makes a statement on what the future of our railways should be. The Government seem to have committed themselves in the election to halting the Beeching Plan while they study, or construct or work out, a national plan for transport. I put it to the House that railway progress in this country has been halted for too long already.
Before the war, no modernisation was carried out. No money was spent on the railways because there was no money to finance them. It was as simple as that. During the war, other priorities intervened. It the post-war period, in the six and a half years of office of the last Labour Government, not a penny was spent on railway modernisation. Indeed, during the first four years of Conservative government no money was spent. The modernisation programme began' only in 1955. Thus, for well over 20 years the railways, far from being modernised or having capital injected into them, were allowed to run down further and further.
The modernisation which has been going on has begun to help to bring the railways up once more. I think that the Beeching Report was the one which showed the basic weakness of the railways, with one-third of the whole network carrying only 1 per cent. of the passenger traffic and 1 per cent. of the freight traffic. If Beeching showed anything, it showed the need to rationalise and concentrate on a railways system which was needed and up to date.
No one can deny that the only secure future for the railways is by their becoming so efficient that, merely by their efficiency, they attract traffic—freight or passenger—back from the roads. This means concentrating the financing, 98 the organisation and the manpower of British railways on those routes which will cater for future needs.
The railway network as it existed pre-Beeching was rather like an overgrown tree and it certainly needed pruning. Hon. Members may say that certain branches have been pruned too much, but I think that no one will deny the basic need to prune, so that the system can be rationalised and concentrated upon those routes and lines where its future lies. To halt Beeching is to stop rationalisation. To halt Beeching and continue modernisation is to get one's priorities wrong. Beeching and modernisation must go together if we are to equip the railways to the real needs of the future.
Why are we told that they are to be halted? They are to be halted to study this national plan. Hon. Members know very well that we have had many studies on transport programmes already. We have had the Buchanan, Jack, Hall and Rochdale Reports. We have had many committees looking at the transport needs of the future. We have, at the present moment, a co-ordinating committee between the Road Haulage Association, British Road Services and the British Railways Board upon this vital question of road-rail links and the way in which they will be able to provide quick transference of goods from road to rail and then back to road.
All these are going on and maybe they should be expanded, but surely we have no need to sit back, halt Beeching and have another big national look at the transport needs of the country. Surely these have been examined enough. If we are looking at the question of security for people employed on the railways, and if we are concerned once more about the railways becoming a proud industry, an industry in which the country can take pride, we must do so by concentration on modernisation. It would, therefore, be folly and unfair to those employed on the railways if we were to halt this plan now in order to take another look.
Another integral part of the railways, as the hon. Member for Buckingham mentioned, is the railway workshops. He was concerned about the closure of his workshops and I must congratulate the British Railways Board, at least so far 99 as the York carriage works are concerned, on having already announced a £1 million modernisation programme for them. I hope that the modernisation of these works will start very soon indeed, that it will not be jeopardised or halted, and that this work will not be delayed by any reports, committees or other procedures to slow down progress of the railways.
Everyone will agree that transport, be it road, rail or air, is of vital importance to industry and to the people. This is not the time to halt progress of the railways. Now is the time to keep Beeching, modernisation and rationalisation going, and in that way make the railways modern and efficient.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
I feel proud, privileged and honoured, yet humble, as I introduce myself as the Member for Bothwell. My predecessor, John Timmons, served Bothwell for 19 years, and I am sure that the House will associate itself with me in wishing him a long and happy retirement. The best way to recognise his services will be to ensure that the proposed increase for old-age pensioners, as mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech, is granted as quickly as possible. The same can be said for the suggested abolition of prescription charges, because these are an added imposition on old-age pensioners, the sick and the disabled.
I come from a predominantly mining constituency, but over a period of years all the coal mines have been closed, and, consequently, we are very dependent on iron and steel. The election in my constituency was fought on this issue; and we all know the result of that election, because I now stand here as the Member of Parliament for Bothwell.
Having worked in the constructional engineering industry for over 20 years, I am very interested in the proposed early action to re-establish the necessary public ownership and control of the iron and steel industry. Many steel construction firms find themselves at a serious disadvantage when they submit tenders for public buildings, for example, power stations. Some of the steel producers are also operating in the construction industry and, consequently, are putting in tenders which, at the outset, place them in a 100 very strong competitive position. They get the contracts and produce the steel themselves, and other firms which do not produce the steel find themselves in a hopeless position.
The price of steel is the same throughout the industry and even the freight charges for transportation are contained in the price, so the producers who are in the construction trade can afford to be very keen with their price, knowing that the profits from the steel itself will more than compensate them. If this trend is allowed to continue many construction firms will require to close and then we shall have monopolisation in the steel construction trade. I fully support the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry. Knowing Bothwell as I do, and bearing in mind the steel produced in the constituency, I am sure that my constituents are with me in the point of view that I have expressed this evening.
Do not let us forget the conclusions reached by the Restrictive Practices Commission. It left us in no doubt about the monopolies that are in operation. I trust that I shall be able to play my full part when we debate that subject.
In conclusion, I want to refer to the industrial estate which was proposed for my constituency by the last Government. We were told in April, 1964, that the industrial estate would be started by July of that year. Unfortunately, we now find that the first sod has not yet been cut and in consequence many young people, particularly those who have left school with good academic qualifications, with academic and scientific "know-how", now find that they cannot get the employment which they so urgently require. I therefore ask the House to take cognisance of the latter part of my speech. I ask most sincerely that this industrial estate should be started as quickly as possible in order to give us the necessary employment, bearing in mind that Bothwell itself is in the very heart of Lanarkshire.
I thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and hon. Members for listening so attentively and showing me such courtesy in my first speech in the House of Commons.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. J. Hamilton) will allow me to express my warmest congratulations on his 101 maiden speech. It was most impressive, most lucidly given and most authoritatively spoken. If he felt that this was a formidable House or forum to address, he certainly showed no sign of it. He will forgive me if I resist the temptation to follow, or to make any comment on, his argument about the steel industry. I should like to address myself to two passages in the Gracious Speech.
The first of these is the Government's proposal to give facilities for a free decision by Parliament on the issue of capital punishment. This is not the moment at which to rehearse the pros and cons in the argument for and against the abolition of capital punishment, but no doubt the House will bear in mind, and I hope that the Government will not forget, that when a similar, although perhaps not quite so important, issue came for discussion in public and in the House a few years ago, namely, whether we should retain, reduce or extend the application of corporal punishment, the issue, which was a very heated matter in debate, was eventually resolved most impressively and most effectively.
The whole question was referred to the Barry Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Barry. With the assistance of his committee, reviewing all the available evidence and all the statistics he could examine, he came to the conclusion, I personally thought the right conclusion, that corporal punishment should be abolished. Indeed, so cogent was the argument and the unanimous opinion of the committee that that debate was more or less brought to an end.
I have no quarrel with the intention of the Government, but we are now promised an opportunity for a free decision on the issue of capital punishment. For many of us, on both sides of the House, this will be an ordeal of conscience. At this moment of time I for one am not disposed to say what view I should take. Indeed, I do not think that it would be of any moment or interest to the House. However, what I say with all earnestness is that a decision of this character is not a light matter and that it is not one which can be taken on an emotional basis. It is not a decision which can be taken on views which are merely expressed as popular views. It is a decision which 102 must be taken upon an examination and careful consideration of all the facts and figures and experience which the House can command.
It would be too late to find on the Order Paper that a debate was to take place on such an such a date and that there was only a week or so before one had to make a decision. The wise way to approach this, a way which I should have thought would appeal to most hon. Members, would be to do with capital punishment what we did with corporal punishment and refer it now to a committee, such as the Barry Committee, in preparation for the debate which will ultimately have to be part of the business of the House.
No such reference to any committee has ever been made. The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment which was set up by a Socialist Government in the 1940s was specifically excluded from considering this problem. So far as I know, there is no authoritative guidance, which most hon. Members would have looked for and welcomed, of the kind provided by the Barry Committee on corporal punishment. I therefore urge upon the Government consideration of the wisdom of referring this problem to a committee, such as the Barry Committee, at the earliest possible moment.
The other matter in the Gracious Speech to which I should like to refer is the proposal to modernise and develop the health and welfare services. I say at once and without any undue modesty that I do not in any way pretend to be an expert on health matters, but, in common with almost everyone else, I recognise the need for an adequate supply of modern hospitals so disposed that there is no large community which feels that it is being deprived of a proper hospital service.
It is no use any Government, of any colour, saying to people who live in a large town without a proper hospital, "We have hospitals in every other town and community and we will have one in yours in 10 years' time". They will not approve of any such plan nor think that it is a very good idea. What people look for in a large community or large town is a hospital which will serve them personally.
In the constituency which I represent there is one of the largest towns in the 103 country, certainly one of the largest new towns—Basildon. The birth rate in Basildon is phenomenal. I do not know of any market square which has so many prams filling all the places, as one can see in Basildon on a Saturday morning. Perhaps it is not surprising that the population of Basildon is rising at an unprecedented rate. I make no complaint about the number of electors. Nor do I make any complaint about the birth rate.
However, it is a fact which one has to recognise and which the Government have to recognise—and I am very glad to see the Minister of Health in his place—that where one has a new town with a population now rising to 70,000, reaching certainly 80,000 within the next seven years, and with a target which I have been authoritatively told is to be 106,000, recently increased by someone's guess to 146,000, there is the clearest possible need, which cannot be disputed, for a hospital to be built as quickly as possible.
In this, I speak for the people of Basildon. They have one prime need which they want to be fulfilled as quickly as possible. It is to see that hospital built. There are thousands of people working in factories there and anyone in Basildon who falls ill has to travel miles by private transport, or a very inadequate bus service, to places like St. Andrew's Hospital, Billericay, which is already overcrowded, or to Orsett.
In 1961, it was proposed that Basildon should have a new hospital with 345 beds. The ultimate population figure then went up and it was rightly decided that the new hospital should have just over 900 beds. It is to be one of the most modern and biggest hospitals in the country. The late Government's ambitious Hospital Plan included Basildon as one of its important projects and gave it high priority. I am asking the present Government to retain that priority.
I would also ask whether there is any means of speeding up the plans for this new hospital. The funds are available for the first phase and there is no reason to suppose that they will not be forthcoming to complete the second phase of the building of the hospital. The one thing holding up construction of the hospital is the plans and the North-East 104 Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board has assured me that those plans are being produced at the greatest speed possible. Is there any opportunity for introducing additional planning staff on the board and is there any opportunity for doing anything which will ensure that this hospital starts building as quickly as possible? It is a need of the highest priority and anything which is done to fulfil it will have my full support.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
May I welcome you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the seat which you occupy and say how very much everyone on this side, and, I believe, on both sides of the House, welcomes the appointment of one with your known sympathy and understanding.
The hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) took no credit and accepted no responsibility for the birth rate in a part of his constituency. I think that he was unduly modest by not referring to the quality of his own candidacy in the last election. After 13 years of Conservative rule there is still the appalling hospital situation to which he referred and yet he was elected. He must have been a very fine candidate indeed to have overcome the difficulty which his party placed on him in his constituency.
I feel that this Gracious Speech is the finest which has been produced in the last 20 years. It covers a remarkable scope. It lays down suggestions which, if carried out, will certainly bring about another of the silent revolutions for which we in this country are famous. Also, it has a view which goes beyond the boundaries of our own country and which draws attention in a most remarkable way to what is perhaps the greatest need of our time—the strengthening of the United Nations and the formation of an authority capable of keeping the peace of the world and, while doing that, lays stress, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Longbottom) laid stress, on the twin necessity of having a more just system of economic distribution in the world.
I wish to refer to one or two of the domestic parts of the Queen's Speech. I hope that we shall not have any glib talk about what mandate was or was not given to the Government. "Mandate" is, in my submission, a word which should 105 never be used in this House under the present electoral system, because the fact is that, unless there is a referendum on a particular subject, one can never say that there is or is not a mandate for a particular piece of legislation.
I know that it will be said by many people who perhaps do not take the view which I have just expressed that there is no mandate for bringing the steel industry back into national ownership and control or, if the Leader of the Opposition wants it, nationalisation. He prefers to use a word which his own party has cleverly made a dirty word in the country, but the description is perhaps more accurate if one goes fully into it and says national ownership and control. It will be said that there is no mandate for this. It is quite untenable to say that, on the general ground which I have just given.
I gather from the Press—and here many hon. Members will have more authority than I to speak on this—that in most constituencies the iron and steel question was not a particularly burning one. But in all the steel constituencies it was a burning question. In every one of them there was a considerable show of support for the Labour Party's programme for the iron and steel industry from people who had to study this question at first hand and whose bread and butter it was.
My constituency is the largest single steel-producing region in the country. The steel output of Corby comes nowhere near that of my constituency. Corby is just a little mushroom which is coming up very nicely, but as a steel producing region it comes nowhere near the Scunthorpe region, which started much earlier. My constituency has considered the steel question very seriously indeed. What surprised me a little and pleased me enormously was the extent to which the staff in the steel works were in favour of the Labour Party's programme. Even high management and, in two cases, directors definitely supported the Labour Party's plan.
I know that we in this House tend to take political questions rather seriously. But those in the country whose bread and butter is concerned intimately with the questions we discuss here are apt to take a rather more realistic view. I suggest very respectfully to hon. Members opposite that they should not allow their 106 political ideas about the steel industry to run away with them. They should come down to earth on this matter and pay considerable attention to the views expressed, not only by the people in the board rooms of the big steel combines, but by those who are the practical steel men. If they do that they will find that there is very considerable support for the belief that, whatever party is in power, this great industry cannot properly be rationalised until it is under unified ownership and control.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
On the basis of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, surely he would concede that if he can quote only two directors who support the Labour Party's plan there is an overwhelming number of people equally placed as authorities who are very much against it. If one applies the maxim that if somebody supports something one should deal with it, should not the maxim be supported that if so many oppose it in smiliar and equivalent situations one should not proceed with it?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I did not say that only two directors supported the Labour Party's plan. I said that as far as I knew two directors supported it. I should be the first to concede that a person in a director's position would be unlikely to be able to support the Labour Party's programme, not because he did not believe in it, but because he might not remain in the director's position if he did. Therefore, I do not think the hon. Gentleman's argument is a good one.
I do not think that he can say that because only two directors support the Labour Party's plan the others must all be the other way. That is not so at all. The two directors who supported it were persons of very great courage. Whether they will remain in their positions as directors, I do not know. My suspicion is that in present circumstances they will because things are moving that way in the steel industry and it would be a great pity if hon. Members opposite—I hope they will not mind my saying this—went on adopting the postures which might have been applicable 10 years ago but which are not applicable now, having regard to the very greatly increased support in the steel industry for the work of the Labour Party in this matter.
107 I should like to mention very shortly the sentence in the Gracious Speech which says:Action will be taken to require companies to disclose political contributions in their accounts".While I approve of that very heartily, I feel that this is perhaps only the beginning of a very important constitutional problem, which is this. I should like not only to see these accounts made public, but to see it made impossible for any political party, of whatever persuasion, to buy the result of the General Election.
I do not think it can be said with any truth that there was not a serious attempt on this occasion to buy the result of this election. Nobody really thinks that if the former Prime Minister had gone to the country in the spring, he would have had anything but a crushing defeat, but he said to himself, "I know that I have the financial resources to go on advertising all through the summer, to have posters all over the country and to have enormous funds poured out in the way of trying to brainwash the steelworkers, and so on." It has paid dividends to a large extent. The wonderful thing, however, is that in spite of that brainwashing the steelworkers stood firm.
Almost very week in their wage packets, there was a little drip, drip drip of propaganda in pursuance of that attempt to buy the result of the General Election by the expenditure of enormous funds. I should certainly like to see that rendered impossible again by some such means as having an impartial body which would be capable of saying whether certain expenditure was or was not political expenditure which should be attributed to the funds of a political party.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
Does my hon. and learned Friend say that there was handed out to steelworkers with their weekly wage packets propaganda by their employers on this matter?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Yes, I do. It has been going on for quite a long time, but in intensified form in the last year or six months. It is a shocking state of affairs—
§ Mr. Mallalieu
—and it is one which has been done unashamedly. All sorts of means have been used to try to persuade these, some of them, comparatively defenceless men: others of them are learned men who know all about these things and have been able to persuade their colleagues to resist these tactics. Nevertheless, there are some who are comparatively defenceless, and it is a shocking state of affairs that this should have gone on.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Is the hon. and learned Member seriously suggesting that in a free democracy, with free speech, free writing and all that sort of thing, he would proscribe that and stop people putting forward a case?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
No. I never mentioned proscribing the free expression of views. I say that it should be decided how much each political party should be entitled to spend on its propaganda and that when money is spent by a given body, whether it calls itself to belong to a certain political party or not, somebody who would have the respect of public opinion should have the right to say whether that was political propaganda and, if it was, not that it should be stopped, but that the expense of it should be attributed to the political party for whom it was put out.
§ Captain Elliot
I see the point that the hon. and learned Member is making about the expenditure of money, but he seemed to me to take strong exception to individuals, firms or anyone else passing out literature or putting forward a case against something. That seems to me to be perfectly legitimate.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
It is a shocking performance for people who are in the position of authority and power, which, if I may use the rather vulgar word, the bosses are, with regard to those whom they employ, to do this with wage packets. That is what has happened and it strikes me as being shocking.
The Gracious Speech touches on something extremely important when it states:My Ministers will enlarge educational opportunities and give particular priority to increasing the supply of teachers.To my way of thinking, it is a shocking thing that by reason of the system which we use, 75 per cent. of our children 109 do not have the opportunity of having a grammar-school type of education. I believe that this sentence in the Queen's Speech is the vehicle for a tremendous drive to remedy this situation. If it is, I congratulate the Government heartily on having put it in the Gracious Speech. It seems that this is one of the most important things that we can do to bring about one nation as distinct from two nations. That being so, I am extremely pleased to see that this opportunity will be given to the 75 per cent. of children who have not yet had the opportunity of having the wider education.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
The hon. and learned Member cannot slide away without saying categorically in this House whether he supports the Scunthorpe Borough Council's intention to inflict comprehensive schools on that part of Lincolnshire. Can we have a categorical statement from the hon. and learned Member?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
The categorical statement has been given many times. I believe in some such scheme as that put forward by the borough council and I believe that we shall see that the county council will agree with it also. That is not to say that I want to abolish anything.
It is a ridiculous figment of the imagination of people like the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) if they think that we are going round abolishing anything, putting in explosives and blowing them up. We are doing nothing of the sort. We are not getting rid of grammar school education. We are going to broaden its scope to allow people access to it. Obviously, the hon. Member has not yet understood the programme. Had he understood it, he would probably agree with it. We want to make it possible for more and more of our people to enjoy a grammar school type education, and that we shall do by using the existing buildings to the best possible advantage. That is all there is about it.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
Would not the hon. and learned Member agree that he has really indicated what he intends to do when he said that the Government propose to provide grammar school type education, but, in 110 fact, to abolish the grammar schools and grammar school education?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Not at all. That is simply not true, but it is a good political point, which I cannot blame the right hon. Gentleman for using if he wants to do so. I have no doubt that some grammar schools will be altered, but none of them will be abolished under the present scheme. They will be altered. Unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that no existing school of any type may at any time be altered, he has no right to criticise our scheme. That is what we will do. We will alter the system to make it possible for more and more people to have grammar school type of education.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I have occupied the time of the House long enough and there are many hon. Members who wish to speak. I do not, therefore, wish to give way further. The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), for example, has been rearing in his seat throughout my speech, so I must not keep him waiting longer.
I want to make just one more point. I am delighted that the Government have managed to tackle the problem of the immigrants in the only sensible way that I have ever heard it proposed that it should be tackled—that is, to get to the root of the problem, which is not that people do not like others with black, yellow, red or white skins, but that people who are of different habits and who come as a minority into a country will naturally come up against prejudices when they do not know how people are expected to behave in the country to which they come.
I believe that this problem can only be tackled by having all immigrants taken into Government hostels and taught how to live in this country for a period of time so that when they come to be put into the places where they live permanently, they will be able to understand how to live in these places and there will be none of the difficulty, racial friction and all the rest as there too often is at present. I believe that the Government must have in mind some such idea as this in their proposal to deal with the immigration problem, and I welcome it 111 sincerely, as, I have no doubt, hon. Members opposite will do when they think about it.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I will immediately join issue with the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) on this subject of education, because he really cannot slide away, nor can the rest of his party, on this vital matter. This trouble seems to have first caught the public eye in Bristol, where we have a very special situation.
In my own constituency there are seven direct grant grammar schools, several of them with long histories, which are providing an absolutely first-class education. What does the Labour Party propose for them? That children should be withdrawn and no free places taken up in those schools. This is denying that opportunity to certain children now getting the grammar school education, of which we have heard so much from the other side of the House.
Then we come to the question of the maintained grammar schools in the City of Bristol. These are to be reorganised. They are to be turned into comprehensive schools. I leave the House to decide whether that reorganisation means abolition or not. It certainly means abolition in their present form, and this is just part of the doctrinaire crash programme to smother education in the City of Bristol with comprehensive schools.
Before anybody leaps up on the other side and says that I am attacking the comprehensive system and rejecting it out of hand, let me point out that we have 17 comprehensive schools already in the City of Bristol and many of these are very fine schools, excellent places of education, but they have not been in existence very long, and it takes a little time for a school to get going properly. Why, one wonders, does the Labour Party in Bristol want to inflict this system all at a blow on the whole of the City of Bristol when it involves the destruction of schools which are at present providing first-rate education?
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), from a seated position, queries my use of the word "inflict". It would not be an infliction if it were part of a gradual change of the educa- 112 tional pattern. The educational pattern has changed throughout history, as the pattern of many things has changed throughout history, but the great strength of this country is that we believe, while making changes, in not destroying everything we hold precious, but that is what the Labour Party is striving to do in Bristol.
I do not want to dwell on this subject much longer this afternoon, because there are other subjects with which I should like to deal and other hon. Members with whom I should like to join issue, but I am sure that this education debate will continue long into this Session, because my own constituency is not the only one affected, for this seems to be part of some sinister national plan of the Labour Party—most sinister indeed—to destroy fine schools which are doing a splendid job of work and to impose unwanted on the country a pattern which is only just beginning to be effective.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. Member said that he did not wish to be interpreted as attacking the principle of the comprehensive schools. Does he not appreciate that if he uses, in relation to comprehensive schools, the words "inflict" and "sinister"—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. I find it difficult to hear the hon. Member. Perhaps he will speak up a little.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was saying to the hon. Member that if he did not wish to be misinterpreted as making an attack upon the comprehensive schools it was probably a mistake to use words like "inflict" and "sinister" in respect of them, especially as the hon. Member is presumably a defender of the public schools, which have been comprehensive in principle from the start.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Of course, the word "sinister" has many meanings. It might be applied to the hon. Member, purely in his political capacity, in that he belongs to the left wing of his party. I really should not have allowed him to intervene, because all he did in his intervention was to say rather longer from a standing position what he had already said from a seated position. No doubt 113 as the long weeks stretch ahead he and I will have many battles in the House.
I was very glad that the hon. and learned Member for Brigg joined issue with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) and said that my hon. and learned Friend was a brilliant man as he managed to win the election there despite the fact that his hospital had not moved forward as fast as he would have wished and as all of us would have wished. The reason why my hon. and learned Friend won in his constituency was because it is a constituency which contains as he said, great numbers of young, enterprising, successful people who have been able to progress in the conditions created by the last Government, able to get on with their own lives and make progress towards a happier and more prosperous future.
I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not present, because I was going to say a few words about him, but as he is not in the House I will confine myself to just a few of the things he said. I was going to begin by saying that he made a rollicking speech. It was a bit rollicking at the beginning but it sunk to incredible depths in the middle, and at the end it was merely turgid. I cannot let go unchallenged some of his snide remarks in the rollicking part about this side of the House, and not only about this side but about the country in general. He found some special merit in the fact that he was unique in that he had no relations of any kind who were in any way fitted for public office. [Interruption.] I am sorry if that is not clear. If he were here he would perhaps have wanted to join issue with me.
I am sure that at a later stage the right hon. Gentleman will not miss his opportunity. However, he apparently made that point, and then he said that there was some special merit in the fact that he was a leader who had no special background like some of the leaders on this side of the House, and that he had not been to school with a great number of people, and so on and so forth. All I would say to him is that it appears that the Leader of the Labour Party is selected by a process hitherto un- 114 known It is perhaps rather like the process by which the Dalai Lama is selected: it involves some special art of astrology.
While on the subject of the schools and the public schools, I, as an underprivileged Harrovian in a party which has its quota of Etonians, without whom we could not possibly do, would say how deeply honoured we at Harrow are that the Prime Minister should have chosen the Lord Chancellor from amongst our number from an important school. [HON. MEMBERS: "Schoolboy stuff."] The subject of Ministers in this House or in the other was debated earlier, and I do not want to get involved in the legal niceties of this matter, but I would submit to the House that the Government have been making rather heavy weather of this because they seem to think that it is necessary and vital for the future of the country, and for the efficiency of the Government, that they should have all these Ministers in the House of Commons, and at the expense of the quota in the other place.
Without going through the long list—because I am sure that other Members wish to speak in the debate and it would take a long time to go through the whole list and to discuss it in detail—I can simply say that there are a number of Ministers in this House who could perfectly well sit in the other, and probably even do a better job if they were there. I think particularly of the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Arts. Many of us on this side of the House welcome the idea of a special responsibility for that subject, although we had our own Ministers in the last Government, but surely, to have the Minister of State in charge of the Arts in the other place would be an infinitely grander and a more efficient way of dealing with this matter. There is, surely, something highly colourful and artistic about the other place, and that Minister could well have found a place there.
Then there are such Ministers as the Assistant Postmaster-General. Having had a little experience of that Department, I can say that the amount of business which it conducts on the Floor of the House is not large. Perhaps one Minister in this House could suffice, and perhaps a member of the party opposite could be rewarded by the other Minister being in the other place.
115 I shall not continue on this subject, but I cannot leave unchallenged the remarks of the Prime Minister on one aspect of what he put in the Queen's Speech. That is the question of prescription charges. I have a lot of information and ammunition about this, but I do not propose to fire it all off today. The right hon. Gentleman wrote an article in the New Statesman saying that it was his wish—and presumably his party now has to do what he wishes—that we should return to an Aneurin Bevan type of health service, and that he would abolish also that part of the stamp which represents the health service contribution. That would be taken off contributions, and, presumably, put back on to direct taxation.
That, together with prescription charges and appliance charges, adds up to about £200 million a year. I hope that my figures are right, but if they are slightly in error we can debate them on a later occasion. The gist of what I have to say is incontrovertible. The Prime Minister has committed his party to abolishing contributions as well.
The Gracious Speech contains a number of references to foreign policy and to defence. The Prime Minister said that he was not going to deal with them today as there would be a later occasion for doing so.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The hon. Gentleman appeared to set out to attack the abolition of prescription charges, but he has not put forward a single argument in favour of that proposition.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The hon. Gentleman set out to do no such thing. He merely challenged the Prime Minister to say what he was going to do, and said that he would be happy to debate it at length at a later date.
I have exceeded the time limit that I set for my speech, but with so many interruptions it is difficult to get on.
The Prime Minister said that he proposed to deal with foreign policy later this week. He, at least, has more courage than two of the Labour Members elected for the City of Bristol. The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) made 116 no reference whatsoever to foreign affairs or defence in his election address. He made no mention of either of those vital subjects. The new Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) said that these matters were important, but there was not room to discuss them, though his signature took up many square inches and could have been reduced somewhat. These are subjects for which the Government have a lot to answer. One feels that some members of the party opposite are disinclined to discuss them, and no doubt the country will take note of that.
§ Mr. Monslow
Will you recite what the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, said prior to the signing of the Nassau Agreement, and will you also say what the then Minister of Defence said in 1959 on the subject?
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
I would not want to slide out of answering a question because it was improperly asked, but on this occasion I wish to proceed with my speech because, as I have said, foreign policy matters will be debated by perhaps abler speakers than myself.
It is suggested in the Gracious Speech that under-employed areas of the country shall receive special treatment. That sounds all right, unless one gets to the state where some areas, like the depths of the West Country, are deliberately turned into industrial areas and pieces of nameless suburbia. Obviously, it is not possible to turn every part of the British Isles into a development area, and I think that we should be most careful not to make the whole of the south of England into a nameless suburbia.
As I have been interrupted many times, I shall not deal with all the subjects with which I had hoped to deal today. However, I cannot refrain from commenting on the reference in the Gracious Speech to action being taken to require companies to disclose political contributions. I am sure that I speak for many of my hon. Friends when I say that we shall be delighted to have these accounts made public. The Government will be astounded and disappointed to discover how small these contributions are. Even if some 117 of the activities of bodies which are not part of the Conservative Party are called into question by those who now form the Government, is it not fair and right that if one's whole industry is threatened with a monster take-over bid, or with extinction, or with nationalisation, or whatever one likes to call it, one should fight for it, not just for the shareholders but for the workers, too?
Many hon. Members wish to speak, and despite the temptation to take up the interruptions from the other side—mostly from a sedentary position—and prolong the proceedings—I have no doubt that there will be other occasions for doing that—I make this final point, that this new Government, far from leading us to the golden age which they promised, have included in the Gracious Speech so many pieces of rank Socalism that they cannot hope to get them through a House of Commons as finely balanced as this one. It is quite obvious to anyone reading the Gracious Speech that it was written with one aim only, and that is to provoke an election at the earliest possible opportunity so that before the country has really had a chance to judge the effects of a Labour Administration they can grab increased power; they can go to the country and say, "Look, all these things cannot be got through Parliament. You must give us a mandate to do these things".
I predict that whatever the manoeuvrings of the Government after today—I find it difficult to get used to calling them the Government—the country will be in no doubt just where the paths of Socialism lead, and I cannot but believe that they will be more strongly rejected next time.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) dealt with a great many topics. I do not know what conclusion he came to with regard to any of them, but perhaps I might mike one comment on what he said about education. I do not know whether he has any experience of comprehensive schools. He mentioned some in Bristol. I do not know how long they have been in existence. I invite the hon. Gentleman to come to the Woodberry Down Comprehensive School, which has 118 been established for many years. There he will see a fine example of a comprehensive school and the reason for the Labour Party's programme with regard to them.
I remember what a great day it was for Labour when we became the Government in 1945. Today is also a great day in our political life. After thirteen years of Tory Government, Labour is in power with the opportunity and the will to do great things. The most gratifying feature has been the vigour with which the Prime Minister has acted—a contrast, I suggest, to the dilatory, semi-moribund, creaking machinery of the late Administration. I am glad that the Gracious Speech emphasises that difference, with its reference to the needs of the old, the sick and the disabled, to action against racial discrimination, and with the promise of many things to be done.
As a London Member, I am particularly pleased to see the reference to the Rent Act. Again and again the need for urgent action in this sphere was pressed upon the Tory Government, only to fall upon deaf ears. Those of us who have lived with the housing problems of our constituents and have seen the distress and the misery that has been caused to thousands of them by the wanton action of the Tories in imposing the Rent Act know that the promise of swift action will now bring to them new hope and life.
In many cases landlords, presumably in fear of what we might do, have served notices to quit and have taken action to secure eviction in the very near future. I hope that an Act of Parliament to prevent dispossession without a court order will be passed in time to halt them. I hope that the promise of rent control will soon be fulfilled and also—although the Gracious Speech contains no specific reference to it—that we will soon establish tribunals to secure fair rentals.
There are three matters in which I am particularly interested. The Gracious Speech refers to something which stood at the forefront of Labour's manifesto—the setting up of Parliamentary Commissioners with the right and duty to investigate and expose any misuse of Government power as it affects the citizen. I have always taken the view, despite Tory talk of private enterprise, that the Labour Party, more than any 119 other, stands as the champion of the rights of the citizen and the freedom of the individual. The power of the Government is great. It should be exercised to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, but in exercising that power there is always the danger that the individual will suffer when it is wrong that he should do so. The claims of privilege on the part of Government Departments tend to grow, as the courts only recently pointed out. It is of paramount importance that the freedom of the individual and the rights he enjoys should be protected. I regard the creation of this office as a sign of the desire of the Government to safeguard those rights. In my view, it is one of the most important steps that the Government can take.
We have a Lord Chancellor whose name has long been associated with the need for law reform. We have a Government who recognise the need for reforming the law on a large scale—something which, despite pressure from many quarters, has been too long neglected. I hope that the Gracious Speech presages vigorous action in this direction. Many changes are needed, whether it be in the administration of justice, or m civil or criminal law, or in legal education. I will refer to one or two.
It is an appalling fact that insurance of passengers in road traffic is not compulsory. A person riding pillion, or a passenger in a car whose driver is at fault, may suffer death or grievous injury, but because the driver is at fault and uninsured there may be no compensation from a practical point of view. A person driving in a forecourt or in a private road may suffer in a similar way.
In July of this year, I brought to the attention of the then Minister of Transport the criticism of the Motor Insurers' Bureau made by the learned judge in the case of Adams and Andrews. I was assured by the Minister that the judgment raised serious issues of considerable importance and was being very carefully studied. We recently had some legislation with regard to the victims of crime violence, but, vital as that subject is, its victims are far outnumbered by the sufferers from industrial accidents. The whole concept of the law of negligence needs to be studied. The whole question of insurance to cover the victims of any 120 accidents, industrial or otherwise, requires the most careful review and attention.
In a speech made during the course of the Hire Purchase Bill in the last Parliament, I moved an Amendment to safeguard the rights of guarantors in hire-purchase transactions. The Tory Government opposed it in the Lobbies. I venture to suggest that that is also a reform which the new Parliament should entertain. A change in the leasehold law to enable householders to purchase their own houses on fair terms is another vital reform. I am glad to see that the Gracious Speech refers to it. It is long overdue. There are many other reforms which I am sure will engage the active attention of the Government.
The third and final topic to which I wish to refer is the question of road safety. The continual terrible carnage on our roads makes it imperative that much more should be done to meet this problem. It should not be beyond the wit of the Ministry of Transport—this is a non-party question and should engage the attention of all—to think out new methods of alleviating this situation. I would add this one note of regret, that no reference is made in the Gracious Speech to the Act which created the Greater London area, which my party opposed so strongly. I hope that at an early date the Government will undo some of the mischief that has been wrought by that Measure.
The Gracious Speech initiates a great programme of work. I welcome it with the promise implicit in it that we are inaugurating a new era and a new way of life. In the words of our manifesto, we are aiming at creating ago-ahead people with a sense of national purpose, thriving in an expanding community where social justice is seen to prevail.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I have always advocated that debates in this House should be debates, in the sense that one should take up points which have been made instead of relying on a prepared speech which smells of the midnight oil. But in a debate such as this, on the Gracious Speech, covering a wide range of subjects, if we adopted that course none of us would be able to put his own thoughts on the record.
In order to make it clear that I listened to the speech of the hon. and learned 121 Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), however, I should mention that in my view his whole point was that he hoped things would happen. He hoped that people with a housing problem would get houses.
§ Mr. Weitzman
It is better to be allowed to hope than not to have any hope, as was the case with the Tory Government.
§ Sir H. Nicholls
I was going to support the hon. and learned Member by saying that that hope is universal in this House. We all hope that the homeless will get houses. But I warn the hon. and learned Member and his hon. Friends on the front bench below the Gangway that hopes do not build houses and that, as one of those who have studied the subject for years, if they implement the bureaucratic interference that is envisaged they will not get the houses. Their hopes will be frustrated, people will be angry and the result will be that the hon. and learned Gentleman may not be returned as a Member of Parliament at the next General Election. He also hoped that there would be law reforms. There are many aspects of the law where I hope we shall get reforms, but unless the Government move with more precision than was the case when we had the last Labour Government, this hope also will be frustrated.
Before saying what I should like to say on my own account, I wish to say that I think it sad that the Prime Minister reduced his high Office to a very low level by using the phraseology that he did. I believe that to invite the House to treat as a leper a colleague who has not even made his maiden speech, and so cannot be judged, is deplorable and despicable. I hope that is not the sort of leadership we are to get. Some of us have a great respect for the intellect and keenness of the right hon. Gentleman. It will be a pity if power goes to his head and he reaches a point where he abuses the privileges of this House.
The other part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which rather interested me was his historic references and his statement that the last time that the country was misinformed or not told of great happenings until too late, was dur- 122 ing the time when Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was a junior Minister at the Board of Trade during the last Labour Government, and I should like to ask him how many times Sir Stafford Cripps said that the £ would not be devalued before eventually it was devalued. If it is historic references to occasions when the country was misled that is required, I consider that to be a classical example.
The whole purpose of the Gracious Speech and the speech of the Prime Minister is pretty clear. I recognise the Gracious Speech as an election address for the Labour Party for a General Election to take place about next June. The whole purpose of the promises made by the Government, the wide field that is to be covered, and the hopes which are being dangled before the electors—none of these things can now be put into operation to be tested in practice in twelve months—is in preparation for another General Election. I therefore advise my hon. Friends, and hon. Members opposite, to keep their election organisations intact.
What is the main purpose, the main point behind the approach which is being made by the Prime Minister? If it is to try to build up a distorted thought that the general economy of the country is unsound, that we are up against some great crisis—[HON. GENTLEMEN: "Really."]—all I can say is that if this Government can hand over, as we did, a situation in which we have full employment, when the general standard of employment and wages and savings are as high as they are today, it will reflect a pretty sound state of affairs.
Regarding the present balance of payments situation, I truly believe that, even speaking from the Treasury Dispatch Box, the right hon. Gentleman has deliberately exaggerated the position. From researches which one has made—and one has information which is almost equivalent to that available to the Prime Minister up to the first two quarters—one finds that, certainly in the first two quarters of this year, there is not reflected the £800 million deficit with which he is trying to frighten the country. One finds that the total value of imports during the first six months was £2,774 million. The total value of exports was £2,171 million. The total value of re-exports 123 during the same six months was about £77 million. That gives an adverse visible trade gap of £525 million. But if we set against it the balance of payments made up of insurance and freight earnings, we find that the adverse visible trade balance for the first six months of this year is £215 million.
I am not suggesting that an adverse figure of that sort is something about which we may be complacent, but I think it worth while to examine the situation which has existed over the last six months. [HON. MEMBERS: "The first six months."] For the first six months, or the last six months from the time I am speaking. During the last six months the nation has been expecting a General Election. It was made clear by the party opposite when in opposition that import controls, or something of that nature, would be considered by a Labour Government if elected. It is quite clear that in anticipation of what has in fact happened—the election of the party opposite to Government—with a tiny majority—people who were importing raw materials in order to expand, as they had planned to do in 1965, have pushed up their imports. The £215 million adverse balance in the first six months is an unreal figure on that account.
The fact that this is something which needs to be considered is revealed when we look at the position of capital investment in this country. We know that, generally speaking, the capital that we as a country invest in other parts of the world is about the same as foreign capital coming to this country. In 1960 British capital investment abroad amounted to £314 million. In 1961 the figure was £321 million; in 1962, £253 million; in 1963, £309 million. During the first half of 1964, it was £220 million. This means that since 1960 we have invested £1,417 million abroad. If we can afford to do that, it reveals a pretty strong economy.
On the other side of the ledger, in 1960 overseas capital coming into the United Kingdom amounted to £228 million. In 1961 the figure was £416 million; in 1962, £250 million; in 1963, £259 million. For the first half of 1964, with the threat of a possible change of Government, the foreign capital invested in this country fell to a total of only £52 million. I sub- 124 mit to the House—the Government would be very unwise if they did not recognise that they do disturb general confidence in the country by some of their sayings—that here is a fact; that foreign investors clearly were waiting to see the outcome of the General Election before they could decide whether money invested in this country would be a good risk.
I am saying that exactly the same consideration which caused foreign investors to reduce investment in this country to a quarter of the normal figure was, inversely, the reason why so many of our people built up their stocks and thus an adverse balance is revealed in the figures for the first six months. If it is the intention of the Government to try to show that this country was down and out when they took over, when facts show that we have full employment, with adequate foreign investment, plus a great international credit and a boom coming up in 1965 for which preparation had been made, if they are trying to show such a distorted picture, they are not playing fair with the country.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
If I understand the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) correctly, he admits that the figures are unsatisfactory—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
—and that there is an economic crisis which has now to be corrected. He says that this has been caused by keeping the country and the world in suspense about a possible change of Government for six months. May I ask him whose fault that was?
§ Sir H. Nicholls
I am trying to say to hon. Gentlemen opposite that they should be warned that if they keep the country in suspense about the sort of things which they, as a Government, propose to do, the problems which arose during the first six months will be multiplied four-fold by the time there is another General Election.
I am interested in the manner in which the Government decided to deal with the situation. I truly believe that the Prime Minister is preparing his case for a speedy General Election and that his "phoney" 100 days of dynamism is his idea of showing how his new look is going to do all sorts of wonderful things. Before they can claim these wonderful things as 125 their own, they have to say that they inherited something pretty bad, because somebody will be entitled to the benefit for the great boom that 1965 will bring. I hope that the Government will not claim that anything they did had anything to do with the number of orders at the motor show. I hope the Government will not take any credit for any good that may flow from the Chinese exhibition which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade opened last week. These were all matters for which preparations were put in hand by the Conservative Government. From my contacts with industry in the Midlands, unless it is thwarted by bad timing, it seems that 1965 will be a bumper year. I do not want the party opposite to get any electoral credit for a bumper year which has nothing to do with any of their administration.
What actions have they taken in order to give this great impression a hundred days of dynamism, this new broom, these up-and-coming young men—whose average age is pretty high for a Government? They found, very properly, that a prudent and far-seeing Chancellor of the Exchequer had anticipated any contingencies that could arise for any country in this competitive world and had in his pigeonhole all the possible remedies that could be used. Two of the remedies were the 15 per cent. imports tax and the exports incentive tax.
To create this impression of a hundred days of dynamism, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and his Government committed the worst sin that any Government can commit. They committed the sin of not judging their timing. What they ought to have done on the surcharge, if this were a weapon to be used, was to have consultations to limit the possible retaliation that could come by letting our friends and allies and industrial allies know what was likely to happen, in order to minimise the effects. What they have done in order to get this image of a hundred days of dynamism is to put against us the very people we shall need as partners if we are to take full advantage of this 1965 boom year. Instead of creating this image, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister should have used his intellect and knowledge both an an economist and past President 126 of the Board of Trade. If he had done his home work before applying this weapon, it might well have been some use.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
What does the hon. Gentleman consider the effect on our imports would have been of the knowledge that the Government were entering into negotiations to impose a large impost on them?
§ Sir H. Nicholls
The point I am trying to put to the hon. and learned Gentleman is this: I believe that the dangers of letting them know were much less than those of springing it on them and inviting retaliation. If, as a result of the 15 per cent. surcharge, our imports go down slightly and our exports go down considerably, then we are much worse off than we were at the start of this exercise. If there were one part of this plan which needed to be well-prepared, it was the application of the surcharge.
I charge the Government with misusing an instrument, which would have been effective if used wisely, in order to build up their "phoney" image. The reason I am personally disturbed about it is this: hon. Gentlemen in the last Parliament may remember that for four Budgets I have tried to amend the Budget against my own right hon. Friend as Chancellor in order to give export incentives.
§ Sir H. Nicholls
The hon. Gentleman did not attend as regularly as some of us, else he would have seen my Amendments on the Order Paper when the Budget was being debated.
The whole purpose of my Amendments against my own Government was that I believe that the way to deal with an adverse balance of trade is to encourage exports.
§ Sir H. Nicholls
I maintain that in this country industries are more likely to react favourably to an export incentive than to all sorts of exhortations. I have argued on four Budgets that we ought to have given, on that part of the firm's earnings earned from foreign currency, relief from the whole of the 15 per cent. Profits Tax.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Too much repeated interruption is disorderly. If the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) cannot contain himself in silence, he will have to go away.
§ Sir H. Nicholls
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The answer I always got when I was putting this point of view to the then Government was that it infringed the terms of G.A.T.T. I argued back to that Government as I do now: that this is such an important point that we ought to have entered into negotiations with G.A.T.T. in order to allow us to get dispensation for these export incentives.
My criticism of the mistiming of the surcharge is this: that in putting on the surcharge they have gone against the terms of G.A.T.T. By earning the distrust of so many other countries—members of G.A.T.T.—it will make it so much more difficult, if not impossible, to ask them to give us the dispensation that I think we could have got to give our export incentives.
It is on this basis that I believe that this Government with their attempt to build up an image in an effort to win a quick election are mistiming things in such a way that it could truly be disastrous to the future of this country. My appeal to them is that they should forget for the time being that they have only a majority of five. Let them concentrate on doing their job. If they concentrate on doing this we shall support them, though we shall resist to the full the nationalisation of steel, we shall resist to the full the nationalisation of land, and we shall resist to the full the nationalisation of the building industry—if that is what they mean by one sentence in the Gracious Speech. In facing the kind of world competition any industrial country has to face, we are agreed to help them get over what can well be a difficult job, also on defence and foreign policy, but if they are going to use these weapons created for good reasons in order to build up a "phoney" image, they will be forgoing the co-operation which could be willingly given on this side of the House.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
You must have been as horrified, Mr. Speaker, as I was to read in the newspapers during the course of the General 128 Election that had the Queen, unfortunately, been assassinated during her visit to Canada, the election, although in full spate, would have been cancelled and the old Parliament would have been recalled and would have had to sit for six months before a new election could be put in hand. This is under an Act of 1707.
I suggest that when the Prime Minister reforms the Disqualification Act of 1957, he should slip in a small Clause to amend Section 5 of the 1707 Act in order to avoid this danger. It would be easy to do, and if it is not done now it will probably be left until there is an unfortunate event of this kind. Under the 1707 Act the existing Privy Council cannot be ended until six months after the death of a sovereign. It would be easy to amend the law so that if this happened the Prime Minister or the Lord Chancellor could call the Privy Council, confirm the new monarch and continue the election without any interruption.
The Gracious Speech rightly promises that action will be taken to require companies to disclose political contributions in their accounts. I hope that if legislation on that subject is introduced we shall look at the need for general electoral reform. For example, it is high time that all expenditure in the whole year before the General Election was included for election purposes. The idea of restricting it to the period between the dissolution of the House and the date of the General Election is quite illogical in present circumstances.
Another important point thrown up during the election was the need for alteration in the registration of voters—the need for registration forms to be sent to all tenants and not just to the landlord where there are a number of tenants in the same house. I am sure that something of that kind could be done at the same time. Registration ought also to be altered so that young voters may vote within six months of becoming 21 instead of having to wait for a long time, as may happen at present. We know that the redistribution of seats is overdue. It has to take place soon in the Greater London area in accordance with the Act introducing the Greater London Council; Parliamentary constituencies have to be revised so that they coincide with the 129 Greater London constituencies. In many other areas, such as Billericay and Horn-church, the electorate is nearly 100,000 and the need for redistribution is obvious.
Surely while the machinery is being put in hand we ought to deal with one other important anomaly. At present, under the law of the land there is a bias in favour of the rural county seats. In England, they have a smaller electorate than the industrial constituencies. It is high time that this bias was destroyed. In the days before the motor car there might have been a case for this bias, but there is none today. It gives an artificial advantage to the Tory Party in the country as a whole and I do not think that it ought to persist. I agree that there is no case for interfering with the situation in the Celtic fringe, in Wales and Scotland, where there are some enormous constituencies and very small populations. I hope that when we are dealing with the political expenditure of firms, we shall incorporate these other matters in a general Bill on Parliamentary reform dealing with such urgent issues.
I was very pleased to see that the Government propose to embark on a major review of the social security schemes. Everybody will agree that the circumstances in which many widows live need looking at very carefully, but I suggest to my hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that in looking at all these schemes he should remember that the widow is not the only person who has to run a fatherless family. Fatherless families are a group which should be treated on similar lines, whatever the cause of their lacking a father. Quite apart from widows, there are a very large number of deserted wives in this country. Through the Maintenance Orders (Attachment of Income) Act, the House rightly attempted to help deserted wives, but on the whole these women do not get a great deal, because magistrates normally do not give a very large allotment to them. The family with which the former husband is now living has the first claim on his income and the deserted wife gets only what is left.
This group also includes many divorced wives. In the middle class they are adequtately looked after as a rule, 130 but this is not so in normal working-class families. The group also includes women with illegitimate children. Where a woman tries to bring up the child herself, in her own home, she should have the same assistance. Whatever the reason that the child lacks a father, the needs of the child are exactly the same and the needs of the woman trying to bring up the child, and to do the work of both father and mother, are exactly the same. There is a strong case for looking at this problem as a whole and seeing that all fatherless families are treated on the same lines and with uniform benefits for the child and for the mother.
I am not suggesting that the father should be allowed to get away without maintaining the deserted family or the illegitimate child. There is a strong case for making the father pay what he can. At present, very little help is given to the woman in trying to trace the man. The police give no assistance whatever. They do not want to see the wife involved in a row with the woman with whom her husband is now living. But it is right that the Ministry should try to get out of the man through the courts what they can in the way of payment. In the case of an illegitimate child also they should try to get the man to pay what he can afford towards maintaining the child. There is a wide variety of sums paid in all these cases, but whatever money is obtained from the man it seldom meets the needs of the woman and her child. We should not put a woman in a position in which she has an irregular income from week to week and does not know where her future income will come from. This is an added problem in her effort to bring up the child.
For these reasons, the argument is very strong for including all these cases in a review of the social security schemes. We should look at it as one problem and see the woman and her child getting a stable income, with the Ministry being responsible for getting what money it can out of the man.
I want to raise a constituency point of considerable importance. A sentence in the Gracious Speech refers to the retraining of workers who change their employment. I welcome that provision, 131 but I am sorry that more was not said in the Gracious Speech about severance pay, which is an urgent issue. It is not only necessary to have industrial retraining. We have discontent in many firms on the subject of redundancy. For example, there is a growing discontent in Fords, in my constituency, about the ever increasing tendency towards the American policy of hire-and-fire.
With the opening of the Halewood plant, in the north of England, some redundancy is likely in the Dagenham plant, although it should not be very large. In view of the very large turnover of staff at the plant, I would have thought that the problem could be handled without much difficulty, but there is no sign of the policy of last in, first out, being applied. A deliberate policy is being adopted of pushing out everybody who has a disability of one kind or another, who may have had an accident or illness in the past. Such a man may have had 27 or 17 years' service in the firm.
In the past, where a person had a long record of service they tried to find him a job as a janitor or something of that kind, a temporary job, while seeing whether he could recover and come back to normal work. Instead, the opportunity is being taken to push out anybody they do not want. One week's pay for each year of service is the normal compensation offered. There is a feeling among the men that after a long period of service this is a disgraceful way to be treated, and it is causing a great deal of ill feeling. I hope that we shall have early consultation between the Government, the trade unions and the employers generally to work out a severance pay scheme which is better than that being offered by Fords. I hope that the Government will look into the matter and have same early action taken.
In conclusion, I welcome the Gracious Speech and I hope that we shall see its contents passed into law as soon as possible.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
This is a day in the Parliamentary Session when the debate never has a very clear theme, and, therefore, hon. Members' speeches are inclined to be somewhat 132 discursive. So I hope that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), whose constituency is next door to mine, will forgive me if I do not follow him in the important and valuable points of detail which he made. I want to refer in sequence to some points in the Gracious Speech which struck me as requiring comment in a general sense as well as the comments which they will receive when these subjects are debated in our business in the following days.
First, I want to deal with the first paragraph on the home front, as it were, in which the Gracious Speech states that the Government will be dealing with the short-term balance of payments difficulties.
I want to refer to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), who has just left his place and who made a shrewd and brilliant analysis of the situation. It was one which hon. Members opposite will ignore at their peril, because these chickens may well come home to roost. Without covering the ground which my hon. Friend covered, I should like to say that this partial devaluation—for that is what it is—is ill-timed and probably unnecessary, and that what I particularly object to about it is that it is bound to be deeply damaging to our relationship with G.A.T.T. and especially with E.F.T.A. and damaging, moreover, to the general move towards the liberalisation of world trade which should be a major object of Government policy.
The only consolation which the country can possibly take from the announcement which has been made is that we have the assurances which the Prime Minister repeated today that these measures are temporary. But I hope that we shall have a finer point put upon them, if possible during the ensuing days of the debate on the Address, or, at any rate, in the fairly near future, because we are really trading on the good will of other countries. It was a little ingenuous of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he did not expect our international competitors to be spiteful about this. These are not things which are settled in an emotional context. These are things in which other countries have operating upon their Governments very strong pressures.
133 We shall not be able to hold this position very long without having retaliation against us. As with all devaluations, sooner or later the devaluation works through the economy with inflation and we end up exactly as before, except that we have lost by devaluing the currency. I do not wish to create the impression that the economy is weaker than it is—and it is not weak—but I fear that the Government may find that they have done deep and lasting damage.
I should like to refer to two paragraphs in the Gracious Speech, beginning with one in which the Government are to "call on" trace unions and employers' organisations to co-operate in eliminating restrictive practices. That paragraph ends with the sentence:A Bill will be introduced to give workers and their representatives the protection necessary for freedom of industrial negotiation.The next paragraph says:My Ministers will work for … a closer relationship between the increase in productivity and the growth of incomes …In other words, a pious hope is expressed that something may be done about restrictive practices. A pious hope is expressed that some regard may be had to the influence of incomes upon inflation, but there is an absolute firm promise that the decision of the House of Lords in the Rookes v. Barnard case will be reversed.
I should have thought that it would have been more appropriate if the Government had seen a closer relationship between these matters and had said frankly to the trade union movement and, indeed, to the employers' organisations that they proposed to follow the precept of the previous Government, which, personally, I should have liked to have seen put into practice earlier, and would take decisive measures to control restrictive practices on both sides of industry.
If I may move from the reference in this oblique form to an incomes policy to a later paragraph in the Gracious Speech about the remuneration of Ministers and Members of Parliament, I hope that the Government will not invite the House to decide that any recommendation of the Lawrence Committee should be accepted which will provide for us in the House and for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in their Ministries a degree of increase in remunera- 134 tion which will be deeply offensive to those who are trying to put into effect their good intentions in restraining an increase in incomes.
It is up to the House to set an example, but I have a feeling that there will be accepted by the House a degree of increase in remuneration totally out of proportion to the 3½ per cent. per annum which we are advocating for other people in other employment. If we could go to the country in a few years' time and say that we have managed to hold inflation we could regard ourselves in the House as being in that class of employed persons whose remuneration needs readjusting within the structure of incomes as a whole. I believe that hon. Members ought to be, and to a large extent are, worth very much more than would be represented by a 3½ per cent. per annum increase as from the last time, but it would be extremely unfortunate to make a large increase at this juncture. I hope that the Government will be firm on this.
I notice with interest the reference in the Gracious Speech to the proposal to require companies to disclose political contributions in their accounts. It is a pity that my right hon. Friends did not see fit to do this for themselves. I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I have never had anything to be ashamed of in any understanding which I have as to those who saw fit to contribute to the Conservative Party. I happen to know that in my own constituency we finance ourselves, and in so far as, directly or indirectly, contributions are made to our expenses by people in business in private enterprise I think that they are perfectly legitimate. They are contributions which these people are well advised to make if they so think. I accept that some people think that they are mistaken, but I think they are right.
I do not want to be aggressive about this when I say that these are not contributions which anyone has to "contract out" of. They are voluntary. I should have felt a little happier if, when we were trying to rationalise the basis of contribution to political parties, which is perfectly proper, we rationalised them to the extent of having a fresh look at the methods by which those who contribute to trade unions are invited to contribute to a political party. It is quite right that they 135 should so contribute if they wish, but hon. Members opposite, who, in my view, rightly press this reform upon us, should be a little less coy in accepting the corollary in the matter of trade union contributions. If the Government would like to go the whole way on both sides, I am sure that it would be universally welcomed in the country.
I am glad to see that there is a reference in the Gracious Speech to a Bill to establish new machinery to determine teachers' pay, but I am surprised that the Government think that they are in a position to make this categoric announcement at this stage. I have understood that negotiations are taking rather a long time and that the stage at which a Bill could be confidently announced has not been reached. I hope that when the Gracious Speech is further debated we shall have further information, which many of my constituents would greatly welcome, on what negotiations are taking place and how far interested parties are in agreement with the Government and others concerned as to what should be done.
We should not forget that involved in this is the whole question of the financing of local government. I wonder whether it is right to prejudge the question of the extent to which local authorities should come into the financing of teachers' pay. If the negotiations have resulted in setting up machinery which has the local authorities as an essential part of it, what happens if later, maybe advisedly and with our agreement, the Government decide that local authorities are probably not the best source of finance for the expansion of the teaching profession which we envisage?
I am interested to see the reference to the control of rents. I do not know why hon. Members opposite should regard it as anything particularly bold of me to say this, but I think that rent control is a stupid way of attempting to deal with the housing problem. It will not produce any houses at all. It will be likely to reduce the number of dwellings which may be rented. Obviously, that is right, and I am sorry that the Government are clinging to this idea. It will do nothing but harm.
I am glad to see that the Government are concentrating on the importance of producing more houses of better quality. They say that they 136will promote the modernisation of the construction industry".I have a point here which I hope the hon. Gentleman now on the Treasury Bench will convey to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, if that is what his Ministry still is and if it has not been carved up. One assumes that this means that the Government are anxious to pursue the agreed policy of the previous Government in promoting what I believe is called industrialised building, new methods of processing housing components in logical units making it possible to have in the building industry the advantages of mass production which one has not had before.
If I am right in my belief that the London County Council has failed to modify its building standards so as to fit in with this kind of scheme, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible will have consultations with the council and see whether it and its successor body, the Greater London Council, will reconsider its attitude. A great local authority which prides itself on having a large building programme is a very important factor in this matter, and the parochial view that there is a special virtue in eccentric measurements for London building is not so important today as the necessity for actually getting more buildings in London. Doubtless, an extra six inches in ceiling height for a dwelling in London may be helpful in a smoky atmosphere, but let us hope that the smoky atmosphere will disappear more quickly than the need for housing. I am rather disturbed about this point, and I hope that the Minister without Portfolio will pass it on to his right hon. Friend.
I note the reference in the Gracious Speech to facilities being providedfor a free decision by Parliament on the issue of capital punishment".I regard this as pregnant with very great danger. Let us leave aside for the moment consideration of the virtues or otherwise of capital punishment. I recognise that it is a ritual deeply cherished by the English people, though, perhaps, a ritual from which they may be weaned without undue screams too soon. But it would be a pity if hon. Members opposite were too glib in their acceptance of the popular dogma that the Homicide Act, 1957, was a foolish Measure. It was not.
137 The Homicide Act provided for the abolition of capital punishment, with one exception. It provided what would seem to be a rational and effective deterrent for one particular class of killer, the professional criminal who, if there were the death penalty, would be deterred from carrying a gun and using it in extremity. I find rather distressing the announcement, on the one hand, that the House is to give a free decision on capital punishment without, on the other, any acceptance of responsibility on the part of the Home Secretary that he ought to consider the blood which he would have on his hands if he did not make some kind of improvement in the present life sentence arrangement which might be a deterrent.
I hope very much that the Home Secretary will think seriously about introducing legislation to cover life sentences for wilful killers before the House throws out capital punishment, as I am sure it will. I am prepared to keep an open mind on capital punishment, provided that we are not asked to abolish it without giving some substitute for the Homicide Act in the way of a deterrent.
I come now to the reference in the Gracious Speech to the promotion offull integration into the Community of immigrants who have come here from the Commonwealth".I assume that this foreshadows legislation or administrative action which will be useful and of which the House as a whole will approve, but I am sorry that the Prime Minister himself is not in his place now, because I have something to say which I would rather have said in his presence.
I was disturbed and distressed at the incident we had earlier this afternoon. If I may say so, I do not think that it showed the best side of the Prime Minister. It was not the kind of attitude or language which the House is accustomed to expect from the right hon. Gentleman, who, after all, is the leader of the Government and the most important Minister. I thought it deeply offensive to make a profoundly wounding personal reference to an hon. Member who has not yet made his maiden speech. I would rather make these comments to the right hon. Gentleman himself, but, after all, it was he who said it and it is open to him to be here if he wants to.
138 The incident seemed to me to be rather sinister from this point of view. The whole question of the kind of tensions which arise in society when we have large immigrant populations is extremely important and it has deep political implications. It is a matter on which both sides of the House will need to use their utmost patience, leadership and example in an effort to bring about a satisfactory solution.
Hon. Members opposite know that it is a deeply political question and that they have a great responsibility. Things are on a hair trigger at the moment and racial relations in our society could go deeply wrong. The issue is best not discussed in the kind of atmosphere engendered by references such as these made by the Prime Minister this afternoon.
§ Mr. E. S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
What led to this particular situation? Was it not the despicable campaign conducted in the Birmingham area?
§ Mr. Iremonger
I was not myself taking part in that campaign. I do not believe that those who know exactly what happened will be quite so pharisaical about it as some of those who know less. But let us, for the sake of argument, go the whole way with the hon. Member. Let us say that an hon. Member was misguided enough to exploit anxieties in his constituency in order to obtain election in a way which we would deplore. I still think that it would be possible for the Prime Minister at that Box to refer to the matter in terms which were less deeply offensive and less likely to engender the worst kind of feeling among hon. Members.
I say that with very great diffidence because, although we are firmly opposed to his convictions and his policy, we do not wish personally to attack the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, in so far as he is Prime Minister, we wish to strengthen his moral position. I hope that he will think about his whole attitude on this question. One has the feeling that the right hon. Gentleman is inclined sometimes to get rattled and, when rattled, to get a little more nasty than he would like to be. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg)?"]
139 If I may say so, I know my right hon. and learned Friend better than I know the Prime Minister, and there are two qualities which I have never found lacking in my right hon. and learned Friend—generosity and nobility. I do not believe that he would have said what the Prime Minister said at that Box. In one sense, I suppose, he got rid of his nobility by leaving the other place and coming here, and, of course, he is very much better for that.
This is, perhaps, something on which we should not dwell too greatly, but the House ought not to imagine that quips and jeers here will laugh off a problem which is deeply set in our society now and which will test our deepest spiritual and moral resources in trying to solve it.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I listened with interest to the résumé of the Gracious Speech given by the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger), and particularly his remarks about the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls). I entirely disagreed with his assessment of that speech. All I gathered from the speech was that all that had been said by the Conservatives during the Election was sheer nonsense and that in 1965 there would be a boom irrespective of which party was in power.
But that is not how the Conservatives spoke during the campaign. They then said that there would be ruin if a Labour Government got in. There was no talk about a boom in 1965 which would still happen even if the Labour Government got in. The implication of his speech was, if it had been put properly to the country, that not only would there be a boom in 1965, but that it would be very much better if a Labour Government were in power to deal with it.
The hon. Member for Ilford, North also did not refer to the fact that his hon. Friend was talking about the late government's ideas which were pigeonholed. Our trouble has been that in the last few years there has been too much pigeon-holing for what it was worth and no effective government. The result was that the country came to the conclusion that what the Labour Party was putting forward in its election manifesto was what it wanted. Nobody has the right to 140 complain, but we heard complaints today from the Opposition benches that the Gracious Speech includes in the main what we have stated and promised to the electorate. In fact, the Gracious Speech follows accurately, although in a much shorter form, the programme we put clearly to the country in our manifesto. The Gracious Speech does not detract by a word from that policy.
That is what is worrying the Opposition. When they were in power they introduced measures which were never referred to in their election programmes, and they pushed them on to the country. Now they are complaining that we are going to do what we intended to do, what the country knew we were going to do, and what the country said we should do if we came to power. We have now taken office, and the Gracious Speech reflects precisely what we intended to do.
The hon. Member for Peterborough said that we have a terrible Government and that they are producing an image in the next six months in order to prepare themselves for a General Election. Where is the logic in that? Either we are preparing ourselves for a good image, which means that we shall be returned again, or what we promised the country was something which was wrong, although the country approved of it. I do not understand it. When the hon. Member for Peterborough reads his speech again he will scratch his head about what he said and feel it is unfortunate that he cannot have it erased from the records.
I was a little surprised when the hon. Member for Ilford, North referred in the terms that he did to what the Prime Minister had said. The hon. Gentleman has himself said that he deplores the kind of thing that has happened. He has, to his credit, adopted a policy in accordance with which he has used very strong language about racial discrimination. I would refer him to his own speeches. When a person feels strongly about something, it is not unnatural that he should express himself in clear terms. I feel that the reaction which came from the Opposition benches was one which came without real thought about what was at the bottom of the matter. It was a reference to one who, contrary to the advice of his leaders—we had better have 141 this straight—and contrary to statements made time after time by the late Prime Minister and his colleagues in the course of the campaign, used a certain issue which they did apparently not want him to use. I leave it at that. I think that, on reflection, the House as a whole will regard the speech of the Prime Minister as an excellent one and one which really outlined the policy that we have been interested in and the one that we wanted to give the country.
The hon. Member did not refer to one or two other very important things stated in the Gracious Speech. I see that one of our Liberal colleagues is present. Many years ago, from John o'Groats to Land's End, we heard in ringing tones that God gave the land to the people. The Lloyd George refrain ran:The land, the land, it was God who gave the land,the land, the land, the ground on which we stand.Why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hands?God gave the land to the people.I think that in their heart of hearts most of our Liberal friends still think the same.
We then heard proposals for leasehold reform and complaints about how the landlords were taking back the houses at the end of 99 years after having bled the tenants. That was the kind of language that was used. I believe that by the time we come to bring this Measure forward and he has re-read a little from the brown book and the green book, and the yellow book as well, our Liberal colleague will find that he has come a long way towards agreeing with our plans.
There has been a great abuse of land. The land policy that we have had during the last few years has been a dismal one. There has been a miserable situation created because some people have speculated in land. That has been one of the direct causes of the shortage of houses and the high prices that one has to pay for dwellinghouses. Surely the Liberals support us in our view. We are just as worried about the profits being made as they were at one time. I leave our Liberal colleague to go back to the history of his party. He will find that it will tell him how the Liberal Party said that roads and bridges and other community work 142 should benefit the community and hot landlords who had done nothing towards these improvements.
In my view, a bloodless revolution will take place during the lifetime of this Government, in that it will produce results which will enable our people to see that there is a way to prevent speculation in land. It is no use the Opposition saying that this will not provide any more houses. The house is the home of the family. The Rent Act, 1957, was a destructive measure. It not only attacked one's house but it also attacked one's home. The previous Rent Acts were enacted to enable families to remain in their homes and not to be thrown out indiscriminately, but the Rent Act, 1957, was a criminal and vicious Measure. It immediately decontrolled a very large number of houses—mainly middle class—and set in train a creeping decontrol which ultimately would mean that no tenant would be protected.
§ Mr. Iremonger
There was always creeping decontrol in the sense that when a rent-controlled tenancy came to an end the landlord was able to recover possession. In such circumstances, landlords never again relet controlled property whereas after the abolition of rent control 80 per cent. of them did so.
§ Sir B. Janner
The hon. Member is moving on to bad ground. He will find himself in difficulties. It was not a question of whether or not a tenant left a house which affected control then. The Conservative Government decontrolled the house as soon as he left. They controlled the tenancies up to a certain point but decontrolled the houses. Prior to the 1957 act of destruction, the house remained controlled even if the tenant left. The hon. Gentleman claims, in effect, that because houses remained controlled, landlords would not relet. I disagree with him, however, in his statement. It is not the case that all landlords sold their houses. Very many of them were decent landlords and relet the houses at controlled rents. It is not such landlords that we are attacking. The old situation was that if a tenant left a house the incoming tenant was still protected. The situation today is that vacated houses automatically become 143 decontrolled. Consequently, for example, when there is a change of employment, whereby a man must move from one area to another, and exchange houses with another person, both houses involved become decontrolled. It is a bad state of affairs and cannot be allowed to go on.
The Conservative Government misled the country. They claimed that there would be plenty of houses available for everyone because the market in houses would become open. They said that there was sufficient accommodation for all. All one would have to do was to apply for a house and one could get one. There are 7,000 people in Leicester waiting for housing accommodation. Meanwhile rents are going up. I suggest that the hon. Member for Ilford, North come to my constituency and see the situation for himself.
§ Sir B. Janner
I invite him to my constituency, however, I will show him the problem there. The fact is that rents have doubled and trebled since the 1957 Rent Act. One of the tragedies is that people who become owner-occupiers have to pay very much higher prices for the houses because such houses were thus decontrolled.
We say that we cannot allow people to be turned out of their homes. Therefore, we shall bring in a Measure to see that the process is halted. The Gracious Speech reflects our own approach. The Government's programme is based upon family understanding of domestic matters and international matters. That is the difference between us and the party opposite. We believe that the nation is a family and must be regarded as such.
Retirement pensions will be increased because we believe that the recipients are our parents—even though they may not be blood relations of ours—and are entitled to a reasonable amount to live on. I challenge any hon. Member opposite to say that the pensioners in his district are satisfied with what they are getting. Do the pensioners say, "God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world"? How many hon. Members opposite can 144 say that pensioners in their areas are happy and contented with the amounts they get? Of course they are not, and rightly so.
The last Government showed their meanness in refusing time and again even to let pensioners have the ordinary amenity of fare concessions on public transport. We do not regard our old-age pensioners as subjects of pity. We regard them as members of our family and believe that we must see that they are properly provided for.
Earlier, I referred to the manner in which land speculation was carried out. An area in my constituency provides a very clear illustration of what is going on. I had a petition from a large number of residents in that area. They complained about land adjoining Nevanthon Road, Leicester. One of them wrote me a letter in which he said that he wanted my help.… in halting the very serious deterioration in the amenities and atmosphere in our area.The cause is a very large area of land adjoining our property. Ever since this land has discontinued as allotments, some three years ago, it has very rapidly deteriorated into a wilderness.it is a very considerable fire risk, a virtual rubbish dump, and a meeting place for gangs of children, hooligans and even tramps.We are the parents of two young daughters and are worried about the sort of people this place attracts. I hope the police are not waiting for some serious incident before they regularly patrol the area.I am unable to use one side of my garden because of the weeds, but when I put this point to the official, in the recent rate assessments, I was told this was not a reason for a reduction.I am sure you will do your utmost to help …At a time when the countryside is being encroached upon to provide building land for houses we think that it is absolutely disgraceful that an area of land this size should be allowed to remain undeveloped to the distress of the residents surrounding it.I have had some 20 letters of a similar nature from that area where, for three years, this land has been kept vacant. It is possible that there are ideas about building on it at some time. I am told that some 82 dwellings could be built there. Would not hon. Members opposite say that something should be done whereby land could not be kept for that period, quite apart from the fact that it is damaging the neighbourhood? About 145 82 dwelling houses or flats could be built upon it. Surely that process could be speeded up and something done. What is the answer? Why should there not be a commission to investigate and deal with that type of case?
Again, in my view a person at the end of 99 years being a leaseholder whose predecessors and himself have put all that they have into the house should be given the right to retain possession of that house. He may have to pay a reasonable sum for it—all right—but he should be allowed to retain possession. In many cases it is a house which has been occupied by a family throughout. As hon. Members know, the actual building in such a case was paid for by the original lessee and he is then sold the leasehold. The reason I have mentioned these points is because I wanted to point out some very important matters which have not been dwelt upon fully, certainly not by hon. Members opposite.
The hon. Member for Ilford, North and I have attempted for a long time to get some kind of legislation enacted to stop the kind of smearing of a Nazi type which has been going on in this country. I did not hear any comment from him about the fact that it is proposed to do something about that. In my view, we are in this position. As a Labour Party we will establish confidence and hope throughout the country. We believe that very many people were misled in the course of the election by the Tories, but fortunately the majority were sufficiently understanding not to be so misled. There are many people in this country who did not realise what a difference it would make to have a Labour Government. They will realise the benefits within the next few months, and it is woe betide the Opposition if they frustrate the wishes of the people.
The Tories did deceive many in and before the election by issuing a large amount of literature directly or indirectly from boards of directors and all the rest of it, but they will not be able to deceive the electorate when they see in black and white that we are carrying into effect what in fact the majority gave us the authority to do, and what I believe that the vast majority of people in this country want us to do. That is the content of the Queen's Speech.
I am glad that Ministers on this side of the House have had the understanding to 146 do exactly what the Opposition did not do when they were in Government, that is, to put into black and white once again what we promised we would do. I am quite convinced that we shall succeed because the intentions are good and the results are bound to be good for the country when we carry them into effect, which will be, I hope, in the very near future. I see that the hon. Member for Peterborough has returned. I should like to say one word to him on a matter which has been referred to by both sides of the House. I would advise him to read his speech tomorrow morning. If he will be good enough to read his speech, I think he will offer an apology to the House for the illogical statements he made. If he has convinced himself that he is right, I will have a talk with him later on.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
As the hon. Member knows, as the procedure allows, I have already read the speech.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner). Before I deal with certain things in his speech, may I suggest that he reads his speech in the morning and that as a learned Member he corrects the impression he gave to the House on leasehold, because if I heard him aright he clearly gave the impression that someone who had been living in a house as a leaseholder for a long time had no right of renewal when the lease ran out.
As I understand the position—I hope that he will look it up and correct either one of us who is wrong—the only reason a landlord can get a tenant out of a house in those circumstances is when the ground landlord can prove that he has necessity to redevelop that site. I would remind him that that was legislation brought in by the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Costain
If I may claim the indulgence of the House, may I say that I am not getting mixed? Under the Leasehold Act he can get the same rights as under the Rent Act of continuation of 147 tenure. I would suggest that the hon. Member reads that most carefully. I know that he will apologise if he has misled the House on that point.
The hon. Member suggested that there would be some surprise on this side of the House if there were a boom next year. What we have said is that there will be a boom next year in spite of the Government and not because of it. What worries us is that we will have a slump the year after if we still have a Socialist Government.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the pigeon-holing by the previous Government. That is a peculiar statement when the new Government have a very large number of new Ministries, each with its own pigeon-holes.
During the debate there has been a good deal of talk about the length of this Parliament. Perhaps some of the pundits writing in the newspapers tomorrow will note that two maiden speeches have been made on the very day of the Gracious Speech, indicating that the Government are in a hurry to get their Members batted in while they have the chance.
The hon. Gentleman made a special reference to pension rates. I am delighted that the Gracious Speech refers to pension rates, because the party opposite did not increase pensions much when last in power and the pitiful rise it gave came near the end of that Parliament and predicted another election. Is this increase a further indication of an early election?
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made it clear today that we intend to support the Government on measures which benefit the country. I am delighted that he said that. I read the Gracious Speech more as an election manifesto or election address than a Gracious Speech. But, of course, this is a day of triumph for the new Government. I have read the debate for this day five years ago and I have been most interested to see what attitudes were then taken by the then Opposition. One thing which struck me at the time and on which I did not then comment, because I was then a new Member, was that there are certain traditions in the House, one of which is that the Opposition always sit in the east, so that the sun always rises to the benefit of the Opposition.
148 Basically, both parties know what the country needs. There is not much argument about the need for efficiency. What is at stake is how best to achieve it. What are the priorities? During the election hon. Members opposite made much of planning. They based a good deal of their election propaganda on planning. To be frank, the nation has fallen for it, although, fortunately, not to the degree that hon. Members opposite hoped.
Everybody has a plan. We plan when we have our breakfast and when we have our lunch. All planning is a question of whose plan. What worries me with the Government's faith in planning is their inability to plan sufficiently widely, because that is beyond the comprehension of any one man or group of men. We have already had some indication of the outside people whom the Prime Minister is to bring in to achieve this end, but I cannot see how the master mind in Whitehall can possibly conceive what a consumer in South America requires. I cannot see how the master planner can evaluate the ability of manufacturers to produce products which are needed in outside markets.
I am supported in that contention by the fact that 20 per cent. of our present exports were not conceived 10 years ago. How can the master mind in Whitehall tell a manufacturer—
§ Sir B. Janner
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that when it said it was planning the Tory Party was not in a position to plan?
§ Mr. Costain
I have no idea, because I cannot recollect that it said anything of the sort. What I am saying is that the manufacturer knows his own ability and is in a better position to assess markets than is the master planner. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has asked me a question. Does he intend to listen to the reply, or to have a private conversation? If he did not want a reply, he should not have asked the question.
I cannot understand how the master plan organisation will even collect the information. I cannot understand what sort of forms it will send out to the thousands and thousands of small firms. Hon. Members opposite have said in their literature that they intend to tell industry how industry can increase exports, but 149 they have not sorted out how they can do so.
I am amazed that a party which should have gone to the country with the idea of having a new-look scientific age should so quickly decide to rethink one of the more advanced scientific projects which the country has in hand—the Concord. There may be a ground for having another look at it, but I do not think that it is right to have a relook and reject within a few days of taking office.
The whole basis of the success of this country has been that the word of the Briton has been his bond. It is very important for the future of our industrial and political relations that we should continue to give a face to the world which shows that we intend to continue those good intentions. It is most regrettable that a Government with so small a majority should immediately put doubly in the minds of our friends overseas about our ability to keep a word solemnly given.
I rose to speak for a few moments about a subject on which I can claim some specialist knowledge. I need hardly declare my interest, because everyone knows it. However, as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Geoffrey Rippon I was prohibited from speaking in the House about the building industry for two years. I congratulate the new Minister of Public Building and Works on the magnificent organisation which he is taking over. [Laughter.] The Government laugh about this, but I know the Ministry very well and I have known it since the Prime Minister was there himself. I have seen it over 30 years or so and I can tell the House quite genuinely that the progress of the Ministry under Geoffrey Rippon was outstanding in those years. If anyone has any doubts about that, he should read the technical Press—the Architects' Journal, the Builders' Journal, and so on—when he will find tremendous praise for his work.
Is that good work to continue? Unless it does, we will not get the housing programme. We have already heard that the Government intend to build 400,000 houses next year. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said today, with 420,000 in the pipe- 150 line that should not be difficult in the first year. It is not generally appreciated that the building industry increased its efficiency by an average of 7 per cent. per annum during the life of the last Government. I do not think that it is realised the amount of work which has been done in developing industrialised building methods. A good deal has been said about the shortage of building materials. The building industry depends very much on weather. When there is a very mild winter or a very dry summer, the requirements of the building industry are greater than the materials which can be manufactured. This was foreseen by my right hon. Friend. This was why industrialised building was advanced and a new code of building regulations prepared ready to go on the Statute Book.
If the Government really mean to modernise the building industry may we have an assurance from the Minister—I am not sure which of the two Ministers will deal with this subject—that he will bring in immediately the new building regulations which will modernise and speed up building techniques? The hard work which has been done on research and development in the industry is a plum ripe for plucking. Will the Minister take that off the tree immediately so that the fruits may be acquired?
The thing which worries me most about the Labour Party's programmes is this. If something goes wrong it feels that it can always blame the other chap. The attitude taken by the Prime Minister today was, "We are not wrong. Everybody else is wrong". It is most important that the housing programme should be maintained. The housing programme concerns the homes of the people. My fear is that the speed of the housing programme will be reduced because land will not be available. I should like to stress to the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, who is not here, the difficulty that he will have in getting the Crown Lands Commission going. The Gracious Speech, very carefully, makes no direct reference to when this will happen.
The day before polling, my political agent was fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to have this pamphlet entitled. "What the new Britain will be like 151 when Labour wins" delivered through his letter box. It was not until the end of the election campaign that it was put through his letter box, otherwise better use might have been made of it during the election. This is what the pamphlet says on land:The Commission will buy the land at a price based on its existing use value".It is vital that an explanation should be given of this at once. What is existing value? Is it permitted plan value, or existing use value, because they are entirely different things? Until that is clarified, the whole land market will dry up. People will not deal in land because they do not know what will be taken from them or how it will be taken from them.
It is impracticable for the new Lands Commission to become operative within a year or two.
§ Mr. Costain
The hon. Member asks why. Has he thought how many surveyors and valuers will be needed to carry out the work? It is no good the hon. Member puffing out his lips and being impracticable. I suggest that he goes to the Library and looks at the Estates Gazette and sees the number of vacancies there for valuers and experienced people. It is not practical to get this organisation going because of the shortage of people necessary to staff it. Unless the Government propose to import them from overseas, I cannot see any other way of doing it. It is vital that this should be made perfectly clear to the Government now so that they do not come back in a year's time and say that the industry has let them down. With co-operation, the industry has been increasing its productivity. It will continue to do so if the Government co-operate with it.
We will have plenty of opportunities to debate the Measure on the Rent Act when it is presented. The point which the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West missed was that not all landlords are rich, bad people.
§ Mr. Costain
The hon. Member's complaint was that if somebody went out of a house it would not be let again because the landlord might sell it. 152 Many small landlords are widows who have been left a house by their husband who have been subsidising—
§ Mr. Costain
The hon. Member says "Ah". I can show him a number of letters in my file from widows whose husbands saved a bit of money to buy a house as an income. Now they are subsidising controlled houses with cars outside. It is the poor subsidising the not so poor. These are points which will be discussed later.
Just before the election we heard a good deal about Socialism in Sweden. The so-called Socialist Government there is not of the type of Socialism practised by the British Government because they did not nationalise more than 1 per cent. of the industry. The greatest failure of the Swedish Socialist Party was the failure to provide houses because they still maintained housing controls. There is a bigger black market in houses in Sweden than in any other part of free Europe.
I was delighted that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) mentioned the reference in the Gracious Speech to capital punishment. This is something which worries many hon. Members. It certainly worries me. Both during and after the election I received a number of letters from people who genuinely wanted it abolished. My immediate reaction to pressure groups is to resist them and to try to get the facts, because it is so easy to agree with pressure groups, and it is generally on these things that pressure groups build up. I hope that the Home Secretary will give the House sufficient information and data well before the debate so that we may have the opportunity of making a balanced judgment on this subject outside the dramatic atmosphere which may be created in this Chamber.
I repeat what I began with. Provided the Government propose policies which are good for the nation, it is our beholden duty to support them. It has been proved that their doctrinaire policies fail. It has been said that the workers want the nationalisation of steel and that the Government have a mandate for it. No one has put forward a logical case showing that the nationalisation of steel would benefit the nation. If such an argument is put forward, we will consider it.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)
I hope that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) will forgive me if I do not follow his main theme as I want to turn immediately to the Gracious Speech.
I read that Speech very carefully and took note of its broad catalogue of radical and controversial measures, particularly with reference to central and regional plans to promote economic development which, I suppose, will be guided by the new Ministry for Economic Affairs. We are on the safe side when we define economics as a science which is chiefly concerned with the communal problems of economic life. Its principal concern is with the intricate interrelations of various wealth-using activities and with the ways in which these activities affect the welfare of the community in the daily conduct of affairs.
Common sense tells me that the new Ministry for Economic Affairs must be comprehensive to ensure that an effective national plan must be worked out for production, exports, imports and capital investment and must be directed not only to the maximum production of goods with efficiency in plant, materials, fuel and human efforts, but also to the provision of adequate markets for the goods produced, which will be under a necessity of continuing to export large quantities of industrial goods in order to pay for imports.
Whatever strategy may be adopted, the securing of the fullest possible use of existing resources of production will be necessary if we are to bring about a larger as well as a more equal distribution of incomes. It must be admitted that we are one of the most densely populated civilised countries in the world. Our industrial population is growing by leaps and bounds and we are becoming more and more crucially dependent for our very existence on imported foodstuffs and raw materials.
What we cannot ignore is that the foundations on which the economic structure rests today are less sound and substantial because the mechanism of international trade is infinitely more delicate. That is not to say that we prophesy disaster nor to deny the immense improvements which have been effected in the conditions of the great mass of people.
154 But what I believe to be true as a serious matter in the quality of social and economic efficiency is that nations and people are being continually and for the most part unconsciously pitted against each other in the complex rivalry of life. Just as the mighty oak which defies the blasts for hundreds of years has its origin in a small and insignificant looking seed, so, if national planning is to grow and to work at all, its most important task must be to tackle the obstacles to economic growth, particularly in regions where industry is stagnating and decaying.
I am glad to note that, within the framework of such a national plan, plans must also be worked out for the different regions of the United Kingdom, and in this respect the approach is relevant to the needs of the present day. We have always proceeded on the assumption that there is nothing new under the sun, but the true methods of politics, as of all branches of knowledge, are those of experience and experiment. The question of planning is, however, one which, it is to be hoped, will be accepted without any spirit of bitterness or rancorous animosity. We should really look upon it as a goal to which we should push on with all possible speed.
We want whatever is good for the common good, and to give full effect to the administration of planning it is apparent how advantageous will be the creating of regional planning boards that will work closely with the services of representatives of local authorities. By sheer stress of necessity, and in many directions, the Government have been forced to adopt such a measure. I consider such a linking system between the official Civil Service and the general activities of the representatives of local government to be most necessary.
I make this reservation because, in my constituency, I know that the representatives of the local authorities behold the process of life around them with a characteristic virility. I may innocently add, if testimony be really worth anything at all, that it is with a creative disposition of the mind and by accepting the responsibility of co-operating with the planning administration that it will give them a feeling of encouragement in pursuing activities with a penetrating and innovating spirit.
155 In pursuit of this objective, I am sure that they would be prepared to collaborate in the extension of all forms of democratic collective enterprise. One effect would be to keep the thought of economic and social progress in a perpetual lively interchange to serve as a basis of common understanding. I do not visualise any utopian speculation, but may at least go so far as to anticipate that such co-ordinated activity will go to show in many ways the conscientiousness of the urgency of economic problems in particular. It may well be that in human affairs nothing is ever as good as it ought to be. Even doctors disagree about administering medicine, but there is a justifiable pleasure in surrounding oneself with things which really express and respond to the choice of interests.
I would conceive that the prime requisite would be to transform and acquire the capacity to adapt planning to changing economic realities. Such suggestions as have been made could be of value to the task that would give a new lease of life to areas like my own constituency, where such an old and decaying industrial structure needs to be transformed into a more fundamental basis of industrial activity. From varied experience, I can say that urban regeneration is required to be given much more thought for the future than was necessary in previous generations.
All manner of disequilibriums are facing communities in villages that are designated as category "D". Like every other social problem, these communities must undergo changes, for the simple reason that nothing is static in human society. They are not just a group of people working and living apart, functioning, as it were, away from the main body. There is no doubt that they have a feeling of being lamentably neglected. What they need is inspiration and encouragement to kindle a broader outlook as a source of enlightenment to save the villages from dying.
In these days when communications and transport have attained dimensions beyond the conception of any previous age, and when they must be of great benefit to these communities, they certainly will not accomplish anything on the basis of social well-being except that 156 which can only be achieved by a timely reform of planning, which, we would hope, will be provided by effective regional planning equipped for this responsible task.
It comes unbidden to my mind to say that there never was so important a period in the history of the constituency as the times through which we are now passing. There are economic aspects of the constituency which must be viewed with anxiety, because certain consequences are bound to ensue unless effective remedies and action are taken.
The modern doctrine of economy is one long chain of serious changes. They have ben most extraordinary. This presents disturbing features which can hardly fail to lead to the conviction that no limit can be set to the direction in which our duty lies. It is almost startling to be reminded of the great contrast between the industrial growth in the south of England and areas like my own, where the livelihood of so many people is continually threatened by the shifting of the competitive system, posing, as it does, the most acute economic and social problems for the families concerned.
What is at stake is the weekly livelihood, and the worry accompanying the housekeeping revenue of families placed in adverse circumstances through economic calamity in industry. Such rapid changes which have an adverse bearing on economic and social life prove to be precursors of so much misfortune. If we are to avoid frustration as a result of decaying industry, particularly at a time when we need all our energies to establish the British economy on a secure foundation in world trade and exchange, then, assuming the foreknowledge that the present purpose of the Government is to promote recovery, there would be some consolation if attempts were made to solve the under-utilisation of industrial capacity, especially when men have to look to other avenues for work, only to be impeded in the attempt through lack of alternative employment.
By their nature the changes have certain persistent disadvantages, and in such circumstances, I would estimate the Ministry for Economic Affairs to be able to express a more clearly defined plan for national purposes and to stimulate trade, with insistence in its search for and 157 the scrutiny of possible ways of improving and shaping the organisation of economic life for the better. It will be appreciated that at some time in the future the House will want to discuss the problems of export trade at great length and in wide detail, but whatever political doctrinaire theories we may have, and whatever we may think of the present economic situation, we must acknowledge that among the chief problems of the controllers of industry is the one to decide what forms of production shall take place. Together with this and other matters which are vital to the conduct of successful business it is essential to find the means and markets to sell goods which factories are capable of producing. Therefore, for obvious reasons, this is not simply a matter affecting individuals, but one on which millions are dependent for their livelihood and wellbeing.
One item which attracts my attention in the Government's economic statement is the decision to set up a Commonwealth Export Council as a means of stemming the falling share of Commonwealth overseas trade. In spite of all the mounting complications in international affairs I believe that it is realistic to strive all the time to improve export trade, particularly when we see many industrial leaders trying to seize the growing opportunity of East-West trade. This is an important and growing sector of international trade, currently accounting for one-twelfth of world trade as a whole. At present, more than 80 per cent. of this trade is transacted with Western Europe and the sterling area, and one can hardly fail to ponder and give much thought to the expansion of such trade with Germany and France, emerging as it has done in spite of political and ideological conflicts, but while the share of Western Europe in this trade has risen to 56 per cent. the sterling area can claim only 24 per cent.
In these times it is not strange to read and to learn of the demand for consumer goods in the Soviet Union. The Russian market is rapidly becoming one of the biggest consumer markets in the world, and we should be concentrating on and specialising in this kind of trade.
The French Government have just signed an agreement with Russia which will increase their trade by more than 50 per cent. Under the terms of this 158 agreement France will supply Russia with capital equipment estimated to be in the region of £260 million. This agreement has been possible because France has agreed to a credit of seven years, and we shall have to take similar action if we are to move into this great expanding market.
It is well known that at the end of this year we will probably be "in the red" to the extent of £500 million to £600 million. The Government are dealing vigorously with this problem by their 15 per cent. import duty, but the longterm solution can only be made in a tremendous expansion of our trade with the Commonwealth, with America, with Europe, with the Eastern countries, and with China.
All the world trades with China. Even America supplies more than £100 million worth of goods to Communist China every year. It does this indirectly through Western Germany, Japan, and Hong Kong. I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has made a good beginning. It is to be hoped that his visit to China will stimulate this kind of trade.
Therefore, as we need an expanding economy with increasing markets, it is always tempting to think of solutions which must be found, and while I believe that the whole purpose of economic activity lies in what it can contribute to human happiness and the satisfaction of a better life, I see no reason why a concentrated and disciplined effort at economic reconstruction based on an appeal to human motives should be viewed with distrust. After all, ideals are never translated into facts without the general recognition of some strong belief. Social, moral, and economic advances, have always been made under the stimulus of ideals. In this world of such tremendous progress very few people can really become their own masters. What has become individually impossible is now left for people to gain collectively.
The desire for a fuller life and a brisker existence are motives that are not to be deplored or deprecated. They are the natural results of the growing and wider outlook of our time, and such progress necessitates the giving of greater 159 attention to the kind of constructive arrangements which are very much to be desired in the interests of public affairs.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
In a survey with which I completely agree, my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) made some apposite remarks about the export trade, in contradistinction to the curious and old-fashioned ideas of the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), who was theorising about Labour's plans to stimulate exports in language which seemed to be reminiscent of the rather reactionary Tory of the 'twenties and 'thirties.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not here, but that is not my responsibility. What I thought was extraordinary about his remarks was that he talked about some master mind telling the exporter what should be sold and how it should be produced. Every large exporting nation is now dependent on a mass of technical advisers who will relate the productive capacity of their various countries to the export demand. There is such a thing as stimulating export demand in the country of reception.
What rather disturbs me in the export discussions that are going on in the Press and elsewhere is this, to my mind, over-emphasis on the need to give an ever-increasing length of credit. Not that this can be disregarded. But towards the end of the last Parliament I discovered that the Export Credits Guarantee Department was demanding rates in respect of trade with China which were considerably heavier than those applying to the U.S.S.R. When I asked for an explanation I received a vague reply to the effect that it was because there was a greater war risk in the case of China.
It seemed to me to be an extraordinary argument, because, as we have heard in speeches from hon. Members opposite this afternoon, the Tory Government were even then organising the exhibitions which are now in process of presentation or development in China itself. It was not until I was able to take the matter up with the then Government that some relief was given by the E.C.G.D. in connection with trade with China.
160 Having accepted that credit is an essential factor in this very serious problem, I am beginning to wonder whether people quite understand the importance of specifying the sort of industry which we really want to go in for. I suggest that to rely too much on exports of sophisticated textiles, whisky and similar products is, in the long run, a poor way of developing our export trade—although we are all grateful for the efforts made by those industries.
But the developing countries—those countries to which we must look for our new markets—are not particularly interested in sophisticated textiles or whisky, at least not nationally, even if some individuals may be interested in them. What they are interested in is the means of increasing their own production and utilising their own raw material resources. Petro-chemical machinery and plant is a case in point. I am beginning to wonder whether we do not concentrate too much on the question of the credit demanded, rather than on the speed of delivery, which, in my experience, is a factor which needs at least to be taken into serious consideration.
I did not want to take up the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe on the subject of the building industry, because professionally he knows considerably more about it than I do, but as he began to enlarge upon what a wonderful inheritance had been bequeathed to this Government by the party opposite in the technical proficiency of the building trade and the capacity to produce houses it seemed to me that he was talking in a language which was utterly unreal, in my experience of my constituents. I share with other hon. Members the experience that housing lists are longer and applications by people who want houses more numerous than they ever were.
What the party opposite was guilty of was: first, making it financially difficult for local authorities to borrow the necessary money to develop their housing estates; secondly, allowing the land problem to become a real scandal; and, thirdly, establishing the wrong priorities in construction. In the West Midlands, where I have the honour to represent a constituency, the channelling of labour and other resources away from house construction to other forms of building 161 construction has had an extremely serious effect. This is not the time or the place to discuss the problem of the West Midlands, and particularly the overspill agreement, but I must point out that the whole transfer of population into the receiving areas within the overspill agreement has been jeopardised by the failure to produce enough houses and to provide the necessary land at reasonable prices.
The question of the provision of land will be one of the major considerations in this Parliament. I do not underestimate the capacity of the party opposite to sabotage the work of the Lands Commission. I believe that it will. It will try to organise a sellers strike. Hon. Members opposite have said so in their speeches.
§ Mr. Snow
My hon. Friend says, "Not the patriotic party opposite." I could quote Sir Winston Churchill's remark on "patriotism by the Imperial pint". We could talk a lot about that. The fact is that as a Government we have to face almost certain sabotage of the Lands Commission by the party opposite. What is the function of the Tory Party if not to protect property? We must frame our legislation in a way which will make the purchase and securing of land for the common good a more effective and quicker procedure.
During the last three years of the last Parliament, with the collaboration of the then Ministry of Defence, I was able to compile figures regarding the holdings of land by Service Departments. I have conveyed this information to the appropriate Ministry. It may come as a shock to some hon. Members to know that, excluding such organisations as the Atomic Energy Authority, which holds considerable areas of land, the Service Departments hold no fewer than 570,000 acres. That figure excludes holdings of fewer than 50 acres, airfields, dockyards and the equivalent.
It seems to me that there ought to be a very careful scrutiny of land held by Service Departments. It is a curious thing that between 1962 and 1963, with an ever-increasing number of admirals, the amount of land held by the Admiralty increased. I draw this matter to the attention of the Government because I think that it is one which should receive 162 careful consideration in view of the fact that we shall be faced with a deliberate policy of the party opposite of trying to withhold land from use for the public good.
In the final paragraph of the Gracious Speech there is a reference to theappointment of Law Commissioners to advance reform of the lawand a proposal fornew measures for the impartial investigation of individual grievances.This latter part refers to what has been called an Ombudsman, to use the Scandinavian term. I believe that we should term such an appointment as a Parliamentary Commissioner. When I first heard of the proposal I was somewhat doubtful about it because it seemed to me that such a function was likely to conflict with the normal Parliamentary responsibilities of an M.P. to his constituents. Like many hon. Members involved in the last election—it has also happened in previous elections—I found that when, by canvassing or other methods, one comes into contact with the day-to-day worries of constituents, anxieties and problems are revealed which would not normally feature in correspondence or direct representation.
I cannot help feeling that this proposal for Parliamentary Commissioners must be directed specifically, as a matter of priority, to the law or its administration as it affects the individual. As a second priority I suggest that the attention of the commissioner or commissioners should be directed to corporate bodies as such.
I frankly admit that when I was a very young man the book "The New Despotism" did not mean a lot to me, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the imposition of responsibility on the individual as a result of action by officials. I have two cases in my constituency, and perhaps the House will bear with me if I refer to them. One involves a man who has had the great misfortune of having two of his children sent, at intervals of three or four years, to approved schools. In the second case the court ordered a boy to be sent to an approved school and six weeks later the father was given a bill for the boy's maintenance at a rate of about £6 a week. This was the first intimation he had received of this bill, and it has been enforced in subsequent hearings before 163 the magistrates' court in a way which I think was harsh and unreal, bearing in mind the man's earning capacity. I know that this anxiety of mine is shared by the Staffordshire County Council, because it wrote in answer to a letter of mine that in this case it thought that a reform of the law was necessary.
In another case, an old-age pensioner, an ex-miner and disabled at that, was visited as a routine measure by a National Assistance Board officer who felt that he ought to be getting more money. Indeed, an additional allowance was given to him, and months afterwards, in a review, it was discovered that this old-age pensioner had been overpaid. I should add that his disablement was not only a result of a mining accident, but also because of deafness. That old-age pensioner is now being made to repay this money—absolutely legally—at a rate of 5s. a week.
I suppose that it does not sound very much, but it is to an old man, and there is no redress. I flogged the case as far as I could. Here is an instance where officialdom, absolutely legally and presumably in the interests of the public purse, imposed a charge on somebody where that somebody was doubtfully capable of fully understanding the complicated regulations of the National Assistance Board.
I could not help feeling that these cases justified a much more humanitarian attitude being adopted. If the public purse does suffer because of a bona fide mistake on one side or the other, does a great nation like this become bankrupt in the process?
We read in the newspapers that this nation is an ageing nation and that the old people are living longer. I hope that when the Minister of Health announces his proposals for modernising and developing the health and welfare services he will bear in mind that old people normally go first through the stage of going to an old people's home, where they are mobile and enjoy the normal amenities of life—going for walks and to the cinema and watching television—and then, in the normal sequence of things, thus become hospital cases.
Under our present law the old people's homes are dealt with by the local authority, but a hospital case comes under 164 the regional hospital board. But many cases are marginal, and, in any case, why should the old people be separated abruptly from their friends, who may yet remain as mobile cases in old people's homes?
In the western part of the Birmingham regional hospital board's area there is what I believe has been called a freak hospital, in the sense that there is a combination of accommodation for old people in one block with, virtually across the passage in another ward, provision for bed accommodation under the hospital authority. They visit each other. It seems to me only human that these old people should not suddenly be segregated in this way and separated by miles from their old friends. There is a case for greater flexibility in administration in the care of old people and particularly bedridden old people.
My last comment concerns the proposal for regional councils to put into effect the national economic plan. Nowhere is this needed more than in the West Midlands. Developing companies are being encouraged to go to areas of underemployment. Nobody can disagree with that. But it is a clumsy system which permits what is happening in my constituency. A company was established for the production of motor vehicles for the home market. This is a relatively small company, but it has developed a new specialised form of exports. It is not allowed to expand because it is stated that its expansion would mean that it must be moved into other areas in the north of England and Scotland.
There should be much more flexibility here, because in this case we are not securing exports which, without exaggeration, could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. This is an inheritance which we have had following the acts of the Conservative Party in permitting unemployment to develop again in some areas, but there is a case for a more efficient form of distribution of industrial development certificates so that we do not lose exports as we are losing them in this case.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
This evening in North America a Presidential election will take place. Undoubtedly it cast a shadow over the General Election which we recently fought. In 165 such a situation it is hardly surprising that there has been a free interplay of terminology in Government. We have accepted in our own political vocabulary the term "The first hundred days of office", which I think was coined by the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Lester Pearson, and which is certainly enshrined in our political memory with the actions of the late lamented President Kennedy.
It is also true—and I do not object to this—that the concept of 100 days of bustle and decision was very close to the heart of the Prime Minister. I want to examine, in the context of the Gracious Speech, one aspect, in particular, of this decisive, authoritative Government action, or what I think the New Statesman described as "the smack of firm Government".
Great stress was placed by the Prime Minister today on the determination of the new Labour Government to indulge in purposive planning.
§ Mr. Biffen
He has the support of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire (Mr. Bence), who is quite an expert on these things. We hear from him in the lengthening shadows of the evening debate, and I am sure that we shall hear more from him. But the little bit of purposive planning which we have had presented to us already, and on which we are having, if not a whole meal, at least an enjoyable hors dœuvre, is the 15 per cent. surcharge on imports. I want to examine this, although not in great detail, because others wish to speak in the debate, for it is an important but nevertheless reasonably modest aspect of the totality of the new Government's policies and proposals. I do not want to challenge the basic thesis that a surcharge of some kind on imports might be of some use in the present situation. I speak with a certain independence of voice on this matter. I am inclined to be a bit suspicious about it. and my loyalties lie more towards the article of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in today's Financial Times than to the comments of other Members of my Front Bench. But let it be.
166 I do not believe that, in the language of purposive planning, there was very much diplomatic preparation for this surcharge. I have the impression that the purposive planners, arriving in Whitehall, seized the first thing in the pending tray and said, "Get on with it". This is an indifferent start for a Government. It does not augur well for more, and perhaps the more weighty, decisions which will be taken by our centralised and purposive planners.
The quite fair point was made earlier in the debate that we could not give fair notice to all our trading partners if we were going to have an effective surcharge. That is true, but one could wish for the same kind of diplomatic good manners as one had with the United States Government, and I am delighted that the absentee Foreign Secretary did a good job in Washington and reassured the Americans, who are valued partners of this Government, on this point.
I accept that part of the bill may be M.L.F. This would please me a great deal, though it might not please some hon. Members opposite. But no such diplomatic good manners were shown, for example, to the Secretary-General of E.F.T.A., Mr. Figgures. He is reported in The Times, and again I see no reason to doubt it, as having said in Paris that the surcharge was illegal and a contravention of the Stockholm Treaty. I mention this point because two or three days before the surcharge was announced the President of the Board of Trade, speaking in London at the British National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, said:E.F.T.A. has been an outstanding success and we shall do all we can to ensure that it goes on from strength to strength.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] These are splendidly bold words, echoed even now in this Chamber. All I can say is that it was a remarkable kind of foresight and planning, showing all the acumen of the really purposive experts, to come along and slap after that a 15 per cent. surcharge without any consultation as far as one can see with the E.F.T.A. partners.
This does not even add to reasonable government, let alone the purposive decision which we were promised by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Biffen
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East, who is jolly good at sedentary interruptions, knows perfectly well that something in the pending tray to be further considered and examined is something very different. The criticism has come from my right hon. Friend the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), that this step has been hurried through, and the fact that it has been hurried through means that none of the diplomatic exchanges to which I referred could possibly have taken place. That is the whole gravamen of my charge.
There is another aspect of this "ruthless discrimination", and I use those words because the Prime Minister reminded us this evening of his speech at Swansea. Transport House was kind enough to give me a full transcript. I enjoyed it no end, and I read it constantly as a bed-side companion. It was in that speech that the phrase "ruthless discrimination" was coined. It seemed to me that this 15 per cent. surcharge cannot have been subject to the discipline of a ruthless discrimination by hon. and right hon. Members opposite, because we find that it is being applied in such a way that, in covering in a blanket, indiscriminate fashion a great many of the ranges of semi-manufactures, it puts a tax on a great many raw materials for British industry which cannot be obtained from domestic manufacture even with the 15 per cent. surcharge. It is a direct tax upon raw materials for a great deal of British industry, for example, certain chemicals used in the manufacture of acrylic fibres which cannot be obtained from any other source than by being imported.
§ Mr. Biffen
I said at the outset that I did not expect that kind of trade "giveaway". I was referring merely to the kind of courtesy which the Government did not accord to our E.F.T.A. partners, but which they did accord to the United States of America. 168 I return to the point about ruthless discrimination. If a great many of our manufacturers who cannot do other than use imported raw materials or semifinished goods which are subject to the 15 per cent. surcharge feel obliged to increase their prices, will they be referred to the price review body? Hon. Members opposite should consider the implications of this surcharge for our industrial costs. The whole thing has been rushed through precipitately and indiscriminately.
The other point which has not been argued very convincingly arises on the effect of the 15 per cent. surcharge on our imports. As I see it, in a wide range of imported manufactures, particularly those in respect of which there is subsequently a considerable amount of excise levied in this country—wines and spirits are an obvious example—a great deal of the cost will be absorbed by distributors or importers in order to maintain a network which they have built up for sales which they hope to develop.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he hoped that the 15 per cent. increase would not be passed on in full to the public. This is exactly what will happen. For example, we know already that Messrs. Matthew Clark, importers of Martell brandy, will not increase their brandy prices this side of Christmas, and we have read in the Press about other shippers taking a similar line.
§ Mr. Biffen
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East is nodding his head in approval. All right. If this does happen, it will mean that consumption of the goods concerned will not be affected and, therefore, the imports will continue. Yet this is not what was in the Chancellor's mind if the idea was to cause a slackening in imports.
I agree that I am taking just one isolated point and one must look at the matter in its totality, but I should like to hear this aspect argued out much more thoroughly than has been done so far. I take the more significant example of machine tools. As far as one can see from all the evidence—I admit that this is something on which economists, of which, unhappily, I am one, can argue ad infinitum—it seems that we have been 169 going through an industrial re-tooling boom or investment boom. One needs only to look at the results from our own domestic machine tool industry. Domestic sales have gone up considerably and export sales have tended to tail off because there is the voracious demand of the home market in which, on the whole, it is rather more easy to sell.
Consistent with this there has been a rather sharp rise in imports of machine tools. I hold no particular brief for the machine tool industry in this country, but it seems to me that a great many of imported machine tools are coming from countries which are supplying us with machine tools which are inherently superior to anything produced in this country, which are practically unique—for in international machine tool production there tends to be a good deal of specialising—or which happen to come on particularly advantageous delivery. We know that our own industry is working with pretty full order books.
In these circumstances, it seems that all we are likely to achieve is a shunting around of order books. Manufacturers may say that they will defer taking certain machine tools because, in six months, the surcharge will be removed. We have been told that it is temporary. Manufacturers may well be reluctant to take an inferior home-produced machine tool—I mean inferior in customer requirement, whatever the case may be—rather than gamble on the temporary nature of the surcharge. Of course, we have been told that it is temporary, but the Government may break their word and what is temporary may take on a degree of permanence. That is especially so when one takes into account the capital equipment tax benefits on machine tools. To quote from the Economist, the actual increase in cost post-tax to the installer of the machine tools is nearly 4 per cent.—not 15 per cent. So the margins will not be all that great. Therefore, it seems that we are much more likely to get a reshunting of the prospective import load.
We may well get a slackening off in imports of machine tools. I hope that no one feels that it is a condemnation of the machine tool industry that we are importing such large quantities. After all, the purpose of the investment 170 allowances contained in recent Budgets was considerably to increase the use of machine tools. Therefore, a considerable importation of machine tools was inevitable, and nothing in the surcharge will in the end have much effect on that.
In the long run—I am not prepared to argue through the logic of this this evening—perhaps the greatest field of import substitution for us lies in the temperate foodstuffs covered in one section of the Trade and Navigation Accounts, 50 per cent. of which, I gather, could be produced in this country. I am not now arguing for greatly expanded protected markets for British argriculture, but I say that if we are pursuing a policy of import substitution, we are more likely to get it in the fields of temperate foodstuffs than in almost any other area of British imports.
However, I should like to challenge—here I am speaking slightly as a lonish wolf—the premise contained in the Economic White Paper—I take it as having to be read in parallel with the Gracious Speech—where it is said that there are no undue pressures on our resources. The point was made by the Government Front Bench, and it has been confirmed by some on the Opposition Front Bench. Therefore, at this early stage I wish to raise to three-quarters mast a slight flag of rebellion, because it seems to me to be an assumption that one should question, particularly in the light of the known stress that there is within the construction industry already. Practically no hon. Member will say that there exists in the construction industry plenty of slack. In fact, we know that it is under very considerable strain. I do not regard it as very purposive planning to put a 15 per cent. surcharge on bricks in these circumstances. Presumably it was as a result of the process of "ruthless discrimination".
§ Mr. Costain
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the surcharge on timber will also put up the cost of houses? We do not grow timber for houses in this country.
§ Mr. Biffen
Yes, I agree. 'The list could lengthen considerably for the construction industry alone.
§ Mr. Charles Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)
While accepting that the 171 hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) is not dealing with the subject in totality, may I ask him to direct the remainder of his speech to the alternative course that he would have had the Government take?
§ Mr. Biffen
The hon. Member will not be disappointed. I intend to do so. I am challenging the thesis that there is no undue pressure on resources in the light of evidence, quoted by Major Dibben, Chairman of the Regional Board for Industry in Birmingham, that there is a labour shortage there. In the face of all this evidence, I doubt whether we can carry on with the existing and projected levels of Government expenditure.
I am in favour of a little "stop". [Interruption.] I am not one of those hon. Members who have been so brainwashed that they believe that "stop-go" is a dirty word, never again to be included in the vocabulary of British politics. If hon. Members opposite imagine that they are launching this country on a policy of steady expansion without any element of "stop-go", they are deluding themselves and the electorate.
In no other European country has it been possible to adopt a policy which does not include a considerable element of monetary control and "stop-go". In all those countries whose examples are often quoted, to the supposed disadvantage of this country, policies in recent years have been characterised by a considerable element of "stop-go" and monetary control. That may not be the answer expected by the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. C. Morris), but that is the answer he is getting.
It may show the "cross bench" generosity of mood that I am in when I say that I am prepared to be convinced that the Concord project may not show sufficient economic return to be worth continuing. I am prepared to be convinced of that. I would not say this if I had not, in the last Parliament, voiced some scepticism on the economic feasibility of the aircraft.
My mind on that subject and on the great economic background against which policies will be developed recalls the speech made by my right hon. Friend the 172 Member for Wolverhampton, South-West during the Budget debate earlier this year, when he said that the total level of Government expenditure and the planned deficit was the bearable limit. I am certain that events are proving him to have been right. I hope that, in the months ahead, right hon. and hon. Members opposite will not feel so overcome with remorse as to be deterred from coming to the House with Measures which may be economically unpopular, designed to curb the total level of demand at home. I believe that it will be their duty to do so and that they will find support on these benches in carrying it out.
Many other hon. Members wish to speak, particularly after my remarks. There are two major tasks of a general nature against which the Government's success will be measured. These are, first, its ability to seize opportunities in Europe—particularly at a moment at which the future of the Common Market and the Gaullist policy are in a state of flux—and, secondly, their success, not in expanding the area of centralised planning, but in expanding areas of competition in the economy at home. I wish them well in both these tasks. I have very grave doubts about the enthusiasm with which they will address themselves to them.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I am glad to follow the discursive speech of the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen). He began by talking about the "pending tray", the "in tray" and the "out tray". He was treating this great country as though it were an office which depended on "in" trays, "out" trays and "pending" trays. That is characteristic of the attitude of the last Government and their defeatism. I am glad of the opportunity to make it relevant to quote some observations by a former Prime Minister upon the topic of defeatism, which indicate the basis upon which he sought to administer the nation.
Before I do so, I shall call in evidence a witness who is not a Socialist and certainly not a member of the Labour Party. It is the Sunday Times. Just before the General Election, it published an article called "A Plea for Modernity". It did not deal with "in" trays or "out" 173 trays or "pending" trays. No one will accuse the paper of being a supporter of the Labour Party. The article said:We start from the position that we want better government. If there is any Conservative propaganda which says that the quality of government in recent years has been high enough, or the level of national achievement high enough, or the economic advance sufficiently rapid, we would reject that view as too complacent. The last five years have been moderate years, not years of great national success.It went on later to say:Many conservative people believe that a resistance to change and reform is the best way to preserve the old values. They are betrayed by their hopes.That ex tract from the Sunday Times characterises not only the defeatism of the hon. Member for Oswestry but the defeatism which was symbolic of the whole policy of the Labour Government—I mean Tory Government. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman with a flippant mind may laugh if he feels inclined to do so at a slip of the tongue; that may be the measure of his intelligence.
This Gracious Speech has been subject to much criticism—diverse, much of it perverse and some of it adverse. It is one of the best Gracious Speeches that I have heard in the course of my nineteen years in this House. It is characteristic of a determination to look at the world as a whole, at Britain as a whole, and not to imagine that Britain ends at the River Tweed, as the former Government seemed to think. When they spoke of the north-east they spoke of the northeast of England and did not realise, apparently, that there is Scotland and the north-east of Scotland. I mention that particularly because the north-east of Scotland is my particular interest.
I feel quite confident that the broad practical view which this Gracious Speech takes of Britain as a whole will be implemented and stressed by the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has been appointed Secretary of State for Scotland. He knows a great deal about the needs of Scotland. He has been an advocate of the needs of Scotland and of the practical solution of Scotland's problems for many years.
I promised the House that I would refer to what the former Prime Minister of this country, Mr. Harold Macmillan, said as evidence of his defeatism. In September, 1962, he made this abject and 174 astonishing argument when trying to bring Britain into the Common Market:If we were not in Europe our influence would begin to decline, and with the decline of our influence in Europe we should lose our influence in the world outside … We shall be relatively weak and we shall not find the true strength we have and ought to have; we shall not be able to exercise it in a world of giants.That was the defeatism which characterised the former Government. Contrast that with the view which was expressed by the present Prime Minister when he said in his great speech at Scarborough in 1963:I am convinced there is a chance of a breakthrough on two fronts: first, an agreement to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; second, agreement on areas of complete nuclear disarmamant and progressive conventional disarmament … We press again the urgent relevance of what has always been our policy: the creation of a nuclear free zone, with effective inspection, a zone of controlled conventional disarmament.That is the spirit which inspires this excellent Gracious Speech. It indicates the determined policy of the present Government to stand for Britain and for peace in the world, to bring about agreement with various other nations, to spend our sustenance in developing this country, in helping the old age pensioners, in building houses, and generally in building up the social structure of our country. This Gracious Speech does not treat the country as to be dealt with by in trays and out trays and pending trays, as did the speech of the hon. Member for Oswestry. This Gracious Speech stands for Britain and progress and purpose in politics.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) made a number of points and said that this was an excellent Gracious Speech. Obviously, one must see the whole of the Gracious Speech expanded. I must apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, for the fact that I left the Chamber when the Prime Minister made his faux pas and, therefore, denied to myself the opportunity to listen to what he had to say further. Nevertheless, I believe that I was right in the action I took.
The first thing in the Gracious Speech which strikes me is opposite to the views 175 expressed in the "Brown Paper" for it says:Our industries will be helped to gain the full benefits of advances in scientific research and applied technology".In the "Brown Paper" there was a reference to whether the Concord arrangement would continue. It is probably a small part of the results of that "Brown Paper" that in my constituency one firm, which has developed a considerable reputation throughout the world for producing turbine blades, has had its orders considerably reduced by the French Government mainly because of the indecision about our future in the Concord project.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to this earlier when he pointed out that in this matter we were ahead of the rest of the world and that we and the French had made tremendous researches into the whole project and had put ourselves about three years ahead of any other nation in the production of a supersonic airliner for normal civilian use.
Even if that airliner did not pay its way, it would, very much in the nature of its predecessor, the Brabazon, have taught our industry many lessons which could be incorporated in developments in future. Certainly, this was a breakthrough for our airframe and aeroengine manufacturers which could have put Britain and France together in such a position that they would lead the world. The impression in the rest of the world is that we are contracting out and there are nations clapping their hands and saying, "We can enjoy the benefits of all the expenditure and expertise of Britain and France, and we will get it on the cheap".
I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that, while the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, despaired of the brain drain from this country, if the Concord arrangement is broken many brains in this country will quickly leave and will go to countries who realise that this country has thrown in the sponge in technological advance. This is a very important point to which we should pay particular attention.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
Will the hon. Gentleman clarify 176 his comparison between the Concord and the Brabazon? Is he suggesting that we should proceed with the Concord until it flies and then abandon it?
§ Mr. Mawby
All the evidence suggests that the Concord could become a flying proposition. Pan American, an airline with great experience throughout the world, felt that the Concord had so much to offer that it was prepared to make advance contracts for the purchase of it. This suggests to me that there is at least the possibility that hardheaded airline operators, based not in this country but in other countries, are prepared to say that the Concord has possibilities.
On the other hand, the Americans have set their sights much higher. They have tended to concentrate on the faster plane, but, as far as one can see, it has not attracted the same attention from the airline operators as the Concord. While there may be scientists who believe that it is possible to build an airliner which will fly at a speed of over Mach 3, the fact that the Concord project has reached such a stage that hard-headed airline operators are prepared to place advance orders suggests to me that there must be something in the Concord which is not represented in any other projected airliner.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
My hon. Friend will realise that my constituency is much concerned in the Concord project. The Concord can be built and will fly effectively, whereas those who think that they can do better are working more theoretically and cannot prove that they can do what they are saying they would set out to do.
§ Mr. Mawby
I agree with my hon. Friend. He represents a constituency which is interested in building aero-engines. Bristol and Rolls-Royce have a tremendous export programme for the production of aero-engines and airframes for manufacturers in other parts of the world. If the point is reached where we contract out of this race, and if there are no airframes in which to try out their engines, our aero-engine manufacturers—Rolls-Royce, for example—must contract out of the race at the same time. This is an important point.
The Concord arrangement was arrived at and agreement was reached with the 177 French Sud Aviation, which is no fool; it developed the Caravelle, one of the fine aircraft of the world. It entered into arrangements with some of the finest manufacturers in this country and the "know-how" has been pooled. At the start, we had the possibility of interesting our own aircraft operators and those of France.
But it went much further than that, because Pan American and all the other aircraft operators, who owed nothing to Britain, said, "There is something here in which we are interested. From our experience and from what we have seen of what has happened, we are prepared to give you a forward contract," as a result of which the American State Department said that America must stay in the race because this was something in which, apparently, the Europeans were beating America. Therefore, the Americans were not prepared to enter into the Mach 2.2 project in which we were interested, but said that they must get over Mach 3. They had to enter altogether new fields.
As the hon. Members know, all sorts of experiments have been carried out to find the effect of the sonic boom, and so on, of this extra supersonic flight pattern which the Americans are thinking of operating. The final results have not been published, but it seems to me that our attitude, together with France, of operating the Concord is about right and that the American plan is one which, I believe, public opinion in America will squash. Therefore, if we contract out, I believe that if the Germans do not come in the Americans will be right on the doorstep. There is no question about it. If we contract out of this, everything that has been said about our being in the forefront in the technological age will be thrown completely away.
The consequences of such action on our part should be realised. If the British Aircraft Corporation and all our other contractors have been in close liaison with Sud Aviation, in France, obviously they have come closer together. They have learned lessons between one another and there are many contracts which contractors in this country are undertaking which have been brought about because of this closer relationship between the aircraft in- 178 dustries of one country and another. This is something to which we should pay great attention.
These considerations should be weighed carefully, because I believe that whatever we do, the Concord venture will not end there. We have done a tremendous amount of the donkey work and research. We have learned a number of lessons, but the actual practical lessons still have to be learned. Those lessons will be learned by us if we continue the co-operation. If we do not continue it, they will be learned by someone else. This is an extremely important point to be borne in mind.
If Her Majesty's Government pay any attention to the sentence in the Gracious Speech which states thatOur industries will be helped to gain the full benefits of advances in scientific research and applied technology",they should have second thoughts, and even third thoughts, about whether they will continue this splendid co-operation which has brought tremendous results in the aircraft industry between Britain and France.
There are great rewards to be won, but those apart, the results of the research, the lessons which are learned in the aircraft industry, transmit themselves to every part of the engineering industry. We have seen this so many times—have we not?—that an industry which has been in the forefront in carrying out research, which has been the spearhead, teaches us lessons which we can then transmit to other parts of the engineering industry. This is tremendously important, and so I think that one has to pay particular attention to it.
The other sentence with which I am particularly concerned in this:A Bill will be introduced to give workers and their representatives the protection necessary for freedom of industrial negotiation.If one takes that sentence purely on its own, I would say that I am completely in 100 per cent. support of it. This is a very important point. There ought to be freedom for proper industrial negotiation. But is this what this sentence means
This is really the question which one has to ask, and I think it is a relevant question to ask, because one remembers that not so long ago the Prime Minister 179 went to the T.U.C. and said, "I know you are concerned about the Rookes v. Barnard decision. All that I am telling you is that if we are returned to power we will introduce a Bill which will bring the position to the point at which you thought the law stood many years ago." That is what the Prime Minister said to the T.U.C.
I do not want to be tedious in recalling the facts of the case, because I am sure that every Member of the House knows them, but shortly, this was a case in which a man was sacked by B.O.A.C. because trade union officials said to B.O.A.C., "This man is not a member of the union and if you do not sack him we shall go on strike." For three years that man went through the various courts of the country to try to claim damages from the trade union officials who had forced or coerced his employers into terminating his employment. Finally, it was decided that in certain circumstances, and certainly in this particular circumstance, the threatening of action contrary to contract between employer and employee was liable to damages to the person who had been damaged by that action.
One remembers that the leaders of the T.U.C. approached the then Minister of Labour and said that here was a situation which ought to be put right, because trade union leaders had always understood, since the passing of the Trade Disputes Act, that any actions by a trade union were free from actions for damages, whereas in this case the House of Lords had decided that the threat of strike action had instituted a condition in which the person damaged could claim damages from the persons threatening the action.
In fact, if I read my newspapers correctly, the Prime Minister promised the leaders of the T.U.C. that if he were returned to power he would bring in a simple Bill to rearrange the position. The trade union leaders had always thought that they had complete freedom, but the House of Lords decided that in law they had not. The Prime Minister said that he would bring in a Bill to make certain that they had that freedom.
This raises a fundamental question. As the House knows, I have been a lifelong trade unionist. I joined a trade 180 union when I first became an apprentice. I was then a shop steward, then the chairman of my local branch, and so on, until I came to this House. Before the Trade Disputes Act was brought into operation there were many employers who said to their employees, "If you have the audacity to join a union, I will sack you". Indeed, this was one of the basic reasons which brought many people into trade unions. They believed that that attitude was despotic, that that should never be done, and that a man should be free to join an association which was legally allowed.
Throughout the years people have fought to make certain that a man was free to join the association of his choice. What is the situation now? I shall be interested to hear the Government's views on this matter. On the surface we have gone the full circle. Trade unions were given this extra push to avoid the system whereby an employer could say to a man, "I am going to decide what association you shall belong to. I am even going so far as to say that you will not join any association, and if you do I will sack you". We have now gone the full circle and reached the point where the employer no longer tells anybody what he will do, but a trade union official says, "If a man is going to join this firm, he must join our trade union".
This is an important matter which is exercising the minds of many people on both sides of the House. But what is more important, many trade union officials are extremely concerned about the present state of affairs. The trade unions came into being, have existed, and will continue to exist, as democratic organisations. Their policy, exercised by full-time officials, is decided periodically by properly democratically elected representatives attending conferences to decide what future policy should be. These full-time officials tell their members what policy has been decided, and inform them that that policy will be carried out.
Suddenly, however, a few members say, "To hell with the executive. To hell with policy decisions. We are going on strike here and now". What action can a trade union official take against those men? He can, in certain circumstances, say, "All right. We will take disciplinary action. We will even expel 181 you", but let us remember what happened recently with the Union of Post Office Workers. The union decided that it wanted nothing more to do with some men who took unofficial action. It said to them, "You are out. You are expelled". The court has now decided that the full-time officials of the union took unconstitutional action, and that the men should have their jobs back. This is a very important point. It is not one which can be reduced to two lines in the Queen's Speech. I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to realise that this is the basic difficulty which lies in the way of a solution to most of our problems.
There is reference in the Queen's Speech—as there has been in many speeches made today—to the basic need to make certain that we have a sensible and fair incomes policy which will apply to everybody, and which will be accepted as fair by everybody. I believe that all hon. Members, no matter on what side of the House they sit, agree that if we are to get out of our present dilemma—and the present 15 per cent. surcharge on imports is one of the products of this difficulty—and make certain that we have a sensible incomes policy, we must also be sure that we do not allow situations to develop in which industries are open to blackmail.
In the election campaign the Prime Minister referred to the dispute that occurred in part of the motor car industry. I do not wish to deal with all the political aspects of it now. The important point is that in many of our industries we have reached a point at which, if a small group of people in one section of an industry suddenly decide, against all the advice from their leaders, to take immediate unofficial strike action they can put out of work many of their colleagues the following day, and can certainly have a great influence upon the economy.
What is far more important is that if that small group of people have a pistol large enough—and in many cases they do, because by their action they can hold up the whole of a large industry—their employers must seriously consider the balance of advantage. They must say to themselves, "How much do we have to pay in blackmail, and how will that 182 compare with the effect that the blackmail will have upon the cost of our product?" The manufacturer, in this isolated circumstance, says, "Obviously, balancing the two factors, we must pay the blackmail." The blackmail is paid, and from that moment on that is the new level upon which trade unions throughout the country base their positions.
§ Mr. Mawby
The hon. Member says that this is rubbish. It is not. He has been in the trade union movement for a long time and he knows that great value is put upon the question of differentials. "Differentials" is almost a holy word to anyone in the trade union movement. There are differentials between skilled and semi-skilled workers, and between semi-skilled and unskilled workers. There are differentials between the railwayman and the bus driver.
These differentials have been fought for over many years, and if a differential alters it creates a new demand. That is the problem. Every time the blackmail is paid it reduces the standing of the full-time officials of the trade union concerned. In many cases the blackmail is paid for something which perhaps a few months earlier the management had refused to a trade union official who was trying to negotiate on a proper basis. And so the ground is cut from under his feet.
Do the sentences in the Gracious Speech mean that the Government propose to introduce a simple Measure to overturn the Rookes v. Barnard decision? If that is so I believe they are doing an injustice to the nation as a whole which will destroy all hope of a future incomes policy. If, on the other hand, they mean to introduce a Bill to make certain that trade union officials are given freedom to negotiate without being tied or fettered, but if a small group decides to say, "To hell with policy and the union", there will be some way in which they may be made aware of the consequence of their action—if their pocket is affected—I am prepared to examine any legislation which is put forward.
§ Mr. Mawby
Obviously, the whole question is in dispute. I am not a lawyer and neither is the hon. Gentleman. That decision has put the whole matter in the melting pot. We all believed that, as trade unionists, we were free to take any action we desired at any time without being subject to damages, but the decision in the Rookes v. Barnard case has altered that.
I am saying that the law cannot be left as it is, and when altering it we must make certain that we do not put ourselves back in the position in which we were before. That would be against the basic interests of the trade union officials who are in an extremely difficult position. Every three or four years—not so often in the case of the Transport and General Workers' Union—a trade union official offers himself for election in the same way as does a Member of Parliament. If the ground is to be cut from under his feet in respect of negotiation, and if he is still to keep his job and support his wife and family, he must become more militant and less of a negotiator.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.