§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [3rd November]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.9 a.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)
From the Opposition Benches we are glad to note what you have said with regard to the remainder of the debate, Mr. Speaker. The other day you said that today's debate was to be a general one and I shall seek to concentrate largely on matters arising from the Gracious Speech relating particularly to the Ministry of Labour. We note that you have chosen our two Amendments for debate on Monday and Tuesday and we look forward to pressing them with all vigour.
I want to begin by congratulating the Minister of Labour on having taken over his arduous duties. I noticed that he expressed his keen acceptance of the job in terms of a "bed of nails". By now he may be finding just how sharp some of those nails are. The agreeable factor in the Ministry of Labour is that one never knows which nail is going to prick one next. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will discover over the coming months the fascination of his job and I wish him health with which to carry it out.
There is one paragraph of the Gracious Speech which deals specifically with the problems which confront him in his office. I should like to go straight to discussing the last sentence of that paragraph, which provides for fresh legislation. It says:A Bill will be introduced to give workers and their representatives the protection necessary for freedom of industrial negotiation.530 Precisely what does that sentence mean? When will we be receiving the legislation and what will it cover?
We all know that it originates from the judgment in the case of Rookes v. Barnard, a judgment which has called forth a great deal of comment during the summer months. We know that the Minister will probably seek to introduce legislation to clarify the position. But I want to know precisely what form of legislation he has in mind. He will be aware, as the House is, of the great amount of conflicting evidence on the legal position which has arisen following that judgment.
It is conflicting evidence on the legal position and not on the practical position. On this I had a good many discussions with members of the T.U.C. and others during the summer months. While it was claimed by some that there was a serious practical effect in addition to the legal problem, yet I now find that in the end the T.U.C. has come round to agree with the view which I took. My authority for saying that is a document produced by the T.U.C. and headed "Rookes v. Barnard" and giving the opinion of leading counsel. There are two separate opinions, as the Minister is no doubt aware, but it is the introduction to the document to which I should like to call attention. It says:Although believing it to be their duty to correct any impression that the legal implications of recent cases are not serious and to inform these officers of the actual state of the law, the T.U.C. General Council do not wish to give the impression that all unions or indeed any union will necessarily find itself in the immediate future faced in practice with additional legal difficulties.It goes on to explain that most of these things are voluntary and that the legal issue does not arise. It goes on next to say:The General Council have come to the conclusion, on consideration of the balance of probabilities, that unless and until there is some further development … the best thing for unions to do is to continue on the assumption that whatever changes may have been brought about in the law it still remains unlikely that unions will find in practice that there has been any change of any consequence.That is precisely what I was saying to the T.U.C. throughout the whole of the summer months and with which certain of its members disagreed. What this means is that there is time to consider the issue calmly and dispassionately in the 531 way I myself suggested on a number of occasions. As I put it on 22nd August in a speech which I made then:The degree of difference between the T.U.C. and the Government can easily be exaggerated. Both are agreed that the law must be re-examined in the light of the present situation to see what exactly are the implications of Rookes v. Barnard, and that we must ensure that the law is such as to allow unions to do their job properly.I have never disputed that the unions should have this proper cover—The difference is mainly as to what timing and approach to adopt. I am not convinced that the urgency of the situation outweighs the need to make sure that we are adopting the right course before legislation is embarked on.The issue I want to raise with the Minister is whether he is satisfied that he has clarified the position sufficiently and whether the legislation which he will be bringing forward is designed specifically and only to reinstate the position as it was believed to be before the Rookes v. Barnard judgment, that is to say, the position under Section 3 of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906. I ask him for a clear indication because it is very important to know precisely where this legislation is to take us.
In its editorial on Wednesday, The Times said:Fortunately the undertaking as to what form the Bill should take is non-committal.I ask the Minister to explain precisely what he has in mind and to assure the House that he will not introduce legislation which will go further in providing the protection for which the T.U.C. has asked than it was formerly believed that Section 3 of the 1906 Act did provide. It is that issue with which I am particularly concerned and I should be grateful for some reassurance on it.
I draw the Minister's attention to a matter which should not be overlooked if one is to give full safeguards against intimidation, which is the issue involved. Clearly, the legislation would cover not only the workers', but the employers' organisations, because a trade union is not only an organisation of workers, but also an organisation of employers. Would he want to increase the power of employers to intimidate and the power of workers to intimidate? I cannot believe that that is his wish and I hope that he will be able to give us a clear assurance.
532 I can say quite clearly that the Opposition cannot promise any support to a Bill which would extend powers beyond Section 3 of the 1906 Act in a manner which we believe would be wholly unnecessary for trade unions and wholly to the detriment of individual workers. In doing so I quote another sentence from the Gracious Speech. The last paragraph begins with a sentence which says:In all their policies My Government will be concerned to safeguard the liberties of My subjects.I am sure that the Minister will agree that that is very important and that it is strictly related to the powers which a trade union might have for intimidation for the imposition of the closed shop, Whatever one might feel about the closed shop, the legal position must be clear.
So much for what is in the Gracious Speech on this issue. I now come to what is not. What is the position about the inquiry into trade union law which the previous Government had promised and to which I understood the Minister himself to be favourable and with which the General Secretary of the T.U.C. said as recently as 10th September he was willing to go along? Again I quote from the leading article in The Times which I quoted earlier:There will of course be no inquiry into the unions.Why "of course"? I do not go along with The Times on this "of course". I do not understand why "of course" there will be no inquiry. Is it the implication that it is not necessary for a Labour Government to have an inquiry? What possible argument can there be for that? Is this matter being urgently pursued?
I do not want to press the Minister too far on this today, but I ask him to give the House very shortly the result of his consultations with those concerned and to say whether he is to carry forward the undertaking, which was certainly the general impression in the country before the election, that whichever party won there would be an inquiry into this issue.
This is a matter which has arisen on a number of occasions in the recent past. I remind the Minister precisely what the General Secretary of the T.U.C. said on this subject at the T.U.C. Conference in 533 Blackpool on 10th September. These were his words:I and the General Council would not be shocked by an inquiry if it were set up and carried out in the right way".It is for the Minister to arrange how it should be set up.We do not think we have anything to hide, and I am prepared to explain trade unionism to anyone in this country.He went on to say:… an inquiry is not the answer to Rookes v. Barnard. We might even welcome an inquiry set up in the right spirit, but I do not believe you can have the right attitude from a Government which refuses this simple act of justice.I understand that the Minister is proceeding to offer the so-called simple act of justice. Presumably the quid pro quo would be this inquiry.
I hope very much that this can go forward because I believe that it is to the advantage of the trade unions themselves, no less than to anybody else. It would be of real advantage to trade union leaders if they were able to have an inquiry and to bring trade union legislation up to date. I will not commit myself now on what I think needs to be done. There are many things which could be done to help responsible trade union leaders. This is what the country wants, and I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something reassuring on this point.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
Despite what the right hon. Gentleman has said, will he say what he thinks needs to be done in order to give my right hon. Friend a chance to say what the alternative is?
§ Mr. Godber
I indicated that I did not propose to say precisely what needs to be done. What I do say is that an impartial inquiry could throw up the issues very clearly and the Government would then be able to make a decision. The hon. Gentleman knows that there has been no look at the law affecting trade unions since 1906. A lot of things have happened since then. The conditions under which trade unions existed then are wholly different from the conditions which exist today. It therefore does not seem unreasonable to say that they should be considered afresh. In many cases, trade union leaders might welcome some additional authority given to them under 534 the law to enable them perhaps to honour agreements in the same way as is done in certain other countries. I do not want to be dogmatic. I am merely asking that the whole matter should be reviewed impartially. That is the best way to deal with it.
I am fortified in this belief by a comment made by a distinguished Law Lord which has emerged since the election. Lord Radcliffe, speaking on 22nd October, and after pointing out that a lot of nonsense had been talked about the Rookes v. Barnard case, went on to say:What is needed, and what I hope we shall get, is a far-reaching review by independent persons—not, as is often the way, persons chosen for the known irreconcilability of their respective views.' Such a review, he said, should start afresh, with the place of the trade unions in contemporary society and treat all that had gone before as history that was to be respected rather than as an endowment that was not to be touched by profane hands.There is a consensus of view in this country that a fresh look should be taken at this matter. I do not wish to press the Minister further at this time, because he is probably having consultations and I hope that he will be able to tell us more about this.
This ties up very closely with the first part of the paragraph in the Gracious Speech to which I have been referring, namely, the reference to restrictive practices and the call on both sides of industry to co-operate in eliminating these practices. It ties up very closely with an inquiry because something might come out of the inquiry which might help both sides. I am sure that the Minister knows that the most difficult part of his assignment is to find an effective way of dealing with this matter. One can get good words out of leaders on both sides of industry, but to get them translated and carried through to people in industry is probably the Minister of Labour's most difficult task.
Last spring I started a certain number of conferences round the country trying to get leading employers and trade unionists started. The first one was at Lancaster House. I hope that the Minister will be willing to carry this on because I was beginning to find that dividends could flow from it. It is a long-term matter, but it will help in this problem which we all want to solve. I found, as I believe the Minister will find, 535 that consultation at the top is not enough. One can have the best will in the world from leaders on both sides, but unless this can be carried through on both sides of industry we shall not get the results that hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to achieve. I hope that much more can be done in this direction.
I notice that in a speech in another place only yesterday Lord Thomson of Fleet made some comments which were very relevant to this whole problem of trying to get rid of restrictive practices. One of the difficulties is that among certain sections of workers in industry in this country there is a different attitude from that which exists across the Atlantic. There is not the same desire to get the utmost out of a firm which there is on the other side of the Atlantic, or to go all out to get as much done to build up the firm's profits so that the workers can make demands for increased wages. If one helps the firm to make profits and then asks for increased wages, this helps workers, the firm and the country. That is not accepted sufficiently in this country.
This is the essence of all that we have been talking about this week in trying to get our economy right. Of this there can be no shadow of doubt. Until we can really tackle restrictive practices and get real co-operation throughout industry, many of the things about which we have been talking and which we have been seeking to do in the economic field we shall not achieve. Also, we will not be able to carry through the social measures because we shall not have the necessary money. There should be a general feeling among us all of the need to do this. I hope that the Minister will be able to make progress in the ways I have indicated and in other ways.
I turn to another sentence in the same paragraph in the Gracious Speech, namely, the reference to industrial training. It says that the Governmentwill also take action to improve the arrangements for industrial training and for the retraining of workers changing their emloyment.The Prime Minister, speaking in the debate on Tuesday, and after saying certain other things to which I do not propose to refer, spoke about some of the new appointments in the Government. He said: 536I 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 66.]I want to preface this part of what I have to say by pointing out that I have nothing against the additional junior Minister who has been appointed. He is a man for whom I have a high regard, and I am sure that he will carry on his duties well.
In view of this statement by the Prime Minister I want to know from the Minister precisely what tasks in instituting new training measures were not performed by the old Administration but which will be performed by the new Administration, because the Prime Minister either did not know what he was talking about or he is completely out of touch with the whole position. The Minister knows, I am sure, that the Industrial Training Act which we put on the Statute Book last year, and on which we had some help from hon. Members opposite, was the greatest Measure in this field ever put on the Statute Book. For the Prime Minister to say that this subject has been neglected is most utter nonsense, and it must be seen to be nonsense. I therefore hope that the Minister, in his gracious way, will be able to retract what the Prime Minister said on Tuesday and will acknowledge the undoubted developments which took place in this field in the last Session.
The Minister will recall a certain cocktail party which he and I attended a short time ago. [Interruption.] It was a perfectly respectable cocktail party. An industrialist at that party took me on one side and told me that the Industrial Training Act, which we passed, was the greatest advance in education and training since the Butler Education Act of 1944. This gentleman was a guest of the Minister. He was a very responsible man and interested in training. It is the fact, and it is known in industry to be the fact, that this Act was an enormous advance. Therefore, for the Prime Minister to speak 537 as he spoke on Tuesday is nonsense, and as for the reference in the Gracious Speech to improving arrangements for industrial training, I do not wish to embarrass the Minister, but it would be easy to put down Questions each week asking him what he was doing to implement it.
The Minister knows as well as I do that we implemented the Act as fast as possible. We set up four new industrial training boards. Before the election I also appointed the chairman for a fifth. The only complaint that I heard about the operation of this Act was that we were, if anyhing, pressing both sides of industry too fast because they were finding it difficult to assimilate the Measure. I therefore hope that, for the record, the Minister will correct the position.
I have been talking specifically about training. On retraining, the Government have said that more should be done, but, as the Minister will be aware, there are real difficulties. First, there is the problem of getting sufficient recruits who are able to take advantage of retraining. In the last 12 months we instituted a programme to double the number of places in Government training centres. That has been going ahead and should be completed in the next few months. This brought the annual capacity up to between 10,000 and 11,000 people. At the time, hon. Members opposite said that this was not enough. The position, as I always found it, was that this was enough to absorb all the recruits coming forward in almost any part of the country.
I also came up against the fact that there was in certain parts of the country—the House should not burke this—resistance from trade unions to what they considered to be a dilution of their position. I do not want to press this, but I am bound to say, in protection of the late Government, that the reason why we did not go forward faster was that this resistance was there. It was extremely disappointing that in places we were unable to place some whom we had retrained after they had had to leave their old jobs because of redundancy.
§ Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)
The right hon. Gentleman will understand that a good deal of the resistance came from places where men who had worked 538 in particular industries were unable to get as good jobs, and where there were men unemployed in the industries which men were being trained.
§ Mr. Godber
I am perfectly well aware of the point which the hon. Member makes. I would say to him that in a case I have in mind some of these men actually found jobs with a new firm but their union caused them to be dismissed because there were certain other circumstances which they felt should take precedence. What I am saying is that if there is to be any sense in further expanding retraining the very point which the hon. Member makes will become even more acute. He should put that point to the Minister now, as to how he is going to expand retraining in the way in which the present Government seek to do without raising this problem more acutely.
What I was trying to do and what the previous Government were trying to do was to improve the arrangements. We were trying to improve the balance. Perhaps we went a little too far, but that point will become even more important than it was under the late Government. So, on the point of retraining, I am sure that the Minister does realise the difficulties, and not merely of reinforcing the position, which will confront him here.
What I also say now is that on this issue of retraining, in the changing pattern of manpower requirements which this country has to face, the new industrial training boards will find that it is the industries which are expanding, which are healthy, where there is money and finance, which are the industries which will want additional manpower. It is in their interests, as well as those of the country, that the expanding industries should provide additional money for, and play an important part in, retraining.
I hope that the Minister will confirm that this is still the case. I have always held as a first priority the training of the young intake, but once this is overcome, then, in an expanding industry there should be adequate retraining in a progressive way. I think this is better than expanding the Government training centres beyond the present stage. I hope that the Minister will confirm that this is the priority.
I come to one point which does not seem to be referred to in the Gracious 539 Speech, and that is the question of mobility of labour. There have been several references to this in the speeches which we have had, but there is nothing very specific about it in the Gracious Speech itself. I know that the Financial Times on Wednesday said:There is no sign in the speech that the Government intends to take any immediate action to provide 'severance pay' for redundant workers, nor of the plan to make unemployment pay relate to wages. The only reference to Labour's idea of making workers more mobile is the general undertaking to 'improve the arrangements for industrial training. …'It goes on to the point that I have been making that there are no specific legislative proposals.
The First Secretary—is that what he calls himself? I think I have it right, but these new titles are very confusing—said in the debate on Wednesday:Workers must feel confident that there are other suitable jobs to go to if they fall out of work, that there are adequate severance and unemployment pay, suitable retraining schemes which are adequate both in quantity and in quality, that there are better placing and mobility arrangements to make work speedily available. Without these measures, workers will feel redundancy and will oppose change. If these measures are taken, as the Gracious Speech indicates—".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 221.]So far as I can see, the Gracious Speech does not indicate them. Perhaps I am wrong, and, if so, perhaps the Minister will correct me.
What I should like to know is where the Government propose to act in relation to mobility. I am sure the Minister realises, as the House does, that if we are to get co-operation in eliminating any unnecessary jobs and in trying to get people into newer jobs then one thing which is very important, as was made clear in the Report issued from the Ministry just before the Minister took over, the Report about manpower entitled "Pattern of the Future" is that men will be wanted, and wanted ever-increasingly, if the economy is to be kept on any reasonable level at all.
The Minister will, of course, be aware that prior to the election the previous Government were having discussions with both sides of industry on both the question of wage related benefits and that of severance pay. On wage related benefits we had gone a long way, and 540 we had every hope and intention of introducing early legislation. So I was rather surprised that there was not anything in the Gracious Speech relating to a Bill on this subject. It does seem to me an extremely important one, and one which would be generally welcomed on both sides of the House. So, as the Minister has inherited the fruits of our work here, I would hope he would be very soon able to come forward with some proposals based on those discussions which we have had with both sides of industry, and in considerable detail.
On the other matter of severance pay, I do not know whether the Minister will be aware yet that we encountered a very marked lack of enthusiasm from both the employers' side and the trade unions to proposals in this field. I should be glad to know what proposals the Minister has here, so that we could go ahead on this, because there is a clear case in justice, and there is a clear case economically, in achieving mobility, that this should be done, with both wage related benefits and severance pay, which are two essentials to get co-operation in industry for general mobility. I am sorry to see no definite proposals about legislation for this.
There are other Bills we could easily do without and which could be abandoned. We are perfectly willing, if the Government should wish, to abandon steel nationalisation, and, instead, to insert in the programme a Bill for the mobility of labour, which, I suggest, is far more relevant to the general needs of the economy than steel nationalisation.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I am interested in this part of the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I wonder how it is related to what happened in the 1961 period and the pay pause and the non-implementation of arbitration awards. How was co-operation in industry to be fulfilled by measures like those?
§ Mr. Godber
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I have been talking of what we have been doing more recently and even up to the present time, and he should also be aware that the conditions of 1961 were such that something had to be done then about them. In fact, arbitration awards were all fulfilled. They 541 may have been held up, but they were all fulfilled in the long term.
§ Mr. Monslow indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Godber
Every one of them was carried out. There was not one arbitration award which was not fulfilled. If the hon. Member has a case, I should be glad to hear of it. I was trying to be co-operative with the Government and I am sorry that the hon. Member is trying to reduce that degree of co-operation. I shall have to become harsher in my words. All these things are necessary to a modern Britain. We had action in train on all these various issues. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that this action is going forward and that it is doing so in the sense that it will help genuinely to meet the needs which, we all agree, exist.
I have been talking about the positive side and I want finally to refer to another side of the Ministry's work, what I might describe as the static side—that is, the question of dealing with industrial disputes when they arise. When an industrial dispute arises, very wisely we in this House do not normally tend to discuss it in public. It is in quiet, confidential discussion that one gets the best results. I hope that the Prime Minister will remember this. He certainly tried to jog my arm on one or two occasions which did harm, I believe, industrially during the past year. The present Opposition will endeavour not to jog the Minister's arm as we realise how critical some of these occasions are.
I wish to refer to something that was said in another place on Tuesday by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, better known to most of us as Tom. I am sure that he will forgive my calling him that. He said two things which are of interest. His first point was in welcoming the new move by the T.U.C. and the B.E.C. to examine closely the underlying causes of unofficial strikes. I welcome this too, because it was my idea which has been taken up. I hope that it will be carried through. It should provide real opportunity for the understanding of causes of unofficial strikes. I hope that this move goes forward and that the Minister keeps in touch with it despite the fact that it is being done by the two sides without direct participation by the Ministry.
The other point made by Lord Williamson, which was much more 542 important, was his reference to the need to resort to the arbitration courts. This is the point which the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) has raised. Lord Williamson said what a great advantage it was to make more use of arbitration courts. I have been acutely conscious during the last year that the Minister of Labour has only certain bottles of medicine and certain sedatives in his cupboard, and one of these is an arbitration court. For reasons which we can argue about but which definitely exist, certain union people feel great reluctance nowadays to go to arbitration. This is a great disadvantage, whatever the reason, because one must try to find means of resolving disputes in the way which is least painful to industry, to workers and to the country also.
I want to see courts of arbitration become more respectable again in the view of all those concerned. Once or twice in the last 12 months, it would have helped me enormously if I could have got people to go to arbitration. I believe that we could have got just as satisfactory a solution as finally emerged, but it took longer. I hope that the Minister will press forward in this matter, because a gap is being created in what he has at his disposal. I hope, therefore, that he will be able to make progress in finding a way of restoring confidence in this direction.
I know that the charge has been made that it was because of Government intervention that loss of confidence arose, but Government intervention never prevented any arbitration award from taking place. It held up some in the public service, but they were all implemented in full in the end. Therefore, I very much hope, without making a party point, that generally we can get back to a better realisation of the advantages to both sides of the use of arbitration.
I have spent the whole of my time dealing with matters specifically related to the Ministry of Labour and its province in this field, but these are all central to the modernisation of Britain, which, we have been told, is the theme of the Government. If it is, we will certainly support the Government in it. We were travelling rapidly along this road until the election. Where the present Administration can be seen to be also imbued with the need for this, they will receive 543 our ready support. Where, however, they are merely following Socialist ideology, they will receive the most sceptical probing. If they are seen to be running away from the reactionaries within their midst, of whom there are many, they will receive resolute and bitter opposition, too. The Government has real opportunities in this field.
We have opened up new vistas in the last year or two. [Laughter.] Indeed we have. Nobody can deny them on the facts. It is easy enough to laugh, but that merely displays the ignorance of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) in laughing. I have shown during my speech the way in which these policies have been evolving.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
The right hon. Gentleman has made misleading statements about Mr. Woodcock, the attitude of the T.U.C. and the work of the Ministry, and he has made boastful claims which cannot be sub-stantiated. We have let that pass. Now, however, that he has made a personal attack on me, I put this to him. The right hon. Gentleman has asked my right hon. Friend the Minister to say what the Department will do that the right hon. Gentleman did not do. What has the right hon. Gentleman done in organising the forecasting of industrial needs and the need for particular groups of workers in three or four years' time and marrying that up with the training schemes? This will be an essential part of the work of the Department in which the right hon. Gentleman has done nothing. The claims made by him exist on paper and nowhere else.
§ Mr. Godber
The hon. Member merely displays his ignorance once again. He should be aware that we set up a manpower planning department in the Ministry. Indeed, I have referred to its first report. We provided this to the industrial training boards which we set up. We have provided all this. We have set up the boards and have done precisely the things that the hon. Member is saying. It is he who is distorting, and not I. We have been moving a very long way. When the hon. Member studies what I have said, he will find that it is all proved and factual.
The Government, therefore, have real opportunities in this field. We have 544 opened up new vistas. I have no doubt that the Minister means well in his proposals to go ahead and I hope that he will have the courage and the health that he will need in his difficult task both with industry and, perhaps, with some of those who sit behind him.
§ 11.47 a.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. R. J. Gunter)
I should like, first, to thank the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) for his kind words. When, however, he talks about running away, I must tell him that one of the great dilemmas of my Ministry and, indeed, of the whole Administration is that the Conservative Party has run away for 13 years. It was only in the last two years with industrial training and other matters that the Conservative Government started to come to grips with some of these things. We have a lot of leeway to make up.
I want first to deal with industrial training. After all our asides, this is, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, perhaps one of the most important of all things with which we have to deal. I am grateful for the opportunity during the debate on the Gracious Speech, not only to reply, but, I hope, to talk constructively about industrial training, which is of vital importance to the country.
I do not think that there is any serious division of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman and myself on these matters. We may have our different approaches, but the passage of the present Act under the right hon. Gentleman's guidance was in many senses an agreed Measure. We would have approached certain aspects of it differently. We believe that there is sufficient within the existing framework for us to proceed, I hope, with a little more vitality and energy than the previous Government. If I took it aright, the suggestion was made by the right hon. Gentleman that the Government might be considering new legislation in this field.
The Industrial Training Act was placed on the Statute Book only this year and, with the Employment and Training Act, I believe that it gives us adequate machinery for carrying out our policy. I repeat that during the debates upon this Measure earlier in the year there was 545 general agreement. Whilst we were then in opposition, we pressed Amendments on certain points to the length of Division, but it is fair to say that none of these Amendments, if adopted, would have vitally affected the character of the Bill that we were then discussing. While, therefore, a Bill introduced by the present Government might have differed in certain respects from the legislative framework as we now have it, it nevertheless provides a basis for the necessary action.
What we have in mind is that urgent and decisive steps shall be taken to secure the improvement of industrial training in this country. To a large extent, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, this depends on the industrial training boards. I am pushing on with the establishment of further training boards, and I expect to announce the establishment of a training board for the shipbuilding industry during this month. Discussions with a view to the establishment of three more boards are actively going on, with others still in the pipeline.
I am sure that the work of the boards will make fundamental changes to the development of industrial training in this country. There are three objectives which the boards have to carry out: to increase the amount of industrial training undertaken and make it adequate to the needs of the country, to improve the quality of training, and to spread the burden of the cost of training fairly over all the firms in the industry concerned.
Of these three objectives, the one which I have mentioned last is likely to be the first achieved. Under the plans which the Boards are making for raising substantial levies and redistributing grants to the firms undertaking training, we shall fairly soon, I believe, reach the position under which all firms in the industry, or at least those firms over a certain size, are making a fair contribution to the cost of training in their industry, either by directly undertaking training, or by paying levy without getting a grant back, or, very often, by a mixture of both. The operation of the levy grant system will also stimulate firms to do an adequate amount of training. Otherwise they will have to pay more in levy than they get back, and in this I believe that the influence of the boards will be fairly rapid.
546 As regard the quality of the training, perhaps this is the most important objective of all. I find myself somewhat in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. In this there will have to be a certain measure of patience. It will be inevitable that we shall have to be patient. The boards will have to build up their staff of qualified people and to work out in detail the standards which they will require firms to work to as a condition for the receipt of grant. I am sure that they will push on with this with all speed, but I am convinced from the survey I have made that we must give them the time to do the job properly—and we must have the job done properly.
I need not emphasise to the House that the work of the boards will have very considerable repercussions on education. We shall take fully into account the increased demand for further education courses which will inevitably result from the duty laid upon the boards when making recommendations about industrial training and also to recommend that further education be associated with the training. In carrying out this duty, the boards will, of course, have the benefit of the advice of the education members of the boards.
We shall pay particular attention to the need to increase the number of boys and girls given day release to enable them to spend sufficient time on their studies. Over the whole range of their work, the boards will have the benefit of the advice and guidance of the Central Training Council. I am glad to be able to tell the House that the members of the Council have already shown that they propose to take an active and stimulating interest in the development of industrial training, and I am sure that their survey of the whole field of industrial training will be of immense value to the boards in developing the programme of action for their various industries.
The Council will be particularly valuable in relation to topics which are of interest to all the boards, such as clerical and commercial training, and research into the techniques of training. The Council has already taken steps to establish committees to deal with these subjects.
Ultimately, the industrial training boards will have to take a large share 547 of the responsibility for the retraining of adults who are changing their type of employment in response to the changing developments in industry and to the continuing advance in technology of all kinds. But, in view of the extent of their responsibilities, we must expect that the boards will turn their attention first to the training of new entrants into the industries. In the meantime, the vital needs in the field of training or retraining of adults must not go by default. A great deal of such training is, of course, being done by industry itself—far more, indeed, than industry often gets the credit for. But this needs to be supplemented, particularly to help those who have missed the opportunity of apprenticeship in their youth, or those who have had to leave a declining industry, or who, because of disablement, need to be trained in order to resettle in a skilled job.
It is here that the Government training centres come in. Again I am ready to admit, if it is of any satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman, that we are building on foundations laid by our predecessors. The planned expansion of the training centres will be completed next year and by then will enable up to 12,000 workers to be trained or retrained every year, but the question we must ask in the present circumstances is, is that enough? There are many reasons for thinking that it is not. On the one hand, we have the constant shortage of skilled workers which has been experienced in the post-war period, and, on the other, the redundancies which have been occurring and are to be expected in industry with changes in economic development and the development of invention and new techniques.
The Government are, therefore, undertaking an urgent survey of the needs of the situation. In the light of that survey, we shall not hesitate to take bold and imaginative action to meet the country's essential needs. I would emphasise that on this matter there is felt by the Government a real sense of urgency and we shall give very great attention to it.
If I may turn to the opening statement of the right hon. Gentleman—this is on the Rookes v. Barnard issue—I felt that he was a bit out of character. He does not look like Satan at all and 548 Satan was trying to rebuke sin. I have the feeling that the right hon. Gentleman made his impact upon the Ministry of Labour, but perhaps he will best be remembered as the Minister who lost the greatest opportunity of all time. The right hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but this summer the right hon. Gentleman could have done what was logical. He could have restored the position that we all thought had existed and then, hand in hand and—with his friendly character—walking side by side, he could have had his inquiry. I say this with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman. I have to pick up the threads. I have to try to create a new atmosphere in which we can come to grips with the problem. We are going to redeem our pledge to the trade unions, and this Bill which we propose to introduce will deal with the unsatisfactory situation created by the judgment in the case of Rookes v. Barnard.
Various interpretations have been placed on the consequences which flow from that judgment. Sometimes the right hon. Gentleman has thought that they are going to be dramatic, and at other times he has not thought so. His general attitude this morning was that of course there was not much of a problem. The real issue is that we are in complete confusion. We do not know where we are. I hope that I shall not offend any of the members of the legal profession present today if I say that I have read half a dozen of their briefs on this matter, and that I am more confused now than when I started. Because of my trade union background, I thought that I understood what the row was all about, until it was interpreted to me in so many different ways.
I think that the logical course is to seek as far as we can to restore the position which everybody thought existed. Following that, we can see whether we can do what the right hon. Gentleman missed the opportunity of doing, namely, have a look, not into the trade unions, not into all the things that are alleged about them from the other side, but into whether we can sit down together—employers and trade unions—perhaps with an independent authority, to consider the place and the purpose of the trade unions in a modern society; to 549 have a look at the position to see where we stand. In other words, to catch up with 50 years of history.
There is no doubt in my mind that we must have clarification. The matter ought to be clarified in such a way that the individual worker and the trade union official have freedom of action to perform the legitimate functions which it has been believed they have had for the last sixty years. We must consider carefully what precise amendment should be made to achieve the objectives that I have mentioned, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in these matters consultations will take place. We are consulting the British Employers Confederation and the trade unions to see how far we can go. The principle at issue here is clear, and we see no need for an inquiry on this point, whatever be the need for a broad survey in the future. The right hon. Gentleman knows my attitude on these matters. I hope to clarify the situation, and then proceed to the next stage.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Is the right hon. Gentleman going to advocate that trade unions and their officials should have special legal protection which other citizens cannot get in relation to the laws of contract?
§ Mr. Gunter
That is the basis of a false proposition. All I am saying is that it did not bother hon. Gentlemen opposite for half a century. They understood that a certain position existed. All I am saying is that we shall seek to clarify it, and that the precise terms of the amendment must be left until we have had our consultations.
I propose now to say a word about severance pay. The right hon. Gentleman drew attention to the fact that this was not specifically spelt out in the Queen's Speech. I thought that the Economic Statement made it clear that we regarded it as a matter of great urgency to deal with this problem, and we propose to deal with it in that way.
For the reasons outlined by the right hon. Gentleman this morning, the pace of technological change in industry is increasing all the time. We shall also have to face changes in the structure of our industry due to economic causes. If this change is to be carried out properly, it will, inevitably, call for a greater degree of mobility than we have had 550 for many years. This process of change cannot go forward as smoothly, as easily, and as quickly, as we would like unless we secure the co-operative attitude of industry at all levels.
I could not agree more with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that in these matters one often arrives at conclusions at the higher level, but somehow or other they never get down to the grass roots. Without trying to score points, I say that management must show initiative, because the initiative cannot come from the trade unions. It must come from the management.
We must make sure that in this process we do not leave individual workers affected to pay the price in loss of security and in many other ways. We must not ask or expect them to pay the price for our general economic progress. We must make much better arrangements than exist now for safeguarding the interests of workers in industry and those displaced by redundancy, and this demands action on many fronts.
First, there must be better financial provision for the redundant worker. At present, the great majority of workers in this country face a very sharp decline in their incomes when they lose their employment. It is no use anybody expecting the trade-unionist, or the worker, to participate in changes for the general well-being of the country if he knows full well that he is going to be asked to pay the price by being thrown out of a job and having to reduce his standard of living.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Sutton Coldfield)
Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to the question asked by my right hon. Friend about whether he was going to have an inquiry into the trade unions?
§ Mr. Gunter
I have given all the answer that I propose to give, for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman understands very well indeed.
One of my tasks is to prevent financial hardship during any unemployment which may follow redundancy. We need improved provisions for unemployment benefit, and the Government have announced what they propose to do.
It is not enough just to shield the redundant worker from actual privation during unemployment. There are many 551 other hazards which follow loss of employment, beyond the immediate financial one. There is loss of security, particularly for the long service worker who, under the principle of "last in first out" might have expected to be reasonably secure in his old employment. There may well be a long term fall in earnings. There is the destruction of the working group to which the worker has been accustomed, and the need to make a fresh start in unfamiliar surroundings. All this is bound to mean worry and uncertainty for those affected.
It is because of those factors that the Government take the view that the long service worker has the right to compensation when he loses his job because of economic circumstances affecting his employer. As the House knows, this principle has long been accepted for managerial and executive staff, and I am one of those who spent a long time believing that what is good for them is certainly good for my people. What has been a good principle for managerial and executive staff must now be applied to all those who work in industry.
It is true, of course, that the more progressive employers have recognised the justice of that for some time. There has been a useful growth of redundancy schemes in many areas in industry which make some provision for severance payments in the event of redundancy. But progress is very slow. In manufacturing industry, five workers out of every six still have no assurance that they would receive any compensation if they became redundant. Even the minority who are provided for can expect treatment of widely varying standards, according to which employer they work for.
There are other employers who, although they have not made any formal provision for compensating redundant workers, are prepared to do this when the actual emergency arises. But this is the wrong way to do it. The proper course is for the employer to introduce a redundancy scheme in advance. And for Heaven's sake let there be the fullest consultation with the workers. This should be a normal part of good management practice. These discussions should take place, on redundancy agreements and otherwise.
552 The Government intend to take urgent action to bring about an improvement in the situation, and will be entering into immediate consultations with industry as to the best means of doing this.
Forward manpower planning is also essential. If this is done a potential redundancy can often be minimised or avoided altogether by adapting recruitment policies or arranging alternative work. It is also important for employers to give the longest possible warning to workers who become redundant and to provide reasonable facilities during the period of notice, for them to look for work.
§ Mr. Monslow
I admire the principle which my right hon. Friend is now adumbrating. Will he extend it to redundant Members of Parliament?
§ Mr. Gunter
I reflect on my own majority, and find that I do not want to enter into a discussion on that question.
As I was saying, if these consultations take place potential redundancy can often be minimised. What I beg management to do is to give the longest possible notice, and to enter into friendly, helpful and constructive negotiations.
In the present situation I would like to see far closer co-operation between employers and employment exchanges. The employment exchange service can be most helpful in areas where redundancies occur, and if they are consulted well in advance of the actual point of redundancy they can provide great help. The great changes which are taking place, and must take place, in our industries offer a real prospect of revolutionary advances in our standard of living and in the whole quality of life of our community, but they will at the same time create great stress in industrial relations. Times of change are difficult times, and there must be a conscious effort and a sense of urgency about management and unions working together for the increase of productivity that under present circumstances is within their grasp.
I sometimes wonder whether we do not become so closely involved in the immediate difficulties—in the assessment of the practical problems which are before us—that we fail to reflect on the very great opportunities which are before the British people at present, with their genius, their skills and their maturity. There are great opportunities before us. 553 Employers have the opportunity of bringing before the workers today not only the problems but the hopes for the future. I therefore suggest that they should take the workers far more into consultation.
Many firms are playing what might almost be called a noble part in this comparatively new field of consulting workers on policy matters. I wish that many more would do this, for the creation of the right atmosphere would solve many of our problems.
I believe that a higher status for the manual worker in industry can make a great contribution. There are still too many indefensible distinctions between the conditions of manual workers and what are called the "staff". We need to continue to press forward the advances which have been made in recent years in such things as sick pay schemes, guaranteed earnings, pension provisions, and all those benefits which are somehow always the right of the staff but seem to be benefits which employers are often reluctant to extend to the main body of producers. The Government will do all they can to encourage these developments, and will be looking particularly at the problem of the loss of pension rights on change of employer, and the possibility of introducing wider arrangements for preserving or transferring occupational pension rights.
The right hon. Gentleman was right; we must have the highest possible degree of mobility in industry. To do that we must ease the passage of workers changing jobs. We must let our workpeople know that justice will be done, and that if, in the national interest, they will undertake to move, perhaps from their homes and perhaps away from their traditional skills, we are prepared to guarantee as far as possible that we will give them the social justice that they have not had in any other periods of change over the last few centuries.
In the last part of my speech I turn to the question of restrictive practices. It is a common idea in certain areas that all restrictive practices are the sins of the trade unions.
§ Mr. Gunter
I am looking behind the hon. Gentleman. Restrictive practices 554 are not confined to trade unions. Indeed, they are more devastating in their effect in certain professions than they ever have been in the trade unions.
§ Mr. Gunter
That is rather a closed shop, although it has been opened a little lately. Let us get it clear that this attitude of mind of blaming one side or the other will not get us very far. What we do know is that restrictive practices of any sort which impede the growth and prosperity of this country ought not to exist and should be swept away.
This is a difficult problem, but let us be clear about it. If we are to have efficient use of manpower there must be a lot of new thinking about many practices on both sides of industry. I have no doubt that cutting out wasteful methods of using manpower is one of the major problems facing us today, and we must deal with it. We are lagging behind many industrial countries in the efficient use of the skill at our disposal. Restrictive practices and the insistence on over-rigid demarcations between jobs have contributed to the problem. I say that we cannot afford these practices. If we are to enjoy the benefits of this revolution we need a breath of fresh air streaming through the whole of our industrial practices—and that applies to employers as well as employees. I know the work that the right hon. Gentleman has done in this matter. I congratulate him upon it and I hope to continue it, although perhaps not in exactly the same way. But it is in this field that we must get to grips with both sides of industry.
Let us get the problem in perspective. While restrictive practices are important in some parts of industry—and I do not want to underrate this—I am sure that most knowledgeable employers would agree that the major problem is not the restrictive practices which are recognised for what they are by all those concerned, but rather the tacit acceptance by management and workers alike of working methods that have become traditional, just because they have become accustomed to them. It is not just a question of adjusting labour deployment here and there, in search of short-term improvements. There is sometimes a conspiracy between employers and trade unions to cover up, and I beg them to realise that if we are to do the things 555 which we want to do they had better have another look at them.
Management cannot make progress here without the co-operation of the workers and their representatives. This means that changes must be carefully sold to the workers, and a long process of consultation, explanation and persuasion may be involved. This was well exemplified in the productivity agreements reached at Fawley, which have been so widely publicised, and there are, of course, many other firms which have achieved significant results in terms of increased productivity by doing some fundamental rethinking about their labour deployment, in consultation with their workers.
I should like, finally, to offer a word on the part that can be played by management consultants, who have sometimes complained that they receive very little help or recognition from Whitehall. I am sure that the special expertise and the concentrated attention which the consultant can offer to hard-pressed management can be of vital importance in tackling problems of labour utilisation. I hope that this special and expert knowledge will be used increasingly by, particularly, some of our smaller firms.
I would conclude by saying that while we have these problems, the Ministry of Labour must inevitably play a major role in finding the path, in terms of human understanding and good relations, for their solution. But, I repeat, the opportunities are so great that we dare not miss them and anything that stands in the way, hallowed by history or tradition, ought not to count and ought now to be done away with. We should rethink our place in the world.
Let me repeat that I think that this nation has as great a rôle to play in this period of technical revolution as she has ever had. We have the tools, we have the men, we have the skills; what we want is the right atmosphere now. While we in this House cannot solve the problem we can pass whatever legislation we like. What is desperately needed within industry itself is not, I would say, a break with tradition but a continuing reassessment of all our practices and thoughts about the relationship of both 556 sides of industry. If that be largely a matter of the spirit, I hope that both sides of industry will join together now, forgetting the sometimes bitter atmosphere of pay negotiations, and will appreciate that we have a great and wonderful opportunity. If together we can canalise and harness all that our technicians and scientists have given us, this country can go very far.
§ 12.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Griffiths (Smethwick)
At this moment I feel much in need of the indulgence which this House normally so kindly grants to those who address it for the first time. The comments of the two right hon. Gentleman on the question of training and retraining of workers in changing industries is of very particular application to my own constituency of Smethwick, in that its industries date back to Boulton and Watt, back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
If we are to maintain our industrial prosperity there must be continuous change, and in such continuous change difficulties are created for workpeople in industry. The younger workers in the prosperous West Midlands area do not find it very difficult to obtain new employment. There are many opportunities for them. But the older workers, particularly those over the age of 50, find it extremely difficult to adapt themselves, to develop new skills which are needed in a completely new field of operation.
The older worker is often less mobile and less adaptable. Therefore, I would respectfully suggest that very special attention should be paid to this question of the suitable retraining of older workers so that they can find not only openings in industry but openings suitable to their skills, suitable to their status and also openings in new industries which give suitable security to a man who has a family and wide responsibilities.
The town of Smethwick is densely built up and many of the younger citizens have been forced, because of lack of modern housing, to move out of the town. Therefore, the national problem of the ageing population is highlighted in Smethwick. I would respectfully suggest that, here again, there is a need for a very thorough investigation of the living conditions of the elderly and, more particularly, of the living conditions of widows in ageing communities. It is 557 essential for us to have all the facts and information fully available so that the House may at a suitable time ensure that help is both timely and effective.
If I might proceed from the question of ageing industries to ageing houses, I would point out that Smethwick is the second most densely built-up county borough in Britain. There is no room in Smethwick to build a single new house. Unless there is clearance and development there can be no building. For this reason I welcome the suggestion which has been made that special aid should be made available to those areas which have particular problems. Certainly, if any proposals can be made for speeding up the relief of the housing problem in towns like Smethwick, I would welcome them.
In Smethwick there are 4,000 families waiting to be rehoused despite the fact that there has been an accelerated housing programme in the town. It is no wonder, then, that in Smethwick the No. 1 social problem is that of housing. One cannot force a quart into a pint pot.
Housing and social problems exist in many of our great cities. Those problems in Smethwick have been aggravated over the past few years by the inflow of large numbers of people from overseas, many of whom have social standards different from those of our own people. However, I want to make it quite clear to the House that there is no resentment at all in Smethwick on the grounds of race or colour. I can assure hon. Members that the people in my constituency are as warm and as welcoming towards strangers as are those of any other community in the British Isles. At the same time, I must make it clear that the people of Smethwick are vitally concerned about the length of the wait for housing. They are concerned about overcrowding and insanitary conditions. They are concerned about the pressure of already overlarge classes and, dare I of all Members say this, they are also concerned about questions of health.
It would be hypocritical of anyone to ignore these problems or to try to pretend that they do not exist. It is essential that all those who seek to represent people or to speak for them should be honest and face up to these problems and discuss them rationally. I make the 558 appeal that they should be discussed without undue emotion. I can assure hon. Members that the local council in Smethwick is courageously and positively facing up to the problems of the town. It is seeking to solve these problems, and I have, on every occasion, called for the most active co-operation between the members of all races in the town.
May I crave the indulgence of the House to say that the Smethwick Conservative Party and the electors of Smethwick have shown, I am sure, that they are convinced that the control of immigration is vital to racial harmony. I ask this House to judge the people of Smethwick and their Member on first-hand knowledge of the Member and the town, rather than on second-hand reporting which is often exaggerated. I know of no cause for shame arising from the Smethwick election. There was a democratic choice, a free election. There was every opportunity, with no fewer than four candidates, for full discussion and full expression. The electors of Smethwick made up their minds on all these issues, just as did the electors in every other constituency. They have the right to choose and they exercised that right. No doubt in the not-too-distant future they will have the opportunity to confirm that choice or to make a change. Until then, may I respectfully suggest that we in this honourable House address ourselves, without personal rancour and without animosity, to the real tasks which face us.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
Like many other hon. Members, I have received a considerable amount of advice about how I should make my maiden speech. Some of it I propose to follow. One thing that I have been told I must introduce into my speech is an expression of humility due from a new Member. Who could fail to express humbleness in view of the great ones who have passed before in this House, not to speak of the galaxy of talent which I am joining? Indeed, who could express anything but humbleness in view of the considerable tasks which will confront this House and the new Government in the years ahead?
I understand that another convention is to refer to one's constituency and this I do gladly. I have lived in my con- 559 stituency for many years. I wish to deal later in my speech with a problem of the gravest importance for Willesden as indeed for many other constituencies. It is one thing which I have in common with the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) and it is the problem of housing. The constituency of Willesden, East—or perhaps one should speak of Willesden as a whole—is a borough without great historical records, although its history as a local Government unit goes back for at least a thousand years. It has suffered considerably from the failure to plan the expansion of London following the arrival of the railway age a century or so ago. It is a borough which, because of a high concentration of industry and its situation—straggling across the communications in and out of north-west London—suffers considerably from overcrowding and congestion. In the movement of population in the country, Willesden is a magnet and it is one of the most congested areas in Greater London.
Because about two-thirds of the area was built up anything between 60 and over 100 years ago, Willesden, like many other twilight areas, suffers from a considerable housing problem. We have the problem of ageing school buildings, the lack of playing fields and other amenities. The population of Willesden is mobile. The area has attracted immigrants from within the country and from abroad for many years. There has been a considerable influx of people from the Commonwealth in the past decade, though I am glad to say that the name of Willesden has not become notorious.
I wish to deal with some of these problems. I make no apology for speaking about housing, a subject which has been well debated in this House as it has been in Willesden, in London and throughout the country. There are other problems relating to industry, education and the welfare of various sections of the community. All these are being faced with considerable courage and patience and are being tackled with tenacity by many sections of the community. We have a fine reputation in respect of services for old people. About £20,000 a year is spent by the Willesden ratepayers, through their local council, on 560 welfare work, and this apart from many funds which are subscribed to voluntarily. We have been experimenting with expansion in the sphere of education so far as possible in the face of grave limitations. We have actively sponsored social service work which has involved members of the local council and its officers.
We have been particularly active in our efforts to do something about race relations. During the past six or seven years there has existed the Willesden International Friendship Council. This is not, as are so many such bodies, merely an advisory organisation. Essentially the council is a working body. People of all races assemble together, not merely to talk, but to decide what they are to do in the community.
I wish to turn to the major problem of housing. I have indicated briefly the kind of background which exists in Willesden—aged buildings, congestion and bad planning. Because of this, and at this moment, perhaps, more than any other, it gives me considerable pleasure to have been elected a Member of this House when the new Government have indicated their intention to embark on new programmes for new towns, on regional planning, the reintroduction of security of tenure and rent control; at a time when the Government plan to expand the modernisation and improvement of houses. For 13 years—that is perhaps a coincidental phrase—as an active member of the local council I have been advocating precisely such measures. For 13 years, for various reasons which it would be controversial and therefore improper to mention, nothing has been done about new towns and regional planning in our area. It gives me great pleasure to be here, involved, or about to become involved, in this kind of work.
I start by saying some of the things which in a very small voice in one district council in London I and others have been saying for many years. There are some difficulties which one finds when one is speaking about housing problems which one tends to overlook or to speak of only in very general terms. I should like to speak of some of them and perhaps make a few suggestions to the House which no doubt I shall have the opportunity of pressing in more detail, when I 561 am more experienced, in Committee and elsewhere.
We all know of the serious shortages in the building industry. We know, for example—and we are experiencing this in my own district—that we have to order certain types of bricks over a year ahead and to order others as much as six months and eight months in advance. We know that there is a serious shortage of copper tubing essential to modern plumbing. In fact, there is a shortage generally of plumbing equipment for any new house.
There is a whole heap of things for which there is a waiting period of two, three, four or five months, and so the building programme has to be slowed down. It is often overlooked that the target for next year of 400,000 houses was originally the target for 1964, but that will not be achieved because of these shortages, among other reasons. There is also overwhelmingly a problem of shortage of craftsmen in housing construction.
There is the problem of dealing with modernisation, which is often talked about far too glibly. Those who have been involved in the problem of trying to buy up houses to convert and modernise and improve at local authority level know only too well the serious difficulties which we face in trying to get contractors, in recruiting craftsmen to our direct labour force, to get these jobs done. We want to do this in thousands of homes in the borough, but we cannot get the craftsmen, we cannot get the contractors even to price for the jobs in a sensible way because in many instances they do not want them; for they know they cannot carry them out. This is not surprising when one remembers that in the London area 25 per cent. of the building labour force is involved in building offices. This is a problem which runs into thousands and thousands of dwellings in my own borough, not to speak of the other boroughs in greater London and the other big cities of this country.
Without something being done about this we shall not get an improvement to the thousands of dwellings in the twilight areas of this country. This is simply a statement of fact. One has to give some kind of priority and I for one am not frightened of the word "control". The 562 same situation arises on a different level. We have a shortage of design staff, architects, structural engineers, civil engineers, electrical and mechanical engineers, heating and ventilating engineers to do the design work, either to put up new buildings or to improve old ones. We cannot get the trainees. They are unwilling to enter training courses. This is because of the high cost to would-be trainees—and the pay they get at the end of their training is not particularly good compared with that in other professions.
I do not propose to elaborate on another aspect of this—the price of land and property. This has been well advertised and well debated, though I will make some brief reference perhaps later on. This whole series of shortages in craftsmen, in design staff, not to speak of land, makes it impossible to carry out forward programming at local level. We may talk in terms of a five-year programme but we find in practice that we cannot get the work done and the whole programme is put out of gear. While we are buying houses, certain works are being slowed down and the programme gradually accumulates. Many houses have to wait. This is being repeated throughout many districts in London because these shortages cannot be overcome.
It is for this reason that I look forward to the steps which will be taken to bring down or control the level of the prices of land, and I look forward more particularly to the effects of the decision announced within the past few days to control office development in London. In the few days I have been here this has delighted me perhaps more than anything less becasue—and I repeat the words—literally for 13 years some of us have been advocating this at local authority level, knowing that it is a basic cause of the problem in London.
The first of my suggestions is that it might be necessary to do two things further in this control of office development. It may well be necessary, even where permissions are granted, to tie those permissions to a given date some time ahead, based upon the availability of resources in given areas of the country or in given areas of greater London. In my own district—and I have no doubt other districts experience the same kind of thing—we have shortages being made worse as a result of planning permission 563 going ahead in huge office blocks on the edge of a borough and drawing in workers and craftsmen and design staff from the local authority level, thus making it more difficult, even while I am speaking, to get these jobs done. It may be necessary to tie these permissions to some date ahead when one can see some easing of resources in certain areas.
While we are tightening up on the control of office development in London we should look very carefully into the possibilities of re-zoning fairly quickly some of the areas in central London which have gone over to commercial use and office development over the last 10 to 15 years and, indeed, shortly before the war. There are residential areas in central London where houses which are being used as offices could be turned back to housing use on a large scale. I also suggest that in recruiting design staff particularly, as well as some of the higher levels of craftsmen, serious consideration should be given to Government training grants and planned career prospects at the end of their training in order to attract and encourage people into this field.
One other shortage which is of very serious importance is the shortage of public health inspectors in this country. I will not deal with the work they have to do other than in housing. If we are to deal with the twilight areas in this country then the number of public health inspectors in the big urban districts has to be trebled and quadrupled over the next five to ten years. I do not say this will bring quick results, but it must be done. It has been estimated by one of the professional organisations that there is a shortage of 400 to 500 public health inspectors in this country. I think that this is a gross under-estimate. It is based probably on the establishments local authorities have but cannot fill, and those establishments are based on a realistic assessment of the people available.
If one were to build up establishments based upon the problems to be dealt with, then one would need to quadruple the establishments of many borough councils. Something must be done speedily to increase the number of trainees entering this profession, possibly by reducing the length of training from four to two years by some kind of crash programme, and also to transfer some of the routine duties 564 to what have been described as technical assistants. Then, in three or four years' time, we might begin to see a building up of staff.
I want to deal, although only briefly, with one or two other ways in which the problem of the twlight areas can be eased. One way would be by introducing what I call control areas in the older parts of our cities, so that we reverse the process under the 1964 Act, whereby the local authority has to go to find a house before it can put on a control order. Under a control area procedure we should require the registration with the local authority of properties which are to be sold or let so that it knows what is going on from the moment it begins.
If we are to deal with the twilight areas it is vital to expand the kind of work being done under the comprehensive development area procedure within town planning legislation. It is not sufficient, as has been the practice in the past, for the Minister to confirm such comprehensive development areas only when he or his advisers are convinced that the areas are virtually slum clearance areas. The Town Planning Acts do not refer to slum clearance areas but to obsolescent areas, among other things. If we are to get control over what is going on in such districts throughout the country, we need a greater elasticity of administration in the application of the law. We do not need to amend the law, but we need to be prepared to consider the application of the comprehensive development area procedure well ahead of the full decay of the areas with which we are concerned. The local authority can then come in with redevelopment and improvement and with much easier control of multi-occupation than it is able to exercise now.
What is more—and I say this without wishing to be controversial—by the establishment of the comprehensive development procedure on a wider basis we can begin to get control, in certain very important areas, of land values. Those hon. Members who follow the application of the law in this matter in detail know that existing use value is the basis for the purchase of properties in declined comprehensive development areas. I suggest that where such areas have been declared—and in order to avoid the kind of experience which we have had throughout the country in areas which are subject to 565 major development or redevelopment outside the normal comprehensive development control procedure—we can bring prices and values under reasonable social control by expanding this procedure. But that is not my prime purpose in referring to the matter.
As a result of my election to the House, I intend to make my interests far wider than they have been in the past, but I felt that it was my duty, based on a long experience of my local authority, to deal first with this prior need of the people of Willesden, and to put forward suggestions which, crudely as they may have been expressed with my lack of experience of the House, are nevertheless based upon the personal experience of myself and of the officers in Willesden and, I have no doubt, in many other similar areas where they are trying their best to deal with what I earlier, and accurately, described as an overwhelming problem. We have not the staff, the material, the craftsmen or the local authority members to handle this problem adequately, and it is up to the House and the Government, and myself as a Member of the House, to do as much as we possibly can in the future to assist in this job at local authority level—and indeed, more than I fear has sometimes been done in the past.
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)
Like the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), I crave the indulgence of the House in speaking here for the first time.
May I first say a word about my distinguished predecessor, Sir Edwin Leather, who served in the House for fifteen years. His many friends, both here and outside, will, I am sure, remember his vigorous speeches and the great service which he gave, and, indeed, the sacrifice of his health, in serving his constituency. The best tribute I can pay to Sir Edwin Leather is to say that I will do my utmost to maintain the high standard of service which he set.
North Somerset is a thriving, prosperous, rapidly-growing constituency. It may be called a partnership between the old England and the new. We have the old-established industries of agriculture and coal mining, which are making a 566 substantial contribution to our national prosperity, while we also have many people employed in the new industries of the second industrial revolution. We take pride in the fact that each year hundreds of young families are achieving their ambition of moving into the first home of their own.
It has been rightly said that the area around the Bristol Channel provides one of the outstanding growth points of the next decade. We welcome the opportunity, but we are also conscious of the problems which challenge Britain. Two proposals which many of my constituents view with great concern are those arising from the Local Government Commission on local government boundaries in northeast Somerset and those to build an iron ore jetty in the Bristol Channel opposite Portishead. I shall take an early opportunity of bringing to the notice of the Ministers who will have to make decisions on these matters the very strong feelings of my constituents and myself.
The Gracious Speech refers to the Government's plans for the future of the social services, and I should like to say a few words about them. I hope that in their social programme the Government will pay special attention to the needs of constituencies such as mine, where there is still an enormous demand for new houses and new schools, owing very largely to a rapidly rising population. We are certainly grateful for the progress which has been made in providing families with new and modernised homes, but the shortages and the bad houses which remain stand out even more by contrast. Equally, the more new schools we have, the more the old and inadequate schools stand out by contrast.
The growing population and the rising expectations mean that we must go faster still in the future if people's hopes and ambitions are not to be disappointed. In caring for the elderly, the sick and the handicapped, I am sure that we all acknowledge the special debt which we owe to those who have helped to build up the standard of living which our country now enjoys. After all, they were working at a time when saving was very much more difficult than it is today. It is not only cash which matters but also care.
567 One of the stark facts of life in Britain today is the fact that there are more than 1 million old people living alone. If they are not to be desperately lonely they need not only the services of the State and local authorities but also the care of their families and the companionship of the voluntary services, meals on wheels and so on.
Equally important are the organisations which provide T.V. sets, make regular visits, arrange short car trips and various other things. One aspect which gives me special pleasure in this respect is the extent to which young people are now helping the aged; the extent to which they make weekly visits to old people. Both generations are benefiting from the companionship and mutual help which is resulting from this
All these are admirable efforts to relieve loneliness when older members of a family are separated from their sons and daughters. They also give outlets to the strong spirit of service which exists among most young people today. It is variety in this kind of partnership between public and private effort which is the key to a complete range of social services. There will always be what one might call the casualties of society, whose welfare will largely depend on the effort of public and voluntary bodies, but there is also a growing number of people with the means and desire to provide for themselves and their families in the way they think best.
I will enlarge on two aspects, first housing, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Willesden, East and, secondly, the welfare services. On the first, young married couples these days no longer want to wait two or three years after marriage before moving into their own homes. Many of them are prepared to make considerable sacrifices to buy and furnish their own homes and I hope that we will continue to encourage the growing ranks of home owners, now not far short of 50 per cent. of all families. Buying a home is a first-class basis for saving, giving people a stake in the country.
We also need more houses to let for those who, for one reason or another, do not want to buy; for example, the young executive with a foot on the ladder of 568 promotion who is necessarily moving about the country a great deal while training. For this and similar persons housing associations are building houses for co-ownership and renting and are filling a gap which at present exists in our housing provision.
Then there are those who need council accommodation, in particular the elderly. Somerset has done a splendid job, building easily run, convenient bungalows or flats where the elderly can maintain their independence, have their possessions around them and yet know that there is a warden nearby if they need help. For those who can no longer manage on their own, the small community home provides care and companionship. Nevertheless, there is in this sphere plenty of room for voluntary effort and I hope that the Government will continue to encourage the work being done by the Abbeyfield Society and similar organisations. Not only are they doing valuable pioneering work but are providing outlets for service in the community.
I wish, finally, to say something about the National Insurance scheme and other benefits. I am sure that all hon. Members welcome the Government's intention to increase these benefits again and to undertake a review of our social security schemes. A review is certainly desirable, it being 20 years since the present pattern was introduced. It is interesting to note that during this century the intervals between major reviews of our social service arrangements have been about 20 years. We had big developments in the early years of the century, again in the twenties, when the contributory principle was introduced, and again in the forties. Past experience, as well as rapidly changing conditions today, suggest that a re-examination is timely.
I will briefly mention four aspects in particular. First, widows' benefits. Hon. Members will be aware of the anomalies which exist in the present arrangements and the feeling of injustice which they create. These are not easy matters, but I hope that special attention will be given to the needs of widows.
Secondly, short-term benefits for sickness and unemployment. I am glad that there is general agreement that these should be more closely related to people's earnings while they are working.
569 Thirdly, perhaps the more difficult, the problem of the long-term sick—the handicapped, unemployable and so on. These are people whose burdens are, perhaps, greater than any other section of the community and I do not believe that we have yet found the answer to giving really effective help and support to them.
Fourthly, pensions. How are we to encourage gradual retirement? I am thinking of something much wider than just the earnings rule. This is a comparatively new problem and a great deal of thought is needed on the ways in which we can avoid the real social problem of people working full time one day and then, in many cases, going into complete retirement the next.
I hope that we will recognise in these reviews the great and growing desire of people to provide for themselves, over and above the schemes organised by the State. On these lines we can develop the concept not only of a just society, which effectively supports the needy, but also of a self-dependent society which encourages saving and thrift.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
When one has to make a maiden speech in the House one has to resist the temptation of explaining in concise detail all that is required to make one's own constituency the happiest and most content in the land. Perhaps it is even more difficult at the commencement of a new Parliament, when one has to more or less relate what one has to say to old problems, which have not been solved or only partly solved, and to new ideas which have not yet been tested. I find myself fortunate in being on the side of the House from which the new ideas are being put forward, particularly since they are remarkably congruous to the idea that they will make a contribution towards making my constituency one of the happiest and most contented in the country.
The debate which is now going on in the House and throughout the country reveals that the Gracious Speech is an inauguration of a brand new era. I believe that, because of the debate and the Gracious Speech, our people now see more clearly perhaps than ever before that we have dawdled far too long with the Conservative Party and that the time is now ripe for us to stride forth 570 with this brand new, courageous Labour Administration. I am sure that the Gracious Speech itself is a vote of confidence in the resourcefulness of our people. What is more, I believe also that it is not only a plan for economic progress but perhaps—even more important—a formula for human happiness.
I was pleased to hear in the Gracious Speech of the Government's intention to enlarge educational opportunities. This is one of the most important aspects of the future not only of my constituency but of the nation. I am reminded of this when I visit my constituency. On the housing estates of Northolt and Green-ford one sees very many children—as one always does on council housing estates—and one realises then that amongst these children may well be our future scientists, technologists and craftsmen.
But one also realises the grave possibility, because of our stupid system of segregation, imposed upon them by the 11-plus, that we may lose the contributions that these potential scientists, technologists and craftsmen should be able to make. We stand to lose them because of an imbecile test at the tender age of just over ten. Therefore, in the long term—indeed, perhaps, in the not so long term—the removal of this barrier is of vital importance to the nation's future.
I also realise, when I see the playing fields to which these children go and which have been provided by the local authority, how lucky the children are. I have been for years involved in local government in Fulham and I have come to understand that so many lives can be blighted and held back because of wretched housing conditions. Perhaps we in this House from time to time should acknowledge the truly remarkable work which has been done by local authorities in trying to resolve some of the problems they have to face. The sins of this House—like the Rent Act, 1957—in many instances are visited on local councillors. It is they who have to try to get out of the mess which right hon. Gentlemen opposite put us into.
I say in a kindly way rather than in a mood of asperity that the probability is that the 1957 Rent Act was introduced by right hon. and hon. Members who had perhaps more residences than ordinary people had rooms. That may be an 571 excuse and not a condemnation because the Act has caused so much pain and distress for ordinary people throughout the country.
Yesterday we were talking of technology, arguing about aircraft flying across the world at remarkable speeds. I wondered whether we are moving in a sensible, intelligent way. The thought occurred to me because my constituency includes homes in Northolt, Perivale and Greenford. When I visit a home in those districts to listen to a mother, with her children gathered round her, telling me that the family has had notice to quit or an incredible increase in rent, so often we have to pause in the discussion about that family being turned on to the street because of the screech of aircraft overhead. One wonders then whether we are getting our priorities entirely right.
It is grievous to have to say that, behind the clock on the mantelpiece, there can be a letter from a solicitor or a landlord which can strike more terror and frustration into an ordinary home than did the bombs of Adolf Hitler. Those bombs were faced with courage and determination, but what such people are now enduring is far more insidious—and it is a stab from one's own countryman. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I welcome the Government's intention to do away with this evil and pernicious Measure, which has caused so much anxiety and worry in the homes of so many people throughout the land.
I am also delighted that the Government intend to remove prescription charges. I hope that, in this context, I am speaking for the whole House when I say that the National Health Service Act was one of the finest and most civilised pieces of legislation ever introduced. It was one of the things we could be proud of at the time.
At that time, my job was taking me to many parts of Europe and if there was one thing of which I was proud it was the endeavour of our people, just after emerging from a costly and terrible war, to show so much courage and foresight as to acknowledge that what was required in human endeavour was to take care of our sick, the crippled and the maimed. Yet at that time also it might have been argued that we could 572 not afford it. Our reply was that every time is the right time to assist people who are ill or maimed.
We went on to produce a National Health Service which is the pride of the nation and the envy of the world, and it is to be regretted that, in times of even minor emergencies, the Conservative Government decided surreptitiously to attack the Service. It was something I regretted deeply and I believe that it was also regretted by many who supported the party opposite at the time.
The Gracious Speech also refers to the Government's determination to have special regard for… the unique role of the Commonwealth, which itself reflects so many of the challenges and opportunities of the world.The Gracious Speech said that the Government… will foster the Commonwealth connection … and will promote Commonwealth collaboration in trade, economic development, educational, scientific and cultural contacts and in other ways.This is of paramount importance not only to the nation but to the world. As I stood in another place to hear the Gracious Speech I saw, in addition to all the gold and splendour, brown and black men as well as pale-faced men and women. Perhaps the greatest problem which mankind will ultimately have to face is not whether it is to be a Marxist world or a capitalist world, but the fight of racialism and the massive colour problem. As I stood in the other place I realised the opportunities of this nation for being the centre of a great multi-racial Commonwealth and giving guidance to the rest of the world. I believe that there is a message which we should send from the House. It is that we have faith enough in the majority of our fellow creatures to believe that they will help the minority to get over the delirium of nationalism and racialism and class distinction.
When we all realise that freedom and dignity are indivisible and that if they are destroyed, advance on the material plane will not be progress but rather the foundation of a new savagery, when we realise that all the tides of history cry out for the brotherhood of man and that the good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge, when we realise that the capacity for emotional concern 573 for the happiness of any individual, irrespective of race, colour or creed, is the most significant quality of a civilised human being, then and only then will the benediction of world peace become a reality.
Perhaps mankind will then emerge from the dark of the sweating jungle of hate, suspicion, greed and jealousy into a bright new dawn of hope with sparkling encouragement so that we can ultimately dispense with frightened groping and move confidently to the purposeful pursuit of happiness when with each succeeding step we will obliterate every vulgar blemish and create new contentment in the place of haggard fear.
Throughout the Gracious Speech there is a golden thread. I believe that the Gracious Speech will create a spirit of adventure and endeavour at home and that as the people of our country stride forth to the new horizon of the good society upon which we in the Labour Party place so much hope, this in itself will not only be an encouragement to our own people and to the British Commonwealth of nations, but that our endeavours over the next few years will be a model for all mankind.
§ .23 p.m.
§ Mr.George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
I am grateful for the chance to make my maiden speech so early in this Parliament, and I am very glad to be able to make it on a passage in the Gracious Speech which signifies the Government's intention to set up a Highland development board. This has been the policy of the Scottish Liberal Party since 1928, and it is gratifying that the Labour Party has at last come round to thinking along these lines and it is taking action.
I come from Caithness and Sutherland, which is as far north as one can go, with the exception of the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), from which area the infection of liberalism has spread throughout the Highlands. Caithness and Sutherland is a very good example of the problems of the Highlands, because we are at the furthest, end and our transport problems, apart from those of the Islands, are the ultimate.
574 In Caithness and Sutherland, there is a situation rather different from that in the constituencies of hon. Members from Smethwick and Willesden and similar areas. We have 1,700,000 acres and only 40,000 people. Although there has been a temporary arrestment in Caithness, people are still leaving the Highlands of Scotland to crowd into places like Smethwick and Willesden. Without wishing to speak ill of Smethwick and Willesden, I believe that this is a bad move, for the people leave the Highlands only because they cannot find work there. They do not leave the Highlands because they long for the bright lights. They leave purely and simply because they cannot earn their daily bread at home, and so they have to go to where the work is.
We have had one example in the setting up of the Atomic Energy Authority's experimental establishment at Dounreay. It was put there by an accident of technical requirement, but it has shown very clearly what can be done. Many doubts were expressed about Dounreay. It was thought that top scientists would not live there, or that if they would, their wives would not, and that we could not hope to get the engineers and technicians to be happy at being sent to the very far north, as it is regarded down here.
In fact, that has proved completely untrue. Technically, Dounreay has been enormously successful. I understand that we are some two years in advance of the Americans in the production of a fast reactor. Socially, it has also been enormously successful in that people are living in Thurso where the population has more than doubled and where certainly 80 per cent. of them are living there very happily, as I know very well.
This is an example of tremendous value not only to us in the north of Scotland and the Highlands, but to the people in the south. I have been hearing speeches from hon. Members representing the South and concerned with overcrowding. Since 1928, we in the Scottish Liberal Party have been asking for a Highlands development board and the great hope now is that people in the overcrowded South are beginning to see that it is in their interests, as well as those of the people of the Highlands, that we should use the whole of this small island—and it is small, only 700 miles 575 from north to south, so small that if one cares to get up early in London, one can be in Wick by mid-day. The Americans consider that sort of distance nothing, because they have a transport system which makes little of 700 miles.
We should "plug" the enormous social costs. I have some figures about the cost of the new Victoria tube line which is to be used to rush people in and out of London packed like sardines. I understand that on the latest calculation £2,140,000 a year will be lost on this line and that the London Passenger Transport Board will lose another £3,120,000 a year because of the traffic which this tube will take from other tubes and other forms of public transport. For the social benefit of the London area, the London Passenger Transport Board, or whoever subsidises it, is prepared to lose £5,250,000 a year. This sort of money must be very significant when we talk about the money required to subsidise the Highland railway lines to make them efficient and to set up a Highland development authority.
There are other social costs. I understand that some time ago some people stole £2½ million from a railway train down here. One could not steal a bottle of whisky in Caithness without a queue having formed at the door by the time one got home. This is the sort of social cost which must be taken into account in the enormous conurbations being built up in this area. The overcrowding and the social and actual costs, such as transport costs, are obviously extremely significant.
In the North we can provide the sort of environment in a small country where the population can expand. In the Highlands we are not even able to take up the natural increase in population. People have to go south. Enormous areas of land are not being used. I said that we had 1,700,000 acres in Caithness and Sutherland. Caithness is reasonably agricultural and Sutherland is pastoral. Here there is some of the most beautiful country in the world. In Sutherland there is country which people declare to be the most beautiful they have ever seen. But it is also some of the saddest country and it is not being used. Most of its owners own it for entirely the wrong reasons. [HON. MEMBERS: 576 "Hear, hear."] They are mostly Englishmen, I regret to say. They want it for solitude. They buy it for this purpose, and it is entirely against their interests to see any vigorous life or expansion going on there.
Great expansion is possible in agriculture and forestry throughout the Highlands. This is an aspect which can be pursued immediately. The expansion of agriculture by reseeding and by all the new techniques evolved by the North of Scotland College of Agriculture is not only possible but practical, and it is being demonstrated all over Caithness and Sutherland, but particularly Sutherland, by private individuals and by the North of Scotland College.
There will be a period in future when food will be in short supply. The world population is expected to double in 30 or 40 years. I sincerely hope that it does, because if it does not something terrible will have happened. This country imports half its food, and the only place where land which can produce food is available in any quantity is in the Highlands. It is definitely to the advantage of the whole country economically and in the long run to expand agriculture in the North and the reseeding and taking in of land, arterial drainage, and the planting of trees in cooperation with agriculture so that this last reserve of land in Great Britain may be used.
I should like to say one or two things about the composition of the Highland Development Board. It is very easy to set up a board. It is not so easy to make it do the job it is intended to do. What the Government should do is to follow practical examples which exist today. A striking example of a development authority of this sort is the one in the Tennessee Valley, in the United States, which has been going for 30 years. In that time one of the most depressed areas in the United States has been brought up almost to the very high level of the rest of the country. This was done not by what one might describe as a bureaucratic Government board but by a small three man board, given powers and direct federal aid and a federal budget to carry out its plans. It works with the local state governments and with the local county administrations. They are very happy to work with the 577 Authority because it receives a direct grant from federal funds to improve the area.
This is the sort of board which we have been advocating for the Highlands. I do not think it is any use setting up a board the members of which consist of retired politicians or retired colonial governors, or any other of the sort of people who normally constitute Government boards. This is a job for people in the prime of life—people about my age—who want to make this sort of work the crown of their life's work and who want to dedicate themselves to making a good job of it. It does not matter whether they come from industry, the universities, or where they come from.
This idea of developing the Highlands appeals not only to people in the Highlands but to people throughout Scotland. They are all determined that the half of Scotland which is not used, the Highlands, should again be made to prosper. I am sure that from Scotland, the rest of Great Britain, Canada, and elsewhere, we could get the sort of men who would dedicate themselves to this job. They would have a tremendous amount of work to do in planning and execution. The development board should be small, and immense trouble should be taken to find the right sort of man to serve on it, because what matters is not the board but the men on it who can do the job so badly needed of rejuvenating the Highlands.
§ 1.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
I am extremely grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for allowing me to take part in this debate and to make my maiden speech on a subject in which I am deeply concerned and which has been mentioned this morning. I should like to refer to comments made by the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) and the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), who, unfortunately, has just left the Chamber.
I represent the Tottenham constituency. I think that everybody is well aware of Tottenham. It is a famous place for many reasons. Some may say that it has gained its fame as a result of the skill of its footballers and "pop" singers. But there are other reasons for its fame throughout the country. I believe that most of its fame stems from the skill of its people. I refer to the 578 basic industries of the constituency, which are furniture—as many hon. Members know, Tottenham contains the largest furniture manufacturing factory in Europe—engineering, particularly light engineering, and woodwork. Most of the wood carving in this House was done by Tottenham craftsmen. Other places in this building were fashioned by craftsmen from Tottenham who exhibited their skill in this beautiful way. This building is a monument to some of the craft of Tottenham.
This is a fitting occasion to refer to my predecessor but one. He is very well known to Members on both sides of the House. Sir Frederick Messer is still robust in health and enjoys the activities of this House just as much as he did when he was a Member for so many years.
Having listened to three of the maiden speeches before my own this morning, it is ironical to reflect on the maiden speech made by Sir Frederick Messer in the 1920s, because at that time he was speaking about some of the same sort of subjects that have been referred to by some of the maiden speakers here today. It is a sad reflection on our society when, in a debate on technology, we forget some of the basic things and some of those things to which Sir Frederick Messer referred in his maiden speech and which he did so much to alleviate during the years he spent in this House. I feel very humble indeed when I think of the many years of service and the great work which he did during his time as a Member of the House of Commons.
I should like to come a little more up-to-date and to refer to my immediate predecessor. When the election results were announced, most of the national Press and television said that there was no change in the political representation of my Constituency. Most hon. Members will recall that my predecessor sat on this side of the House. I assure everyone present that there was a change in the result and that Tottenham is rightly represented by a Member on the Government side. Therefore, the Press were wrong in saying that there was no change. The difficulties which occurred during my predecessor's membership of the House should be understood.
I wish to refer to two questions which have been raised, but perhaps I might 579 refer briefly to my own background and the reasons why I relate some of these questions to my experience. I served my apprenticeship in engineering, on the shop floor, and later in the drawing office. Like the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), I also became a shop steward. In the last six or seven years, I have enjoyed the academic life of Manchester as a member of the staff of that university. Therefore, I have some experience of the various shades of the spectrum inasmuch as I have been a shop steward for some years from the age of 21 and I also have some knowledge of the academic world, and particularly engineering, to which I served my apprenticeship.
I want to refer to two matters which may be connected with that sort of experience. The first is that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie), in making his maiden speech this morning, was, surprisingly, only the second hon. Member during the whole of the debate on the Gracious Speech to refer to engineers. All hon. Members who speak, including occupants of the Front Benches, on both sides, refer only to scientists and technologists. We never get any reference to engineers who are neither scientists nor technologists in that sense.
I understand that in the last three years there has been agreement between both Front Benches to refer to engineers by name, and yet here we are, at the threshold of a new Britain, with tremendous changes in the technological world, and we fail to mention the very basis and means of bringing about those changes—that is, the engineers. I therefore appeal to members of the Government that whenever they refer in documents to the age in which we live, they should refer to the creators in their order of merit: that is, engineers first, technologists second and scientists third. I hope that we recognise these priorities in the contribution that is to be made by our people.
It is a curious thing that over the years we always talk about our background of engineering. We were at one time, people say, the finest engineers in the world. They refer to all kinds of people from Sir Joseph Whitworth onwards. The point is, however, that we 580 still have some of the finest engineers in the world today and we ought to refer to them as such. I make this point because it is of tremendous importance.
Some hon. Members may not know that whilst there is a long queue and a scramble for university places, most of our schools of engineering have vacancies and are looking for students. Last year, in my own university and in universities in the Midlands, there were vacancies for students to take up engineering and the study of basic science. This is ironical, but it stems, I believe, from the fact that there is a reluctance to talk about engineers. I hope, therefore, that we will overcome this problem and start now to talk about engineers, technologists and scientists. If we do this and if we can get careers people in the grammar and other schools to talk to their students about engineering as a worthwhile career, I am certain that we will encourage some of our better students to come forward to fill the vacancies in engineering, because we are crying out for them.
Unless we get the students to come into the universities now, unless we can persuade our young people to take up engineering, the country will die of technology starvation in about 10 years' time because—and this has nothing to do with the brain drain or anything else of that kind—we will not have a supply of engineers to carry through the programme of which we are talking in the Gracious Speech. I hope, therefore, that we will do something about this.
My final point concerns the question of restrictive practices. I notice that there is a reluctance to define, either quantitatively or qualitatively, what we are talking about when we speak of restrictive practices. I welcome the effort made this morning by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour when he tried to do this, but because it is so vast a subject that he was limited in his qualification. We hear extremely vague references. As my right hon. Friend the Minister said, it is often assumed that restrictive practices are confined to trade unionists. It is here that I want to talk about my past as a shop steward and some relevant problems which will arise in the near future.
Restrictive practices are a result of class conflict. I do not believe, nor do 581 I think that any other student of the problem believes, that there is any possibility of eliminating restrictive practice as long as we have class conflict. In other words, only the creation of a classless society will eliminate this idea of restrictive practices.
I believe that practices of this kind stem from the desire for some kind of protection. I will use the analogy of the Stock Exchange and basic investment to illustrate the point. When we talk about morality in the Stock Exchange, we say that people invest capital there. The whole object of the exercise is, by using a broker or some other means or agency to invest capital, to get the quickest return on the investment as well as getting, presumably, the maximum return. People therefore go to the Stock Exchange and invest their capital to get the greatest return in the quickest possible time. If they do not get conditions which they regard as satisfactory, they have the right to employ whatever restrictive practice they like, by withdrawing their capital or by other means of manipulation or restriction. But those of us who have nothing more than either our brain or our hands to invest in our society are immediately condemned because we say that we will invest this commodity in society for the greatest return in the quickest possible time. Therefore, people start to draw class distinctions. I do not believe that we will eliminate restrictive practice until we eliminate class from our society.
I do not want to deal with monopoly agreements but I prefer to pass on to the labour side and to give an example of what I am talking about. In the Gracious Speech, we are referred to the need to get on with some of the basic problems. In particular, reference is made to problems of housing in London. We have had some Ministerial statements since then outlining proposals for stopping office block building in London and some other luxury building. I, as a trade unionist and as a member of a progressive organisation, very much welcome this, but I would point out to hon. Members and warn the House that we are going to see as a result of that measure the introduction of some restrictive practices.
I say that because those lads who are employed in the building industry and have been employed on big blocks of 582 offices construction are basically involved in wage agreements which are made under civil engineering arrangements. If we are to transfer those building workers from civil engineering agreements to house construction it will mean on average throughout this country a reduction of something like £3 to £4 a week. So I cannot blame the people who are now transferring to building houses for introducing some restrictive practices till we get an accommodation here and some levelling up of their pay in order that they do not suffer as a result of doing more urgent work in building houses, rather than constructing luxury office blocks.
Unless we can adapt our techniques which we are using in civil engineering in the construction of offices of this sort, unless we can use those methods in house building, as I believe we can, then the people who are going to make the greatest contribution to solving the housing problem of this country will be those of our lads who are employed in the building industry, and I think it is wrong that we should ask them to make sacrifices of this kind. So we are going to see as a result of Ministerial statements and changes in our methods and priorities the introduction of some restriction we know about now and which I hope my right hon. Friend will take cognisance of.
The root cause of restrictive practices is insecurity, and it is my final point about this, because as a shop steward I was very much and deeply involved in negotiations concerning the question of piece work. In this country there are some 9 million workers who are casual labourers in the sense that they are paid by the hour. They have no other security whatever and their only pay is for the amount of time which is shown clearly on their clock cards. They are also paid by the method of payment by results, piece work earned.
This is the background, and the reason why there is so much fear and why so many of these practices are introduced. Unless we do something fundamental about changing those kinds of conditions which obtain in our industry we are not going to get our people to change their ideas about restrictive practices.
As has so often happened in the past—and always the classical example is, who 583 is to drill the hole or which trade should do certain jobs—we have failed to recognise that when a situation of dispute between trades comes along the cause of the dispute is that one section of our workers are afraid of becoming redundant and are trying to protect their own jobs and livelihoods and earnings. Therefore, they are right to say, "We demand that we do this kind of work, and we are restricted in our attitude to this, and we will not allow it to be transferred to other sections"—unless either the Government or the employers can say, "We will guarantee some continuity of work for you and so eliminate your fears."
That is the root cause of this thing and this is the thing we have to try to solve. This is the basic problem. Therefore I look forward to the inquiry to which the Minister referred as getting down to this job of investigating some of the reasons why we have these restrictive practices. Take engineering as an example. The skilled man today has a basic rate of just over £10 a week. Most of them work on piece work and they may earn £16 or £17 a week. As a result of work not being available, or some unsuitable work being brought into a factory, there is a reluctance to do this kind of thing and the restrictive practice comes in because the difference between a man's earnings is the difference between the amount he gets for piece work and the basic rate. So he has a vested interest of something like £6 or £7 a week, and he will, therefore, bring in restriction to protect his piece work earnings.
Those are some of the points which I think are important and relevant to the present situation. Those are the sorts of things which ought to be investigated by the various groups now being set up, in order to find an answer to some of these problems. I, as a trade unionist, and my colleagues here with industrial experience, will welcome an inquiry from whatever source it may develop if it is constructive—a creative inquiry likely to bring about a solution and give security to some of those 9 million workers in industry under casual conditions.
I am grateful to the House for being so patient with me and allowing me to get over some of the points which I hope I shall have an opportunity here in the House to debate in some detail on other 584 occasions on the question of how to relate the problems arising from human difficulties to the technological age, because I think that long before we ever get down to discussing some of our technological problems we have to solve some of the human problems which are the key to the whole problem. First things first. The Government are right to say that they will attach the greatest importance to trying to solve some of these difficulties which have existed for many years inside our industry, to trying to solve these in order that we can take full advantage of technological change and adopt these things into our society so that we can move on and pitch ourselves into the second half of the twentieth century.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
Somewhat oddly it falls to me to congratulate a bevy of no fewer than six maiden speakers, of whom the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) is the sixth. I think anybody sitting in this Chamber and listening to the debate in which they have participated would have the highest admiration for the standard of the speeches which they have all made and for the way they have contributed their ideas, some of them fresh, some old ones which we chase time and again here.
All this was started off by my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths), who made, I think, an exceptionally clear and fair speech in, for him, very difficult circumstances, and who made quite clear to the House where he stood on various issues which have been raised here, and in circumstances made difficult for him by the Prime Minister.
He was followed by the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), who, again, made an excellent contribution, particularly about housing, though I wish we could get away from this word "twilight" about certain areas. I go to Willesden from time to time and I certainly do not look upon it as a twilight area of this great City of London.
Then there was the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean). I think all of us will regret that, once again because of illness, there has been the withdrawal of a distinguished Member from this 585 House. He has, however, been replaced by an hon. Member who has given great service to the Conservative Research Department and will, I am sure, carry on the tradition which Sir Edwin Leather set in this House over the past fifteen years.
Again, the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) made an excellent contribution which we all enjoyed. If that was a non-controverial contribution, we look forward to his becoming controversial. Then there was the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie). I spent, as I do every year whenever possible, a week or two north of the Caledonian Canal. I am sorry I am English, since the hon. Member implied that we should not do that sort of thing. After a week up there, when it never stopped raining, I wondered why I ever wanted to come back to the South, to London. I hope that the hon. Member will not have to wonder, after a week or two here, why he ever left Caithness and Sutherland. If he wants to look here for the bright lights and gaiety, may I say that I had the privilege of going on a school cruise to the Baltic and Russia this summer with some pupils of the Thurso High School for Girls, which certainly added to the gaiety, and I am sure that if he wants a bit of gaiety he will find it round about Thurso, if they are any criteria.
The hon. Member for Tottenham seemed to be implying in the first part of his speech that Tottenham liked being on the winning side. We look forward to the next Parliament, in a few months time, when once again the hon. Member for Tottenham will be sitting with the other party on this side of the House. Having worked in recent years on the export side of a great engineering firm, I thoroughly agree with what he said about the position of engineers in this country. I hope that he and I can work together in the months and years ahead to see that the proposition which he put before the House is kept before the public as a whole.
First, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I join with others in congratulating you upon having been elected Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am sure that everyone is absolutely delighted. I am particularly delighted to catch your eye in the 586 circumstances, and I hope that in the future you will enable me to do so again whenever you are in the Chair.
I was tempted to ask for the indulgence of the House at my returning. Someone called me a recidivist for appearing here again, and there is another word which occurs to me which would be out of order, even if I knew the English equivalent for it. Perhaps I might claim the half indulgence of the House and in return not be too controversial, however strongly I feel about some of the issues which face us in this country.
First, I want to thank the people of Cheltenham for giving me the privilege and honour of renewing my membership of this House, and I shall do my best for them, as I did for my constituents in a previous incarnation and try to contribute to their welfare and happiness. Incidentally, from some remarks from one or two members of the Press I think that it might be useful if some of them made a survey of places like Cheltenham. They seem to have rather strange ideas of what happens in some of these great provincial centres. Cheltenham is a centre of light industry and of education and the best technical training in this country. It is a pattern for modernisation and for the export trade. When we get a university there, as I hope we shall before too long, it will be as well set up as anywhere I know in Britain for individuals to live a full life. This is quite different from the out-of-date ideas that some people have of Cheltenham, Oxford, Cambridge and such which are in much the same category. I hope that those who have got their ideas wrong may come and visit us and see what goes on.
There are two points that I want to take up on the Gracious Speech. The first is this:… initiating the longer-term structural changes in our economy which will ensure purposeful expansion, rising exports and a healthy balance of payments.This is the key to the whole future of Britain. I put it to the House and to the Government that this lacks emphasis. It is stuck halfway through the Gracious Speech. Unless we can get all these priorities right, all the rest will turn to ashes. Walking down Victoria Street on Tuesday I saw Press headlines like 587 "rents, health services and pensions". The next newspaper said, "Wilson's crash plan". It will be a crash if we get our priorities wrong and put the handing out of our resources before we give the proper priority to creating them. This latter is what we have to concentrate on, however laudable the aims of handing out our resources may be.
The point is, how are we to achieve these "changes" set out in the Gracious Speech? I came here on Wednesday and listened most eagerly to the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to hear all the brave new ideas that he was to produce in order to get on with the job. In the course of an hour or more of fighting against sleep, I heard the same vague generalisations, restrictions, back to the past, nationalisation and ideas of 19th century Socialism. There were no new practical proposals to meet the realities of the situation which those of us who are concerned with exports face every day. There was none of the incentives and encouragement to ensure purposeful expansion which is required at this moment in this country.
In the past few years, I have been earning part of my living in the export trade, although the points I wish to make are neither directly from my own commercial interests nor do I stand to gain myself financially, I hasten to assure the House, from any suggestions that I shall make. So far as the past is concerned, someone said to me the other day, "We have just got to increase export credit guarantees". It is not as simple as that. Already I believe that this is a particular branch of Government service which has been expanded and developed much in the last few years. It has, I believe, about reached the limit to the extent to which we should risk public money; whether it is privately or publicly earned it is British money which is being risked in this service. The Financial Times in an article last week made this very clear.
Some feel that it might be possible to be quicker in reply to urgent propositions which are put to the Department. This, too, has been recently improved within the limits of response after one examination of risk which, particularly 588 when responsible officials are dealing with public money, they must take. There are two aspects which I hope Ministers will help over and certainly not hinder. The first is this. The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs made clear that cost inflation must be checked. Cost is very often the main obstacle to better export sales. The Measures taken by the last Government in 1961–62, for better or for worse, checked these rising prices particularly for overseas sales. But I believe that these have now about worked through, and we are now facing further difficulties.
I will give one example. I was talking to a friend last weekend. He worked on a profit margin of about 4 per cent. on exports. Recently, he had a 40-hour week agreement put into effect which added about 5 per cent. to his costs, and that meant that he was selling abroad for about minus 1 per cent. The Government export rebate, set out in the Paper last week, of 1½ per cent. will leave him half of 1 per cent. in the black. That is really not enough when one is facing the temptation of earning 6 or 7 per cent. in the same line of country on the home market.
Of course we all want a 40-hour week, but we must take these fringe benefits only when productivity allows. The point has been made by my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Labour. I think that every one in the House will welcome him in his present position. This is a question of timing. I believe that the Government must give priority to see that everybody in industry—I hate the expression "both sides" because we are all in it together—realises the point. We must press on even more urgently with Government action to bring them together to find the positive side to balance the negative side of the import surcharge of two weeks ago.
This Government is just as dependent as any other Government on profits in industry for their taxes. If they are, as has been suggested from the benches opposite, to over-tax profits; first on the individual, lower dividends will mean lower taxes and less savings. This was a point which was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) in the debate on Wednesday. Certainly if they are going to over-tax profits on companies there will be less 589 ability by those companies to carry a lower profit margin, and even losses, on their export sales—one example of which I have just given.
I hope that the Chancellor will look, when he comes to introduce his Budget next Wednesday, or later on in the next year, to the national good and not just pursue some Socialist dogma and impose various forms of savage taxation on the productive side of industry.
There is another point affecting individuals, Which I have discussed with a number of individuals from that relatively small group of men—a few thousands—who go overseas to sell our goods. It is best summed up by a friend of mine who said that about two weeks ago he found himself in the morning being exhorted by a Minister, on grounds of patriotism and so forth, to concentrate on exports. In the afternoon he found himself being abused vicariously as a profit-making capitalist. The next morning he received a whacking tax demand. These individuals are as patriotic as any of us in this House.
The 1962 Finance Act helped these medium-paid executives, yet the present Prime Minister described the then Chancellor's tax reduction on earned incomes as a "vicious act of class warfare". I think that I have got that charming remark right. Surely even Socialists must realise that overseas salesmen want rather a few more £s out of their earned income for themselves rather than to go travelling round the world and giving up their family life, which all of us enjoy? And it is not just these overseas salesmen. It is all the designers, the product engineers and others in this country who are as essential a part of the export effort as those who travel overseas.
The point that I am trying to make is that direct taxation is still too heavy on all these classes of individuals. I do not believe that differential tax rates for them are possible, but I hope and believe that the Chancellor realises this point, and will not increase taxes on these as on other people who are so vitally concerned in the industrial future of Britain on which the prosperity of us all depends.
That brings me to my last point on this sentence in the Gracious Speech. It brings me to the vital need for an incomes policy. The Secretary of State 590 for Economic Affairs told us that there is to be a meeting next week to consider this problem and how it is to be presented to the trade unions, to the management side of industry, and to all others concerned. I do not think that there is any serious disagreement now that all sources of incomes must be included. Dividends as well as wages and salaries should be taken into consideration. Equally, I do not believe that it is impossible to find some form of tribunal acceptable to all to decide some of these difficult points. In this world surely it is not that difficult to achieve this, when one sees how much agreement N.E.D.C. has already achieved.
Knowing the shrewdness of many right hon. Gentlemen opposite who are now in the Government, I am surprised that they have not given greater emphasis and urgency to this point in the Gracious Speech.
My second point concerns the passage at the bottom of page 2 of the Gracious Speech. It says:My Government will continue to play a full part in the European organisations of which this country is a member and will seek to promote closer European co-operation.That again lacks urgency and emphasis, in view of the vital need to improve our accord with Europe. Ever since the war, when I worked with Occupied Europe, I have believed that closer association between Britain and Europe is a top priority. Jobbing back, we did not go fast enough when we had the chance from 1945 onwards. I believe that all parties are to blame, and if any blame is being shared round I am prepared to accept more than my fair share of it. But, in the same way, I am determined from now on to do all that I can to work towards a closer accord, because I believe that on this depends the whole future of Western Europe, including ourselves.
Again, since 1945 I have worked with hon. Members on both sides of the House—here, in non-official organisations, and in business—to promote Commonwealth interests. By the same token, I have always been convinced that the negotiations carried on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) were in the fullest interests of the modern Commonwealth. To anybody who still denies that I say, "Go to Brussels and study the efforts by 591 individual Commonwealth countries to get these benefits on their own which my right hon. Friend was trying to negotiate for them". If it is said that there has been a selling or an abandoning of the Commonwealth, let me say that my memory goes back to the American loan of 1948, which bound Commonwealth preferences. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) and I tabled an Amendment. We voted against the proposal, but we failed. The convertibility of currency followed. The entire American loan disappeared in six weeks. It was converted into a dollar debt, for which we have to pay at the rate of £80 million a year for the rest of the century.
One reason why we do not have a bigger gold reserve after 13 years of Conservative Government is that we had to pay the debt incurred by the Socialists after the war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense.") It is not nonsense. Hon. Gentlemen opposite took the money. They added 40 per cent. to the figure by devaluing the next year. If hon. Gentlemen opposite look at the gold and dollar reserves for June 1948, and October 1948, they will see that there was very little difference in the figures. This is one of the incompetencies of those years of Socialist misrule for which this country will pay for the rest of the century.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Warrington)
The hon. Gentleman is seeking to dwell in the 'forties. He has persistently referred to the Labour Party dwelling in the 'thirties. Will he recognise that, whatever the faults and mistakes of the past, there have been 13 years of Conservative Government, and that the result of that is a deficit running between £700 million and £800 million? This cannot be laid at our door. Would not the hon. Gentleman be more profitably engaged in dealing with the problems of the present, rather than justifying his activities of 13 years ago?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The Socialists are not prepared to confess that they misused the great generosity of the American and Canadian taxpayers in those years. Certainly there are problems today. One is to pay £80 million a year on these loans. In those six years the Socialists 592 received about £400 million a year from American and Canadian taxpayers. They shirk the issues at every turn. They go back 13 years and refuse to face their incompetency of those earlier days.
What we have to do is to press on with practical projects in our cooperation with Europe. E.L.D.O. and the Concord were fully debated yesterday, and I shall not go over that ground again, save to criticise the manner in which these things were done. Someone should have been sent quickly to Stockholm, Brussels, and Geneva—as the Economic Secretary was sent to Strasbourg a week or so too late—and above all to Paris to investigate the Concord and to explain the 15 per cent. surcharge. France is the key to all this. She is the key to Europe, and I shall never accept that we cannot get agreement with our French friends. As long as I have breath in my body I shall continue to try to play a part in that.
There are many Frenchmen in important positions who have laboured for our joint good in the past, and it is terrible to contemplate the Concord and the 15 per cent. surcharge on one side of the scale against the Channel Tunnel on the other. Surely our affairs have not been reduced to this after three weeks of Socialist misgovernment. It is terrible to consider that the abrupt and ill-considered action of this Government have caused great friends of this country like M. Spaak and Dr. Luns to lose heart. I only know what I have read in the newspapers, and I hope that it is not true.
I urge the Government to make urgent endeavours to repair the damage which has been caused to our European friends, particularly the French. I recall the European Defence Community collapsing nearly ten years ago. Within days of that happening the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, as he was, went round Europe, and in a short time managed to organise Western European Union. Perhaps the Minister without Portfolio will tell the Prime Minister that if he considered undertaking such a tour in order to try to restore our relations with these countries and he wanted a pair for that end, I should be delighted to oblige him.
I have always believed that if an individual is to be attacked in this House 593 he should be given due notice. Presumably the Prime Minister does not believe that. I know that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer does not. The Prime Minister had more important things to do than to come here in case I was called, so I shall make my point another way round. The occasion when a new Prime Minister wins an election and makes his opening address on the Gracious Speech is an unusual one. It is a moment for greatness, and for national leadership. As far as I can see, last Tuesday was only the third time that this has happened since 1924, and, quite by chance, I happen to have been present on all three occasions.
In 1945 I have a vivid recollection of Mr. Attlee, as he then was, sitting before the Red Flaggers on the Government benches. He had been Deputy Prime Minister in the Coalition Government which had led us to victory in 1945. I am certain that all my hon. Friends respected him as Deputy Prime Minister in those days, as much as we respect him now for that. In his own inimitable style he rose above the rôle of mere party leader.
In 1951, again, Winston Churchill, sitting where the Minister is now sitting, also appealed for national unity. I sat behind him then, because I was privileged to move the Loyal Address, and I distinctly remember how he rose to the occasion. Only this week President Johnson, within minutes of winning his election, was talking of "binding up the wounds", and on television and radio we heard his appeal for national unity.
But the Prime Minister of Great Britain on Tuesday, in his tone, even more than in his words, revealed his true nature. It was 1945 in reverse. If he could have seen the look on so many of the older Members of the Labour Party behind him, he might have changed his tune. I believe that such a chance does not come a second time. It is an episode which I, certainly—and the House, probably—will never forget.
§ 2.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ioan L. Evans (Birmingham, Yardley)
I join with other hon. Members in congratulating you on your appointment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech. I also 594 thank the people of Yardley for sending me to represent them in this House. I shall do so to the best of my ability. Although my predecessor was not of my party I want to pay tribute to the service that he gave to the constituency. He was a hard-working Member.
I want to start with quotations from speeches of the two greatest Parliamentarians of our time, namely, Aneurin Bevan and Sir Winston Churchill. Mr. Bevan said:I have enough faith in my fellow creatures in Great Britain to believe that when they have got over the delirium of the television, when they realise that their new homes that they have been put into are mortgaged up to the hilt, when they realise that the moneylender has been elevated to the highest position in the land, when they realise that the refinements to which they should look are not there, when the years go by and they see the challenge of modern society not being met by the Tories, who can consolidate their political powers only on the basis of national mediocrity, who are unable to exploit the resources of their scientists because they are prevented by the greed of their capitalism from doing so, when they realise that the flower of our youth goes abroad today because they are not being given opportunities of using their skill and their knowledge properly at home, when they realise that all the tides of history are flowing in our direction: then, when we say it and mean it, then we shall lead our people to where they deserve to be led.That was a great prophecy, because today we realise that the people of Britain recognise that the tides of history are flowing in our direction. In our election programme and in the Gracious Speech we have stated—and we mean it—that we have a mandate to lead our people to where they deserve to be led.
In this debate reference has been made time and time again to the size of our majority. I would remind the House that that other great Parliamentarian, Sir Winston Churchill, speaking after the result of the 1951 General Election in the debate on the Gracious Speech, said that the country had for two years been distracted by strife and electioneering, and that the nation was deeply and painfully divided, and the opposing forces were more or less evenly balanced. He went on to say:We meet together here with an apparent gulf between us as great as I have known in 50 years of House of Commons life. What the nation needs is several years of quiet, steady administration. … What the House needs is a period of tolerant and constructive debating on the merits of the questions before us, without nearly every speech on either side being 595 distorted by the passions of one election or the preparations for another … We ask no favours in the conduct of Parliamentary business. We believe ourselves capable of coping with whatever may confront us. Still, it would not be good for our country if, for instance, events so shaped themselves that a third General Election came upon us in, say, a year or 18 months. Still worse, if that conflict led only to a continuance of an evenly matched struggle in the House and out of doors."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 69.]This was thought to be excellent advice then. Surely, if that can be said for a Conservative Government who obtained fewer votes than the Labour Opposition in 1951, it can be said with greater emphasis in respect of a Labour Government in 1964 who have obtained a higher number of votes.
I want to deal briefly with those proposals in the Gracious Speech which refer to the social services. One of my favourite quotations comes from the Beveridge Report, in which Sir William Beveridge, as he then was, wrote:There are five giant evils on the road to progress—Want, Ignorance, Idleness, Disease and Squalor.When the Labour Government were returned in 1945 they dealt with those socal problems which were in existence in Britain in pre-war years. They brought about a silent social revolution and established in Britain the Welfare State. They removed the evil of want by the great social legislation on National Insurance, National Assistance and industrial injuries. They began to remove the evil of ignorance by implementing part of the 1944 Education Act. It is regrettable that although 20 years have passed, that Act is not yet fully implemented.
As for the evil of idleness and unemployment, they achieved full employment for the first time in peace time, and to combat illness and disease they established the National Health Service, which became the envy of the world. They fought squalor by carrying out legislation in the form of the Town and Country Planning Act and by building new towns.
I shall not deal to a great extent with the last 13 years. I suggest that they have not only been wasted years but that we have seen a return to some of the evils of which I have just spoken. That is why I believe that this new Labour Government will have to take 596 up the cudgels where they were left in 1951. I am pleased to find, in the Gracious Speech, that the Governmentwill have particular regard for those on whom age, sickness and personal misfortune impose special disabilities.In our constituencies many of us are aware of the serious problems caused to pensioners by the continually rising cost of living, and I am glad that the Government are to tackle that situation.
On the question of education, I am pleased to find that the Gracious Speech states:My Ministers will enlarge educational opportunities and give particular priority to increasing the supply of teachers.In this new scientific and technological age we have to ensure that the talents of our children are used to the utmost and that they get the educational opportunities that they deserve.
On the question of employment, we find that the Gracious Speech states:Our industries will be helped to gain the full benefits of advances in scientific research and applied technology.Here, I think, it is not just a question of maintaining full employment and of ensuring that everyone has a job, but also of ensuring that people are fully employed, that we get away from short-time working and that the stop-go policies of the past are not pursued into the future.
On the question of health, I am pleased to find that steps will be taken to increase the number of doctors and other trained staffs in the National Health Service and that prescription charges will be abolished. One of the most regrettable things of the last 13 years is that, first, the charge of 1s. was imposed, that this was increased by the next Government to 1s. per item and that it was subsequently increased to 2s. per item. I am sure that the decision to dispense with prescription charges will be welcomed throughout the length and breadth of this island.
Finally, there is the question of squalor—the problem of housing. I am pleased to see that the Gracious Speech states:My Government will pursue a vigorous housing policy directed to producing more houses of better quality, and will promote the modernisation of the construction industry.The problems of housing are, I think, perhaps the greatest which confront 597 Britain at the present time. I am sure that if the Government will tackle the matter and will get down to trying to solve the problems not only of the homeless and of the people on the waiting lists but also of those people who have difficulty in paying their rent or in making their mortgage repayments and of those people who in recent years have suffered and feared the threat of eviction under the Rent Act, and if we can carry this out en the foundation of the Welfare State that we shall have restored, we will begin to build the superstructure of a new society.
It was said of one Government: "They promise, pause, prepare, postpone and end by leaving things alone." I hope that of this Government it will be said: "They promised, prepared and planned as was required, then built a new Britain that was universally desired."
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)
It is my very pleasant task to congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Ioan L. Evans) on making an excellent maiden speech, which we all very much enjoyed. It was delivered with modesty and charm. One of the great advantages of the speech, which other hon. Members might try and copy, is that it was extremely brief. We shall look forward to hearing further contributions from the hon. Gentleman in the years to come.
I regret that the Gracious Speech says nothing with regard to any intention of stopping the political bias shown so frequently on television, both by the B.B.C. and I.T.V. Perhaps this is understandable because the bias on both these channels appears to be so heavily Left wing. I should like to give a few examples—[Laughter.]—after which, perhaps, hon. Gentlemen opposite might well laugh on the other side of their faces.
The first example I wish to give occurred some months ago when my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) raised the question of a political discussion on television between my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on the question of arms to South Africa. In my 598 opinion this was one of the finest examples of Left wing bias shown by a so-called impartial chairman and the staff of the television company concerned. Although my hon. Friend knows more about the subject which they discussed—or, anyway, as much as any other hon. or right hon. Gentleman in this House knows—he lost the argument before he even entered the studio. All his knowledge and all his charm could not overcome the partial chairman, the general production, the lighting, the placing of the cameras and so on, all of which in our opinion were designed to cheat him.
No one could have overcome such obstacles, and, indeed, some of us thought that my hon. Friend would have been justified in quitting the programme in the middle and leaving the partial chairman and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East to continue what amounted to a Socialist Party broadcast.
With regard to the recent election, it was quite clear what was going to happen on television as soon as the campaign started. A still picture of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was put on the television screen and held there for some considerable time. This photograph was obviously selected because it was very poor in quality. Indeed, it was so bad that it made it appear that my right hon. Friend had suffered some injury. [Laughter.] However funny that may be, hon. Gentlemen opposite would not have liked it if such a picture of the Prime Minister had appeared. This action was deliberate and the object of the exercise was to portray our leader in the most unfavourable light. Out of all the excellent photographs that must have been available, why was this one selected? The answer is obvious. This sort of thing was continued throughout the election campaign when photographs of other Conservative Party speakers were exhibited.
I turn now to the television programme called "Election 64" which appeared every night at ten minutes past eleven on I.T.V. At the start of that programme exciting music was played and then we were shown ballot papers being marked with a cross. Who were they voting for, one wondered. That 599 was soon put right because on the skyline appeared the picture of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. Of course, he had one of those confident, let-me-be-your-father expressions on his face. Alongside that appeared a picture of the House of Commons. This was held for a few moments and then the programme was switched back to the ballot papers being filled in, with, it almost seemed, greater speed and enthusiasm. However, there it is. If hon. Members think that a fair way to start a programme I think they must have a funny idea of fairness.
Then there appeared with regularity my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition making one of his usual excellent speeches, but I must say that on some occasions the set-up was designed to kill the effect of what he said, particularly by the positioning of the camera so as to take my right hon. Friend at the worst possible angle. On several occasions his profile was taken from underneath, from what appeared to be ground level. I saw one of these pictures and I did not recognise my right hon. Friend—[Laughter.]—I say to the cackling hens opposite, no face, either from that side of the House or this side, could stand such treatment.
What different treatment was meted out to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. Let me give an example. The first photograph we saw was that of an empty hall, a very large hall. Obviously there had been a very large meeting. The television announcer was sitting in the hall. He was brought close to the screen and he spoke these sort of words into the microphone: "Mr. Wilson spoke here a few hours ago to a crowded audience. He started his remarks by saying"—this, that and the other. Then appeared a picture of the Prime Minister repeating what the announcer had just said that he said. Then we had another "cut back", or whatever it is called, to the B.B.C. announcer saying, "Mr. Wilson continued his speech"—to the following effect. Then it finished up by showing the right hon. Gentleman saying—whatever the right hon. Gentleman did say.
After that we usually saw the Leader of the Liberal Party, and although he never said anything of any consequence, he said it very charmingly. Then it was the turn of the Conservatives. We saw 600 a new, still photograph, very carefully selected for its poorness of quality, and were given a brief description by the television announcer of what the Conservative Party speaker had said. Finally, we had another live speech from the Prime Minister to ring down the curtain. I say frankly—I know that many people agree with me—that I have never seen a programme so heavily loaded in favour of the Socialist Party. My right hon. Friend appeared only once, but the Prime Minister appeared three times, in the best parts of the programme, at the beginning, in the middle and at the end.
Strangely enough, I think that the most telling and effective part was when the Prime Minister said absolutely nothing, at the opening of the programme when there was a picture of the right hon. Gentleman on the skyline and another picture of the House of Commons, with ballot papers being filled in. This could not have been more impressive, indeed it was deadly. This we had night after night, until polling day.
To give further examples would weary the House, but one could go on for a long time. I must quote one further case, details of which have been sent to me by one of our best-known television personalities. For obvious reasons I cannot mention his name. He complains to me of a programme called, "This Week", which was shown at the beginning of the election campaign. It dealt with housing. In the opinion of my correspondent the whole of this half-hour programme was overwhelmingly in support of the Labour Party case. From the detailed description which my correspondent sent me I will take only his chief point.
There was a discussion between my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) who is now Secretary of State for Education and Science. The interviewer, Mr. George Ffitch, adopted the attitude of a Labour Party heckler. He kept asking my right hon. Friend what he was going to do about the situation, but he did not challenge the right hon. Member for Fulham at all. The whole programme, in the opinion of my correspondent, was one-sided, and almost illegally so at a time of a General Election. My informant also tells me that a campaign is now being launched by 601 Granada Television, supported by the Rediffusion Company, of London, to do away with the present arrangements whereby political party broadcasts are shown on all three channels in London. If this is so, may I ask what alternative arrangements are suggested? This would provide, it seems to me, a golden opportunity to sabotage political party broadcasts. All that the company would have to do would be to put on a popular programme, like "Coronation Street", at the same time as a Conservative Party political broadcast, but when the Socialist Party got its turn to provide, as an alternative programme, some boring travelogue, or a nice cosy chat on fretwork or tiddly winks.
My final example is probably the best of all to illustrate this bias to the Left. I think that it was either on the eve of polling day or two evenings before that a short programme was shown indicating how the election results would be announced, how the results would be recorded, the work of a computer and so on. At the back of the picture there was a huge board giving an example of how the results would be recorded. On the board, in large letters for all to see, were the following bold words:Labour lead over Conservative".Can anyone deny the strong Left wing bias which is there apparent?
In answer to the points which I have raised I may be told that programme time was divided equally between the parties. The answer to that is simple. It is not the division of time that matters, it is the general production of the programme, the positioning, the lighting, the placing of the cameras and so on. Producers who know their business, assisted by a competent staff, can make or kill any production. There must be millions of people in the country who acknowledge and admit as an accepted fact the Left wing bias of both the B.B.C. and I.T.V. Indeed, I have never yet met anyone who does not agree about that. The argument which usually starts concerns which is the worst, the B.B.C. or I.T.V. Hon. Members opposite, who are getting a bit of their own back by interrupting me while I am making my speech—something about which, in the words of a former Socialist Cabinet Minister, I do not care two hoots—know in their hearts that what I have said is true.
602 The B.B.C. has even started to meddle in American politics. The leading article in the Sunday Telegraph strongly criticised the B.B.C.2 inquiry programme. The B.B.C. reporter, James Mossman, systematically denigrated Goldwater's supporters in California. This attack on Goldwater was further reinforced by an article in the Radio Times. To make it worse we had the following hypocritical statement by the B.B.C.:We are strictly impartial about the two American candidates. We have to be, it is in our Charter.This is happening all the time, and, indeed, it is getting worse. This is entirely contrary to the Television Act, and it should be stopped, in fairness and justice to all.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, All Saints)
In rising to make my maiden speech, I am very conscious that the normal difficulties of the occasion are to some extent aggravated by the fact that I have to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), a very popular and amusing speaker. If he finds any deficiencies in my appearance, that is not due to the angle at which he is sitting, or the lighting in the Chamber. It must, regrettably, be put at the door of nature. That may be the case elsewhere as well. I do not want to take it any further.
It is an added difficulty that the subject on which I want to address the House is one of great concern to me and to my constituents in the All Saints division of Birmingham. It is that section of the Gracious Speech which refers to special help to be given to particular areas for particular problems. To put the matter quite bluntly—and I want to put this matter bluntly, though not, I hope, too controversially in a maiden speech—it refers to the immigrants in towns. That is one of the reasons why I want to talk on this—namely, the very special problem of my own constituency which, I think, has as many resident immigrants in it as any other constituency in the country.
Many Members opposite quite naturally regret the absence of my late opponent at the election, with whom, I may say, my relations throughout the campaign were of the best. 603 He claimed that he had the constituency with the most immigrants in it on his side of the House. Certainly, that is one of the reasons why I want to speak on this section of the Gracious Speech. I also—and I try to phrase this as carefully as I can—want to supplement, because I think they are in need of supplementing, the remarks made in another maiden speech today by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) about these problems of resident immigrants. I have no intention of venturing into the subject of immigration control. That matter will be before this House very shortly, and no doubt many hon. Members will want to speak on the best method of control. I am concerned with the immigrants who are already here and what their status is to be in British society.
First, I wonder whether, in all humility, I may offer to the Government Front Bench certain practical suggestions that they might well take into consideration in contemplating what can be done by way of special help to these areas. Without pretending that one can summarily dismiss the Rent Act simply by making one argument against it, I must say that the Act has not helped to ease the problems of overcrowding. Immigrants in Birmingham, and indeed throughout the West Midlands area, do not live in council houses, nor do they live in public property of any kind. They tend to congregate together, very understandably, in multi-occupation in decontrolled residencies.
I should like to mention the abolition of the provision whereby there was some check on the number of lodgers in a house. If there were more than two families resident one had to register, and the Ministry of Health had to make an inspection before one could accept any more. This was a very great assistance in checking some of the problems that now go unchecked. I hope that the Government will look at this matter, because housing undoubtedly is one of the root causes of disaffection between different sections of the community.
Moreover, we must again look at the problem of education because of the nature of the areas into which these people come. We inevitably find that they are tending to overcrowd schools that were overcrowded even before they 604 arrived. The schools are quite inadequate in my constituency; that is something to which I want to draw the attention of this House on a more appropriate occasion. They are quite inadequate for the needs of the constituency, and if an additional number of people move in, whatever their colour or race, this aggravates that problem.
It is not realistic to pretend that the onus of responsibility here must lie on the local authority and that they are to be blamed—as in Birmingham and elsewhere they have been blamed almost exclusively—for the creation of this kind of difficulty. This is an issue on which we need Government assistance. I do not pretend that it is simple. Not only must we do something to accelerate school building, but we must be able to attract teachers to do the teaching. It is not an easy problem, but I urge it upon my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench.
One of the very best ways of making sure that we do not get tension between the races is to have the best possible liaison between them. Where we have trained social workers undertaking this kind of work, we get some excellent results from their work, but there is nothing like enough of them. I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation is in the House. I am sure that he agrees that although good work has been done in Birmingham by social workers responsible for liaison, we desperately need many more of them.
This is not a simple problem; it needs a very great deal of cultivation on every level. Many false ideas have to be corrected; much necessary liaison at work, in the schools and in the normal social life of the community has to be done. I wonder whether it would be possible for some of my right hon. Friends to look at the provision of public money or a greater provision of taxpayers' money towards the establishment of what I think we need more than of anything else—trained workers on the spot who can help to ameliorate some of the difficulties that occur when we have people of different backgrounds and opportunities brought into juxtaposition.
I wish that I could leave it there, in the area, I hope, of constructive suggestion, and say no more. If I did that, 605 I should be doing a great disservice to my constituency and to the House, because there are facts which need to be understood in the House—and I am not persuaded that the House is fully apprised of some of the many things which have become involved in this problem. One speaks of legislation, and indeed one believes in the benefits which will accrue from legislation. If one did not believe in them, presumably one would never attempt to become a Member of the House. But legislation is by no means the most important issue at stake here. The most important issue concerns the principles applied to particular cases.
If we are to achieve what it is constantly claimed that we are seeking—a situation of equality, integration and racial tolerance—then it is essential that we get the principles right first, that nobody be in any doubt where those principles are meant to be put into practical application, and that we do not have one thing said in one place by one person which is not honoured by another person in another place. That smacks suspiciously of hypocrisy.
I am certain that I am speaking here not only for this side of the House, for I am confident that there are many hon. Members opposite who feel exactly the same about this as I do. Indeed, the recent bouts which we have been having at the hustings have shown that they have tackled this problem in the same way as have hon. Members on this side of the House. The principle which is essential is that which I shall read. I take it from the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) who said in the House on 4th June 1959:… everything possible is being done, and … every effort will continue to be made in areas where there is a large coloured population to encourage their effective integration into the community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1959; Vol. 606, c. 369.]That is an excellent principle. Since it came from the Conservative side of the House, it ought to be a principle on which we can all agree, because I know of no hon. Member on this side of the House who dissents from that sentiment. Nor do we dissent from the sentiment which the Leader of the Opposition expressed when he wrote to Mr. Gordon Walker on 27th September. This is contained in today's papers, because apparently 606 he has referred my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to that statement. Again, it is an admirable statement. The right hon. Gentleman says:Any applicant and his family who are accepted into this country will be treated exactly like us.This is fine, but the difficulty is that unless all people in this country, everywhere in this country, are made completely aware that that is meant to refer to their locality, that that is meant to refer to the activities of prominent people in their area, then the mere statement of the principle is not in itself effective. Any Member of the House, in discharging his representative capacity, has a duty to lead. There is no question that we are sent here simply to reflect what people tell us on the doorsteps. We are sent here not as delegates but as representatives, and one of our duties here is to act as leaders in resolving problems which may exist between one set of constituents and another and not in aggravating those problems.
What do I mean by aggravation? I am making no personal application of this. I will simply say that if such a thing is done, if any man in contesting a Parliamentary seat is prepared to say that an increase of vice in his area is the direct consequence of a particular group being present in that area, then he is aggravating the situation socially. Believe me, it was not here that I first heard the word "leprosy" used. Leprosy has been a very familiar term in Birmingham and the surrounding areas for a long time. If anyone says that the community has its health endangered by way of venereal disease or leprosy or tuberculosis, or by way of what one well-known newspaper correspondent called "slummy foreign germs", because a section of the community happens to be resident there, then he is helping to aggravate the social problem.
When it is insinuated, and sometimes stated quite bluntly, that the reason that conditions in education and housing are not adequate in a given area is not that the facilities for them are inadequate but that a particular racial group is present in the area and is monopolising such facilities, again, that is aggravating the problem in that area. When it is falsely claimed that one section of the community is not doing enough work 607 and is living largely on State doles and State benefits, that is aggravating the problem in that area. When it is said that proper medical attention cannot be made available to people in an area because it is monopolised by a particular section of the community, that is aggravating the problem.
This needs to be spelt out in the interests of us all. I do not regard this as a matter which either was or, on the basis of the statements I have read, is or ever should become an issue in the House between the parties. It will become such an issue unless there is no doubt in any citizen's mind just where all the major British parties stand, not only in matters of principle—where, I believe, they are clear—but in matters of practical application. It is essential that nothing is done in the lifetime of this Parliament to aggravate an already unpleasant situation.
I conclude by recalling the old jingle about Danegeld and the fact that once one pays it one never gets rid of the Dane. Likewise, once one allows a racialist factor to remain present in one's politics for any length of time, one cannot get rid of it, and there is ample evidence of that in other countries.
I have enjoyed my stays in America. I like America and the Americans, but there are not many of them who would deny that one of the least happy influences in American politics is the tendency for ethnic blocs to vote as blocs. That situation has arisen because of a long, uncorrected state of affairs. We do not want it here. It would not profit any party. Indeed, it would exacerbate relations inside and outside the House between the parties and would go a long way towards destroying the civilities and courtesies on which so much of our British way of life depends.
However short the lifetime of this Parliament, it should not be so short that we cannot in our deliberations apply ourselves to the needed practical solutions of this problem along with the crucial educational job of making it clear to everyone where all the major parties stand on this issue.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I am glad to have this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, All 608 Saints (Mr. Walden) on a remarkable maiden speech. It is a coincidence that I follow him in view of the subject matter of his remarks, for hon. Members will be aware of the interest I have taken for many years, before I joined the former Government, in this subject.
I am sure that every hon. Member was extremely impressed with another feature of the hon. Member's speech; that he made it virtually without notes. I have never achieved as much confidence as that in 15 years in this House. He has achieved it most eloquently in his maiden speech. We greatly look forward to hearing and enjoying his future contributions.
I want to take this opportunity of reverting to the structure of the Government and to one of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his fine and impressive speech on Tuesday. He spoke then of the fragmentation of Ministries at a time when we should be working in the opposite direction—when we should, in the interests of administrative efficiency, be trying to achieve a more streamlined and co-ordinated Government machine.
The first point I want to make is that we now have three Cabinet Ministers dealing with different aspects of Commonwealth policy. I recall right hon. and hon. Members opposite criticising, in the last Parliament the Ministerial direction of colonial and Commonwealth policies under one Secretary of State. In practice, the criticism was unjustified because it happened that the Secretary of State concerned was my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who has a quite unrivalled capacity for hard work. We worked very hard indeed during those 2½ years, often by night as well as by day!
But my right hon. Friend's worst enemy could not in fairness claim that anything was skimped, so in practice the criticism did not bite. But in theory, and if there had been a less thorough Secretary of State, there was, in July, 1962, something to be said for the argument that the Ministerial co-ordination of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office under one Minister had been carried out too soon, for at that time there were many large and important territories which were 609 still Colonies. But that was nearly 2½ years ago. Since then, in the Far East, Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore have achieved their independence within the Federation of Malaysia. In Africa, Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Kenya have all become independent, and Gambia is about to become independent. In Europe, Malta has taken the same road.
Of what I call the time-taking "problem" Colonies, we are now left with only British Guiana, Aden and South Arabia, the "little seven" in the Eastern Caribbean and the High Commission Territories in Southern Africa—just about enough to keep one Under-Secretary of State reasonably busy. I know this because those were territories which I dealt with personally, together with a good many others.
We now have one Secretary of State and one and a half Under-Secretaries dealing with these responsibilities. They will not be overworked. Whatever the arguments in July, 1962, for retaining two Secretaries of State they certainly do not apply in November, 1964. My recollection is that the Colonies used to take up about 70 per cent. of my right hon. Friend's time. But some of the most time-taking of them—Malaysia and Malta and Kenya—are now independent. While, therefore, it is arguable that in 1962 we should have retained two Secretaries of State no one with any knowledge of this matter would seriously claim that we need two in 1964.
And how can this separation of the two Departments be reconciled with the arrangements which were to have come into force following the Plowden Report, which we debated in this House only three months ago? I appreciate that the Colonial Office was outside the terms of reference of the Plowden Committee but it was generally accepted that the two Departments would be merged not only under one Secretary of State but in one building and with one staff. Is that still the view of the Government, or does this new separation of responsibilities under two Ministers of Cabinet rank mean that the merger is no longer to take place? We should have an answer—not, of course, today, but as soon as possible.
For these reasons, it seems to me that the Prime Minister has chosen precisely 610 the wrong moment to make this retrograde change. I do not think that he did it through ignorance. To be fair to him, I do not think that he is that sort of man. I can only suppose that he did it in order to find places for the two right hon. Gentlemen who, between them, will now have less work than my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham successfully dealt with alone. This is not perhaps the best reason for adding still further to the largest administration which has ever presided over the affairs of Great Britain. If the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry lasts long enough for a reshuffle, I hope that the Prime Minister will take this simple and sensible way of reducing the size of his Cabinet by at least one.
I should like to turn now to the Ministry of Overseas Development which is the third of the mainly Commonwealth Cabinet Departments, and to take up the point made earlier this week by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Longbottom), who inquired what precisely are the functions, responsibilities and scope of this renamed and enlarged Department. Instead of having a Budget of about £30 million a year for technical assistance, it will now control the disposal of capital aid of at least £175 million, and I hope more. It is quite a large sum of money. How will the liaison between the six Departments work? They are the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Colonial Office, the Board of Trade, the "Elephant and Castle", as it is now called, and the Treasury.
Above all, because this is the crux of the matter, who will negotiate with the Treasury? Unless times have changed very dramatically, I cannot see the new Department being give a block grant to spend exactly as it wishes. I presume that the Colonial Office will retain responsibility for grants in aid to the dependent territories, but I should like confirmation of that. Is capital aid, Colonial Development and Welfare, for the Colonies still to be negotiated between the Colonial Office and the Treasury direct, or is the Ministry of Overseas Development to be the Ministry through which all colonial requirements are now to be channelled? If so, how can M.O.O.D., another name for this new Department, argue effectively the political 611 requirements of the different Colonial Territories?
It is my experience that political and economic factors cannot be divorced when dealing with the Colonies. No doubt if there were an unlimited supply of funds, that could be done; but there never is and in practice we are always short of money. When a Minister from a spending Department goes to the Treasury, it is usually the political arguments which carry the most weight and upon which one must rely to get whatever cash there is.
But the right hon. Lady will not know from her own experience and day-to-day knowledge what those arguments are and even if she is well briefed by the Colonial Office officials, as she will be, because it is a very good Department, she will not know the case herself and she will probably not have visited the territories concerned. She will not have lived with these problems from day to day and she will not be personally involved in them, and those things make a great difference.
I always found that I argued much more effectively if I had been to the place concerned and felt involved and knew intimately what I was talking about. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) would agree that that applies to the independent countries as well. There may be very good political reasons for wishing to help create conditions of stability in some particular area of the world by a judicious and timely injection of capital aid at the right and most influential moment; and unless this new Ministry is to form its own political departments, which would be duplicating the whole machinery of Government, the right hon. Lady will not be very well placed to carry out the new functions which I presume her Department is now assuming.
It may be argued that all this could be co-ordinated in the appropriate Cabinet committee. Of course, in a specific case of exceptional and urgent importance that is true, but the day-to-day work of the Department cannot be carried out in a Cabinet committee attended by busy Ministers who have other responsibilities. It must be carried out by the Civil Service through the 612 ordinary machinery of Government. It is this day-to-day machinery which it is difficult to envisage in the new organisation and upon which I should be grateful for more information.
I recognise that there is a case for the co-ordination of all capital aid under one Minister. It is tidy and logical and in many ways there is a good case for it. However, like my hon. Friend the Member for York, I should like much more information about how the thing is to be done in practice, particularly as far as the Colonies are concerned, and how the negotiations with the Treasury are to be handled.
To sum up, I hope that the right hon. Lady will make an early statement to the House on this subject and that the Prime Minister himself will take some opportunity, perhaps at Question Time, to explain why, in the absence of any practical justification, he has now appointed two Secretaries of State to do less than the work of one in the last Administration.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)
When I heard that the Leader of the Opposition intended to ask a number of younger back benchers to take a part in some of the more formal work of the Opposition, the last thing that I expected was to find myself flung forward to this Dispatch Box in the first week of the new Parliament. I feel somewhat like a pilot on his first night solo training flight. Suddenly he is up on his own. He knows exactly what has to be done and probably how to do it, and yet all he can pray for is a safe landing. These are exactly my emotions at the moment.
May I start by adding my congratulations to you, Dr. King, on becoming Chairman of Ways and Means and our Deputy-Speaker. As you know, we come from the same area of the country. You were one of the few Socialist Members of Parliament in that area, but, nevertheless, I am delighted to congratulate you on becoming Deputy-Speaker.
We have a number of time-honoured traditions in this House which knit together to make Parliament the inestimable and great place that it is. Whatever may be the party to which we belong, most of us come to love this place and more 613 and more to respect the traditions of it. I am therefore more than pleased that in some way I can see that these customs are maintained in all cases today.
It falls to me from the Opposition Front Bench to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) on his maiden speech. We all listened to it with great interest. In my researches I could not find anyone who had to make a maiden speech under such duress. My hon. Friend acquitted himself fairly and honourably, and no one can deny that. As the hon. Member for Smethwick, he has the support of his electorate and as such will play a proper and useful part in the work of the House. I know that people will listen to him again with interest.
I should think that no person speaking from this Dispatch Box has ever had a larger number of Members to congratulate on their maiden speeches on one day. There has been a mélange of maiden speakers, numbering eight. I congratulate the hon. Members for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) and Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy). Both made very good maiden speeches, showing particularly their own interests in their constituencies. Both spoke with real knowledge of their problems and with authority on housing. I am sure that the House will pay particular regard to the hon. Member for Willesden, East. The hon. Member for Ealing, North spoke with such assurance and force that it was difficult to believe that he was making a maiden speech. If he thought that his speech was non-controversial, I want to hear him when he is intent on being controversial.
It gives me particular pleasure to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) on his maiden speech. He and I were at university together. Our paths have crossed many times over the last 12 years, and I am delighted to be the person to welcome him to this House. His understanding of the problems of the elderly and lonely is bound to make him a most useful hon. Member of the House. We shall listen to his future contributions with great interest.
The only Liberal Member to speak today, the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie), made a particularly charming maiden 614 speech, not only because of his knowledge of his constituency, but because of the great wit and flair with which he spoke. I was delighted to know of his regard for his national drink—although not a Scot, I agree with him in all ways on this matter—and I hope that I can hear him put forward the views of his constituency frequently again in this House.
I now come to congratulate the two hon. Members for Birmingham. The hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Ioan L. Evans) spoke with interest and some particular poetry. The House listened to him attentively and we will welcome hearing him again. The hon. Member for All Saints (Mr. Walden), the ninth of the maiden speakers, showed a great deal of courage in taking what is obviously a most difficult problem and speaking on it in a serious and thoughtful vein. The House listened attentively and will welcome his contributions from his place in the future.
I have left until last the speech of the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), not because he was last, but because from my side I particularly welcomed the part of his speech dealing with engineers. I could not agree more with the hon. Member. Too often, the scientist and the technologist are given too much credit and the people who really do the work—the poor engineers—are left at the bottom. The hon. Member's speech was a major contribution to our debate today.
Finally, I should like to say how much I enjoyed being able to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) back in the House. He has been an old friend. I made my first political speech at a General Election for him when he was standing at Banbury.
§ Mr. Emery
Yes, and he has come back again. We have never lost that constituency.
One of the things mentioned by my hon. Friend today needs a great deal more consideration by Her Majesty's Government. When he stressed the feeling of unrest and uneasiness in Europe about our lack of consultation on the import surcharges, he was emphasising the absolute truth. It is not good enough for the Government to say that they did 615 not have time to consult. There are methods of doing this sort of thing. Had the Government stated openly that they would apply these surcharges for two or three months whilst they consulted, none of this bad feeling would have arisen in Europe. That would in no way have necessitated holding the surcharges only for that period. It would have made Europe really believe that the Council of Europe and our E.F.T.A. agreements meant something. It is no good the Government shaking this matter off in the way that they are trying to do.
As I look at the Gracious Speech, I am struck by two things: what is included and what has been carefully avoided. In some instances, there are a number of statements of the obvious which we would all applaud, although we are given precious little information on how some of these hopes will be achieved. On the industrial front, no one will quibble over the statement that theGovernment will call on trade unions and employers' organisations to co-operate in eliminating those restrictive practices, on both sides of industry, which impair our competitive power and the development of the full potential of the economy.This theme is continued with the mention of improved industrial efficiency by dealing with monopolies, mergers, industrial training, and the protection of trade unions.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) specifically asked the Minister of Labour whether he would agree with the view expressed by the Prime Minister in his speech on Tuesday that industrial training, for which virtually a new junior Minister had been appointed, was a neglected priority. Quite honestly, it is most difficult, having listened, as many hon. Members have, to the Minister of Labour, to equate his speech dealing with industrial training with that statement of the Prime Minister.
Secondly, as we go on to talk about monopolies, I was interested to see that the Trades Union Congress, in a statement made on 29th June of this year, had what I think is a better understanding of this matter than any shown in that sentence in the Gracious Speech. The T.U.C. showed quite clearly that the General Council emphasised that the need was 616to deal with monopoly abuses rather than monopolies as such".This seems to have the matter in the right perspective, and I can assure the Government that the Opposition will cooperate completely in overcoming monopoly abuses, whether they be in private or public monopolies, for no one should be mistaken in thinking that these abuses do not exist in the nationalised industries as well as in private industries.
In all this talk of modernising the different aspects of industry, for that is really what this section of the Gracious Speech is about, conspicuously absent, in my view, is any talk of the modernisation of the trade union movement itself. The trouble is perhaps that one of the most conservative groups of people in this country—and I would spell that with a capital "M" and a small "c"—the "Most conservative" of people, are elected leaders and general secretaries of the trade union movement.
To explain what I mean I turn to a resolution which was passed by the T.U.C. at Blackpool in 1962. This is what the resolution said:Congress agrees that it is time the British trade union movement adapted its structure to modern conditions. It instructs the General Council to examine and report to the 1963 Congress on the possibility of reorganising the structure of both the T.U.C. and the British trade union movement with a view to making it better fitted to meet modern conditions.There were a number of excellent speeches to this resolution. Mr. Hill, of the National Union of Public Employees, said that the present structure of the trade union movement was out-dated and disjointed. He said:We believe that a reduction in the number of competing trade unions guiding industry and controlling the labour force … is essential to the future of trade unionism.Later he went on to say thatoverlapping and duplication of effort and unnecessary expense caused by the existence of general, craft and industrial unionsmust be properly investigated. There are a number of other quotations I could make. There is one I should perhaps quote to the House. Mr. Briginshaw, of the National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants, said:There are too many unions, too many unions overlapping and duplicating their work and services for the workpeople of this country, and their structures are, in the main, in our opinion, too antiquated for the efficient prosecution of our purposes.617 These are the well thought out and, indeed, responsible views of responsible trade unionists, and this debate was summed up by Mr. George Woodcock who said:I believe it will be the beginning of a tremendous undertaking.Those were the views of the T.U.C. in 1962. What has been the outcome of those hopes from 1962 to 1964? In the ensuing period considerable work, extensive research, and visits to foreign countries, particularly Sweden, have been carried out by the trade union movement, whilst on the Government side a Trade Union Amalgamations Bill was introduced by a private Member and supported by the Conservative Government, but come 1964 all these good intentions are shattered. The T.U.C. decides that little or nothing can be done.
This is so discouraging that even in election year, with polling day less than six weeks off a motion of criticism, even of censure, at the 1964 Congress stayed on the agenda after frantic efforts to have it withdrawn. This regretted the tardy and lukewarm response from many unions to the attempts to secure a reorganisation of trade union structure. Mr. Chapman, of the Clerical and Administrative Workers, as reported in The Times, had hoped that 1962 was the beginning of a tremendous undertaking to modernise trade union structure. But after his support, we now have Mr. Woodcock saying:I think we can take it from now on, that it is not going to be worth while, for any considerable time at any rate, for us to raise the issue of Industrial Trade Unionism for the British Trade Union Movement. The firm and irretrievable conclusion is that it was not a runner in this country—neither practical nor desirable.These are pretty strong words when talking about a major advance in trade union amalgamation and in joint bargaining with industry.
Mr. Frank Cousins, who has to many completely epitomised part of Low's caricature of the T.U.C. cart horse, is now transformed by his master's voice into a super shining Ministerial sputnik supposed to epitomise the modern age. What did he say about this resolution, for he spoke, too? He said that he did not think that this really mattered or that the resolution would carry any 618 weight. I say to the new Minister: the bright rocket of technological breakthrough will not rise from the soggy launching pad of outdated trade union practices.
In concluding this 1964 debate at the T.U.C., George Woodcock said:There is an attempt to exploit our weakness and there is a desire to show us up as a big, tough, stumbling, uncouth brute with no wit.I would say categorically from this Dispatch Box that this is not our view in the Conservative Party. We believe that unions may be big and may be tough, but there is nothing wrong with that. We know that they are an absolutely essential and intricate basis of the efficient working of industry, and we wish to see with all other aspects of modernisation in industry that they are playing their full part in coming to live with the conditions of the twentieth century.
My plea is not an attack from political extremists, neither from the extreme right of my party nor, indeed, from the centre of the benches opposite. But any thinking, sensible person knows intrisically that as there is a need to modernise industrial production, so there is a need to modernise the trade union structure.
There was an interesting article written in August of this year, quotations from which say that:For the last ten years the Labour Party has been negotiating with the T.U.C. representatives in an endeavour to reach agreement on basic changes in the field of social security. The party has been putting forward ideas, the T.U.C. doggedly stonewalling them. … What has really happened is that since 1951 the Labour Party has advanced further into the twentieth century than the trade union movement.Thus the next Labour Government will quickly have to force the T.U.C. to make decisions in the social and economic field which the unions have been dodging for many years. [Interruption.] This is perhaps thought to be an article by Mr. Martell, something from the Right wing of the Conservative Party. The strange thing, of course, is that this is from a member of the Government. It is in fact written by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds), who is now Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army, and a respected trade 619 unionist. Do the Government agree with these views? If they do, why was it not mentioned in the Gracious Speech? These things really matter.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Richard Marsh)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am sure that he would not claim to be saying anything original on this. He has made a point, at great length, and many times in several different ways, about the T.U.C. debate on industrial trade unionism. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not deliberately trying to misrepresent the position. I am sure that he understands that although the T.U.C. defeated that resolution, it is none the less continuing to consider other methods of modernisation in the movement. I take it that the questions which he is asking the Labour Government, who have been in office for three weeks, were questions which he spent 13 years asking their predecessors.
§ Mr. Emery
The hon. Gentleman will have to do a lot better than that if he is to make a great success of his Ministry. I am stressing the facts of the case. If the hon. Gentleman listens, and is a little more patient, he will realise that this problem has arisen because of the action of the T.U.C. in September of this year, and is not something which has been growing for the last 13 years.
What are the points to be considered? Where are the reforms needed, and which questions need to be answered? I believe that there are four matters to be considered. More amalgamation, or bodies of federation or confederation of unions, are needed immediately.
§ Mr. Marsh indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Emery
Thirdly, I cannot believe that in the 20th century any section of the community—whoever or whatever it may be—has the right to hold its fellow workmates or the nation to ransom by causing economic chaos. Where people have rights, they have responsibilities, too.
Lastly, I think that a lot more has to be done to obtain independent tribunals of some sort so that internal problems of manning scales, demarcation disputes, dilution, and wage differential disputes can be solved without resorting to industrial action.
Those are only some of the problems, but they are problems which the Conservative Government wanted the trade union movement to solve itself. That is the action which we urged at every opportunity. When such action was seen to be unlikely, we announced that there would be an inquiry, the first for nearly 60 years, after the General Election. The Gracious Speech makes no mention of such an inquiry, and from early September it has become obvious that the T.U.C. is unable to initiate action on its own behalf to deal with this problem. It seems that the problem can be dealt with only by some initiative from the Government. We in the Conservative Party will not shirk this issue, even if it means the entire reorientation of some of our thinking.
What have I tried to say? [Laughter.] I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite think that this is funny. This is part of the major aspect of modernising industry. I am willing to condemn restrictive practices carried out by anybody in industry, and my record shows that I am the only person in the House to have taken to the National Incomes Commission a condemnation of price increases. My record speaks for itself on that. When we put forward, in a quite reasonable and non-party way, some of the major problems which face us in our effort to achieve modernisation, it is necessary that these should be considered in a serious and proper manner.
It seems to me that what I have had to say has been said more in anguish and frustration than in any form of anger or annoyance. But trade unions cannot remain the only organisation of uncontrolled private enterprise in what the 621 Gracious Speech shows to be an increasingly planned and regimented community. To think that modernisation will come to industry only through management or Government action, without modernising the unions, is like expecting to break through the sound barrier in a Tiger Moth.
It may be that responsibility, somewhat like rust, over a period eats into the soul and deadens the power of new thought and radical initiative. Let no one believe that the Opposition will not now present a formidable new front, with new ideas and initiatives for the electorate to support. We will do this with enthusiasm, determined to provide a policy not for the division of the nation—not for breaking the nation into various sections and stratas of society—as has been done at times in the Gracious Speech, but presenting a policy for one nation—a unified nation. I believe that in time it will obtain the necessary support.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Warrington)
As I believe that I shall be the last speaker in this part of the debate, although fortuitously, perhaps I can take to myself—not presumptuously, I hope—the pleasure of congratulating the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) upon his first major speech from the Opposition Front Bench. I find myself in entire agreement with that part of his speech in which he congratulated the many maiden speakers who have set such a high standard today. I am sure that he will acquit me of being grudging in my congratulations if I tell him, on behalf of many of my hon. Friends, that we are delighted to see him sitting on the Opposition Front Bench.
He will not mind if I resist the temptation to follow him in what could not be described as a non-controversial speech, for there were moments when I, too, as I heard him speaking, was suffering from anguish and frustration. But this Gracious Speech and the Labour Party's policy before it have been spoken of so variously, in different vocabularies of kitchen and restaurant, that one feels that wherever one puts in a thumb one can pull out a plum, and I have to make a choice out of a rich fare.
I want to draw the attention of the House to one phrase tucked in on the last page of the Gracious Speech, referring to the fact that the Government will 622 restore control of rents. If I may continue my culinary metaphors, I would say, not only of the present Rent Act—the 1957 Act—but the whole of our rent legislation, that there cannot be any more half-baked legislation on our Statute Books. All the Acts from 1915, right through to 1957, have suffered from one bedevilment, namely, that they have been passed ad hoc and have all been intended to be merely transitory legislation. They have all been passed by the Governments anxious to deal with a then existing situation.
I think that I can speak at least for many of my hon. Friends when I say that the reference to the restoration of rent control will not mean that the Government will inflict on us yet once again a Measure of the same pattern as that of our previous rent control Statutes.
Surely, what is needed now is that the Government should recognise that a large percentage of the people are living in rented property, and always will. We hear a great deal about a property-owning democracy and we are told that some 40 per cent. of the people of Britain live in their own houses. That must mean that some 60 per cent. of the people are living in somebody else's house. A Government must face the fact that it ought to give legislative effect to the present actual situation.
The present machinery of rent control has caused, and still causes, immense hardship and, indeed, unnecessary hardship to thousands of families because the Rent Acts never have—and the 1957 Act was no exception—attempted to provide legislation for rented property that is in any way related to the facilities that people who pay rent ought to enjoy. In my own constituency of Warrington, which was never built with an eye to beauty, thousands of people are living in houses which if they were the residences of animals would have received immediately the condemnation of the R.S.P.C.A.
I have been told many times during the years that I have represented the constituency that dampness, misery, lack of decoration and all the frustrations that are the common lot of poorer people living in rented properties are their common lot and that nothing can be done about it because although the landlords increase the rents they will not do the repairs.
623 We have the situation where people who suffer from what is called the "Warrington disease"—a chest trouble —are living in damp and insanitary conditions because, although they have to pay rent, the property is in so bad a state of disrepair that, in fact, it is not fit for people to live in. Indeed, all the attempts that have been made by Governments in the past to deal with the situation have been utterly inappropriate. Standards of repair have never been contained in the Rent Acts. They are to be found shut away in health Acts and Housing Acts, and the standards of repair laid down in those other Acts really have nothing to do with decent amenities but only with minimum conditions.
It is not right that people should be expected to pay economic rents for properties not fit to live in and it is not right that the present Government, or any Government, should be content with setting up housing standards of the kind contained in the Housing Act as the standard that should be laid down for people who are paying for accommodation better than that which they enjoy.
I hope, therefore, that somebody in the Government will take the trouble to consider what is an appropriate relationship for landlords and tenants where tenants pay what are reasonable rents but, in return, get unreasonable accommodation. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity now, in spite of the fact that there is so much difficult legislation to follow, to try to meet this, from many points of view, the most challenging situation that they will have to face. It is, of course, right that we should increase our economic standards, that we should increase our industrial efficiency. But all this will be valueless unless, when people return from work with money in their pockets, they can come into homes from which it is not a pleasure to escape to the pub or the club. I hope, therefore, that, whatever legislative difficulties the Government may have, when they come to frame their new rent control legislation they will take the trouble to consider whether it is possible to introduce a generous consolidating Measure to bring within the ambit of one Act a landlord and tenant relationship which is fair to both.
I know that this will take time and that meanwhile people living in 624 accommodation which has a 1939 rateable value, which, by the terms of the 1957 Act, means that the rent is not controlled, will have a difficult, and possibly even a dangerous time. Following the article which I wrote last week in The Guardian—if I may say so it appeared to evoke more reaction outside the Government than inside—an hon. Friend invited his constituents—the people of Baron's Court who were once my constituents—to write to him if they had received a notice to quit; people living in property with an old rateable value of more than £40 a year. My hon. Friend tells me that on the day following that invitation he received no fewer than 26 letters from people who had had notices to quit. If that is happening in one constituency, it is possible to imagine how many hundreds if not thousands of people—now that it is known that the Government propose to produce new legislation—will he turfed out of their accommodation between now and the time when the new legislation comes into force.
I suggest, therefore, that the Government might introduce some holding legislation while examining the question of new legislation which, if it is to be properly thought out and not an ad hoc Measure, as the old legislation has been, will take time to produce. I am given to understand—though, like James Forsyth, nobody ever tells me anything—that the Government propose to introduce another holding Measure. I hope that they will consider the fact that even a simple Bill has to have three Readings in this House and be dealt with in another place, and that meanwhile people who are living in property with a rateable value of between £40 and £100 a year will continue to be unprotected. For this reason, I propose the use of the affirmative Regulation machinery provided for in Section 3(11) of the 1957 Act. This is a speedy procedure which could be dealt with in both Houses in a few days. It has that advantage over any kind of Bill. My lawyer Friends, who have had a bad time in the House today, tell me that there is nothing from the legal point of view which would prevent this procedure from being adopted, though the Government, for some reason, regard it as politically undesirable.
625 Since I am on my feet, I may as well say that if the previous Government had intended that the legislation could have been used for other purposes, they should have made it quite clear in the Act. If we are considering protecting people from being evicted and want to avoid, as I believe we ought to avoid—
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.