§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add:but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech, while including damaging plans for further restriction and State control, does not contain constructive proposals to inspire the efforts of individuals on which a solution to the serious problems facing the nation must depend.I shall try to be reasonably brief, Mr. Speaker.
The Queen's Speech, I think we can say, had a critical Press and comment largely followed the lines of the opening speech by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in which he said, in column 57 of HANSARD, 21st April:I found it vague and imprecise, on occasions, I believe, deliberately so, and I also found it dull, stale and very uninspiring."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 57.]962 It is exactly to that verdict that our Amendment is advanced.
Perhaps because it has been a dull speech, there have been a number of empty benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "Plenty on the Opposition side."] Why not, if it was a dull speech? But that does not mean that there have not been excellent speeches, and I pay special tribute to the maiden speakers, numbering, I think, 13 on the last count, though that may have come up alarmingly by the end of today, judging by the figures you gave a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Macleod
No, I did not mean it in that sense. I meant "substantially". I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I gladly amend it.
The Amendment is extremely wide. It enables us to vote, as we shall do, against the approach of the Queen's Speech without, of course, opposing the main Motion of thanks. We drew it wide deliberately. It is not even limited particularly to home affairs, although I intend to spend 95 per cent. of my time in dealing with home affairs. There is, however, one aside I shall first make to the Prime Minister in response, as it were, to an unscripted aside at the end of his speech to which I shall return in another context in a moment.
Since we drafted the Amendment, there has been one very great improvement, the statement which the right hon. Gentleman was able to make about Rhodesia yesterday. He said in that aside to my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and myself that, perhaps, we had forgotten the lessons of the wind of change. I think that we were angry with the Prime Minister. I really do wish this new initiative well, purely because we remember very well the lessons of the wind of change. There were four Secretaries of State, all of whom are now in the House and all of whom have spoken in this debate, who were concerned in those years with the wind of change. I mention also my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), to whom at least we on this side pay tribute for the part he played in bringing about what we hope—I am sure everyone hopes—will be an end to this deadlock. That is why we rejoiced yesterday. As my right hon. Friend the Member for 963 Barnet said, talking is the only logical alternative to fighting; or, as Sir Winston Churchill once said, "Jaw jaw is better always than war war."
But what we simply could not understand—I say this to the Prime Minister and I shall then leave the subject—was why he had to go to such elaborate and pathetic lengths to try to persuade the House that he had not changed his mind and that he had not consistently been wrong. Of course he has been wrong. Why not say so? Lots of us have been wrong on many subjects. Of course he has changed his mind. Why not say so? Many of us have done so, and been glad to do it. So our joy is over the conversion. It is not over his repentance.
I come now to the Prime Minister's speech on the first day of the debate on the Address. Those of us who study the right hon. Gentleman's psychology knew before the Queen's Speech opened, from ample reports we had of what he said at the Labour Party meeting, that he intended in this Parliament to use boredom as a political weapon. He certainly succeeded in that 91-minute speech. The only new proposal, which, I suppose, we ought to treat as, in a sense, part of the Queen's Speech—I think that it was the Leader of the Liberal Party who asked why it was not in it—was the suggestion that we should occupy ourselves with some form of "Congressional" committees.
Although this is an interesting idea, I have never been particularly attracted to it. For obvious reasons, the analogy with America is false. The McNamaras and the Rusks of this world cannot, as they can here, be brought down into the ordinary cockpit of discussion. But, be that as it may, if this is worth doing, it must be worth doing a great deal better than the way the Prime Minister indicated, which met a good deal of dissatisfaction in all quarters of the House.
We know the Prime Minister's motivation, of course. I sympathise with it. He has dozens of new Members. We are told that they are all very clever. Some of them may be too clever by half, for all I know. So the Prime Minister has decided to keep them as busy as squirrels in a cage and give them the illusion of occupation and of importance. I can- 964 not imagine that they are likely to fall for that, and I think that the Prime Minister will have to find a rather different approach.
Our Amendment complains that neither the Gracious Speech nor the lengthy amplification of it was directed to the real problems of our country. We emphasise this because there is here a true difference of policy and of philosophy between the two ideas of the House. I have said that the Amendment is not specific. Originally, we started drafting it in line with all the points in the Queen's Speech with which we disagreed, but there were so many of them that we left that out and put this brief Amendment on the Order Paper.
I start by taking a sentence in the Gracious Speech which affects the whole Government, but which, in one way, comes most closely into the province of the First Secretary of State, who, I think, would probably have followed me in the ordinary course of events and who we are genuinely sorry is not able to be with us today. I have a real personal regard for the right hon. Gentleman which is quite unaffected by the fact that I have a real personal distrust of the policies which he constantly pursues. I hope that, in hospital tomorrow morning, he will read in HANSARD both parts of that equation. I am sure that he will. I hope that he will be with us in the Budget debates—I am sure that he will—and that he will be able to deal with some of the points to which I shall now address myself.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
On behalf of my right hon. Friend, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. It is our hope that my right hon. Friend will be back in his place next week, and I know that he will hope to catch the eye of the Chairman of Ways and Means next week. I am sure that, in preparing his speech, he will do as he has been recommended to do—read the full text of what the right hon. Gentleman is saying.
§ Mr. Macleod
That is very amiable, and I am glad to hear it.
I come now to the sentence in the Queen's Speech. It is really one word in it which gives me concern, but I shall quote the whole sentence: 965In consultation with industry, the National Economic Development Council and the regional Economic Planning Councils, My Government will take action to stimulate progress in implementing the National Plan and in securing balanced growth in all parts of Great Britain.It is the word "implementing" which I draw to the attention of the House because I was under the impression that we were agreed that the one thing one did not do with the National Plan was to implement it. We had been told that this was not a piece of purposive planning, but a piece of indicative planning. We had been told that it would be a rolling plan and, according to the First Secretary of State, it would get better and better. It will not, of course; it will get more and more absurd. But that is beside the point.
I ask the House to keep in mind that word and the suggestion that we are now to seek to implement the National Plan. To recapitulate on the position as regards the National Plan, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, then in opposition, said before the 1964 election that we needed 5 or 6 per cent. growth to achieve the sort of economic targets which his party wished to seek.
In fact, in the Plan from 1964 to 1970 the target is put down at 3.8 per cent. a year, or 25 per cent. over the period. It is worth noting that this is rather less than the 25.3 per cent. that the Tories achieved in the six years immeditely before. But, quite apart from that comparison, the reality has been very different, because growth, at best, has been about 2½ per cent. in 1965 and will probably be less in 1966. In other words, it barely meets in two years what the Plan planned for one.
The truth is that the targets of the Plan are already in ruins, and that long before the normal end of this Parliament they will have to be abandoned, with consequences for the party opposite which I do not find at all unattractive to contemplate. But the danger is that they will try to force parts of the Plan away from the choice of people towards the decision of Ministers in order to recover the ground that is being lost, as we know, every month and every day now as our economy stagnates.
This question of choice is one that I made the main theme of my speech in 966 the House early in November last year, from which I want to quote. I said:This, basically, is the issue. It goes beyond the Plan, or any of the social services. It is the question of choice, and by whom that choice should be made. The real difference between the two sides boils down to this: they believe that choice can and should be predetermined by Ministers in Whitehall, and we believe that choice should be made by the individual, in his business and in his home."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1965; Vol. 718, c. 1076.]It is a year since that questionnaire was first sent out to industry, and I want the First Secretary, next week, to deal with the question how to bring his Plan up to date—whether there will be a new questionnaire, or, if not, how the House will be kept informed of progress. It is good to know that the right hon. Gentleman will come here refreshed to battle with us once more.
In his place today we have the Minister of Housing and Local Government. That is appropriate enough, because his Ministry figures prominently in the Queen's Speech and we shall see a good deal of him at the Dispatch Box in this Session. The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) mentioned the right hon. Gentleman in almost the first sentence of his speech when he moved the Address, linking Lady Godiva with the right hon. Gentleman, and because the hon. Member for Coventry, North is a novelist with a rather feline wit I saw at once what he meant; he meant that although complete disclosure had been promised both the noble Lady and the right hon. Gentleman found ingenious methods of concealing vital statistics.
I want to put a few questions to the right hon. Gentleman. We have got into the habit, month by month, of having a ritual of bad housing returns. Is it not a fact that six out of the last seven months have shown decreases, and is it not also a fact that the worst of all these months was the month of February, in which no less than 3,590 houses fewer were built than in the same month the year before? Is it not also a fact that the right hon. Gentleman knew this very well during the election, but virtuously declined to make these figures available while the election was going on? I wonder whether he would have been quite so steadfast if the figures had turned out to be particularly favourable ones from his point of view.
967 We will presently have the figures for March. I hope they are good. I suspect that they are good. They certainly ought to be, after the run of bad months that we have previously had. I would guess that we will have some months of fairly good figures now, and then, unless the Budget—I do not ask for any comment on this—gives some help in this field, we may well expect higher rates and a continuation of the sag that has been one of the depressing features of the last few months.
I want to bring into the clear light of HANSARD the strange episode of the Northern Ireland figures, which the right hon. Gentleman will well remember. I want to ask him a simple question. "Election Special", a Labour Party leaflet, said in March:Last year the Labour Government built more homes than any Government before—a total of 391,000.We were puzzled by this figure, because it seemed remarkably precise. When we went into it we found that someone had added in the Northern Ireland figures. I do not think that the appearance in this House of one Republican Labour Member from Northern Ireland entitles Her Majesty's Government to claim credit for what is achieved by the Government at Stormont. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman a simple question. It is beyond argument that Transport House "cooked the books"—but did he or did he not know of this leaflet in advance? It is a nice, easy question, and I hope that he will not omit to answer it.
While I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman—and it is only courteous to do so, in view of his forthcoming appearance at the Dispatch Box—I want to refer to the different targets which the two sides of the House have for housing. The Prime Minister made some play with what he called paper targets from this side of the House, but it is a fact that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish)—as late as 18th June, 1965, said:… it is expected about 400,000 dwellings will be completed in Great Britain in 1965."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th June, 1965; Vol. 714, c. 123.]968 The National Council of Building Materials Producers said thatWith 434,000 dwellings under construction at the end of 1964, completions ought not to fall below 420,000 in 1965 and might be as high as 440,000.The Council underestimated the right hon. Gentleman, who achieved just over 380,000 and missed the target by about 50,000. I hope that this worries him. I am not at all sure that it does. He seems to take a painfully detached view of the rights and liberties of the individual, as I would like briefly to explain to the House.
We have concentrated in the Amendment on the position of the individual. When the right hon. Gentleman did me the courtesy of replying to a short Adjournment debate on Tuesday, 8th February, about the famous or infamous Lavender Hill site, he told us that planning appeals had gone up by 50 per cent. during the 18 months of Socialism—a remarkable advertisement and tribute in that time. What is his solution? It is to deny to the individual and to those who complain the right of public inquiry, and by this method, presumably, to try to reduce this appalling figure.
The argument that he put before the House was that in this case there had been a lot of fuss, locally, that the matter had been well advertised, and that there had been protest meetings, and editorials in the local Press. He said that he knew all about the case, and there was no need for a public inquiry. But if we examine that doctrine, let us see what happens. If local people, as they did on this occasion, make a fuss and stand up for their rights; if the local Press, ratepayers' associations and the rest are angry with the Minister, the Minister says, "There is no need for a public inquiry because I know all about it. There will be a fuss." If there is no fuss; if there are no letters and no editorials, there is no public inquiry, because, by the same doctrine, there is no particular need for it.
This attitude of the right hon. Gentleman could not have been more clearly brought out than by the contemptuous attitude with which he faced a censure Motion in the House, arising out of the Special Report of the Council on Tribunals concerning the Packington Estate at Islington. I suspect that he takes as 969 indifferent a view of what the Council says as he quite clearly did of the views of the Conservative and Liberal Parties, which joined together on that particular occasion to object to it.
We are glad, therefore, that he will have an opportunity of explaining his failures in housing. He will no doubt tell us—he always does—that from now on things will get better, but we should like him, during this period, when so many of his Bills will come before the House, to pay much more attention to the ordinary rights of the ordinary citizen than we feel he has done in the past.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
In the context of the point he is making is my right hon. Friend aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government has already intimated that in connection with the extension of Peterborough, which is a vital matter for that part of England, he will take Ministerial action in advance of setting up a development committee, which can only have the result of reducing the period in which local citizens can make their opinions really felt?
§ Mr. Macleod
No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would like to deal with that point, too; it does not surprise me in the least.
It is often said that the debate on the Queen's Speech is the grand inquest of the nation. Of course, this is not a grand inquest but an exhumation of old bones, because, basically, we have in front of us now, in 1966, the same speech as we had in 1965 and as we had in 1964—on the principle, I assume, that "what I say three times is true." But it ignores the true problem, and the true problem is—and I know that the Prime Minister will accept this, and I am coming to another of his speeches in a moment—that we are not competitive enough, and that there is this yawning gap between earnings, prices and production that is explained in the 9-5-1 formula of which we heard so much during the election. Both sides will agree that that is a blueprint for disaster.
Yet what are we offered? We are offered the nationalisation of steel—a measure which, with respect, I do not believe would, on a genuine true vote, get more than a handful of supporters in the House. We all know what blithering 970 old-fashioned nonsense it is, yet the industry and the House have to go through with all this. We are offered the proposal about the Land Commission and, after that, happily—and this is the only thing to look forward to, if I have gathered aright from the Prime Minister—the disappearance of the Ministry itself. Thirdly, we have the setting up of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.
Those three proposals, taken together, mean that money, in one sense or another, has to be found for projects amounting to about £850 million, which will do nothing—none of it—to deal directly with the problem of the yawning gap to which I am drawing the attention of the House.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. It will be recalled that right throughout the election we heard a great deal of the 9-5-1 ratio of incomes, prices and production but, even on the most favourable estimates in the view of the party opposite, it must be understood that the index of production is one of constant prices, whereas incomes are not and we have, in fact, a 3.4-4.6-1.4 ratio—
§ Mr. Macleod
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I should he delighted to debate at some length the fallacies implicit in that lengthy intervention, but I would only point out that we did a great deal better. Perhaps we can leave it at that.
I do not believe that it is words but that it is intention that divides us. The day after his 91-minute speech to the House the Prime Minister went to Scotland and made another speech there. If I may say so, I thought that it was a very good speech indeed—and I got that sentence out without choking. I thought, also, that not only was it a very good speech, but extremely familiar to me in words and content. My impression that it was both good and familiar was reinforced next day when, in the Daily Telegraph, its political correspondent wrote:It was exactly the same speech that Mr. Macleod and Mr. Heath used to make ten 971 years ago when they were Minister of Labour.This really is the point. The Prime Minister is today making exactly the same sort of speech—and it is still a good one—that I made and that my right hon. Friend made 10 years ago.
Basically, it is still the same speech that Sir Stafford Cripps used to make to the country over and over again 20 years ago—and if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is going the rounds of the conferences now, as he is, that is exactly what Hugh Gaitskell did 15 or 16 years ago. In all those 20 years all of us who have been worried about the country's competitive position have preached basically the same message. We have said that we must earn our keep; that no one owes us a living, and that, in the end, we cannot reap where we have not sown. But the difference is that the Prime Minister has no ideas beyond going on making these admirable speeches which, for 20 years and more, have fallen on ears that are at least, I am afraid, partially deaf to this particular appeal.
We have come to this conclusion—and this explains, for example, the very title of the election manifesto we put before the people—that in this respect words are no longer enough. It is no longer enough just to go on "ear stroking", as the American phrase has it. We really do need action and not words. I know perfectly well that, at the General Election, words had it. We were beaten by a very large majority indeed. It was a clear-cut victory for candy floss, and one can have no particular grumble against the Prime Minister there; but in place of the comparatively harmless bingo society that we created he has devised the roulette society, and is doing very well indeed on it at present.
The sort of Queen's Speech we should have wished to put forward is implicit in our Amendment. I have said, first of all, what we would not do: the folly of steel, the absurd rigmarole of the Land Commission, the very approach of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation. Secondly, of course, there is a great deal of common ground between the two sides of the House which is expressed in various parts of the Queen's Speech. Much of what is said about foreign affairs, of what is 972 said about the Commonwealth, of what is said about Europe—if, indeed, it is meant, of which we are by no means convinced—would be acceptable and welcomed on this side. At home, what is said about sterling, of course, we support, and what is said about increased liquidity, and a number of the social service proposals have at least elements in common, which is natural enough when so many people on the two sides have been working on the problems.
But our Queen's Speech would have been entirely different in relation to the sort of Bills and measures we would advance to the House, and among them—and some that we would infinitely prefer to the hotchpotch in this Queen's Speech—would be, first, to pass a new Industrial Relations Measure and set up a code of good industrial practice. When I advocate this, the Minister of Labour often says to me, in a pained voice, that I have changed my mind since 10 years ago. Indeed, I have, and I have admitted that over and over again on television—and for the very reason I have just given to the House; because the Prime Minister with his words, is at exactly the same point that we were at 10 years ago, and because we have been convinced, since then, that it really is necessary to take action in this sphere.
I do not "kid" myself that we make people behave better to each other by passing an Act of Parliament. We all know that this is just as true in industrial relations as in race relations. But just as there is a part to play in the advance towards the brotherhood of man in race relations, so there is a part to play by legislation greater than we have done in the development of good industrial relations.
We would encourage wider ownership in all its forms because we believe basically in the individual. As against the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, we would have set up—it is the very reverse of the Government's thinking—a Small Business Bureau to help small firms. Because we believe in this sort of freedom for the consumer, we would have abolished the restrictions on shop closing hours and we would see to it that, apart from the basic pension, occupational pensions should be available to everyone. Instead of the single sentence in the Gracious Speech that concentrates upon what we regard as a 973 dangerous approach via the universal comprehensive secondary school, we would have concentrated upon where we believe the true priorities in education lie, which is in the primary schools and in the supply of teachers.
Such a programme would not only have been far cheaper than the present one and, therefore, far easier for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to absorb without some of the difficulties that one sees ahead of the Government, but it would have been far more relevant, to quote the Amendment,to the serious problems facing the nation".It is on the test of relevance that one must judge the Queen's Speech, and we will apply exactly the same test of relevance to next Tuesday's Budget when it comes. The Government will, of course, win in the Lobby tonight, just as they won in the country, and by the same sort of margin. Yet I must declare the conviction of this side of the House that it remains true, as time will show, that this Gracious Speech, now three times delivered in 1964, 1965 and 1966, is a tedious irrelevance. It is as such that we will condemn it in the Lobby tonight.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)
Before I reply to the speech of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), I am sure the House will permit me a brief reference to the causes which have brought me to the Despatch Box this afternoon. I am, as hon. Members know, a stand-in for my right hon. Friend the First Secretary owing to his indisposition. We all appreciated the words of the right hon. Gentleman in good will to my right hon. Friend. I spoke to him today and he tells me that he will be out of hospital tonight and fit and ready for his speech next week.
Having said that, I turn to the subject of the debate. I thought it would be wise to start by looking at the course the debate has taken over these six days. From what I have heard and have read in HANSARD, I found an astonishing contrast between the atmosphere and the speeches delivered at the hustings and the quiet, even ruminant calm in which this debate has been taking place.
974 At the hustings, we heard a lot about issues which we thought were important, and so did the Tories, about rates, rents and the cost of living. We have now had a very different style of debate. We have had pleasant and lengthy debates on foreign affairs, defence and, of course, Rhodesia. We have had a nice noncontroversial day on industrial relations and a quiet debate on technology, and the content, with one or two rumbustious exceptions, one of them from Northern Ireland, has been matched by the tone.
I have been puzzled at the Opposition. Why is it that we have this curious sense of detachment in the whole affair? The reason to me is clear. During the election there was a faint hope that the office which had just slipped from them by a hair's breadth 18 months ago could be recaptured. Now there is no hope. Hon. Members opposite know definitely that they are out. They are settling down to a good long period of opposition.
I claim to be something of a connoisseur in opposition. I have opposed most people in my time, from most sides, and I would like to say to hon. Members opposite that they are doing well and that they have certain advantages as an Opposition over those which we had. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition will permit them, for example, to air their differences year by year in annual conference working out a new policy. There will be no dangerous blue-prints and no, even more incriminating, long policy pamphlets such as we produced in our opposition to explain to ourselves and to the electorate what we intended to do. I know that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is almost as rabid a doctrinaire pamphlet writer as I am. If he had his way, hon. Members opposite might do much the same as us. I think, however, that they will be curbed.
The difficulties of the Leader of the Opposition will not be to prevent his hon. Friends sitting hour after hour fighting away or sweating it out in the Committee Rooms. Indeed, my suspicion is that he will have an even greater difficulty, the difficulty of keeping them here at all, of preventing them from slipping off into the City and of persuading them of the virtue and the rewarding virtues of being a whole-time Opposition—
§ Mr. Crossman
I am not referring to my own benches—instead of whole-time Government.
The question of whole-time and part-time is something which we have discussed in the Queen's Speech for a quite considerable time. When we are discussing the modernisation of Parliament, this is one of the important issues to raise. On this there is a considerable difference between the two sides of the House. It is fair to say that when I looked at the extremely pleasant articles on the House by our former colleague, Henry Brooke, in The Times recently, they revealed to me a very truthful picture of how a Tory looks at the job and how he feels that the essence of the House of Commons is the gentleman-amateur on the back benches. Even he, however, was driven to say that this was almost an anachronism and that the job was becoming whole-time professional, and he said it with a nostalgic reluctance.
If we are modernising Parliament, it seems to me that we should consider one thing. Until now, all our procedures and all our business have been regulated for the convenience of people whose main interest is outside the House of Commons and those who are whole-time have been regarded as a minority who must come second. I suggest that when we think in term of modernisation we might make the exception the rule and the rule the exception and say to ourselves that our business should be so organised that those who are whole-time because they care for it should have their convenience looked after and that the others can take care of themselves as a minority.
This is not simply, however, a question of our own convenience. Indeed, we must see this issue of the whole-time and the part-time Member as part of a much larger problem: that is, the problem of the standing, the status and the authority of this House of Commons. The question which I should like to put to the House is whether we accept the changes in the functions and status of the House of Commons which, in 100 years, have completely transformed it without a formal change in its constitution.
976 I do not know of a single academic writer about British politics who has not recorded the fact of decline in the authority of the House. The last that I recall is the book "Cabinet Government" by Professor Mackintosh. In three stages we read of the decline from 100 years ago when Parliament selected the Prime Minister, was active in policy formulation and partially controlled the work of the Departments. Fifty years ago Parliamentary Government had moved to Cabinet Government, under which effective policy-making had been transferred from the public debates in this House to the secret discussions of a Cabinet sustained in its majority by a new and rigid party system. Stage 3 whittled away the authority of the Cabinet and the authority of Parliament, and carried the centralisation still further by the move from what Bagehot described as "Cabinet Government" to what Professor Mackintosh describes as "Prime Ministerial Government".
That was the history given in this latest book by Professor Mackintosh. I mean, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who has been transformed, like other academics now, into a practical politician.
I think that the basic issue we ought to have in mind in considering the future and the proposals which are being debated about the future of Parliament is one which was summed up in an aphorism which was put to me once when I was on the back benches by a Cabinet Minister, who said "The authority of Parliament has diminished, is diminishing and should diminish still further." I said that that was an outrage. He then said, "Wait until you are a Cabinet Minister, and then you will see what I mean." I have waited, but I still think it an outrage. I still think that the authority of Parliament has to be not only sustained but strengthened. I still think that it should have a very active part in policy-making. I still think, above all, that it should scrutinise the work of the Departments and make a reality of that scrutiny.
That is why I welcome the change in the attitude of the parties to these proposals, to which some of us have been looking forward for many years. I particularly welcomed the statement of the 977 Prime Minister that he wanted to see closer identity of hon. Members outside the Government with the processes of administration, and, in particular, his proposal for new committees to study the day-to-day work of Departments, in particular the Home Office and the Ministry of Housing.
Some people have told me that a Minister who is doing his job well could not have the time to discuss his Department with a Parliamentary Committee. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, who asked me about planning and planning appeals and suggested that I was not interested in the machinery and that it was violating human freedom, that I should be delighted to have a proper investigation of the planning machinery. I should think it absolutely first-rate to have a committee which went up and down the country studying how local authorities were doing it, came back to us to see how we were doing it and claimed the right to interrogate Ministers about ii. That seems to me to be exactly what should happen. I think that those who wish to revive the authority of Parliament could do it by means of the right kind of committee. I think that that is the right meaning to attach to the Prime Minister's proposals. I am glad that the other night my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, who has a large Department, showed that he also shares my view. If a Minister wants to get changes in Whitehall, he may well find assistance in getting these changes by having well-informed criticisms and analysis from this House through specialist committees.
Therefore, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), who devoted their speeches to this subject, that they have more agreement than they realised. I think that this is something on which we can now move forward provided that we do not merely turn the committees into party cockpits. They should be used for their real task, which all of us will welcome.
I now turn from our own affairs, the management of Parliament, to the central issue raised by the right hon. Gentleman. As soon as I read his Motion, with its dreary doctrinaire contrast between restrictive State control on the one hand 978 and individual incentive on the other, my mind went back to the debate on the Loyal Address six years ago, in 1959, when a Conservative Government was returned triumphantly to office under the Super Mac slogan, "We have never had it so good", a slogan which was a more vivid way of saying what the right hon. Gentleman said in his dreary, doctrinaire speech.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman, with his precise academic mind, will not fall into the falsehood of attributing to Mr. Harold Macmillan the phrase, "We have never had it so good". What Mr. Macmillan said was, "Many people have never had it so good, and can we keep it so?" It was a question and not a statement.
§ Mr. Crossman
Some politicians have the misfortune to say something memorable. Sometimes we win votes by it, and sometimes not. Mr. Macmillan was lucky, because he won votes by this. He won the General Election and came back in triumph to pursue the philosophy which the right hon. Gentleman put to us this afternoon, and he was answered in debate by Aneurin Bevan in, I think, the last speech that he made before he died. That was a speech that I have never forgotten. It is worth reminding ourselves of what Mr. Bevan said about the philosophy of the right hon. Gentleman's approach. What he said was:There is one important problem facing representative Parliamentary government in the whole of the world where it exists … how to reconcile Parliamentary popularity with sound economic planning … how to persuade the people to forgo immediate satisfactions in order to build up the economic resources of the country. … to try to reconcile popular representative government with setting aside sufficient of the national income in order to expand productive resources."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1959; Vol. 612. c. 862-3.]Mr. Bevan went on to remind the House that there was no evidence in history so far that any people would prove themselves wise and mature enough voluntarily to accept the disciplines necessary to the enlightenment of their freedom.
What Mr. Bevan said six years ago seems to me to be just as relevant today. It is something that we ought to reflect on. I believe that the fundamental reason why we won the last General Election is that the British people rejected our 979 opponents for failing to heed Mr. Bevan's advice, for failing to demand of the British people the voluntary self-discipline which is implicit, for example, in the national incomes and prices policy, to which my right hon. Friend the First Secretary has dedicated himself. If we are not to do that, we have to face the awkward fact that if we cannot get voluntary self-discipline, we are driven back, as the Americans are driven back, to halting inflation by crude injections of unemployment.
I noticed that in his speech in the debate the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) was very careful to say that he entirely rejects the necessity for introducing unemployment other than pure short-term unemployment. That is all that is required; nothing else is required. That was not the philosophy of the Tories during the last thirteen years. Let us recall what they actually did. Let us recall, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, the actions and not the words. What did they do about curing inflation? They staged three election booms, two successful from their point of view, after which there were long periods of stagnation and no sign whatever, to use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase, of high short-term unemployment to give the economy more flexibility. What they actually achieved was a steady increase of average unemployment and a steady worsening of long-term unemployment, particularly in the neglected areas of the North and West.
If we are looking at actions and not words, let us contrast what they did in using these methods with what we have done. Despite the appalling pressure of the economic crisis, full employment was maintained, but something even better was achieved. While we were grappling with the economic crisis, we also grappled with the regional imbalance which the Tories had allowed to develop. The drift to the South-East has been largely halted. Of the total drop of 29,000 in unemployment in Great Britain between February 1965 and February 1966, as much as 28,000 occurred in the North and North-Western regions and in Scotland. That meant that we were able during that period of overcoming the crisis also to remove the pockets of unemployment in the worst areas where they had remained 980 during the previous thirteen years. If anyone asks what one could single out as a contrast with the action of the Tories, this is something of which we can really be proud.
§ Mr. Anthony Buck (Colchester)
While the right hon. Gentleman is on this point and mentioning the South-East, could he expand on what was said by one of his right hon. Friends recently about the harsh measures that the South-East must expect in the future?
§ Mr. Crossman
Indeed, I can. What we are doing is preventing the drift to the South-East starting again. What my right hon. Friend has said, and what I have repeated again and again, is that in order to prevent it we shall have to give deliberate economic incentives to the development areas which the South-East is not getting and will not get. Of course, this will be unpopular, but we shall go on saying it because this policy is necessary to the job we are trying to do.
We have attempted to do something far more difficult than the Opposition ever attempted in their 13 years of office. We have attempted to overcome the crisis of inflation with full employment and have just succeeded so far. We have not merely relied, as the right hon. Member for Enfield, West would like to do, on incentives to private individuals. We have tried to rely on something that the Opposition despises—a sense of community—the sense of community responsibility without which, as Mr. Bevan said, one cannot solve these problems. I know that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that that is sentimental claptrap, but this is one of those issues which divide the two sides of the House. We believe that if we can get people to trust us and to understand what we are doing, we can get people to do things voluntarily with us which would be impossible if they were not put to the people as part of a sound social programme.
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Gentleman says, "The best of luck". That is from a member of the permanent Opposition, and I thank him. If that does not show defeatism opposite, I do not know what does.
981 Now I turn to the housing situation. The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to answer questions about Northern Ireland, but on the question of the housing figures, I was delighted to give the explanation to the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). I have also dealt with the question of planning procedure. The right hon. Gentleman said that the housing figures got worse in February. I remind him that they got better in March. But I do not think that we shall get the improvement that we seek until later, and the Government will not be complacent.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
Will the right hon. Gentleman complete the story by telling us why he is prepared, ten days before the local elections, and in advance of publication, to say that the March figures will be good, whereas he declined, ten days before the General Election, to say what the February figures were?
§ Mr. Crossman
The February figures were given out quite normally. The March figures are due for publication on 3rd May, well before the local elections, and I think that it would be convenient if I gave the latest figures. The March figures are much better than the February figures. It is fair, however, to take the first three months of the year, comparing them with the first three months of 1965. That is to take the bad with the good.
First, the public sector. Completions at 40,000 are the same as a year ago, and, despite the weather, starts are only 1,000 down in these three months. But what about houses under construction? I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition loves houses under construction. He once said that this was the real test of a Government's achievement. I do not accept that view. But, if it were true, we would be doing very well, because 12,000 more houses this year are under construction than in 1965 in the public sector.
I regard this, however, as a sign of failure. It means that completion times are prolonging themselves. I am alarmed because in the past year the completion time for public sector houses has prolonged itself from 15½ to l6½ months. We must cut down the completion time in the public sector. I shall do this, first, by using the rolling three-year pro- 982 grammes, under which we are giving priority to local authorities to make them raise their sights and place increased reliance on industrialised system building.
First, I will deal with the three-year rolling programme. We have selected 128 local authorities and given them top priority. They build to capacity and we are allocating to them about 70 per cent. of our total output in the public sector in order to ensure continuous expansion, and we are revising their programmes year by year.
The housing programme is concentrated in the seven great conurbations and in a few free standing towns with bad unemployment and overcrowding, such as Southampton and Nottingham. As a result, hundreds of other housing authorities will have their housing programmes kept steady or possibly cut. I am sorry about this, but we have to concentrate our campaign to make it effective and to achieve the continuously expanding programme without which industrialised building is not worth having.
There really is something solid to record as far as industrialised building is concerned. In 1964, a total of 11.8 per cent. of the public sector housing in England and Wales was system built. In 1965 the figure was 16.5 per cent. This year the figure should be 26 per cent. In the first three months of this year, we have approved tenders for 14,500 system built houses—nearly 34 per cent. of the total number of houses approved in the public sector. Of the total number of houses we shall approve this year, we hope that 30 to 35 per cent.—60,000—will be system built. If we do this we shall have taken a real step forward by getting the scale of operations on that level.
§ Mr. Crossman
These are units of accommodation. Some are flats and some are houses. They include high rise and low rise flats and houses.
The right hon. Member for Enfield, West talked about rigid State control. A few years ago when industrialised building began to be talked about, the private building industry, with commendable enterprise, tried to meet the new demand. 983 The result was a positive babel of competing systems—about 300 of them—many of them ill-designed, ill-considered and systematic only in name. So long as the system builders were left unorganised by the State and so long as the local authority market for industrialised housing was left free by Whiehall, nothing was achieved.
It has required the massive intervention of public authority—precisely what the right hon. Gentleman objects to—to wring order out of this confusion, to assess the systems, to refine the methods, to apply the proper test of efficiency and, above all, to organise the local authority demand in a way which enables the genuine system builder to achieve the full potential of industrialised building. It is off the ground now and the whole public sector is moving forward steadily. The only limiting factor is the willingness of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make money available. If we were allowed more money we could achieve records in local authority building year by year.
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
Will not the right hon. Gentleman now pay tribute to the National Building Agency which was set up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon)?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am in a slight embarrassment here, because its future is still in dispute between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works and myself, but it has done a very important job, as have certain people in my own Ministry. The National Building Agency is a very valuable group.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to me for the second time. This is a point of important detail. Is it not the case that all this industrialised building being applied to local authorities depends very largely on local authority building regulations? Is it true that the Greater London Council has not adapted its building regulations to bring itself into conformity with the rest of the country?
§ Mr. Crossman
This is a long and difficult question. It is true that the building regulations make a great difference. 984 Uniform regulations outside London are proving of enormous assistance. It is also true that London is not bound by our building regulations. I am negotiating with both London and Manchester about this because I want to get the kind of uniformity of regulations in the public sector which will enable us to make enormous economies in this direction.
I want to turn now to the private sector, where the picture is very different and much less comforting. In the first three months of this year, private builders completed 46,000 houses compared with 51,000 a year ago. Their starts dropped from 57,000 to 45,000. The only statistic which sustained itself was that for private houses under construction—the Leader of the Opposition's favourite. The figure was sustained fairly well, although there was a slight drop from 210,000 last spring to 200,000 now.
We have to try very carefully to analyse the reason for these figures, because last summer, when the private starts fell so dramatically, everybody told me that it was agreed that what was wrong was the mortgage famine caused by local authority borrowing denying the small builder the capital he needed to get on with new houses. But by this spring the mortgage position had been transformed. I have the official building society figures for new commitments: December, 1965, £88 million; January, 1966, £99 million; February, 1966, £114 million; and March, 1966, £143 million. That is to say, every successive month more and more money has gone out to owner-occupiers who want to buy a house, money which has not only been promised but which has actually gone into their hands.
There remains the puzzle why in that situation the number of houses in the private sector waiting for completion sticks at around 200,000. I can understand hesitancy about new starts in a period of political uncertainty, but the puzzle is why, when there are masses of money available and when the bricks are available and the skilled labour is available, the builders cannot or do not complete the houses.
One part of the answer may be that mortgages are now going less to new houses than to old houses because more and more young couples are saying that they cannot afford a new house at the 985 price asked and have therefore gone for the smaller old houses, or for conversions. Another possible reason is that at least before the election there was political uncertainty. The builders told me a great deal about this and said that they felt that a lack of political confidence was holding up their job.
They told me that they thought the people did not know about the Government's intentions with their mortgage scheme. All that at least is now over, because at the beginning of March my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer outlined our plans for helping potential owner-occupiers who did not pay Income Tax at the standard rate and who were so denied the tax concession enjoyed by the better-off owner-occupiers. The principles of the scheme have been welcomed by all those concerned—the building societies, the local authorities, the insurance companies and even the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Crossman
The right hon. Gentleman says that it is his scheme. How generous he is! Everybody likes the scheme and thinks that it is sound, but whereas the local authorities have no doubt that they could administer our particular version satisfactorily, some building societies still feel that it does not suit their methods of book keeping, and yesterday afternoon the B.S.A. put forward to me a method of achieving the same objective by means which they think would be easier to administer. These two methods, their and ours, must be examined carefully, and no doubt we shall reach agreement at a relatively early stage in time to include it in our Housing Subsidies Bill when we re-present that legislation to the House.
But all this will take time, and what is important is that the potential house purchaser should not increase the builders' difficulties still further by delaying taking out a mortgage until our scheme is on the Statute Book. As the Chancellor and I have both publicly emphasised on many occasions, no one will lose his opportunity to go into the Government scheme by buying a house now, since later every existing mortgagor will have the option to switch to the Government scheme if it pays him 986 to do so. What the Government want, what the building societies want and what the builders want is an end of the sag in the completions and starts of houses for sale. What we are all trying to achieve is a situation where, alongside a healthy public sector now steadily expanding under strict Government control, we can have a healthy private sector steadily expanding in conditions of free competition and private enterprise.
§ Mr. Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
It might help poorer people to buy houses if the building societies took account now of the new system for calculating the income basis. If they have to calculate on the old basis rather than the new, they will still not be taking advantage of the new scheme.
§ Mr. Crossman
I can assure my hon. Friend that, in all our discussions, I have been emphasising to the building societies and the local authorities that we must concern ourselves not with our convenience, or the convenience of the Inland Revenue, or even the convenience of the building societies, but with having a scheme which the ordinary mortgagor can understand, so that he can see how it works. One of the difficulties which I have is that I think that our scheme is easier for the mortgagor to understand and they think that theirs is more convenient to them. This is something we have to iron out.
§ Mr. Crossman
I do not have them with me. They were relatively down because, of course, the squeeze which we introduced last July had only just begun to operate at the end of the year. One of the reasons I brought back the local authority scheme was that I thought that the local authority squeeze might well be having an awkward effect, especially on the resale of old houses, thereby blocking one of the links in the chain which is needed if new houses are to be built. I hope that when the local authorities get going again they will be able to assist the completion of houses and the sale of older houses.
I must talk about the sale of land, because the right hon. Gentleman told 987 me about what he called the irrelevance of the Land Commission. Certainly it is the constant complaint of the builders, and I think that they have convinced themselves genuinely that they will somehow lose the land if the Land Commission buys it. The builders asked me how they could build the houses if the land on which to build them was unavailable or there was a threat to it from the Land Commission. Land shortage does not explain the builders' failure to build the houses in the pipeline, but I think that land famine is a fact and it is as serious for local authorities as for private builders. I have complaints from Birmingham, Liverpool and Sheffield and other great authorities which are looking five years ahead at the kind of scale of building programme which I have given to them and who say, "It is all right, Minister, if you will get us the land three, four or five years in advance so that we can try to plan properly; but where is the land?".
It is, therefore, not only the private builder who is affected. When I took over 18 months ago, Birmingham was running at half cock simply because it did not have any land. To jack it up I had to take a great slice out of the green belt, as my predecessor had had to do for Liverpool just before. With a new rate of building, the shortage will get more acute. Therefore, all over the country developers, public and private, are facing the threat that their building programmes will be brought to a halt, or they will have to pay even more fantastic prices than the already wicked level for the land they must have.
I want to record the fact that one cause of the shortage of land is perfectly clear and has nothing to do with the future Land Commission. The real cause of the trouble, of course, is what has happened in the last ten years when the Tories systematically dismantled the whole financial structure of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and so left our machinery of planning control stripped of the essential fiscal control which gave it strength and purpose. It was because they deliberately put the land at the mercy of the land speculator that we have been faced with a land crisis today. Let us get this quite clear: the Silkin Planning Act was the most courageous and far-sighted Act of the whole previous Labour 988 Government. In one bold and imaginative Measure, it created the machinery for planning growth, for planning where the houses and towns should be and how they should expand, and for controlling land values. Planning and control went together.
What that great Act recognised was that if one wanted to get indiscriminate development under control and to give the community the decision as to where development took place, one had to distort the market in land so that there would not be a free market in land. This meant that because one field was in a green belt its development value was, say, £150, while the field next door, being outside the green belt, had a development value of £20,000.
What made the whole position worse was the unleashing of land values by the abolition of all idea of fiscal control over it. The land crisis is entirely due to the Tory decision to retain one half of the Silkin Act, the planning provisions, and to get rid of the other half, the development charge. As a result, perfectly proper decisions by planning authorities now result either in vast profits to the landlord—as in the case of Lavender Hill which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned—when permission is given, or in a sense of acute grievance if permission is withheld. At the same time, the cost of land soars higher and higher because developers very soon discovered that the simplest way to make a fortune was not to develop the land they acquired, not to build the houses, but to sit tight and hold on to the land, knowing that the price would rise and that they could then sell. That is the secret. The main reason why the little builder cannot get land today is that a number of big developers are making millions by picking up land all over the country and holding on to the plots until they can sell them for huge amounts. "Set the country free from Socialist controls", says the right hon. Gentleman. He complains of rigid State control. That is what he did in land, and the result of dismantling our controls was to create a situation in which money is often made more easily by not building a house than by building one. That is the blunt fact.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
Surely the right hon. Gentleman recognises that the Silkin 989 Act was a theory which did not work and that in practice we did not get the houses.
§ Mr. Crossman
It had nothing to do with the houses. It was a Town and Country Planning Act and it is working today in the sense that the whole of the planning side is still in operation, and it is only the ancillary fiscal Sections which have been abolished.
As Minister of Housing I have some instruments for dealing with this land famine. New town corporations—the result of another very far-sighted Act—can acquire all the land they need after they have gone through the lengthy process of designation. Local authorities can sometimes get the land they need by agreement, usually at fantastic prices, but if they want compulsory purchase they have wearisome and often infernal delays because of the procedures through which they have to go.
One thing I have learned in these last 18 months is that if we are to end the land crisis we must build a much more powerful central instrument, with all the necessary powers and the capital required to buy the land before it is needed for development, when it is relatively cheap—buying it without development value, before it gets too expensive. Having bought it they then release it to those who will develop it, to the local authorities and to the private builders, who are crying out for land.
The Opposition are doing the country an evil service when they foster the fears of the small builder that the Land Commission will buy up his land and take it away from him. The exact reverse is true. Because the Tories turned Britain into a land speculators' paradise, we are being compelled to create a powerful instrument charged primarily with the task of acquiring the land needed for building our towns and cities and then releasing it to the people who will do the actual building.
I do not believe that there is another issue before this Parliament which so sharply contrasts the disastrous doctrines which dominated the Conservatives when they were in Government—and the disastrous consequences of those doctrines—and the principles of community planning and community service which the present Government are seeking to apply. The 990 Opposition believe—they say they do—that housing the people is a business which works best if the laws of supply and demand are allowed to operate freely, if land is bought and sold at the highest price and if houses are built wherever it pays to build them. Their own 13 years surely should have taught them that this is nonsense. But judging by the debates this week they have learned very little as yet. Perhaps they need the five years in opposition which the electorate have given them for the lessons to sink in. Certainly we need five years, and more, in order to do the job.
We shall be beginning by the end of this year to get these Measures through and we shall have an appointed day—more than one. We shall be getting the Land Commission going and beginning the task of freeing the land from thraldom to the developer and the land speculator—and that is the appointed day I am looking forward to most of all. It will be one, but only one, of the achievements which will justify the confidence which the people of this country have placed in us.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government today fell into three parts. The first was the question of procedural reform. I have occasionally attended seminars at Nuffield College and elsewhere on politics, and I have always found that where the students were infected by their teachers in their thinking was that the only thing which mattered to them was keeping the fourth eleven in Parliament amused, and this is what the Prime Minister wants to do. He wants to keep the fourth eleven amused while he carries on Prime Ministerial government, and that is how it will work out.
The second part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was about economic affairs. This was the part in which he was acting as understudy for the Minister of Economic Affairs, and in my speech I shall catch up most of the points which he made. The third part of the speech was about housing, and I will not deal with that except to say that everybody who has studied the matter thinks that what he is doing will put the price of land up and not down. We shall wait and see.
991 What I want to do is to offer some philosophical observations to the House about the result of the last election. There is a very big difference between this election and 1945. In 1945, Labour voters had two dominant beliefs, they believed two positive things. They were interested in foreign affairs and they believed that peace could best be kept by friendship with Russia, that Left could speak to Left, and that if they had a Labour Government in they were home and dry.
The second thing in which they believed was nationalisation. They thought that nationalisation was an economic panacea, and many of them thought that it had certain moral and spiritual advantages and that those who worked in nationalised industries would be better and happier men.
Nobody believes either of those propositions today. During the golden years of Tory rule some hon. Members opposite may have thought that Left could speak to Left. If they thought that, then the ludicrous efforts of the Prime Minister to get in touch with the Government of North Vietnam ought to have disillusioned them. And nobody, except possibly one or two, ageing, flat-earthers opposite, believes in the moral value of nationalisation. Nor do they believe in its efficiency. The most interesting thing about the proposition to nationalise steel is that there has been no discussion by hon. Members opposite about how they would organise the industry and make it efficient. They are not interested in this. What they are interested in is power—power to push people around, to capture the commanding heights of the economy, a phrase which, as hon. Members know, Aneurin Bevan lifted from Lenin.
Both those beliefs—the belief that Left could speak to Left and the belief in nationalisation as a panacea—were an excess of folly, and that excess of folly had to be purged. It may well be that that excess of folly could not have been purged without some period of Labour Government, grievous as that was.
I come to this election—and 1 hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government will occasionally listen. I do not believe that in this election the electorate positively believed in anything. The 992 campaign fought by the Prime Minister was purely negative, purely looking to the past. What the people heard, and what they wanted to hear, was "There is no real need to bother. The economy is all right. We need not tackle any of the more difficult problems ahead of us. Things will be all right."
What Labour voters said—and my hon. Friends and I talked to plenty of them—was, "We know that there are difficulties in the economy. We know that wages have never gone up faster, we know that production is not going up and that that is rather an unhealthy position. But the Government tell us that it is all right, and perhaps something will turn up. After all, think of the dear, sweet, little gnomes of Zurich—how good they have been, the enormous sums they have lent us, the vast credits they have promised us. We know that the poor gnomes have not enough to help India out of her difficulties, but surely they would help us to go on living beyond our means. And it is so pleasant."
These Labour voters may have remembered that Horatio Bottomley said that he was never so well off and never able to live so well as when he was bankrupt. Moreover, they have a moral advantage which Bottomley did not have. The gnomes have lent them enough for them to go on with their benefactions to under-developed countries, so that we are living beyond our means while having the moral satisfaction of giving away borrowed money.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney) rose—
§ Mr. Birch
I will not give way.
What the Labour voters also said to themselves was, "We know that there is much too great an inflation in this country. If we put the Tories in they will stop the inflation. That would be stop-go, and we do not want stop-go. We want stability." We have got it—for we have permanent stop. They said, of course, "The Chancellor is doing his very best. He has had four Budgets and he has tried to stop inflation with all of them and after each Budget inflation actually increased, but that is the sort of action we want—action which is tough, purposive and absolutely useless."
Then, on trade unions, I think they said to themselves, "Of course, the trade unions have a structure which is out of 993 date and we know they are very inefficient and we know that there are many unofficial strikes which are a scandal, and ruinous to the country, and even those unofficial strikes are very badly conducted and they happen because the unions are badly conducted, but we really do not want very much done about it. Those horrible Tories have an idea that they might make contracts between unions and management enforceable at law. We quite realise that in most industrial countries this is so and it works, but to stop unofficial strikes here would cause inconvenience and trouble and dear George Woodcock would be so dreadfully unhappy."
The Prime Minister had a better idea. The Prime Minister said in 1964 that he would not appoint a Royal Commission on trade unions because it was an exercise in procrastination. We knew all about that, and we knew the Prime Minister could have sworn to that on oath if necessary, but we understand him better than he understands himself, and what he really meant was that he would appoint a Royal Commission because it was an exercise in procrastination, and sure enough, he did. It has been sitting now for 15 months, and by dint of desperately hard work the Trades Union Congress hopes to put in its memorandum of evidence in a few months. So if we are lucky this Commission will go on for another year or two years.
It will have to report some time, but, by a sublime act of prudence, the Prime Minister stopped anything dreadful from happening by putting Mr. George Woodcock himself on the Commission. When the report comes it cannot mean anything dreadful. Indeed, we all know that it is very unlikely to mean anything at all. Once again, action, tough, purposive and absolutely useless.
Well, then, take restrictive practices. They said, "Of course, restrictive practices are very damaging. We know, everyone in the country knows, it would be much better if they could be got rid of, but those horrible Tories, or some of them, would make restrictive practices registrable with the industrial court. They might even abolish some of them, and that would mean trouble and might cause unpleasant publicity". But during the election he promised real action. The Prime Minister is now going round and 994 making increasingly frequent and increasingly vulgar speeches on this subject. The Prime Minister promised that there would be a committee meeting, and that he himself would preside. Once again, action, tough, purposive and absolutely useless.
Take technology. That, of course, is very important, and we are very glad to see in the Gracious Speech that science is going on. Indeed, in the 1964 Election the Prime Minister talked a great deal about technology and we all got a bit nervous that something might be going to happen, that there might be a change; but, of course, we need not have worried: he appointed the dear Minister of Technology, a man so ignorant of the subject and so woolly-minded that nothing could possibly happen, and nothing has happened. Of course, we are sorry that Lord Snow has disappeared through a trapdoor. It must be dreadful for the Minister: Bootsie forlorn without his Snudge. The dear Minister is still there and nothing is going to happen. Once again, action, tough, purposive and absolutely useless.
Then, of course, there is the Common Market. We know that there is not much future either politically or industrially for this country unless we can get in, but it might cause change and there might be competition and that would not be very nice, and dear Lord Attlee tells us that all those people on the Continent are lesser breeds without law, and not one in 10,000 studies Wisden.
In the election the Prime Minister said he would appoint a "Minister for Europe", and at the same time he laid down conditions under which we can never possibly get into the Common Market. There, once again, action, tough, purposive and absolutely useless.
Well, that is, I think, what they thought. They wanted to slob along in the old way. They did not want to change. They were quite satisfied with not bothering. It brings to my mind the last three lines from John Betjeman's poem "The Planster's Vision":And singing millions heareth Challenge clearFrom microphones in communal canteens:No right, no wrong; all is perfect everywhere.No right, no wrong. All this, of course, as my right hon. Friend said, was the 995 cause of the clear victory of the candy-floss cause at the last election.
That will not work. To believe we can get on without tackling our difficulties is an excess of human folly, and it has got to be purged. I think that it will be purged under this Government. I pray to God it will not last too long and will not be too terrible.
I think that the first challenge will come in the economy. It is there now. I want to speak very shortly on this, but there is one point which I think a very important one, and it is this. For the first time our two principal competitors and customers, the United States of America and Western Germany, have badly overheated economies. This is an economic conjuncture which is quite extraordinarily favourable to us from our balance of payments point of view, and if we cannot live in these circumstances we are not going to live at all.
Now, if the Chancellor had understood the state of the economy, and if he had done one-half or three-quarters of what he has done, and had done it at once and resolutely, there would have been a balance in the economy; we should have got the increased exports which we need and our economy today would be in balance or, indeed, in surplus. But that is not the fact. Nobody thinks our payments will be in balance this year. There was a scholarly article the other day in the Financial Times which estimated that, even making the most favourable assumptions, including the retention of the illegal import surcharge, we should be out of balance by between £200 to £300 million, with £1,300 million of visible reserves, of which £900 million are borrowed; this is a serious position.
We are using up our second line of reserves, running down private portfolio investment. We are, as it were, eating the unconsumed portion of our iron ration, our iron ration being our portfolio holdings of American securities which were mobilised in two world wars, and doing it not in time of desperate danger, not in time of war, but at a time of an economic situation profoundly favourable to us.
I think that the error of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the election—repeated by the right hon. Gentleman today—was 996 positively to boast of the failure of their own policy, to boast that unfilled vacancies far exceed the number of unemployed. Unfilled vacancies have jumped up today, and the Minister of Labour has disclosed that only one-third of those listed as unemployed are, in fact, employable, and what this means is that the number of unfilled vacancies is more than four times the number of employable unemployed, and no conceivable incomes policy could possibly work in these circumstances. It must mean more inflation. It must mean steadily rising prices. It must mean deterioration in our balance of payments.
This is right up the Prime Minister's street, but it is sad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I have always looked on as one of the faintly honest members of the Front Bench, should congratulate himself on missing the bus he is supposed to be driving. This will end in trouble. It will end in humiliation for our country unless we pull ourselves together very quickly. I do not really see this Government doing it, and I think we shall be in trouble, and it may be that we shall have to go through that trouble so that we may be purged from the excess of folly from which we suffer now. The bitter thing at this time is that we should be led by a Prime Minister without integrity, without courage and without judgment.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
In accordance with custom, I crave indulgence as a maiden speaker, and, again in accordance with custom, I gladly pay tribute to my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery), who was an exceedingly energetic and conscientious Member and earned the respect of many people in Reading for the energy that he put into his constituency duties. In the House, he managed to become a fairly controversial figure. I hope that I shall also succeed in becoming controversial in the course of time. However, today I will restrain myself from being too controversial. If hon. Members think that I have not succeeded, I hope that they will be kind to me.
I want to comment on one or two things that concern my constituency. Reading has a remarkable record for the longevity of the people who live in it. The pensionable population is growing 997 at the rate of between 10 and 15 per cent. a year. The Labour Council in Reading is showing a proper appreciation of that in allocating about 30 per cent. of all the new housing that it is erecting for the benefit of elderly people. It is worth while noting that, over the next four or five years, 1,600 to 2,000 new housing units will have been completed, and about one-third of them will have been put on one side for the use of old people.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing will be interested to know that the direct labour force of the council is tendering for all the local authority housing work, and in each case recently has succeeded in getting 10 per cent. below the cheapest tender put forward by any private contractor who has seen fit to tender for the contract.
I want now to refer to another matter entirely which has not found its way into the Gracious Speech at all and which, although it has not received very much attention from anyone over the last few years, is a point of considerable importance. It is the constitutional problem of nationalisation, denationalisation and renationalisation.
I am not going to argue the pros and cons of nationalisation, save to say that I am a believer in full-blooded nationalisation, for reasons that I will make clear in a moment. What I am concerned with is the constant shuttlecock resulting in the uncertainties that have beset British industry. That is really the problem. I have always understood that the party of change puts forward proposals for altering the structure of the economy, the state of the law or whatever it is; and that the party of order opposes it, perhaps bitterly, and then in the end accepts it. I use the dicta of Lord Avon when referring to the party of order and the party of change.
If one looks at the political controversies of the early part of this century and the end of the last century, such as the introduction of compulsory education and of pensions, the legislation to curb the legislative powers of the other House and other measures taken, for example, by Liberal Governments in earlier years, they were legitimately opposed by the Conservatives of the day. But, once the argument was over, that was the end of it. That was the position right up till 998 1951. Since then, it would be right to say that there has been a violation of a fundamental convention of the British constitution by the rooting up of the things that have been done before.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council will refer to what the Government intend to do to prevent any further denationalisation ever occurring, so that we may be rid of the problem. I have been looking at the earliest constitutional documents, but it is true to say that no Parliament can bind its successor in perpetuity. Sir Stafford Cripps fell into error by saying, at least by inference, that he wished to introduce his capital levy in 1948 once and for all. I hope that next week we shall have another capital levy to refute that idea.
No one seriously subscribes to the view that a Parliament can bind its successors. One could go round with various constitutional devices and make denationalisation dependent upon referenda or perhaps upon passing such Measures by two-thirds majorities. That has been tried in various countries. In the United States, there is a distinct difference between ordinary legislation and fundamental laws or constitutional amendments. That does not commend itself to hon. Members on either side of the House, because most hon. Members take rather a pride in the unwritten character of our constitution.
Therefore, I am driven back on this suggestion, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will pay attention to it. No one could dispute that the compensation paid to the coal industry after the war was not generous; indeed, it was generous to a fault. However generous the compensation may be when an industry is nationalised for the first time. I hope that it will be understood in future that, if an industry is ever denationalised, no further compensation will be paid for a second act of nationalisation. I hope that that will be accepted. It cannot apply to the steel industry, although that is not the fault of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but that of some of my hon. Friends who had not come out as strongly in favour of public ownership as they might have done during their years in opposition when the steel industry was denationalised. I hope that they will correct that in the years to come while we are in office.
999 In spite of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), I am an unrepentant nationaliser. I believe that it is the only way that we can strike at the roots of recurrent inequality. I stand by that, and I hope that we shall see many more acts that will gradually transform our country into one where its great wealth is owned for the good of the community.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to thank you and Mr. Speaker for the kindness that you have shown me as a new Member in these last few days, and to thank other hon. Members who have helped me find my way about.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
It is a very pleasant duty to be able to congratulate the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) on so successfully going through the ordeal of making a maiden speech. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides enjoyed the historical and constitutional sweep of his remarks. We admired, too, its succinctness and brevity and the courage with which he strayed a little way beyond the perimeter of impartiality. The House was touched by his very generous reference to his predecessor, whom many of us remember as an active and effective Member on these benches. It was a pleasant indication of the customs of Parliament that, in facing his ordeal, the hon. Gentleman himself made that very agreeable personal reference.
We hope that we shall hear the hon. Gentleman frequently in the near future. I introduce that qualification because, as he probably knows, there is an old political saying that, "As Reading goes, so goes the country". Therefore, I wish the hon. Gentleman a very happy time in the House, but I hope that it will not drag out to such duration as to impose on him any unnecessary degree of fatigue.
There is one unchanging feature in this House, and that is the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who is not with us at this moment. He has an unfailing technique. There is that rather tired Wykehamist charm rather of the early Noel Coward period. There is that appearance of moral outrage that it 1000 should be suggested that he has ever concealed a figure or fluffed an argument. There is a majestic indifference to inconvenient facts, and we had them all this afternoon. We had them, above all, in the answers which he sought to give to the very pointed questions in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), which, if I may say so, I thought was a most effective and stimulating one.
The right hon. Gentleman was first asked by my right hon. Friend about the falling off in house building under his stewardship. It is typical of the right hon. Gentleman's technique that he did not attempt to dispute it, because the figures had been published. He tried rather to brush it off as if it were of very little importance. But when a right hon. Gentleman who has been responsible for the housing of our people for a year and a half has to acknowledge that for five successive months under his stewardship the number of houses completed is lower than the number of houses completed in the corresponding months a year ago, it is surely a matter which he should acknowledge with shame. The right hon. Gentleman has had the resources of an expanding building industry. He has had at his disposal no shortage of building materials, and yet, in reply to my right hon. Friend, he had to admit that for month after month of far from extraordinary weather—no one except the late Minister of Power is entirely surprised when there is a little frost in the winter—with the exception of one month when the figure was down by only about 300, thousands fewer houses were completed.
Those facts speak as a damning indictment of the right hon. Gentleman's competence in the management of his major responsibility, the housing of our people, and he cannot run away from it by saying that the figures for March are better. Indeed, this was a classic example of the right hon. Gentleman's selective use of statistics. He was, of course, quite unable to give the February figures, which were bad, until after 31st March, a date which perhaps had some significance. But the March figures being, as we are glad to hear, good, he found no difficulty in telling us about them, broken down between the private and the public sectors, on 28th April. Why is it that good news travels with so 1001 much greater velocity than bad? How is it that the incidence of a General Election inhibits the right hon. Gentleman and his Department from moving with the same speed that they can in conveying good news once the election is safely over?
We shall, of course, analyse the figures for March. The right hon. Gentleman had to accept that under his stewardship in the first quarter of this year the number of houses built for private owners was down. Indeed, at Question Time the Prime Minister told the House that there was a certain consumer resistance—that was the right hon. Gentleman's phrase—in this sector. The 7 per cent. mortgage would have been a more honest indication of the cause of that drop. This, again, is a problem which under this Government's mismanagement has prevented tens of thousands of people who could have owned a home of their own had policies not being changed from those laid down by the previous Administration from doing so. They have been denied that opportunity by a Minister of Housing and Local Government who the whole time vaunted his skill in a great housing drive. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where is he?"] I think that we can perhaps carry on the debate even better without the right hon. Gentleman being present.
I have had some experience of the right hon. Gentleman. He was wonderfully naive when my right hon. Friend asked him about the famous Labour Party publication "Election Special", in which, the House may remember, the Government claimed that 391,000 houses were constructed last year under a Labour Government. Whatever may be said about the Government at Stormont, it is not a Labour Government, and indeed hon. Gentlemen opposite attack it with great frequency.
It was extraordinary that in a formal publication from Transport House, in a desperate, pathetic, attempt to narrow The gap between the programme of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and the right hon. Gentleman's performance, 9,000 houses from Northern Ireland were added to the total constructed under a Labour Government. The right hon. Gentleman said at this Box this afternoon that, so far from his knowing of this, he was told 1002 it by me during the course of a television programme. It throws an interesting light on the election methods of Transport House, that it puts out a publication on housing, with apparently precise figures, without even consulting the right hon. Gentleman, who was Minister of Housing and Local Government at the time, although, as we know, the right hon. Gentleman was present in London helping to conduct the Labour Party campaign for the greater part of the time. If the right hon. Gentleman says that it is so, I accept that, and I am sure the House does, but it is a revelation of the methods adopted by the party opposite in electioneering, and a revelation of the right hon. Gentleman's own methods.
During the television programme in question, when I explained to the right hon. Gentleman how these figures had been arrived at, as he has been good enough to tell the House, I asked whether, in the circumstances, this publication would be withdrawn, but it was not. It was circulated in the ten days of electioneering without apology, without withdrawal, without qualification, without amendment, and this again is an indication of their methods. My right hon. Friend was right when he said that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were there as a result of cooking the books, but it is far more serious than that.
There has been a decline in house building, for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible. Why has it happened? It has happened because the right hon. Gentleman, like the previous Labour Government, concentrated all the efforts in the least efficient sector of housing, that conducted by local authorities. Some striking figures were provided by the building trades employers of the output of a man employed on different kinds of building of new houses under different agencies, and I think that they give the explanation of what has gone wrong. Output per man per year when working for a contractor working for a private developer is £3,260. Output per man working for a contractor working for a local authority is £2,825. Under the direct labour organisation of a local authority, output per man is £1,990 per year. And yet it is in those directions, above all in the direction of direct labour, by his famous circular of last year, and 1003 by concentrating on the local authorities, that the effort of building has been concentrated by the right hon. Gentleman in the least effective sector in the sense of getting houses built with the same amount of labour.
The right hon. Gentleman's excuse is that he wants houses to rent—and this is a good argument so far as it goes—but the House knows that it is the right hon. Gentleman's own dogmatic approach which confines the provision of new houses to rent to local authorities. In so doing he flies flat in the face of the Milner Holland Committee's Report. Reference to this is to be found on page 225 of the Report. Those countries abroad which have been more successful than ourselves in dealing with the housing problem are those which have made the fullest use of private enterprise within the framework of a general housing drive. That is the truth, as those who have travelled on the Continent know, and it is the truth which this Government, for dogmatic and theoretical and a priori reasons persist in attacking, and in so doing ensure that their housing effort fails.
The same sort of thing happened under the previous Labour Government. There was the same doctrinal insistence on concentrating on local authority building, with the result that although in 1949 the number of houses built in this country topped the 200,000 mark, when right hon. Gentlemen opposite left office in 1951 it was sagging below 190,000. We are seeing the same dismal process reported month after month in the housing summaries.
The right hon. Gentleman then referred to the shortage of land. Naturally there is a shortage of land, but has the right hon. Gentleman studied the cause, consulted the builders, seen the builders' publication and seen how that document ascribes part of the shortage to the uncertainty caused by the announcement about the Land Commission? What about the absurd obstinacy of the Minister of Land and Natural Resources in deliberately insisting on making some part of his proposals retrospective to last September? It is the builders themselves who say this, and they are the people responsible for finding the land on which to build.
1004 The Minister went on, although he did not realise that he was contradicting the Prime Minister, to say that the Land Commission would get land and dispose of it to people who would build on that land. The Prime Minister, however, said at Chiswick on 17th March:So far as the land question is concerned, we said we would take the urban building land on which planning permission has been granted into public ownership. This is what our Land Commission will do …There was no talk there about the disposal of the land. Instead, it was an open admission that the real purpose was nationalisation.
We see the same sorry picture all through the Gracious Speech—and in the pathetic references to social security. I do not know whether the House has noticed the full irony of the passage on social security which states:My Ministers will complete further stages of their major review of social security.Further stages of a major review? That is very different from what was said in 1964, when the party opposite were "poised for resolute action" and "restless with positive remedies". All we have now is a majestic brooding with the only legislation promised on social security being legislation to change the names of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and the National Assistance Board. In other words, a proposal to alter the sign.
It must be remembered that even that is not new. The House may remember that the National Assistance Board was set up in 1948 with that name. It was stated by the Minister of the day that by calling it "national" instead of "public assistance" the stigma might be reduced. Now, 16 years later, the only legislative proposal on social security is another change of name.
There is one personal aspect of this that I must confess has given me a little ironic amusement. It is that the National Insurance Act, 1959, is apparently to continue. In Opposition hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite described that Act as "a swindle", but now, in office, they are fully content to allow it to operate and to draw in the contributions paid under it. The House is in a position to judge whether that does not throw a rather lurid light on their earlier charge that these proposals, which they are now 1005 happy to use, were such a swindle, as they saw fit to describe it in Opposition.
Our Amendment goes to the root of the matter when it states that there is nothing in the Gracious Speech to arouse the energies, stir the enthusiasms and stimulate the people of this country into the effort that they have got to make. We merely have the long, dreary prospect of restrictions, with the certainty of further taxation next Tuesday. Is there anything in the Gracious Speech to make anybody study, work harder and decide to stay and work in this country instead of joining the brain drain to the United States and the Commonwealth? Is there a single thing which will fire the imagination and stir the energies of our younger generation in this old, tired selection of measures, some of them going back to 1948?
The Prime Minister made great play at election time about telling the people the truth. Did he? Does any hon. Gentleman opposite think that if, in the course of the election, the Prime Minister had said, "We have borrowed £900 million from the foreign bankers, the economy is stagnant and, therefore, within a few weeks of being returned to office we will have to impose swingeing increases in taxation and cut the progress of our social services" he would be on that side of the House now, or, in many cases, in the House at all? The fact is that on the smaller matters to which I have referred as well as the great ones affecting the economy to which my right hon. Friend so eloquently referred, the people were deceived and the present Government appeared for that reason.
The Minister boasted of the Government's great majority. They would be in power for years, he stated. Is he aware that all this has happened before? Some of us remember the Parliament of 1945, when there was an even greater majority. We recall the laughter which met the suggestion that there would ever be a Conservative Government again. Yet within a few years that great majority had vanished, for the same causes as we can see it beginning to decay today; the failure to tell the people the truth and the failure to give the people something to work for—the stimulus and moral lead for which the people of this country crave We see the same disease that rotted Mr. Attlee's Government already developing 1006 on the benches opposite. And although, to pick up the theme of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch),This sort goeth not out,Save by prayer and fasting.go out it will.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak about certain topics which are mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
I have the honour to represent the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent, South and I succeed in the House the distinguished former hon. Member, Mr. Ellis Smith, who embodied many of the virtues which are highly esteemed in the House and whose integrity, industry and individuality were recognised by all hon. Members.
Stoke-on-Trent is one of the most under-rated cities in Britain. The old traditional amalgam of potters' kilns and bad housing is vanishing, because arising is a new, dynamic, forward-looking city which is proud of its redevelopment. Its miners and potters have a proud industrial record. For example, there have been no major strikes in the pottery industry for more than 100 years. There are no restrictive practices and in the face of sharp competition from the Germans, Italians and French, the pottery industry of Stoke-on-Trent is exporting more than 50 per cent. of its production. Despite these achievements, I hope that in the years to come I will keep before the House the need for a broader industrial base in Stoke-on-Trent and the need to diversify its industrial structure.
I turn from the industrial problems of Stoke-on-Trent to those of the nation generally and in doing so I will try to make an uncontroversial comment on a highly controversial subject—the Government's productivity, prices and incomes policy. This is a subject of dispute not only in the House, but throughout the country. As a former shop steward representing under-paid workers and, more recently, as the spokesman for relatively more affluent television producers, I am convinced that this problem is not only economic, but one of human relations.
Most trade unionists in this country are playing their part in supporting the 1007 Government's prices and incomes policy, none more than my own union, the National Union of General and Municipal Workers. But some of my friends in the trade unions are critical of the Government's policy and are attempting to destroy the national prices and incomes policy. They are critical because they fear that the results of this policy will be the beginning of the end of collective bargaining and may eventually lead to the trade unions becoming instruments of a State policy.
I listen to these arguments with great respect, because the trade unions and the trade unionists have fought for over 130 years to establish their rights to collective bargaining. For over 130 years, countless men and women have made great sacrifices in order to win independence for the unions. Trade unions today are and ought to be special sectional interests. Trade union leaders have an obligation to provide what their members are paying for. Therefore, it is fruitless for people to attack trade union leaders for fulfilling the needs of their members and defending their sectional interests. When right hon. and hon. Members seek to attack the trade unions, they make a grave error. Such attacks are not only resented, but will be very strongly resisted.
At this moment of economic history in Britain, the sectional interests of the trade unions and the wider national interest of the economy coincide. Both depend on the success of a national incomes policy. If that policy succeeds, there will be what some of the present trade union critics used to call the planned growth of incomes. Some of my friends in the trade union movement who criticise the policy say that they are to be the scapegoats for the nation's economic problems. They ask, "Why are we singled out to make sacrifices on behalf of the nation?" But their contribution is but one piece in a complicated economic jigsaw which is now being courageously composed by my right hon. Friends.
This is not a wage freeze; it is not even a wage pause. This is a prices and incomes policy. For the first time, a determined attack is being made by my right hon. Friends to restrain prices. Speculators are now speculating ruefully on a bad year. Land racketeers are pining for the good old days. Even the expense 1008 account users are beginning to contemplate luncheon vouchers.
I hope that trade union critics of the Government's prices and incomes policy will come eventually to play their part in its implementation. One cannot reasonably advocate planning and then opt out of that part of the plan which concerns oneself. Nothing is easier than to do nothing, but, given the present state of the British economy, nothing could be more disastrous. I know that some of my friends who criticise this policy say, "But we are not doing nothing; we are advocating increased productivity". But increased productivity is no substitute for an incomes policy. It is a complement. We all favour increased productivity and we should bend every effort in order to achieve it.
However, productivity depends on many things, one of the most important being capital investment. Given uncertainty, we are bound to have inadequate capital investment. The way to counter this uncertainty is to establish a steady rate of economic growth. The way to establish a steady rate of growth is to provide a successful prices and incomes policy. Even were there productivity increases which stemmed not from investment, but from the more efficient use of our manpower, the success of this policy is still vital.
By the abolition of the stop-go economy, we will be assisting the worker with a new sense of security. Given this new sense of security, the workers will be more willing to accept change and new working methods. I hope that the critics of this policy will cease to put the cart before the horse and come to accept the fact that we need to relate incomes to productivity and then go forward with concerted action.
I would conclude by reminding my good friends in the trade union movement who oppose this policy that the Trades Union Congress has gone on record in support of the policy. Just as some of these trade union leaders reasonably ask their recalcitrant members to co-operate in new initiatives by their unions, so it is not unreasonable to ask them not lightly to disregard the solemn public pledges made on their behalf by the Trades Union Congress.
I hope that not just the majority of trade unionists, but all of them, will unite 1009 in showing a clear opposition to the breast-beating Tarzans who want to return to the economic jungle. I hope that they will show firm, solid support for the Government's efforts to carry out this complicated, difficult and vital policy.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
It is my great pleasure on behalf of all right hon. and hon. Members to congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) on his extraordinarily agreeable speech. We remember with affection his predecessor, who sat in this House for many years and who was well respected on both sides. The quiet and reasonable manner with which the hon. Member supported what I believe to be a very good policy—the prices and incomes policy—augurs well for his chances in future, I hope, of catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, though he will not find it quite so easy next time, I am afraid, now that he has made his maiden speech.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the phrase in the Amendment:… the serious problems facing the nation …and to turn to another, totally different, aspect of our problems. The other day, I finished reading A. J. P. Taylor's recent volume on the history of England, in which he said that, at the end of the last war,… the English people turned in on themselves and thought mainly of social security, housing and full employment.That was perfectly true and is true even today.
He went on to point out that, by ignoring the greater issues and by being too introspective, the British people would run into serious difficulties. This is my complaint against the Queen's Speech. I consider that it is too parochial, too narrowly nationalistic and far too introspective. It fails completely to deal with the two gravest world problems, which I think, unless we are wise, will utterly destroy our civilisation. No one ever discusses them, except some professors in remote colleges. They are the two problems of world population and world poverty.
I am certain that in the next 50 years they will produce such a famine that 1010 millions will die of starvation unless something is done. Unless mankind is lucky, and the white peoples themselves are very lucky, this will produce a third world war which will be over food, from which we in this country will suffer more than any other people in the world. I will give the House one or two figures. Having looked at my figures, I am convinced that mankind is breeding itself into hunger, starvation and war.
Unless this problem is tackled on a worldwide basis, largely through the United Nations, there is no hope for the human race. So far, what we have done through United Nations agencies has been pathetically inadequate. I remind the House that the human race was estimated to reach 1,000 million in the 1840s, but that by the 1920s it was 2,000 million and today is 3.3 thousand million. By the end of the century there will be 7,000 million and in 70 years' time the staggering total of 14,000 million will be reached.
What are the causes? The first is that medical science has conquered the old killer diseases of typhoid, cancer and smallpox. Medical science has drastically reduced infantile mortality rates and medical science has greatly increased expectancy of life. We hope that those factors will continue. Last year the F.A.O. issued from Italy a stern and frightening warning that world food production would have to increase five times in the next 35 years to give the 7,000 million people expected then to be on the earth the barest subsistence level. It added the warning that in the last five years world food production had increased by only 10 per cent. We are heading as fast as we can to starvation on such a scale as the human family has never realised nor experienced before.
It may be said, "What has that to do with us? We are snug in these islands. We have our Welfare State and we are all right." But we are not all right. We are the most vulnerable people in the world. Britain produces about 60 per cent. of its foodstuffs, enough for 30 million people and there are 22 million too many people in these overcrowded islands. We have to buy 40 per cent. of our foodstuffs. If there is to be world shortage there will not be that 40 per cent. for us to buy.
1011 Another aspect of the problem is that the great grain surpluses of North America, from both Canada and the United States, have been used to save India, Russia and China from very severe hunger, if not from starvation. The other day the United States Department of Agriculture stated that in 15 years' time with the known growth of world population the whole of the surplus now produced in America would not be enough to feed the extra mouths that would be produced.
Look a stage beyond that. In China, there are 700 million people at almost the deepest level of poverty, and the population is growing at an enormously rapid rate. Next to China, in the vast Indian sub-continent, there are another 600 million people. One day those people will move. They will not stay there and starve. They will move, either to the empty spaces of Mongolia, which would cause a war, or south to the emptier spaces of Australia, which, again, would cause a war.
Those are the dangers which face our country, but over which no one seems to take the slightest thought. I repeat that mankind is breeding itself into starvation and death. It was said in the Indian Parliament a year and a half ago that 270 million people there are living on 3½d. a day. There are 30 million totally unemployed or drastically underemployed. Yet under these conditions the population is increasing by 12 million every year. In our country we have a standard which gives our industrial workers about £20 a week, or £1,000 a year. People of every class are asking for more and more in return for less and less. Compare that with 270 million in India living on 3½d. a day.
I have made a calculation that if the wages of Indians and of people in this country were averaged and we had international Socialism and international fair shares there would be less than £2 a week per head for all. This is the fate before us. It may not be reached for another 50 or 100 years, but it will creep upon us as sure as I am standing here tonight. There is no easy way to help the poor in the Afro-Asian nations without great sacrifices being made by ourselves. This is what I want hon. Members on both sides of the House to tell our people.
1012 The other side of my argument is this. I believe that world wealth is grossly mal-distributed. It is morally wrong and economically dangerous for one-tenth of the world to be overfed while nine-tenths are half-starved. The income per capita in the United States is 3,220 dollars a year. In Vietnam, where American soldiers are fighting, it is 94 dollars a year. The Vietnamese people want food, clothes and housing. In Canada, the income per capita today is 2,284 dollars a year. In India it is 89. There is no international justice in these comparisons. In this country our income per capita is 1,668 dollars a year, and in Indonesia an area where we have troops at present, it is 49. Even in the Communist world there is the same division between poor and rich. In the U.S.S.R. per capita income is 1,253 dollars a year, while in China it is 74. The real basis of the difficulty between Peking and Moscow lies in these relative figures. I do not believe that this can continue. The Afro-Asian peoples will not remain passive and half-starved for eternity.
These are things which I should like to see in the Daily Mirror and other newspapers with enormous circulations put before their readers. Since 1954, the terms of trade have moved 15 per cent. against the poor nations. Our affluence is based on their deepening poverty, which is a scandal that ought to sear our consciences. At the I.P.U. conference in Belgrade in 1964, which I attended, an eminent Soviet economist estimated that if the 1954 terms of trade remained stationary we, the white, wealthy West, would have to pay 15,000 million dollars every year more for the raw materials we get from the poorer nations. It is a scandal that this should happen and that we should be content to base our affluence on their deepening poverty.
As I talk to Afro-Asian delegates to these conferences they ask me, quite fairly, why they should allow the white man to go to their countries to exploit or develop their raw materials and thus give the white man an income ten, twenty or thirty times higher than they themselves enjoy. If I were one of them I should be asking this. If the British Government's oil sanctions policy can drag down a Mr. Smith in Rhodesia, why should not all the coloured peoples have a sanctions policy against all the whites 1013 with all their raw materials and so force higher prices from us? I think that this will happen. These are the dangers we face. No one seems to bother about them. I believe that we ought to be paying three or four times more for the raw materials—rubber, tin, lead, zinc, copper, oil—upon which our welfare and affluence depend to the poorer peoples from whom we get them.
When this starts to pinch and hurt us, we squeal. I was shocked that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations should have given way to this emotion earlier this week. He squealed as though he had been hurt when it was announced that Zambia was putting up the copper price from £300 to £680. The right hon. Gentleman said, "It may mean that we shall have to pay £40 million more for our imports". So we should—and a lot more. How can the people of Zambia climb out of their pit of poverty unless we pay them more for what they produce for us? This is what we should be telling our people.
Of course, it will cost a lot. Zambia imposed a tax of 40 per cent. on copper prices above £300. I think that it should have done more. It should have imposed a 100 per cent. E.P.T. That is what I advocate. We must pay it. We must sacrifice part of our over-affluence to help those people who are living on one-fiftieth or one-twentieth of our standard of living.
I will give the House some other figures. The income per capita in Zambia today is estimated to be 191 dollars a year. Ours is 1,660 dollars. And we squeal because they demand something more. How can these people improve their position in life unless we do justice by them? How can we do that unless we pay them a proper price for what they produce? It is absolutely immoral for us to take these raw materials from them at the prices they are getting now and pride ourselves on the high wages and salaries we are enjoying.
I have looked into the alternative supply of copper from Chile. Chile's income per capita is 317 dollars a year, not one-tenth of America's. What we must do is to say that we will readily pay these prices, although it will cost us a lot. We must not do what the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations did 1014 at the beginning of the week—squeal about it.
I turn, lastly, to the internal difficulty which I think is partly at the root of our social and moral position at home and which sometimes makes it difficult for me to sleep at night. Perhaps I am old-fashioned. I was brought up in a Puritan atmosphere and I regret many modern developments. I am a "square"—the father of all "squares". This country's internal problem was illustrated for me by two of my friends. One was a businessman who came from Australia after being away for many years. He spent some time in the West End, as visitors do. He told me that he could not believe that the people he met there were the same people who, in two generations, had disciplined themselves and worked and fought and won two world wars. He said that it seemed to him that certain parts of the West End were becoming the cesspool of Europe.
A young precision engineer from Switzerland came and stayed at my home. After he had been in the country for six months, I said to him, "What is your greatest impression?" He said, "It is your attitude to work. In our country everybody works. The directors get at their offices at eight o'clock in the morning. Yours get there at about half-past nine to quarter to ten. In our country everybody works hard. There is a feeling that they have to work hard, that it is their duty to work, whereas here it seems to me that you escape your work as much as you can. You dodge as much as you can, you do as little as you can and you demand as much as you can for it". This, said the young Swiss, was what surprised him most.
So I say this about our serious difficulties. The Government must take the advice of the Economist and tell the people the truth. They have five more years. Votes do not matter now. They could tell the people the truth and be unpopular for two years. Let them tell the people the truth. Let them impose discipline. Reward those who will work and punish those who will not. I am sometimes tempted to think we will never get out of our difficulties until a modern Oliver Cromwell comes here with sword in one hand and book in the other and imposes the discipline on us that we will not put on ourselves. These are the 1015 things that I think the Government should be telling the country. It is because the Government are failing to do these things that I shall vote against them tonight.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth)
That was the best speech I have ever heard the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) make. Personally, I agree with all that he said about our obligations to the poorer countries and the way in which we quite shamelessly secure their raw materials at lower than the market price would be if they were able to form some association to force it up. It would not matter if they did that, because it would then apply to all industrial countries and not merely to ourselves.
In the end, something of this kind must be done, whether we do it voluntarily or through the United Nations, or in some other way. I very much agreed with what the hon. Gentleman said. We know him to be deeply sincere. Sometimes he says things which seem to be a little wide of the sympathies on this side of the House. Today, he was in close agreement with most of us.
I also want to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) on a very remarkable speech. I should like to do that, because I worked with him at one time on the B.B.C. "Panorama" programme when he had the unfortunate responsibility of producing me from time to time. I discovered that he was a person of strong and independent views which he expressed with great force and clarity.
I thought that the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) was a little cynical about our new Members, who, I think, judging from the two speeches we have heard this afternoon—those by my hon. Friends the Members for Reading (Mr. John Lee) and Stoke-on-Trent, South—have shown themselves to be of a calibre perhaps better than any who have come into Parliament since the war.
The right hon. Gentleman was a little cynical in supposing that what the Prime Minister wanted to do was to divert new Members' energies harmlessly into useless committees. All great changes have small beginnings and I have considerable 1016 hopes that these committees may develop into worth-while probing, investigating committees which will not merely occupy Members' time, but will enable them to do something extremely useful for the government of the country.
Last week, at the opening of the debate on the Loyal Address, there was a quarrel between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about the date of the publication of our monthly trading figures. No one thought it at all odd that these two distinguished gentlemen should engage in a prolonged wrangle over such an extraordinary matter and pay such honour to the monthly trading figures. I imagine from what the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said this afternoon that he, too, pays the same obeisance to them. It is symptomatic of our neurosis as a nation today over our economic situation that we are so bemused by the monthly trading figures. Every month we take our temperature. We publish it to the world. We anxiously discuss it. We ignore completely the fact that the thermometer always gives the wrong reading.
It is bound to be so because it does not contain the invisibles in the trading accounts. But because we attach so much importance to these monthly trading figures, foreign bankers and investors naturally do likewise and a month's apparent bad trading figures cause a run on sterling. Instead of agreeing on earlier publication, what the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition ought to have done should have been to agree not to publish the monthly trading figures at all. These inaccurate figures are being used all over the world as an indication of our varying strength from month to month.
§ Mr. Wyatt
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will explain in a moment what I would do about the monthly trading figures.
If I.C.I. were to publish monthly figures of their trading situation, their shares on the Stock Exchange would go 1017 up and down like a yo-yo. In any business or in any country there are huge variations from month to month through things which have not been taken into account. Our trading figures, for exports and imports, should be published only every six months, together with the latest and best estimate of invisibles for the same period. That would give far more reliable information. It would be sufficient for all budgetary planning. It would prevent us from having monthly hysterics and it would also prevent much speculation which is so damaging to us abroad. The gnomes of Zurich are amazed that we should publish them every month and get into such a state of hysteria every time we do it.
I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be influenced by the recent bad monthly trading figures into deflationary measures in his Budget next week. I hope he will remember that when we devalued, in 1949, it was on the supposition that the three years 1946-48 had produced a deficit of £1,100 million. In fact, the deficit turned out, from examination in later years, to have been only £737 million in the three years, and there was actually a small surplus in 1948. If that had been known in 1949 I do not believe devaluation would ever have taken place.
These figures do not prove reliable for a long time. For example, the total deficit originally shown for 1960 in the 1961 figures was £339 million. By 1965 it had been officially corrected to £273 million. This happens constantly with these figures, which are only a rough guide and should not be taken too seriously, although we have grown into the habit of so doing. Fundamentally, our economic position is good and there is nothing new in running a gap between exports and imports. In 1899, the gap between exports and imports was over £100 million. In 1919, it was over £500 million. It is the addition of the invisibles which makes all the difference, as it always has done in our history. Over the 11 years between 1954 and 1964—what I am saying now, I hope, will give some encouragement to hon. Members opposite—we had a surplus of £450 million on our current account after the invisibles had been taken into consideration.
1018 There is not much wrong with our exports which have mounted fantastically. What is new and wrong is that we have no reserves to cushion us against a bad year to which any country or any business is liable. In 1939, our reserves were £615 million. Today, 30 years later, allowing for changes in prices, our reserves ought to be something like £3,000 million. If they had been, 1964 could have been passed over quite comfortably. Why are not our reserves £3,000 million today? Not because our exports are bad. They are extremely good and they are expanding continually. It is because we will insist, as successive Governments have done, on spending £300 million a year in foreign exchange on bases east of Suez.
If we got out of them, our economic situation would be dramatically improved. We would have no need to borrow large sums or to bend our foreign policy to suit the Americans. In the world today Britain is looked upon as an ailing nation economically, because it is thought that we do not work hard enough. This is a travesty put about by ourselves. It is not because we do not work hard enough that we are in a mess. It is because we will insist, as I have said, on spending this enormous sum of money every year in foreign exchange on bases.
The Government claim credit for getting our defence spending down to something like 6 per cent. of our national income, but the French are spending only 4.5 per cent. and the Germans 3.7 per cent., and none of that on overseas bases with foreign exchange. If we could justify this expenditure by saying that it is vital to our economy, we would have to go on with it. But it is not. If we had no bases in Aden, the Persian Gulf, Cyprus and Libya we would still get oil out of the Middle East. They have got nowhere else to sell it. If we had no base in Singapore we would still get tin and rubber from Malaysia. They have got nowhere else to sell it. There was a report in the U.S. News recently that, privately, the Indonesian Government have assured the British Government that they are going to allow this war, or confrontation, to dwindle quietly away without saying anything. If that is true, and I can believe it, we should immediately 1019 take the opportunity to take away the 50,000 costly British troops that we have in the jungle.
The Foreign Secretary claimed on Tuesday that we had to have these bases in order to have influence in the 1970s in South-East Asia. But our military forces there are not large enough to give us any real influence—only to cause the maximum irritation to the inhabitants of the surrounding countries. Yet they are big enough to cripple us at home and destroy our influence in the world at large by continually making us beg our way out of economic troubles which we need never have.
I do not think that the Foreign Secretary, in his few glancing remarks the other day, did anything to justify this fabulous expenditure of £300 million a year in foreign exchange. Without that Government overseas expenditure, there would have been no recent economic crisis and no borrowing of £1,000 million. We left India at six months' notice. If we had a mind to do so we could eliminate the bases just as quickly. In 10 years we build up a surplus of at least £3,000 million and be more prosperous than Britain has ever been in the whole of her history. The hon. Member for Louth said that the country should be told the facts. If the country really appreciated these facts, people would not put up with these out-of-date imperialist bases for another month. They are the major reason for our economic distress.
There is another factor causing our difficulties which will continue until we can eliminate these bases. That is the curious system of international payments to which we are still wedded. Our income from our exports is roughly £5,000 million a year. If there is a deficit in one year of £750 million or so, the whole country is thrown into a panic. If a man with a business producing £5,000 a year got into difficulties amounting to £750 in a bad year, perhaps because of unexpected commitments, he would not have the slightest trouble in getting an overdraft to tide him over. If this can apply to ordinary business it ought to apply to countries. Of course, Lord Keynes suggested this a long time ago. Unfortunately, he died too soon to get it carried out.
1020 I should like to know whether the Government are working on any system by which each nation could be armed with a float, perhaps with special coupons to an agreed value. In our case it would probably be of the order of £3,000 million. If we had a deficit we would hand over an equivalent number of coupons to the central clearing house and when we accumulated a surplus we would get them back again. I see that the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) thinks that that is rather a curious suggestion, but it is, after all, what we do with gold.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. You ought always to have been in the Government, but I was, in fact, referring to the right hon. Member for Flint, West.
If we could do this, most of the international liquidity problems would be solved, and we should not get into such a parlous condition over what is really a comparatively small deficit of £750 million. I suppose that we could do it by putting up the price of gold, but, as that would immediately make South Africa and Russia much richer and no one wants to do that, we had better do it by the system of paper coupons, which would have the same effect. In 20 years, the idea of a major trading nation being in difficulties over a comparatively small deficit will be about as archaic as the idea of a return to the unemployment of the 1930s.
I have some connection with business, and I find myself in favour of almost everything in the Government's economic policy. But I hope that the reference to steel in the Gracious Speech does not mean that we are committed to the clumsy nationalisation of the largest firms on the basis of the Government's last White Paper. I am not against all further nationalisation. Where public services or single commodities are concerned, I consider that it is often the right answer.
I am sorry that the Queen's Speech did not propose the nationalisation of 1021 the docks, a horrible complex mess which needs a great deal more investment plus central control and ownership. For social reasons, I would like to see the drug industry nationalised. I am in favour of the immediate nationalisation of all land on which building is likely to take place. But, as I have said before, I am against old-fashioned blanket nationalisation of complicated and diversified industries, of which steel is one. I blame the steel industry as much as the Government for the fact that we may be faced with the prospect of this in steel now.
Perhaps I may claim to have done something towards obtaining from the Government an opportunity for the steel industry to make suggestions involving less than 100 per cent. ownership. It was a great opportunity for the steel industry. I wish that it had risen to it. It came forward with proposals to hand over the Iron and Steel Federation and to rationalise itself into smaller groups, but, until the election, the industry had not made any move whatever to hand over the ownership of any of the shares. I believe that it has a different attitude now and I think that it is still possible for this to be done on the basis of the Fairfield shipyard arrangement between Government and private industry.
I hope that this compromise will be reached. I believe that it can. If it is, it will avoid the £500 million worth of compensation about which some of my hon. Friends rightly complain, not only because it is, I suppose, too much money, but because of the inflationary effect which putting £500 million worth of gilt-edged stock on the market would have. Most people would off-load it as soon as as they got it. This must be bad for our economy at the moment. But, whatever happens, I hope that the steel argument is now finished for ever and that Government incursions into industry in the future will not be of this kind, but will be as a senior partner and not as a controlling bureacrat.
I do not believe that our economic future is as black as we all like to say it is. Clear away the bases to which I have referred, organise international liquidity, continue our excellent expanding export record, have an incomes and prices policy which really works, and join the Common Market. That is the formula which will make us strong and indepen- 1022 dent. I think that we shall, in the end, have to come to some form of Scandinavian system for a wages and prices policy in this country. I think that that is the only way to make it effective, and we shall have to face it.
On the Common Market, I have just been in Paris talking to French officials and politicians about the French attitude towards us now. There is definitely a new willingness to accept us, as there is a new willingness in our own Government to make a serious attempt. But it will not be easy. We should not imagine that we can get into the Common Market without very largely accepting its system for agriculture and altering our own. We fool ourselves if we think otherwise.
In the end, the decision rests with General de Gaulle, and it is with him that the main outlines must be cleared. Once they are, I believe that we should sign the Treaty of Rome, join the Common Market, and leave the minor details to be sorted out afterwards. When M. Pompidou comes to London in July there will be a chance to make a real start at the highest level, and we should remember that, while we do not want another long round which ends in failure, neither do the French, because, if they say "No" again, they will be in serious trouble with their own partners in the Common Market, who may decide even to exclude them in favour of us.
If the Government choose, they can end all the major difficulties in our economic position overnight. The underlying situation is good, not bad. We should encourage ourselves by saying so.
This Government have more ability and drive than any I have seen since I first entered the House of Commons in 1945. If they set out on the right courses, if they see the problems clearly, taking nothing which was previously accepted for granted, they may prove to be one of the greatest Governments in our history. I hope that they do.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. James Davidson (Aberdeenshire, West)
As this is the first occasion on which I have addressed the House, I ask for the patience and tolerance of right hon. and hon. Members. I hope that their patience will not be tried for more than about 10 minutes and that their tolerance will not be exhausted.
1023 It is a very great pleasure for me to speak immediately after two speakers from either side of the House with whose remarks I am able to agree almost 100 per cent., the hon. Members for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) and Louth (Sir C. Osborne). I found very little in their speeches with which I could disagree. Coming after their contributions, which ranged over a fairly wide subject matter, I hope that my own will not seem too parochial.
I have the honour to represent the constituency of Aberdeenshire, West. It is one of the most beautiful, varied and interesting constituencies in all Scotland. It stretches from the sandy beaches north of Aberdeen, which fail to compete with the Bahamas only because the sea temperatures are slightly lower—a fact of which the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), who is not here at the moment, seems to be unaware—right to the peaks of the highest mountains, excepting Ben Nevis, in the British Isles, to the peak of Ben Macdhui.
This large constituency, of well over 2,000 square miles, embraces an enormous variety. It includes a large part of the suburbs of Aberdeen City, both ancient and modern, a lot of villages and small burghs, a number of larger estates, some of which are well managed and some—I shall refrain from mentioning them in detail—which are not, a large number of small farms, many rivers, including three excellent salmon rivers small stretches of which are available to the public, forests and huge tracts of undeveloped land which has been patiently awaiting development for two or three centuries.
Apart from farming and forestry, we have a number of thriving industries in the constituency. We have several paper mills which produce a wide variety of products, from paper bags to the very highest quality coated and speciality papers. We have textile manufacturing, including one factory which has the distinction of supplying overcoat material to some of the world's most famous men, including Frank Sinatra. We have granite quarries, whisky distilleries, and factories for the processing of the meat and dairy produce of the area. We have a locomotive works which holds its own with other British Rail locomotive works in the United 1024 Kingdom in face of much higher transport and fuel costs only because of the very high quality of the work produced and the high throughput.
I am extremely proud to represent this constituency not only because I know that the people are second to none in their working capacity, their humanity and their general outlook on life, but also because, incidentally, my own family have been very closely associated with the area, in an undistinguished sort of way, for over 500 years. Before that, I suppose, they were either Highland renegades or Scandinavian marauders, so I have a certain tradition to live up to.
Overhanging this, however, is the shadow of depopulation. There is a relatively low rate of unemployment, but this is masked by the fact that we have been steadily losing population. The population of the north-east of Scotland has dropped by about 2 per cent. in the last 10 or 11 years. This may not seem a great deal, but what is happening is that the population is flowing south and the young and skilled people are steadily disappearing. The population of the City of Aberdeen is remaining more or less static, but rural population is being drawn into the city the whole time.
The reasons for this are not difficult to diagnose: increased mechanisation on the farms, the decline of certain traditional industries without the compensating growth of new ones, a shortage of capital and the fact that large stretches of land have been insulated from development by certain selfish interests, which must sooner or later be overcome.
It has been estimated by an economist in the University of Aberdeen that there is a need for 34,000 new jobs in the north-east of Scotland before 1976 if we are to hold the natural population increase of the area, and this does not include the Dundee area, which the Government, in my view wrongly, have included in the North-East in their economic plan for Scotland. My view is that with the completion of the Tay road bridge, Dundee will become more than ever closely linked with central Scotland. The cost of creating those jobs would be something like £20 million, which is a great deal of money, but when one thinks of this in terms of what the county councils and the town council of Aberdeen 1025 have spent in one year, it is not so much; it is little more than double. If one compares it with what the whisky industry in the north-east of Scotland contributes to the national Exchequer in terms of excise duty alone, it is not very much. About £14-£15 million is contributed by this one industry.
I listened with great interest to the passages in the Queen's Speech which refer tosecuring balanced growth in all parts of Great Britainand encouragingdevelopment where it is most needed".I can say emphatically that there is no region in the United Kingdom where this is more needed than in the north-east of Scotland. Incidentally, there is no region for which the Government plan is less encouraging. Not only is there a lack of capital and a shortage of houses, which is common to many other parts of the country, as well as a lack of diversity in industry, but the Eastern Conservancy of the Forestry Commission has used up nearly all its reserves of planting land.
From the Answer to a Question of mine yesterday, I understand that there remain 24,000 acres of land to plant in the Eastern Conservancy. This is not very much. Most of it is concentrated in Perthshire, Angus and Banff. Practically none of it is in the County of Aberdeen. I know of instances already of men who have been working for the Forestry Commission for years on an unestablished basis being unable to become established unless they promise to go to work in another part of the country. I also know that the Forestry Commission is not taking on any new young workers and training them in many of the forests in the northeast of Scotland.
I wish to put in a word for some of the small farmers. I know that there are those who consider that the small farm should be written off. From a study of the figures produced by the economic department of the North of Scotland College of Agriculture, however, one sees that in terms of production per acre and production per man, the small farms are highly efficient. Not only that, but they produce excellent people who serve as a reservoir to replace those who eventually work in urban areas.
1026 I agree heartily with the hon. Member for Louth that one of the reasons why half the world is starving is because, for a century or two or three, we have been constantly under-recouping the primary producers of the world. To a lesser extent, this is true of some of our own primary producers.
Another passage in the Queen's Speech which I note with great interest is that Bills are to be brought forwardto reorganise the arrangements for water supply in Scotland, and for the conservation of the Scottish countryside and the development for facilities for its enjoyment.It may come as a surprise to hon. Members from the South that there is any doubt at all about the future water supply in Scotland. Those who study the B.B.C.'s weather programmes may find this difficult to believe. In the east of Scotland, however, we sometimes feel very dry indeed.
I hope that that passage in the Gracious Speech is an indirect reference to the Cabrach water scheme, and I hope that it indicates a willingness on the part of the Government to reorganise water supply on a regional basis, because I am convinced that this is what is needed, at least in the north-east of Scotland, and, I think, in many other parts of the country. I hope that it also indicates at the same time that the Government are prepared to make fishing more widely available to the public and that they are prepared to consider public investment in ski-ing and other tourist facilities on the same basis as public investment in any other form of important industry. These are industries which are important to this area of Scotland.
It might be worth mentioning that while the ski-ing facilities on the west side of the Cairngorms are already being used to capacity, the facilities on the east side have hardly started to be developed. If eventually we have a road put through Glenfeshie Forest, this will be a great attraction to tourists and will open up a large new area to ski-ing as well as greatly shortening the journey from the forests in the eastern part of Scotland to the new pulp mill over at Fort William.
As well as referring tobalanced growth in all parts of Great Britainanddevelopment where it is most needed",1027 the Gracious Speech speaks of the promotion ofmodernisation and increased productivity in farming, horticulture and fishing.I have felt for a long time that what was badly needed in the north-east of Scotland was a development board something on the lines of the Highland Board. From the Answer to a Question which I tabled, I understand—and I have read about this in the Press, in any event—that consideration is being given to a consultative group for the area. I suggest, however, that unless such consultative groups have money to spend and executive powers, and unless they are directly responsible to elected bodies in the area, they will achieve very little. I believe that such bodies should go out with market research and publicity and should shout from the rooftops the advantages of areas such as north-east Scotland for incoming industry, both heavier industry in the city and lighter industry in the more rural areas.
We know that under the Government's plans the whole of Scotland except the Edinburgh-Leith area has now become a development area. In the North, we need something extra. We suffer very much from higher transport and fuel costs. We need a flat freight rate, cheaper electricity, both for domestic and industrial use, and better road links.
I was sorry to see in the Government plan that there is, as far as I know, no design for a major highway to link the north end of the Tay road bridge with Aberdeen and the North. This must be thought about now or we will not get it until the 1990s.
I have mentioned the small farmer briefly in passing. In my view, the existing system of so-called farm support is unfairly balanced in favour of the cash-cropping farmer and against the farmer who is producing livestock. I would like to see this remedied. I would like also to see what the Government do with their proposals to guarantee bank loans to the farming industry. It is little use offering to guarantee these loans if the banks are not willing to make them, and at the moment they are not.
They have also offered to support, at least in theory, the idea of a minimum price scheme for sales of fish. Unless 1028 the Government are prepared to underpin it on the lines that they underpin the Potato Marketing Board, it will do little good. The Government will also have to take steps to prevent dumping and ensure that certain foreign boats do not exploit, often illegally, our traditional fishing grounds. I believe that an international agreement on fishing limits is very much overdue.
In conclusion, I thank hon. Members for the courtesy and indulgence which they have shown to me while I have been speaking. While I and my colleagues find a great deal that is acceptable in the Gracious Speech, and while we do not by any means approve of the wording of the Opposition Front Bench Amendment, we feel obliged, on balance, to oppose a programme which includes steel nationalisation, Land Commission proposals which we believe to be unworkable and does not contain any proposals for democratic control over the regional structure which it is proposed to set up.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerry Fowler (The Wrekin)
I crave the indulgence which is normally extended to hon. Members making their first speech here. I ought to have spoken last week in the debate on education, for I am an educationist, but there seem to be so many educationists in the House that I think we might soon start our own school, if not a small university.
Consequently, I make my first speech on a subject in which I pretend to no expertise, the development of a new generation of new towns and the aid which the central Government can give to these new towns. I make no apology that this theme is relevant to my constituency of The Wrekin, where Dawley New Town is at the beginning of its development. It is very welcome to us there to see new industry coming back to the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
I follow an excellent constituency Member in my predecessor, Mr. William Yates. I shall certainly follow his example, at least in bringing before the House the problems of my constituency.
The problem of the development of a new generation of new towns is not solely one for The Wrekin. Several other new towns are proposed. Indeed, 1029 several new towns or cities were forecast in the South-East Study initiated by the Conservative Government. Consequently, what I say may well be relevant to other areas besides The Wrekin. Dawley may become a city. I trust that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will decide in the not-too-distant future, on the basis of a feasibility study, whether or not he can considerably expand the designated area. There seems a possibility that we may have there in 25 years' time a town of about 250,000 people. This development and other expansion of population in Shropshire foreseen in the West Midlands study may double the population of the county in that period. This is a good, but not unique, example of rapid increase of population in a local authority area.
This inevitably creates great financial problems for the county council and other local authorities. Let us take, for example, school building. Patently, in the new town we have a great chance to press ahead with the development of a comprehensive pattern of education, as foreseen in the Gracious Speech. We have a tabula rasa and can begin afresh. But the great cost of doing this in a new town area which is expanding rapidly in a county of no great population may mean that the older areas of the county will be robbed of necessary educational improvements while the new town develops.
They may especially be robbed of the urgently necessary replacements for village primary schools, often built in the first part of the last century, and which should have been replaced long ago. All local authority provisions for new towns, from improvements to non-classified access roads to the building of public conveniences, take money from other schemes in the local authority area or the county area which have long required improvement.
I ask my right hon. Friend to consider at some point whether he can introduce a special grant to county councils, a grant which could be devised by him in conjunction with the Secretary of State for Education and Science, to cover the part of the capital cost of new town expansion which falls on the county council or other local authorities. This would prevent progress being impeded on other 1030 necessary schemes in the remainder of the county as a result of shortage of funds.
I turn to housing in the new towns. In the Gracious Speech we are promised—I am glad to see it—a Bill to reorganise Exchequer grants to local authorities and a new scheme of Exchequer subsidies for local authority housing. That is excellent. But there is a special problem in respect of the rapid growth of the present generation of new towns, and that arises from a very simple fact. The cost of building new houses is high. An existing local authority is normally able to keep its rents reasonably stable because it has a pool of older houses. and although the cost of new houses may be high, by increasing the rents on the older houses also it can keep rents comparatively stable. This cannot be done by a new town corporation, because it has no older houses. Therefore, the economic rent of a new town house, even in this remote area of the West Midlands where land costs are relatively low, may be about £4 a week.
That may not seem excessive in some areas, but this is a low wage area, and it is not a rent which will necessarily make it easy to attract population from the neighbouring conurbation. So I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will consider giving a new special subsidy to development corporation houses in the short term until such time as a pool of houses has been built up.
I turn to another problem of new town development, that of trunk road access. In answers to my predecessor, the previous Minister of Transport said in November that at the moment expenditure on the A.5 and two of the trunk roads in the area was expected to give suitable access to the new town, though there might be reconsideration of this in view of the West Midlands Study. But I hope that it will not merely be the case that there may be reconsideration. I hope that there will certainly be reconsideration if we find a new city in the West Midlands of a potential population of 250,000.
To attract sufficient industry rapidly enough to a new town, good, ready access is essential. At least, dual carriageway access is required, but preferably motorway access to connect with the existing motorway system. It is vital to build good modern communications from the 1031 new towns to the outside world from the start, even if this means delaying some improvements in the transport system elsewhere. We do not want to do a patchwork job and then find ourselves resewing the patches in 25 years' time.
Another important service is that of hospitals. I understand that it usually takes from seven to eight years from the beginning of the planning of a new hospital to its opening. That means that, in the present generation of new towns, we must start now to build the new hospitals if the hospital systems of such areas are not to break down when we find that we have new, large cities already developed, but without adequate hospital provision. In the case of Dawley, the maternity provision for the area is inadequate even as it is and there is strong hope there that the development of the new town will bring with it in the near future a new hospital.
Another Minister intimately concerned in new town development is the President of the Board of Trade. Easily available industrial development certificates are essential if industry is to move to new towns from the conurbations. I suggest that, in the short term, while new towns build up, the Board of Trade should give the same priority to new town areas as it does to development areas and not a lower priority.
I believe that, at the moment, some firms which wish to move to new towns are urged by the Board of Trade to consider whether they might not do better to move to development areas. I hope that new towns will be given the chance to build up industry from the outset. At least, after that they might stand on their feet, and the over-concentration of industry and population in the conurbations need not continue longer than is strictly necessary.
Co-ordination is required in the development of a new town not simply through the new town corporation, but also between my right hon. Friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the Minister of Transport, the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the President of the Board of Trade. A great opportunity exists here for a demonstration of inter-departmental co-operation—a demonstration of coherent forward Gov- 1032 ernment planning which can be an exemplar for Government action in other directions. Success in this work is essential if we are to avoid a maldistribution of industry and achieve a better distribution through the development of new towns and of happy new town populations.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
It is my happy privilege to seek to compliment two maidens at the same time. An operation of this character would, under certain circumstances, not be without its hazards, but it is rendered particularly agreeable on this occasion by the high calibre of the speeches which the maiden speakers have made.
We first had a delightful speech from the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson). In this House he replaces someone who was held in very high esteem on both sides. However, if there had to be a political change there could not have been a more agreeable one from the point of view of personality, although the hon. Genleman will not expect us to be other than sorry to see Mr. Forbes Hendry go. We are glad to see that Mr. Hendry has been replaced by an hon. Member of such geniality. I must say that the hon. Gentleman gave a tremendous sales talk for his constituency. It is a pity that the Prime Minister is not here, because had he been I am sure that he would cancel his next Scilly Isles booking and go instead to West Aberdeenshire.
My own personal regret is that one of the main commodities emanating from the hon. Gentleman's constituency, whisky, and one of the main commodities emanating from my constituency, oysters, do not go together. It is a pity.
§ Mr. Buck
My right hon. Friend must have a stronger stomach. Perhaps a separation of enjoyment and effects might be arranged by him.
As I was saying, we enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West. He is, in a way, fortunate in that being a Liberal he is liable to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, quite often. But I should warn him that he is up against something that we in the two main parties do not have to face. He has to compete against the Liberal Chief Whip, the hon. 1033 Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), who is a most loquacious Member indeed. However, we hope to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West on many occasions in the future.
Then we had an extremely agreeable speech from the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler). He follows one of the great characters of the House of Commons and he paid an elegant tribute to Mr. William Yates which will be appreciated, certainly on this side of the House. His constituents will be glad to hear that he intends to follow the high traditions of constituency service that Mr. Yates rendered. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman's speech indicated that already, as an educationist, he has done a great deal of homework on one of the important matters concerned with his constituency, namely, the development of new towns. His speech was an amiable one and we look forward to hearing him frequently. As I am in a maidenly mood, I would also like to mention the earlier maiden speech by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley). I thought at one stage that I might be following him and I want to say now how much I enjoyed his speech. He and I were at Cambridge at the same time. I recall that he was the first President of the Union to spurn the stiff-fronted shirt and appear at a session in a lounge suit—great tribute to his courage. I thought myself that it was a little "old hat", but it was a foretaste of the boldness manifested in his speech today.
What a Queen's Speech this is! It pleases no one. The Government Front Bench can only just raise a "Hear, hear" for it. It is a turgid document and comes as near as any Queen's Speech can ever have come to being positively out of order. I suggest that it is close to being out of order by way of tedious repetition, because it is about the fourth time that we have had the speech. It did not please anyone the first time, and it does not please anyone this time.
I have had the privilege of representing the great constituency of Colchester for nearly five years. When I came to the House, it was in what one might call an interesting state. The then Opposition was led by the late and lamented Hugh Gaitskell, who was supported, perhaps more in theory than practice, by the present Prime Minister. But below 1034 the Gangway we have the Labour Party's expellees, a little band of hon. Members who had been expelled from the Labour Party and had had the Whip withdrawn from them. They were led by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) and possibly the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Victor Yates) here tonight. In those days they were the "lashes without the whip", and it was interesting to watch them attacking and turning on their own Front Bench with tremendous avidity and with gleams in their eyes.
Having listened to much of this debate, I have thought from time to time that the old days were back again. We on this side of the House have noticed with a high degree of interest the way in which the discontent of hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, and now scattered above the Gangway, has shown itself during the debate and in the sideshows which have gone on during the first part of this Parliament at Question Time and during various Ministerial announcements.
There is a slight difference this time. There appears to be a new edge in the Labour Party dissension brought about by competition and a greater degree of private enterprise among hon. Members opposite. We now hear that there has been created a "New Left Wing" movement and it is good to see a further competitive spirit working there. I understand that certain of the "Old Guard", as they have been described, are to be allowed to join this movement, but in no circumstances to run it. This is very much like the old days back again.
Why is there this tremendous discontent making itself manifest already? It is making itself manifest first by the extraordinary phenomenon of there being tabled by Government supporters an Amendment to the Address regretting that certain matters were not included in the Queen's Speech. This Amendment is supported by a mixed bag of hon. Members opposite, old and new dissidents alike, a very unusual phenomenon at the beginning of a Parliament after an election has just been won, and almost without precedent.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Poplar)
Not entirely without precedent and one of 1035 the precedents is distinguished. It was done once by the late Sir Winston Churchill.
§ Mr. Buck
On reflection, I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman himself has not done it before. I am grateful to him for what he has said. He is following in the footsteps of a most distinguished ex-Member of the House and perhaps if he adopts his procedures, we can hope that he will eventually adopt Sir Winston's politics, although I am bound to say that one has a certain doubt as to the likelihood of that. However, clearly this precedent has not been followed for a long time.
That was followed by the extraordinarily cold reception afforded to the speech of the Foreign Secretary. It was remarkable to see a senior Minister received, as was the Foreign Secretary, with not so much as a "Hear, hear" and to see the gloomy faces when hon. Members opposite heard what he had to say about Vietnam and about the Common Market, again indicating the extraordinary unrest which has made itself manifest among hon. Members opposite.
Then yesterday there was put down a Motion about conditions for talks with Rhodesia. It was an extraordinary Motion to have been put on the Order Paper and in every sentence there was mistrust of the Government Front Bench. It said:This House notes the decision"—not "welcomes" but "notes"—of Her Majesty's Government to enter into talks with the illegal régime in Rhodesia and believes that such talks can and will be conducted …in a certain way. It is clear that hon. Members opposite have very grave doubts about whether the talks will be conducted in that way, for they would not otherwise have tabled a Motion of that character.
We have this extraordinary phenomenon of the Labour Party showing its dissension during the debate on the Queen's Speech at this very early stage. The reason for it is that back-bench Members opposite do not trust the Front Bench opposite, and in particular hon. Members opposite do not trust the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Buck
Here, of course, both sides of the House can unite. Nobody, apart from one or two of his immediate colleagues on the Front Bench, trusts the Prime Minister. Why not? Because none of us knows what he believes in. Hon. Members opposite do not and, although we have some suspicions as to what he may believe in we do not know. It is very sad that the country should have a Prime Minister who is not trusted by even his own party, as has been made very clear by the actions of hon. Members opposite in the first week of this Parliament. They have virtually gone on record as so stating.
I am, however, surprised at the degree of dissension in certain ranks of hon. Members opposite about their own Government's policy. There is much which is extraordinarily dangerous in this old repetitious Queen's Speech which we are considering. There is much to indicate that the Labour Party will seek to meddle in all our affairs, that the Government will try to involve themselves in virtually every facet of life. If they do this, as seems likely from the Queen's Speech, they will so squander our national wealth and our resources that they will not be able to do properly the things which the Government ought to be doing.
The classic example is the intention to set up the Industrial Reorganisation Coporation. It appears that this body is to interfere with industry. It will start nationalisation by the back door and it will waste a great deal of our money. There is also an admixture of straight-forward nationalisation with the laying of foundations for further nationalisation by the use of the Land Commission. These elements in the Speech lay the foundations for Socialism, and one is therefore surprised to find the Left wing opposite so restive. The country must awaken to the fact that this is a very dangerous Queen's Speech, because, although it has been played cool by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the country is gradually being subjected to a real Socialist régime and to being made into a real Socialist State.
It is, however, surprising that one matter is hardly dealt with at all. I regard one of the principal duties of government to maintain law and order, but there is no reference to that. We in this country are in some danger of having 1037 law and order break down. At the beginning of last year, the Police Federation announced that we were losing the battle against the criminal. The statement was made by an official spokesman for the Federation. I am glad that a Home Office Minister is here to hear me say this.
Since then, nothing has transpired to show that this was an erroneous statement. In fact, everything which has transpired has confirmed it. We have had further statistics to indicate that indictable crimes known to the police are topping a million for the first time and that crimes of violence are going up, all indicating that there is all too much substance in that statement.
Yet in the Gracious Speech there is not a word about this terrible problem. We need to have an entirely all-out war on crime. We heard from the Home Secretary at Question Time today that there is to be a further recruiting drive costing about £350,000. We welcome that, but it is not enough. It is like the earlier campaign to try and get people to lock up their houses and so on, a campaign which cost about £150,000. It was announced by the Home Office with a great fanfare that there would he no fewer than three mobile vans touring the country telling people how to combat the criminal. How this must have struck fear and terror into the hearts of criminals—no fewer than three mobile vans, equipped with cinema projection equipment, too!
§ The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. George Thomas)
I have left the Home Office and am now at the Welsh Office, but I may tell the hon. Member that when we took over in 1964 we found that the country was 20,000 policemen short of the establishment and we found that the graph of crime had been on the increase For 10 years. Last year we succeeded in getting the best recruitment figures for the police force that there had been for the last 30 years.
§ Mr. Buck
Built on foundations left behind. The hon. Member also achieved about the worst wastage figures there had been for many years. It is absurd for him to make a point like that.
What was achieved by the Government during that year? A severe blow at the 1038 police morale by the issue of the famous pamphlet on how to report the police for any misdemeanour—with an exclusion from the pamphlet of a passage which had been agreed with the Police Federation. I have not a copy here, but the passage was to the effect that policemen were doing a difficult job and only if one were absolutely certain that a policeman had behaved badly should one report him. It had been agreed with the Police Federation that this passage should be included in the pamphlet, but it was dropped out by the then Home Secretary and the police were highly resentful.
The Government's proposal represents a totally inadequate crime prevention plan. We are to have a further recruiting drive. We need something of a much more robust and revolutionary character. We have to arm ourselves—not with firearms—against the criminal in every possible way. We must call television in aid and we must have a constant and bitter struggle against the criminal. There is no sign of a blueprint for this in the Government's proposal—not a single word about the fight against crime in the Gracious Speech. This should have been included in the Gracious Speech, and its omission will be resented.
The position has been made worse over the last few days by the extraordinary decision to abolish the Royal Commission which had been investigating the whole of our criminal law system. This was totally without precedent. No doubt hon. Members opposite will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that nothing like this was done even by Sir Winston Churchill in his day. This was a decision to end the work of the Royal Commission in mid-stream and against the wishes, it is clear, of the Chairman of that Royal Commission. I hope we shall have an early opportunity to debate this matter fully.
The only thoroughly agreeable feature of the whole of the debate during several days has been the high quality of the maiden speeches, of which we had some outstanding examples today. The debate has been on a document which is turgid and irrelevant to the needs of the country, and I hope that before very long the country will see the total irrelevance of what the Labour Government are putting forward.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
We have listened to a most extraordinary contribution from the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck). The only part of it with which I agree is his compliments to the maiden speakers. With that I fully agree. I have listened to all the maiden speeches this afternoon, and the quality has been high. Above all, the speeches have been constructive. I contrast that with the lack of constructive speeches by the hon. Member for Colchester and the right hon. Members for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) and Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter).
What is the hon. Member for Colchester talking about when he says that the Gracious Speech contains no reference to law and order? Has he read the last but one paragraph in which we are told that the Governmentwill carry forward, where necessary by introducing legislation, the process of reforming the criminal and civil law and modernising the administration of justice.I have sat on most of the Committees which have examined Home Office Bills and I suggest that this revolutionary zeal and fervour which the hon. Member is trying to arouse could not be found in his Government when they were in power, and when they had the opportunity to introduce the great reforms which would have assisted in the war against crime.
§ Mr. Yates
I found myself in difficulties sometimes.
In complimenting my hon. Friends on their maiden speeches I especially welcome to the House my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler)— 1040 I am sorry that he is not in his place—because, apart from the constructive contribution which he made, he has assisted me considerably by coming into the House. His predecessor in that constituency held the same name as myself and this often led to difficulty. Captain William Yates, a very interesting Member of the House, was often in some difficulty, as I was, because we had the same name. On one occasion I was invited to a most important reception in London when the invitation was intended for him. I even found that he was willing to pair with me while I went to that reception. Lord Montgomery wrote me a most interesting letter in his own hand—I still preserve the letter—but it was obvious to me that he had written to me by mistake. I had to reply to him by saying that as I represented people he thought were lunatics, I was surprised that he had written to me. Now all my difficulties in that connection are over and when I go to the post office the correspondence is for only one Member named Yates.
I do not want to trespass on the time of the House, but I wish to mention particularly a matter about which I am very concerned—hospital accommodation. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin mentioned this subject. I am deeply disturbed about what I believe to be the lack of provision for health facilities for the future including for a new town near to the City of Birmingham. This is a serious matter especially where it concerns the elderly, sick and infirm.
In the City of Birmingham, we have elderly sick persons on waiting lists for geriatric hospitals. There is a lack of provision for them, even though new provision has been made in the last year. Indeed, in some cases it means a two months' wait on the waiting list even for people regarded as having high priority. If, in the meantime, they have to be transferred to a hospital for acute cases, this means that they probably have to wait for six months before they can be transferred to a hospital which is suitable to deal with their cases.
The waiting lists are alarming, to say the least of it. My hon. Friends who represent Birmingham have had discussions with the Minister of Health and discussions with the regional hospital board. We cannot really be satisfied that they 1041 have estimated correctly what ought to be the provision in the future, and this is a matter of very considerable anxiety.
One problem is this, that while we have large waiting lists for almost every section, in one hospital in Birmingham, in the last two or three weeks, the number of pay-beds was increased, I understand, by 12, and this was done by the hospital management committee on which are sitting, perhaps, seven or eight consultants who may themselves benefit from this state of affairs. I understand that the Dudley Road Hospital has increased the number of pay-beds, and I must say that I think that this is a scandal when we have large numbers of people on the waiting lists for beds in our hospitals.
This brings me to one other point. I am interested in that part of the Gracious Speech which says:My Government will continue to develop the health and welfare services and will pay special attention to the development of the family doctor service.If the Government are to look specially at this question of the development of the health services, one of the things they really must examine now, at the beginning of this Session, is the composition of the hospital management committees and hospital boards—and, I think, of the nationalised boards, too.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Flint, West said that he believed that nobody now believes in nationalisation, and then one of my hon. Friends in a maiden speech—my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee)—immediately answered him by saying that he was fully in support of nationalisation. Whether we call it nationalisation or socialisation, which I prefer, the important thing is to see that the structure is such that those who are working within the nationalised industries, as well as the community outside, should have a fair deal.
The right hon. Gentleman too suggested that nobody today is satisfied with nationalisation, but it was hon. and right hon. Members opposite who had the responsibility for government for 13 years, and they did not once talk about handing back the mines. They dared not. What is more, they know very well that the miners are better cared for and are happier now than they ever were.
1042 I am not certain that all the proposals under nationalisation in 1945-50 were necessarily right or that the structure of nationalisation was right in every respect; I could be critical on those lines. If steel is nationalised I should like to see great attention paid to the structure, and certainly to the method by which the industry, regionally and nationally, is to be managed. I think that is very important for all the nationalised industries. It particularly applies to the National Health Service.
I have no hesitation in saying that the overwhelming numbers of those who are sitting on hospital management committees and regional boards today are almost anti-trade union. The representation on those bodies of the trade unions is very little indeed. I have here a letter from a member of the management committee of a Midlands hospital, and he says:Regional hospital boards are responsible for appointing members of the hospital management committees, and a recent survey I have done shows that almost all the hospital management committees in the Midland area have only one or two trade union or Labour representatives on them. In other words, those representatives are out-voted by 20 to 2.This is a situation which, in my judgment, a Labour Government and Labour Minister of Health ought to change, and ought to change as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. Yates
No. I do not think that they should be appointed according to political views, and that is why I am rather objecting that so many are at present. It is quite obvious.
This matter was considered at our Labour Pary conference last year. My union, the Clerical and Administrative Workers' Union, put forward a motion which was unanimosly accepted by conference. That motion said:Conference expresses concern at the completely inadequate trade union and Co-operative representation on boards of nationalised industries, regional hospital boards, hospital management committees, and similar bodies.The answer which was given to this by the right hon. Lady who is now Minister of Transport was very clear. In 1043 fact, she gave me all the information I required, because she said that only one out of 58 of non-medical members of the boards was an industrial worker. Surely it is not right that that should be so? After all, these are the people who are having to use these services, as my right hon. Friend said:Can anyone today maintain that there are not more working men and women, co-operators and trade unionists, who are suitably qualified to run the National Health Service? After all, they are the ones who need it, who are using it. They are not the ones who are contracting out of it under various private insurance schemes.I myself think that such facts as, for instance, the number of company directors who are sitting on these boards, especially as chairmen, need to be very thoroughly examined, and I am concerned that we shall not get an adequate health service unless we have a fair representation of the community on these boards and committees.
§ Mr. Noble
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. He said that he wanted to get more trade union representatives. I do not think that anybody in the House disagrees with that. Then, however, he suggested that they were outvoted by 20 to 2. This does seem to me a tremendous attack on a large number of people all over the country who are working on these hospital boards and who have never thought of voting against somebody because he was a trade unionist.
§ Mr. Yates
I have given one example of one management committee on which there are about eight consultants. If there are only one or two trade unionists out of 22 members they are obviously outvoted, and their views are not fully accepted, are they? That is the point I am making. I can understand the right hon. Gentleman feeling a little disturbed about it, because it was during the Conservatives' term of office that they put all these people on. The time has come to revise thoroughly the whole method of appointment of hospital management committees and regional boards. Where vacancies occur, they should be filled by means of a wider representation of the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Maurice Orbach (Stockport, South)
My hon. Friend is quite correct in his assumption. The National Health 1044 Act laid down that members of management committees or boards of governors should be representative of the whole community. The trade union movement is representative of over 8 million men and women. When one takes into account their families, that number is almost doubled, so they represent a very big section of the community, and they are not represented to anything like that extent on management committees and on boards of governors of teaching or post-graduate hospitals. On the other hand, directors of companies who are infinitely less in number are represented to a much greater extent on those boards.
§ Mr. Yates
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for emphasising what I have been trying to say.
I conclude with an appeal to the Government to take very firm steps in the near future to see that appointments are made in such a way that we can redress what at present is an unfair balance. Medical people should not have such a large number of seats on boards, for example. [Laughter.] The right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) laughs. Apparently he is laughing at the fact that medical people can decide to increase the number of pay-beds in a hospital and help to out-vote those who disagree. If he cares to look across the river, a new St. Thomas's hospital is being built, and I understand that the top floor is being reserved for private paying patients.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
I hope that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Victor Yates) will forgive me if I do not follow him exactly in his discussion of the hospital service. I wish to deal with other aspects of the Gracious Speech, and I note that there are still many hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate.
In his remarks, the hon. Gentleman cast very serious aspersions on the motives of many people who serve 1045 voluntarily on our hospital boards up and down the country. It must be accepted by the House that many of those who serve on these boards and give of their own time take decisions in the best interests of the hospital service. We owe a debt to the many who serve on those boards and give freely of their time.
§ Mr. victor Yates
The hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent me. I have visited many hospitals and had discussions with many medical people. I have the greatest admiration for the medical profession, and I would not cast aspersions on them. However, I want the unfair balance redressed.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that. His earlier remarks appeared to cast a much wider general aspersion than perhaps he intended. But I will not get involved in the detailed criticisms that he was making.
I would like to add my congratulations to those of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members to those who have made maiden speeches. In particular, I would add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson), as his is a neighbouring constituency to mine. In many of the things that he said, he echoed the sentiments of many of us in the north-east of Scotland on what is needed to diversify the base of our industry and to stem the drift of population from that part of Scotland. We were sorry to see his predecessor, Colonel Forbes Hendry, leave the House. We know what a doughty fighter he was for those very policies. He became known as the "Eagle of the North". However, I hope we can also welcome an ally to the fight for what is needed in the north-east of Scotland.
In his speech, the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West highlighted what are the difficulties in the Scottish economic plan, particularly as regards the northeast of Scotland. The Scottish economic plan contains no specific Government proposals for that area. When the previous Government carried out their plans there were for central Scotland definite positive proposals about the motor industry, the establishment of a steel strip mill and of a pulp mill outside Central Scotland. In other ways the Government took positive action to encourage 1046 the growth of industry. What many of us in the north-east of Scotland find disappointing is the complete lack of specific proposals such as central Scotland benefited from three or four years ago.
The other deficiency that he did not mention is the lack of assurances from the Government that more money will be made available for the essential infrastructure of industrial development in the north-east of Scotland. He mentioned roads, and they are very important to us, but there is also housing, not just in an urban area such as the City of Aberdeen, but also the wider problem of housing in rural areas. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and local Government referred to housing in his speech more in the context of urban areas, but the House must recognise that it is equally important in the rural areas, particularly when dealing with the need for diversification of industry and for giving people in country areas the same facilities and chances as those in urban areas enjoy.
Before I move on to more general topics, the third point to which I wish to draw attention is the exclusion from investment incentives of certain industries which are essential to the north-east of Scotland, such as transport, the building and construction industry and the tourist industry. I was particularly pleased to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West say that he wished to see more money invested in the tourist industry and more interest taken by the Government in that part of industry. It is refreshing to hear such remarks coming from his benches, since his hon. Friends did not support us earlier in the year when we criticised the Government for excluding the very important tourist industry from their plans for investment incentives.
May I now turn to the main topic of today's debate, particularly the Amendment on which the House will divide tonight? The Amendment from our side regrets that the Gracious Speech includes damaging plans for further restriction and State control.
I do not intend to enter into the more political and doctrinaire arguments about the extension of State control. What concerns me and what concerns ordinary people up and down the country, regardless of political affiliations, is what are 1047 to be the practical effects of the extension of State control and State ownership of the steel industry on the general economy and industry of the country. It is not just related to the question of nationalisation because, apart from the White Paper on steel nationalisation, we have the chapter in the National Plan which deals with the iron and steel industry and which refers to the desire of the present Government to extend greatly the central planning, central control and central marketing of the industry.
What worries me, and I think many people, is what will be the effect of this greater degree of centralisation which the Government seem determined to pursue. I should like to concentrate on the effect of this policy of centralisation on the regional policies which the Government are also trying to follow in the interests of the development of industry.
As I see it—and this applies particularly to areas such as Scotland—we face two dangers from centralisation, and of these the Government must be made aware. The first is that decisions about development, in such a great industry as the steel industry, instead of being taken, as they are at the moment, by the steel firms in the areas in which they operate, will be taken centrally. We in Scotland are particularly fortunate in having two great progressive firms—Colvilles and Stewarts and Lloyds—where decisions to develop are taken in Scotland, in the context of the economic conditions existing there, and against the background of Scottish industry.
If there is more centralisation, there is the danger that decisions with regard to development, and so on, are less likely to be taken against the background of local problems and the problems of developing local industry in particular regions.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that, except for small schemes, every steel company has to get clearance centrally from the Iron and Steel Board for any development?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I accept that, but the fact remains that under the present system of ownership of the industry proposals are put forward from people with knowledge of the local background and local interests. While final decisions 1048 at the top level may be taken in the interests of the industry as a whole, we have at present some assurance that local interests will be taken into account when those decisions are made.
Coupled with the question of the development and adoption of new techniques, there is the question of research and technology. Many of us believe that there is great scope in Scotland for the development of research and technology. In the past, when decisions about Government research have been taken centrally, areas such as Scotland, which are further away from the centre, have not always been given their fair share of that research, and of the facilities which they should have deserved. I think that under proposals for nationalisation there is a great danger that Scotland may miss out when it comes to obtaining research projects and research facilities.
The second danger of greater centralisation of control in the steel industry concerns not the steel producing industry, but those industries which use steel. One of the most encouraging features of Scottish industrial development during the past five years has been the growth of science-based consumer-orientated industries. It is in these industries that employment is rising fastest, as a result of the far-reaching and far-sighted plans which the previous Government brought in for central Scotland. The growth of these industries and of employment within them is the foundation on which the future industrial prosperity of Scotland must be based.
In the past, industries such as the railways, coal mining, and shipbuilding have used many of the products of the indigenous heavy iron and steel industry in Scotland. Many of the new industries coming to Scotland use specialised steel products. This is particularly true of the electronics industry, which is growing fast, and the industries producing domestic appliances, and so on. Many of the firms which have recently been set up in Scotland have to obtain about 80 per cent. of the steel which they require from England.
It is firms of this kind on which the future development of Scotland depends. One of the things on which they have to rely is a close relationship between themselves and the steel producing firms 1049 in England which supply them with their specialised steel products. This close relationship is necessary for a number of reasons, one of which is to make sure that they get the right quality of specialised steel which they need for their products. They must be able to ensure that their products come up to the required specification.
The close relationship is also necessary to ensure a speedy delivery service. When the producing part of an industry is hundreds of miles away from the consuming part of it, a close relationship is necessary to overcome transport problems. This is also important in assisting the firm to keep down its costs, by avoiding the need to hold unnecessary stocks of raw material. It is for these reasons that there is a genuine fear among many firms of the type to which I have referred that the central bureaucratic control which may emanate from nationalisation will destroy this vital link between the industries which supply specialised types of steel, and the consuming firms in Scotland which rely on getting satisfactory supplies. I therefore feel that the proposals for the nationalisation of steel could easily hit other plans and other hopes which we have for a greater degree of regional development.
Another problem which arises from the nationalisation of the steel industry concerns the relationship between two nationalised industries, where one happens to be the major customer of the other. The steel industry is one whose costs can be tremendously influenced by the prices of another nationalised industry. We have seen an example of this in Scotland recently. Colvilles consume about 2 million tons of coal a year. The recent price increase proposed by the National Coal Board will add £1 million a year to the costs of that firm, and, quite naturally, it is trying to find ways of reducing its dependence on coal.
If the steel industry is nationalised, will the Government dictate that it must use coal? I must question whether this would be in the best interests of the industry. I believe that if one nationalised industry is placed under an obligation by the Government, as it could be, to buy the products of another nationalised industry, this could place the steel industry in an unfair position from the point of view of meeting competition from other coun- 1050 tries. This is an important matter with which the Government have to deal.
What do the Government envisage will be the position with regard to the nationalisation of steel if Britain seeks entry into Europe? As I understand it, under the Treaty of Rome the existence of cartels in an industry can create special conditions, and very difficult ones. It is precisely these conditions that nationalisation can produce. Have the Government considered what effect the nationalisation of steel would have on Britain's entry into the Common Market? I believe that this topic, more than any other, makes one question the relevance of the Government's policies to the age in which we live.
If the Government are serious about entry into Europe, if they are serious about the challenge and the opportunity which such entry will provide for the economy of this country, have they considered fully the question of nationalisation in relation to the Treaty of Rome? Have they further considered the relevance of nationalisation in relation to the other important aspects which I have mentioned? It is because of the concern throughout the country about regional development and about entry into Europe, that I think it right to oppose the Government on these proposals.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick)
If I may say so, the procedures of this House seem designed, to a certain extent, to intimidate the new hon. Member. I come of a profession one of whose occupational hazards is commonly termed "first night nerves"—and, heaven knows, there are enough occupational hazards in our strange profession. Because of this, I am not entirely unacquainted with the symptoms of what is a new affliction to me; something I might term "Parliamentary palsy"—that strange tremor which overcomes every new hon. Member when summoned to speak for the first time.
In my case, half of that palsy is, I am sorry to say, restrained impatience at the conventions which I find established here. I am required to do two things in my first speech to this august House. Both of them are, I think unutterably boring. The first is that I should make seemly 1051 sounds about my constituency, and nobody could be fonder of my constituency than I am. However, because of its parochial content, my observations are bound to bore most of my hearers—other hon. Members whose interests are naturally and selfishly riveted to their own constituencies. The other requirement—and this is, perhaps, more disturbing to me—is that I am supposed to be non-controversial. That, for me, would be very boring.
As to my predecessor as the hon. Member for Smethwick, I am not prepared to make favourable references. If I am required to do so by the practice of the House, I must plead in this case temporary amnesia. The campaign which won him his brief sojourn in this place was completely unwholesome and totally unacceptable in terms of British political life. That feverish seizure is now happily over—and I am here!
About my constituency, I intend to follow the conventions of the House. Smethwick, as hon. Members know, lies at the industrial heart of England. There are very few of the industrial goods that we use in our every day lives which do not contain a component or part which comes out of Smethwick. No community in the whole of the country is warmer, friendlier or livelier, in its zestful attack on the necessity of work or the pleasures of ordinary living than the people of Smethwick. I am enormously grateful to them that they have taken me to their way of life and have filled me frequently—I will not say too often—with their welcoming pints in the clubs and "pubs" of that part of the world. Both Tories and Socialists in my constituency breathed a sigh of relief when the beer strike came to an end. I certainly did!
Hon. Members may not know that Smethwick is mentioned in the Domesday Book. I do not think that many hon. Members could claim that honour for their constituencies. I strongly hope—and I shall do my damnedest to ensure—that when the intended redistribution takes place around my constituency the ancient and honoured name of Smethwick will not disappear in favour of some artificial and anaemic concoction thought up by a local civil servant. "Smethwick" it has been for unremembered generations—and Smethwick it has been termed 1052 as a Parliamentary constituency for many years. I trust that it will always—as a Parliamentary constituency—be so termed and I equally trust that for many years to come I will be the hon. Member representing it.
I should like briefly to mention a few topics in the Gracious Speech, although I cannot promise to be non-controversial On Rhodesia, I gravely fear that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has given a hostage to fortune. We all strongly hope—and my Presbyterian prayers are added to the fervent strains—that the talks which are now taking place will come to a satisfactory and constitutional conclusion which will be acceptable to all Rhodesians. And when I say "all" I mean every single member of that country. If they do not—and, as I say, we pray that they will—we must hope that the sanctions which have been enforced will do their job and eventually displace and replace the present rulers of Rhodesia.
But if they do not—and this is the point I wish to make—I must make it quite clear that I think the Prime Minister's abjuring the use of force was a cardinal error. It may come to that and, if it does, I for one will wholeheartedly back that regrettable but necessary resolution of the problem. I am entitled to make this observation because at the moment my sister and my six nieces and nephews are in that country. Indeed, I speak with some knowledge of the matter, because I was born very near the boundaries of the present country of Rhodesia.
I will say a word about Vietnam. I am sure, absolutely certain, that most of us are agreed that sooner rather than later a way to peace must be found. The sufferings in that country are unendurable merely in imagination. The reality for the people involved in that suffering and the cruelties of that war must be crucifying. We must find a way to peace in Vietnam, and I would be happier if I felt that the Government were playing a rather more strenuous part than they are in that activity. I warn the Government that the apron strings of attachment to America and her policies may become umbilical cords which, when we want to resume an independent political and economic life, we may find it difficult to cut. I would like to see slightly more independent attitudes and policies followed by this great country in this problem.
1053 In all our social policies, I stand four square behind the Government. I know from my experience in Smethwick how desperately the care and concern of the Government's policies are needed. Life is still brutish for far too many of our fellow countrymen, and I am convinced that the policies of the Government will bring ease, content and perhaps even fulfilment to our fellow countrymen—those ordinary folk whose lives are not always easy, unworried and fulfilled.
I hope that the Government will forgive my mild admonishments. I make these comments because I believe that, to keep the Government on their toes, a lively and intelligent Opposition is required. We may have to provide it for ourselves, because we are not likely to get it from the incompetent and ragged remnants on the benches opposite.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
It is a great pleasure to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds). This House is already grateful to him, and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and Mr. Speaker especially so. I say that because when I am asked whether I am in favour of capital punishment I always reply, "I am, for one offence". That is the offence of people who come up to me and say, "I bet you don't remember who I am!". The hon. Member for Smethwick is unlikely to lose his head in any Administration of which I am in charge, because the House does know who he is, and he must have been a great help already to the Chair in that respect. We are already familiar with his—and I am sure I may say this without offence—characteristic appearance, observed in the House and elsewhere. It is also very pleasing to listen to an hon. Member with such a highly agreeable quality of voice. It is something which is not to be overlooked in the artifices of political presentation. I think that if I were following the hon. Gentleman 200 years ago I would have said, "Ars est artem celãre"—and an old schoolmaster such as the Minister of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas), will know what that means.
§ Mr. Iremonger
One is allowed to speak in Latin in the House but not, I 1054 am afraid, in Welsh. The House will have felt particularly grateful to the hon. Member for having discharged his task with such a high degree of artistic quality in his presentation. His was indistinguishable from absolute naturalness. He comes, indeed, from a profession which inculcates the need to master one of the all too rarely cultivated political arts, namely, a very agreeable delivery.
This House likes above all things sincerity, and if the hon. Gentleman is an actor by profession I think it is obvious that he leaves the artifices of his profession behind him when he crosses the Bar of this House. He said that there were hazards in his profession. He spoke of first night nerves and said that he had "Parliamentary palsy" on addressing the House for the first time. However, he concealed his condition very well. I think that the House appreciated his frankness. I think also that one other thing the House specially appreciates is that hon. Members should address it from their direct personal experience. When the hon. Member told us that relations of his were living in Rhodesia, the House responded sympathetically to the depth of feeling with which he expressed his views on that question.
He was a little diffident about being controversial in a maiden speech, but I am sure that I speak for my hon. Friends on this side of the House when I say that any maiden speaker may be as controversial as he likes if he attacks his own Front Bench. We were, therefore, entirely satisfied with the degree of controversy that he introduced into his speech.
We wish him happiness in the House. On this side, we shall do our best to see that his sojourn here is as short as possible. I hope that I am not overstepping the bounds of courtesy if I say that some of us felt regret that he did not feel able to say a good word for his predecessor, a former colleague of ours on this side of the House—one whom, many of us felt, was greatly maligned in his Parliamentary career and whose absence now we regret.
However, the House will look forward to hearing the hon. Member again, both for pleasure and for the instruction which he will give us. I am sure he will quickly learn any necessary lessons of tolerance and good fellowship from his association with other hon. Members.
1055 In turning to the Gracious Speech I should like to deal with the only paragraph which seems to give unmitigated comfort, and that is the last one:I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.Next to that, I am tempted, with a mixture of hope and trepidation, by the penultimate paragraph, which says:Other measures will be laid before you.Apart from that, the only comfort which I have found is in the first paragraph:My husband and I look forward with pleasure to our visit to Belgium.That seems to me to be quite innocent. However, apart from that, I find very little comfort, and I had hoped to refer to certain matters.
However, in the circumstances, I want to confine myself entirely to the last paragraph but two:My Government will carry forward, where necessary by introducing legislation, the process of reforming the criminal law. … They will introduce legislation to make further reforms in the penal system.I want particularly to refer to this, because of the recent dissolution, announced in the House by the Prime Minister yesterday, of the Royal Commission on the Penal System, of which I was a member, and the proposed appointment of a Standing Advisory Council to take its place.
I regret that I should feel obliged to devote my short time to this subject, when I should have preferred to have spoken to my right hon. Friends' Amendment. However, I was not able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye after the announcement yesterday. I was not successful in obtaining a place in the list of Adjournment debates which was published today. I am sorry, therefore, that I shall have to say these things at a time when I could not expect a reply from the Home Secretary.
However, I hope that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, who has just left the Home Office, will be sensitive to what I am saying. If he would be so kind as to convey the sense of my remarks to his right hon. Friend the Lord President, who, I think, will be winding up, I should think it passing courteous of his right hon. Friend if he could take note of what I say and possibly give me some reply. If the Lord President himself, whom I 1056 see in his place now, likes to take note of them, I should be grateful.
These remarks are best made now, because the Royal Commission was dissolved yesterday. It is best to say these things straight away. We want to look to the future and as soon as we can, put the past behind us—
§ Mr. George Thomas
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. If my colleagues in the Home Office had known that he was going to raise this matter, I am sure that one of them would have been present. I will, of course, ensure that what he says is brought to their notice.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I am most obliged. I accept that. I would have informed his hon. and right hon. Friends, but, as a matter of fact, it was not until I saw the list of Adjournment debates published a few moments ago that I decided to throw away the speech which I had prepared and make this one instead. I think that the House will feel that, in the circumstances, it is right that I should have done that.
With reference to the Royal Commission on the Penal System, an autopsy is only moderately helpful. First of all, though, I should not like to say anything about the Royal Commission without saying that, although I would not presume to speak in any other way for my former colleagues on the Commission, I know that they would all join me in saying that no Royal Commission could possibly have had a Chairman who commanded more affection and respect than Lord Amory.
Also, for myself, I would say of my colleagues on the Commission that I think we all parted with mutual respect and with no personal rancour and that we all have personally only the very happiest recollection of our association. Of course, it would also be wrong of me to omit to say, with great sincerity, that the whole Commission, as will the Government and the House, will be grateful for the excellent staff who served us in a most helpful, efficient and courteous manner.
I must now express emphatic regret at the decison taken by the Prime Minister on the advice of the Home Secretary to dissolve the Royal Commission. I know that it will not be taken as in any way 1057 offensive if I say that this was a profound mistake. It was a matter of judgment; and I think that it was a wrong judgment.
It is my conviction that any Royal Commission could and should have fulfilled the terms of reference. There is a school of thought which says that an inquiry of this nature into the penal system at this time is not the sort of thing which should be entrusted to a Royal Commission. I profoundly disagree. I think that the Commission immediately dissolved could and should have continued to fulfil the terms of reference. It seemed to me that no change whatsoever of any significance had taken place since the members of the Royal Commission accepted their Commission. I do not accept that legislation vitiated either the need for, or the practicability of, a long-term review of the penal system.
I do not accept that a Standing Advisory Council is any substitute for a Royal Commission for this reason. The fundamental issues of principle and philosophy referred to in the terms of reference, in the specific reference to the concepts and purposes of the penal system, the differences between "treatment" and "punishment"—profound issues which the public ought to discuss and be informed about—will remain unresolved by any Standing Advisory Council. They would and should and could have been resolved in public debate by the Royal Commission. The country will be the poorer for the missing of that opportunity.
I think, further—and this is a direct personal criticism of the Home Secretary which I am sure he will accept as proper for me to make—that the Home Secretary could and, I submit, should, have replaced the six members who expressed uncertainty about their ability to continue to serve. He should have encouraged them to resign and forthwith replaced them. Alternatively, he could and he should have nipped their misgivings in the bud. I am perfectly certain that if he had acted, as his predecessor did act, he could have said to the resigning members, "We want you to carry on with this long term review". And I am sure we would have had no more trouble from them. I say that for the reason that the resignations were the culmination of a process this year which 1058 was the precise repetition of a process which took place exactly 12 months ago and which was nipped in the bud by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, Sir Frank Soskice, when he was Home Secretary.
Having said that, in regretful criticism and in gratitude about the Royal Commission which is now dissolved, I think the House will feel it is much better for me to concentrate upon the future. That is what we must now be concerned with. That is much more important. Of course we wish the Standing Advisory Council well, and I am sure those who are members of it will serve the Government, successive Governments, and the country well.
This is a vital moment, and for this reason there is something I particularly want to say now rather than days or weeks later. It is a vital moment because, presumably, the terms of reference of the Standing Advisory Council are at this moment being anxiously and actively considered by the Home Secretary. So I now make this most earnest plea to him. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to convey to the Home Secretary most urgently what I am about to say. I implore the Home Secretary not to repeat, in framing terms of reference of the Standing Advisory Council, what I think was a fundamental error committed in framing the otherwise excellent terms of reference of the Royal Commission on the Penal System. I say to the Home Secretary, do please let him make sure that terms of reference so framed as to embrace the problems of the prevention of crime in its social origins. Let him not confine the Standing Advisory Council, by its terms of reference, to consideration only of treatment within the penal system.
Treatment is, of course, profoundly important. It is a great responsibility of every hon. Member in this House, because it concerns the personal destiny of 25,000 individual human beings, whom we all represent, at any given time. I should not for a moment under-rate the urgency and importance of getting the details of the penal system right. Of course that goes without saying. It is not to derogate from its importance to say that the penal system is only of secondary importance. It is a comparatively barren field. Very few offenders 1059 are caught. Not all of the offenders who are caught are sentenced. So that the penal system is brought to bear upon large numbers of delinquents in any way at all.
Indeed, there is a school of thought, which is not to be lightly dismissed, which says that, whatever we do to an offender within the penal system, his future behaviour is likely to be very little affected. I do not think as a representative of my constituents, as a practising and practical politician, as a responsible Member of this House, that that doctrine is one to which I should give too much sympathetic attention. It is a counsel of despair. We must, of course, try hopefully to do the best we can for convicted persons in the penal system. But if we concentrate on the penal system, as though it were in some sense an answer to the problem of crime, we are barking up the wrong tree. We are putting ourselves in the totally false position of having to answer to the public for the success or failure of the penal system according to whether there is more or less crime in society at any given time.
It is no counsel of despair, but merely realistic, to impress on the country at large that the details of the penal system—whether we hang people, flog them, put them in the stocks or under the thumbscrews or give them a permissive régime with beat music, basket weaving, therapeutic communities or what not, whether we go from the one extreme of the Victorian régime to the other extreme of the permissive régime—whatever we do in the penal system has about as much to do with the amount of crime in society at any given time as the number and quality of umbrellas has to do with the amount of rain which falls in a year.
This is a doctrine which hon. Members would do well to take to heart and put to their constituents when they go to them and say, "What are you doing about the increase in the crime rate?" Do not let us be put into the false position of saying, "I will do something about it; I'll see we alter the penal system ". The nature of the penal system has almost nothing to do with the way in which people behave in their private lives, or with whether they become potential or actual offenders. Far more fruit- 1060 ful and important is it for us in this House, especially right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, and their successors who are now on the Opposition Front Bench, to address their minds to the social origins of delinquency. These origins have very little to do with poverty or with injustice. For example, the lowest rate of crime is to be found in those primitive and harsh conditions of simple peasant communities of Spain, Italy and so on. The level of crime has very little to do with the kind of life which people enjoy in the material sense. What it has to do with would be hardly within the scope of what I am trying to suggest tonight.
What we must be concerned with, and what the Standing Advisory Council must be concerned with above all things, is the formative influences which affect the attitudes of those who are at risk in the early years of their lives when they are still able to come to terms with society. If there is one word in all the jargon of penology which is of ultimate importance, and which is hardly ever used, it is "attitude". A man does good or ill according to what his attitude is to other people, his attitude to the society of which he is a part, his attitude to society at large. It is the formation of those attitudes which affects the degree of criminality of a society at any given time.
Crime is really a function of change. We are living in an era of explosive change. Change puts stress upon the weaker members of society. Stress leads to the breakdown of the social, personal and moral sanctions that keep a personality in tune with its environment. Because we are living in times of change and because change induces stress and because stress induces breakdowns, we have more and more breakdowns which are manifested in terms of delinquency.
It is our duty in the House to evolve social agencies of one kind or another which will get to those who are under stress and in danger of breakdown and give them the kind of support and change of attitudes which will enable them in their formative years to establish a relationship and an attitude to society which will mean that they are reconciled to it and not at risk as potential criminals.
1061 I will not presume at this moment to suggest to the Home Secretary a form of words which he should incorporate into the terms of reference of the Standing Advisory Council to cover this need. I would lot damn a good idea by doing that, because I feel that if from these benches. I should say what the Home Secretary ought to put into those terms of reference, those infinitely desirable words would be out. However, if I can privately be of any service, I would not let on that I had helped at all. I feel more profoundly about this than about almost any other aspect of my political responsibility. In all humility, I do think I know something about this, simply because I have thought and felt deeply about it for a long time.
I do most sincerely implore the Home Secretary to listen to what I am saying, and not to get this thing wrong at the start, but to provide a great opportunity here for such a body to be of influence in the forming of society. I ask the Home Secretary to devote his mind to giving an inter-departmental function to the Standing Advisory Council. Let it not be a Standing Advisory Council to advise only the Home Secretary with reference to the exercise of his sole functions in the penal system. If it is to be so limited it will touch only one part, and that the least fruitful part, of his responsibility.
Let it especially be a Standing Advisory Council which shall have an inter-departmental function reaching into the Department of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. That is where the trouble starts. I know that this will strike a responsive chord in the hon. Member for Cardiff, West who is now the Minister of State, Welsh Office. If we can try to enlarge the scope and responsibility of the Standing Advisory Council in a way in which the responsibility of the Royal Commission was not enlarged when its terms of reference were drafted, it may well prove to have been "an ill wind that blows nobody any good" that the Royal Commission was dissolved. The ill wind that dissolved the Royal Commission may blow us some good in the sense that it may mean that a Standing Advisory Council with better terms of reference will be set up, in the sense—a fundamentally important one—that we should look 1062 beyond the mere penal system into the formative roots of society. Then, perhaps, out of what, I am sorry to say, was a grievous moral failure and which brought about the collapse of the Royal Commission on the Penal System, may come something of profound and lasting good.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Poplar)
Like other hon. Members who have spoken today, I wish to extend a welcome and a word of congratulation to the hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches today. I hope that other new Members will forgive me if I allow myself a few moments of nostalgia and extend a special welcome to the new Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee). I was greatly impressed by my hon. Friend's speech. When that speech is read by his constituents, who were once my constituents, they will come to the conclusion that Reading is now better represented in the House than it has been at any time for at least the last 20 years.
My hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) spoke of the terrors of having to be conventional and noncontroversial in a maiden speech. I was a new Member in 1945. There were over 300 new Members then. There was not time for the old Members to show all the new Members the ropes, because there were too many new Members. Nobody told me about the convention attaching to a maiden speech.
When I came to make my maiden speech a few days after I was inducted, it was in the debate on the Loyal Address. I did not apologise for my existence. I made no statement about my consciousness of my inadequacy. I did not talk about my constituency. I did not pay a tribute to my predecessor. And I was very, very controversial indeed. After I had "torn off this very large strip", it fell to the lot of a very nice, worthy hon. Gentleman, a National-Liberal, a veteran Member of the House named Sir Henry Morris-Jones, to follow me. He was a very sweet old gentleman, but very conventional indeed. He was terribly shocked by this unusual maiden speech which broke all the rules, although, I repeat, it was quite unwitting. He was very shocked indeed, and when he was called after me he manifestly flinched. He then proceeded to congratulate the 1063 hon. Member who had just spoken, and he did so with the enthusiasm of a vegetarian who has just found a caterpillar in his salad. It seems that, unwittingly, one can flout those particular conventions and get away with it.
If I do not follow the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) on the points which he put to the House he will, I know, realise that that is not at all out of any discourtesy to him. It is because, unlike him, I am by no means expert in the subject to which he addressed his observations, and I am one of those old-fashioned "blokes" who never talk about things they know nothing about. In these days that is considered to be rather "square", but I am a bit "square" in that respect.
We are here discussing the nation's economy, and I want to make some observations about two of the basic industries of the country on whose efficiency our economy to no small extent depends, and both of which are mentioned and are stated for some action or another in the Gracious Speech. One of them is steel, which has already been referred to today, and the other is the transport industry, which has not been mentioned today but has been mentioned earlier in our debates. It is important that we should get both these industries into the best possible shape as a part of the sub-structure in the manufacturing sector of our economy.
A couple of days ago we had on the same day one of the periodic reviews published by the Iron and Steel Federation and the annual report for last year of the Iron and Steel Board. Both of them had a common theme, that this industry must be drastically reorganised into a much smaller number of very much larger units. To those of us who, for years, have been studying the problems of this industry, this sudden blinding inspiration on the part of the Iron and Steel Board, that what we need is a smaller number of bigger plants, is precisely what Mr. Punch used to call "a glimpse of the obvious". Everybody else except this authoritative Iron and Steel Board has been saying this for more than 20 years, and the Iron and Steel Board has always been resisting it while everybody else has been saying it.
Most of the advocates, if not all, of the nationalisation of steel—and I in- 1064 clude myself amongst them, of course—have used as one of the principal arguments for the public ownership of steel the fact that steel will not be got right until there is tremendous concentration into smaller units, that such concentration under private ownership will so seriously disadvantage some of the operations that the boards of directors must, in their duty to their shareholders, resist it and that therefore it is impossible to get that concentration without the transfer to public ownership. This is not doctrinal. It is purely technical, hard, common sense.
I recall saying this—if I may say so without wishing to "blow my own trumpet"—in a lecture that I gave on the reorganisation of steel in 1944. All the time that we, the advocates of nationalisation, have been saying this—including such people as Mr. Charles de Peyer and Mr. Richard Pryke—the Iron and Steel Board has been resisting the idea, and now suddenly, when nationalisation is on the agenda, it is smitten, like Saul on the road to Damascus, by a blinding light and has begun to understand things which were manifest to any student of the industry a long time ago.
Hon. Members will recall the productivity team which visited the United States in 1951, 15 years ago now, to see what we could learn from the American steel industry. In its report, that team said:British steel works are much smaller than American, and this is the most important factor in limiting increased efficiency and productivity.I remember the contribution made to our debates in October, 1952, by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) who, having a steel constituency, had immersed herself in the problems of the industry. She said:… the size of the steel-making enterprises in this country is much too small for us to be able to compete … the optimum size for bulk making of steel is somewhere between three quarters of a million and one million ingot tons per annum, whereas the average size of the firms in this country engaged in that process is somewhere in the region of 325,000 tons per annum.Therefore, although it is true that we have the problem of expanding our production, we must do it selectively, and that means reducing the number of plants and increasing the size of those in operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1952; Vol. 505, c. 1378-9.]1065 Yet, eight years later, the Iron and Steel Board, in its Report for 1960, was still feebly defending whatever size of blast furnace happened to exist in this country at the time.
I do not know—I have asked many in the industry who are against nationalisation to tell me and none has yet been able to tell me—how one could, with the maintenance of private enterprise, get sufficient acceptance of the need for this concentration, with the inevitable commercial damage to some companies, and get it quickly enough to create the rationalisation needed within the necessary period of time.
This afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) argued about some sort of mixed ownership arrangement. I say this to him in all friendship. Does he really think that those steel masters who were not bright enough to take advantage of the loophole which he opened for them—and for which they ought to have been grateful to him—those steel masters who were not bright enough and unselfish enough to take advantage of that opportunity, will be sufficiently bright and unselfish as to be willing to give their consent to the sort of concentration we are talking about? If there were no other reason for nationalising the steel industry—and there are many others—this would be reason enough.
These are cold, hard and technical matters. It is not what the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) called "blithering old-fashioned nonsense". It is the inescapable conclusion of everyone who studies the economics of the industry. I have so much regard for the right hon. Gentleman's competence and objectivity that I say to him that, if he had time to study the economics, the technical economics, of this industry with the same degree of concentration as he has given to many other subjects, to their benefit, he would, I am sure, come to the same conclusion.
We shall, of course, nationalise steel. The Bill will be brought in this Session. Nevertheless, I say this to my right hon. Friends. With the best will in the world, it will take time to draft the Bill, bring it in and get it through. Vesting date is a fairly long way off. Between now and that vesting date, a lot of investment decisions will be made which will condition the size, the shape and competence 1066 of the industry for 10, 15, or 20 years to come. On vesting date, a board taking over with a mandate to carry out this reorganisation by concentration may well find that, in the previous two years, this year and next, decisions have been taken which make the concentration difficult.
I would have thought that the Government, without a great deal of legislative trouble and without any real opposition from right hon. and hon. Members opposite—the progressive ones, at least—could have got some sort of agreement for some kind of investment board to control investment positively, not negatively, as the Iron and Steel Board does now, and could spend the time between now and vesting day directing investment in the industry in such a way as to get the maximum integration and concentration and the maximum steps towards the objective, towards which the Iron and Steel Board has finally come round, of a smaller number of much bigger plants.
I turn to say a word or two about another industry of which, like steel, I have some little first-hand knowledge and experience, and that is the docks. This is by far the most backward of all our major industries. There has been very little addition to fixed equipment in it for nearly a century. I could not say that about any other industry. It is a hotchpotch of organisation, or, rather, disorganisation.
Some ports, because they happened to be owned by the railways when the railways were nationalised, are now nationally owned. Some, like London and Liverpool, are run by statutory port authorities. Some, like Bristol and Preston, are municipally owned. Manchester is run by a private company on which the city council nominates a majority of the directors. There is no uniformity or common sense about it.
Some port authorities do stevedoring. Manchester does all the stevedoring. London does a bit of stevedoring. Mersey Docks and Harbour Board does a tiny bit, which it has just started. A lot of them do no stevedoring. Some have powers that others do not have.
Nearly all the statutory port authorities have boards on which the majority are the customers of the port authority with a direct incentive to make the authority uneconomic by making its charges far too low. One of the most experienced 1067 and most important dock managers in the country said to me a little while ago, "One of the troubles with our industry is that, apart from the Co-operative Wholesale Society, it is the only industry in the country which is run by its customers, and," he added, "a right lot of amateurs they are, as well". All this is true.
Then there is a hotch-potch of disorganisation. Hon. Members should go and have a look some time. I would be delighted to take them to the docks.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Yes, or to Hull.
In the operation of the ship there can be three gangs working the ship at the same time, one gang on the dock, one on the ship and one on a lighter on the other side of the ship all with different foremen, spending three-quarters of the time cussing each other out and not getting on with the job. At the Royal group, one can see queues of lorries, which, with their drivers and running costs, probably cost £10 or £12 a day—queues of them waiting to get to a shipside because nobody has sat down with a bit of paper and worked out what goods are wanted where and when in the way that any elementary works manager works out in a factory what goods are wanted where and when.
There is no marriage of load to capacity. Those in manufacturing industries know that the key to the running of the business is to marry load to capacity so that one says, "We will have a need at this time, in that place, for those men and that machinery, those tools and that raw material." This is never done in the docks.
The Port of London Authority knows what ship is coming into the dock and where it is going, because it must allocate a berth, but it does not know what is on the ship or what must be loaded. Nobody says that. That is known to an agent in an office in Fenchurch Street, who then contacts a labour-only contractor, whose only business assets are a chair and a table and whose telephone may be a public telephone box and who can make a lot of money unloading six ships a year, using the capital assets provided out of public funds by the public authorities.
1068 That is what this industry is. If hon. Members really want to see whether I am right in saying that it is the most backward industry, I invite them to come with me early one morning—my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has been with me—to see what is called the "free call" in the West India Dock—at a quarter to eight in the morning. There you see men offering themselves for work, standing around in groups, and there are a number of foremen on little rostrums looking round for the chaps that they will pick.
It is like an old slave market. The foremen just stop short of walking up to the men and feeling their muscles, in the way that a farmer might prod a bull before deciding to buy it and in the way that my old grandmother used to squeeze the bottom of a chicken before deciding whether to buy it. This goes on four miles from here, in 1966.
§ Sir William Robson Brown (Esher)
I did not rise to interrupt the hon. Member on steel. It was not worth while. He was 25 years behind the times. On docks, however, it is incredible that he should complain about casual labour there, because all concerned, particularly the employers, are doing all they can to stop it, and we all agree that it should be ended.
§ Mr. Mikardo
What the hon. Gentleman says is absolutely superb in every respect but one, which is that it is not true, because they are not doing that. There is no time now, but I shall be prepared to tell him afterwards what is being done about decasualisation and what resistance is found to it.
This industry is the most investigated industry there has ever been. We have had two major investigations in the last two years. The Rochdale Committee investigated one end of the problem—capital expenditure. The Devlin Committee investigated the other end—decasualisation, which is just beginning to be done partially. But nobody ever looked at the middle, which is the actual business of working a ship, marrying load capacity to utilisation of berths.
I am afraid that we are in danger of spending too much money on new berth capacity before we have ascertained whether we cannot get much more tonnage handled in existing berths. I am 1069 sure that if we applied operational study methods to the handling of ships in berths, got rid of multiple simultaneous working, preplanned the allocation of labour and fork lift trucks and made fullest use of new techniques like palletisation, containers, "roll on, roll off", inland marshalling yards and the rest, there would be many berths which now handle 100,000 tons a year from which we could get, from small movable capital expenditure, 300,000 tons, 400,000 tons and 500,000 tons a year, which would enormously reduce the amount of capital expenditure required.
§ Sir C. Osborne
There is an immense amount of truth in what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but would his remedy not require greater co-operation from the competing unions, and could he guarantee to get that for us?
§ Mr. Mikardo
I was coming to that point, and I will deal with it now.
There is an interim proposal at the moment for maintaining the existing relationships to get rid of some of the muddle by reducing the number of cargo handling employers on licence. This is a step in the right direction. I think that that is what the hon. Member for Esher (Sir W. Robson Brown) had in mind, but it is a very tiny step in the right direction. It is not full decasualisation. It still permits labour hoarding, which is one of the worst things in the industry. If one does not quite know what one's load will be, one holds on to the labour in case one requires it, and one creates idle time that way.
§ Sir W. Robson Brownrose—
§ Mr. Mikardo
I cannot give way; I have to sit down shortly. The hon. Gentleman does not know enough about the subject even to ask the right questions.
We will still get labour hoarding and favouritism and imperfections in labour deployment and idle time for equipment with a smaller number of employers. We will not get optimum economies of scale, standardisation of equipment and the best use of management skills. We will not get the best arrangements for 1070 the training of managers, supervisors and shop stewards. We cannot, with more than one operator, organise properly scheduled collection and delivery schemes. We will not and cannot get extension of worker participation in management.
Most important—this new scheme which has just been negotiated will not do as a final solution, because the dockers will not accept it as a final solution.
§ Sir W. Robson Brownrose—
§ Sir W. Robson Brownrose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Order. If the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) does not give way the hon. Member for Esher (Sir W. Robson Brown) must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I have given way several times and I do not want to delay the winding-up speeches.
In fact, the dockers do not see any possibility of a final solution so long as there are labour-only contractors, providing no equipment, using public equipment and making a profit out of their labour for no reason at all.
§ Sir W. Robson Brownrose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Esher must restrain himself. I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I have given way three times in my speech, which is more than many hon. Members opposite have done.
So long as there are labour-only contractors, the dockers say, "If we have a small number of big employers we are likely to have in the docks big battles instead of small battles". That will do no one any good. I would invite those who have to deal with this industry to look at the close comparison between the labour relations now in the docks and the mining industry as it was in 1945.
1071 In 1945, there was a broad public acceptance of the need for nationalisation of the mines, even among those politically opposed to nationalisation, because it was realised that the relations between the mine owners and the mine workers were so bad that we would have to get rid of one or the other. As, by and large, one could possibly mine coal without owners, but could not do so without miners, we nationalised the industry and got rid of the owners.
We are now in the same position in the relations between the dockers and the labour contractors. I welcome the new scheme, but if we present it to the dockers as the ultimate solution we will get the same sort of answer that we would have got from the miners if, in 1945, we had said that we proposed to retain private mine owners but would have a smaller number of them and would license them. It will not work.
I apologise for having kept the House so long, but I took more time because of interventions. I believe that the basic industries mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and which are listed for action this Session, have to be got technically right if we are to have a proper infrastructure for the upsurge of efficiency in our manufacturing and export industries.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
We now come to the end of the debate on the Gracious Speech. Seldom has the Gracious Speech had such a poor reception in the world outside from both the Press and the public, and they have all echoed the earlier comments made in this Chamber and said that the Gracious Speech was dull, dreary and uninspiring. Most hon. Members who were here will agree that this was reflected in the debate last Friday and again last Monday, the days which were particularly concerned with our own domestic affairs.
What an extraordinary scene it is that a so-called triumphant party, back from the polls with a majority of almost 100 and with very many new Members, should have spent its early days in the debate on the Address with almost empty benches debating their own policies and with sometimes only a dozen or 15 Members listening to their own Ministers! It says 1072 a great deal for the 19 new Members who have made their maiden speeches in these circumstances that they were able to make an impact on the House and deserve our warm congratulations.
But it must be noted by all of us that the main discussions were on the items on which least was said in the Gracious Speech—on Rhodesia and on Europe and on our own affairs of Parliamentary reform. On both Rhodesia and Europe it appears that the Government have now accepted the policies put forward by Her Majesty's Opposition.
In the course of a week, what a change has come over the Government and the benches opposite! Even since the Gracious Speech was presented to Parliament, a very considerable change has appeared. The Prime Minister has made his statement on Rhodesia, which we welcome. The First Secretary, whose illness we all regret, had his speech about Europe read for him at a meeting in London on Monday, and we have also had the Foreign Secretary's speech. It is an astonishing change not only in the past week, but in the period since the General Election itself. I know that the Prime Minister does not like being reminded of the General Election. I believe that he rather agrees with the countless commentators who think that the campaign was a little unworthy of him. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, he wants to forget it as soon as possible, but we shall have to remind him from time to time of certain things in the campaign.
§ Mr. Heath
The hon. Gentleman has been criticising my hon. Friend for interrupting him; perhaps he will follow his own advice.
The Prime Minister has been telling us that in this Parliament we must look to the 'seventies and that we must approach our tasks in that vein. Let us for a moment look at the period ahead of us and see what the opportunities are. I think that they are immense. What ought to happen?
First, even on the modest proposals in the National Plan the national income ought to rise by 25 per cent., or …8,000 million in total. This, of course, is a slower rate of growth than was happening under a Conservative Administration, 1073 but, alas, it is quite clear now that even that rate of growth cannot be achieved by 1970. But that is what ought to happen.The development of science will be continued.we were told in those immortal words in the Gracious Speech and it may be that by 1970 man will have landed on the moon. The Concord ought to be crossing the Atlantic in three hours by the time the Prime Minister visualises. Large sections of British industry ought to be run entirely by automation. Many of the routine jobs of 500,000 civil servants in Whitehall ought then to be done by computers. The number of students in universities ought to have risen from 360,000 to nearly 500,000, and many people feel that even that is not enough.
The number of cars on the roads should have risen from 8 million to more than 12 million on current projections. We ought to be completing nearly 1,000 miles of motorways. On the railways, trunk routes should have been modernised and the deficit eliminated and liner trains ought to be carrying more than 30 million tons of freight a year. There may be an opportunity for Britain to join the European Economic Community by that time. There will certainly be more than 300 million more people in the world, most of them in the under-developed countries, with the gap between the industrialised and the developing countries growing wider. If ever there were a time for thinking big it is in this period which lies before us, with that sequence of events which ought to happen.
Surely the criterion by which we should judge the Gracious Speech—as we have been told that it sets out the pattern for the whole of this Parliament—is: does it measure up to the thinking which is required for events on that scale in the world? Alas, the most depressing thing is that there is no new thinking in the Gracious Speech and no recognition of the scale of change in these events in the world. What strikes me particularly about it, having listened to these debates and having studied the Gracious Speech again, is that there are no signs of any interconnection between the different aspects of policy which are set out in it. It is compartmentalised to a very great degree. I believe that, in 1074 fact, there is an interconnection between so many items of policy with which the Gracious Speech ought to deal.
First of all, there is interconnection from the point of view of getting the economy straight, which is essential if we are to be able to carry out a social services strategy which will make the best use of our resources. But there is no sign in the Gracious Speech of a strategy on which the social services are based. The European policy is not a panacea for our economic difficulties, but it is a situation in which our economic potentialities can be developed to the full.
I believe that the European policy is not, as was sometimes suggested from the Labour benches in earlier days, a withdrawal into a limited continental rôle. It is the one thing which can provide us with the necessary economic strength to carry out a wider policy in the world outside and which can enable us to sustain our commitments in other parts of the world, including the Far East, on which the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) spoke earlier. Once again, it comes down to the question of economic policy, and more and more we feel the absence of any clear economic strategy in the Government's policy, certainly as it is set out in the Gracious Speech.
We have, again, the nationalisation of steel. It is still irrelevant and unnecessary. In itself, it will solve none of our industrial problems and in itself it is certainly not necessary for their solution. We have the nationalisation of land, the nationalisation of the docks, about which the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) has just been speaking, and the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.
I come to the incomes policy. As always, I listened with the greatest interest today to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I listened with astonishment, because, if I heard him aright, he said that throughout the Government's period in office they had just contained inflation. That was an astounding remark. It may be that there are other justifications for the incomes policy, but certainly not that it has contained inflation over the past 18 months.
1075 In thinking about these matters, I find an interesting comparison between the economic policies of the first Labour Government of 1945-50 and the economic policies of the present Labour Government. In 1945-50, as the Prime Minister will well remember, one of their basic tenets was that there should be low interest rates, and these were maintained throughout. At the same time, there was high taxation. This also is a tenet of this Government, as it was in the last Finance Bill. In 1945-50, this was combined with the whole machinery of controls inherited from the wartime years. There was very high pressure on the economy, which was always operated at top speed, and there was very high employment. Because of this pressure on the economy and because of the weakness of low interest rates, there was resultant inflation, which eventually led to devaluation, a further price spiral and further inflation. After six years the electorate saw clearly what was involved in this policy and what were its consequences.
This time the theme is not low interest rates, but high interest rates and high taxation—but still there is very high pressure on the economy and very high employment. [HON. MEMBERS: "What would the right hon. Gentleman do?"] I am entitled to express my views about the Government's policy. This time there are fewer controls because the machinery was dismantled and in their place stands today the incomes policy. We now have the situation, again because of the pressure on the economy and the weakness, this time, not of a low interest rate system but of the incomes policy in itself in its present form, that we are getting inflation and a continuing balance of payments problem. These are the real problems which confront the Chancellor of the Exchequer today. I do not think that he will deny their nature or their seriousness.
It is, I believe, correct to say that the trade balance at the beginning of 1966 was not as good as it was at the beginning of 1965, and, therefore, although we hear a great deal about past years it is to this present and future years we should really devote our attention. In neither case, under the first Labour Government or under the present, have they shown themselves prepared to take the necessary 1076 action to get the economy in balance, and in those circumstances to give people the incentives they need to produce growth, even at the moderate target which they have put in the National Plan.
While I am on the question of figures I just want to mention one point to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he queried a statement I made on the trade figures and issuing them on 16th October, 1964. I have had these figures checked. At that time, because of the absence of computers they were issued always between the 16th and 19th of the month and only once was it possible to put them out on the 15th of the month, and in fact in October, 1964, they were issued on the 16th, which is normally the earliest date on which they could be brought forward. He also said there was some tradition about their being issued on Mondays and Fridays. I find that in this he was mistaken and I hope that he will check it, because on three occasions they were issued on Mondays or Fridays and the last trade figures for February were issued on a Monday this time.
When we come to the question of planning, on which the Government are basing their economic policy, then I believe that the Government's planning of an indicative kind needs to be more realistic, and there is no sign in the Gracious Speech that they are proposing to adopt this attitude. I do not believe that the approach should be made to set targets of foreign exchange required to meet the given target of growth. Surely the approach must be to make a realistic assessment of what foreign exchange and foreign earnings can be obtained and then to set in that context the various possibilities which face us as a country economically. Then it is possible for a variety of choices to be set out in indicative planning, and after debate in the Parliamentary system, for the Government to make the necessary decisions. This is an entirely different approach from that which has been adopted by the present Government, and I believe, again, that it is the somewhat old-fashioned approach which they have adopted, and that it does not meet the needs of the present situation.
The incomes policy is and can only be part of an economic policy, and it is primarily an attitude of restraint. It is here that we differ from right hon. Gentlemen opposite, because we believe in all 1077 seriousness that what we need is a high incomes policy with low costs, which can only be obtained with the disappearance of restrictive practices and wild-cat strikes. We have said before that this should be based on legislation for the enforcement of agreements. I believe that enforceable agreements which can be arranged between management and unions themselves is the way in which this should be organised. I have never understood those who say that legislation cannot be passed. The whole of the trade union movement, and indeed, restrictive practices as far as management is concerned, is based on legislation by Parliament. It is, therefore, to me, entirely incomprehensible why this legislation cannot be changed in order to meet the circumstances of the case.
When it comes to our domestic policy I would criticise the Gracious Speech and the Government's policy on three grounds. First of all, because they are failing to relate their social policies to our present economic conditions. This, of course, is connected with the wrong order of priorities. The Government pledged themselves in 1964 to many things socially which they are quite unable to carry out because they have not got the rate of economic growth with which to do them, and which they are unlikely to be able to carry out for many years to come for that reason. One has only to mention half-pay on retirement, or the minimum income guarantee, or some of the promises made about teachers and schools and the size of classes, and so on, to know that they will not have the resources and the rate of growth to meet those commitments.
Again, the pledges which they made—for dismantling the prescription charges, for example—are working against them. Their priorities have been wrong in cutting back teacher training colleges and university and technical colleges—and, at the same time, the bill for school milk and school meals rises rapidly. That, I believe, to be the wrong order of priorities.
There is no change in the Gracious Speech. To turn to the abolition of prescription charges, the figures now show that the cost of prescriptions is £44.2 million in England and Wales. With Scotland, it will presumably be just about the £50 million that we have always fore- 1078 seen. That could have been spent on improved hospital services and in the improvement of the family doctor service. The Chancellor and the Government are faced with the report and the recommendations that it makes about doctors. No one can deny that there could have been sufficient saving here at least to make a considerable contribution towards the improvement in the family doctor service which is now being called for.
A third wrong priority has been the introduction of an open-ended housing subsidies Bill which is going to increase that bill greatly without at the same time any insistence on economic rents being charged with exemptions for those who can justify them, as happens in two-fifths of the local authorities. That, again, is a wrong priority and will not help the Government meet their own objectives.
Fourthly, we come to the Land Commission, which I must say to the right hon. Gentleman will slow down the supply of land and make its cost higher. It is not the repeal of the financial provisions of the 1947 Act which has caused the difficulties about the supply of land. The supply of land had already dried up when those provisions were repealed. There was a shortage of land after we had built 4 million houses, of course. The answer is not the purchase of land by the Land Commission, but the provision of more land for building both by public authorities and private builders. If I understand the right hon. Gentleman aright, what has now happened is that for the first three months, the housing figures of public and private building combined are down by 5,000 on last year. That shows, the weakness in the Government's social policy.
The right hon. Gentleman emphasised the weakness in buying. He gave one or two explanations. He did not give the explanation that the price of houses last year went up by 10 per cent. in one year alone. That has certainly had an effect on the number of people wanting to buy their own homes.
My third criticism of the Government is the difference that exists between us in our whole approach to the nature of our future society. There is no vision on the Government Front Bench. It is a policy which they would honestly maintain was continuing the policies in which 1079 they have always believed. But we are now living in an increasingly prosperous society, and those people earning average wages will more and more be able and will want to buy for themselves many things which those who were formerly termed "middle class" have been used to providing for themselves and their families.
We believe that we ought to build up a property-owning and capital-owning democracy and that, as wages rise—[Laughter.] I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite think it so funny that people should want to own their own homes, or set by some capital for themselves, or have the pride of ownership, or be able to depend on their own resources. That ought to be done in housing, it ought to be done in pensions, and we ought to use the tax system to encourage both. In fact, the reverse happened in the last Finance Act, and the reverse is happening today under the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
What could happen if that was done would be that some of the resources at present being used right across the community could be used to concentrate on those whose needs are greatest. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is not interested in helping those who most need help. He and his colleagues smeared through the election campaign on the means test. To be perfectly fair to him, when we had the debate on the social services, he did not have the nerve to stand up in the House and accuse us of wanting a means test.
It was only when he got outside in the country during the election campaign that he wanted to run it, and it is because we see no signs of this vision of a new and better society in which more people are able to help themselves, because we see no sign of this in the Gracious Speech, that we condemn the Government's social policy.
I should like now to say a word about Parliamentary reform, which the Prime Minister put in his own speech. It caught the headlines. Parliamentary reform is very good stuff, and I want to say something about it as well. Of course, we are willing to take part in discussions about the creation of a new committee. 1080 The Prime Minister invited us to do so, and we intend to. [Interruption.] Perhaps if he wants to get some Parliamentary reform he will welcome it. But, on the other hand, I must say to the Prime Minister that this proposal does not appear to have been thoroughly thought through, nor has its purpose been clearly defined, but this can, no doubt, be done in discussions.
The Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Minister of Housing and Local Government both welcomed it from the point of view of their own Departments. It seems that they want a Committee to carry out an inspection of their own Departments—this is what the Minister said this afternoon—which they are unable to carry out for themselves. This does not seem to me to be the purpose of a committee of this kind, and my real fear is that this has been put forward as a sudden suggestion by the Prime Minister—it is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech—as a sop to many new Members on his side.
They feel—and this is understandable very often—that they are not doing enough in Parliament, and many who have wide executive experience feel that in Parliament one ought to be carrying executive responsibilities. I do not believe that Parliament, or Parliamentary Committees, can help to run Departments, nor, to use the Minister's phrase this afternoon, help to carry through administration or participate in administration. What Committees can do is to get information, form judgments, and try to get them debated in the House after publication; and all too often, I suggest to the Leader of the House, the work which is done by Committees is not fully debated in the Chamber here.
I believe that in addition to the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee, and the Committee on the Nationalised Industries, the next one which ought to be set up is one on science and technology, because I believe that it can deal with all the Government organisations and advisory bodies which in some ways are akin to the nationalised industries, and it is a field in which Members most need to be informed.
There may be a case for additional Committees, and we are willing to consider them, but I must express doubts 1081 about whether a whole series of Committees which examine some specific items of departmental administration is really what is required for the reform of Parliament. I am doubtful because I believe that the real place where discussions on policy should take place is on the Floor of this Chamber, with full publicity. It is this problem which we really need to settle.
Very often debates are not held in the House. Others are delayed for too long, and this is what causes frustration in the House. The reason is that the Government—and I fully admit that we did the same thing—produce too much legislation in this House, and very often it is ill-prepared and ill-digested and requires an enormous amount of amendment when it comes, which leaves too little time for debate.
I do not expect the Leader of the House to answer this, but how many spare days has he in his programme right through to Octcber, 1967, as a result of legislation foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech? I should think that he has hardly a day to spare right through till then under the present system, and so there is far too little time for debate.
What can be done? I believe that minor irritations can easily be removed. If it is an irritation to hon. Members that Mr. Speaker reads the Gracious Speech after it has been delivered once, surely that irritation can be removed. If it is an irritation that Black Rod comes in during a debate to announce a Royal Commission, surely that can be dealt with? Publications can give a great deal more information about our activities. Surely that can be arranged. Working conditions ought to be improved. I would fully support that, but it is the Government who have limited improvements to working conditions in London, and we, therefore, must follow the lesson or the example which they have given to those who have to work in London itself.
The Government could help in removing the frustration in the Chamber. They could let all their back benchers take part in debates on the Finance Bill. That would quickly remove the frustrations which are so obvious on the benches opposite. The Prime Minister could tell Ministers to answer questions. That would remove the frustrations on these benches.
1082 The Secretary of State for Defence deliberately refused last night to answer questions put by the Shadow Minister of Defence, but on the question of Parliamentary Questions, should we not realise that, welcome though the speed-up may be, it removes one method of bringing pressure to bear on Ministers who want to evade points. If we are interested in having a lively House of Commons and Parliamentary reform, we should bear this in mind.
What really makes an impact on the House and gives the hon. Member influence is up-to-date knowledge and eloquence in expressing it. The real question to which we should address our minds is what arrangements hon. Members have to get that up-to-date knowledge and to be able to put it to the House. This, with respect, does not come merely from asking questions of officials in committees. It comes from a number of sources.
If one looks back to the 'thirties and thinks of the hon. and right hon. Members who were sitting on the back benches—men like Mr. Winston Churchill, Mr. Anthony Eden, Mr. Harold Macmillan and Mr. Duff Cooper—and of the immense knowledge and range of contacts which they had across the world, as well as the resources to maintain them, one sees that they were able to influence the House of Commons and challenge the Executive of the day because of their knowledge and position.
Ought we not to look at the question of how hon. Members can have that now? One way they could get it is by carrying on activities outside the House. That is why I am doubtful about the proposal that there should be morning sittings and full day-time activities in the House. I do not believe that that would help us to have a livelier House of Commons and a greater check on the Executive. Considering the knowledge and experience that comes from travel, research and personal contacts, I would gladly support more action in the House to help hon. Members in both of those directions. This, I believe, apart front the question of rearranging the business of the House, is the way that hon. Members will be able to make their influence felt and how they will produce a check on the Executive.
1083 I will make a few remarks about Europe. We now need a very full debate in the House on European policy. Parliamentary reform is required not only because the country as a whole says that if we are urging the nation to modernise we should modernise ourselves first, but because we can expect to put across modern policies to the country only if we expound them fully in the House, and the most urgent need today is a proper policy on Europe.
So far, the Government have not explained what their European policy is. We have suddenly heard a great deal about the Government's desire to go into Europe and many people are asking exactly what that means. Indeed, every European is saying, "This is very sudden. Are the British Government sincere today"? It is the duty of the Government now to explain to the House what has led them to their present conclusion. What are the reasons? How do they conceive the European Economic Community which they wish to enter and the future of Europe? When we are told these things we will be able to judge, and so will others, the validity of the Government's decision.
The Foreign Secretary refused to define the objectives of the Government. He said that the probe would do that. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster's probe will not define the objectives. The Government must do that, although have they not already been defined on a number of occasions? After all, the Prime Minister said in February, 1964, that no Government of which he was the head would "consider entry into the Common Market on any terms which would reduce Britain's freedom to trade with the Commonwealth." That was one definition. Another came more recently, on 18th March last in Bristol, when the Prime Minister said:… those conditions require that we must be free to go on buying food and raw materials, as we have for 100 years, in the cheapest markets—in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth countries—and not have this trade wrecked by the levies the Tories are so keen to impose".Do those conditions still remain? Are they the objectives of the Government? It is to these questions that the House is entitled to a clear and definitive answer from the Government. I would go fur- 1084 ther and say that it is unfair of the First Secretary and the Chancellor of the Duchy not to do this, because if they are to make probes in Europe in conditions which clearly rule out the possibility of membership of the Common Market, they can only do harm to Britain and harm to their own Government in their activities in Europe.
In his speech at Bristol, the Prime Minister seemed to have got roughly to 1957. He visualised a Common Market in which our own agricultural policy remains, free entry. The Chancellor of the Duchy seems to have got on a little later, in his speech, to about 1960 to 1961. I do not say this in a critical spirit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] No, indeed. But I would ask him to remember that the Ministers whom he will visit in Europe—the foreign ministers of France, of Italy, of the Federal Republic and of the Netherlands, all of the members of the Commission—are exactly the same men who sat through 16 months of negotiations before. They know all the arguments. They know all the possible solutions. There is no other problem so well documented in the world as the trade relations of Britain, E.F.T.A., the Commonwealth, and the European Economic Community.
I would, therefore, say to the Chancellor of the Duchy, a man whom we know and admire—he is a sincere European—that he should take a leap forward at least until the time when we finished the negotiations and not go over all the same ground again with those people.
The thing which the Government can do which would most display their sincerity is to put forward policies which would show that this country was moving towards the situation in the European Economic Community which they now say they want to achieve. There is no sign of that in the Queen's Speech, which is why I say that there is no interrelationship between the economic policy, the social policy, the European policy and the rest of the Government's policy in the Queen's Speech.
The right hon. Gentleman the late Aneurin Bevan said at a Labour Party conference that he would not go naked into the council chambers. He feared that the conference would strip him of his power and his policies. During the last few days I have been beginning to understand how he felt. On Rhodesia, the 1085 Prime Minister seized my greatcoat. On Europe, he took my jacket. What will happen now? Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer come forward on Tuesday with incentives and take the pockets out of my pants? Will the Prime Minister come down on Monday and say that the Royal Commission on the Trades Unions has been abolished and that the Government will introduce immediate legislation to deal with the trade unions? Are we to see the Minister without Portfolio, when he finally finishes his work, come forward with a really constructive policy for the social services?
We are grateful for the first two steps, if they are genuine, but I doubt whether the rest will happen. It is because the Gracious Speech and the speeches which we have heard from the Government Front Bench show no signs of carrying through effectively the policies which we believe are essential for solving the problems which face this country that we shall vote for our Amendment tonight.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)
The right hon. Gentleman need have no fears that my right hon. Friends will take his clothes during the next few months. His real fear should be that his right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) may take his job if he behaves as he has been behaving. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This sounds rather more like a wind-up to the debate on the Address.
Before I come to deal with the Amendment to the Address, I should like to congratulate, I think, 19 hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches. I have heard a number of them and I have read a number of them, and I hope that they all, within the next five years, will be called once or twice more by you, Mr. Speaker. When he made an excellent speech earlier, I promised the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger), whom I do not see in his place, that I would convey the sentiments he expressed to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
The Leader of the Opposition complained about the Queen's Speech. He has complained in winding up tonight that we are trying to do too much in legislation. On the other hand, in his opening speech, he asked why two items were not 1086 in the Gracious Speech. He asked about the Companies Bill. I can assure him that if it is at all possible during this present Session, the first Session of this Parliament, we shall introduce that Bill. I cannot promise firmly that that will be done. It all depends on the amount of time available later in the Session; if there is delay in introducing the Bill, it will enable the President of the Board of Trade to do a little more about the Jenkins Committee proposals. If the Bill is not introduced in this Session, the next Session will certainly see it introduced.
The second point was on the question of a Parliamentary Commissioner, or "ombudsman". That is an excellent piece of legislation, and we appreciate that it is something which is wanted by the country. Members of Parliament and the country feel that they want some redress against the Executive. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is perfectly true; when people feel that they have been ill-used by the Executive or by civil servants they want redress. We shall bring this forward. It is not, as the right hon. Member suggested, that it has fallen by the wayside, but that his right hon. Friend, who used to be the chief opponent of this Bill when on the Opposition Front Bench, has fallen by the wayside, the former right hon. Member for Monmouth.
In this first Session of a new Parliament, it is perhaps opportune that we should discuss procedure. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has done it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party has done so, following upon the points made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his opening speech. I want to deal briefly with four firm proposals. The Leader of the Opposition asked why we have not come forward with any definite proposals on the question of committees. specialist committees, select committees on departmental activities, call them what you will. The reason is that we cannot do this without further investigation of the actual requirements and what is the best thing to do in this field.
These committees can be of great help to back benchers and to Governments alike. It is not a question of someone carrying out an examination into a Minister's Department which he should be doing himself. Such committees can do 1087 a number of things, such as giving opportunities to back-bench Members to learn about the administration of a Department and to get their teeth into a particular problem of the Department. This could help the House generally when it comes to legislation on that particular subject or by a particular Department. The problem here is to decide precisely how we should do it. This is what we are looking at now. I do not think there is any point in sending the question to the Select Committee on Procedure. As soon as we have firm proposals we shall discuss them with the Opposition and discuss them in the House. Then I hope we can get on with the job.
In the last few days we have received a very interesting Report from the Select Committee on Procedure on the question of Supply. This is a new departure. Hon. Members who have not read the Report should do so. Much of it is controversial, but we have to get into this field if we want any real change. We must be careful not to remove from back benchers the right of raising grievances before voting Supply, and we must be careful that the rights of the Opposition and Government alike are maintained. This is a very good Report. I hope that we shall debate it with other proposals in the reasonably near future and at least put some of them into operation.
Other things which have been mentioned included one mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, the question of a Select Committee on science and technology. When we considered this in the last Session, there was an idea that this might be tacked on to the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries. I understand that this was not generally acceptable and that it was thought that it should be treated separately. I am quite prepared to look at it.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned the method of voting in the Chamber. This has been considered by Select Committees. It was last considered in 1959. I see no reason why the Select Committee on Procedure should not again consider it. It seems queer that in this age of computers it takes us 15 minutes to reach a decision.
On the other hand, I think that we should be reminded of Herbert Morrison's 1088 comment that it is not only a question of dividing; it is not only a question of reaching a decision; it is a question of giving hon. Members 15 minutes in which they can get out of the Chamber and congregate together in the Lobbies and meet each other and discuss various things. There may be something in this at 10 o'clock at night. I suggest that on the Finance Bill, when this has been done eight or nine times during the day, hon. Members are probably sick to death of each other by the time they have gone through the Lobbies a few times. This matter should be considered. I am sure that in this age of science it is not beyond the capability of man to find some method whereby we can vote or divide—I hope that we can still call it a Division—and get it over more quickly.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, will he remember not what Herbert Morrison said but what Sir Winston Churchill said: without the present system of voting, how would Ministers ever meet their back benchers?
§ Mr. Bowden
I am not sure who gets the advantage out of this lack of association—back benchers or Ministers. There is a point in this.
Hours of sitting have been discussed. I think that we must examine this question. Every Member of the House at some time or other says that our hours of sitting are absurd, that it is ridiculous that we should go on into the small hours of the morning. As Leader of the House I have always found it impossible to think of a system whereby we finish firmly at 10 o'clock. The only possible alternative would be to think of a way of finding hours at some other part of the day. I am not suggesting that morning sittings are necessarily the answer. The Select Committee on Procedure is examining this problem. I hope that it will continue its investigations. I hope that it will come up with some system whereby, without sacrificing anything at all, but with the Government getting their business, with the Opposition having their full time, and with back benchers having their full time, we can at least save all-night sittings.
I have another proposal which I am prepared to put. I will put it very quickly. I am rushing this because I 1089 want to get on and deal with the Amendment. This is on the question of timetables. Standing Order No. 43 entitles the Government of the day to timetable any Bill. This is used on occasions. We did not use it, with a majority of three, in the last Parliament. There were occasions when perhaps we should have done. The previous Administration used it on a number of occasions. One takes a day every time one wishes to use it for a particular Bill.
I am sure that we can devise a scheme which is fair to everyone and which will make sure that a Bill going upstairs to Standing Committee, no matter how controversial it may be, can be adequately discussed and considered without any time being wasted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have already said that we can do this now under Standing Order No. 43. I am trying to devise a rather better way, a rather fairer way, of doing it; so let us have a look at this.
In the whole field of procedure, which I am delighted has been discussed in our debates on the Loyal Address, a number of other suggestions have been made. Amongst them was the suggestion that we should get rid of a lot of what are regarded as unnecessary customs and traditions of the House. I am all in favour of sweeping away anything that gets in the way of Parliament's carrying out its duties; but I would advise the House to be careful before they take a brush and sweep away all of those old customs and traditions which mean so much. Some things may be looked at. Some things may not be. I do not regard it as particularly revolutionary to suggest that we should, for instance, put the Serjeant at Arms in grey flannel slacks instead of knee breeches. These things never appeal to me as being real revolutionary moves. I am sure that there are some things that can be looked at—[Laughter.] Mr. Speaker, obviously I did not pause long enough.
I would urge the House to be careful in thinking of these things because whilst we may become rather blasé in this House about our customs, traditions and some of our procedures, the people in the country love them. Make no mistake about it. One only has to see the hundreds and thousands of people every year who come to London for their holidays, many of them from abroad, thank 1090 heaven, spending good American dollars, who enjoy many of these things. So let us be a little careful.
May I now turn to the Amendment. I have been looking at this Amendment to find something into which one can get one's teeth. I can visualise the Shadow Cabinet sitting around the table in the Shadow Cabinet room, with the Queen's Speech in front of them, trying to decide on something they could amend. Two Amendments are usual from the Opposition on the Queen's Speech. They can find only one. This is such a general one—I am delighted about this, because it enable me and everyone else to speak at large—that it means very little.
I propose to take as my text these words from the Amendment::… does not contain constructive proposals to inspire the efforts of individuals …
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)rose—
§ Mr. Bowden
No, I cannot give way. I am working against time the whole time. The Amendment says that the Gracious Speech does not inspire individuals. Well, something inspired individuals on 31st March. The trouble is that the Tories never learn. They think that all one has to do is to throw off a slogan such as "You've never had it so good" and then one is really getting somewhere. The last election proved time and time again—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davisonrose—
§ Mr. Bowden
—that the real way to inspire the people of this or any other country is, first of all, to tell the truth—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Bowden
This is precisely what we did. This is precisely why we won the election. This is why, in 1964, as soon as we were returned to office, we told the country the truth. We told the people what we found. This is why we took every action necessary to deal with the situation that we found, unpopular as they were—6d. on Income Tax, 6d. on petrol, 15 per cent. surcharge, increased Bank Rate, and so on, all of which resulted in greater popularity for this Government than any Government have ever known. If it were necessary for my right hon. 1091 Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do this again on Tuesday, he would do so.
Let us compare this with the activities of the party opposite during the election campaign—a few specious promises, a programme which would cost, according to the estimate of one hon. Gentleman opposite, £100 million—others differed—and nothing very concrete at all except to restore prescription charges. This was it. This was the issue on which they fought the election, to abolish what we had introduced, free prescription charges.
But they had a second thought. They found that this was an unpopular step, so they said, "We shall not restore prescription charges, but we shall restore part of them, only for certain people." Then someone began to work it out and found that the machinery necessary to sort out those who would have free prescriptions from those who would not would be more costly than the money saved.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke today about homes. How can he talk of "inspiring the individual" when the 1957 Rent Act is still in the memory of most people? I do not blame right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for Rachmanism. They did not consciously introduce Rachmanism, but it was the result of what they did. The right hon. Gentleman this evening has been criticising increased housing subsidies, yet during the election campaign he accused us of raising council house rents, saying that this was going on in every town throughout the country. Whatever field of argument we got into at the election, this was the sort of thing that happened.
Next, leasehold reform. Inspiring the individual? This is one matter on which the Opposition have always dodged the issue. While it may be legally right for a man who buys his own home, who buys the bricks and mortar, on leasehold to hand the house back at the end of the lease in good condition to the landlord, it has never been regarded by that individual as morally right. This is what we are putting in order under our leasehold proposals. I have given an indication of the kind of things thrown out by right hon. and hon. Members opposite during the election campaign. That is why the Opposition are now where they are.
1092 Day after day during the election campaign, we saw the results of what must have been happening at Central Office. One can visualise someone sitting down and saying, "We are losing the battle. We have got to do something today". Some brainy individual would come up with a suggestion—"Troops for Vietnam". That did not work. It lasted a day or two. They tried another one, "Let us attack the trade unions. It is bound to be a popular thing to do". That did not prove particularly popular either, so they tried something else. "What about the Common Market? The Labour Party are vulnerable on the Common Market". If anyone is vulnerable on the Common Market, it is the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who found himself on the doorstep with the door firmly closed in front of him. So that one failed, too.
What else did the party opposite do? We know: "Strikes. A Labour Government will mean more strikes", until somebody suddenly realised that the record of strikes—5¼ million days in one year—was when the the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Labour. And so it went on. In 1964—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. So far throughout the six-day debate every hon. Member who has spoken has been heard. I hope that we can conclude the debate with dignity.
§ Mr. Bowden
In 1964 we resolved, despite a majority of three, which happily has now gone, that we would tell the electorate precisely what happened. [HON. MEMBERS: "We have had this before."] I will tell hon. Members again. This is what right hon. and hon. Members opposite dislike. We did this, and we did it consciously.
We faced the economic situation and, while facing the economic situation—perhaps the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) will listen to this—we did more on the social service side from the point of view of retirement pensions and benefits in one cash increase than the former Administration did at all. The only occasion when the figure was higher was in 1946.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
When the right hon. Gentleman says that, is he aware that under the Conservative Government the real value of social service benefits 1093 generally was increased by 50 per cent. and in the case of the widowed mother with children by 100 per cent.? Is he really suggesting that the Labour Government's achievements amounted to even a fraction of that?
§ Mr. Bowden
Yes, that is what I am suggesting. Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman in his speech tonight, in dealing with the proposed Bill on social security, said that it does one thing; he knew that this was not the case. He said that it simply abolishes the National Assistance Board or gives it another name. It does very much more than that. The right hon. Gentleman knows this. When he sees the Bill, he will realise it. [Interruption.]
I will tell hon. Members opposite precisely what it does. It brings a supplementary pension to many retirement pensioners who are not at present in receipt of it. It also does something else. It means that those people who are, perhaps, naturally nervous and shy about applying for a supplementary pension, who feel that there is a stigma about asking for it from the National Assistance Board, who
§ would have to take two books to the Post Office to receive their pension, will in future do this privately under one book.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenterrose—
§ Mr. Bowden
There was one moment, and one moment only, of truth in the whole of the campaign that the Leader of the Opposition organised during the General Election, despite all his television appearances, when, one must admit, he was rather over-exposed. The moment of truth came in his speech at Cardiff on 18th March, when he said that the Prime Minister would be back in Downing Street within a month—and he was right.
The right hon. Gentleman succeeded in leading his party to the lowest Conservative vote for 18 years, despite an increased electorate. He did more. The Conservative Party lost more deposits than in any year since 1945. They are out of government now. They will be out of government for a very long time.
§ Question put, That those words be there added:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 249, Noes 331.1095
|Division No. 2.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Clark, Henry||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Clegg, Walter||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Astor, John||Cooke, Robert||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Goodhart, Philip|
|Awdry, Daniel||Costain, A. P.||Goodhew, Victor|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gower, Raymond|
|Balniel, Lord||Crawley, Aidan||Grant, Anthony|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Crouch, D. L.||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Batsford, Brian||Crowder, F. P.||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Bell, Ronald||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Grieve, Percy|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Currie, G. B. H.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dalkeith, Earl of||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Biffen, John||Dance, James||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Birch, Rn. Hn. Nigel||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Hamilton, M. (Salisbury)|
|Blaker, Peter||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Body, R.||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Doughty, Charles||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Braine, Bernard||Drayson, G. B.||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Brewis, John||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hastings, Stephen|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Eden, Sir John||Hawkins, Paul|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hay, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Errington, Sir Eric||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Eyre, Reginald||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Bryan, Paul||Farr, John||Heseltine, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Fisher, Nigel||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Hiley, Joseph|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Forrest, George||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Burden, F. A.||Fortescue, Tim||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Campbell, Gordon||Foster, Sir John||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Carlisle, Mark||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Holland, Philip|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Hornby, Richard|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Gibson-Watt, David||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Hunt, John|
|Chichester . Clark, R.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Miscampbell, Norman||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Monro, Hector||Sharples, Richard|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||More, Jasper||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Morgan, W. G. (Denbigh)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Smith, John|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants. S.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Stainton, Keith|
|Jopling, Michael||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Murton, Oscar||Stodart, Anthony|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Neave, Airey||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Talbot, John E.|
|Kimball, Marcus||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Tapsell, Peter|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Nott, John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Kirk, Peter||Onslow, Cranley||Taylor, Edward M.(G'Gow, Cathcart)|
|Kitson, Timothy||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Teeling, Sir William|
|Lambton, Viscount||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Temple, John M.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Tilney, John|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Pardoe, J. W.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut' nC' dfield)||Peel, John||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Lloyd, Ian (P' tsm' th, Langstone)||Percival, Ian||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Peyton, John||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Loveys, W. H.||Pink, R. Bonner||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Lubbock, Eric||Pounder, Rafton||Wall, Patrick|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Walters, Denis|
|MacArthur, Ian||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Prior, J. M. L.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Webster, David|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Ramsden, Rt Hn. James||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|McMaster, Stanley||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Whitelaw, William|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Maddan, Martin||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Magginis, John E.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Ridsdale, Julian||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Marten, Neil||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Maude, Angus||Robson Brown, Sir William||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Worsley, W. M.|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Roots, William||Wylie, N. R.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Royle, Anthony|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|St. John-Stevas, Norman||TELLERS FOR THE AYES: Mr. Pym and Mr. R. W. Elliott.|
|Abse, Leo||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dewar, D. C.|
|Albu, Austen||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W)||Dickens, J. M. Y.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dobson, Ray|
|Anderson, Donald||Buchan, Norman||Doig, Peter|
|Archer, Peter||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Donnelly, Desmond|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Driberg, Tom|
|Ashley, Jack||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dunnett, Jack|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Cant, R. B.||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Carmichael, Neil||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Eadie, Alex|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Edelman, Maurice|
|Barnes, Michael||Chapman, Donald||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Barnett, Joel||Coe, Denis||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Baxter, William||Concannon, J. D.||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Beaney, Alan||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ellis, John|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank||English, Michael|
|Bence, Cyril||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Ennals, David|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Crawshaw, Richard||Ensor, David|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Cronin, John||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)|
|Binns, John||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bishop, E. S.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Fernyhough, E.|
|Blackburn, F.||Dalyell, Tam||Finch, Harold|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Davidson, A. (Accrington)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Booth, Albert||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Boston, Terence||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Floud, Bernard|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Foley, Maurice|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Davies, lfor (Gower)||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Boyden, James||Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Ford, Ben|
|Bradley, Tom||de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Forrester, John|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Delargy, Hugh||Fowler, Gerry|
|Brooks, Edwin||Dell, Edmund||Fraser, J. D. (Norwood)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Freeson, Reginald||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Richard, Ivor|
|Gardner, A. J.||McBride, Neil||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Garrett, W. E.||McCann, John||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Garrow, Alex||MacColl, James||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Ginsburg, David||MacDermot, Niall||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Macdonald, A. H.||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)|
|Gourlay, Harry||McGuire, Michael||Robinson, W. 0. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Grey, Charles||Mackie, John||Rogers, George|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mackintosh, John P.||Rose, Paul|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||MacLennan, Robert||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Ryan, John|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||McNamara, J. K.||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Sheldon, Robert|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Hamling, William||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Hannan, William||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Harper, Joseph||Manuel, Archie||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mapp, Charles||Silkin, S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Marquand, David||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Ricnard||Silverman, Sydney S. (Nelson)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Mason, Roy||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hazell, Bert||Maxwell, Robert||Slater, Joseph|
|Heffer, Eric. S.||Mayhew, Christopher||Small, William|
|Henig, Stanley||Mellish, Robert||Snow, Julian|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mendelson, J. J.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mikardo, Ian||Steele, Thomas (Dunhartonshire, W.)|
|Hooley, Frank||Milian, Bruce||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Horner, John||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Stonehouse, John|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'plon, Test)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Molloy, William||Swain, Thomas|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Moonman, Eric||Swingler, Stephen|
|Howie, W.||Morgan, Elysian (Cardiganshire)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hoy, James||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Taverne, Dick|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Moyle, Roland||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Murray, Albert||Tinn, James|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Neal, Harold||Tomney, Frank|
|Hunter, Adam||Newens, Stan||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hynd, John||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derhy, S.)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Norwood, Christopher||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Oakes, Gordon||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Ogden, Eric||Wallace, George|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)||O'Malley, Brian||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Oram, Albert E.||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Orbach, Maurice||Weitzman, David|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Orme, Stanley||Wellbeloved, James|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Oswald, Thomas||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Jones, J. ldwal (Wrexham)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Judd, Frank||Paget, R. T.||Whitlock, William|
|Kelley, Richard||Palmer, Arthur||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Park, Trevor||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Pavitt, Laurence||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Ledger, Ron||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Pentland, Norman||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Prentice, Rt Hn. R. E.||Winnick, David|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Price, William (Rugby)||Woof, Robert|
|Lipton, Marcus||Probert, Arthur||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Yates, Victor|
|Loughlin, Charles||Randall, Harry||Zilliacus, K.|
|Luard, Evan||Rankin, John|
|Redhead, Edward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES: Mr. John Silkin and Mr. Lawson.|
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
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.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.