§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) to move the first Motion on the Order Paper, I wish to announce that I have not selected the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer), to leave out from ' House ' to end and add—' congratulates the Government on the support it has given to parents, teachers, religious leaders and many others in their efforts to maintain a high moral standard by its measures to arrest the persistent neglect of law and order under the previous administration; to strengthen the police force; to correct patent deficiencies in the control of gaming; to provide comprehensive and flexible legislation to combat the abuse of drugs; and to preserve the necessary balance between the protection of public safety and morals and a due respect for personal freedom '.I would remind the House that this debate will terminate at 7 o'clock.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)
I beg to move,That this House views with grave concern the continuing decline of moral standards and the increases of violence, hooliganism, drug taking and obscenity and the consequent undermining of family life; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to enlist the support of parents, religious leaders, school and university teachers, broadcasters and social workers to give help to those members of the rising generation who may be in need of adequate discipline and a better example.I have noted the terms of the Amendment—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Hon. Members must, when leaving the Chamber, do so quietly. We are debating the permissive society. The House is not as permissive as that.
§ Mr. Fry
May I say that, to enable a full and free discussion, I shall not be asking the House to divide at the end of the debate.
During the by-election campaign which preceded my coming to the House I called attention in my election address to the problems of the permissive society. This resulted in my having a very heated discussion with a reporter from one of the so-called quality Sunday newspapers, who maintained that this kind of discussion had no part to play in contemporary party politics. I disagreed with him and pointed out that many of the people I 39 had met were deeply concerned about the state of the society in which we live and that what was important to them should be important to politicians if politics were not to become unrelated to their lives.
That is why I chose this subject for discussion; and, by pure chance, the day after I had decided on this course I received a letter from one of my constituents from which this extract is interesting:Bills have been passed, such as easy divorce, abortion, and suchlike, which are distressing not only to myself, but to thousands of ordinary people like me, who are eagerly waiting for someone who will make a stand, someone who will be our mediator, so that the voice of the ordinary people may be heard.I may not be the ideal tribune of these thousands—who, I believe, number millions—but the time has come for their point of view to be put forward in the House since, during recent years, the voices of so many of the so-called progressives, who represent a much smaller portion of our nation, have been heard so often and so vociferously.
There is a real feeling among many of the electorate that Parliament does not understand their point of view and does not seem to care about matters which are causing them great concern; indeed, that it may, in certain respects, even be worsening the situation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that he would prefer to call our society "civilised" rather than "permissive". I can only agree with his choice of words if he is defining civilisation as a state of society that contains within it the seeds of its own destruction.
It is not, however, my intention today to sermonise or launch an attack on the younger generation. Far from it. I trust that the tenor of my remarks will show that what I sincerely believe is required is for the older generation to set a worthwhile example. I do not wish to suggest that all aspects of our present society are undesirable, or that there is not some good to be derived from extensions of personal freedom.
My Motion clearly specifies certain areas of difficulty and complaint. Surely only the mentally blind would deny that 40 the dissolution of many of our former traditions and mores has brought problems in its wake. A decline in moral standards is inevitable in view of the decline in organised religion following the collapse of faith on the part of many people.
However, even if one argues, and many do, that current sexual freedom is good or inevitable, there is little doubt that promiscuity in itself does not make for happiness and that if there is to be greater freedom, it must be accompanied by a higher degree of self-responsibility. This is lacking today and there is a fear that this could result in our society degenerating into a state of complete moral abandon.
Many of the statistics of our age make sorry reading. The illegitimacy rate stood for 40 years, up to 1960, at approximately 5 per cent. Since then, despite the propagation of wider knowledge of birth control—one might think because of it—the figures between 1961 and 1967 increased to over 8 per cent. At a health conference last week a speaker blamed the Abortion Act for having led to sexual irresponsibility among young unmarried girls.
Divorce was, on the figures even prior to the recent Divorce Act, rising, from 32,000 a year in 1962 to 50,000 by 1967. I cannot believe that the passing of the recent Act can do anything to lessen the intensity of that trend. However, I would not like the House to think that my concern over the decline in moral standards is restricted to matters of sex. Crime and dishonesty pay as never before. One writer recently claimed that the amount, in official terms, stolen in 1968 amounted to£51 million and that the amount recovered was about£9 million, giving a net profit of£42 million to the thieves.
These were only the official figures. Shoplifiting alone is reckoned to account for over£75 million a year. When all this is added to the many kinds of petty thieving that never get into the official records, the annual estimate can probably be put at nearly£300 million.
One television set owner in 14 still has not bought a licence, and nor have two out of three car radio owners. Indeed, the situation has become so ludicrous that we will be abandoning car radio licences next year.
41 In 1968, British Railways reported 20,000 ticket frauds, the offenders ranging from titled people to tramps. Cheating, especially of the taxman, has become common practice and dishonesty generally has been allowed to pay. One might well reflect that this is perhaps a side effect of the very high levels of taxation that we in this country suffer.
Apart from the immorality aspect of the problem, dishonesty on this scale makes life much more expensive for the rest of society, since all these losses are reflected in the prices paid by the consumer. Thus, when one looks round our society is it any wonder that Dr. Trevor Huddleston was quoted as having said, on his return to Britain from South Africa:I think the country's very sick indeed.Violence is a growing phenomenon of our time. Although it is part of a worldwide problem, its growth, together with that of hooliganism, has been startling. The number of recorded offences against the person makes most depressing reading, perhaps the most depressing of all—7,500 in 1954, 13,800 in 1959, 23,400 in 1964, and 37,800 last year. In quoting those figures, I am not trying to make a party policital point. They are equally disturbing to all of us.
What is also very worrying is the increase in the exploitation of violence. Here, I shall confine myself to the example of violence on television. The Evening News television critic, Mr. Kenneth Adam, wrote on 24th April about four new series:I accuse them of indulging in violence, both physical and mental, for its own sake, of cruelty which goes beyond legitimate dramatic hounds, of horror deliberately cultivated in the name of entertainment.What can we think will be the effect of such displays of violence on the younger generation, many of whom sit and watch television three or four hours a day?
Another television critic, Mr. Milton Shulman, of the Evening Standard, wrote an excellent article on this subject. He pointed out that the prolonged exposure of young people to television meant that it had become a very important environmental influence, and that the way violence was treated by this medium could well lead a young person to make some interesting conclusions.
42 First, the good man, or the hero, was the one who was toughest, the one who excelled in violence. Second, violence did not hurt very much, as the hero usually made a very swift recovery. Third, there was no real need to feel pity for the victims of violence. There was usually no mention of the wife or children of the unfortunate villain. Fourth, violence was highly acceptable. The tough heroes involved never had to account to the local police for the beatings and killings they administered.
To sum up, there is a danger of violence becoming an accepted part of ordinary life. I am not suggesting that all our young people are becoming violent, but there is in society an element so out of sympathy with it that they feel that the only way to alter anything is by violent action. If has become increasingly clear that it is only too easy to turn what was to have been a peaceful demonstration into a mêlée, if only because so many people panic and try to get away from the scene. It often puzzles me how those who demonstrate so violently in favour of peace and freedom justify their methods, which seem the antithesis of what they claim.
I do not wish to say very much about drug-taking, as this issue has been fully debated in the House lately and the picture is all too clear in the minds of most of us. But the recent revelations about the spread of the quantity of drugs used, the taking of barbiturates, and the resulting pressure on the casualty wards of London hospitals underline the problem. But let us not forget that many of the hippies and drop-outs who take to the dream world of the drug addict do so because they dislike and reject the world they see. Although we may have little sympathy with them, and do not approve of their attitude to life, their very existence is a condemnation of our society.
I know that many headmasters, and probably all, are worried and almost terrified of the drug addict coming to their school. I applaud the Home Secretary for the stand that he has taken on the issue. I hope very much that he will be firm in refusing to legalise cannabis-smoking.
The need for something to be done was instanced by a case in Hampshire recently. Four men were brought before the magistrates for breaking into a chemist's shop, where they stole about 43 £30-worth of drugs, worth£750 on the black market. They admitted 22 other similar offences in chemists' shops. This was where drugs were obtained to be supplied to the poor unfortunates who take them. Yet what were their sentences? Three years probation.
I believe that some of my hon. Friends wish to expand on the subject of obscenity, so I shall confine myself to a brief reference to the state of the contemporary cinema and theatre. Of 43 films advertised in the West End last week, no fewer than 29 were of the X-for-sex variety.
In the theatre never has there been such an obsession with sex. The continual use of four-letter words and gross sexual antics on the stage appear to be the main ingredients of box office success. When a leading figure in the contemporary theatre is responsible for a production like "Oh, Calcutta", we cannot help feeling that taste has reached an exceedingly low level.
The 1959 obscenity law is so difficult to apply that prosecutions are virtually non-existent. This has led some people, including, I believe, an hon. Member opposite, to wish to see it abolished. Surely it would be better to try to make it workable? Amendment is preferable to repeal.
After this brief survey of the problems of our society, the question that must be asked is whether all this has undermined family life. I believe that it has helped considerably so to do. Not only has there been a lowering of standards, but often a very poor example has been set. The younger generation, who enploy greater sexual freedom, dislike the hypocrisy displayed by some of the older generation, who get their thrills from magazines, plays and films of a certain kind.
When, to this, are added the earlier maturity of the young, their increasing financial independence and the high degree of disillusion that seems to have come with the spread of higher education, it is not surprising that many of them are unwilling to accept their fathers' authority. Yet this authority is the cornerstone of family life.
It has been pointed out that we must do more than just double the number 44 of university places, because we have not solved anything unless we have doubled the number of socially satisfying jobs. It is, unfortunately, true that those who go into teaching, for example, are at a financial disadvantage. Satisfying jobs do not necessarily pay very well.
Our education system opens eyes but increases scepticism, and it does little to instil values. Those values that still exist are being continually eroded, as when some hon. Members wish to end compulsory religious instruction in schools.
We might well ask whether we can expect much in the way of values to be transmitted when some young lecturers join in and incite violence, reviling the world in general as being preoccupied with the worship of Mammon and then striking for higher pay. Many of the young people who protest today are protesting against the utter materialism and hypocrisy of our age.
Yet the picture need not be like this. In the words of Cardinal Heenan:Most children have a fundamental moral sense. They are not selfish, and they do understand the idea of justice. The problem is how to make the most of their natural feelings.The trouble is that children are not later in their lives given any clear idea of what is right and wrong. I hope that I am in no way a killjoy; in common, I think, with most hon. Members I could not be described as completely unblameworthy in my past life. But when I was young and did something wrong, I knew it. I had a basic idea of right and wrong which seems to be lacking in many today. If we are to allow the additional freedom which the word "permissive" implies, it is more necessary than ever that restraint shall come from within. This is why I have added the second part of my Motion. The old distinctions, the old dividing lines, become blurred or even non-existent.
Many of the rising generation do and will need help, and yet at the moment there is no single source from which they will accept advice, discipline and leadership. The Government should play their part because after all they do much to set the climate of the times. By permitting so-called social reforms on matters such as abortion, homosexuality and divorce, by allowing such Measures to 45 have parliamentary time and to get onto the Statute Book, they must realise that, while many people appreciate that there is some good in all of these Measures, the collective existence of them has created the impression that a more free and easy atmosphere not only obtains but is to be encouraged.
When we hear the suggestion that the mistresses of students should be given grants or helped financially from public funds, is it any wonder that the public begin to feel that not only do the Government not care but can in some instances be playing an active part in the decline of moral standards? It may be all very well for the Secretary of State for the Social Services to be proud of the fact that abortion has reduced the number of illegitimate children who would otherwise have been born, particularly in view of the statistics I quoted earlier, but can he or anyone else be surprised if this is interpreted by some of the younger generation as an open invitation to promiscuity, as mistakes can afterwards be rectified?
I think that it said much for the good sense of many of our young people when it was revealed in a survey last week that over 50 per cent. of girls aged from 15 to 19 still disapproved strongly of trial marriages. Perhaps they appreciate that it is all very well for film stars to parade their illegitimate offspring to public view, but that it would not do for them; in any case, they realise that people in that class of society have the income to support such things. Most young girls do not.
Can we hope for this good sense to survive, in view of the continuing decline in standards? It is my honest opinion that one of the first things the Government can do to help improve matters is to cease bringing forward or encouraging any further legislation which could carry with it the implication that it is on the side of those who want more relaxation on moral issues. We can do without regulations that give grants to students to support their mistresses. The Government should concentrate their efforts in more constructive ways. Those who believe that there needs to be some authority and discipline have not been set the best of examples by the present Administration.
Despite their declaration that it was essential to do something about industrial 46 relations, which was one of the main planks in the Government's policy, there was a hasty retreat and change of ground by the Government when faced with opposition. Their attitude is comparable with the parent or teacher who threatens the child so as to try and sustain his own authority, but who, as soon as there is a show of resistance, meekly capitulates. Promises freely given by all political parties which are readily and casually broken when in office do nothing to inspire confidence in political leadership. No wonder we in Westminster are often held so low in public esteem by an increasingly cynical electorate.
If the Government of the day, no matter what political colour, do not act with integrity, what example do they expect to set the rest of society? I want to make it clear that I am not blaming the present Government for all the ills and problems I have mentioned. I merely wish to emphasise that there are certain things they can do or refrain from doing to improve the situation. One of the most constructive steps they could take would be to give greater encouragement to organisations like V.S.O. and Community Service Volunteers.
The encouragement of some form of national service—I am not talking of compulsory military service—would be an excellent way of inculcating responsibility in the young. To give young people something to do that is socially useful helps to engender confidence not only in themselves, but in society in general. They can feel that they are achieving something and that there is no need to resort to any kind of violence.
I am too well aware that the Government cannot and should not be the only source of action. All the other leaders of our society have their degree of responsibility, and parents perhaps have the most responsibility of all. It is very difficult for a father who loves his children to say, "No ", when he is told that the parents of their friends have already said, "Yes", or do not care. We must, however, make it clear that parents have to realise that discipline and responsibility start in the home and that one cannot abdicate one's responsibilities by giving a large amount of pocket money.
But the most serious issue in the problem of parents and children would appear to be lack or failure of communication.
47 In this respect, all parents need to make a much more conscious effort. They have to find time to listen to what their children have to say. If the new generation will not accept discipline and authority without explanation, then it is essential that parents should spend some time showing that certain rules are necessary and that there is need for some discipline if anarchy is not to ensue before young people can discipline themselves. All of us who are parents should re-examine our own attitudes towards problems which so many of us deplore in order to ensure that we supply the best example we can.
The Church has a very heavy responsibility. Society without faith is rootless, shifting and subject to all the ills I have mentioned. It is the task of the Church to make its teaching relevant and alive to the young generation. Many religious leaders are doing this already, but still far too many young people have no contact with any form of organised religion.
School and university teachers should remember that their main function is to teach and that whatever example they give is bound to have a great effect on the young and impressionable child. In many ways, the teacher has taken over from the priest as the main influence on the child outside the family circle. It is obvious that there are still too many perhaps of the less intelligent children who need much greater attention if education is to have any real meaning in their lives. Merely raising the school-leaving age is insufficient answer.
This was made clear last week by Sir Alec Clegg, who referred to the 1,000 per cent. rise in delinquency among adolescents in recent years and said that violence amongst this section could well increase in future. This is a challenge which the teachers will need the help of all of us to meet. They therefore have an even greater responsibility to ensure that the difference between right and wrong is made clear and that the need for that difference is transmitted to their pupils. When education authorities make a stand, as they did at Liverpool University recently, they should be commended and supported.
Broadcasters, too, should ask themselves what is the effect upon the young 48 generation of some of the ideas and problems transmitted. If present trends continue, prominence will be given to the ideas of those individuals who want to opt out of society and those who want to end the idea of the family as a unit. Broadcasters must accept responsibility for the effect of the propagation of such ideas on the minds of young people. Have they ever considered that if less notice were taken of the mouthings of some of these so-called celebrities, no one would hear of them. If the Press and television were to ignore the John Lennons of this world, I cannot believe that our lives would be any the poorer. A closer examination of the example television gives in encouraging the idea of violence in our society is urgently needed.
Social workers, also, have their part to play in helping to encourage the very real desire on the part of many of our young people to improve society. I have indicated some of the ways by which I think this end may be achieved through a form of social service. Our young people need a greater degree of participation and a negation of self. This is the example which they should be set.
I hope that in moving the Motion I shall not be accused of being a modern Jeremiah. I have endeavoured not to confine myself merely to a statement of the problems. I have tried to suggest lines by which we may work towards improvement. We need a greater degree of understanding, encouragement of self-discipline and restoration of faith, not least faith in society itself. The problems that the Motion outlines are getting worse. I believe that while the present Home Secretary is tackling some of them—and I give him full credit for that—he will need much more than the co-operation of the Government and his own supporters.
A much greater effort is needed on the part of all of us if we are to find an adequate solution to the problems of the permissive society.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind the House that many different points of view want to be expressed in this debate. That will be possible only if speeches are brief.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) said at the outset that he did not intend to divide the House on the Motion. For that, probably the House will be grateful. Although we understand, and have understood during the course of the last few weeks and months, that the Tories intend to make a party issue of what they call "the permissive society"—which has never been adequately defined—and questions like law and order, I want to devote my remarks to some of the problems to which the hon. Member referred, but at the same time, to be quite clear what we are talking about and understand the motive behind the Motion.
The motive is quite clear. It is to seek to pin on the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes—the blame for all the social problems, in so far as they are social problems as a direct consequence of a Labour Government; that they have all occurred since 1964, that all the present promiscuity, pornography, crime and sexual licence have all begun since 1964. This is a grotesque picture, a mixture of deliberate policy and malicious distortion.
We had an example of that last week, when there was a calculated distortion by three hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench about what the Prime Minister said about freedom to protest within the law of the country. The Prime Minister put the record straight last Tuesday, when he was again accused by an hon. Member ofpromoting demonstrationsand that he must, therefore,accept responsibility for any violence that may occur during these cricket matches.This was an attempt to pin on the Prime Minister something of which he had never approved and which, indeed, he went out of his way to disapprove of.
The Prime Minister quoted what he said in the House on 16th April and what he said on television:I believe that everyone should be free to demonstrate against apartheid. I hope that people will feel free to do that. But not by violent methods."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1970; Vol. 800, c. 1049–50.]That remains the view of the Prime Minister, the view of the Government and of every back-bench Member on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford) rose—
§ Mr. Hamilton
I shall not give way. I deliberately did not intervene during the speech of the hon. Member for Wellingborough.
The hon. Member talked about the increase in crime and quite rightly said that it was a world-wide phenomenon. That is true, as all the statistics show. In England and Wales recorded crime has been increasing for a number of years, not only 1964. The greatest annual increase since 1950 was in 1958. If we want to indulge in party politics, that was during the period of the Conservative Government. There was an increase of nearly 15 per cent.
The average increase between 1960 and 1964 was 9.6 per cent. against an average annual increase between 1965 and 1968 of 4.8 per cent. The number in 1969 was an increase of 6.8 per cent. on 1968, but the average figure for the last five years was 5.2 per cent., which is less than the 9.6 per cent. between 1960 and 1964. If one Member more than any other has incited violence in recent times he is the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). By distorting, exaggerating, or inventing alleged facts and figures about immigrants, he has inspired fear, hatred and earned the contempt of millions of decent, fair-minded citizens. He put on the Order Paper a week ago a Question to the Secretary of State for Scotland, asking my right hon. Friend for figures showing the origin of persons dying in Scotland and of the parents of persons born in Scotland who were not of Scottish origin.
What the purpose of collecting those statistics or the purpose of the question was I do not know, but that is the kind of thing we are getting.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas rose—
§ Mr. Hamilton
No, I will not give way. I must get on because I have a lot to say and I want to say it in the shortest possible time.
Reverting to crime statistics, taking account of even the worsened figures in London, we find that crime there has risen by an average of 3.3 per cent. annually since October, 1964, compared with an annual average of 8.8 per cent. 51 over the preceding five years. In Scotland, the number of crimes of violence made known to the police in 1955 was 862 and, in 1964, 2,276, a startling increase of 164 per cent. during the nine or 10 years of Conservative government. Over the last five years of Tory government, 1961 to 1964, the increase was over 35 per cent. compared with an increase of 30 per cent. between 1965 and 1969. There was an actual decrease in Scotland in 1969 compared with 1968 of 7 per cent, the first decrease in these figures for many years.
There were 10 murders in Scotland in 1955 and 23 in 1964. That was when the death penalty was invoked and it was supposed to be a deterrent. The number of murders more than doubled in those nine or 10 years. It is true that the number went up substantially in 1968. to 41, but in 1969 it went down to 30. Those figures do not prove very much, but—[HON. MEMBERS: "They do not."] I hope that hon. Members will continue to say that and that they do not prove that the Government are soft on crime, or that as a result of our policy crime, pornography and everything else like that are increasing.
I hope that they will say that on election platforms. It is the height of irresponsibility to seek to use these figures for party political advantages, but it is worth at least a passing comment that, while the number of murders in Scotland is distressingly high—an average annual rate since 1959 of 24—the average annual number of deaths on the roads, which is also a form of violence, was running at 702 since 1959.
As I have tried to point out in the House during the last few weeks, there is a close relationship between excessive drinking of alcohol and crimes of violence and road deaths. I hope that this will be giving a great deal of concern to the Government and that they will devote a great deal of research to it. I wish that the brewers would as well—instead of contributing their£98,000 in 1968 to the Tory Party. Brewers are traditionally the friends of the Tory Party. That is one reason why they do not seek to relate excessive drinking of alcohol with crimes of violence or road fatalities.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough referred to crimes of violence against the 52 person. But in England and Wales these comprise less than 3 per cent. of the total offences. True, there have been serious increases in recent years in this field, and that the hon. Member's concern is my concern and that of every other hon. Member, but it should be remembered that the bare statistics cover a wide range of offences, from homicide to relatively minor assaults, so they are fairly useless unless they are broken down.
Recent increases in these figures have tended to be in the less serious crimes of violence—very often domestic quarrels and quarrels between neighbours, due to the excessive and increasing urbanisation within industrial societies.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle) rose—
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am sorry. If I give way to my hon. Friend, there will be half a dozen up immediately on the other side.
In other societies, in the United States, for instance, the increase in crime in recent years has been far more terrifying than in the United Kingdom. I have not time to give the figures, but no doubt my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will confirm my general remark. Increases in some urbanised countries have been greater and in others not as great as in the United Kingdom.
What we have to do is increase the means of detection by increasing the numbers and quality of the police, the quality of their equipment and the cooperation between the police and the public and between the police and the mass media—newspapers, television and radio. All this means better pay and conditions and better career prospects for the police, and modernisation of the means of detection.
In Scotland, the number of police rose from 8,751 in 1959 to 10,308 in 1969, and police expenditure, in round figures, from£17 million in 1964 to£26 million in 1969. A total of£82,000 only was spent on radio equipment to the Scottish police in 1963–64, which rose to, I think,£218,000 in 1968–69. The expenditure on vehicles, to make the police more mobile, has risen from£506,000 in 1963–64 to well over£1 million in 1968–69.
I have not given the figures for England and Wales, but I should mention the Police National Computer Project, which has not attracted anything 53 like the publicity which it deserved. It is quite the most important—I almost said the most exciting—development in the prevention and detection of crime in recent years. This computer will store the records of crime and criminals and, when fully operational, will be the largest and most advanced police project in the world. That was instigated by the present Government. It will enable the police anywhere in the United Kingdom to obtain facts about criminal records literally within minutes. Wherever they are, they will have access to that information. It will start operating, I believe, in 1972 or 1973. More interesting from my point of view, the computer will be built gut Glenrothes New Town, in West Fife, so it is bound to be a good one.
Another aspect of the problem is the link between crime and gambling and drug-taking. The hon. Member for Wellingborough mentioned drug taking, but I do not think that he mentioned gambling. The 1960 Betting and Gaming Act was passed by a Conservative Government. As a result—perhaps that is unkind, and I had better just say "since then"—commercial profiteering along lines wholly approved by Tory Party philosophy of private enterprise has snowballed. By 1968, about 1,000 big gaming clubs and over 2,000 clubs for bingo were operating in England and Wales—an uncontrolled growth of gaming on an enormous scale, like a social cancer. That was the direct result of a lot of legislation passed by hon. Members opposite. The big profits obtainable from gaming attracted thugs and all kinds of questionable characters from overseas. There were protection rackets of all kinds springing up.
The present Government had to pass the 1968 Gaming Act, designed to bring this under some control, to cut the excessive profits, to curb the criminal elements and to introduce a degree of honesty, so far as that is possible in this sphere, by a combination of national and local control via the establishment of the Gaming Board for Great Britain and a system of licensing of commercial clubs and the registration of members' clubs by the local J.P.s That Act is seeking to reduce the number of gaming clubs to between 200 and 300, that is, a quarter of the number in 1968.
54 Gambling and the development and growth of striptease and other sleazy clubs arose out of the expense account racket. I remember one of my hon. Friends quoting a case some years ago, when the Tory Party was in office, of a businessman who was supplied by his company, on an expense account, tax-free, with a house, a car and a mistress in the house—all on the expense account. My right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to destroy that racket. I remember sitting all night and hearing from that side of the House about how we were destroying this kind of incentive to businessmen conducting business over cocktails, and taking their commercial friends to a striptease club on the expense account. All these arguments were produced at that time in defence of this racket by hon. Members opposite.
Similar arguments apply to drug-taking, We all deplore the increase in the extent of drug-taking, and the Misuse of Drugs Bill proposes to increase penalties substantially for drug trafficking offences. So the Government have a record about which they need not be apologetic. We are all in this together. We are all seeking to remedy the evils as we see them, but it is very difficult precisely to define many of these things. What might be pornography to one person might be jolly good entertainment to another. What is obscenity to one individual might be good literature to someone else.
These are some of the difficulties: and then we get busybodies like Mrs. Whitehead, or whatever she is called, wanting to lay down rules and standards for everybody. What I like is my business, and not hers or anybody else's. The great difficulty in seeking to frame legislation is in defining what is obscene or pornographic, or what is a nasty or unpleasant picture, or an unacceptable film or television programme. I do not want any more censors telling me what is good for me—nor do women when they are pregnant. The present law on abortion is a liberal and humane law. A woman who is pregnant but does not want a child can go to her doctor and, with adequate medical provision and subject to medical advice, can have an abortion.
I remind the hon. Member opposite that all these laws reforms—abortion 55 law reform, divorce law reform, homosexual law reform—were Private Members' Measures. What the Government did, and what it was right for them to do, was to provide time for the whole House to come to decisions on occasions when neither side had Whips on and everybody was free to decide how to vote on the merits of the case.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seek to fasten this albatross round our necks. I want to quote from a document, which says:The more rich and influential people I met the more amazed I was at their private lives. Names who are household words take part in the most obscene things. I was invited to a dinner party at the home of a very, very rich man. After I arrived I discovered it was a rather unusual dinner party. All the guests had taken off their clothes. There were both men and women and the men included people I would not have suspected of ever doing anything improper. There was one well-known barrister who, I am sure, would be willing to make stirring speeches in court attacking that sort of thing. There were also some well-known actors and a politician whom I recognised. The most intriguing person, however, was a man with a black mask over his face. At first, I thought this was just a party gimmick, but the truth was that this man is so well known and holds such a responsible position that he did not want to be associated with anything improper. And I can assure you that party was improper. The guests were not just ardentnudists. Even I was disgusted.Hon. Members may laugh. Very well, I shall read the whole lot. This is a pornographic document, and I want to put it on record. It goes on to say:There is a great deal of evidence which satisfied me that there is a group of people who hold parties in private of a perverted nature. At some of these parties, the man who serves the dinner is nearly naked except for a small square lace apron round his waist such as a waitress might wear. He wears a black mask over his head with slits for eyeholes. He cannot therefore be recognised by any of the guests. Some reports stop there and say that nothing evil takes place. It is done as comic turn and no more. This may well be so at some of the parties. But at others I am satisfied that it is followed by perverted sex orgies: that the man in the mask is a ' slave ' who is whipped: that the guests undress and indulge in sexual intercourse one with the other: and indulge in other sexual activities, of a vile and revolting nature.That quotation is taken from Lord Denning's Report, produced in September 1963 on the Profumo affair.
That is the kind of thing that has been going on for years and years, and if hon. 56 and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seek to engage in this kind of exercise for party political purposes they can expect all that is coming to them from my hon. Friends and me. If they are not prepared to look at these problems responsibly and seek social solutions to them—in the provision of housing, social facilities and education—if they seek to treat the subject irresponsibly as they have been doing in the last few months, we shall have the right to reply in kind. I just give them that friendly warning.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) will not object if I do not take up his speech. He made a grossly unfair attack upon my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry). His entire speech was impregnated with party politics—and cheap party politics at that. There is no call in this debate to talk about party politics, and my hon. Friend did not do so. This debate should be an occasion when the national forum of the nation gets together and considers these evils, faces them squarely and tries to decide what to do about them.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his success in the Ballot, and upon his choice of subject and the way in which he introduced it. Over 20 years I have only twice been lucky in being first in the Ballot. Oddly enough, they were on consecutive occasions. On the first occasion the debate came off, and it was a good one. It was on a Friday. Unfortunately, the national Press chose that moment to go on strike. On the second occasion the Prime Minister of the day called a General Election, so the debate never came off.
If I had been lucky in the Ballot during the last few months this is the subject that I should have sought to introduce —a debate on the merits and demerits of the permissive society—or the civilised society, as the Chancellor is pleased to call it. I repeat the quotation made by my hon. Friend:I love England "—said Dr. Trevor Huddleston on television, shortly after he had returned here from Africa to become Bishop of Stepney—but the moment I came back I felt that things had gone desperately wrong. I don't 57 want anyone to call me a Jeremiah, but I must say what I think, and I think the country's very sick indeed.Many other people think so, too. The trouble is that most of us—certainly those in this House—feel uncomfortable at the articulate expression of moral and ethical matters, except from people whose position gives them a licence to behave in so "un-British" a manner.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
Is it not a fact that Dr. Huddleston was away from Britain not only during the tenure of office of this Government, but during some years when the hon. Gentleman's own party was in power?
§ Mr. Longden
I want to impress upon the hon. Gentleman that I am not bringing party politics into this debate.
§ Mr. Morgan
I will stand corrected if I am wrong, but my impression is that the hon. Member deleted from the passage that he quoted, from what Dr. Huddleston said, the words "during the last eight years."
§ Mr. Longden
I was not aware that I had deleted anything from my quotation. I think that what I said was exactly what the bishop said on television.
The question is: do politicians have such a licence to behave in this manner? My hon. Friend's journalistic friend thought not, but I agree with my hon. Friend that the time has come when politicians must speak out, especially today, when people whose positions give them such a licence are so divided and uncertain.
I, too, in my last two election addresses —perhaps this will convince the hon. Member that I am not being party political —made so bold as to make some references to the sickness. In 1966, I wrote:no doubt all political parties must take some share of the blame for this, but I am certain that …to encourage constant dependence on the State must undermine the sense of individual responsibility. Moreover, it must be becoming clear to most people that there are active influences at work which lose no opportunity, on screen, on stage and in print. of deriding and denigrating such concepts as duty, truth, loyalty and honesty. Such persons are accessories before the fact of much of the murder and brutality which disfigure our national life.58 I was not thinking of including among such persons members of Her Majesty's present Government.
I will not avail myself of parliamentary privilege to name some of these people. We all know who they are. Everyone know them. Juvenal had a word for them, 1900 years ago:Quid enim salvis infamia nummis.which, freely translated, is as much as to say, "What matter the mischief if there's money in it?" And is it always only money? I recall Lenin's dictum:The soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the mortal blow both possible and easy.In my election address of 1964 I said much of what I later repeated in 1966, and I added:The efforts of these people must be frustrated, not by more censorship, but by an informed public opinion which Parliament, parents, teachers and indeed every one of us can help to forge.Not by more censorship, because I think that it is a cardinal principle of Conservative policy that the adult individual should have as much freedom of decision and action as is consistent with the rights and liberties of his fellow citizens, that the State should encroach as little as possible upon the liberty of the individual.
Free to decide, yes. But to decided aright between right and wrong—if I may address those to whom these concepts still have any meaning—we must have some standards, some criteria, to guide us.
Part of our trouble today is that the official guardians of spiritual values have deliberately allowed those standards to decay. There are dozens of examples of the churches, all the churches, though perhaps the Church of England, my own church, may lead the field in providing specimens of what I once called "Woolwich-mindedness", speaking with divided voices. And if the Trumpet gives forth an uncertain sound, we know what is the result.
One recent specimen of clerical advice comes not from the Church of England, but from the Rev. Lord Soper, who reminded his fellow peers last week that…we are under no obligation to obey the Ten Commandments; they have been superseded." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 28th April, 1970; c. 955.]59 That was in the debate about grants for students' mistresses and bastards, itself characteristic of the times in which we live. During that debate Lord Ritchie-Calder solemnly assured his audience that promiscuity had always existed in student life and that these facts had existed since Heloise and Abelard.
I do not know what students did before those two tragic lovers, but, of course, students have made love since the beginning of time and they always will. The difference is that hitherto such promiscuity and its results have not been rewarded and encouraged, as they certainly will be encouraged, by hand-outs from the taxpayer and the blessings of the Minister who is charged with the duty of educating our youth.
It is difficult for the young today. What are they to make of the Dean of King's College, Cambridge, the same who was Bishop of Woolwich, writing in the Sunday Times thatThere is nothing obscene whatever in the portrayal, however, explicit, of the erotic as such …"—whatever those last two words mean.The erotic is something to be enjoyed … Other civilisations, notably those of ancient Greece and India, have not found this difficult; and the phallic symbol, even in public, has not been regarded as obscene.I think I know what he means. But some must surely ask themselves whether they are bidden to enjoy the homosexual eroticism of ancient Greece or the polygamy and concubinage of ancient India.
Nevertheless, I believe that the contemporary attitude towards sex is much saner and healthier than that of our Victorian and Edwardian ancestors. But we have become so obsessed with it that it has become a major cause of broken homes which the Home Secretary, among many others, has, I think, rightly, described as a principal cause of juvenile delinquency. Apart from the effect on the family and the morals of the young, a more serious by-product of the permissive age is not sex but violence, and the gradual sliding down the slippery slope, not by any means confined to any one section or age group, into ubiquitous dishonesty.
The remedies are primarily for parents, teachers and religious bodies.
60 But there are four things which Parliament can and should do, apart from precept and example. First, strengthen the police in quantity and quality. Secondly, curb the positive encouragement of violence by television programmes. Children must be protected. I do not need the help of a psychiatrist to enable me to judge whether the effect of some of these programmes on some people must be to infect them with an urge to emulate what they see and hear. If a whole regiment of psychiatrists were to tell me that they had no such effect on some people I would not believe them, any more than I would believe them if they said that capital punishment was no deterrent—for not one of them could say how many people had been deterred by capital punishment.
Thirdly, we should take an early opportunity to redefine the offence of "obscenity" and to ensure that every charge alleging it is always tried by a jury of 12 good men and true and not by a single judge. I have never understood how anything whichtends to deprave and corruptcan also be held to bein the public interest.There have been many suggestions, apart from abolishing it altogether, for amending the definition, one of the most recent being that of the legal correspondent of The Times on 30th April, a few days ago.
Fourthly, steps must be taken further to protect the privacy of the individual. All hon. Members must have received complaints from their constituents about the impertinent activities of the Julian Press. This firm is circulating unsolicited advertisements of an illustrated book showing various ways of making love. The Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions refused to prosecute on the grounds of obscenity, and with that advice I respectfully agree. If the book is obscene, then so are several other manuals of a like kind which can be bought any day by anybody from any bookstall, even from those run by Messrs. W. H. Smith.
The objectionable feature is the indiscriminate circulation of material, now to schoolboys, now to elderly widows, which so many people consider to be offensive. I am assured by the right hon.
61 Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) that the Home Office is very much concerned with this problem and is considering possible ways of preventing this particular nuisance. Meanwhile, her Department has decided to submit evidence to Mr. Kenneth Younger's Committee on Privacy.
Nothing is new under the sun. In 1861, there was published in Moscow a literary-political journal which was criticised in the following terms by Professor Nikitenko, of Moscow University:Young people are being incessantly told that sensual pleasure and interests are preferable to any moral considerations … that everyone senior to them in age, position, experience or knowledge is practically an idiot, and unsuited not only to the education of the young, but to any kind of activity in any intellectual, literary, scholarly or political field.The journal in question "—said the professor—is concerned not so much with the reconstruction of society on the basis of a new system as with the destruction of all existing systems. It strives to demolish every authority —of government, morality, faith or science.I conclude by quoting some words used last December by the Duke of Edinburgh at King's College, in London:Today, it is absolutely certain that material development by itself cannot sustain civilisation. To make life tolerable there must be some criterion of right and wrong, some positive motivation, some vision of an ideal. We have to make a choice. We can either stick to our existing principles and adapt our structures and social disciplines to modern conditions, or we can try to create a new set of principles and structures. What we cannot do with any hope of improving our civilisation is to drift aimlessly, pulled this way and that by self-interest and expediency.The Duke warned his audience that unless we come to some conclusion fairly soon we shall start sliding down towards what he calledthe end of our relatively free civilisation as we know it.Fairly soon. And that, I think, is the greatest danger facing our society today —anarchy, from which we could be rescued only by dictatorship.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
I should like to start by congratulating the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) upon his success in the Ballot.
62 This Motion attempts within a span of 87 words to list the conditions which the hon. Member thinks threaten our society. It suggests a complex of causes and it proposes certain remedies. The House would indeed be churlish if it were to condemn the hon. Member for not having achieved his purpose in each and every respect.
What concerns many of us, however, is not so much what is actually set out in the Motion or, indeed, what has been said in this debate, but the impression which the Motion, taken in its totality, could make upon the ordinary citizen. To the innocent bystander the Motion, in the terms in which it is drafted, could well convey a picture of a country peopled by a Godless, materialistic, hedonistic generation, espousing violence, and wholly given over to sexual indulgence and the pursuit of transient pleasures.
I feel that there are a few things which must be said about this picture. I do not believe it to be a true portrait of Britain today. The doctrine of despair may be popular, but it is damnably inaccurate. It does not apply to the vast majority of the British people, who form a silent constituency which is not represented in the tabloid headlines: good health and normality have too little news value.
Secondly, permissivenes is a term which is often used so loosely as to be extremely misleading. It should not be regarded as being synonymous with any confining of the boundaries of criminality. It can be so, but not necessarily so. Most of what is lightly called permissiveness is outside the purview of the criminal law, and one cannot, in any event, legislate for the major part of our moral code.
The third thing which I want to say about this is that it did not start in 1964. With the permission of the House I will quote from a speech made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) on 25th April, 1961, to the Primrose League. He said:A society which allows the individual moral character and standards of its citizens to fall into disrepair cannot long remain free, for freedom is the reward which comes to a society of individuals self-disciplined in matters of morals and in matters of financial honesty, where freedom from violence renders restraints unnecessary.63 He went on to say:I am bound to record it as my considered opinion that at no period of my life have public and private standards as advertised in the Press and elsewhere in the vital matters of personal integrity, compassion and gentleness, and sexual self-restraint been more openly discounted than they are at the present time. Let no one who is concerned with the future of Britain in this age of change disregard the terrible signs of moral lawlessness previously held in check by voluntary restraint, which can be seen on every hand.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk): Hear, hear.
§ Mr. Morgan
Lastly, on that picture I would say, great play has been made by some people both inside and outside Parliament—and we have heard echoes of such sentiments this afternoon—that sanctions which existed with regard to certain acts have been removed or curbed during this Government's time of office. Putting aside for the moment the question whether we agree or disagree with those Measures, as has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) the fact remains that they were in each case Private Members' Bills upon issues which had been before Parliament on a number of previous occasions. They were matters involving the individual consciences not only of Members of Parliament but of the people whom we have the honour to represent. If Parliament is to be something more than the mere rostrum for the Executive and the Opposition Front Bench it is right and just that Parliament should discuss and decide upon such matters. To have denied those Bills time would have constituted, in my view, an attack upon one of the fundamental purposes of Parliament.
They passed both Houses not only with the neutrality of the Government but the neutrality of the Opposition as well. In nearly every case the voting went across party lines, but even if it did not, the numbers of Members who voted for those changes were such as to have made it possible for the Opposition, if they had so wished, to have defeated each and every one of them. I believe—
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Why is the hon. Gentleman so compounding an error made by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton)—
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
There was nothing, surely, new in the speech of the hon. Member. Can we not have a debate on this subject in this House on a higher level than that of purely party politics?
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
The hon. Gentleman has been dealing with a series of Private Members' Bills, and he says, quite rightly, that there was no attempt from this Front Bench to blame the Government—or praise the Government, for that matter—about their content. The only criticism which, as a party spokesman, I have ever launched against the Government was for the practice of allowing a Bill to be discussed at an all-night sitting; but that was nothing to do with the moral content of that Bill.
§ Mr. Morgan
I accept that, and I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for endorsing my point, that there is here a joint responsibility on the Opposition and the Government for those Bills. The Opposition could have blocked them, had they so wished. The Leader of the Opposition, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone, if I remember rightly, did not vote against any of them—with, I believe, one exception, the Sexual Offences Bill.
§ Mr. Morgan
I should like to deal with one or two specific matters. There is in the Amendment to the Motion a reference to the battle against crime. I am glad to note that the Amendment, although I understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it has not been called, places the matter in its proper perspective.
I say at once that it is extremely proper that there should be maximum public discussion of this matter, but that it 65 should be well-informed discussion, and I doubt very much whether the rhetorical excesses to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is from time to time prone to lend himself is conducive to this end. I say this as a fairly new member of the House who has great respect and admiration for him. It is a disservice to the community as a whole for this matter to have been hurled into the cockpit of party politics, and the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone must regard himself as being substantially responsible for that. He is merely following the bad example set by his leader, the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) in a speech in February, 1969, to a Conservative Women's Conference when he said:The maintenance of law and order is something that the British citizen values deeply. It will be one of the first tasks of the next Conservative Government to restore confidence in the ability of the authorities to control crime and to keep order.If this is not a political issue, why were such words spoken? If it is freely admitted that the maintenance of law and order is the duty and the prerogative of each Government, why should it be suggested that there would be a return to law and order and a tranquil society with the election of a Conservative Government? The Conservatives cannot get out of it. They have deliberately, perhaps on the basis of market research findings, made this a political issue. It may well be that they will regret that decision; they may regret it already.
§ Mr. Longden
With great respect, I think that the Minister is mixing up two things. If law and order is not a political issue, nothing is. It is the first duty of Government to protect the lives and property of its citizens. We are debating what is, in shorthand, known as the permissive society.
§ Mr. Morgan
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentlemen for telling me the topic of the debate. It is a political topic but, according to what he himself said, it is not a matter which is in issue between the two major parties. If that is so—and he nods—why did his leader speak in such intemperate terms in February, 1969?
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman must not confuse two separate issues. One is concerned with the series of Private 66 Members' Bills on which, as I have said, there is nothing between the two Front Benches. Rightly or wrongly, it is open to the House to take whichever view it likes. Government and Opposition wish to detach themselves in such a way as not to whip their supporters on great moral issues. The other is the question of the reform of the criminal law. That is the responsibility of Government, and it is the responsibility of the Opposition to include or not to include in their election programme specific proposals on that issue. There would be great impropriety in either party not presenting its proposals to the electorate. If the proposals are identical, and in so far as they are identical, these matters are not within the scope of party politics. If they are not identical, then they obviously are.
§ Mr. Morgan
I take no exception to the statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I agree wholeheartedly with the proposition which he enunciates, but his Leader was not here talking of the reform of the criminal law. He was talking about restoring confidence in the ability of the authorities to control crime and keep order, and that is a totally different matter.
It is admitted between us that for the last 20 years there has been a steadily rising tide of crime in the United Kingdom. This is a phenomenon which should not be minimised by anybody; it would be utterly irresponsible to do so; but it is equally irresponsible to maximise it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone has spoken of crime waves. Presumably he was not talking of any wave that has occurred during this Government's years in office. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, that the average increase during our period in office is 5.1 per cent. perannum. The average increase during the Conservative Government's period in office was 9.6 per cent. per annum.
If, on the other hand, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was talking of individual figures, the figures I am about to give could have some relevance. The sharpest increase in all crime occurred in 1958, when there was an increase of 14.8 per cent. The highest increase during this Government's period in office was in 1968, when the increase was 6.8 per cent.
67 The pattern of violent crime is as follows: in 1956, the increase was 18 per cent.; in 1957, 17.8 per cent.; in 1958, 10.7 per cent.; in 1959, 14.3 per cent.; in 1960, 13.6 per cent. If the word "wave" is to be a fair description of anything that has happened in the last 20 years, it could refer only to the period between 1956 and 1960.
I am sure that, with very different motives, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has done great service to the Labour Government. He has made it clear to all that the sharp increase in crime figures year by year has now been checked, and it must be clear to all of us that such a check has not occurred by accident. I quote from an editorial in The Guardian for 13th February, 1970, which reads as follows:The increase in crime rates has not been halted, but it has been retarded, largely because of measures introduced by Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Callaghan.The House is well aware of those measures which have had the effect of strengthening the police as a weapon against the criminal.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
The subject of the debate is the permissive society, but the Minister is debating the crime figures.
§ Mr. Morgan
The hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend said that his first priority in tackling the most serious abuses of what he termed the permissive society would be to strengthen the police. I am taking my cue from him.
The House is well aware of the amalgamations that have taken place which have reduced the number of forces from 117 to 47 and of the substantially greater efficiency which has inured on that account. The police service is now stronger than it was in 1964 by 11,000 men. In addition, the number of civilian employees who are assisting the police has been almost doubled since 1964 and is now 33,000, an increase of 13,400. In 1964 we were spending£.5½ million on equipment and we are now spending£12 million. We are exhorted day in and day out in the House to increase our investment in the police and give it the highest possible priority. It is right and proper that publicity should be given to these matters, and when we are charged with 68 falling down on this task it is essential that there should be a rebuttal of such a contention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West has referred to the police computer. A police constable in a remote station or on the beat who wants to check whether a vehicle is stolen, or who wants to check on fingerprints, can have his query relayed to the computer which stores a reservoir of information relating to crime and criminals and the reply will be sent to him within three or four minutes. I am certain that this can be described as one of the most significant developments in the police service since the time of Robert Peel. As my hon. Friend has said, it is one of the largest police developments, if not the largest, in the whole world.
Gaming is another sector in which the Government have taken firm and decisive action. Before 1960, the amount of gaming in Britain was not substantial but the then Mr. R. A. Butler's Gaming Act of that year brought about a substantial change in the law. It failed, as it was patently obvious that it would. It released the forces of ruthless commercialisation, which had hitherto been kept in check, from casinos to gaming machines. As we have heard, there was a chaotic proliferation in all the agencies of gaming. We had over 1,000 casino licences, whereas a country like France has a maximum of only 150. It was such as to allure dangerous criminal elements to this country from abroad.
The Gaming Act, 1968, has sought to bring gaming under strict controls. Those controls and the board which implements most of them have as their objective purging gaming of criminal elements. eliminating excessive profiteering, reducing the total volume of gaming and ensuring that if gaming must be carried on, it should be honestly conducted in decent surroundings. The Gaming Board has approached this task with great determination and tenacity of purpose. Only time will tell whether it will be successful in pushing back the tide which was released when the dykes were so nonchalantly opened in 1960.
As my hon. Friend has mentioned, it is right and proper to pay particular attention to increases in crimes of violence. Like my hon. Friend, however, I also 69 consider that it would be inadequate to think of violence and damage caused by crime generally without reflecting for a moment on one particular category of violence. Like my hon. Friend, I refer to the horrifying toll of death, mutilation and injury which occurs on our roads, a great deal of it caused by bad driving behaviour. In 1969, 7,833 persons were killed and 90,715 were seriously injured on the roads. The totals of victims of the various categories of violent crime were but a fraction of that number.
One must, of course, distinguish between deliberate violence, such as unlawful wounding or causing grievous bodily harm, and non-deliberate injury which is sustained in road accidents. To the deceased victim and his family, however, and to persons who lose limbs, eyes or health, it cannot be greatly different in result. Accidental injury obviously cannot involve the same degree of moral turpitude as intentional violence, but much of the so-called accidental damage reflects to a greater or lesser degree an attitude of selfish indifference, if not, indeed, of aggression, vis-à-vis other road users in situations where tolerance and good manners are essential to human survival and to the avoidance of grievous injury.
The House is already well aware that 1969 was the third successive year in which road deaths and serious injuries were lower than in 1966, the year before the Road Safety Act came into force. Up to that year, there had been a steady pattern of increase in deaths and in injuries over the years. I know that the party opposite feel solicitude for victims of violence, but one can ask this question: what did they do to protect road users from violence? Did they not preside complacently over homicide and mayhem? How many deaths would have been avoided, how many paraplegics, those who are mutilated and crippled, would today be sound in wind and limb if the Opposition, when they had their opportunity, had had the courage to take firm and decisive action in, say, their second or third year of office? It may well be that hon. Members opposite regard that as an outrageous suggestion. That is the measure of the difference between us.
The fields which I have mentioned—police, gaming and road traffic— are all 70 areas in which the Government have acted decisively, and not only to improve a situation which the previous Administration had either recklessly fostered or indolently neglected. It lies not in their mouths to level charges of complacency against the present Government which in each of these directions had the courage, the energy and the determination to deal with tasks which the Tories preferred not to tackle.
Likewise, while on the subject of changes in the law which have been designed severally to meet abuses and threats to society, it is proper to refer to the solid contributions to a more orderly society and to the support given by the Government to parents, teachers and social workers by bringing before Parliament legislation relating to children and young persons and also legislation relating to the misuse of drugs. The former creates a more progressive régime for dealing with the varied needs of the divers problems of children and young people. The Act of 1969 achieves a balance between encouraging the giving of help to young people within the family wherever possible and, at the same time, giving society adequate protection.
The Misuse of Drugs Bill will, I am confident, if it passes through Parliament, create a firmer, more comprehensive and yet more flexible system of dealing with drug abuse. It creates the framework of negative controls and positive encouragement within which a society can have the chance of ridding itself of this malady.
The conditions bemoaned of in the Motion form a federation of situations which have three things in common. First, each is a condition which is harmful to the structure of society. Secondly, each is the product to some degree of changes in society. Thirdly, each is destructive of that state of things which is the goal of people of divers parties and creeds where-under the individual is enabled to assume the fullest and most wholesome potential.
Insofar, however, as the Motion refers to moral standards, it is clear that to a large extent this is not a sphere in which the Government are vested with either direct or indirect authority to act. In an earlier age, society would have expected the spiritual power of the Church to be an adversary to such threats, but it is clear that the capacity of the various 71 religious denominations in Britain to influence behaviour is extremely limited. I do not suggest by this that the Churches are doomed to failure—far from it—but their jurisdiction is now exercised in a narrow compass and among the faithful who are not, by and large, within the scope of the Motion's indictment.
It does not mean, either, that Britain is of necessity less moral in its totality of attitude than it was 100 or 200 years ago. Whatever we may feel about laxity in sexual and other matters, the fact remains that probably more people feel deeply today about the great issues of peace and war, racial prejudice and elementary justice in all walks of life than they did in previous periods. Our eighteenth century ancestors would be shocked beyond words by some of the behaviour that is to be seen today.
Likewise, we recoil in horror at the thought of some of the inconsistencies which belonged to their society, such as John Newton, who wrote the hymnHow sweet the name of Jesus soundsand who was the captain of a slave-trader with men and women chained and dying in squalor below its decks.
The vacuum is one of jurisdiction and influence. The power of the family has diminished and a small, compact community is no longer the authoritative body that it was. The question which is instinctively asked in such contexts is what the Government, in such a situation, can do to protect and to preserve the mores of society. In terms of direct authority, it can do little beyond adopting criminal sanctions where necessary and strengthening the standards of law enforcement, as we have done and are doing. However, the State can use its influence to deepen the individual sense of belonging to a community which is the antithesis of antisocial attitudes. It can give encouragement and leadership in a variety of ways, and I have high hopes of the intermediate treatment for which provision is made for children and young people in the Act of 1969, to which I have referred.
Essentially, the Government's most potent influence stems from what it is in itself. Sociologists often remind us that society precipitates its own deliquencies. In other words, ideals and philosophies accepted by a community do not exist 72 in vacuo. They achieve reality by becoming institutions, and the ideas, the outlooks and the value of individual citizens are to a great extent influenced by the social forms with which they live and with which they are brought up. Social forms such as these often are themselves in a negative or positive way moulded by the acts, policies and stances of the Government.
I have no wish to vilify the party opposite, but a Government who elevate the cult of individualism to a level which makes of life a llaissez-faire jungle of catch-as-catch-can and the devil take the hindmost, cannot expect a community which universally accepts a lofty code of social responsibility. A society which asserts such principles as those which say that industry and commerce must be inviolate from any planning by the Government in the public interest, that the speculator is entitled to dictate to public bodies in land hungry cities and extort massive fortunes from them, that there should be no charter of protection in law—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like it, but they are getting it—to save the tenant from a Rachman-like landlord and no protection for the leaseholder from an unjust dictation by the lessor, and places a premium on atavistic selfishness, must inevitably carry within it the seeds of its own jeopardy.
An unjust society cannot help but produce anti-social activities on a wider scale. But there is more to a just society than the mere establishing of an equitable division of material assets. Like an individual, a society cannot live a wholesome life without vesting its belief in something outside itself. Neither man nor his community can live on material things alone. I cannot conceive how any individual can appreciate his full participation in society without some understanding of the general goals and aspirations of that community.
We are dealing with a package of prejudicial conditions which derive from distinctively different but nevertheless unrelated origins. There is no solution which is both precise and all-embracing. But we can say in relation to each of the conditions under discussion that the individual does not stand alone in life. He is a cell in the greater body of society. 73 His wellbeing depends on the interaction between himself and society, and there is a balance to such a relationship.
There is no right without responsibility. There is no freedom without duty. Inherent in duty is discipline, and the highest and most meaningful form of discipline is self-discipline. This is the true meaning of freedom. This is the standard against which all human behaviour must be judged. It is upon that standard that society is founded. As William Morris put it,Fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I must apologise to the House for rising at this point, which had not been my intention. But I feel now that I am under some responsibility, even though I do not read my remarks at a rapid rate, to put the record a little straight after the speech to which we have just listened and to wrench this debate back to the subject which my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) quite rightly intended should be its main topic.
I do not propose to talk about road accidents, as both speakers from the benches opposite have. I doubt whether this is the right forum in which to do it. I question whether our own thoughts about them were worse than those of the present Government, but I doubt whether much is to be gained by the Under-Secretary for the Home Department and the principal Opposition spokesman on home affairs canvassing them in the context of the present debate.
As regards the Gaming Act, the Children and Young Persons Act and the Drugs Act, the hon. Gentleman can hardly complain that the Opposition have been otherwise than helpful in assisting to carrying through the Government's legislation. I think that we have given them every help. However, what the hon. Gentleman said about the reason for the Gaming Act is wholly contrary to the facts. He knows that the Acts of 1960, 1963 and 1964 were not intended to encourage gaming on a commercial scale. When he says that the floodgates were nonchalantly opened and that the Acts were bound to fail, it is odd that the Labour Party never pointed this out at the time.
74 As a matter of fact, the courts must bear a rather larger degree of responsibility for the failure of those Acts to achieve their purpose than the hon. Gentleman was prepared to mention. This degree of responsibility was generously recognised by the Master of the Rolls in a recent judgment.
The fact was that the legislation proposed by the Conservative Government said that games of unequal chance were to be prohibited. However, for reasons which were wholly unpredictable, the courts said that a game was not of unequal chance if the unequal chance was passed round the table. This has now proved to be wrong, because the House of Lords, in its judicial capacity, has put the courts right. However, that is what opened the floodgates, coupled with another decision of the courts which has not reached the House of Lords and which has decided, when Parliament said there was a maximum charge per session which would limit the profit that a club could make, that each session could last only 20 minutes. That again was not foreseen by the Labour Party. I frankly concede that it was not foreseen either by the Parliamentary draftsmen or by the Home Office of which, for the time being, the hon. Gentleman is an ornament, or by Mr. Butler, as he then was. To talk in terms of party politics of this extraordinary development in social practice seems to me to be wholly misplaced.
I come to the more substantial matter, and I deal with it quite shortly. I have been responsible on this side for home affairs since 1966. I formed the view some time ago that the fundamental questions of order and law ought to receive a higher priority than they have done for many years past. I still hold that view, and I intend to revert to the subject from time to time in terms of positive proposals, both on the platform and in the House.
Nothing that has happened since then has converted me to a contrary view. It is my hope before we rise for the Summer Recess to have a Supply Day devoted solely to this subject. It would be well spent. Only the sharp yelps of pain which emerged from the benches opposite when I first raised the question have prevented me from doing so hitherto, for I was afraid that the noise that they 75 would make would not be conducive to an objective and rational discussion.
My reason is that I think that there are certain fundamental things wrong with our system of law enforcement which need to be put right in relation to the police, in relation to the criminal law and procedure, and in relation to penal treatment. I take the last as being the most obvious. Our prisons are wrongly sited, hopelessly badly designed and designed for a form of penal treatment, namely, solitary confinement, which is no longer practised, and the prisoners inside them are mostly heaped, or many of them are heaped, three to a cell. I reckon that it would cost between£60 million and£100 million to put things anything like right.
Am I wrong, as Opposition spokesman for home affairs, to try to draw attention to that? Is this a form of rhetorical exuberance? On the whole, I think, not. I happen to know that the Home Secretary was very glad when I drew attention to these things, because, as we all know, spending Departments have great trouble with the Treasury and, obviously, with the Opposition making the running, as I was beginning to do, the Home Secretary's life has been a great deal easier since.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
Is the right hon. and learned Member saying that the improvements which he would wish to be brought about in the prison system would have the effect of bringing about the return to law and order of which his leader spoke in February, 1969? If that is not so, what he is saying outside the House must be rhetorical exuberance.
§ Mr. Hogg
What I am saying is that this is one of the factors. I hope that as I enumerate them, the hon. Gentleman will not feel disposed to intervene with a rhetorical question on each. It is one of the factors which I had in mind in drawing attention to the subject and to illustrate the point that this matter had not been given enough attention for a very long time.
I shall not be as specific about criminal law and procedure, because I hope to develop that subject on a later occasion, but I am certain that a number of changes are urgently necessary. When the right 76 hon. Gentleman, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced his Criminal Justice Act, 1967, I ventured to say to him that his proposals, admirable as many of them were, were nothing more than a pot pourri of intelligent suggestions making relatively minor amendments in a structure which was basically in need of a more fundamental provision.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that four years ago the Government said that they would build a modern prison in the green belt area in my constituency at Netherwood Aldney but they dropped the proposal because they ran out of funds?
§ Mr. Hogg
That is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. I sympathise with the Government, because, as I pointed out in a public speech in the course of my rhetorical exuberances, a party which goes to the country on a programme of more and better prisons when people want more houses, roads and schools will plainly not receive a standing ovation at every public meeting where the project is unveiled. At the same time, I happen to think that we have to do it whether we say it or not. I hope that they will not be located in the centre of towns! I know the difficulty of country Members, and I do not want to explore those.
I do not think that this was a mistake. As I come to develop my remarks bit by bit, I shall venture to suggest to Labour Members, who seem to be in an emotional frame of mind this afternoon, that parties have an obligation when they prepare an election programme to put forward their own ideas in their priority and with a sufficient degree of particularity to enable the public to judge not the details of every proposal—that would be both politically and morally wrong—but the general direction which they propose to take. The issues of an election can emerge only after both parties have done this.
If it so happens that hon. Members opposite and those who put together the Labour election programme are convinced by my argument that law and order ought to have a higher priority than it has had recently, it will not become an election issue, because we shall both be saying the same things and the only 77 question will be the points of difference between us. But if they say that I am wrong, if they say that it is wicked to talk about these things, if they say that it is almost disgusting to make law and order part of a political programme, the public will undoubtedly think that my party is the one which will make law and order a more important part of its policy. All they have to do, if they want it not to be an election issue, is to give it the degree of priority which I give it, or to say why I am wrong to do so.
I want to deal with this extraordinary business about the crime wave. There is one argument which I wish the Under-Secretary had not used. It was used also by his hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). I wish that we could hear less about the rate of increase of crime. Let me tell the House why I think that this argument, this statistic, is at once foolish and dishonest.
The foolishness resides in the following example. Let us suppose that we have a mythical country, Ruritania, ruled by two parties, the Montagues and the Capulets. Let us suppose that in the Montagues' last year of office there were 100 murders and that under the Capulets there are 200 in the next year, but that the Montagues get back, when there are 300 murders in the first year of their second term. The following things are true: the public ought to be more alarmed in the third term than ever before, because by that time there are three times as many murders as when they started, or at any intermediate time, because there has been an increase of 100 murders a year. Secondly, when the Montagues came in for their second term, if they were as foolish or as dishonest as hon. Members opposite, they could point out the statistical fact that the rate of increase of murder had gone down by 50 per cent., because in the first year of the Capulets it would have gone up by 100 per cent. and in the second year, because the starting figure was 200, it would have gone down to 50 per cent., which would mean that the rate of increase had been halved. I hope that we shall not hear any more of this rubbish about the increase in the crime rate.
§ Mr. William Hamilton rose—78
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Member did not give way to any of my hon. Friends and I shall not give way to him.
I hope that that sort of rubbish will not be talked any more, because it can be put forward only by those who do not know anything of the elementary facts of arithmetic, or else dishonestly with an intent to deceive the public, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary is not in either category.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept the latest publication to emerge from the Conservative political centre, written by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), which uses precisely this type of statistic and concludes that part with a comment on the mission of the Conservative Party?
§ Mr. Hogg
My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) is not in the House, and it would carry me too far from the main current of my argument if I started quoting from or commenting upon all the political literature which is beginning to emerge from both party organisations. It would keep me here for a very long time. All I am saying is that I hope that we do not hear any more about that.
The fact is that the country is undergoing an increasing amount of serious crime. Perhaps the most significant statistic, which I have not got with me. because I did not expect to he making this particular speech until I heard the two speeches from the benches opposite, is the number of indictable crimes per 100,000 of population; because obviously with a rising population there is a natural built-in increase in crime rates. It will be found that from 1955 that figure has risen by a factor of about three, which is very frightening.
When chief constable after chief constable reports that moral standards are declining, that sawn-off shotguns are on the increase, and that crimes of violence, both against the police and against innocent members of the public, are becoming an increasingly serious menace, the public deserves better from its politicians than rival denunciations based upon a statistic which is both dishonest and meaningless. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, 79 hear."] I am glad to have met with such universal approval. It is almost more than I can bear.
Having said that, I hope that I shall be allowed to reserve further comments on the pure question of crime until we have our Supply Day, which I hope will be before we rise for the Summer Recess.
The Motion raises a number of rather different questions from those that I have been discussing—questions which the House does not often have a chance of discussing. It is for that reason rather than that I am afraid of a confrontation with the party opposite that I regret the tone of the two speeches which have been made from the benches opposite. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough deserved something better. Obviously the House is not a debating society. We seldom have a debate like this which is based upon a Motion which could be moved in any debating society from the House of Lords downwards. In many ways, this is the type of Motion which the House of Lords frequently discusses.
Nevertheless, it is worth while for the Front Benches and for the back benches to ask themselves from time to time exactly what society is about and exactly what legislation is about: what part has executive authority and legislation to play in society? For instance, is this a permissive society, as my hon. Friend says in the Motion? What is a permissive society?
As I grow older, I find myself subjected to increasing numbers of legal restraints as compared with my youth. Indeed, when I read about the permissive society I am inclined to think that under Socialism there is only one thing that people are allowed to do and that they are now beginning to do to excess, which may explain a very great deal of what the Motion is about.
More seriously, are moral standards declining? Is there a moral crisis in society? If so, what is the part of legislation in it, and what part can a Government play?
Here I do not start with a completely open mind. I speak, not only as a Conservative, as the House can see, but also as a Christian. I must say that as I grow older my Christianity becomes more 80 and more part of my empirical convictions. Two things have led me to reach this conclusion in life, apart from philosophical and metaphysical reasons.
To begin with, more and more as I see the unhappy side of this world—lawyers and politicians probably see more unhappiness than most; I am both lawyer and politician—I see an extraordinary correlation between the quality referred to as joy and that referred to as love, by which I mean, not the emotion described in the pop records, but the Christian virtue of agape—the respect for other people's human personality as such.
I see also, both as I go round in the political world and as I move in the legal world, an extraordinary correlation between what has commonly come to be known as vice and unhappiness. It is not the prerogative of the poor to be unhappy. It is very largely the misfortune of those who have lost their way to be unhappy, the people without a sense of dedication or purpose. These things strengthen rather than weaken my religious convictions.
But, if I am approaching this matter, as I must do, from a purely secular point of view, I say quite unequivocally that there is a moral crisis at present. I attribute it to two quite separate causes. The first is that there is a collapse, not merely in religious authority, but in the conception of authority as such. People will not take things any longer as objectively true because people whom they respect say that they are true.
In the babble of discordant sounds which has arisen it is very difficult to detect any piece of coherent advice if one is in any doubt.
Side by side with that there are new moral problems. It is a great mistake to say, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) said, with the author of Ecclesiastes, that there is nothing new under the sun. I think that there are some new things in the present situation. To begin with there are these very extraordinary new biological facts coming into knowledge. Surgical transplants give rise to moral problems of a kind which we have never had to face before. Self-medication with extremely powerful drugs which have been developed and which produce sometimes bizarre and sometimes tragic side effects 81 give rise to a new set of moral problems to a generation which to a large extent has lost belief in moral values.
The practice of contraception clearly has implications for the law and practice of marriage and monogamy which people, though they may seek to sweep it under the carpet, cannot long pretend are not relevant. These things add up to a moral crisis with which it is our function as leaders of opinion to deal.
How are we to deal with it? I have two positive things to say. There is nothing more tragic in the present intellectual state of our country than that people have stopped believing in value judgments. I am not now talking about religion. I am talking about value judgments. The philosophical belief that there is something to the beautiful, something to the true, and something to the good which is not simply a subjective emotive noise, is one of the most serious things which can happen to mankind.
However much teachers think it a desirable educational practice to encourage their pupils by questioning to think for themselves, it is always a mistake for them or for us, or for anyone else who is concerned with the well-being of others, to say that, after they have finished the questioning process, they can get away with nonsense or that the value judgments are not in their own way as effective and as objective in their validity as any other kind of judgment. I know that they are incapable of verification. I know that they are incapable of measurement. But there is no greater fallacy in the modem world than the belief that what cannot be measured or verified does not exist or does not matter. The important thing is to realise that at the end of the day, however much one may question the fundamentals upon which human life exists upon this planet, it is not the same thing to tell lies as to tell the truth, it is not the same thing to be cruel as to be kind, and it is not the same thing to have no regard for the consequences of one's actions as to weigh them carefully, particularly in relation to their effect on other people.
This has a very direction bearing—and this is the second of the two points of a positive kind that I wanted to make —upon the question of law. When I was talking in another context a few minutes ago about law and order, it is 82 my fundamental conviction that we are suffering a very great deal from a degradation of the whole conception of the function of law in human society. I did not think the hon. Gentleman wholly avoided that error in the latter part of his speech. The fact is that the alternative to regulation is not a free-for-all. The alternative to restriction is not simply a free-for-all. Human beings are ruled either by terror or by reason, and law is the constructive attempt to impose reason instead of terror as the means of restraining unbridled conduct. That involves, of course, an attempt, however difficult, to correlate a common set of value judgments about morality with legal sanctions. The public are only too apt to think that law is simply described in terms of command and prohibition. This has been encouraged on the Continent. We know that the Nazis preached this in the maxim:Das ist Recht was dem Fűhrer gefällt.Austin in the 19th century promulgated a similar philosophy in this country.
Law is an attempt to formulate general principles of conduct in a form in which they can be enforced and which is acceptable to the great bulk of society. It is opposed to tyranny, whether it is the tyranny of an anonymous majority or whether it is the tyranny of a tyrant, a single dictator. The great contribution of the West and, indeed, of the Western Church, to human affairs has been the conception that not merely the subject but also the sovereign—and in this context I mean sovereign people, the anonymous majority of the electorate—is bound by law—that is by the rules of reason—a set of rules promulgated in advance and not retrospectively, impartially administered by somebody other than the Government of the day and carried out more or less consistently, changed no doubt from time to time but still rational.
It seems to me that it is that which is the greatest contribution that this House can make to society—to re-establish the validity of the rule of law in that sense, as the first of the social services, as a thing without which the others will not exist at all.
If I am to be accused of making party politics of this, as I have been, or of doing a disservice either to Parliament or the country by bringing this issue forward, I have only one thing to say. I bring it 83 forward for the same reason that Martin Luther said at the Diet of Worms—" I can no other ". I shall try to make my own party say it and hon. Members opposite can do as they please. If they say it themselves there will be no issue. If they do not, we are at variance.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
I always listen to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) with great interest, and I have had that opportunity for many years. I think that the House has just listened to quite a remarkable speech. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's knowledge of the law and his dictates to this House and to this country should be heard with great respect not only in this House, not only by both parties, but by the people of the country generally who are showing tremendous concern about the affairs that we are debating today. It will be a pity if any party—I say this to my right hon. and hon. Friends—starts to adjudicate on party lines on this very grave problem which besets the country.
§ Mr. Mahon
I do not care who does it. I say that it will be a mistake. I have something to say to my own people as well as to the Conservative Party. It will be a grave mistake and a grave misjudgment on the mentality of our people if we adjudicate from a party point of view on the very grave difficulties which beset every aspect of society in this fashion.
I should be ungenerous if I did not say to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) that I thought he delivered the essence of his Motion in a modest way. As a young Member he can be forgiven for saying one or two things about us. There are times when we say one or two things about hon. Members opposite. But I congratulate him because, whether we like it or not, the people are interested in the subject that he has chosen to debate and, therefore, he has done the House a service.
What Governments must do when hon. Members put down Motions with which the Government do not agree basically is 84 to answer them so that the people know what is the situation. While I have the benefit of listening to speeches which we have just heard, I am aware of all the pluses and minuses in the long list of crime increases since 1950, and I hope that I shall have some encouraging things to say to the Government; but the plain fact is that in 1950 there were 451,435 indictable crimes committed. In that year there was an increase of 6.3 per cent. Over all those long years the pluses and minuses took place, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, but the totality of crime increased at a tremendous rate. It went up from the figure which I have just given to 1,289,090.
This House should and must give more time to this very important subject. It is a subject with which I have had something to do since I have been in this House. I have spoken about the decline in moral standards. It may be that my views became known, not through my efforts, but through the efforts of other people to introduce legislation with which I did not agree. But I have always been concerned about the decline in family life which I believe—and it has been proved to be true in peace and war, in times of economic stress and in times of affluence —has been the absolute basis of the nation.
During almost every election which I can remember, particularly in the days of poverty when we were striving for recognition, those of us who stood on Labour Party platforms spoke as if the system of the Conservatives was against the basis of the nation and, therefore, was not a healthy condition. Leaving aside the question of religious values, if we lose our traditional values what will we use as a yardstick with which to measure society? It is common sense that if our traditional values become too eroded, society will reach a parlous plight. Something must be done to check the present state of affairs.
It is easy to condemn. It is equally easy not to see the goodness in society. Many self-sacrificing attitudes are being adopted by many people. The scores of people who undertake overseas service must be kept in mind. The Church which I represent in this House has been sending people to far flung parts of the world in an effort to succour their family life and show, by example, what we for 85 generations have thought to be worth preserving. It is, therefore, wrong to overdo the anxiety of which we talk about the "all-consuming sickness" of society.
There is bound to be a troublesome minority. We have had a noisy and troublesome minority in this House, but what has been the success of those who comprise that minority? I believe that, generally speaking, the people have good standards. In my constituency, which is beset with difficulties, the people are trying hard, despite the attacks on family life, to keep their standards and keep their sense of family life intact.
I speak as the working-class man. If my family life is undermined by society, what do I have left? That is the question which we must always bear in mind, particularly when Bills of the type that have recently been introduced are discussed. When by such Measures we attack family life, we must decide what will remain after the attack.
I urge the Labour Party to recall that the poorest of the poor have had to put up with everything, poverty and oppression, to preserve family life. The Labour Party knew for a long time what was valuable, and I regret that in one way and another this party to some degree, has lent itself to the undermining of family life.
When we condemn, criticise or discuss any subject we in the House of Commons must have compassion towards all problems and difficulties. Perhaps "compassion" is a better word than "permissive". A "compassionate, understanding and tolerant society" is a preferable phrase to "permissive society". A society filled with compassion and understanding is one at which we should be aiming.
Hon. Members have referred to television and the Press, and there have been occasions when I have condemned these media. Generally speaking, however, the real problems that exist are being brought home to us. When violence of what I would call an artificial kind is shown in television plays and other productions, that is not the real side of life. However, when we see pictures of bodies floating down the Mekong Delta and the privation being suffered by those in Biafra —this in itself is partly the outcome of the sort of society we have created—television is acting as a balancing in- 86 fluence on our modern society. It is not all obscenity. The real condition of the world, with all its violence and oppression, must be brought home to the people. This is the problem that we must diagnose and cure.
Like the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone, I was brought up to believe that man was created in God's image and likeness. As a youngster, I was in a difficult occupation. Dignity was denied to me in those early years, except the dignity that my mother preserved at home for me. I felt like an economic unit and I could not see a way out of the morass, but all the time my teachers and priests were telling me that I had a soul and that I had been made in God's likeness. I would not, as a result, have wanted to do anything which might not be for the good of mankind.
I do not want to impress my views or beliefs on anybody. However, I sometimes wish that some of my hon. Friends would occasionally be as kind to me as I try to be to them. As we consider the materialistic state of society, there must be times when hon. Members of both parties—indeed, this must sometimes happen to the Home Secretary—feel doubts about their ability to cope with the sort of society which we have created. There can be no sanguine thought at times or easy minds about this issue. Even if the Conservatives became the Government tomorrow they would be beset by these problems. We must get to the causes of the present troubles.
I do not believe the statements I sometimes read about anarchy arising; although, to be frank, we have seen signs of anarchy, and they are ugly. There is no beauty in this business.
I will not discuss the Government's attitude towards abortion, except to mention that during the long days and nights that I spent discussing the issues in the House I thought that the Government were wrong. I also believed that responsible people in the Labour Party were wrong when they told me and others that when people had large families in the past they were socially irresponsible and that if people had large families in the future they would be socially delinquent. That statement brought my resignation from the party of which I had been a member for 40 years; that is, 87 until the Prime Minister gave me and two of my colleagues a personal undertaking that that was not the policy of the Labour Party.
It is no good members of this or any party saying, "Just give it time. It will work out in the end." I fear what will happen if we give abortion and divorce that sort of time. It is no good trying to run away from this problem, just as it is no good for hon. Gentlemen opposite to try to run away from the history of the Conservative Party. The people will obviously note the laws we pass and judge us accordingly. That is the way it must be. There was nothing in any Labour Party manifesto at any election at which I stood which spoke of easier abortion and divorce. When a Government provide more than the normal Private Members' time they should at least tell the people of the country what they basically feel about the matter. There was no great anxiety in the country to introduce the new abortion and divorce laws. I am beginning to feel that there is a bit of conspiracy against the home, family and marriage, and a considerable conspiracy against the child in the womb.
§ Mr. Orme
As my hon. Friend knows, no hon. Member doubts his sincerity on the matter, but does he take into account that about 69 per cent. of the public are in favour of the Abortion Act, according to the latest Gallup poll? Surely the nation is overwhelmingly in favour of it?
§ Mr. Mahon
That will be revealed, as other things will be revealed, at the right time. I am telling my hon. Friends that it is no use running away from the past. They did this, and they must stand by it, just as I must stand by what I have said in my opposition to what is loosely termed the permissive society. I did not want to deal with the essence and morality of these things. We are talking about the effects of the permissive society.
In recent days the legislation has caused me a great deal of concern. I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services in February:…what is the average time spent in private clinics and National Health Service hospitals, respectively, when a patient is aborted; and if he will make a statement?88 My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State replied:Up to last September the median time was between one and two days in approved places and between five and six days in National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales. As notifications must be made within seven days of the operation, and the length of stays over seven days is therefore not known, no average can be calculated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1970; Vol. 796, c.312.]Do the Government really feel that, under that permissive legislation, for a girl coming to London, probably with tremendous anxiety, a one-day stay in one of the private clinics for a very difficult operation like that is sufficient? The National Health Service organisations are insisting on a five-, six- or seven-day stay although they also have all the normal gynaecological work to do in the ordinary maternity hospitals. Is it not apparent to the Government that they can no longer support these private clinics treating some of our women in such an offhand way? Is it not time something was done about it, instead of my right hon. Friend's trying to justify 20,000 abortions of perfectly normal children? I would like my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to give him my compliments and tell him that I said that.
I have said in the Standing Committee on the Education Bill that the House will be very happy one day to reverse its decision on divorce. I am concerned about the children of broken homes. The glamour spoken about by hon. Members opposite does not exist when a working class family breaks up. It will be no use the Government talking of doing away with boarding schools, because they will be needed for the children of the broken homes resulting from the divorces which are occurring in modern society. Nothing can take the place of the warmth and affection of a home for a child. If a child has not got the warmth and affection of both parents according to the natural law, there is a good possibility of his joining the ranks of the delinquents.
§ Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)
Is it not true that many homes will unfortunately break up whether or not divorces are provided for? In those circumstances the very detrimental effects to which my hon. Friend rightly refers will follow irrespective of whether the break-up is recognised by the law.
§ Mr. Mahon
I think that my hon. Friend is indulging in hypothetical statements. I am concerned about a divorce law that will now give easy divorce after two years' marriage. After five years an innocent party with the responsibility of children can be divorced without so much as a by-your-leave. I am anticipating what that will do to home life. This matter was not looked into fully when the legislation came before the House. If we break up family life we must make alternative provisions to match that tremendous loss.
I should like to know what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will do about the intrusion into privacy by the document from the Julian Press which has already been mention by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden). It is going to every house in the country. Elderly constituents of mine have received it, including an old man of 75 and his wife, a dignified couple. It was a gross intrusion into their home. I have seen maiden ladies who are most upset about it. Some people smile about the intrusions of modern society into the home, but I know some of my dockers on Merseyside who would have a certain anxiety about what they might do if they knew the address of the Julian Press and if people like me did not dissuade them from taking the action they might take.
It is not sufficient to let the unsolicited advertisements go on month after month until these adventurers get so many orders that they can do the job in the way they want. I believe that the book is not even in print, but that they are waiting for the huge orders they expect. In the meantime, they have affronted the dignity of very many people. I am not at all satisfied with what the Government have done up to now. The total addition to human happiness of all the obscenity and pornography I have witnessed is nil, and the misery it causes is incalculable.
On the more positive side, I believe that those who advocate the abandonment of religious education in schools are most ill-advised. Let us remember what the Churches did for the poor, deprived, badly-housed people of other days. The Churches have had scant courtesy from the House today. I do not think that a favourable word has been said about 90 them; I have been here all the time, and I did not hear one. It seems to be very popular to say that the Churches are not doing their job, did not do it, or will not do it. I go to church, as do many other people. I come from an industrial centre. In my world—and this applies to Anglicans, Methodists and others as well as Catholics—we go to church and take a lot of notice of what we are told. People do give us leadership. It is our fault if we do not take it. But there are people in society who do not want to listen to Popes, bishops, or priests, and will do everything in their power to undermine them because of the sort of society they wish to create. The permissive is not the sort of society I want nor the sort of society which religious bodies want. These critics of the churches to my mind do not know what they are talking about.
§ Mr. Elysian Morgan rose—
§ Mr. Morgan
I was only speaking of the more restrictive authority which the Church now exercises as compared with previous periods, and I heartily join in everything my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) has said about the moral force of the Church. I remind him that I went out of my way to say that I was in no way suggesting that the Church had failed in its duty.
§ Mr. Mahon
In view of your intervention, Mr. Speaker, I will be as brief as I can. I am sorry if I am speaking too long.
I come now to the subject of prisons, which are part of the reform of criminals. I have heard that instructions have been given to make provision for more prisoners in some of our major prisons. But many prisons are already overcrowded and we must do something, irrespective of cost, towards making them more conducive to sending men back into society, after they have served their sentences, in a state of mind which will keep them law abiding. We must set our minds against putting hardened criminals together into cells. There are often three men to a cell in our prisons. I know that many crimes are hatched out 91 years before hand by criminals talking with each other in cells they share.
I want the Government to pay more attention to this problem. When the Home Office tells prisons that they must be ready for larger numbers of prisoners, while of course these men have to be put somewhere we should be more compassionate about the way in which they are kept.
I am very concerned about the situation on Merseyside. There is only one answer to our problem, and that is to have more policemen. We have vandalism and assaults on the police. It is essential to get these assaults on the police in perspective. There were 327 last year, 42 of them of a most serious nature. In other words, almost every day there was an assault on a policeman. This denotes that people are losing respect for the law and for police officers. I say to the public at large that they really must co-operate with the police because otherwise we shall never get in Liverpool the number of police we should have.
In 1930 the authorised strength of the Liverpool police was 2,270 and the actual strength 2,257, leaving only 13 vacancies. There were then 7,100 applicants to join the force. In 1969 the authorised strength was 2,866 and the actual strength 2,248, so that the force was 618 men short of establishment. At the same time, there were only 656 applicants for the enormously enlarged number of vacancies. This is a serious position.
I ask the Home Office to consider seriously this situation. It means that, in practice, we are not able to defend the homes of working class people. I suggest that if we cannot get policemen in Liverpool we should emulate the example of Securicor. This organisation quite rightly defends property of commercial interest. What is wrong with supplementation of the police, in agreement with the police, in order to defend domestic property?
§ Several Hon. Membersrose—
§ Mr. Speaker: Again, I appeal for brief speeches.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) on his 92 speech. As always, he commands the respect of the House and he speaks in the Christian tradition of the Labour Party which is a vital part still of that party. I associate myself also with his remarks about the Julian Press, which is a scabrous pest. The evil of the Julian Press is that it invades the home, which is the point made by the hon. Gentleman. There may be other considerations if one has to go outside the home to indulge whatever one's taste happens to be, but one should be protected in one's own home against this kind of assault. It is up to the Home Office to find a means of defending society against this intrusion.
I shall not congratulate the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) on his contribution, because I cannot. His speech was pitched at a deplorable level. It had a most unfortunate effect on the debate. It turned it into a channel of party political bickering. The speech by the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State was no better. He seems to have misjudged the whole situation, coming here armed with a brief which contained enough political claptrap to have bored even the founder members of the Merthyr Tydfil Labour Party. If Parliament is held in disrepute, it is precisely because of approaches similar to that which the Minister made. On serious occasions such as this that kind of party political dogma is entirely out of place.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I do not know who the hon. Gentleman was replying to. He certainly was not replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), who had set the debate at a very high level. I congratulate my hon. Friend on choosing this subject and on the content of his speech, which was a restrained, constructive and valuable contribution. If the Under-Secretary of State had taken his cue from my hon. Friend he would have done very much better.
I want to make plain my own general position because of the remarks I am going to make about the permissive society. I am not quite as pessimistic as my hon. Friend. I think that this 93 is the best country in the world. I think that it is the most honest and the most Christian in the practical sense. If I had to be poor and starving, I would rather be poor and starving here in Britain than in any other country. As a Catholic, I am grateful to divine Providence, which decided that I should be born in a Protestant country, and if things are bad here they are considerably worse everywhere else—except perhaps in Ireland. That is my general approach to the problem.
But when one looks at the state of our society there are things which must give one cause for alarm. We must ask ourselves what exactly we mean by "permissive society". This question has been raised in the debate, but it is odd that at this late stage in the debate it has not been answered. The phrase, curiously enough, was invented by Pope Pius XII—
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
—not that he was commending it in any way. He was the first to use the phrase. Other people took it up from him. I define it as a society in which the law in relation to morals, and especially sexual morals, plays a minimum role. I would not call it a civilised society, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rather rashly, I think, called it. Of course, it may turn out to be a civilised society, and I should welcome it if it did, but equally it may turn out to be a barbaric society in which standards generally have collapsed. Everything depends on the response of individual citizens.
It is the weakness and the strength of a permissive society that it depends on and presupposes a society of adults who, if left to themselves, will choose the right things freely. But we should understand it; whether one deplores or welcomes it, it is essential to see what social, moral and religious conditions have produced it. It did not spring out of the air: it is the product of our own age, and our own age, poor thing though it is, is the only one we have. It is the only age which we are relevant to and the only age that we can do anything about.
One feature of our age is a decline of institutions and therefore of the morality associated with them. My right 94 hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said that there had been a decline in authority. I would go much further. I would say that authority has totally lost its legitimacy. We know how much Parliament is denigrated today and we know in what low esteem the representatives of institutions are held. It is the same for all public representatives—for bishops, for generals and for Members of Parliament.
It was the Prime Minister who recognised this the other day in a moment of quite breathtaking frankness. I think that the House gasped when it heard him say that the General Election would present a choice between two evils. He cast himself in the role of the lesser of the two evils. That is open to question, but it is significant that he should have pitched the choice at that level. Can one imagine Gladstone saying that he was the lesser of two evils when compared with Disraeli?
We see this decline in institutions in the decline of institutional religion. In this sense, the Church of England and the Church of Rome are in the same boat. This is one of the foundations of the ecumenical movement—Rome and Canterbury have finally realised that they will sink or swim together. I am not saying that good theology is a guarantee of good government. If that were so Catholics would be placed in a nice dilemma by the history of the Papal States. All I am saying is that unless one has a sound theological or metaphysical foundation it is difficult to have a socially effective morality.
The decline of both political and religious institutions has led to an uncertainty about morality which has never been greater than today. I do not know whether we are more moral or less moral than in the past, but I know that we are much more uncertain about our standards. We have an individual rather than a social morality today and there are different moralities operating within the same society.
It is this situation which has led to the wide range of permissive legislation—homosexual law reform, divorce law reform, abortion law reform, the reform of the censorship laws, the abolition of theatre censorship, all legislation which has pushed the onus away from society, the State, on to the individual, reflecting 95 a state of affairs which already exists. So it is inappropriate to give a blanket condemnation or approval of permissive legislation. It is a reflection of our own society: some of it is good and some of it is bad.
Personally, I approved of the abolition of capital punishment. That is something which shows a higher regard for the value of human life. For the same reason, I deplore the abortion changes—not that a case cannot be made out for abortion in certain circumstances. I fully concede that, but the evil of the permissiveness here is that it has led to society becoming abortion-minded. I warned a year ago that we were heading for a situation in which we would have 100,000 abortions a year. We will have, I am afraid, as the graph shows, a much higher figure than that.
I think that homosexual law reform was, on balance, right. It is unjust to persecute those who, through no fault of their own, are suffering from a particular disability. Equally, I recognise that homosexuality should not be encouraged in society because it leads to personal unhappiness it weakens society as well. But a choice had to be made and I think that the choice was right. The ban on homosexuality, I believe, gave it a certain amount of moral condemnation, but this was at the price of a personal persecution which I think was wrong. This has opened up the choice now of how we are to deal with this problem. Are we going to deal with it constructively, by research, education and psychiatric help, or will we try to turn the clock back and restore the previous position?
On censorship also we have seen a liberalising of the law. That is right, because that reflects a liberalising in sexual attitudes in society. There is not an agreed sexual morality today in society, and if one does not have an agreed sexual morality one cannot have a sensible censorship system. I am not prepared to go all the way with the Arts Council, which wants to abolish censorship altogether. That would be wrong, but we should abandon the rather fruitless argument about morality and immorality and treat the whole thing as part of public nuisance.
Pornography, like prostitution, will always be with us, but equally it needs to 96 be kept in check. It is just as much an annoyance to go into a respectable bookshop and find a whole row of pornographic books looking at one as it is to go down the street about one's own business and be solicited by a prostitute.
Recently there has been the example of the Danish legislation. I was in Denmark recently to attend a legal conference and I took the opportunity—purely for research purposes, I assure the House—of visiting the pornographic bookshops there. I was appalled by what I saw—[An HON. MEMBER: "What did you buy?" I was on a Government allowance and therefore had no money left over for inessentials—[An HON. MEMBER: "What would you have bought?"] I do not answer hypothetical and rhetorical questions. But I was appalled by it just because of the sheer filth of what was produced. This has spilled over so that it is now available not only in the pornographic bookshops but in the legitimate bookshops.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) that one does not need a regiment of psychiatrists to convince one that it is fairly disgusting and low-grade stuff. When one sees—I apologise to the House for having to give details—pages and pages of pictures of women having intercourse with animals and various beasts: that is something of no social value at all and it is purely disgusting. The advantage about having a vestigal law on the subject is that it keeps this sort of thing in check. If we did away with the law altogether, as the Arts Council wants, we should have that sort of infection spreading here.
The other point in retaining this control is that it is much more difficult without it to protect the young and immature. By and large, adults should choose what they want to read; if they want to read pornography they should be allowed to, and if they do not they do not need to. But when the young and the immature come to pornography before their sexual attitudes are formed this can be traumatic. It would be more difficult for parents to protect their children if there was no law at all.
One cannot go back on the permissive society as such. I am sure of that. What one can do is adjust the boundaries. One can show what limits there should be to 97 permissiveness. One important limit is interference with the rights of others. That is why I am opposed to abortion. It is not, as the hon. Member for Fife, West said, just a question of the rights of the mother: it is a question also of the rights of the unborn child and the law has to balance one against the other.
We should also be aware of the risks which the permissive society presents to the continuance of society. The law in the past has been a positive moral force in society and rulers had a function in this sphere. That function has been reduced, but it still exists. It is true that rulers are guardians of the peace rather than spiritual directors, but they are guardians none the less. The essence of a society, its basic value, what makes a society worth living in, lies not in its true power, nor in its material, nor even in its artistic achievements. It is really in its agreement to live together in peace and in amity, respecting certain moral values. Both liberty and equality are dependent upon fraternity.
A total permissiveness in sexuality would, I am sure, be destructive of society. Sexuality is undoubtedly a good thing. We should not be in any doubt about that. We should not fall into the error of the Victorians in this regard. But we would be naïve if we did not see that sexuality is the most explosive force in society. The answer to the dangers of licence which are threatening us is not repressive legalism, but more positive teaching in the subject, to which the law should give a general support.
The sexual protest today is understandable only in terms of a lack of community. How interesting it is that so many people want to go back to National Service, not for any military reason, but because they want to recreate a sense of community! They are hankering after military service because they feel that our society does not offer sufficient communal life to make it worth living in it.
In the sort of society in which we live, the task of any moralist is extremely difficult and the task of Christian moralists is unenviable, having to persuade men of the truth of precepts in a society which has lost all sense of the absolute and which is fast losing all sense of sin.
98 However difficult this task is, it has to be tackled. The law can help in that, but it can play only a subsidiary role. Good laws which are sensible and moral can create a framework in which good morality can be taught and discovered and followed. I recognise that the law is changed with a purpose which is beyond its capacity to accomplish. What is needed today in our society, because there is a crisis in our society, is within the framework of the law, for moral values to be internally accepted and experienced. A major role, therefore, cannot be played today by the law. The major role must be played by witness and it must be played by persuasion. It must be example rather than precept today, persuasion not compulsion.
On the title of that novel by the greatest English novelist, Jane Austen, I conclude these remarks, not thinking that I have contributed the last word on the subject, but hoping that I have put a gloss on the very valuable contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough who today has put the House in his debt both for his choice of subject and for the manner in which he has presented it.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) undoubtedly elevated the debate, as all would agree. All of us would agree that if the debate has had any value it has been because of the passionate manner in which the right hon. and learned Member presented the role of the law in our community. This was well worth hearing at a time when there is so much cynicism about the law and about lawyers.
But the most important factor to come from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was that he had gallantly retreated from his original position. It is no use his pointing his finger at my hon. Friends when they complain, as did large sections of the Press, that in one of his exuberant moments he had unfortunately decided, as a matter of obvious political tactics, to introduce the whole theme of law and order in a manner far different from that in which he made his contribution today. I trust that he will continue in the spirit of today and that he will have the courage to propagate in 99 his own party, so that it should become part of the policy of his party, that he believes it necessary, for example, to spend £60 million to £100 million on prisons in order that they may be brought up to the standards required if they are seriously to undertake the rehabilitation of prisoners.
I never noticed that enthusiasm when the right hon. and learned Gentleman's party was in Government. It is belatedly that he comes to this conclusion. He has no right to appear to be offended because the Labour Front Bench has unequivocally made it clear that the Labour Party is not prepared to tolerate the notion that the reason we have social and crime problems in our society is in any way related to there being a Labour Government. The Labour Party has been prepared to face up to matters which the other side always dodged.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that some of the legislation which went through the House, legislation with which I was privileged to be associated, did so on an all-party basis. It was sheer humbug and hypocrisy, in the light of what happened during the time of the Conservative Government to affect and pretend that they would not have done anything else. That legislation in Conservative Government was killed by the failure to give the House time to reach an opinion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman accused the Labour Government of being sufficiently democratic to give the House and the country the right to express a view on burning social issues. He evades the fact that the Conservative Government consistently and persistently refused to give time to measures which, if passed at that time, would not be, as they now may be, sometimes bad and sometimes extravagant.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman may be carrying himself away. He was present at the time and he should recall that I made it perfectly plain that I made no such accusation. The only accusation I levelled at the Government was that they used all-night sittings as a device for that purpose and I stand by that accusation. I have never criticised the giving of time. It is for the Government to provide time if the House so desires it.
§ Mr. Abse
I regret that I must interpret that as a quibble. The House was prepared to stay up all night to do its duty. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to give consolation prizes to those in constituency parties who do not like this legislation, members of his own party, and suggests that it was a wicked plot on our part to keep the House up all night, let him do so.
Unfortunately, the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks with two voices. Sometimes he talks as a statesman and at others as a very cheap party politician. When he does the latter it does not elevate him in the esteem of the House or the country or in any future role which he may perform.
If we are to solve the problem, we have to ask ourselves a question which the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked, whether there is something unique, something singular, a particular moral crisis at this time in this generation. Before we attempt to answer the question, we must have some historical sense. The same question has been asked and sometimes answered in every century. In the eighteenth century one quickly finds that the reformers of the day dealt with this problem. Henry Fielding, after a painstaking investigation, came to the conclusion:There is not only no safety of living in this town but scarcely any in the country now; robbery and murder have grown so frequent. Our people have become what they never were before, cruel and inhuman. These accursed spirituous liquors which to the shame of our Government are to be so easily had and in such quantities drunk, have changed the very nature of our people, and will if continued to be drunk, destroy the very race.It cannot, therefore be disputed that these questions have constantly been asked. He was writing at a time when the nation was drinking 8 million gallons a year of gin and when the population of London was 700,000 and when there was a dram shop for every six houses in the Metropolis.
The Victorian age is elevated as having so much self-discipline by the self-acclaimed moralists in the House and the Jeremiahs who say that Britain has been going downhill ever since the time of the Normans. One needs only to turn to Mayhew to see that at that time in an infinitely smaller London there were 101 80,000 prostitutes in London and when the circulating harlotry of the Haymarket and Regent Street constituted 8,600 prostitutes according to the police figures of the day. I hear people talk about the permissive society, but Mayhew's report of the pleasure gardens, near the Thames, within a stones throw of King's Road, where, as night fell, the orgies began and parties were held make the parties of our contemporary Chelsea "swingers" seem really like Sunday-school picnics.
It is easy to sell Britain short. One can do that not only in terms of sterling. One can try to create an atmosphere showing that this country is in an immoral morass. In fact, we are an extremely respectable people. It must have been a great hardship and it must have caused great pain to those self-acclaimed moralists when Geoffrey Gorer, in his recent report in theSunday Times,revealed that 88 per cent. of our young women were virgins when they became engaged. The act of betrothal is obviously taken seriously. I am aware that many cynics say, "If that is so, the other 12 per cent. must have been working overtime." The plain fact nevertheless remains that a serious survey has revealed—to the dismay of those bizarre communicators on television and to self-acclaimed moralists—that we remain an extraordinarily stable community, where personal relationships are highly valued and our people do not form a promiscuous society.
When I heard the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) talking about promiscuity, I came to the conclusion—as, also, when I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon)—that the only people today who wanted to get married and remain married were Catholic priests. The fact is that never in the history of British vital statistics have there been so many married people in Britain. Never in Britain has so high a proportion of the population been married. Our young people have a veritable passion for matrimony. They are marrying younger than ever. Society may, indeed, have some cause to protect itself from young marriages rather than from promiscuity.
For the first time, too, in modern British history the working classes as well as the middle classes have comfortable homes. They have places that are 102 warm and comfortable, equipped with televisions and stocked with more vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and vastly more furniture, carpets and space heaters. The average contemporary husband is spending his evenings and his weekends not with his mates in a down-at-heel pub or club but at home or pottering around the house maintaining or improving its appearance. We are fortunate that we have a home-regarding society.
When I hear those moralists from the benches opposite, I contrast that with the situation that existed when I was brought up in South Wales. Those were the days when family life was broken down. Those were the days when, with an indifferent Conservative Government, we had mass unemployment, and when vicious means tests were imposed, deliberately calculated to break up homes. How dare people now, in this alliance between prudery and reaction, claim that suddenly there is a decline in the quality of life in Britain? It would be more helpful if those Conservative Members who express this self-acclaimed moralism were concerned about homes and about family life in the homes, and if they would desist from their iniquitous policy of suggesting that they will withdraw £100 million from housing subsidies.
It would do far more good if that were done than for them to make their present comments—these Victorian prurient expressions of concern with obscenity. Pornographic literature is no new mutation. It is not a phenomenon of a permissive society. Let the hon. Member for Wellingborough go to a cupboard in our Library and get the key that is available from the courteous Librarian, and let him open the cupboard, which contains a slight collection of erotica. If he will examine it he will notice that most of that slight collection comes from the Victorian age—from the middle and latter decades of the 19th century, when pornographic writings were produced and published in unprecedented volumes. They became a minor industry. A view of human sexuality represented in those works and the view of sexuality held by the Establishment of the day then, as it is held now by some people, including some of those who have spoken this afternoon, are negative analogues one of another—reversals and mirror images of each other. We notice that in Victorian 103 times for every warning of the consequences of masturbation issued by official voices another work of pornography was published extolling its joys: for every cautionary statement against the harmful effects of sexual excess uttered by medical men pornography represented copulation in excelcis, endless orgies, infinite daisy-chains of inexhaustibility.
Today we are not, or we should not be, deceived by the apparent differences of attitudes. One is the mirror image of the other. In both the same fears and anxieties are at work. In both the same obsessive ideas are at work. One is frantically extolling the importance of sexuality and the other is frantically minimising it. The truth is that it would be far more important—if we are to talk about pornography—to draw attention to the new pornography arising out of the presence in this country of one million coloured immigrants. Our language betrays our fractured sexual attitudes. We speak of the dark passions, and for those who still believe that sex is dirty, black is the colour of sin.
Formerly, we had the inevitable coloured slave heightening the aphrodisical mood seen in nineteenth century paintings; today we have the language that sometimes comes from our Midlands racialists. The language of the Birmingham racialists reveals their mad fear of the potency of the black man—the sexual rivalry felt by those uncertain of their own Wolverhampton virility. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) was right to draw attention to the pornography implicit in the speeches made. The constant concern with the birth rate of the immigrants is as miserable and as wretched a piece of 104 masked pornography as it would be possible to spell out. Let there be no doubt —if we had fewer eunuchs we would have less Enochs. The speeches of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) are really about how many times a week a coloured man copulates, not about the birth rate. It would be far more profitable, if we wanted to protest against obscenity, to protest against the obscenities implicit in the speeches made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.
If we wanted to turn our minds to the real problems that exist we should be asking ourselves what is the future of the family. We cannot be nostalgic. It is no use looking back to authority, because in front of our eyes, as a result of the impact of technology, we see a massive change taking place from the authoritarian family system to an egalitarian family system—from economic dependence upon one man to a democratic family. With such a tremendous change, naturally there is bound to arise an extraordinary number of stresses in the family. Women are equal with men, and no longer dependent on them. They have new opportunities, and new ways of living. They must now live with much the same sort of temptations as used to fall only upon men. It means, too, that if young people are able to earn money there will be changing family attitudes. When a changing family becomes more nuclear and less extended, there are greater personal opportunities but greater hazards. If we examine the changes in the family—
It being Seven o'clock, Proceedings on the Motion lapsed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 5 (Precedence of Government business).